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Defense of Cobra Island

GI Joe Generation 3
by yo go re

The new live-action GI Joe movie has opened now, and proved a success both financially and critically. The toys are finding fans even among the big "Real American Hero" die-hards who said they'd never accept the movie line. However, Hasbro is a company that knows how to cater to its fans, which is why we got the Defense of Cobra Island 7-pack.

Cobra forces battle the GI Joe team to defend Cobra Island! This oceanic fortress of villainy is under attack, and it will take every bit of skill and trechery to stop the heroic GI Joe team from capturing the island.

This is one of two sets (the other being the Joes in "Assault on Cobra Island") available exclusively online and featuring G3 versions of RAH characters we were still missing.

At one time, Dr. Mindbender was an excellent orthodontist and a kind, honest man. He began tinkering with an electromagnetic brainwave device as a means of relieving dental pain. The good doctor tried his invention on himself with tragic results. His personality underwent a complete conversion, changing him from a caring, conscientous doctor to hateful, deceitful, and vain man. He abandoned his practice and devoted all his time to perfecting brain-scrambling equipment to alter or control his subjects, reducing even the most strong-willed individual into a cowering shell.

Dr. Mindbender (who was originally going to be called "Dr. Brainwave" or "The Interrogator") filled an important role in both the comics and the cartoons: in the comics, he served as a replacement for Dr. Venom, after the latter was killed in action; on the cartoon, having him around meant Cobra no longer had to draw attention to themselves by kidnapping scientists every episode.

One of Hasbro's 2008 comic packs gave us our first canonical glimpse of Dr. Mindbender's origin (and gave his real name: Dr. Binder), but it offers no explanation as to why a balding orthodontist would have the physique of a professional athlete. There's only one bare chest in the G3 toyline, and it's the one this 4⅛" figure uses. The legs come from the Crimson Guards, but the head is new. It had to be - with a bushy mustache, thick black eyebrows and a monocle, there was no way to make this a repaint.

Dr. Mindbender has the same long silver gun that he had in 1986 - according to the filecard from back then, it was actually a portable version of his brain-scrambling device. This one is lacking the black hose and the power pack, and it also won't fit into the holster notch on the figure's left leg. The black cape seems to be a higher quality fabric than the old one, which should hopefully mean the armholes don't fray over time, and the silver Cobra logo on the back is an iron-on transfer. Mindbender has a new harness, to simulate the old look, and there's a Cobra logo sculpted into the back.

Lampreys defend the Cobra organization's strategic coastal and island facilities. They are hand picked, highly trained and formidably equipped to act as the ultimate protection system. To qualify for this elite amphibious group, a candidate must have completed the rigorous Cobra Eel training and been operational for at least one year. Adept in all marine environments from tropical waters to Arctic seas, Lamprey troopers are first-class divers, swimmers, and underwater demolitions specialists. They act with precision and speed in combat, and like a school of hungry piranhas, they attack the enemy with the voracious determination to subdue and destroy.

The Lamprey was originally a vehicle driver, which hurt his chances of seeing a Generation 3 release: Hasbro could only budget for so many different large sets, and the Moray just didn't fit the bill.

Some G3 figures were straight updates of their Generation 1 counterparts, while others were thematic descendants, updated takes on the old standbys. The Lamprey definitely falls into the second category. Rather than a guy in a silver bodysuit and a blue lifejacket, this figure has been given a lot more detail. His arms and legs come from Snow Job, so there's a lot more bulk. Some fans will surely complain about the changes to the Lamprey design, but since thse guys spend more time aboard their boats or on the docks making repairs than they do under the water, he doesn't need to look like a diver. The head is new, but retains clear parallels to the 1985 version of the figure. The blue "glass" can be removed, allowing you to see this generic Cobra's face. A rarity!

Instead of a simple life preserver around his neck, the Lamprey seems to be wearing a tactical diving vest. There are hoses and tubes, all sorts of gauges and waterproof pouches, and thick belts to lock it in place. There's a small blue backpack that has black tubes running into the rear of the helmet - probably an air source. The figure includes a small silver Luger and a larger submachine gun. The pistol fits in the holster on the right leg.

Range-Vipers are usually committed to long-term operations deep within unfriendly territory, completely cut off from communications or supplies. They have an unusually high tolerance for discomfort and can survive on a diet of snakes, grubs, roots, berries, nuts, and whatever slow rodents they can catch. They are expected to build their shelters out of indigenous materials, usually rocks and mud, and procure their own ammunition by way of hit and run raids on enemy ammo depots.

The Range-Vipers were a fairly late addition to the ranks of Cobra, not showing up until 1990. The idea was pretty cool - a wilderness trooper to counter the likes of Outback - but the design just didn't live up to that. Baby blue and yellow? A mask that looks like a skull and exposed brain? It just didn't say "sleeping rough and living off the land." Some kind of psychological warfare expert? Sure, that'd be fine. But for a squad that's meant to be out in the bush? It just doesn't work.

That said, this update is excellent. The body is a full re-use of the nifty Resolute Cobra Trooper, and it works wonderfully. The armored pads on the legs and shoulders, the ribbed sweater, the ties around the forearms... it sticks fairly close to the old design, but tweaks things slightly to create a modern version. You can remove the skull mask, too, revealing the same head used for the Para-Viper - and the way its texture blends with that of the shirt makes it seem like the two were always meant to go together.

In addition to the helmet (which apparently originated with a DTC figure), the Range Viper comes with a grey version of Hawk's backpack, Tunnel Rat's machine gun and shoulder holster, an ammo belt, pistol, and a new grenade launcher with a removable drum. Now, admittedly, there's still nothing about this figure that says "wilderness trooper," but a brown and green repaint would take care of that. He still looks very cool.

Alley-Vipers are urban assault specialists. They utilize tactics and equipment similar to those used by police S.W.A.T. units in cases of rioting, crowd control and heavily armed attackers. But the Alley-Vipers use them to instigate chaos and spearhead assaults rather than contain them. They are equipped with heavy body armor, advanced night optics, covert observation gear and an arsenal of weapons. Masters of brute force and diabolical treachery, Alley-Vipers use any means necessary to achieve their objectives. To graduate from their training program, they are required to survive a full burst of machine gun fire across their frontal body armor, execute a thirty foot jump onto concrete with full combat load and run down a hundred meter gas-filled corridor without a gas mask.

Ah, the Alley-Viper! Has there ever been a bigger eyesore of a trooper? They wear urban camo, but in retina-searing blue and orange; what the hell alley would they be camouflaged in? Is Cobra planning a raid on Willy Wonka's chocolate factory? Candyland? Whoville? I know some people love the Alley-Vipers, but come on!

Like several characters before him, the Alley-Viper is built on one of the updated Snake-Eyes bodies, though he gets the same lower legs as the Range-Viper. The arms are new, as is the head. Yes, you can finally remove that weird helmet - back in 1989, all you could do was take off the mask on the front, but now the entire thing comes off. How do they see through that, anyway?

The Alley-Viper is topped off with a thick tactical vest that really does a great job of capturing the old design. It's got poches on the stomach and shoulder, a greande and a knife over the chest, and the back is sculpted with details to make it look padded. His weapons include a submachine gun, a black backpack with a grappling gun, and a pointy riot shield with a slot in the back where you can plug in the included nightstick. So that's all good. Now the bad. In '89, the grappling gun was just molded onto the backpack, and perhaps they should have gone the same route today: though there's a space where the gun is designed to fit, it doesn't actually plug in or anything, so it just doesn't stay. Yes, you could strap it on with one of the rubber bands that hold the figures in the tray, but that's a temporary measure for something that should have worked right in the first place. But then, as a surprise making up for that disappointment, the knives on his chest and forearm can both be removed from their sheaths. They may look like they're merely sculpted pieces, but no - fully functional! How excellent is that?

Night Creepers are ninja mercenaries who work for Cobra Commander specializing in espionage and covert intelligence. They have a reputation as cunning manipulators who are experts in at least five martial arts forms, and they have a predilection for advanced electronic stealth and infiltration technology. Moving with the silence of ninjas and equipped with their high-tech espionage gear, they are almost impossible to catch - because you'll never know they were ever anywhere near you.

I can still remember exactly where I got my 1990 Night-Creeper - the KB Toys in the Valley Mall. And it probably would have been in January. I then opened it in the car before we'd even left the parking lot, because I was a kid and had all the impulse control of a meth head with ADD. Delayed gratification? What's that?

The design choices here are rather inexplicable. The Night-Creeper gets a new head, with his distinctive visor and cowl. The cowl is a separate piece, but don't assume that means it's removable: it's glued lightly in place, so don't expect to pop it off. Below the knees, the figure is a new sculpt, but in order to attempt to duplicate the old version's sleeves, they used Flint's arms, which means Night-Creeper has gloves and a visible watch. Whoops!

We get the distinctive chest armor, a separate piece worn over the torso. His wavy sword (or flamberge) fits into his backpack, and he has a wonderful crossbow with six additional bolts held underneath for easy access. Unlike the original accessory, which was solid black, this one gets silver apps for the arrows.

These mechanized troopers are built en masse to create an endless supply of "fire and forget" soldiers: combat machines sent into battle that keep fighting until the enemy reduces them to scrap metal. They go in first to wear down GI Joe forces, allowing Cobra Troopers and Cobra Vipers to come in later and conclude the battle with a decisive victory for the snakeheads. They can be fitted with different weapons (many designed by Dr. Mindbender), such as canisters containing mutant creeping vines that, when released, gorw instantly to ensnare people and release sleeping gas. With the GI Joe team incapacitated, Cobra troopers are free to saunter in and get down to business.

The BAT in this set is functionlly identical to the Hall of Heroes B.A.T., so for all the nitty gritty, go read that review. This figure still has the normal and battle-damaged heads, the can of spores, and the pistol in his holster. He also comes with a black version of the rifle that came with Tomax and Xamot. He does not, however, include the backpack or three replacement arm-weapons that the previous BATs carried.

Beyond all that, the figure includes a second chestplate: one shattered, cracked and riddled with bullet holes. Switching the glass is easy, and the pieces stay in place securely. Finally, there's one more accessory that's a stroke of brilliance - in keeping with the purple spores, the figure comes with a repainted bundle of vines, originally included with one of the DVD packs. You'd have to have read GI Joe #44 for those to make sense, but if you haven't, trust us, it's a perfect thing to include.

How does Cobra continually attract talented members willing to risk danger, prison and even death to support the organization's evil goals? Simple: money. The pay and rewards are better than anything a private corportation can offer. That's why skilled pilots join the elite Air-Viper force. After basic aerial combat training, those who rise to the top are given advanced training with next-generation aircraft to become commandos. They also have to endure a surgical procedure, which makes them resistant to hypoxia, hyperventilation and other decompression sicknesses that affect pilots above Armstrong's Line (63,000 feet).

Hey, remember when we asked where the regular Air-Vipers were? Guess this is our answer. This figure is quite clearly an update of 1986's Strato-Viper, but he's been rechristened. Demoted, apparently. The old Strato-Viper's filecard contained the first mention of Air-Vipers, referencing them as the class the pilots went through before becoming Strato-Vipers. All that stuff about the surgery? That happened when they were moved up, not when they were still just plain Air-Vipers.

Anyway, this figure is the originator of the mold that was also included with the movie Night Raven - Artemis said that pilot was a "pre-paint," and sure enough, here's the real guy. The mold is the same, but the colors are much better: a grey flight suit with red and black armor, a bare neck, and a red and black helmet with silver visor. The body is Wild Bill/Ace, but the shins and arms are new.

The leather padding the Strato-Viper wears is a single, separate piece, with a non-functional holstered gun sculpted over the right breast. Meanwhile, the figure comes with a silver pistol that looks like it would have fit in the holster, if it were working. Strange. This same figure, without any significant changes, is available in a super-rare vehicle two-pack, but you're better off buying the set.

The figures are arrayed next to one another in a long horizontal box. The backdrop shows the shore of Cobra Island, with an explosion happening on the far side of some nearby trees. Two Skystrikers and a Conquest X-30 are in the sky. It's a nice enough scene, but certainly not something worth saving the box for.

The two "Cobra Island" packs are seen by many as Hasbro's last hurrah with the G3 figures. After all, with the focus on the movie toys, RAH is falling by the wayside. And although it seems a safe bet that classic characters will return some day, right now these two-packs are the end of what's on the horizon. The Cobra set is proving more popular than its Joe counterpart, since it's chock full of army builders. Thus most online retailers are bumping up the price of the bad guys, to help pad their bottom line. I got my set from Entertainment Earth, but they're sold out at the moment. So shop carefully. And if you're just looking for certain of these guys, you can find places that will sell you individual figures for a reasonable price. So don't go nuts, but be aware that yeah, this is a set worth owning.

-- 08/28/09


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