Friday, June 1, 2007

2005 Heavy Assault Roadblock

2005 did not offer collectors much on the ARAH style figure front. While Hasbro did put out several TRU exclusive sets, the figures offered in them were not up to the standards of the 2004 figure offerings. As the year wore on and the line's cancellation became imminent, Hasbro got even lazier in their figure creations and produced some of the most boring figure sets in the history of the line. The TRU exclusive line ended with a whimper. But, in these tail end duds were a couple diamonds in the rough. A perfect example is the Heavy Artillery Set (HAS) Roadblock.

Personally, I think this is the best version of this Roadblock mold that has ever been released. The '92 figure is very good, but the dark blue pants offset the better torso coloring. The Anti-Venom figure is very well done. The tan pants are more visually distinctive, but could also be a detriment for using that figure in certain environments. The HAS figure is more darkly colored and works great for night, jungle or urban missions. I think that most collectors will have a different favorite among these molds (I do not own a '93 Roadblock with the neon highlights and can not comment on it.) but all will agree that each figure has its own merits and fits well in certain situations.

This mold is finely detailed. It benefited from 10 years of sculpting experience at the time of it's creation and that history shows. The ridged shirt, shoulder harness and belt are all full of details that give the figure a rich appearance. (Granted, none of these details were painted, so they are easy to lose, but that was also a trademark of the '92-'94 figures.) You will also notice 2 Easter Eggs on the figure. First is the obvious RB on Roadblock's belt buckle. A nice personalization that helps prevent this mold from being used on other, non-Roadblock figures. The second is the "H" buckle on his chest. It's just a little subtle reminder that Hasbro made the figure. (Most of the '82 figures feature a hidden "H" as well.) It shows a level of pride in the figure's design and indicates that the designers really understood the character they were attempting to re-envision.

At the 2005 Convention, Hasbro was ducking questions galore about the future of the line. The felt they were under pressure from fandom. The fact is, they were. Hasbro was not being forthright with the collector base at the time and Hasbro knew that collectors were largely dissatisfied with what was happening in the collecting world. In an effort to stave off more criticism, Hasbro went so far as to pull the Heavy Assault Set from the Convention showcase. They claimed the set "wasn't ready". Yet, when the set appeared at retail a few weeks after the Convention, it was the EXACT same set that had been captured the first day of the Convention before Hasbro pulled it. That was indicative of the crap that Hasbro was pulling at the time and only cemented this set's status as a dud. (To further comment on the lies told during that convention, Hasbro mentioned that the sound attack rifle that was included with the Night Watch was because they "couldn't find" the non sound attack version. Of course, the reason they couldn't "find it" was because it was used in the HAS set which was hidden away under their table: hiding their shame.)

One other black mark against the HAS set was that the figures in the set did not match the box or filecards. Mutt and Ace were supposed to be part of the set, but did not appear anywhere...except on the filecards that were included. In fact, this Roadblock does not even include a filecard as he was a late addition. The whole set was FUBAR from the get-go.

In early 2003, Hasbro got this mold back from Funskool. Within a year, they used the mold to produce the high quality Anti-Venom Roadblock. That figure features the exact same upper body as this HAS figure but has tan pants. The paint masks on the pants are exact with the exception that the cammo patterns differ. The darker colors on the HAS figure, though, blend better with the dark torso. It gives the figure a near Night Force appearance and allows it to be used in many environments. It is a very versatile figure that is a great representation of the Roadblock character. The HAS accessories are poor, though, as they lack any of the distinctive weapons that are the hallmark of the Roadblock character. Fortunately, at this point, accessories are an easy problem to fix as Hasbro has offered us many chances with other figures to acquire fitting weapons for this Roadblock.

In my collection, Roadblock is exactly as advertised. He is a big, hulking machine gunner who provides the fire support for nearly every mission. He may be on the ground in an infantry role or operating a mounted gun on the Tomahawk, Whale or other vehicle. Regardless, he is one staple of my collection. Whenever a mission might require heavy firepower, Roadblock is included. As such, a figure like this one is a welcome addition as it offers me the ability to use the figure in a variety of environments. (I guess we still could use an arctic Roadblock, but I can wait a bit on that one.) I now have a more modern looking version of the character who shows the beefyness you expect when used among figures from later years in the line. (This isn't to say the original mold of Roadblock is bad. Far from it. It's just that this figure fits better with more of the line than the original. Though, the original Roadblock has held up better than most of his contemporaries.)

Roadblock remains one of the few characters whose place in my collection has remained relatively constant since my childhood. I think that is heavily a tribute to Larry Hama and the way he developed the character. Roadblock's first appearance in the comic was memorable and the character didn't get stale like so many others did. Roadblock was a guy you could count on. He was immensely strong, but also gentile and loyal. He was not a guy you wanted across from you in a fight, but someone who, when standing with you, made you feel invincible. He showed his loyalty to Hawk during the whole "Jugglers" fiasco and cemented himself as one Joe who could always be trusted to back his teammates.

This Roadblock mold has been used 4 times by Hasbro: in 1992, 1993, 2004 and 2005. In between the '90's and '00's, the mold was produced by Funskool in colors very similar to the 1992 figure. Beyond that, the mold did not appear anywhere else in the world. At this point, though, it has probably been used enough. Even in ARAH form, Roadblock has been done to death. Were we to be subjected to another ARAH style Roadblock release, I would want it to utilize the underappreciated 1986 mold. Properly colored, that would give us a new enough version of Roadblock to enjoy. But, this mold has pretty much been done right and I don't see much of a reason to continue to use it again and again at this point.

The HAS set probably had around 16,000 sets produced. Many collectors, though, passed on the set due to its horrid quality with the hope that they would get it on clearance. Many collectors were able to do so, but many more were not. As such, there are a lot of collectors out there who do not have this figure. But, as the set is pretty much worthless except for Roadblock and Snake Eyes, it is not too high on most people's want lists. The reality, though, is buying one of each of the loose, mint and complete versions of Roadblock and Snake Eyes will set you back about the same price as the entire set. So, you're really better off just buying a set and keeping the plethora of accessories and trading or selling off the surplus figures. I've found this Roadblock to be a welcome addition to my collection, but not one that I would seek out were I not a completist and had I not acquired one when it was available at retail. It's a strong figure, but not one whose absence leaves a collection lacking.

2005 HAS Roadblock, TRU Exclusive, 1985 Flint, Mauler, Rampart, Brazil, Estrela, Duke

2005 HAS Roadblock, TRU Exclusive, 1985 Flint, Mauler, Rampart, Brazil, Estrela, Duke

2005 HAS Roadblock, TRU Exclusive, 2004 Anti Venom Roadblock, 1992 Roackblock

2005 HAS Roadblock, TRU Exclusive, 2004 Anti Venom Roadblock, 1992 Roackblock, Unproduced Anti Venom Roadblock, Midnight Chinese

2005 HAS Roadblock, TRU Exclusive, 1986 Havoc, Ambush, Sidetrack, Beach Head

2005 HAS Roadblock, TRU Exclusive, Daina, Oktober Guard, Unproduced, Midnight Chinese

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