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GI Joe Generation 3
by yo go re

Hard as it may be to believe, there were a few specialties that Cobra apparently never trained their troopers for. Sure, they employed a guy specifically to train attack crocodiles and an accountant who dressed like a giant bird, but it never occured to them to get some plain paratroopers? Well, better late than never.

Cobra Para-Viper troopers are the deadliest, most highly trained commandos in the Cobra legions. They specialize in high-altitude, low-opening jumps to go behind enemy lines or infiltrate unsuspecting countries or targeted facilities to conquer, steal or cause generalized chaos. Cobra Para-Viper troopers are selected from the ranks of the Cobra Eel troopers and are chosen for their exceptional audacity, independent attitude and utter fearlessness. They are given a parachute, instructions and not much else; their purpose is to go in first and pave the way for the main assault force.

The Joes got their first paratrooper in 1984, with Ripcord. Over the years, he was joined by Crazylegs, Freefall, Airborne (the second one, not the Indian) and certainly several more. Hell, even Flint was redesignated as a desert paratrooper in the mid-90s. Meanwhile, Cobra was content to send people up into the sky, but apparently didn't much care about how they got back down.

In the package, the Para-Viper looks pretty cool, but not particularly more impressive than any other G3 figure. But you have to open him up to really appreciate how cool he is. Normally we talk about the accessories at the end of the review, but this guy is all about the extras, so let's just lay it out now, starting from the top. The hoses unplug from his mask, so the helmet is removable. The goggles on the helmet's forehead are a separate piece, also removable. The entire jump gear is a single mold, which can slip off over the figure's head, and the harness running from his waist to his legs can be taken off, as well. There are flippers pegged to the back of his legs, which are, of course, removable. Basically, you can take this guy from full HALO gear almost all the way down to his civvies. It's incredible.

Properly denuded, the figure still looks good. He's built from Ace's body, with new forearms and lower legs. The shins are a necessity, of course, because no existing molds would have the pegs needed to attach the swim fins. The arms get thick pads on the elbows, and odd, flared objects on the actual forearms. What are those? Do they help him steer? If only we had an actual paratrooper on our message board who might be able to tell us! That thing on the figure's left wrist that looks like a watch? It's an altimeter, telling this jumper how low he is, so he knows when to pull his chute.

Unsurprisingly, the Para-Viper has a fully detailed head beneath his helmet, and just like with the Eel, the head is a new piece even though a reused mold would have worked just fine. He's wearing an insulated mask, but this isn't just Beachhead's noggin in black instead of green. The blue used for his uniform is much darker than the average Cobra trooper, but it's balanced out by red-orange pads and neon yellow details, both on his jump gear and on his actual uniform.

In addition to all the accessories mentioned above, there are a few actual weapons included with the figure. He's got a knife in his boot, a submachine gun, and a large sniper rifle of indeterminate type. The rifle has a folding stock, a removable bipod, and a side-loading magazine (yes, also removable). I don't know what the thing on the front is, but I really can't see a sniper having a bayonet. It's an impressive weapon, all told, and the Para-Viper looks great holding it. And if we can backtrack for a moment, the sculpted details on all the wearable accessories are superb: the belt harness has a realistic texture not only on the outside, but on the inside as well; the pockets and pouches on the jump gear look realistic, but even better than that, the Cobra symbols on the forehead and back are fully sculpted elements! Not just painted, sculpted! Wow! This entire thing shows remarkable work.

The Para-Viper isn't the first new character introduced in the G3 toys, but he may be the most ornate. The accessories are just awesome, and the overall design is sharp. A toy like this never could have worked in G1 (or even in G2, if we're being honest), but today? He's a great addition to Cobra's ranks, and you absolutely owe it to yourself to get one. This is a ToY contender.

-- 03/27/09

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