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GI Joe: Pursuit of Cobra
by Monkey Boy

In my Jungle-Viper review I talked a bit about how my brother had most of the cool GI Joe figures while I was growing up. However, there were still a few treasured figs that were mine, all mine. Most of these, incidentally, were Cobra characters. And the one I loved above all others was the original Alley-Viper, in all its orange and blue glory (and this was wayyyy before I attended the University of Florida, go figure). I loved this figure so much, despite its garish color scheme and impractical faceplate without eyeholes, that even years and years after packing my old G1 GI Joe figures away, the Alley-Viper still held a spot in my toy display, right up until it was replaced with the G3 update in the Defense of Cobra Island seven-pack.

While I thought that figure was an amazing update and a great toy, others didn't share my sentiment, mostly owing to the fact that few remembered the old Alley-Viper as fondly as I did, mainly due to the shockingly bright colors. Well, Habro's Pursuit of Cobra line has a slightly redesigned Alley-Viper in the first series that seems meant to appease some of the fans who don't share my love of blaze orange troopers.

Alley-Vipers are Cobra Urban Combat Specialists. They are armed with close quarters battle gear including blast shields, anti-armor weapons and assault tonfas. They are guarding the Cobra warehouse when it is infiltrated by GI Joe forces including Beachhead, who battles one-on-one with the Alley-Vipers.

Before getting to the review proper, I have to point out that in the "City Strike" scene on the back of Alley-Viper's card, no Alley-Vipers are pictured, despite the implication in the bio that Beachhead is about to confront them. There are three Cobra troopers present, but one of them is simply the Night Adder from the Rise of Cobra line, and the other two are not actually available figures, but instead appear to be random kitbashes. Strangely, each of these not-Alley-Vipers utilizes a different Firefly head. Anyway, on to the actual figure...

Right out of the gate this guy subverts the two issues most Joe fans hate about the original AV: he has traded his orange and blue for a much more subdued blend of maroon, black, and dark grey; and he has a few different helmet options for those who don't enjoy faceplates that obscure your entire field of vision. Thematically, this guy basically seems to be an attempt to reconcile the gaudy original Alley-Viper with the ultra generic Alley-Viper introduced in the G.I. Joe: Resolute microseries... and that's actually what it is literally as well: the figure's head comes from the Resolute figure while the rest of the body originates from the Defense of Cobra Island pack.

The figure gets the bulky vest web-gear that the previous Alley-Viper came with to hide the body sculpt's origins as a Snake-Eyes figure. For more on the figure's sculpt, check out the Cobra Island 7-pack review, and then head to the Resolute Cobra pack review to find out about the head. There are no real surprises sculpt-wise, but the parts do combine fairly well.

The paint is what really separates this figure from previous AVs, and the apps are fairly complex. He's mostly done in black, with a maroon vest, and his many straps and pouches are done in two different shades of gray. There are also some gold accents, and a repeated motif of a thick gray line broken at regular intervals by diagonal black slashes. It appears on his right leg, left arm and shield, and seems to play to his role as an "Urban Assault" trooper.

Like most of the PoC line, AV's accessories are the major draw. It's nothing really that we haven't seen before, but there's quite a bit of it. As I mentioned, the vest is a separate piece that can be removed. There are also two tiny knives that fit in sheathes, one found on the vest, the other on the right wrist. Then there's the assault rifle, shield, a tonfa nightstick that clips onto the rear of the shield for storage, and a red helmet with flip-down visor. All of these items could be found original with the Cobra Island Alley-Viper, though the shield and helmet have been repainted.

Then there's the backpack. Oh the headache. Way back in 1989 I used to dream of an Alley Viper who could take the grappling gun off of his backpack and use it, since said gun was originally integrated into his backpack sculpt. With the Cobra Island set I finally got my wish, but we all know how that turned out. There was nothing to hold the gun to the backpack, so it was really useless.

The PoC Alley-Viper attempts to finally rectify this, but... oh how it doesn't. The removable grappling gun just doesn't seem to be something Hasbro can grasp. This time, they use a peg in the backpack which is theoretically supposed to feed into the trigger guard of the grappling gun to keep it in place. In practice, the peg is too thick and no matter how hard you press, the gun will slowly slide its way off the peg until it's just teetering there, waiting to be casually knocked off.

The irony of the whole ordeal is that the grappling gun has been retooled for the PoC figure, with a much thinner handle grip, and this gun fits perfectly into the backpack of the Cobra Island figure! All they had to do was keep the previous backpack, not add the peg, and the grappling gun with the retooled handgrip would fit in it perfectly. This is mind-numbingly, face-meltingly ass-backwards. It boggles the brain that Hasbro can't get this right, but it's even crazier that they did get it right, they just haven't even figured it out themselves yet! Gah!...Gah! GAH!

Okay, back from that mini-breakdown. There's still more gear to talk about. As I mentioned, there are a few different headgear options, and one is a gas mask which is a straight repack from the Pit Commando from the Rise of Cobra line. It doesn't fit on the head so great (what else is new? Whose head was this gas mask made for anyway?), but most people probably won't be utilizing it anyway.

The head covering of choice for most displays will likely be the helmet/goggles combo originally released with the Resolute Alley-Viper. It's been repainted black, and the goggles are grey with black lenses. It fits on better than the gas mask, but not quite as good as the classic style helmet. Although, to be honest, none of the headgear is a great fit.

Add to that mix a personalized stand (with two footpegs, yay!) and there you have it. A cool take on the Alley-Viper, and one that will satiate many fans who have longed for a more "realistic" urban Cobra trooper. For me though, it can't compare to the original ultimate Gator-fan color scheme, and the nonsensical light-tight helmet. Still, it's a nice middle ground if you don't like the classic look, but think the Resolute version was way too bland to call itself Alley-Viper.

-- 09/24/10

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