Mar 09, 2007
Review: I.W.G. Rocketship
Patrick Ma's Insurgents Wilderness Gruppo (I.W.G) from Rocket World is a clever and timely concept -- anthropomorphic animals taking up arms and military tactics to punish 'bad humans' who have endangered earth's ecosystem. The I.W.G. line started with mini-figures and expanded into larger figures including several recent releases. After a lengthy development process, STRANGEco has released the I.W.G. Rocketship -- a 19" interplanetary transport for the intrepid I.W.G warriors.
The retro themed I.W.G. Rocketship comes in three colorways - the Future Eco-Green Edition (450 pcs), Classic Galactic Silver Edition (450 pcs), and the very limited Force Recon Covert Black Special Edition. The I.W.G Rocketship comes with a bonus mini I.W.G. figure -- Taharaka the Rhino (Eco-Green) or Huey the Black Panther (Galactic Silver). The Force Recon Covert Black Special Edition comes with both figures.
For this review, we evaluated the Galactic Silver Edition. The I.W.G. Rocketship is well-designed with a distinct retro vibe. The classic curved fins end in laser canons and also bear each ship's edition number. While the toy can be appreciated as a static rocket, it is also a capable 'playset'. Peering through the sweet porthole window one can see into the cockpit. Pulling down the hinged door reveals a ladder on the inner side of the door as well as the spacious cockpit and storage area. The detail of the door both inside and out is executed perfectly and really adds a welcome sense of technical intricacy to the design. The cockpit is large enough to hold 2-3 mini figures comfortably. The control panel is complete with a rotating steering wheel. The storage area, a circular space below the cockpit, is used by I.W.G. operatives to store the remains of 'bad humans'. Conveniently, each Rocketship comes with a skull and two human bone accessories.
Next, we come to what many will feel is the headline special feature. The red LED light on the cockpit ceiling rounds out the interior. A counterclockwise 1/4 turn of the antenna engages the light which while a bit dim, definitely adds to the mood and the overall value of the toy. The inclusion of the light and the clever switch (which doesn't appear to be documented) is a sure sign of Patrick Ma and STRANGEco's commitment to deliver a superior product. Though I'm not sure how practical it is when viewed from a collector's perspective.
The Galactic Silver edition comes with a bonus Huey the Black Panther mini-figure complete with a rather large side arm (all the better to dispatch bad humans). Huey is quite the stealthy warrior. The facial details are quite nice -- especially the whiskers which were unexpected and quite cool.
The I.W.G. Rocketship comes in a large retro-themed matte box which clearly pays homage to toy packaging from the past with it's exclamations -- "Working Cockpit Light!" and "Bonus Mini Figure Inside!". The side panel details the role of the rocketships in the I.W.G. universe with the signature delicious prose drenched in the over-the-top detail and sense of gravity, that accompanies all I.W.G projects.
Build and Quality
Due to the structural limitations of vinyl, the Rocketship is made out of hard plastic. The use of hard plastic is a necessary yet unfortunate concession as the physical feel of the I.W.G. Rocketship and other similarly constructed toys) is, in my opinion, inferior to the nice tactile touch and weight of vinyl. Overall the construction is sturdy though the fins could stand to be slightly more rigid.
The paint application is of fairly high quality though there does seem to be some variability from piece to piece. The shiny silver hull shows some minor discolorations in spots. The checkered band that rings the ship is fairly uniform with decent registration. The I.W.G. logo on rear of the ship is spotless from what I've seen.
Finally, we come to the dual natural of the I.W.G. Rocketship. It's both a limited-edition collectible and a functional playset. As a playset, it excels with a strong design and several cool features including the large hinged door and the working LED light.
As a collectible designer toy, things are a little less clear. On one hand, the rocketship makes a cool display for I.W.G and other mini-figs. On the other hand, I feel this tension between designer toys and more mainstream toys which often have available playsets. In my mind, designer toys are special partly because they subvert what mainstream toys are about.
If one recognizes designer toys as affordable and collectible art pieces, then the issue of play features becomes a little murky. While many collectors desire articulation -- I think it's reasonable to suggest that many pose the figure once or very infrequently for static display rather than play with it on a regular basis. Play certainly isn't bad, far from it. The question is, when does a designer toy start to feel like a more mainstream toy and thereby lose some of its subversive appeal? There's no easy answer -- and like everything else this is ultimately a matter of personal taste.
Overall, the I.W.G. Rocketship is a well designed and well-executed toy and certainly a welcome addition for many I.W.G fans. It offers good collectability at only 450 pieces each for the silver and green editions. The $99 suggested retail price is nicely offset by the large size (18" high), cool extra features (most notably the LED light), and the inclusion of the bonus figure.
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The functionality of collectible art vinyl in no way subtracts from the subversive and artistic integrity of the pieces themselves. Although to some degree, the additional elements,or intrinsic bells and whistles of a “play set” like the IWG Rocketship, feed into the mainstream expectations of toys at large. That being said, I feel as though that in no way inhibits the overall appeal. The play sets and any complimentary pieces work as an extension of this quasi-fantastical world of art toys. If anything they perpetuate the bigger picture of the character as a whole and its design. Just some food for thought, or excessive blabbering for your critique.
Rebs: Thanks for the comment. I can certainly see how one might say that added play functionality only enhances a piece and does not affect integrity. However, I think it's important to consider how well the functionality is tied to the artistic design. More specifically, do the play features compliment the design or are they key selling points?
The I.W.G Rocket is a cool piece. The light and other features add to the overall vibe. That said, the toy raises the issue of the role of play mechanics in art toys. My intent was to highlight the timely issue rather than make a judgment.
My Covert Black model arrived today, and it's pretty disappointing. The cockpit light doesn't work, the door is incredibly difficult to open--I'm afraid I'll break it, it's so tight--and one of the three "legs" is split at the seam, so the missile will not stay in place. Maybe I just got a bum unit, but for $120 and a long, thrice-delayed wait I expected much better.
Heard back from RocketWorld today re: bum rocket I described in the above comment. It seems I received a defect and they're sending an exchange.