Sigma 6 Tunnel Rat

We have a new guest reviewer tonight, Monte Williams!  He's going to let us in on another of the very cool Sigma 6 figures...

Hello, MWCToys readers. My name is Monte Williams, and I am here to channel my inner nine-year-old patriot to bring you a guest review of Tunnel Rat from the hot new G.I. Joe Sigma 6 series.

Tunnel Rat is only the fourth figure I've purchased from the Sigma 6 series, and yet Sigma 6 has already become my all-time favorite representation of G.I. Joe. In fact, no Joe product since 80s-era Real American Hero figures and vehicles has done anything for me up to now, and an objective look back reveals that even my beloved Real American Hero cartoon series is hardly what I remember. Thus, I'd completely dismissed G.I. Joe long before the arrival of Sigma 6. 

When I saw Sigma 6 figures in stores, I was initially mildly intrigued, but I've grown seriously weary of the whole Anime aesthetic in toys and cartoons, and I try to collect only 6-inch figures so as to keep some semblance of scale amongst all my characters. But the rave reviews kept nagging at me, and in a moment of whimsy (er, weakness), I bought Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. And then Firefly. And then Tunnel Rat.

And now I am obsessed.

Packaging - ***
Like everyone else, I have a hopeless man-crush on the packaging for the 'Commando' figures, wherein the top and bottom caps to the package snap together to form a carrying case for the figure's weapons. And I like that we also have the cheaper 'Soldier' option that doesn't include the carrying case feature. After all, the packaging for cheaper 'Soldier' figures like Tunnel Rat is still appropriately stylish and menacing and informative. 

However, I'm knocking the score down half a star, 'cause while my Firefly package opened with no problems, I was unable to prevent the tape on Tunnel Rat's package from ripping away portions of his file card. I don't mind much, as I tend to compulsively toss such extras anyway, but it is a pretty serious flaw nonetheless, for a good majority of old-school G.I. Joe fans like to collect the file cards, and it wouldn't surprise me if the wee lads and lasses who are just now learning to love G.I. Joe feel the same way.

Sculpting - ***1/2
Again, I think we've reached the saturation point where the whole All Anime, All the Time thing is concerned. I for one am finding it increasingly tiresome, and while my nostalgia for the novelty plastic items of my youth does not lead me to gasp in horror at any change in "my" version of a character (I'm firmly in the "Get Over It" camp), I admit I felt at first that the overall style of Sigma 6 was rather absurd. Change is good, certainly, and to a reasonable degree any toy line should be aware of current trends and styles, but really, does G.I. Joe of all things need to have an Asian aesthetic? If only ONE toy line should have a big-jawed, organic, Americana style, can't we let it be G.I. bloody Joe?

But then I decided to follow my own advice, which I respectfully pass on to any of you Joe fans who remain skeptical:

Get over It.

These figures might look overly lanky or lean or angular in the package, but once you separate them from their packages (using drills, knives, fire and the jaws of life), there's only two words with which to respond:

"Yo, Joe!"

Once you get these guys in your hands, their sculpts seem less and less cartoony. Between the many different textures (see the materials on Tunnel Rat's thighs and underarms compared to his armor or his boots) and the versatile poses made possible by the stellar articulation, you can make these guys become more lifelike and threatening than you'd ever believe if you've yet to experience them out of the package.

Tunnel Rat is in many ways a simpler sculpt than some of his fellow Sigmas, with only a cool head sculpt (complete with knit cap and removable goggles and unruly hair) to really distinguish him from any other Sigma uniform. But Hasbro has been quite consistent in adding enough distinct detail to each figure to give him true personality, and Tunnel Rat is no exception. While he doesn't have quite as much character in his face as Firefly (who brings to mind a grown up Trent from Daria), between his arched eyebrows and his hint of a smile, you'll definitely get a sense of who he is (and I say this having yet to see the show; I don't have cable or satellite, so no Sigma 6 for me.)

When I look at Tunnel Rat or Snake Eyes or Storm Shadow or Firefly, I no longer see an anorexic Anime aesthetic. I see dynamic sculpts combined with kickass articulation and awesome accessories, all of which serve to make me feel nostalgic (for the first time in ages) about G.I. Joe. Poor Tunnel Rat is the clear Stinky Pete at my Target (there's nearly a dozen of him left, versus perhaps two or three each of all the other characters), and I just hope more people give the guy a chance, 'cause he looks truly cool once you start to play with him.

Paint - ***
While the paint applications on Sigma 6 figures are hardly the selling point, and while I do on occasion spot some troublesome sloppiness around the eyes on a given figure, I am completely happy with the paint applications on every figure I've seen thus far except Kamakura, whose face masks bleeds onto his nose and cheeks and looks totally unconvincing.

Tunnel Rat required very little in the paint department, since his design is relatively basic. But there is more detail than you might expect, especially when you factor in something like the communication device on his forearm, which has some pretty intricate work. All told, the paint serves the sculpt, which serves the articulation. Speaking of which... 

Articulation - ***1/2
I've been a toy geek for fifteen years or so, and while I do not keep my figures in the package, I also don't really "play" with them. I have 150 or so figures from properties ranging from Buffy to Simpsons to Pee-Wee's Playhouse all packed tightly together on a large shelf like the characters in a Where's Waldo? book, and I derive much geeky pleasure from reorganizing the things as creatively as possible, but I haven't properly played with a toy since I was twelve.

Until now. You need only look at the photos that accompany this review to see how much fun I'm having with Tunnel Rat. Combine the articulation of a Deluxe Buffy figure with incredibly tight joints and the possibilities are practically unlimited. I didn't remember to photograph it, but I managed to get Tunnel Rat to stand on one foot while holding his sled in one hand, and later I had him on his hands and knees preparing to do a back flip. Both of these poses are of course stupid as hell, but they do show off his versatility where poseability is concerned.

Tunnel Rat features the usual Sigma 6 articulation: ball-jointed neck, ball-jointed shoulders and hips, pin elbows and pin knees, pin ankles, cut waist, chest joint and swivel ankles and wrists. If you can get a figure to hold a gun and look through its scope (or at least appear to) while on one knee, then you have some successful articulation.

Accessories - ***
'Soldier' figures are a few bucks cheaper because they lack the cargo case feature and they come with significantly less accessories... supposedly. In reality, even most Soldier figures come with at least a half dozen weapons which combine in various ways and attach to the figure's uniform in various places.

Tunnel Rat is no exception; he comes with a cool (if huge) butterfly knife, removable goggles, two grenades, a submachine gun and what's got to be his main attraction accessories-wise (at least for younger collectors), his sledpack. 

The sledpack is extendable so that Tunnel Rat can ride it down hills and through tunnels. He can also use it to store and transport his weapons (in theory, though there's hardly enough of them to warrant it.) It also attaches to his back so that its lights can protrude over his shoulders to guide his way through tunnels. The paint apps on these lights are pretty uninspired, but I still like their versatility. In fact, the overall design of the sledpack is more plain and dull than I would like, but it's a tough little bugger that should hold up to lots of rough play. 

Finally, the harness on his torso is detachable by means of miniature belt clips, and the lights on his sled pack can be removed and reattached to his uniform, even on his shins, lest he need to... uh... lace his boots in a dark tunnel or something.

Fun Factor - ****
I say again, friends: just look at the pictures. Whether scaling a tree, preparing to shoot down an enemy or about to have his unsuspecting brains blown out by a Megatron-wielding Snake Eyes, Tunnel Rat is F-U-N. I was in my yard for a good thirty minutes using this review as an excuse to play, and only the mosquitoes and the looming darkness finally brought me in (I can't imagine what my neighbors thought.) 

Value - ****
I might get some knee-jerk reactions from this rating. But no less than a half dozen stores in our local mall have quit selling toys, and so those that still do are charging more than ever, and you can expect to pay far more than ten dollars for some seriously uninspired figures with little to no articulation. If ten bucks can instead buy you a huge action figure with fun accessories, incredible articulation and lots of potential interchangeability with other figures from the series, how can I give it anything less than a four-star Value rating? (Tunnel Rat may get even cheaper eventually, as he's inexplicably a peg-warmer.)

Things to Watch Out For - 
Not a bloody thing.

Overall - ***1/2
Sigma 6 represents everything G.I. Joe should be: simultaneously convincingly militant and subtly fantastic. Cool looking but also durable. Good to pose on a shelf yet also good to play with. These are big, fun, kickass toys, and I recommend them without reservation.

The only drawback to this new 8-inch scale (aside from the problems it presents to obsessive-compulsive geeks like myself who want all their figures to be to scale with one another) is that we are unlikely to ever have a complete world of vehicles and bases and such as we did (and do) with the Real American Hero series. But while that is a serious loss, these figures are large enough to look credible in real world backdrops (unless I'm just inordinately excited by my photos.) And even if we never get the equivalent of a Terror-Drome for Sigma 6, I will not hesitate to say that Sigma 6 has the potential to be THE G.I. Joe line. It's already my favorite.

Tunnel Rat kicks ass, friends. It is as simple as that. 

I am Sigma 6's bitch, and I love it. 

Score Recap
Packaging - ***
Sculpt - ***1/2
Paint - ***
Articulation - ***1/2
Accessories - ***
Fun Factor - ****
Value - ****
Overall - ***1/2 

Where to Buy - 
I've seen them at Target and Toys R Us, and I can only assume Wal-Mart has them, too.

Figure from the collection of Monte Williams.

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