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Serpentor with Air Chariot

GI Joe Classified Series
by yo go re

New character interpretation idea: Serpentor talks like Big Poppa Pump.

After several reviews pointing out that Hasbro hasn't updated their GI Joe site since the Classified line began, we finally have news on that front! Unfortunately, the news is that they've taken the site down entirely, so now there's no info about any of these characters anywhere. Thanks, team, you really know how to run a line. (Of course, Hasbro doesn't even have a plain website at all right now: you go to hasbro.com and it automatically redirects you to their shopping site, so lacking a specific landing page isn't unique to Joe. Hasbro is as bad at archival maintenance as they are good at making toys.)

But hey, you know who Serpentor is! Dr. Mindbender, upset with Cobra Commander's failings, gathered the genetic junk from history's greatest conquerors (which is why his stats - Leader, Bladed Weapons, Strength, and Tactics - are 4's across the board), mixed it with some sugar, spice, and Chemical X, then baked for two hours at 375. Viola, instant emperor!

Serpentor is, unsurprisingly, a pretty direct update of the original 1986 figure. Because that's all Classified is now. The Devil's Due comics proved that Serpy can still look good in a more modern armor, but no luck here. He's wearing his usual golden, scaled armor with green snakes curling over his shoulders and cradling his pecs. The section running up the center of his torso is smoother, like a reptile's belly, and he's got that overlapping green armor on his knees and thighs. It honestly is just the old toy, but bigger. Way bigger.

We can tell a lot about Dr. Mindbender's turn-ons that in personally assembling his dream date, he made the guy seven feet tall - bigger than Roadblock and Sgt. Slaughter, even! Was Hasbro just operating under the notion that the more genetic material you have, the bigger you get? None of Serpentor's DNA donors were this genetically jacked and athletically stacked. Like, one of his many daddies is Napoleon Bonaparte, and while Boney N. wasn't as short as British propagandists at the time and pop culture today make him out to be, he also wasn't "tall"; 5'6" is just, like, a normal dude. Basically, what we're saying is Serpentor is only this huge and buff because Mindbender wanted him huge and buff. Frank and Rocky, rah-rah-rah!

Serpy has a wonderfully imperious face. He looks haughty and self-absorbed, like everyone he meets is beneath him. In fact, his "normal" pose has his head tilted back slightly, despite being 7'1", so he'd literally be looking down his nose at them. So much character in that sculpt! From some angles it looks like his scalp should be clipping through the top of his hat, but measuring it says everything is okay. Just figure his cowl is thinner than it looks.

If you recall, the vintage Serpentor wore a snake-mouth helmet and had a large cobra-hood backpack piece that rose up behind him. This figure insludes two minorly different headdresses: the one he's wearing in the package is a single, combined piece that melds hat and collar into one, which is presumably what the designers wanted us to think of it as back in the '80s; the alternate, stored in the box as an accessory, has a separate cap and cowl, more in like with the 1980s reality. Though the "hat" part of both set-ups is similar, the hood on each is entirely unique, both in shape and style.

Without the joint-blocking hat on, Serpentor has a balljointed head, hinged and balljointed neck, swivel/hinge shoulders on pectoral hinges, swivel biceps, double-hinged elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, balljointed chest, balljointed waist, balljoint/hinge hips, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, swivel shins, and swivel/hinge ankles. Like the old Serpentor, he includes a green cape, this modern version embossed with a snakeskin pattern, that can slide onto his arms and is softgods so it won't block the articulation. I distinctly recall when the cape on the Serpentor I owned as a kid started to rip at the shoulder, and I tried with limited success to fix it with tape. Here's hoping this one is more durable. It's certainly less sparkly.

Serpentor's accessories are a mix of different sources. The only weapon he originally carried was a small dagger, which this figure doesn't have at all. The sword, though not this style, began showing up in Generation 2. And as much sense as the cobra-headed staff makes, no Serpentor has ever had anything like it before. The little device on the back of his right wrist is taken from the old toy, but now it's been given an actual purpose instead of just being an unknown decoration: a small pair of blades stick out of it, like a Predator's wrist weapon. You can swap it for a second version that has the blades extended.

We also get two snakes. One is the spear he used to put Duke into an untimely grave a reversible coma, while the other is his pet king cobra, Bocephus. Er, sorry, Bucephalus. Named after Alexander the Great's horse. This one is very large and is posed curling around to raise themselves up, ready to strike. 1986 Serpentor's snake was a single color and had their tail directly behind them, as if slithering forward, while this is a more immobile pose. The top of the body is dark green, while the belly is almost white.

But the vintage Serpentor did come with one other thing: for the princely sum of $5.99 - twice the cost of a standard figure - you received not only Serpentor, but also his Air Chariot. That's right, this set includes the third vehicle in the Classified line!

As the name implies, the Air Chariot is a flying mode of transportation fit for the Cobra emperor. Essentially a hover platform with a large cobra shield built into the front, and so it remains today. The shape and proportions remain the same, with air intakes right on the front and then out in the middle of each wing. There are black stabilizers on each wing, and a pair of large guns ("Auto-Load 7.62 mm 'Strike' Attack Guns," according to the old blueprints) mounted on each side of the snake. The guns are far more detailed than before, and include carrying handles (in case Serpentor wants to rip one off and just wield it by itself) and ammo belts.

The battle shield, which is apparently made of Cobra's proprietary form of kevlar, "Coblar," is far more detailed than it used to be, with individual scales that strive to make this look more "real" than the old one did. The head no longer connects to the steering column, so it doesn't turn side, but it does have a feature that's new: the jaw hinges open, and if you have some tweezers handy, you can reach up into the mouth and fold down a black blaster from the roof of the mouth. And before you put those tweezers away, make sure you also fold down the silver fangs, which can be displayed even when the mouth is open. It would be great if there were some easier way to do all this, a lever or something, but it's still a new play feature.

The area where Serpentor stands is detailed with textured flooring and several control panel readout dials, and there's a cage over the rotating turbine. The original version had a big plastic knob so you could easily spin the "counter-rotating hover props," but this one is too "grounded" for anything that useful, I guess. We do get three tiny landing struts, though, so the Air Chariot doesn't just lay on its belly when he's not flying it. But pro tip: do not expect to be able to take the Air Chariot apart again once it's assembled; at least not without removing the 10 screws, getting a flat head screwdriver down into there, and prying one of the tabs away from the balljoint holding the steering column in place. Voice of experience.

Serpentor and the Air Chariot were a "Pulsecon" exclusive, whatever the hell that is, but thankfully, unlike (Zartan) some other exclusives (Zartan) we could name (Zartan), Hasbro restocked Serpentor after he sold out and gave more fans a chance at him (not Zartan). He's certainly expensive: that $6 in 1986 money would be $16.50 today; multiply that by 1.5 (for a 1:12" scale figure vs. a 1:18 scale figure), and you've got $24.75; add in a little extra for the increased number of pieces used in the construction, additional paint apps, new accessories, an overall increase in general quality and just the fact of being an exclusive, and you've got an update that should cost $50 max, not $79.99. And yet Hasbro needs to lay off 15% of its staff and can't keep anyone around to maintain the website? Corporate greed is a hell of a drug. But here I am particpating in it, just because the nostalgia center of my stupid brain tells me to. Serpentor's an intricate design with all-new molds and a vastly improved execution overall. But only you can decide whether his price is worth it to you.

-- 06/09/23

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