Repeater (Rise of Cobra)
Every now and then, Hasbro releases a set that winds up being highly controversial. During the shift from Rise of Cobra over to Pursuit of Cobra, we got one of those sets. Hasbro released a pair of army builder packs (one Joe, one Cobra) as Toys ‘R’ Us exclusives. The Joe set had familiar names like Footloose, Law & Order, Dial Tone and Repeater in it. However, none of the figures in that set (save maybe Law & Order since he still looked like a young MP) really had ties to their classic looks. Footloose was in desert camouflage like everyone else in the set, Dial Tone got Starbuck’d to reflect the Joe comic reboot from IDW and Repeater got Ripcord’d. It was a strange set, yet I still have some fondness for it. I don’t mind shifts like that as much as other collectors. Honestly, the only problem I have with Repeater’s race change is that there were other African-American Joes that could have been used in lieu of Repeater that would have paid better homage to the Joe brand’s long history. Heck, I generally use Rise of Cobra Repeater Hardball because he reminds me a lot of that figure and I don’t have him equipped with his machine gun because I really wanted to give that piece to Rise of Cobra Roadblock that came with the Outpost Defender. Regardless of your opinions though, Repeater is a relatively successful Franken-Joe, which is something that can’t always be said.
Rise of Cobra Repeater pulls his parts from just two different figures, and I think that’s part of why he comes together as well as he does. When it comes to Frankenstein-ing figures, sometimes less is more, and Repeater definitely proves that. Everything from the neck down is Rise of Cobra Sgt. Stone while his head comes from 25th Anniversary Serpentor. No one ever really displays Serpentor without his snake helmet on, so that head is a great blank slate. They already used it once for a Rise of Cobra Toys ‘R’ Us exclusive Joe (Speed Metal from the Senior Ranking Officers set), so it’s not exactly an unfamiliar idea, but it still works here. What’s important, though, is the use of the Sgt. Stone body. Stone was a big guy. Not Roadblock or Heavy Duty big, but he was definitely a beefy guy and that’s the one thing I really love about the new style of Joe construction. The O-ring could do a lot of things, but the one area where it fell short was making big figures look bigger than everybody else. A guy like Repeater (or Roadblock or Heavy Duty) should be a big guy. He lugs around a heavy machine gun in the field, so his physical build needs to reflect that. You’re not going to hand a giant gun to someone like Tunnel Rat because he couldn’t carry it around effectively. Repeater looks the part of a machine gunner because he’s a big dude. What’s even better is that the big build also works well for a grenadier like Hardball. Continuing the Sgt. Stone motif, Repeater also wears his vest, which I’m not quite as big a fan of. If you’re going to use an entire figure for someone new, at least change up the removable vests/webgear to distance them a little from their body clone. To help finish off the Repeater (or Hardball) look, he also gets 25th Anniversary Shockwave’s ball cap. It’s a decent stand-in for Repeater’s hat and it helps hide the parts reuse a little bit between Speed Metal and Repeater.
This set may have been a Toys ‘R’ Us exclusive, but they really did do an amazing job on the paint work. The desert camouflage is extremely detailed and references Repeater’s original look to a degree. The base body is a light tan with brown and white camouflage over it. The vest itself is a different shade of a slightly coppery brown with black detailing on the vest and a movie-era Joe team logo on his chest. It’s a good look and is meshes surprisingly well with the K-Mart exclusive desert Joes. The Toys ‘R’ Us desert pack’s base color is a bit lighter, but the looks are similar enough that they really work well as a unit. It’s a nice surprise that exclusives from two different stores based around the same idea share a similar camouflage color scheme. My one little complaint about the paint job is Repeater’s undershirt. You can see the collar of Repeater’s shirt through the unbuttoned top and every other time this mold has been used, they’ve made to sure to paint it a different color since they went to the trouble of sculpting it. However, this time they just made it the same color as his BDU shirt and I think that’s just a little lazy. Finally, I do feel I need to mention the elephant in the room, Repeater’s race change. The skin tone is good and realistic and I’m fine with Repeater being African American, but where it gets confusing is that if you look at the filecard, Repeater looks like a white guy to me. I’m a little confused as to why Hasbro got through the artwork process with Repeater looking like his old self and then at the last minute decided to change his race. From that standpoint, I can understand the criticisms, but I won’t go as far as rejecting a decent figure out of hand because they used an old Joe’s name but didn’t leave his ethnicity the same.
You’ll notice that most of my pictures of Repeater have him carrying Rise of Cobra Heavy Duty’s gear. There’s a reason for that. The really awesome machine gun that Repeater came with was a piece that was originally designed for Resolute Roadblock. When I got the first (and what initially looked like only) release of that figure with the Wal-Mart exclusive Outpost Defender, I felt Roadblock should be reunited with his gun and I had extra Heavy Duty gear from the K-Mart desert set that looked at home in Repeater’s hands and made him feel a little more like Hardball, which inspired the idea of repurposing him as Hardball. The Resolute Roadblock machine gun is a great stand-in for Repeater’s original hi-tech steadi-cam machine gun. The silhouette is similar but this is far bigger and looks like it packs some pretty serious stopping power. It’s great that they were able to get this tooling out in a way that made sense since at the time it wasn’t a sure thing that the Resolute packs were going to materialize. However, I am going to take a little diversion and talk about the equipment I’ve got him carrying in his capacity as Hardball. I was never really exposed to the first Heavy Duty’s set of equipment because I didn’t really like the figure that much. Even when I got it in the K-Mart desert four pack, he was relegated to the back of the shelf pretty quickly since I already had the far superior reactive armor version. That said, though, his gear was actually pretty good. First of all, he’s got a unique rifle that looks to be some kind of combination of a heavier machine gun (like a SAW) but with an underslung shotgun mounted to the bottom. While it may not be super realistic, it’s got a great profile and it looks like it has some serious stopping power. Of course, Hardball needs a grenade launcher and Heavy Duty’s original set of gear has that covered too. While it’s a piece we’ve seen quite a few times, I really do love that rotary grenade launcher. It’s a great design that looks realistic and reminds me of my misspent youth playing GoldenEye multiplayer on the N64 with those big grenade launchers from the game. It’s a testament to how well Hasbro did the Repeater figure that just with a simple gear swap you can take him from Repeater, who he does a passable job representing, to Hardball who I see far more similarities with.
[/caption]Yes, I realize Repeater was originally a white man and the filecard even shows him that way too, but I don’t think it’s something to get totally up in arms about. The great thing about the Joe line is that if you don’t want to use the figure as who Hasbro says they are, you don’t have to. Between the race change and the ball cap instead of a Marine hat, he reminds me of Hardball, so that’s who I use him as. Regardless, he’s a well-done figure. He’s not anything mindblowing, but he’s a big guy in desert camouflage and that’s something we haven’t gotten a lot of. You don’t even have to use him as a member of the Joe team if you don’t want to. Considering how wide a departure everyone in the Joe army builder set was, you could just as easily use everyone as just a random team of soldiers, great for filling out displays or acting as casualties in a Cobra ambush. There are still plenty of great uses for these figures and I was a little saddened to hear online how many people didn’t buy the set because of how radically different Dial Tone and Repeater were from their original figures. As it stands, I like the army builder set because it was a cheap way to add five great desert figures to your collection. As I recall, the set was $25, and that’s a great deal for five figures.