While not part of the first year lineup from 1982, Duke is easily one of the most recognizable and best-known heroes in the entire line's history. Sure, he's a boring looking blond guy, but he's been at the center of the marketing and TV shows for years, plus there are nearly two dozen different action figures of this guy.
The original figure in 1983 had a helmet, gun, and binoculars-- so does this one. It also had a backpack, which this figure does not, although this 2007 version does have a holster for a pistol which works quite nicely.
With a holster, loads of articulation, and just enough detail to make you swoon, there's a lot to like. Since some of that articulation wasn't as well-thought-out as it could have been, there's also a lot to complain about.
The original figure from 1983 shared parts with other figures, and so does this one. Flint and Duke have the same body, which mean they share a lot of the same flaws and benefits from it. While it's great that Hasbro engineered the figure to look a little more toy-like, and it's fantastic that the figure has more articulation than ever before, it's not exactly great articulation. As you can see in some of the shots at the top of the review, Duke is incapable of viewing anything through his binoculars due to how his arms were developed. When you factor in that the binoculars are tiny little easily lost things, it's a pretty safe bet that this will be sucked up by collector vacuum cleaners everywhere. The figure can sit, although not too well-- his hips are restricted by the construction of the waist pieces. He can stand all right, and be posed in some nifty battle-action poses. But when you get right down to it, the figure makes a better collector's item than it does a plaything.
The removable helmet is a great nod to the original. Also like the original, the helmet looks like a cheesy piece of green plastic with no real definition or markings. Thankfully it fits just fine, but it could stand to look a little better. Duke's face, along with some other early figures, seems to be just slightly stylized and gives the figure a more animated, almost doll-like appearance rather than that of a carefully trained American soldier. It's an interesting take on the character, and not exactly the almost mean expression you see on his file card. Duke figures from the tail end of Valor vs. Venom also looked this way, so perhaps it's intentional on Hasbro's part to give the figure an overly plastic looking head.
The decision to decorate the figure as they did makes it look just a little bit better. His skin is nice, his blue eyes pop nicely, and his blond hair is, well, good enough. As far as hs appearance goes, this First Sergeant looks pretty gosh darned great. (Oh, and it's worth noting his bandolier is completely removable.)
The pistol slips easily into a holster on his leg, and it comes out nicely. As I've had some trouble with weapon holsters in this line, it's always worth noting when they do work out well and fit perfectly. As few of the original Joes were concerned with weapon storage on their person, it's really stunning to see that most of this line features a way to store one or more accessories on the actual figure when not in use. Well done, Hasbro!
A pistol, a rifle, and a display stand. The 1985 Duke came with a backpack, but the 2007 one does not-- as of yet, the figure doesn't even have a hole in his back for a backpack if you wanted to give him one.
Duke's accessories are largely inspired by his 1983 ancestor. You get a big fancy gun, binoculars, a helmet, and some other goodies. He has no real problem interacting with any of his accessories save for his binoculars which is a real shame. The original figure sported a strap on the binoculars so he could hold them that way, or hang them on his neck. New Duke can hold them in his hand, but not look through them due to how the figure was designed-- a flaw, to be sure. It's not a deal breaker but it does render the accessory fairly worthless. The pistol fits right in the holster, the helmet goes snuggly over the head, and the guns are ready to be fired by his very capable hands. The only thing missing, really, is any sort of backpack.
The display stand is essentially the same size and shape as those used for Star Wars figures in 2006 (and again in 2008). The peg size is also smaller than other Joe toys, making these action figures compatible with modern Star Wars and not the previous two decades of Joe product.
The boxed set also includes a large logo made out of plastic that, when you push the star, will sing part of the show's theme song for you. It's a cute extra and a nice value-add, but most likely you'll end up tossing this one in a box to get it out of your way. It's a nice item for your desk, it's a fun addition to a shelf maybe, but it has no real place with the rest of the toys and, if anything, it seems that its main purpose is to help sell the box set at the point of purchase by playing that old song for you.
For the 25th Anniversary's initial announcement, Hasbro confirmed we'd be getting box sets-- and what fine box sets, they were! The heavy, thick cardboard housed 5 action figures, an electronic singing logo accessory, file cards, and a nifty backdrop.
The set also includes Scarlett, Snake Eyes, Gung Ho, and Roadblock. The box comes in an unusual shape, but it's a high-quality package and you really feel like you just got your money's worth out of this set. The box feels expensive and like it's part of the set, along with the electronic singing G.I. Joe logo and the file cards. Hasbro knows how to make a set feel special when they want to, and this truly feels like a special set.
It's worth noting that, like the rest of the line so far, there are no product photos anywhere on the package. All products are instead represented by artwork.
He also has a file card, pre-cut and placed in the box for your enjoyment.
Comparisons & Variations
Only one Duke exists in the line, but it shares parts with Flint. Both have the same basic body, but unique heads, deco, and accessories.
From left to right: Flint (individually carded, 2007), Duke (5-pack, 2007). At press time there are no known significant Duke figure variations.
It's worth noting there are a few packaging variants. This boxed set has a flat blue "top" or a metallic blue "top," and the configuration of the figures inside is slightly different. The "metallic" insert has the file cards prominently dispayed, and all of the figures are posed completely differently. Also, an individually carded Duke is due out in late 2007/early 2008 with no planned changes made to the toy. (We'll see about that.)
Depending on what floats your boat, Duke could be either the best thing to happen to you or a real turkey. As a fan who leans more toward the goofy, unrealistic characters, Duke doesn't immediately appeal to me and his inability to be posed as well as I might like doesn't help things. Still, you have to have someone for your Cobra troopers to wail on, and he's just as good as anyone else in this role. A better version in the future feels all but guaranteed, but then again, it might not happen. If you loves you some Duke, get this one, but if you're a picky figure collector who only wants the best (or a figure that's a C+ at worst), skip this one.
Text and photos by Adam Pawlus
Review posted on November 15, 2007
Sample purchased in July 2007 at Entertainment Earth [Check availability]