A few years ago I was over at my good friend TheMatrix’s house and we were looking over a box of vintage Joes that he had purchased from a co-worker. While going through the box, I stumbled across the original Range Viper. Between his “brain texture” helmet and his skull mask, I was ready to write him off as a figure I would never own. The 2000 reissue Rock Viper (which utilized the Ranger Viper mold) was a tremendous improvement in color but I still couldn’t get past the doofy-looking head. Leave it to Hasbro in 2005 to not only get me to reverse my opinion of the Range Viper concept but also to leave me with an insatiable desire to troop build these figures. The 2005 Range Viper may just be the coolest troop builder since the VvV 7 Viper!
If any figure shows that you can reuse a previously released mold with minimal changes and make it into a killer figure, it is this one. The body of the Range Viper from the neck down is all Swamp Rat with the arms from the VvV 2 Destro. The body is now recolored in deep blue and steel gray with some rust red on the belt, kneepads and helmet. The only major change to the torso is the addition of a large ammo belt with crosses the chest in the same fashion as was found on the original figure. However, as nice as the body design and colors are they pale in comparison to the best feature of this figure—the head.
Hasbro really outdid themselves on this new head sculpt and helmet combination. The helmet is an update of the original Range Viper head—only this time sans the whole “brain” texture. Instead, the helmet is smooth and solid in appearance and even features protection on the side for the Range Viper’s ears. The faceplate, however, is where this design really shines. The original Range Viper head was supposed to evoke the appearance of a skull with big red eyes. However, the doofy-looking colors (That’s twice in one review, if you’re keeping score) and the ridiculously over-sized lens made him look more like a Scooby Doo villain than a menacing Cobra trooper. In this case, the faceplate is made to look even more skeletal including details for the nostrils and teeth and is painted in a gray/bone color. The eye slots line up perfectly over the figure’s eyes so that you can see them through the helmet! The effect is truly fantastic and impressive at this scale! Underneath is a new balaclava-clad head that features the same blue and gray as was used on the figure as well as some great ribbed across the crown of the head. The faceplate also looks like it has been reinforced, making this trooper even more formidable. This is a head that can easily be reused for whatever Cobra troops Hasbro wants to release. In fact, I can see it becoming the new standard trooper head for the evil hordes! It’s a shame that it’s such a nice sculpt as I’m no enamored with the helmets that I’ll probably never display these figures with the helmets off!
I can’t believe it—I finally get the concept of the Range Viper. They’re dropped into sparsely populated areas. Their training allows them to live off the land and seek out small villages and settlements in lesser-developed parts of the world. Their uniforms, complete with skull visage, allow them to use terror as a weapon against the locals that they encounter, frightening them with the image of death itself! I can easily see Cobra using them in South America, or Africa or anywhere that superstition and terror could help to subdue a populace. Once I post these reviews, I’m going to set aside cash to order at least 8 more of these guys as they’re now part of my Joe universe. The Range Viper is THE best troop builder put out in the DTC line to date! Get them now!