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F.A.N.G. and C.L.A.W.

GI Joe Generation 3
by yo go re

Get ready to shout/
Get ready to scream/
We're gonna destroy/
The entire Joe team/
Cobra CLAWS are coming to town!

Cobra Commander delivers a one-two punch from the sky when he unleashes the Cobra F.A.N.G. and the Cobra C.L.A.W. vehicles on the GI Joe team. Agile and aggressive, these aircraft swoop in with savage futy to pummel the heroic team with weapons fire!

A note before we begin: the packaging pairs the Viper with the FANG, and the Cobra Pilot with the CLAW. The filecards - for both the characters and the vehicles - have them the other way around. We'll be trusting the hard intel over visual reports.

Cobra air troopers are basic infantry "grunts" with wings. They're one step below Cobra Viper troops (who never let them forget this difference in rank), so they always figure they have nothing to lose and everything to gain in battle. They're trained in ground and air combat, then provided with just enough pilot training to get them flying. Like ravenous mosquitoes on a summer's night, Cobra air troopers swoop down upon their targets. Their onlythought is to prove their mettle, so that a higher-ranking officer (or perhaps Cobra Commander himself) notices their fearlessness and skills - and promotes them.

Hey, that confirms our previous belief, that Vipers were higher in rank than the average Cobra Troopers. Yay! So the progression goes Cobra Trooper < Cobra Pilot < Cobra Viper < specialized squadron < Crimson Guard. Where do you see yourself in five years?

This figure, appropriately, is the same mold used for the G3 Cobra Trooper. He's wearing the more complex webgear from the Cobra Officer, which has also been seen on other non-basic troopers like the Cobra Driver and Cobra Air Trooper. This figure has a fairly unique look, however: his uniform is still basic blue, but he has red patches on the shoulders of his webgear and thin red stripes on his sleeves and legs. It adds just a bit of visual spice, and makes the figure stand out.

The mask that covers the Pilot's mouth and nose is red, and instead of a normal helmet, he has the same flight helmet as the Air Trooper - the one with the built-in breathing mask based on the 2006 comic pack. In keeping with the general theme of this figure, the helmet is red, rather than blue, and has a black Officer's mark on the forehead. Beneath that, the head has painted brown hair. Beyond that, his only accessory is one of the blast Cobra blasters - he doesn't even get the knife to fit in his leg clasps.

The F.A.N.G. (Fully Armed Negator Gyrocopter) aircraft is like a hummingbird with a bad attitude. Paired [sic] down to the essentials, it's still a formidable attack vehicle for its size and design. It carries strut-mounted rockets and an 85mm rear-mounted cannon. And open cockpit leaves the pilot vulnerable to enemy fire, but allows for a more comprehensive appraisal of the target or battle situation. Cobra F.A.N.G. crafts are used for air support; singly or in teams, they harass the enemy with nuisance fire or launch air strikes in coordination with a larger aerial force.

That should be "pared" down, not "paired" down. And that, kids, is why you can't count on spellcheck to get you through life. The FANG is a classic Cobra vehicle, most often seen when Cobra Commander's plans had failed and he was trying to run away; so in other words, pretty much every day. It's a black copter with red details, and like the VAMP before it, the FANG may have the classic look, but it's actually a new mold.

The seat had to be remolded, of course, since the old pegs don't fit in the new backs, and the control stick, rather than looking like a grey toothpick, is fully detailed and mounted on a balljoint so you can actually pretend your figure is piloting this craft. There are four red missiles mounted on the skids, a large grey bomb underneath, and the machine gun on the front is balljointed to give it a wider range of attack. The FANG is 9½" long, 4¼ high, and has a 12" rotor (which actually spins freely).

Cobra Viper troopers are the backbone of the Cobra legions. These frontline forces are heavily equipped and highly trained for battle. Within their vast ranks are subdivisions tht have received focused preparation for land, sea and air combat. Cobra Viper air troopers are skilled pilots with a necessary reckless disregard for their own safety that makes them especially effective. They favor small, lightweight aircraft like the Cobra C.L.A.W. and Cobra F.A.N.G.; these let them display their piloting skills and allow them to get as close to their targets as possible, so they can enjoy every second of the chaos and destruction they deliver.

The only difference between this figure and the previous Viper release are the colors, and even then it's only a question of placement. The "real" Vipers are blue and red; this one is red and blue. Basically, the colors have been reversed: instead of a blue uniform with red trim and gloves, the "air trooper" Viper is wearing a red uniform with blue trim. His boots, gloves, pockets and vest are gray, and he's wearing a black helmet with gray goggles. This is like the Shattered Glass version of a Viper.

In addition to the removable goggles on his helmet (which still fall off very easily) and his vest, the Viper has a black assault rifle and gray backpack. The grenades molded on his backpack and vest get their own green paint apps. The Viper still has the bent wrists that bothered so many people, but they work nicely with the vehicles in this set.

The Covert Light Aerial Weapon (C.L.A.W.) vehicle can be operated by a single pilot or used as an unmanned drone. Turbojet engines give it speed and adjustable wing tips provide maneuverability; essentially, it's an amped-up glider with teeth and a willingness to bite. Armed with Venom missles and a Flashfire bomb, it glides in swiftly and sends a nasty message before moving aside to let the "big boys" deliver the main attack. The single pilot is completely unshielded from enemy fire; he pilots the craft with fingertip-reactive controls for superior maneuverability.

Here's something you won't often hear: the Generation 1 CLAW is better than its G3 update. Like the filecard says, the CLAW is basically a powered glider, so you'd expect it to be simple, but comparing this version to the original, a lot of things that used to be separate pieces are now just molded on: the wingtips don't extend; the ailerons and canards don't move; the machine gun is molded to the top, and the cover is no longer removable. It doesn't even have folding landing gear any more! What used to be a piece of engineering is now a piece of plastic, and the only way it's not disappointing is if you are unfamiliar with the one we got in 1984.

That said, there are a few nice things about the CLAW. The figure fits in place nicely, and there are molded pads to provide a cushion against the wearer/pilot's back. The handbars move up and down, and there are two small black missiles under the wings. Of course, there are pegs for four missiles, so obviously Hasbro cut two out of the budget at some point. You can peg on two of the FANG's red missiles, but that seems like cheating.

Following the trend started by the Target-exclusive vehicles, the FANG and CLAW toys are sold in a box with a backdrop showing Cobra Island. Of course, it's a bit different here: these are aerial vehicles, so instead of a ground scene, their backdrop is a bird's eye view of the island, showing the entire piece of land with water all around. The familiar features of Cobra Island are all visible: the volcano, the airfield and even a Terror Drome. The lack of any Joe aircraft above the horizon suggest that the FANG and CLAW are just on a regular recon, not engaged in battle.

The CLAW may be lacking, but the FANG is cool and neither of the figures here is a straight repack. This isn't the greatest vehicle pack available, but if you think of this as a FANG plus some extras, it's pretty good.

-- 12/25/09

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