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Viper Commando with Serpent Armor

GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra
by yo go re

More proof that an accessory can sell the figure it's with.

Cobra Viper commandos carry out highly dangerous and deadly operations. They attack the convoy transporting nanomite weapon prototypes through a remote desert. Supported by advance vehicles and weapons, they ruthlessly batter the convoy and the special forces protecting it.

That's a nicely generic filecard, doing nothing but describing the start of the movie. Of course, the figure is pretty generic, too, a minor repaint of the standard Neo-Viper. You know, the bulky armor on the shins, forearms and shoulders, the blocky chestpiece, all that. It's old hat by now, having been re-used several times, but why wouldn't Cobra have all their soldiers look basically alike?

The new colors do look pretty nice, though. The black bodysuit is the same, as is the grey of the armor. His gloves are black now, with grey armor (reversed from the normal version). The straps on his shins are red, matching his belt and the clasps on his armor. The helmet is black - gloss on the top, matte on the face, meaning it shows detail better than the Elite-Viper's helmet did - with dark red eyes completing the sinister look.

The Viper Commando's accessories are the same as the Neo-Viper: a small pistol, two futuristic MARS Industries weapons (one of which is probably the "D57-B extreme environment electromagnetic rifle" mentioned on the filecard) and an angular backpack. The backpack is grey with a black drybrushing on the back, and has pegs on each side that allow you to attach the guns he's not holding. Since the pack is hollow, you can even slip the pistol in there, using his back to hold it in place. We love a figure that can deal with all of its accessories at the same time.

That's great and all, but the Viper Commando is, at best, the secondary reason anyone is buying this set. No, the real star of the show is the Serpent Armor - better known to G1 fans as the S.N.A.K.E. Armor.

The SNAKE suits were mainstays of G1, always seen lumbering around the cartoon and even a few times in the comics, but theire movie incarnation, in addition to its new name, gets a new color scheme. The classic SNAKEs were white, while the Serpent armor is black with red and silver highlights. The mold is the same as the original toy, which is surprising - who knew the old one was this good?

Having never owned the SNAKE, I always figured it was just a two-piece shell that clicked around a figure. Not so! The torso and legs are separate pieces, each of which comes apart separately. That may not sound like much, but it does allow some poseability in the legs that would outheriwse be prohibited. And yes, 4" G3 figures fit inside just as well as 3¾" G1 figures. The shoulders and wrists are swivels, and so the armor isn't just a pile of parts on the ground when no one's inside it, there's a frame that fits into the armor to hold it together.

The Serpent Armor has four interchangeable weapon arms: a missile, a clamp hand, a blaster and a flamethrower. You can attach any of them to either arm, and they all have a swivel "wrist" joint. There are two silver knobs on the back of the armor that are the same size as the arm pegs, so you can actually store the extra arms back there. Neat! The set includes a simple sheet of decals to add some color to the otherwise dark suit.

The Cobra Viper Commando with Serpent Armor was a Target exclusive, which means it includes one other accessory: a MARS briefcase. All the Target Exclusives included one, but none of the other stores' did. It's just a folded bit of cardboard, with a "tray" that slides out, but it's detailed pretty nicely. The case is large enough to fit most of the set's weapons inside.

It's a bit surprising that we never got SNAKE armor in the G3 line, but we get Serpent Armor for the movie. Of course, the armor did (sort of) show up in the movie continuity - the (apparently terrible) tie-in videogame featured suits of armor that looked like larger, more threatening versions of the SNAKE, so this could theoretically be that. Whatever the inspiration, the old mold still works well with the new figures, and until we get a "classic version" - i.e., white - this exclusive release is terrific.

-- 03/19/10

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