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GI Joe Generation 3
by yo go re

GI Joe is a great property for dividing its fanbase. Do you like the plain military action? The magical ninjas? The outlandish sci-fi? The complex relationships? The political backstabbing? Odds are you hate at least one of those things, which means you may also hate today's figure.

Zombie-Vipers are Cobra infantry troopers who have been given a mysterious chemical substance, Compound Z, that has turned them into drones. Wiped of all thought, they follow orders mindlessly and cannot be reasoned with or sidetracked. They have retained their skill at combat; in fact, their desire to fight has been increased, making them more dangerous than before. In other words, they are deadly zombie warriors.

Yes, zombies. Credit to the GI Joe team for not beating around the bush here. Of course, this isn't the first zombie introduced to GI Joe continuity - that actually happened two decades ago (to say nothing of IDW's Infestation crossover, which saw zombies invading the GI Joe, Star Trek, Transformers and Ghostbusters universes). Zombies have been a part of the GI Joe story for a long time, so this guy is just continuing the tradition.

The Zombie-Viper uses the same basic body as the Cobra Shock Trooper, but you won't be spending a lot of time looking at that. Just a glimpse of this figure tells you he's a dead man: his uniform is tattered, hanging off his body in strips, and his flesh appears putrefied. It's gray and lumpy, with exposed veins and large pustules. However, you can also tell he's somehow unnatural, because the colors look like a man who drowned, but the skin appears desiccated. Both hands are sculpted in grasping, clutching poses, like he's clawing at you, and whatever boots he wore are long gone. The toes on his right foot are bent upward, to facilitate "shambling" poses.

If there were any question about the Zombie-Viper's status along the alive/dead continuum, one look beneath the removable helmet will clear that right up. His eyes are sunken and blank, and his mouth hangs dully open, exposing his remaining teeth. Tufts of hair cling to his scalp - at least, they do in the spots where his skin isn't torn away. It's horrific and wonderful.

The articulation is top-notch. None of the Shock Trooper's joints have been lost, so he moves as well as any other modern Joe. The swivel/hinge wrists allow you to pose those gnarled hands menacingly, and Hasbro obviously heard our complaints about Quick Kick's ankles, because the Zombie-Viper has swivel/hinge joints there, as well - that's why you can pose him standing on his toes, like we said before. There are new swivel joints in his forearms, but they're not intended for use yet: the tatters of his sleeves are shaped to hold them in place for now.

Why have swivel joints in the arms if they're blocked by the actual design? Because they're not meant for the human arms. The Zombie-Viper comes with a second pair of "tendril" arms, in which his hands have mutated into some sort of plant/tentacle hybrid. Impressivley, the sculpt still makes it clear these are hands: they have five fingers and clear anatomical details, like the tendons on the back of the hand or the pads of fat on the palm; he's not growning branches, his body is changing shape. There's no wrist joint on these arms, so the forearm swivels take their place.

In addition, he comes with the removable helmet we talked about earlier. It's molded from translucent blue plastic, with grey paint for the "solid" portions. It's a unique shape, heavily domed with what looks like an inset respirator and headphones. It's very cool, actually, with hints of scuba gear in its design - maybe the Compound Z was pumped into the helmet, either as a gas or a liquid? Or perhaps a constant flow of Compound Z is required to keep them "alive?" Who knows, make up your own fun.

The filecard lists his primary weapon as "Compound-Z removable bulbs", which we can only assume refers to the bright blue canister that plugs into the back of his dark grey harness. A thin tube runs from the can to the back of the helmet, which is why we think he needs a constant supply. Unfortunately, there's a little bit of weirdness going on with the numbers: the set includes only one cannister; the helmet has ports for three hoses; and the harness has spots for four cans. Looks like the dreaded budget cuts strike again! (The filecard also suggests he comes with barbed wire, which is similarly M.I.A.)

The Zombie-Viper is a killer new addition to the ranks of Cobra (no pun intended). The design is very cool, and he fits seamlessly into the series' existing reality. This figure is very hard to find right now, but it's been getting easier - good news, since he's so much fun. You don't have to be a zombie fanboy to find this one tasty.

-- 01/27/12

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