Retaliation Tomahawk and Updraft
I was a bit of a late-comer to the party that knew how awesome the original Tomahawk was. My brother had it when we were growing up, but honestly, I really didn’t care one way or another. I always preferred ground vehicles to air vehicles because they were a lot easier to work into an adventure than air power. That said, when my brother and I restored his Tomahawk a few years ago after I found the replacement parts (missiles excluded) at Joe Con in Kansas City, I was floored by how amazing that vehicle was. Once we were finished, I actually said that I was shocked I wasn’t more jealous of him having that vehicle growing up. Spending time restoring it made me realize why so many people at Joe Con were wondering about the possibilities of a Tomahawk in the line. Yeah, I remember it being used a lot in the cartoon so it had a degree of iconic status, but until I worked on it, I’d never realized just how awesome a vehicle the original was. Fast forward to ToyFair reveals in 2012, and all those Joe fans that were asking about it back in 2009 finally got their wish. While it was redubbed the “Eaglehawk”, the Tomahawk was back and I swore I wasn’t going to let it pass me by again. I made sure I got it by ordering it online (though I’ve been surprised at how many Eaglehawks the nearest Toys ‘R’ Us got in—though admittedly at about five dollars higher than suggested retail price) and it was definitely worth the wait. The new Tomahawk is an incredible update of one of the best old-school Joe vehicles the line ever gave us.
Modern Joe vehicles, especially the size of the Tomahawk, have a lot to live up to if nothing else because we don’t get that many of them. While the Joe line could put out a couple good sized vehicles per year back in the day, that’s just not the way the toy business works anymore. Gone are the days of pegs full of figures and shelves full of vehicles of all sizes. Instead, we’re usually limited to small and medium vehicles at a standard price point. Larger sized vehicles have become rather uncommon and somewhat expensive. I’ll admit, I was shocked that the Eaglehawk was under $50 when I ordered it. I figured they’d have to be charging at least that much to cover costs. Paying a little over $40 was a pleasant surprise, and I don’t say this much, but the new Tomahawk is such a great vehicle, I don’t think I would have held it against Hasbro had it come out at a slightly higher price point. If you had the original Tomahawk growing up, everything is going to feel wonderfully familiar. I didn’t grab photos of it since my “photo studio” is so small that grabbing shots of one vehicle is somewhat difficult, let alone two, but immediately after assembling the new Tomahawk, I compared it to the original version. They’re exactly the same size, both in height and width. That surprised me a little, but that does mean the new Tomahawk won’t look out of place alongside its vintage counterpart. However, that does create a little problem in my book. The newer figures are quite a bit taller than their vintage counterparts. I remember whenever my brother broke out the Tomahawk for an adventure, getting the figures in there was, at times, a little annoying. It’s even worse for the new Tomahawk because the larger figures are even more difficult to get into a compartment that works best with vintage Joes. That said, they did upsize the seats in the interior so everything looks proportional, but there’s really not a lot of clearance inside which greatly limits your ability to maneuver figures around inside for display. I know I had a heck of a time getting Tiger Force Flint in the loadmaster’s seat because I had troubles jockeying him around the tight cabin. The interior also has one other, more serious, design flaw that I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention. The original Tomahawk had pegs built into the seats so the figures riding in the back would be held in very securely. The new Tomahawk doesn’t have anything like that. I realize they redesigned the back holes so the old-school peg system would really work as well, but there’s nothing to keep the Joes in place. I would have even appreciated the old-fashioned big c-clips just to provide a little more security for my Tomahawk crew. I really think Hasbro dropped the ball on that front. Yes, the Tomahawk’s interior looks great without those concessions to the fact that it’s a toy, but I find it frustrating that there’s no way to keep the team secured in their seats.
Now that I’ve gotten my major criticisms out of the way (though there are a couple fiddly issues I have here and there), I think we’ll start looking at the Tomahawk a little closer. Starting off up front, we have the familiar rounded cockpit with a Vulcan cannon for a chin gun. For something that got used a lot as a rescue chopper in the cartoon, the Tomahawk really didn’t skimp on the armament between its chin gun and eight missiles. The cockpit is a faithful reproduction of the original with added detailing in the displays and a pair of control sticks for the pilots to use. I realize that the set came with a more realistic version of Lift-Ticket, but it’s really not the Tomahawk without Lift-Ticket riding in the first seat so I pulled the 25th Anniversary version out of storage and he really does look like he belongs in the front seat of this beauty. Moving back, the familiar twin-rotor configuration of the original is still there, but the design team made two great improvements that make it even better than the original. First of all, the rotor blades are made of a far softer plastic. While this may sound like a bad thing, it’s not. The original Tomahawk’s rotor blades were rather brittle. Heck, that’s what I wound up spending the most money on when it came time to restore my brother’s Tomahawk. I think this softer plastic is going to mean a lot less rotor blade breakage as time goes on, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s a major plus. The other change is in how the rotors themselves are constructed and hold the rotor blades in. The original rotors attached by popping open the top of the rotor assembly and putting the rotor blade itself around a peg. This time, the rotors are designed kind of like a clamp. The rotor blade just simply plugs into and is also designed so that the rotor blades can be pivoted around to a better position for storage. Clearly, someone on the design team must have had a Tomahawk that had a lot of broken rotors as a kid because either one of these things alone would have really helped prevent that problem, but together they make it nearly impossible to break a rotor blade. If nothing else, for long term storage you can actually easily remove the rotor blades and put them back in later. I remember the most harrowing part of the Tomahawk restoration process was just popping open the rotors. Now you don’t even have to worry about that. Underneath the front rotor, you have an engine assembly with two doors you can open to access the engines themselves. Again, this feature is classic Tomahawk and it’s one of those details I always loved as a kid. I loved any vehicle that had removable engine covers. I don’t know why, but I always liked having Joes tinkering with their vehicles and then quickly recovering the engines to rush off into battle. It added an element of tension to the battles. Not only did the Joes have to get out onto the battlefield quickly, but they had to make sure their vehicles were ready before they could even head out. The rear engine also has a removable panel for battlefield or hangar repairs. The back end also sports a rear rotor in a cage that can pivot around. I believe this is used primarily for maneuvering the helicopter. Here, they’ve made a slight change from the original Tomahawk, and unfortunately, I don’t think it’s necessarily for the better. The original Tomahawk had a very long post sticking out the side of the rotor so you could spin the rotor blade more easily. This time, though, they stuck to a more realistic design and cut that. Unfortunately, that means it’s not as easy to spin the rotor blade and I think that’s kind of a shame. The rear also has a ramp that can be folded down for loading and unloading. The ramp is well done and stays securely in place when not folded down. It’s also got a few footpegs for the figures and can be used as an attachment point for the rappelling systems some of the Retaliation figures came with. That’s a good thing, because the built-in winch is kind of lame. The original Tomahawk had a winch built in to the bottom of the helicopter with an impressively long string. However, the Retaliation Tomahawk’s winch line is disappointingly short. I don’t quite know where in the process it got shortened up so much, but it’s really not usable either as a rescue cable or a cargo hook. The back end also sports a pair of new machine guns for the door gunners to use. They’re definitely a lot more detailed than the original Tomahawk’s, but they feel just a little bit too small for most figures plus they’re a bit awkward to get them into a good firing position. You can either have them in a good spot to provide fire support out the side of the vehicle or you can have them being realistically held by their gunners. You can’t have both. This is an issue both with the construction of the gun by also ties back to the meta-issue that the troop compartment is a bit too small for modern figures.
Of course, the Tomahawk was also pretty well-defined by its color scheme as well as its design. Once again, the designers didn’t disappoint. The colors are slightly darker than the original Tomahawk’s, but they’re still instantly recognizable. The main body of the Tomahawk is still tan with dark green camouflage splotches. It’s a good look and I’m glad they decided to recreate it here. The stickers are also very close to vintage design, though they do offer a couple of more realistic options if you wish to customize your Tomahawk. Most notably, the G.I. Joe logo can either be in full color like back in the day or black and white which would be more akin to what real world military vehicles use in the field. The same is also true of the “United States” sticker. You can either have a full color flag next to the words or a black and white one. I opted for the full color versions since they’re more in line with the classic look. My only real complaint with the stickers is that it’s not made completely clear where a couple of them are supposed to go. I had the most trouble figuring out where the “Attachment Point” stickers were supposed to go on the rear wheel assemblies. I’m still not 100% sure I got them in the right spots, but I just put them in the same spot my brother did back on his original Tomahawk. Don’t get me wrong, I like applying the stickers to my Joe vehicles myself, but every now and then, Hasbro does a really poor job on the diagram in letting you know where they’re supposed to go. That being said, that’s a really minor complaint and the stickers do look impressive and really help make the Tomahawk look complete. I love that they used the original Tomahawk insignia instead of designing something new to reflect its new name. It’s a classic Joe logo and I’m glad to see it here once again.
Finally, we have to talk about the pilot of the Tomahawk, Lift-Ticket. Now, I’ve already got classic Lift-Ticket manning the Tomahawk so I’ve taken to calling Retaliation Lift-Ticket as Updraft. The design they used really doesn’t work for me as Lift-Ticket, but using him as someone else makes me like him a lot more as a figure. Lift-Ticket is another guy that for some reason I feel should look a certain way and a deviation from the look really makes it harder for me to accept someone as Lift-Ticket. However, the design (and funky high-tech helmet) gives me a lot stronger Updraft vibe than it does Lift-Ticket. Updraft is yet another use of the Data-Viper body but I’m perfectly fine with that. We’ve already got two Joe airborne specialists wearing it and it does provide a bit of group cohesion. The figure itself is nicely detailed, with appropriately placed pouches and padding. It looks interesting without being an exceedingly unrealistic design for a flight suit. To make him look a little more different, he’s wearing a vest with pads and a built in parachute harness. The vest is the same piece that came with the 30th Anniversary Renegades Cobra Air Trooper, but even though it’s reused, it’s the first time a Joe has worn it so it doesn’t look like obvious reuse. It also helps add a little more detail to what is otherwise a rather plain look. Updraft also gets a brand new head and it’s a bit of a departure for Lift-Ticket and is another reason I’m using him as a different person. Lift-Ticket has always come across a little bit older to me, but this figure looks really young…like, fresh out of flight school young. Since Updraft was a later Joe, I have no trouble with a young guy standing in for him here and since classic Lift-Ticket is filling the first chair, I also can see a bit of a mentor mentee relationship here. Updraft may be a good enough pilot to get asked to join the Joes, but Lift-Ticket has been around the block a lot more and still has some things to teach Updraft. Updraft comes with a surprisingly large amount of gear, especially for a vehicle driver. A lot of drivers have been getting shorted on weapons, but Updraft has the really great rifle that 30th Anniversary Law first came with. It’s not pictured because I forgot about it when I was taking photos of him and didn’t realize he had it until I was putting him back in the Tomahawk after I was done grabbing all the photos. I realize it’s primarily laziness that kept me from going back and reshooting some pictures with it, but it’s also a fairly common weapon, so I don’t necessarily think it’s a problem that it got forgotten. For headgear, Updraft gets an impressive new helmet. Its design is very cutting edge and looks awfully high-tech. His eyes are pretty much covered by the visor and I imagine that all the necessary flight data is piped from the monocle on the front to a full heads-up display on the inside of the helmet. In addition to the great helmet, Updraft also comes with a pair of headsets for the Tomahawk crew. I’ve given them to the gunners since I think they’d need the added ear protection while firing and would be more likely to need to be in contact with the pilots more than the soldiers they’re dropping off in the field would. I like the added realism of these headsets. They really help push the Tomahawk over the edge from great vehicle to amazing piece of work. It’s little details like that are what I love about the Joe line. They’re great at making futuristic yet realistic vehicles but when they turn back to more real-world fare, they really go the extra mile by upping the real world details even more.
The Retaliation Tomahawk had a lot to live up to and aside from bizarrely getting rechristened as the Eaglehawk, it really lived up to the expectations. It’s an incredibly faithful update of one of the best vehicles in the Joe line. While there are a few problems in execution that make it a little less playable than I’d like, for a guy pushing 30, this is a perfect representation of the Tomahawk I remember from my older brother’s collection. I wish the troop compartment was a little bigger just from a practical standpoint, but beyond that, I really can’t complain much at all. While I’m definitely a newer member to the brotherhood of Tomahawk fans, I have to say, I’m glad I was able to get my hands on this modern version. It definitely captures all the awesomeness of the classic Tomahawk, but it’s a lot easier to get and the few design changes they made to it really helped make it a lot more successful. I’m very glad that I can store the rotor blades and decrease the shelf space needed to display it and I’m glad that the chances of breaking a rotor blade are a lot lower. Hasbro definitely deserves all the applause they’ve been getting for this beast and I still keep hoping that other things that Hasbro said were unfeasible to do back in 2009 (like the Tomahawk) will get a chance to shine again when the third movie comes out.