Review & pics by: Fred Meyer
G.I. Joe 50th Anniversary Zombie Patrol Zombie Viper
Let’s be honest—America (and Western Culture) is in the middle of a love-affair with the notion of zombies. Whether it was George Romero’s classic B&W film Night of the Living Dead, King of the Zombies, or even Victor Halperin’s White Zombie from 1932, the animated dead have become a recurring theme in horror cinema. In modern context, it was Paul W.S. Anderson’s 2002 adaptation of the video game Resident Evil that brought the hordes of the undead back into popular entertainment spotlight—a position that they’ve never left since. Now, TV viewers can watch weekly series such as The Walking Dead, Z-Nation, or even the CW’s irreverent iZombie that all feature these non-living creatures in one form or another.
Given their prevalence in modern pop-culture, it was no surprise that Hasbro opted re-introduce zombies into the G.I. Joe mythos. In 2011, as part of the 30th Anniversary line-up, Hasbro unveiled the Zombie Viper—which was in many ways a spiritual successor to 1992’s Toxo-Viper. The figure proved to be a bit polarizing among some fans simply because it took the brand in a VERY science-fiction oriented direction. Fans either loved it or actively disliked it and there seemed to be very little middle ground. Sadly, due to the limited distribution of the 30 th Anniversary line, these figures proved hard-to-find at retail. Given how seldom zombies are portrayed as a lone menace, fans who wanted these figures sought to build their own Zombie Viper hordes. This supply/demand imbalance pushed up secondary market prices and made the Zombie Viper one of the more expensive figures from the 30th Anniversary line to acquire. Thankfully, the folks at Hasbro recognized the popularity of these shambling Cobra troopers and a two-pack was added to the 2016 roster.
Let me be clear—this figure is essentially a repaint of the original Zombie Viper from five years ago. The gear, colors, and even the accessories are nearly identical to the original release. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it allows for the 2016 release to seamlessly integrate into a Joe fan’s existing horde. The key differences that I’ve noticed on my new Zombie Vipers are as follows:
Now, this could be limited to just the figures I’ve been able to find thus far but those appear to be the only differences. The construction, quality of the plastic, and other paint apps are all identical!
The body of the Zombie Viper is, in my opinion, one of the best most-detailed designs to come out of the entire post-movie era of G.I. Joe. The figure is built on the body of the Cobra Shock Trooper, a figure whose parts have been recycled time and time again since its original release in 2011. This parts reuse gives some implication of what the Zombie Viper might have been prior to his exposure to the dreaded Compound Z. The grey uniform body is then covered with a new web harness that features a series of sculpted tubes along the sides as well as some tattered straps along the bottom, giving the indication that all didn’t quite go as planned with this experiment—or did it?
What makes the Zombie Viper shine are the lower arms, lower legs, and head. These are the “zombie parts”—the bits of the body that have been ravaged by Compound Z. What was once normal flesh has been turned ashen gray with its surface covered in raised pustules and splotches of torn-away skin revealing the blue hue of the Compound Z infection below. This bright blue paint is everywhere—from the damaged sections of the limbs to the finger and toe nails on the gnarled hands and feet. In fact, the hands end up being one of my favorite parts of the entire figure as the fingers have been sculpted bent and splayed—holding a position that just isn’t natural for a normal living person.
If the body is solid, then it’s the head that truly sells the concept. The original 2011 design didn’t shy away from the fact that “there’s just something not right about these guys.” The sculpt is just LOADED with details that show the monstrous effects of the dreaded blue chemical. From the odd set of the jaw, to the missing teeth, to the swollen right eye, and the protruding blue veins, the effects of Compound Z are everywhere. In fact, most of the skin on the figure’s left profile seems to be the process of sloughing off, revealing fibrous blue tissue beneath! I even like the now decaying ears and the seemingly pupil-less yellow eyes! It’s as if the designers combined aspects from every recent pop-culture portrayal of zombies from Resident Evil, Dead Rising, and even 28 Days Later and combined them into one horrific shambling form. If you can’t tell by now—I love it!
If you’re looking for an arsenal of gear to be included with the Zombie Viper, prepare to be disappointed. Despite the claims of the file card that these troops retain all of the fighting skills that they had in life, the Zombie Viper appears to be driven by much more feral instincts. As such, the character’s kit reflects two aspects of its history: its creation and its evolution. Included with the Zombie Viper are:
Essentially I see the kit breaking own as a before/after situation. The helmet and the canister were tossed onto some poor “volunteer” at the beginning of the experiment. Once Compound Z did its work, the poor soul was transformed into a Zombie Viper and it’s just a matter of time before the helmet/canister is discarded. The tentacles, however, are definitely more of a T-Virus take on these troopers and represent a possible future evolution of the former Cobra soldiers. To put them on, simply remove both the figure’s human-shaped hands and the tattered portions of sleeves that fit on the lower arms. The tentacles pop on snugly once the sleeves are removed; they do, however, add a lot of weight to the figure, making it somewhat more difficult to balance. The detail on the tentacles is like that of the figure’s body—the skin surface is covered with pustules and more Compound Z-infused veins. Visually, they’re stunning but ultimately I don’t find them to be as useful as I’d hoped. They remind me a lot of the Flood from the HALO games and maybe, because of having to wade through those infected forms in HALO 3, I’m just not a fan of the extra limbs. I’ve got most of them already set into a bag in one of the “parts bins” which is where I see them remaining for the future.
If you can’t tell—I’m a fan of the Zombie Viper. I loved the design when it first came out in 2011 but never saw a single one at retail. As such, I was thrilled when Hasbro announced the two-pack of these figures at Joe Con 2016. (Honestly, they could have replaced the Special Forces three-pack with a trio of these guys IMHO.) Thanks to some luck catching the pre-orders at BigBadToyStore.com and a few extra trips to my local Toys R Us store I’ve now amassed a small gaggle of these guys and they’ve not gotten old in the slightest. Yes, the concept of zombies in the world of G.I. Joe has both feet firmly in the realm of fantasy vs. military realism but G.I. Joe hasn’t been a strictly military realistic line in a long time. Instead, the Zombie Vipers are another example of the brand taping into the cultural zeitgeist and taking a theme that is popular for the time and folding it into the brand mythos. It worked with the 2011 release of the figure, it worked with the Zombie Initiative convention set , and it works for the 2016 Zombie Patrol two-pack. This is a solidly-designed set that gives fans a chance to own two of a highly sought-after troop builder! My advice is to snag a few sets and build your own Zombie horde!
The Bottom Line: The Zombie Viper is one of the most insanely well-designed figures of the past five years. This two-pack is the perfect way to build up a small horde w/o breaking the bank on secondary market prices!
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