Rise of Cobra Tunnel Rat
Growing up, I never knew about Night Force. I didn’t hear about it until I was in high school and was wandering around the Joe online collecting community for the first time. I’m guessing that was because until probably the early 90s, there were no Toys ‘R’ Us stores anywhere near me so I didn’t see their ads. I thought they were pretty cool figures, but at the same time, KansasBrother and I had a lot of the character they redid in Night Force colors and I’m not sure how much they would have appealed to me as a kid. However, if there was one Night Force guy I probably would have wanted back in the day, it would have been Tunnel Rat. I loved my original Tunnel Rat figure and the darker colors on Night Force Tunnel Rat looked really cool. While I’ve never felt the need to run down a vintage Night Force Tunnel Rat, I was quite pleased that Night Force Tunnel Rat saw release during the Rise of Cobra line in an off-screen battle Wal-Mart exclusive set with Monkeywrench. Because of my history with him, getting Monkeywrench (despite some of his flaws) was a no brainer, so I also managed to pick up the modern Night Force version of one of my favorite Joes as a kid. While I don’t think I would have picked up Night Force Tunnel Rat on his own, packed with someone I wanted, he turned into a nice bonus.
Everything about Night Force Tunnel Rat is recycled from the first modern version that was released in a Resolute-branded comic pack with Storm Shadow. From the neck down,
Hasbro did a really great job with Tunnel Rat. Their choice for part reuse was spot on and really did a great job of recreating Tunnel Rat’s classic look. His torso and upper legs come from Shipwreck. That works well since Tunnel Rat has always worn an open-necked button-down shirt. Shipwreck’s torso is a great stand in there. To cover Shipwreck’s distinctive Navy belt, Tunnel Rat gets an added on piece that looks like a military web belt with a large buckle on it. Over the torso, he’s wearing a bandolier of bullets with a functional shoulder holster. Again, they’re classic Tunnel Rat details and they look really sharp in this form. It really helps make Tunnel Rat look a little more different than Shipwreck and I appreciate that. His arms come from 25th Anniversary Flint and while they’re not bad for Flint, they aren’t ideal for most other people. However, Tunnel Rat doesn’t fare as badly as some others because his weapon also looks best in a two-handed firing pose, but they’re still not great. The anatomy of his forearms is all forms of wonky and the hands don’t really grip well on any accessory. I appreciate what Hasbro was trying to do when they designed these arms, but I really wish they would have used the arms they tooled up for the 2009 Joe box set Shipwreck. They still would have had the short sleeves and gloves, but they would have been more useful and had more natural anatomy. His lower legs are shared with the Resolute Comic Pack Tunnel Rat. They really do a great job of recreating the loose-legged pants (dare I say, bell bottoms) that he wore back in the day. Finally, we come to Tunnel Rat’s head and that’s where he has a bit of a problem. I didn’t expect him to look like Larry Hama anymore (though man, that would have been awesome…can
you imagine modern sculpting techniques applied to making a Larry Hama-based sculpt?) but I also didn’t expect him to look this bad. Tunnel Rat’s got a pretty terrible permanent squint. He looks a little bit like Steven Seagal in his later movies where he’s gotten old but is trying to hide it by scrunching up his face. The face sculpt is just not what I was expecting for Tunnel Rat and they really didn’t do much to make it better here. Academically, I understand that if Tunnel Rat is coming out of his tunnel, he’s going to be squinting for a bit, but I don’t want my Tunnel Rat action figure to be reflecting that specific moment in his job. It’s either that, or the designers went really racist to sell the fact that Tunnel Rat is Trinidadian Chinese with extremely slanted eyes. Either way, it’s a bad call and they should have done something better for his face sculpt. That said, though, the other details are very well done. I have to applaud how realistic his head bandana is. It looks very natural and as someone who has spent his fair share of time wearing a bandana while doing light construction work, I have to smile at the fact that they took the time to make it look like what a bandana actually does on top of your head rather than cop out and just treat it like a skullcap. Underneath his head, Tunnel Rat has also got a great little neckerchief. Again, it’s a detail that’s straight from the vintage Tunnel Rat, but seeing it here in the modern style when it could have been left out and no one would have been the wiser, I appreciate the attention to detail Hasbro took here.
While some of Tunnel Rat’s parts choices are a little questionable, beyond Tunnel Rat’s skin tone, I really can’t fault the choices the paint team made here. I realize that the Joe brand hasn’t always done a great job of doing non-Caucasian, non-African American skin tones for characters that need them, but Night Force Tunnel Rat looks really white. It would have been nice had they done something to make him look a little more like a Chinese-American. Yes, I know the filecard references a wide variety of nation heritages in Tunnel Rat’s family line, but Nicky Lee, the kid from Brooklyn, is based on Larry Hama. Would it really have killed them to make his skin tone reflect his Chinese-American heritage a little more? The relaunch era Tunnel Rats all tried to do it with varying degrees of success. Though they weren’t perfect, I at least have to applaud them for making the effort. That said, though, the Night Force colors do look really sharp on Tunnel Rat and I think the combination of black, dark gray and green may actually even be superior to Tunnel Rat’s original look. Everything meshes well together. I realize it was a decision to ape the original Night Force Tunnel Rat by not putting the camouflage on his arms and face, but I do really feel that much like Dusty and Hit & Run, Tunnel Rat was a character defined by the camouflage paint on his skin. I think Tunnel Rat looks just a little off without the camouflage paint on his skin. The paint work is nearly perfect. The only little spots he has some problems are on his biceps where the black shirt meets his skin and the
straps on his leg for his knife sheath. The knife sheath isn’t that bad, but the biceps are a little
more noticeable since the black stands out even more against his rather pale skin tone. My only real problem with the color choices is that for some reason, the green plastic looks very plastic-y. Tunnel Rat’s pants are molded out of gray, but it still looks natural. The green pieces that aren’t painted green wind up looking just a little off compared to the rest of the figure. I’ve never seen this happen with green plastic before, but it does kind of catch your attention.
Tunnel Rat is one of those figures who has always been treated very well in the accessory department and the Night Force version is no exception. I’ve already touched on a few of his accessories, but I still think I should mention the functional shoulder holster and bullet bandolier combination. The design on this piece is excellent. It conforms to Tunnel Rat’s body very well and doesn’t add that much bulk to him. The holster holds his small revolver very snugly and I like that Tunnel Rat is carrying a snub-nosed revolver. Tunnel rats in the Vietnam War carried a special model of the Smith and Wesson model 29 revolver rebuilt by the AAI Corporation that was dubbed the Quiet Special Purpose Revolver. It was designed to fire more quietly in tight spaces which prevented the tunnel rats from being blowing their cover and blowing out their eardrums if they have to fire it while they’re in the tunnels. It’s a nice nod to the history behind Tunnel Rat’s codename that he’s carrying a weapon like the Vietnam-era tunnel rats actually carried in the field. Over his shoulder, he’s also carrying an explosives satchel. This is another classic Tunnel Rat accessory and it looks good in modern form. I’m also very glad they tooled up a different satchel for Tunnel Rat when the 25th Anniversary Snake Eyes would have been close enough. His primary weapon is a machine gun with a scope and bipod. While it’s not quite the same look as his classic weapon, it’s close enough to his classic rifle that I’m fine with it. It looks good in Tunnel Rat’s hands and I can see him being able to lay down some heavy suppressive fire from a hidden position. He wouldn’t want to touch that thing off in a tunnel, but considering I’ve always seen Tunnel Rat as more of a saboteur and someone who specializes in harassing the enemy more than fighting them outright, having some heavy firepower quick at hand isn’t a bad thing. My only complaint about his set of gear is what he doesn’t have. I really wish Hasbro would have invested some tooling dollars into recreating Tunnel Rat’s massive backpack with a pair of flashlights that could plug into it. While I may not have always equipped Tunnel Rat with his rifle back in the day, the only guy that got to wear that huge pack was Tunnel Rat. I realize that probably wouldn’t have been feasible when they first tooled up this figure for the Resolute Comic Pack, but just tossing in a backpack would have helped since I’ve always felt his backpack was his most iconic accessory.
Night Force Tunnel Rat was a really pleasant surprise for me as the Rise of Cobra line started to shift gears into Pursuit of Cobra. While Night Force Tunnel Rat is a very simple figure, his simplicity is well-executed and it is a very effective design. The face sculpt is a bit of a train wreck, but beyond that misstep, it’s a very solid figure. The parts work well together and he’s very well-equipped. It’s everything I like in Tunnel Rat and he’s got a night ops paint scheme that I actually think would work better for someone who spends most of his time fighting in tunnels or sabotaging enemy positions than your basic green jungle fatigues. There’s enough added color to prevent the figure from being boring, but it’s still a great look. While I’m not into the Night Force subset enough to try and get the Nocturnal Fire con set from 2013, thanks to Hasbro, I do have a shockingly large Night Force contingent, with original Night Force member Outback coming in the Assault on Cobra Island set and a Night Force version of Beachhead and Rollbar courtesy of the Rise of Cobra Snarler Cycle. That’s a nice little four man squad and while they may not all be original Night Force members, that little grouping is very effective and if I had the space and inclination to do diostories like Justin Bell over at GeneralsJoes does, I’m quite sure that little four man Night Force team would see a lot of use in any night operations. They’re all quality figures and Night Force Tunnel Rat really shines, somewhat in spite of himself.