MARS Invades Metal-Head
The year 2005 was a pretty big year for KansasBrawler as a Joe collector. I was making decent money from a college job and that meant I’d started getting a little more into the online Joe collecting world as I was running down product that wasn’t showing up at my local Wal-Mart. That year was also the first time I really discovered the GIJCC and the coolness of their convention sets. That summer, I was working for a summer repertory theatre company, so while I had the money to attend Joe Con, it fell right during the middle of our season, so I was pretty bummed that I couldn’t get to Joe Con. I was living in South Dakota at the time, so Minneapolis was actually pretty close for me. Add in the fact that the con set that year was based around Destro and the Iron Grenadiers and I was pretty impressed and bummed at the same time. Four years later, I was actually able to attend Joe Con when it was in Kansas City, and I was kind of toying with trying to purchase the M.A.R.S. Invades con set. I eventually convinced myself that it would probably be the only Joe Con I would attend for a while (if not ever) so I figured why not try and get the M.A.R.S. Invades set, too. I had some extremely high expectations for the set, but I’m glad I bought it, especially since they had to literally take the last set down from the display wall to fill my order. This set had four years of anticipation to live up to, and for the most part, it succeeded. However, in large sets, there’s always one figure
that’s a little weak and unfortunately for the M.A.R.S. Invades set, that figure is Metal-Head.
I don’t know why, but I’ve always kind of liked Metal-Head. I had the 1990 version and I know he got a lot of use. However, the GIJCC decided to use the later 1994 version of the character for this con set. I get why they did. The 1990 Metal-Head would have required them to also bring back all his crazy gear to make the figure work right and if any of that gear was missing, it wouldn’t be a great figure. That being said, though, it is nice that I’m getting exposed to a version of Metal-Head that I didn’t have as a kid from this set. The 1994 version of Metal-Head is a surprisingly great figure and the Joe Con version uses the exact same parts. His waist and legs are recycled from the 1990 Rock Viper but his upper body is all new. The Rock Viper legs are pretty good, though I think there is a little something wrong with them in general. Even my 1990 Rock Viper’s legs were pretty loose when I was a kid and Metal-Head’s legs have the same problem. Despite their looseness, though, this is a solid choice. The three small rockets on
his left leg are a nice nod to his specialty as an anti-tank specialist (though in the con set, Metal-Head got a pretty big promotion and is now the Iron Grenadiers Air Marshall). The right leg has a combined pistol holster and knife sheath. It looks very natural this way and it fits well for Metal-Head. He may not be known for anything more than blasting tanks with missiles, but he still carries around a few weapons to protect himself once he’s out of rockets. The waist piece is a little odd just because with the straps it’s clearly more oriented towards a climber than anything else, but it’s not a bad piece. Up top, Metal-Head uses the same all new parts he used in 1994. I’ll admit, the 1994 chest and arms are a little weak. First of all, they look a bit bulkier than his legs, which leaves him looking just a tad disproportionate. Secondly, compared to his lower body, his upper body looks a bit underdetailed. Metal-Head has a lot going on from the waist down, but from the waist up, he’s pretty simple. The vest looks pretty nice, but beyond that, he’s got asymmetrical gloves and some armor on his left bicep and that’s it. While I am a little critical of his upper body, I have to say, the head sculpt Hasbro made for this version of Metal-Head is amazing. The original Metal-Head had a pretty bulky targeting system. However, by 1994, his gear got a lot sleeker and it really makes him look a lot more dangerous. I loved my 1990 Metal-Head, but the head sculpt did look a little off with the big goggles. Instead of big goggles, this time Metal-Head is rocking a bit more of a cyborg vibe. His left eye (indicating he’s probably a fellow lefty since a person’s dominant eye and dominant hand are usually on the same side) now has a targeting reticle over it and considering how the system is carried around the rest of his head, it looks to me like, unlike in 1990, Metal-Head’s targeting gear isn’t removable anymore. I can just see Metal-Head getting injured in the field, but he still wants to blow things up and Destro loves having test subjects for his new equipment, so Metal-Head let his head be surgically altered to build in a brand new targeting system. While the new targeting system is the biggest physical change, I think I love Metal-Head’s crazy grin even more. He looks absolutely unhinged and I don’t know why, but I think that fits Metal-Head perfectly. He’s always struck me as kind of a crazy guy and the facial expression this figure has is pretty crazy. This is a man who loves his job, and his job is blowing things up. While the head itself looks great, there is a bit of a construction problem here. I don’t know if this was a problem for Metal-Head back in 1994, but my 2005 Metal-Head is a bit bobbleheaded, for lack of a better term. His neck fits extremely loosely in the figure’s neck socket and so his head sometimes has a mind of its own and droops. I’ve thought about unscrewing his back to take a look inside to see if things are seated properly, but I’m a little reluctant to do so just because he’s such an expensive and hard-to-find figure. It’s not a horrible problem, but if anyone reading had a 1994 Metal-Head and remembers whether he had a similar problem, I would like to know.
Much like the figure’s overall construction, Metal-Head’s color scheme is pretty good, but there’s just one little decision that’s a bit of a head scratcher and leaves me a little cold. Coincidentally, his problem area is once again the torso. The best decision the GIJCC made with the M.A.R.S. Invades con set was the unified color scheme. During the vintage line, the Iron Grenadiers were a pretty wildly colored bunch. However, in 2005, black, red and gold became the standard Iron Grenadiers colors and I think that was a great call. However, Metal-Head is wearing a hot pink shirt. It’s an odd color choice and it reminds me of the color Hasbro used for the Python Patrol S.A.W.-Viper. When the rest of the set is rocking black, red, and gold, Metal-Head’s bright pink shirt just looks off. Don’t get me wrong, it kind of fits with Metal-Head’s overall crazy vibe, but it pulls him a little bit away from the rest of the figures in the set and that’s a bit of a shame. Criticism of pink aside, Metal-Head is a sharp looking figure. The figure’s arms and legs are done primarily in black with some gold on his boots, right glove and, left arm bicep armor, rockets and belt buckle. There’s a bit of red on straps on his right leg and left arm and a liberal smattering of gray thanks to the front of his boots, his knife sheath, his pistol holster and his leg harness. The gold is carried up onto his chest on his vest and up to his head thanks to his targeting system. My favorite detail is found on the chest. I love that Metal-Head has finally picked up the Iron Grenadiers logo. When the figure was released in 1990, he was clearly listed as an Iron Grenadier. However, beyond a similar color scheme, he lacked any details that tied him more to the Iron Grenadiers than Cobra. The only Iron Grenadiers that didn’t have the Iron Grenadier logo or Destro’s face on them somewhere were Wild Boar and Ferret, and they were both vehicle drivers and their vehicles both had Iron Grenadier logos on them, so I can kind of give them a pass there. Metal-Head finally gets the logo on his chest and the black logo looks great against the gold vest. The paint work on Metal-Head’s head sculpt is spot on and really helps enhance the amazing face sculpt. Like many early Joe Con sets, Metal-Head’s skin tone is a bit tanner than his vintage counterpart. Apparently Destro installed some tanning beds in the Silent Castle so his leaders can have a nice healthy glow at all times. The figure’s facial hair and eyebrow are very well painted and the white for his teeth really pops well against his slightly tanner skin tone. It really helps accentuate his crazy grin and makes him work even better than the 1994 version. These colors all work together very well to create a sharp looking figure. I’m still not wild about the hot pink shirt, but even with it, Metal-Head’s colors work very well together. Gold is one of those colors where I usually feel that less is more and it’s a tossup between Metal-Head and Destro as to who has the most gold in this set. However, it somehow still works.
I think part of what hurts Metal-Head a little is his gear. I know that by using the 1994 version that meant the GIJCC couldn’t give him all his missiles, but I’d love to see something like that here just because Metal-Head has always been known for carrying a lot of missiles. Metal-Head’s primary weapon is a “club gray” version of the 1992 Duke rifle. I always liked this piece when my Duke was using it, so its appearance here is welcome. It’s probably a tad oversized, but it’s still a nice piece. It’s got just enough futuristic flair to look like it might be something that Destro designed and is being field tested, but it’s got plenty of real world touchstones that it doesn’t look out of place in a more realistic military line. Metal-Head’s other weapon was a far more recent addition to the line, the Skorpion machine pistol that saw extensive use in the Joe Vs. Cobra line, first coming with the 2002 Neo-Viper. I’ve always kind of liked the look of this weapon for some reason and it fits surprisingly well with Metal-Head’s look. I don’t know why, but I can just see him running around kind of crazily and spraying bullets wildly from this
weapon and I like that. Of course, the elephant in the room for me is a lack of any sort of missile launcher for Metal-Head. I think the figure would actually have looked pretty nice with just the backpack from the 1990 Metal-Head, but as it stands, without his trademark weapons system, Metal-Head just seems a little incomplete. I know the rockets were a 1990 thing, but I’ve always thought they defined the character more than the figure, so I think every version of Metal-Head should have some sort of missile system, even if it’s just the old H.E.A.T. Viper bazooka.
Like I’ve said before, there’s always got to be one weak figure in any figure set, and unfortunately, Metal-Head is the weak link for me in the M.A.R.S. Invades con set. However, even though he’s weak, he’s not a bad figure. It’s just the rest of the set is so strong in my opinion that they just blow him out of the water. The hot pink shirt is definitely a strike against him and the lack of the 1990 version’s backpack really hurts. After all, everyone else in the set got their signature accessories, but Metal-Head gets left out in the cold. I still prefer the overall look for my childhood 1990 Metal-Head, but this con set exposed me to a figure I kind of ignored because I preferred the one I already had and showed me that the second version of Metal-Head definitely has his own positives. The head sculpt on this version of Metal-Head is amazing and has a lot more character in it than the 1990 version did and it’s hard not to look at that face and hear a crazy laugh coming from that character. While this Metal-Head is not my
favorite late 90s figure, the GIJCC showed me that he is actually a pretty good figure and if there’s one thing that the M.A.R.S. Invades con set did well, it was take a couple figures that were a little off when they were first released by Hasbro and give them some much-needed redemption.