12" G.I.JOE Valor Vs. Venom
Voice FX Duke

Mark Patraw checks in tonight with a guest review of the 12" Voice FX Duke.  Tell us all about him, Mark!

It's been quite a while since I bought a sixth scale G.I.JOE figure (about two years). Usually, I stick with the 3 3/4" scale figures when I buy Joes (because that's what I most identify with, having grown up playing with them). The new Sigma 6 figures look cool, but so far, I haven't bought any (although I've been tempted on more than one occasion). The talking feature and the huge arsenal of accessories are what initially attracted me to this 12" figure in the store. After playing around with it for a while and having a better look at the overall package, I had to have one. The irresistible price sealed the deal. Now, I have to admit, I've never been much of a fan of the Duke character (I'm a Cobra sympathizer at heart), but this figure has made a believer out of me. Let's learn more about this version of Mr. Conrad Hauser:

Packaging - ***1/2
Duke comes in a large, cardboard box (14 inches wide, 12 1/2 tall, and 2 1/4 deep) with a transparent window on the front. The shape of this box is a little unusual--the back is completely flat, but the front tapers back at the sides, giving it an interesting geometric shape. It looks neat, but for storage/handling purposes, I would have preferred a more mundane rectangle. The overall presentation and graphics are attractive. There is very little wasted space and you can see everything you're getting (and that's a lot, but more on that in accessories). A circular hole is cut in the front of the window so that potential buyers can try out Duke's voice feature. The back of the box has a nice, professional shot of the Duke figure, a paragraph detailing G.I.JOE's current troubles with Cobra's latest scheme, and the usual G.I.JOE dossier file (clip and collect). Some of the accessories are secured to the box via plastic bubbles. Twisty ties and rubber bands are present in great numbers as well--have fun liberating your Duke! There were three of these in the store when I bought mine, and all of them had some shelf wear (as a MIB collector, I obviously picked out the best of the lot). One was particularly bad, the left side of the package was crushed in. The other figure I didn't take had a rather noticeable dimple in his face--probably from the manufacturing process.

Sculpting - ***
Duke's head sculpt is nice, but nothing spectacular--stern, but compassionate. I like that they gave him a scar on his right cheek, but I don't think that's very accurate--I've never seen Duke with a scar in the comic books or on any of the cartoons. The features of his face also wander a little. I attribute this to the flexible material used for the face (necessary for the voice feature, which we'll get to later), rather than poor sculpting. His arms have some musculature, but it's not over the top. 

Most of his accessories, and sculpted outfit pieces, have a fair amount of detail, particularly the guns.

Paint - ***
There's not a heck of a lot. For the most part, things are just the color of the plastic they were molded in. On the head, Duke's eyes, eyebrows and hair are painted (as well as his teeth and tongue, but you can't see them when his mouth is closed). Duke's vest, and some of his accessories, have minor paint jobs. There is some overspray and slop on these, particularly on the mortar shells, but nothing too terrible.

Articulation - ***
Often a tricky category for the MIB/MOC collector to define, particularly on a figure that is clothed. Fortunately, I have some loose Hasbro 12" Snake-Eyes (pictured in one of the previous photos) and Storm Shadow figures, so I can use them as a rough tool to gauge what Duke might have. So, here's my educated guess, and I stress the word 'guess' here: Ball jointed shoulders, wrists, hips, and ankles. Pin joints in the elbows and knees. Cut neck joint. Hinged, mechanically controlled jaw. Because of the talking feature, and the special construction that entails, I'm going to speculate that Duke has limited-to-no waist articulation. Assuming my guesses are mostly accurate, there's certainly a good amount of posing possible, always important for a military figure, but it could be better.

Accessories - ****
Duke isn't messing around. He's packing enough ordinance to level a good-sized Cobra base, and maybe a tank or two along the way. Mr. T, and the reviewer, pities the fool that messes with Duke. He comes with: (1) A black M-16-ish rifle with a gun-mounted, silver RPG launcher that fires a black projectile. (2) A large, olive bazooka that fires a yellow shell projectile. (3) A huge, two-piece mortar launcher (the two pieces are the cannon and its 'legs'). The barrel on this thing is almost as tall as Duke, but it doesn't stand nearly as high when mounted on the legs. This fires mortar shells. You get four of these (they have black casings/fins with yellow/silver painted warheads). (4) An olive rifle with a bright yellow scope attached to the top. This fires a yellow grappling hook. Attached to the projectile is a length of white string. I can't tell how long this is from the way it's packaged (wrapped around the grappling hook)--hopefully it's at least 2-3 body lengths (2-3 feet). (5) Three smoke grenades. These are olive with silver painted tops/rings. 'M18 Smoke Green' is typed on each one. (6) An olive canteen with a silver painted cap. (7) An olive helmet. It looks more like something you'd wear while flying a helicopter than something you'd have on in a ground battle. There's some red stripes painted on the side. The helmet has two devices attached to it: A gray night vision scope (the lens is painted red) that folds up and down, and a gray radio communicator that rotates. There are a couple of spongy styrofoam disks glued to the interior sides of the helmet that will help keep it planted firmly on Duke's noggin. (8) And, finally, there's a black pistol. I'm assuming this will fit in his hip holster. 

The overall selection of accessories is excellent. I don't think the projectiles are going to have the punch necessary to knock over another sixth scale figure, but that's probably a good thing. If they were that strong, they'd probably be dangerous for children to be messing with. The only complaint I have is that some of these items kind of have a 'kiddy' look to them. The olive and black colors are okay, but the bright yellow is a little too gaudy. I think some different color choices and additional paint ops/decals would have gave them some more realism. I'm not taking anything off the score for this though--this is intended as a kid's toy after all. And even I have to admit that a bright yellow missile is generally a lot easier to find in the grass/weeds than a black one.

Outfit - **1/2
Nothing too exciting, but it gets the job done and there are a respectable number of pieces to it. Duke's duds consist of: (1) A brown, short-sleeved T-shirt. (2) A light green combat vest/body armor made out of a rubbery material. There are belts, buckles, pockets (that don't open), ammo clips, and a grenade sculpted onto this. The clips are painted black and the grenade silver. A hanging pistol holster is attached to the vest and straps around Duke's right thigh. (3) Light tan pants. (4) Black, sculpted knee pads with elastic material straps. (5) Black, rubbery combat boots. (6) Black, rubbery gloves. If I remember correctly, my Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow figures aren't wearing any undergarments, so it's likely Duke is going commando as well (the back of Duke's package lists the accessories/garments included and boxers/briefs aren't one of them). 

Voice Feature - ****
Press the button on Duke's belly (concealed underneath his clothing) to make him talk. His mouth actually opens when he speaks! His face/head is made out of a flexible material that stretches--you can see his teeth and tongue inside when he opens his yap. Unfortunately, his lips don't move with what he's saying--his mouth just stays open until you release the button. He says one of thirteen phrases. Yes, lucky thirteen. Usually when you get a toy that talks, they only say two or three things, so I was quite impressed with the number. The lines are: 

"We must stop Cobra, at all costs!" 
"Snake-Eyes, Jinx, we're going in!" 
"This team stays together!" 
"We have to stop Cobra, once and for all!" 
"First wave, follow me!" 
"Get the others, meet me there!" 
"We're taking this battle to Cobra!" 
"We do this fast and clean, people!" 
"Work together! That's an order, soldier!" 
"On the double, soldier!" 
"Good move, soldier!" 
"Yo, Joe!" 
"Lock and load!" 

But the fun doesn't stop there! Duke's talk feature is pressure sensitive. If you depress the button with minimal force, he speaks a phrase in his normal tone of voice. If you press harder, he shouts it. You can make Duke say a phrase slowly, word-by-word, too by repeatedly pressing the button, rather than holding it down. Using this technique, you can choose to make him speak each individual word normally or loudly. The only bad thing I have to say about this feature is that if you give this to a kid, said child is probably going to drive you nuts. This action feature runs on two AAA batteries which are relatively easy to replace by unscrewing the access panel on his back. 

Fun Factor - ****
If you know a kid who likes sixth scale military figures or G.I.JOE, they're going to have a ball with Duke. The combination of the talking feature and four projectile-firing weapons is going to be almost irresistable to a child. Both Duke and his accessories look like they'll be able to withstand some rough play. Conrad should see a long, and eventful, tour of duty in your child's hands. Even if you're not familiar with the RAH (Real American Hero) Joe universe, Duke would make a good generic 12" trooper--send him out to blast McFarlane Toys' sixth scale Grid Alien with the Hot Toys Corporal Hicks

For Parents: Hasbro recommends this toy for ages 3 and up due to some small parts. Advise your child not to fire the spring-loaded weapons at other children and pets, not to mention you. Again, you may find the voice feature driving you nuts--you can always remove the batteries if you can't take it (Duke would tell you to 'Suck it up, soldier!').

Value -  ****
I got my Duke clearanced for the awesome price of $7.99 at my local Shopko store. The original price was $15.99; I'd still give him four stars for sixteen smackers. That's a sweet deal for everything you're getting. If Duke is one of your favorite Joes, than this package is going to be even more attractive.

Things to watch out for - 
Make sure you test the voice feature in the store to make sure it works okay. If it's not functioning properly, it might just be that the batteries are low/dead, but, just to be on the safe side, I'd pick up one that you know works. The flexible material Hasbro used for Duke's face MAY wear out over time--I've got a talking Yoda figure who's eyelids deteriorated and split open after repeated use--I'm just speculating here of course, but it's something to consider. Finally, keep in mind that this is reviewed MIB, if you're an opener, you could potentially have all sorts of experiences, both good and bad, that I can't foresee, lacking Superman's X-ray vision (i.e., Duke may have more or less articulation than I think, loose joints, etc).

Overall - ****
Things I liked: The awesome voice action feature, the large selection and variety of accessories (including four spring-loaded weapons), and the unbeatable price. 

Things I didn't like: Some of the accessories are a little too kiddy looking, color-wise, for this scale.

Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpt - ***
Paint - ***
Articulation - ***
Accessories - ****
Outfit - **1/2
Voice Feature - ****
Value - ****
Fun Factor - ****
Overall - ****

Where to buy
I got mine, clearanced, from our local Shopko store on 1/22/06. I don't recall ever seeing these at any of the other major retailers around here, but it's possible I missed them. Hasbro's G.I.JOE focus is Sigma 6 now, so older figures, like this one, are going to be scarce. Shop around, and you may be able to snag one. If all else fails, eBay is always a good option.

Related Links:
- First and foremost, check out Hasbro's G.I.JOE website.
- And here is a selection of some past G.I.JOE reviews from this website by Michael and other guest reviewers:

- A Sigma 6 Snake-Eyes review by Michael Crawford and a Sigma 6 Storm Shadow review by Kevin Apgar. 
- Some 3 3/4" G.I.JOE Real American Hero (RAH) figures reviewed by Collin Gill. 
- Some 3 3/4" G.I.JOE SpyTroops figures: Iron Grenadier/Recondo & Scalpel/Sgt. Hacker, Cobra Commander & Switchgears, Grunt & Destro, Zarana & Gung ho, Heavy Duty & Heavywater, and Kamakura & Night Creeper. All of these were reviewed by Coheteboy. 
- Palisades Mini Busts: Snake-Eyes and Stormshadow, Destro and Roadblock, and Flint. All reviewed by Michael Crawford.
- 12 Joes: 'Secret of Planet Xenome' double figure set and a cool 12" 'Secret of the Mummy's Tomb' set. Both of these were reviewed by Michael Crawford as well.

About the Reviewer -
While I've been a fan of toys all my life, I've only recently started collecting them; I've been at it for about a year now. I mostly purchase MOC Toy Biz Marvel Legends and McFarlane Toys lines (primarily Spawn), but I've been branching out lately, particularly into the sixth scale market. I also like to make a lot of video game related models/sculptures from scratch; these can be found at my website, Mark's Art Page.

Figure from the collection of Mark Patraw.

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