Review by Fred Meyer & Chris Chung
Pics by Fred Meyer
G.I. Joe Collector’s Club Figure Subscription Service 5.0
Cobra Battle Corps Trooper – Code name: Viper
The end of the road. The final hour. “It’s the final countdown! Da-da-da da,
du-du-da-da da…” Sorry, I couldn’t help it. The last hurrah.Those were all terms that could be used to define what the year 1994 was to the classic G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero line. Like a gladiator who had defeated all that had come to challenge it, the line that spurred the imaginations of millions was entering what would prove to be its final chapter. With increasing competition, both from within and without, the ARAH line had been pushing boundaries over the past few years to stay relevant to children a full twelve years after its debut. Gone were the days of olive drab and the military near-realism. This was an era of science fiction, bright colors, and spring-loaded accessories. Core characters were updated like never before and everyone; from fan-favorite to the obscure, were given bold new looks in the fourth year of a new decade that was becoming dominated by lines like the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Even the venerable Cobra Viper, first introduced back in 1985, was no longer safe. Gone were the days of the goggled helmet with the solid color face plate. It was the age of the Battle Corps Cobra Viper, a design that might have faded into niche obscurity were it not for the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club. Now, after twenty-three years, the Battle Corps Viper returns as part of the FSS Series 5. Was it worth the wait? Read on and find out what two long-time Joe fans think of this update from ARAH’s final year.
I actually really liked the vintage figure. Now, before I continue, I will concede perhaps he shouldn’t have been called a “Viper” proper because he lacked the Viper’s iconic helmet and faceplate. But regardless, I really liked the look and coloration of the figure. Add in the fact the uniform colors matched that year’s new Major Bludd, and it looked like Hasbro had made a specifically designed cohesive squad. Or these were Bludd’s personal Vipers. Whatever.
Like many of the FSS figures, the folks at the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club walk a fine line between judicious use of previously-existing tooling and vintage design adherence. As with most cases, compromises are made for the sake of the former. (Too many compromises are made if you ask me.) In order to recreate the 1994 Battle Corps Viper, the GIJCC designers had to get a bit creative.
Here’s the recipe for the FSS 5 Battle Corps Cobra Viper:
In terms of articulation, these parts combine to create a figure that is incredibly functional. He can hold most weapons relatively well and he can assume most poses easily. (I typically judge a figure by how convincingly it can squat down on one bent knee—something that the Jungle-Viper legs easily allow.) The Retaliation Cobra Trooper arms offer a solid range of motion, although I miss hinged wrists, and do a decent job of recreating the original look. In terms of articulation, this figure is all WIN!
That’s good you are talking about articulation, because I didn’t subscribe to this wave because I was not happy with the poor design choices.
When it comes to design and vintage adherence, the Battle Corps Cobra Viper is a bit more problematic. Yup. I’ll be blunt, the Jungle-Viper torso was about the best possible option out there, even if the legs don’t quite recreate the incredibly high boots of the 1994 design. And that’s what kills the design for me. I loved the boots on the original, but the Club doesn’t even try here. For me, this isn’t a problem as I was long out of buying G.I. Joe in 1994 and therefore have ZERO nostalgia for the original figure’s design. However, given the Club’s near religious-adherence to classic aesthetics, this might be off-putting to those fans who love the “neon 90’s” end of the line. For me, I prefer the FSS version and find that the colors, with all their similarities to the Night Vulture, are really starting to grow on me. (Who’d have ever thought I’d utter THAT sentence.)
I want to get into the construction a little more. You are right Fred, the torso is fairly limited in what the Club could do since nothing modern has those 80’s “Michael Jackson” shoulder pads (as you called them on Charbroil), and the choice they picked works even if the ammo pouches are too high on the body. The arms are also ok, and the head is a no-brainer (no pun intended). But as I stated above, the lack of the thigh-high boots is a deal breaker for me. Why? Because first off they looked damn cool, and second, those and the helmet are what made the Battle Corps Viper so iconic in its own right.
For this new version, the Club didn’t even bother with the boots. They didn’t even bother. They just slopped the parts together and said “That’s good enough.” What’s worse, is, they could have simply used the legs they had, and just painted the gray higher up on the legs! There is a clear natural seam-line above the pants pockets in which the fabric becomes quilted or checkered. It would have been so easy to make that the boot line! It’s right freakin’ there! But oh no, whoever designed this figure wasn’t able to figure that out. And who cares if there are pockets here. Plenty of boots have attached pockets! This crap is wholly unacceptable at this price tag.
And then let’s look at the boot choices they did use: the Jungle-Viper. There are other figures that have sleek legs that could emulate the tall boots, but instead they pick a guy who is wearing soft leather boots that look like they are a cross between moccasins and Irish dance shoes with the soles of Vibrim 5-finger toe shoes. So wait, this is a heavy armored Cobra dude who is up-armored everywhere but his legs. Okayyy…
(I will add having a full-size pistol holster on the figure’s ankle is a sign that whoever originally designed the Jungle-Viper wasn’t likely well versed in holsters, as most people do not want to wear a full sized pistol on the ankle.)
The colors are much better compared to the construction. The purple is a bit more subdued than the original, and the gray is darker. Unfortunately the red trim is also lighter, and it contrasts a bit more sharply now that the figure is more matte than the original. (The vintage figures’ hard plastic made them more glossy, so light usually evenly reflected off all surfaces. But since modern figures are more rubbery, refraction isn’t as evenly spread nowadays.)
Although the vintage figure had a painted collar, I don’t like it here. The vintage had an armored neck ring, while this has a normal shirt collar. Painting it red makes it look awkward and too noticeable, as it doesn’t flush well with the rest of the suit.
Next, the Club adds a red pistol belt. Again, the colors are ok, but that adds a bit more red to his body than what he was originally colored with. Indubitably they added the belt to break up the large empty swash of purple, but it would have been unnecessary if they done the boots correctly. See how this all comes together, Freddy?
Finally I want to quickly add would have it been so hard to give the purple blade a silver edge so it doesn’t meld into the purple of the uniform?
I don’t think that anyone was truly surprised by the Battle Corps Cobra Viper’s inclusion in the FSS after the GIJCC went to all the trouble to tool and updated version of this helmet for the 2015 Joe Con “Peril in Paradise” Iron Anvils figures. The helmet design was the best part of the vintage 1994 figure and it remained so with both the Joe Con 2005 and Joe Con 2015 releases of the Iron Anvils. It’s a testament to the design of the helmet that it works so well here with fewer paint applications than on its last two releases. Seriously—I don’t know what it is about this helmet but it really makes this entire figure design come together. I’m not normally a fan of the garish colors of the early 1990’s but for some reason it works here.
No, it was not a surprise this figure was made given the prior use of the head, but FSS slots should never be used as a cheap gimmick to sell troop builders. Actually, it is a very expensive gimmick, but a tactic the Club certainly knows about because they hope we buy more sets to get more troop builders. “It’s all about the Benjamins baby”, or so what pop culture says…
How does one go about equipping a magenta and fuchsia colored armored trooper from the 1990’s? Back in the day it was with a repainted trident harpoon gun, two sci-fi blaster pistols, and a jagged knife that looked like it belonged to Maxie Zeus from Batman’s rogue’s gallery . Plus, let’s not forget the banana-colored spring-loaded missile launcher! Today, things are a bit different.
The Battle Corps Viper comes equipped with:
I must admit, this is the part of the review where I’m scratching my head a bit. It’s not that this kid is bad, although the rifle isn’t the easiest to fit into the figure’s hands. It’s just that, for a character clad in such garish futuristic armor, this kit seems, well, rather mundane.
I like the large knife and the fact that it can fit into the hole in the figure’s back. But the M79 and the Resolute Destro rifle just feel like a step down from the armored battle helmet and the figure’s general appearance. I don’t know—maybe he’s slumming it and leaving the big future weapons for his buddies? Nah, I got nothing. The kit is the one aspect of this figure that feels like a step backwards—at least to this Joe fan.
No, you’re right. He does feel much under-gunned. The single shot grenade launcher is ok I guess, but why not carry a standard “NVR” Viper rifle that has an attached grenade launcher? The Destro rifle is cool because of the aesthetic, but he could have used a backpack or some additional webgear to look more combat ready. As it stands, he looks more like he’s on garrison duty rather than frontline.
Oh, and Fred, while we have a moment, shall we talk about the card art? Holy cow that is garbage! I realize whoever did it was trying to make it look like he vintage art, but yikes! Care to chime in?
Honestly, there’s not much to say. The vintage art just makes me feel bad for the poor guy. Seriously—he’s clearly the victim of some sort of horrible spine-wrenching accident that will leave him forever bound to some form of artificial location. Now I know what became of those poor test pilots in Iron Man 2. While I can appreciate the Club’s adherence to vintage designs this is one time in which the Club could have done us all a favor and updated the art to make these guys look just a bit more menacing.
At the end of the day, is the Battle Corps Cobra Viper worth acquiring? I can’t believe I’m saying this with a straight face but YES! Look, I get it—I’m usually the one that requires that the design of a figure makes some sort of logical sense. I also understand that the Battle Corps Cobra Viper is wearing a color scheme that would offer no tactical advantage outside of the Oompa Loompa-filled rooms of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. However, there’s just something about this figure that works. He’s got a solid functional parts-build and is sporting a color scheme that is so audacious that it has to be seen to be believed. He’s the antithesis of almost everything that usually appeals to me as a Joe fan and yet I really LOVE this figure. My only regret is that he’s a troop builder packaged in an FSS. This means that getting multiples isn’t something that is economically feasible for most collectors. Call me crazy, but these guys would have made a great set of foes for Battle Force 2000 in this year’s Joe Con set. However, that’s not the reality of the world in which we live in right now. So, yes, he’s a great figure and one that is surprisingly fun—he’s just not going to be one that easily obtainable in numbers. Of course, that’s just this Joe fan’s opinion.
As I said above, I really liked the vintage Battle Corps Viper. The purple and gray had a very synergetic look, and his combat armor, thigh-high boots, and helmet made for a great new look. Unfortunately this modern incarnation loses much of the “coolness” the vintage one had. No, this new one is not a wash. I suspect most people will be fine with this because enough was done to make it passable, but for me too many short cuts and awful design choices were made. Couple that with a $37.00 price tag and shipping, and there’s no way I can recommend this figure unless it’s for hard core collectors or customizers.
The Bottom Line : I can’t tell a lie—in spite of his garish colors the Battle Corps Cobra Viper has a solid parts build and is far more fun than he has any business being! Recommended for all late-era ARAH fans! (With deep pocketbooks, because these aren’t going to be cheap on the secondary scalper market!)