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Crimson Alley Viper

GI Joe Classified Series
by yo go re

Wow, SWAT troopers being used for evil? There's something you don't see every day! (Unless you're on any college campus at all right now.)

To consolidate their power within Cobra, the Crimson Strike Team (Tomax, Xamot, and the Baroness) have reassigned their most loyal and ruthlessly brutal troops to the Crimson Alley Viper squadrons. Crimson Alley Vipers were recently sent to quell a strange outbreak among the Mole Rat troopers excavating Dark Energon Mines.

The GI Joe filecards of the '80s were the creation of Larry Hama - not only the text on them, but the very concept of "let's put biographical information on the packaging," which was not something done before. However, it wasn't until decades later that someone else had the brilliant idea to mix those with tiny snippets of interconnected story, like this one does. Hasbro's website just said "Alley Vipers are the hard-hitting urban shock troops of the Cobra army, deployed to suppress opposition, spread fear, and secure Cobra control with unchained brutality," so all that stuff about the Crimson Twins and the Mole Rats? That's just someone creating a world for these exclusives to inhabit. Neat! And maybe if the Alley-Vipers weren't busy dealing with Energon zombies, they'd have been on-site to stop the theft of important intel.

Considering how very popular Alley-Vipers are, they were introduced to the line surprisingly late: 1989, specifically. They're certainly not the last iconic new character introduced in Generation 1 (that'd probably be 1992's Slice and Dice), but the line was so packed with fan-faves by that point, it was hard to make any sort of lasting impact.

There was a standard Alley Viper released in the line, right in between the BAT and Storm Shadow, which should give you an idea of how good a figure it was and also why we haven't bothered reviewing it. It was sculpted by Fred Aczon, who did a superb job creating that tactical vest and all the other armor, and even put a fine, easy-to-overlook pattern on the mask the trooper wears inside his helmet. Like the vintage Alley-Viper, the modern one has all those pouches on his chest, a few others on his arms and legs, and various holsters and sheaths for his pistol and knives. Beneath the vest, the torso is taken from Duke, though you'll almost certainly never see it. The shinpads he wears point oddly to the inside, making us wonder if perhaps the shins were assembled wrong?

The sad thing about the original Alley-Viper being released in 1989 is, if it had been released even one year sooner, it would have been far more likely to have a good colorscheme instead of the god-awful orange-and-blue we got. It took until 2002 before we got an Alley-Viper that didn't look stupid. This Walmart exclusive, thankfully, gets its colors directly from the Pursuit of Cobra "City Strike" Alley-Viper, which means it's a great combo of black, gray, and red - certainly not "camouflaged" by any means, but then, it's not trying to be. These are big blocks of identifying colors, with hazard stripes as a design element. A screen on the back of his shield has some sort of informational readout, and so does the inside of his flip-down mask, the first time there's ever been an explanation for why a solid visor that entirely blocks the wearer's vision could possibly be a useful part of his gear. The lens on the front of it has a hazmat symbol in light blue.

Articulation is as usual, though a few of the joints had a bit of "gumminess" that made them hard to get moving at first. Classified figures have swivel/hinge ankles, swivel shins, double-hinged knees, swivel thighs, hips that are a balljoint mounted on a hinge, balljointed waist, swivel/​hinge wrists, double-hinged elbows, swivel biceps, swivel/​hinge shoulders, pectoral hinges, hinged and balljointed neck, and a balljointead head. Technically they have a chest hinge, too, but the Alley-Viper's vest keeps that from being accessible, same as it was with the non-alley Viper. The helmet's faceplate is hinged, so it can either expose his face (mask) or hide it, and there's one more swivel for one of the accessories.

After the poorly chosen colors, the most famous thing about the Alley-Viper is his big jagged shield. It doesn't seem like something this shape would offer as much protection as, say, a plain-ass rectangle would, but at least he can fire his weapons through some of those little notches? The large Cobra symbol on the front is a raised sculpt, and there are molded structural shapes on the back. More importaly, the arm straps that attach the shield to the figure are mounted on a swivel, so he can wear it on either arm, or even use it lengthwise instead of perpendicular. Fun! There's one knife for his chest, another for his right forearm, a pistol for the holster on the right leg, a machine gun, a direct update of the sub-machine gun the original toy came with, and finally, his backpack. At last, Hasbro managed to do the thing they tried to do 14 years ago: the PGAC (Pneumatic Grappling Ascent Cannon) can be removed from the backpack where it's stored! More than that, the grappling hook can be removed from the rifle, and there are loops where you could attach your own string if you want. Yes!

The packaging stats are Foot Soldier 2, Shield 2, (what we presume to be) Explosives 3, and Urban Combat 3. We say "presume," because just as the BAT had a symbol that didn't actually mean anything,
the Alley Viper's Skill icon doesn't appear on the actual list of them. It's a grenade (tear gas, perhaps), but the actual "Explosives" icon is a bundle of dynamite, so we're honestly just guessing what this is meant to be. The normal Alley-Viper had the same thing, so clearly the designer just copied and pasted what had been done the first time, not knowing there was anything wrong with it. That's the fault of whoever had final approval. Art director, presumably.

Changing the Alley-Viper's colors proves how cool the underlying design is, and how awesome the character could have been under different circumstances. You know what they could have done, though? Give him the alternate headgear the PoC figure that inspired this paintscheme had: a helmet and goggles, and a gasmask. That would have required more work, though, and Hasbro does not let its design teams do any extra work. That would take pennies out of the CEO's pockets, we can't have that! This is a really nice exclusive, but in true Walmart style, the only way to get it is via their website, not in stores.

-- 05/10/24

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