When the first photos showed up, though, the figure had some promise. But, with all the other things going on, it fell out of my mind. Then, while reading OG13, I saw a post from my friend Ozzie about these Riot Commandos being available. They looked OK. But, more importantly, the figures were in stock on a website and I could buy them right then and there with no waiting. So, in a total impulse buy, I acquired two of them. I had no real expectations of the figure. But, upon opening it a few days later, found quite a solid entry into the world of o-ring compatible figures.
The Riot Commando is perfectly in scale with vintage Joes. He has a bit more heft like the post 1984 figures. But, he looks like he could have been a Joe. The body is covered in armor plates with some grenades on the upper left shoulder. The waist features a belt with pouches and the legs have knee pads and a scuplted holster on the right thigh. This doesn't sound like much. But, it's actually the right amount. The JvC Joes suffered from too much detail...much often with no purpose. This Riot Commando has just enough details to make him cool but not so much that they detract from the look. The paint is of excellent quality. I'm not a huge fan of the Riot logo on the right shoulder. But, it's so well done that I'll forgive it. The figure is well put together and avoids some of the fan trappings of trying to make a figure too cool.
The figure has two little Easter egg features, too. They are not something you notice right away. But, they really add to the figure's overall appearance. The first is that the figure's boots have treads sculpted onto the feet. I don't recall seeing this anywhere before. You might wonder who cares about the bottom of a figure's feet. But, again, it's a little design flair that really showcases the care that went into sculpting this figure. The second is more noticeable. The red paint on the figure's eyes has a metallic tint to it. You don't notice it until the eyes catch some light. Then, they start to glow. It's an amazing little detail that brings substantial life to the figure's head. The glowing eyes stand out from the rest of the red on the figure and add an element of creepiness to the figure's countenance.
Construction-wise, the Riot Commando has a few key differences from classic Joes. First off, Zica did not use metal rivets in the elbow joints. While the official line is that this will prevent cracked elbows, the more likely reason is cost. And, the arms are relatively soft plastic. So, the metal rivets might have not been practical. I've never gotten too hung up on cracked elbows. But, as 1993 Joes start to feature them, they bother me more and more. But, in 27 years from now, I probably won't even be able to see them. The figure's head is different, too. While it has a ball joint similar to post 1984 Joes, that joint is attached to a post. The figure's head then attached to a ball on top of the post. It's a more common design and has been used in Star Wars and the anniversary Joe line. It is usually excellent on helmeted characters. But, I find it very limiting on standard human heads. The final difference is that the figure has swivel wrists. This isn't something I find of huge value on vintage figures. As I live in a hot climate, you often see the wrist plastic fuse to the arm plastic, rending the swivel moot. But, it's a nice additional feature and you can't see the joints due to the gloved hands. Some have reported that the joints and such are not 100% with vintage Joe parts. But, there are lots of Joes that aren't compatible with each other. And, in this market, even custom fodder is stupidly expensive. But, it will be interesting to see what creations can be made from the Riot Commando's parts.
The Riot Commando includes a single accessory: a rifle. It's a pretty solid, if unspectacular design. It won't be confused for a vintage Joe weapon. But, it fits nicely with accessories from the 2000's and on. The weapons are properly sized and match the figure very well, though. And, with the figure's bulk, having a backpack would have been overkill. (Though, vintage Joe backpacks do fit into the hole on the back of the figure.) Maybe a satchel or pistol to round out the gear would have been nice. But, a proper weapon that matches the figure like this one does can allow you to overlook the dearth of accessories. You can already find amazingly posed photos of the Riot Commandos with their weapons. So, that's a testament to how well it accentuates the figure.
So, what do you do with a figure like this? Well, the upside is that the Riot Commando's colors match some vintage Cobras. He's an excellent match for the Strato Viper. And, Red Laser made some Viper repaints in a similar color scheme. The figure also matches the Brazilian Flying Scorpion figure. Escorpiao Voador's grey is a little lighter, as his red. But, it's close enough. Black Major is also currently selling Worms, Aero Vipers and Cobra Commanders in a grey and red. Again, the Black Major colors are slightly brighter. But, they work well enough. You'll see my Riot Commandos with the Flying Scorpion below. And, it's likely that they will become his personal troopers since they both match the color and also don't match any other Cobra Trooper designs.
Zica Toys has shown other o-ring prototype designs. I do not know when or if these will come to be. But, based on my experience with the Riot Commando, I'm likely to give them a try. A couple are helmetless people. And, those can be tougher to do versus a helmeted head. But, any expansion of the o-ring mythos with high quality toys is useful. And, while it's unlikely that I'll "collect" the line in a traditional sense. Figures that easily mesh with Joes will always find a place among my hoard.
When designing an action figure, it's far easier to try too hard than it is to get something just right. We all know design elements that we want in every toy. The key, though, is to not incorporate too many of them into a single offering. Otherwise, you waste a design element that gets lost in a sea of overdone details. And, the Riot Commando has a perfect example with the figure's head. Yes, it's nice enough. But, they really tried too hard. And, instead of a clean aesthetic to match the rest of the figure, you have an overly large monstrosity that is part Darth Vader, part Stranger from the Venture Brothers and part Steampunk sewer dweller. In short, it's too much. I suspect that when you're not sure you'll get a chance to make more figures, you push as much into what you are sure of as you can. But, in this case, removing just one element would make the head cleaner. Instead, it's overdone and somewhat distracting from the more muted body. I'd like to see an alternate head offered in the future. But, that should be a new figure and not an add on.
I'm not a Kickstarter fan. I just want to be able to buy a product for a pre-arranged price. I don't want to sort through tiers and options to find some package that kind of gets me what I want and then leaves me to wait years before the figures are delivered. I want to buy something in hand that can be shipped today. Yes, I'm a dinosaur in that regard. (And, the Coil Con fiasco has left me leery of pre-paying for anything from indie producers.) But, if Kickstarter people were more flexible in their offerings and pricing some would be more attractive. The reason I own this figure is because I went to a website, entered my info and, five days later, the figures were in my mailbox. Simple. I could get exactly what I want instead of having to try and justify a bunch of figures that I otherwise had no interest in.
Who knows what the future holds for this figure. It likely exists in relatively small numbers, certainly when compared against vintage Joes. And, we've seen low run figures take on extraordinary after market lives, too. The upside to this figure is that it's full of repaint potential. A Cobra blue and black figure would be strong. As would a crimson base with silver pads. The mold would lend itself to Iron Grenadier colors of a black base with gold highlights. Or, my preferred way, a golden figure with black and red highlights. Personally, I'd love a green and orange toxic repaint that's completely and totally ostentatious. But, I'm weird like that. It's likely we'll see this figure again in some other configuration. And, based on the quality of this release, it's equally likely that I'll buy some.