For years, I have felt that Hasbro's approach to repaints has been misplaced. They have largely focused on releasing figure molds that have been repainted a number of times and represent major characters. In some cases, this approach has worked. Most of the time, though, collectors are left with a figure that is inferior to the original paint job, yet not something different enough to overlook the poor color schemes. There have been a few times, though, where Hasbro has really gotten it right. In select cases, Hasbro has pulled out an obscure mold from the '90's who was poorly painted the first time around and given the mold a new lease on life through a superior repaint. In my opinion, most of the figures released prior to 1991 were properly colored and are difficult to improve upon. (There are, of course, exceptions.) It is the high quality molds from 1992, 1993 and 1994 that were poorly painted the first time around that are in so desperate need of a quality repaint. While Hasbro has, for the most part, ignored this tactic, they do pull a specific example out every once in a while. The most recent example is the Anti-Venom Barricade.
The Barricade mold has appeared on this site only once before, but as the character Gears. That figure was profiled for its rarity, not the quality of the mold. This figure is showcased for the simple reason that is a repaint done right. While Barricade mold has always been very detailed, it took this figure to finally offer collectors a version with a paint application that brought that detail to life. The metallic olive paint on Barricade's body armour showcases that particular feature in a way that breathes realism into this figure mold and accentuates, for the first time, the level of detail that was given to this character. The cammoed tan base color allows this figure to be used in both desert and urban settings and offers the versatility in color that I look for in a Joe figure.
I've long used Barricade as more a specialist on the Joe team. I've never looked at the Joe team as being totally comprised of the best of the best of the best at everything. In a setting like that, egos would be massive, toes would be stepped on and the team as a unit would have inherent dissension that would undermine its effectiveness. As such, I've viewed the Joe team as a different hybrid. There are a few "superstars" on the team: guys who are capable of amazing feats who are highly gifted and even more highly trained. However, the bulk of the team is guys like Barricade. They are people who are the best at one particular task. Taken out of their specific element, they are entirely average. As such, the team has the environmental or situational specialists who are along to perform a specific task or series of tasks on a particular mission. After they are done, the other Joes know they can be counted on to do their best when the circumstances call for improvisation. But, the other Joes also know that these specialists are not ideally suited for changes in a mission and can not be expected to perform on the same levels as other specialists might. This creates a more realistic symbyism for me as it makes the Joes more human and keeps the team more in line with what you find in the real world.
The Anti-Venom set is a mixed bag. To me, it succeeds on a few levels, takes some daring chances but still fails spectacularly in one of the most important elements. First off, the character selection of this set is well done. It is a given that all Joe sets of this nature are going to require the presence of some major characters. Whether collectors like it or not, this is how it is going to be. As such, this set features the mainstays of Duke and Roadblock. The Roadblock is the high quality 1992 version. This figure hasn't been seen in the US in over a decade. However, the fact that he was a widely available Funskool release coupled with Roadblock's presence in the Night Force set makes this figure less likable. He is, though, a solid color scheme and a useful figure. The same can not be said for Duke. Duke is the highly dated V1 mold from 1984. (There are some modifications to the construction, but they are minor.) He is just goofy and his lack of accessories make this figure absolutely useless. Hasbro just used part of the 1993 Duke in a Comic Pack. Why the lousy '84 mold was chosen over that one is beyond me.
The next two characters are Lifeline and Mutt. Both of these figures are what I would consider secondary characters. They have a fan following, but are not in the first tier of popularity. As such, they are great inclusions as they do increase interest in the set. The Lifeline figure is actually the Stretcher mold. In what I think is a first for a US figure, though, the black complexion of Stretcher was changed to a Caucasian Lifeline. This is a rather daring maneuver on Hasbro's part and I think it worked. The Lifeline figure is not easily confused with Stretcher and Hasbro added some new looks to Lifeline's persona. As this figure includes all of Stretcher's original gear, it makes it a top notch figure. The Mutt is less so, though. Mutt is mostly the 1984 version with some new parts. That mold still looks good and is a welcome sight since the V2 Mutt mold was just used in the Convention set. Mutt's colors are solid and he does include Junkyard. Where he fails, though, are in his accessories. But, more on that later.
The final two figures are what makes this set so interesting. Charbroil and Barricade are two obscure characters who have almost no fan following at all. The fact that Hasbro dusted them off for this set is really a treat after we have been subject to rehash after rehash of the same tired Joe molds for nearly 3 years. Charbroil is visually interesting but not spectacular. However, his mold is difficult to really energize. He does include most of his original accessories and this is a great way to put an older, forgotten character back in front of collectors. Barricade is the star of the bunch, though. He is painted in a way that accentuates his mold without being overbearing. He does not have the contrasting colors that you see on other figures in this set and includes his original gun. He is a perfect update to an underutilized original mold.
Where this set fails as a whole, though, is the same area in which the other 6 packs have failed: the accessories. This set starts strongly enough with Roadblock including the original Browning .50 cal (even if it is now overused) and backpack. Lifeline has all the accessories that were included with the mold's original release. Charbroil has most of his original accessories and Barricade has his original gun. Duke and Mutt, though, were simply given overstock weapons of which we have seen too many. They lack the special accessories that are integral parts of their character. Mutt is defined by his mask. Lacking that, the character seems half finished. The biggest sacrilege of all though is the helmets. All the figures save Lifeline include a hollowed out Steel Brigade helmet. In and of itself, this is OK as the accessory is new. However, putting 5 Joes into the same, nondescript helmet run counter to the very notion of what Joe is about. G.I. Joe is not about anonymous army guys fighting bad guys. Instead, it is about the characters and the personalities who comprise that team. Putting these helmets on these figures strips them of their individuality and firmly carves out the very thing that made Joe so popular for over 2 decades. On top of that, these helmets were included in lieu of 3 distinct helmets: Charbroil, Barricade and Mutt that defined the characters who wore them. As such, this entire set fails as it takes these characters out of their element and makes them closer to the generic military lines that clog the clearance aisle of every discount store in America.
No version of Barricade is expensive. While the red version from 1993 can be tougher to track down, you can still buy one for under $8. This version of Barricade will be no different. Toys R Us ordered somewhere around 20,000 of these sets and, as there are no army builders in it, they will be hard pressed to sell them all without the Christmas holiday. Collectors who want this set can easily find it (You can get them from Amazon.com, too.) and will get their fill at this point. As such, I don't foresee there ever being a collector demand for this set that will push the figure prices to much over the original retail cost. That isn't to say, though, that this figure isn't one that collectors could enjoy. He is one of the best Joe affiliated figures to be released in a 6 pack in a long time and is a great update to an obscure character. That alone makes him worth adding to your collection.