Retaliation HISS and Cobra Commander
Ah, the Retaliation vehicles…I’m hard pressed to come up with anything in the last few years that created quite as much controversy as the revelation that the vehicle drivers were being cut back to five points of articulation. I know a lot of collectors that posted on message boards saying they wouldn’t buy any vehicles because of it. I’ll freely admit, at the time, I was slightly concerned about that and a slight articulation downgrade from 30th Anniversary line to the Retaliation line, but mercifully, time has borne out that those concerns were largely overblown and I feel collectors missed out on some good product just because Hasbro decided to do something different. Plus, in all honesty, my vehicle drivers usually live in their ride. If Hasbro has to cut corners somewhere, I’d rather have it be on vehicle drivers that don’t get out of their cockpit much and that I’m usually not as interested in than single carded figures that I like.
The first photos of the Retaliation HISS I saw were actually when it was slated for use as Shockwave in the SDCC Transformers/Joe crossover set that year and I’ll admit, I was impressed. I liked that its body was styled after the PoC HISS but that they were back to what looked like standard tracks and had beefed up the armament. At the time, I didn’t realize it was also going to be repurposed for the Retaliation movie line so I just saw it as a neat diversion that I had to admit looked pretty cool. However, whenever the first images of it hit as a Retaliation vehicle, I knew I needed it in my collection.
If you’ve read my Field Report on the Crimson HISS, you know that I really liked the sleek design of the cockpit-less PoC HISS. However, I have to say, seeing the standard HISS-style glass canopy does really add a lot to this particular design, especially since there’s actually some reinforcement built into it instead of just being a full glass canopy. It’s nice to be able to see the driver operating the HISS tank. Another departure from the PoC HISS is the retooled back end. While the PoC version completely enclosed the gunner’s position, in a nod to the original HISS, this version has an open turret. Again, I really find myself like the nod back to the classic HISS tank here. As much as I loved the PoC version, it looked just a little underarmed. However, with this big missile-launching tank turret, the Retaliation version definitely looks intimidating. The turret isn’t its only weapon system, though and that’s where this version of the HISS really shines. Taking a nod from the PoC version, the Retaliation HISS has a pair of large Gatling guns mounted on the back. This not only makes this version broader than the PoC HISS, it also really gives it the appearance of having a lot more firepower. Something the instructions don’t mention about the rear guns is that they’re poseable. A few days before writing this review, I was fiddling around with the HISS and remembered that the HISS’s guns attached into ports like the ones found on the two PoC Battle Mechs. I thought it was possible that the HISS guns could attach to the mechs, but unfortunately the attachment ports are just a few centimeters too small to accommodate the pegs for the HISS’s guns.
While I was remounting the gun to the HISS, the gun didn’t want to slip back in easily and I managed to reinstall the gun but shifted it at about a 45 degree angle from the body. I then twisted the other gun mount up and the Gatling guns can actually change elevation to deal with other targets. That little unmentioned feature really makes this HISS shine in my opinion. While I was a little disappointed that the guns couldn’t be attached to the PoC mechs, the fact that you can change the elevation more than makes up for it. Its final piece of armament is a small stationary twin cannon mounted in front of the cockpit like the PoC version had. Replacing the working treads with small wheels hidden inside the static treads is something I am really glad they did. It makes it much more of a playable toy than the PoC versions were and I do appreciate that. The final change is something I really don’t like. Where the PoC HISS had a spring up attack mode, the Retaliation version can tip itself up about 45 degrees and it’s really not all that impressive. While seeing Cobra Commander sitting in the turret that’s now pointed at a target right in front of him looks pretty cool (and would be something Cobra Commander would do—gloating while looking down a tank barrel at a defenseless target in front of him), it really doesn’t add anything to the vehicle. I’d honestly rather have just seen them do away with that feature entirely in favor of the nose gun being able to move somehow.
The Cobra blue of the Retaliation also looks very nice. While the first HISS tank was black, the very cool HISS II was blue and I think this was somewhat of an unintentional nod to that particular mode. The Retaliation HISS and the HISS II do share a couple of similarities—small front facing cannons and three large guns mounted to the back. I’m sure the blue was meant to be more of a nod to the 2000 version of the HISS, but I really do think that there are some neat ties back to the HISS II that shouldn’t be ignored. The sticker complement isn’t that much different from the PoC HISS tanks but I do find myself liking the display stickers for the cockpit, though I do wish they’d been done on a clear base like on the two PoC mechs than the opaque base they have. I purposefully broke ranks with the sticker placement instructions because I’d rather have the interesting graphics on the outside of the canopy where I’ll see them regularly than have two large white spots from stickers you can only see when you have the canopy open.
No good vehicle is complete without a driver and here’s where the controversy struck. Retaliation vehicle drivers were limited to five points of articulation and that really rubbed people the wrong way. Believe me, I get it, and honestly, I’d really like this version of Cobra Commander a lot more if he were as poseable as the rest of my Joes. However, it’s hard to criticize the Hasbro sculptors for making a bad figure. His articulation is low, but he still looks really impressive. The first version of Cobra Commander I had as a kid was the battle armored version and I think this version is a really nice conceptual update to that original battle armored Cobra Commander. His helmet is sleek and intimidating and actually I think looks a little more like the movie version’s helmet than the single pack figure’s does. The armor is nicely detailed and really has a lot going on. Taking a page from Rise of Cobra’s accelerator suits, Cobra Commander has a small machine gun mounted to one arm and I really like the idea of Cobra Commander making sure his armor has offensive capabilities. The other arm has a small screen and keyboard mounted to it. The keyboard is really well-detailed and I can see Cobra Commander using this to relay orders during battle. The armor detailing extends through his legs where he’s got a variety of straps and buckles and armor plates. While I am disappointed he’s only got five points of articulation, what I find really maddening is it looks like the mold was originally designed to have been just like the other figures. Looking at Cobra Commander’s back, you can almost see where the torso swivel was supposed to go and even on the arms and legs there are breaks where the elbow and knee joints could have gone. Honestly, the only real disappointment is that my version of Cobra Commander has some pretty sloppy paint work on his head. There’s some red bleed in both the spots where it’s used as an accent and there’s a noticeable paint flaw on his face plate. Since the vehicle drivers aren’t visible in the packaging while sitting on the shelf, this was kind of an unpleasant surprise…especially since this is one of the first Joe figures I’ve ever picked up with sloppy paint work.
Overall, this is the only vehicle from the initial Retaliation offerings I was interested in. You can never have too many versions of the HISS tank and this one really did a lot to make itself stand out from the crowd. The Cobra blue on it looks quite nice and with its increased weapons payload, I almost find myself referring to this as a heavy assault HISS. With its pivoting Gatling guns, it could also take a role in an anti-aircraft capacity. Though like many Joe fans, I was disappointed at the cut articulation, especially from the drivers, Cobra Commander still looks pretty menacing sitting up in that turret and he doesn’t need knees or elbows for that so I’m starting to become okay with it. While I would have liked more articulation since this is definitely a version of Cobra Commander that would look great actually mixing it up with the Joes or holding his own against a group of greenshirts, I’m okay with him being relegated to HISS gunner duty. That said, I’m definitely pleased with Hasbro’s decision to give articulation back to vehicle drivers, but I think we can safely say we did avoid the “deth of teh line” that a lot of people online were predicting. I’ll admit, I’m still concerned about what the future holds for the Joe line considering most Hasbro lines of late (Avengers, Iron Man 3, Wolverine) have been getting a bit light on the articulation, I think the fact that Hasbro has returned to articulated vehicle drivers for the Joe line is a hopeful sign that Hasbro won’t be messing around that much with Joe articulation in the future.