Kre-O FANG and Trubble Bubble
Growing up, I always loved the small Joe and Cobra vehicles. As much as I loved opening my Thunderclap when I got it for Christmas and playing with it a lot in some pretty epic battles, vehicles like the Cobra Pogo and the Joe Locust saw a lot more play time just because they were a lot simpler to pick up and play. I’m very happy to see that the idea of small vehicles is alive and well in the Kre-O line. While both the FANG and the Trubble Bubble were part of the larger Battle Platform Assault set, they’re great little vehicles and very playable. Don’t get me wrong, the Battle Platform Assault is a great set, but for me, these two little guys are the star of the set rather than the large, stationary platform.
When it comes to Cobra minivehicles, you don’t get much more classic than the Trubble Bubble and the FANG. They both saw a lot of airtime in the Sunbow cartoon and just about every member of Cobra was shown flying one or the other at some time during the series. The FANG was definitely the more real-world of the two vehicles and it’s reproduced relatively nicely here. However, there are a few areas where the building block nature of these sets doesn’t do an effective job at replicating the original look. The vehicle feels just a little stubby compared to the original FANG design. It’s supposed to be a bit longer and leaner but in Kre-O form, the tail of the FANG is about the same length as the body and that’s a little offputting. The front end is also a bit heavier than the original FANG. While I think it does look a bit better with a more imposing front end, I was still expecting a little more sleekness out of the FANG and this thing is really anything but sleek. The brackets on the bottom are a decent stand-in for the chopper’s skids, but I wish they could have found a way to make the landing skids a continuous piece rather than broken in the middle. I’m also not terribly sold on red laser rifles with cones on the front of them standing in for the missiles. I realize that building block lines rely pretty heavily on reuse, but I think that decision stretched it just a little too far for my taste. I realize the Ghoststriker is a bigger vehicle and they had a little more space to work with, but the decision to make missiles out of three pieces (a cone, a tailpiece and a stick) really did work a lot better. I don’t know if we’ll be seeing a FANG again later in the line, but hopefully they’ll at least rectify the missiles. I can handle a stubby FANG, but for some reason, that blatantly obvious repurposing of a rifle for a missile just kind of bugs me a little bit. I also ran into a new issue that I’ve never had before with building block sets, weak stickers. While I was removing one of the side stickers that reads “FANG”, the sticker actually ripped. It ripped in a way that was fixable, but it’s something that kind of surprised me. The stickers have been a little finicky before, but the fact that one ripped really does have me a little concerned about the quality control attention that Kre-O gets. That being said, I really do like the FANG and it’s a great addition to the Cobra motorpool I’ve built (both literally and metaphorically) through my newfound love of Kre-O. It’s a nice throwback to us old Joe warhorses (even though I never had the FANG growing up) but it’s still fun to play with and that’s a great selling point for this far more kid-friendly iteration of Joe.
Of course, the FANG isn’t much use without someone to sit behind the stick and while the Battle Platform set came with a Cobra Officer for that duty, I found that the blind bagged Major Bludd looks at home behind the controls of it. My first memory of the Joe cartoon was Major Bludd leading a swarm of FANGs in an attack so I figured I should put him behind the stick here. Major Bludd is probably my favorite figure from the second round of blind bags. The mercenary major’s look transfers really well to this scale. The body armor on his chest is very well done and I appreciate they went to gave him his dog tags and the little green triangles on his left arm. Those details weren’t 100% necessary, they look great in this tiny scale. What really amuses me is that they gave him an arm from the Transformers Kre-O for his armored arm. They could have just as easily painted a standard Kre-O arm black and that would have been fine, but the blockier and more angular look of the Transformer arms looks even better as Major Bludd’s trademark armored right arm. His accessories are decent, however, I think the gun really does fall short. His helmet looks great and really brings the Major Bludd look together and I like how they managed to work his backpack with spare rockets into this little scale. Unfortunately, clipping a rocket on top of a revolver just looks a little out of place. Honestly, I think it would probably have been more successful if they’d just given him the revolver on its own. We all know it’s supposed to be a rocket pistol, but the way the revolver is designed it could pass without clipping a funky rocket on top of it. It just makes it look a little too clunky to be effective. Despite the little misstep on the gun, though, Major Bludd is a great little guy. He looks perfect and I’m constantly amazed at how much attention to the little details Kre-O gives these guys.
Of course, as much as I like the FANG, I think the Trubble Bubble is a better vehicle and slightly more effective overall. Cobra has always been on the cutting edge of technology. Anyone can have a small attack gyrocopter, but who in their right mind is going to develop something like the Trubble Bubble? Cobra Commander, that’s who…and this little thing is just sweet. Usually when I’m building a set, I can see how the set is going to come together, but the Trubble Bubble really didn’t come together in my head until the last few pieces were put on, but when they were attached, man was I impressed. It’s a great miniature replica of the iconic Cobra fast-attack vehicle. The engines on the back are articulated out of necessity, but I do like having the ability to “pose” the engines a little bit. The only criticism I have is that the Trubble Bubble really lacks any kind of control stick. Beyond that, though, I really can’t criticize it too much. It looks great and successfully captures the feel of the Trubble Bubble of old and that’s all you can ask for. Again, it’s a very playable piece and I’ve had a lot of fun with it. My Trubble Bubble most distinctive Trubble Bubble memory doesn’t come from the cartoon but rather the G.I. Joe Frontline series from my high school days. In the first arc, the Joes are tasked with transporting a piece of the targeting system for the SDI system the Joe Colton and Jane command. In that issue, Dr. Mindbender flies a Trubble Bubble for a while when the Joes are attacking the Silent Castle, only to have his little foray end in disaster. As such, I couldn’t resist putting the blind bagged Dr. Mindbender behind the control stick in lieu of the Cobra Trooper from the set. While Major Bludd was probably my favorite blind bagged figure, I was looking forward to Dr. Mindbender a little more. Dr. Mindbender is great, but I was a little disappointed at how sloppy his paint job was in spots. His purple cuffs were pretty poorly done and there was bleed onto both arms. The hook tampos were spot on, but the purple was a little less than stellar. That’s my only real complaint about blind bagged figures. While we can decipher the codes to figure out who’s in what bag, we still can’t check the figures for paint flaws. Compared to my jacked up Tunnel Rat, he’s fine, but I do find it a little disappointing that cuffs aren’t that well done. The purple really stands out against his flesh color so it makes it even more visible. The tampo work on his chest and legs are great. He’s even got a tampo for his codpiece. The work there is really sharp and while I’m still not sure I like how ripped Dr. Mindbender is, I appreciate that they added some detailing to his torso beyond just his metal suspenders. (Man, Mindbender is a fashion disaster!). Much like Major Bludd, I love two of his three accessories. The beaker and syringe are cool little pieces. I hope we’ll see them somewhere along the line. After all, shouldn’t Doc or a future Lifeline have syringes? His third accessory tries to replicate his old mind probe device and it works all right. Honestly, my biggest knock against it is that they had to use string to attach it. My older fingers have a lot of trouble tying tiny knots and it took a maddeningly long time to get this thing to look decent. It’s a good piece, but it’s just a little hard to use.
Little vehicles have always been the bread and butter of the Joe line in my opinion and these two little Kre-O vehicles are no exception. They’re very well-executed and are a great addition to the larger Battle Platform set. Hopefully, Joe Kre-O will branch out and do smaller, bagged sets like they do with some of their other properties. These two would both be great candidates for small, six dollar sets that would appeal to kids because they’re fun, parents because they’re not that expensive and Joe collectors because you can quickly amass a fleet of classic little Cobra vehicles without having to drop a lot of money. The Battle Platform set is a great large set, but these two little vehicles are the shining stars out of it for me. Major Bludd and Dr. Mindbender are also two of the best Cobra figures we’ve gotten out of the blind bag. They’re both classic members of Cobra High Command and Kre-O did an excellent job of capturing both characters’ looks.