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GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra
by yo go re

Snakes are cold-blooded, right? That means they get their body heat from their environment, and consequently, there's never been a snake that thrived in frozen conditions. Guess nobody told Cobra Commander that.

Injected with nanomites, Ice-Viper commandos are inhumanly strong, incapable of feeling fear or pain and able to withstand freezing temperatures. They defend an Arctic research lab when the GI Joe team storms the facility to shut it down.

The original Ice-Viper came out in 1987, as the driver with Cobra's new cold-weather vehicle, the W.O.L.F. They were introduced as the mechanized division of the Snow Serpents, given further high-tech training and enhancements. Well, they were fed a lot of fatty foods and had their faces worked on so they couldn't grow beards. High tech was really low tech back then. Since all the movie Vipers have nanomites running through their blood, it's no surprise the Ice-Viper does, as well.

Though the MARS Troopers stationed at the Arctic base weren't dressed in fancy new uniforms like this, the Ice-Viper still looks truly impressive. The torso and arms are the same seen on the Neo-Viper figure, though that's not immediately apparent. That's because the dominating feature of his design is the bulky white vest, a separate piece that fits over the chest. It's sculpted with large pockets, straps and even a recognizable zipper. There's a large fur-lined hood pushed back onto the shoulders, and a scarf around his face. Yes, the scarf is molded as part of the vest. He has something rolled up on his back - considering the snowy theatre of operations, it's probably not a bedroll, but a poncho of some sort.

The Ice-Viper's head is new, with an angular mask over the mouth and nose. He has a clear visor that can lift up a bit, revealing the unpainted lenses of his mask beneath. There's an odd red stripe painted vertically on the visor, which doesn't seem to make any sense. The card art shows the visor with a red polarized lens, so you get the idea Hasbro told the factory to paint the back of the piece, but neglected to mention which direction the paint needed to go.

The figure has all the usual articulation, though the head is rather limited thanks to the hood and scarf on the vest. You might think his legs would lose some mobility thanks to the huge snowboarder pants he wears, but not really. They still bend a full 90°, and swivel freely. The camo pattern looks like he stole the pants from someone on the Joe Team, but they're gray, not blue.

For once, the Stupid Giant Gun isn't a total piece of crap. It still launches a ridiculously oversized blue missile thing, but rather than being shaped like, I don't know, a huge icepick or something (you know, in an effort to match thematically with the snow guy), it's a snowpedo! A what? A snowpedo, the distinctive torpedo weapons introduced - where else? - on the WOLF, the same vehicle that brought us the original Ice-Viper. Excellent! Sure, he doesn't have a vehicle to plug this one into, but with some imagination (and taking inspiration from his pants), you can turn it into a snowboard. Extreme!

His mundane weapons are still outlandish. He's armed with one of the small pulse pistols Baroness and others have carried, as well as a MARS rifle that's been wrapped in cloth. Does that keep it warm in subzero conditions? I don't know, I'm not a soldier. But it certainly looks cool, and that's ultimately the important thing, right? There's a hole on one side of the gun, but no corresponding peg anywhere on the figure.

The Rise of Cobra Ice-Viper is an interesting figure. He has zero visual connection to his '80s namesake, but that works in his favor; this design is cool enough to stand on its own. If you're one of those holdouts who still want only Real American Hero toys, you'll be pleased to know this one doesn't have a strong "movie vibe." Put him on a mission with your Snow Serpents and pretend he's a lieutenant or something. Or hey, this outfit is distinct enough that he could be a unique soldier. Give him a name and a personality of your own choosing!

-- 01/29/10

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