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Viper Predator

by Monkey Boy

Things have a funny way of coming full circle. As a kid, the only Predator toys were the Kenner action figures with their funky made-up designs, and I always longed for movie accurate action figures. Then NECA gives us tons of movie-accurate Preds, and I start to long for something fresh and unexpected. What does NECA deliver? Kenner Preds. And I eat them up 'cause nostalgia.

Viper Predator is the leader of the notorious Serpent Clan, known throughout the Yautja underworld as the most skilled and brutal group of mercenaries. This clan includes his older brother, the Snake Predator. Specializing in Xenomorph hunts and the occasional clan war, Viper and his crew have but one code to follow: Finish Every Job.

When not on a mission, he has been known to target those possessing valuable tech or honor trophies, which are used for bartering or kept for the next job. Viper sometimes works with the elder Cracked Tusk on hunts. In return, the Serpent Clan receives weapons, bio-gear to endure jobs on foreign planets, and in some cases, personal transports such as the Blade Fighter vehicle*. He has also been known on occasion to help Enforcers track down Bad Bloods in exchange for immunity from various crimes.

*A fast, low-altitude, single-passenger transport designed to hunt Xenomoprhs that also functions as a mobile armory.

Wow, someone clearly had fun writing that. It manages to tie Viper to basically every facet of Predator-dom, from the movies (being Snake's brother) to the comics (Enforcers and Bad Bloods) to the toys (Cracked Tusk and Blade Fighter). Viper's design was invented by NECA, and while it's not the first time they've added their own creative input to a Predator (Battle Armor Lost set that precedent), it is the first completely original Predator they've released. He's clearly Kenner-inspired, and was originally intended to come with the (as yet unreleased) NECA version of the old Blade Fighter vehicle. It didn't cost out, so Viper was shuffled over to the main Predator line in Series 12. His funky diamond forehead pattern and short dreadlocks (not to mention his name) are very reminiscent of the Snake Predator from the Lost Tribe, so it's not surprising he gets a mention in the bio.

Viper is a totally kitbashed figure, meaning he doesn't get any new parts to his sculpt. His head is from Snake, while the entire body from the neck down is the updated Jungle Hunter body. It's not a bad sculpt by any means, but you've certainly seen (and read about) it before numerous times. However, that doesn't mean there aren't any surprises to be had here. Viper's left gauntlet is actually just a flipped version of the JH right gauntlet, meaning he gets two sets of wrist claws. To me, this is pretty awesome, and actually went a long way toward convincing me to buy a figure I otherwise might have skipped. I like doubled weapons, what can I say.

His paint is a bit of a mixed bag. I really like the color scheme and patterns of his skin; the warm palette is very striking and eyecatching. It's applied very well, and contrasts nicely with his gunmetal armor. His claws are copper, which is a nice balance between the two extremes. The one thing you'll want to watch out for, as usual, is the netting. Viper was the last of Series 12 that I picked up, because it took a very long time to find one on the pegs with a net paint apps that matched up with the sculpt. NECA has been getting better at this, albeit very slowly, and there's usually one figure in a given Predator series that ends up being the "worst offender" as far as the net paint matching goes. In this series, that just happens to be Viper. Your mileage may vary.

If you don't know how these guys move now, I would question why you're reading this review when you clearly don't like Predator figures. He's got the updated Jungle Hunter body, and moves exactly as all the other figures with that body move. He does get the new ratchet jointed hips that are a wonderful step forward starting with this series, though my Viper's hips are looser than his series mates. The whole leg assembly moves freely and loosely, but the individual hips can be moved and will hold their pose thanks to the ratchets. It's not as good as say, Bad Blood or Elder V.2, but much better than the previous figures have been ever since the introduction of balljointed hips into the line.

Vipredator is accessorized with the obvious backpack/plasma caster, since he is a Jungle Hunter remold after all, though it's best not to take it for granted since the Dead End Preds weren't so lucky. He also gets two sets of hands: one open, and one designed to grab the controls of the Blade Fighter. He also gets *trumpet fanfare* a removable mask! Yayyy wooo the crowd goes wild! He's just the third NECA Pred to get a removable mask, after Nightstorm and Ahab, and he's the first one to have his mask encompass his entire face, with no tusks or jaw sticking out. It is a rather clunky, horse-ish mask, which is fine; as a unique, NECA-invented design, it can be bottom-heavy and not look "wrong," unlike the classic iconic masks of the film Preds. Hopefully, this hammers home why NECA can't give those Predators removable masks: their faces really wouldn't fit without removing the tusks.

His mask is blocky and angular, with black smooth-surfaced outer plates covering up more detailed, intricate silver mechanical elements below. The lenses are yellow, and the forehead motif is copper, like his claws. Despite its funky look, it actually fits on his face better than any other NECA Predator's mask, although the inside is so detailed you almost hate to hide it by smushing his face all on it. There are lots of paint apps in there too, including tiny red dots and gold inner eye lenses.

Viper isn't my favorite figure in this series, but he's not the easy pass I thought he'd be. To me, he's ironically the most Kenner-esque of the NECA Kenner Preds, even though he isn't actually rooted in an old design. I think it's probably because the first three NECA/Kenner offerings were based on figures released toward the end of the original run. They weren't as readily available, with many being KB Toys exclusives, and by that time I didn't have the same enthusiasm for the line as I did when it started. Viper, meanwhile, has all the elements of a true Kenner Pred: a striking color scheme and an oversized, "extreme" mask. Despite being an entirely kit bashed figure, these elements help him stand out on your Predator shelf. And he'll probably look even better behind the controls of the Blade Fighter.

-- 01/11/15

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