A great phrase to describe GIJoe since the relaunch might be “what’s old is new again”. Think about it—we’ve had new versions of several classic characters and even a few vehicle updates all as a way of bringing Joe into the 21st century. Characters such as Duke, Snake Eyes, Gung Ho, Spirit, Flint, Cover Girl and Cobra Commander have all been given a “modern make-over”. The same can be said of the vehicles with the Fang 3 getting a dramatic overhaul early in the GvC relaunch. However, some vehicles are so distinctive, so classic that they get not one but two facelifts. The Cobra HISS tank has always been a “signature vehicle” of everyone’s favorite “ruthless terrorist organization” and yet many fans were not crazy about the “HISS IV” overhaul that happened in the GIJoe vs. Cobra line. Some felt it was too bulky, or under-armed and others were just turned off by how dramatically the war machine’s look had changed. Hasbro responded and the latest HISS debuted at the 2005 Collector’s Convention to rave reviews. Did the realization live up to the anticipation? Read on, and find out this Joe fan’s opinion.
In my opinion, the key to updating any classic character or vehicle is to retain the vehicle’s defining characteristics while evolving the design in other areas. If this sentence leaves you scratching your head and wondering when you were transported back into your college English Literature class, let me explain. When I think of the original HISS tank, I think of the triangular treads, the protruding cockpit with the clear canopy, and the dual barreled turret. I envision a tank that is both fast and sleek in appearance and yet appears to be grounded in reality. The DTC redux of the HISS comes very, very close to recapturing these basic elements with an increased level of detail. The protruding cockpit with the clear canopy is still present, and now features a more highly detailed interior with molded contours in the seat and grating on the floor. The canopy itself is no longer entirely clear and is instead appeared to be comprised of a metal frame with several sections of clear Plexiglas. The result is more akin to an Apache helicopter than the original HISS, but it works in giving the impression of a much more strongly reinforced pilot’s compartment. The signature triangular treads are also present—having been elongated to provide greater stability. The treads themselves also sport an increased level of detailing: the armored panel that covers much of the delicate bogey wheels features rivets, bolts, and panels more complex than seen on the original.
The armaments of this particular HISS is where the update deviants from the original. The twin-barreled turret is gone, in favor of dual removable missile launchers that carry two firing missiles each. An additional pair of launchers has also been placed above the treads on either side mounted in a fixed forward-firing position. The result is a weapons package that will allow the HISS to launch what appear to be 8 short-range missiles simultaneously at a single target. Doing so, however, will then leave the tank virtually defenseless until its crew can reload it. This HISS does sport a secondary means of putting the hurt on GIJoe; under the cockpit are mounted a pair of removable rifles which seem to serve as anti-personnel defense for the armored craft. These weapons can also be removed and used by nearby ground troops. The rifles themselves are a bit large and are cumbersome in the hands of most 3.75” figures I’ve armed with them but they will do in a pinch. This is also consistent with the theme of “removable weapons” that would appear to have dominated the non-defunct “Robot Rebellion” theme. This weapons package works well as an “Anti-Aircraft” variant for the HISS tanks and would work well in tandem with more traditionally armed HISS units. I can only hope that Hasbro releases a second canon-turreted version of this tank in the near future. Otherwise, this HISS is woefully under-equipped for prolonged combat.
The DTC HISS recalls a previous incarnation of Cobra’s signature tank in one key area—this is the latest update to sport a troop bay in the back. (Previous versions were the HISS II and the HISS IV – also referred to as the “Strike HISS”.) Accessible by either the open rear panel or the two gull-wing side panels, the compartment can comfortably accommodate 3 Cobra troopers. (More could be placed inside but only if the turret is removed—otherwise the bottom of the turret fills much of the interior space.) So, while the tank also doubles as a carrier for a group of soldiers, you’d better make certain that it’s a small group. (Either that or a group of vipers vying for the world’s record of “most troops crammed into a small space”.)
Speaking of crew, the DTC HISS has a rather interesting choice of pilot. Rather than go with any style of Viper or Cobra trooper, the folks in Pawtucket decided on a more unorthodox soldier—the Night Creeper. That’s right, the HISS is now being piloted by a high-tech ninja clad in red. Now, I’ll give them props for the color scheme as red was the primary color of the long-forgotten Cobra HISS driver back in 1983. The color suits the Night Creeper mold and evokes images of a modern day “red ninja”. However, when I try to wrap my head around the logic of putting a ninja in the pilot’s seat of a tank, my brain shuts down. There’s nothing wrong with the figure (aside from the usual proportion issue comments but I’ve already covered those back in the VvV4 Night Creeper review) except that it simply doesn’t work at a tanker. There are many figures that I feel would have been a better fit—including the DTC Wave 3 Cobra Trooper whose color scheme is oddly evocative of the Rip-It figure included with the RAHC HISS 3 reissue. So, while the Night Creeper isn’t a bad figure in his own right, he’s just not someone that I would have pictured driving my HISS battalions into battled. (All of these Night Creeper color variations are starting to make that ninja organization look like The Wiggles!)
So, did the DTC HISS succeed as a worthy update to the original HISS? Mostly, but there are a few areas that could be improved upon. The increased level of detail, removable launchers, and troop compartment are fantastic features of this new piece of Cobra hardware. The paint decos, including the weathering effects, are fantastic. This HISS is a great addition to my Cobra tank divisions but it will in no way replace the original HISS as my primary Cobra tank. Why not? Simple—as much as I love this tank, it’s just too under-armed to be the main thrust of a tank division. This model works extremely well as a limited troop carrier and as an anti-aircraft missile variant, but lacks the offensive cannon power of either the original or the v2. In the end I do recommend picking up this HISS, as it is a great piece of equipment for the money. However, it will never quite replace the original as the signature tank in my Cobra army.