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GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra
by yo go re

A few months before any given toy comes out, you can find a number of auctions for loose samples. Fans snap them up, mainly for the dick-measuring contest of who can be the first to post a sad little video "review" of a toy. We've always steered clear of that kind of idiocy, for a few reasons: firstly, it's illegal; those samples are stolen from the factory, and technically still belong to the company that made them. You think Apple overreacted to the Gizmodo thing? They 100% did. They were also completely within their rights, and Hasbro would have the same right to come after you for your Transformers test shot. Second, and more importantly, why pay $20 for something that's going to cost $5 when it hits stores in a couple weeks? Bragging rights don't mean crap when the bills come due, and nobody outside of your own head cares whether or not you were first. However, I recently decided to break my self-imposed embargo. Why? Read on:

Volcano-Vipers are experts in the destructive uses of geothermal energy. Nanomite infusions have made them able to withstand poisonous gases and volcanic ash. Fearless to the extreme, they work deep inside volcanoes to engineer devices that cause massive destruction.

The Volcano-Vipers didn't appear in the film: they were just invented for the toyline. He was intended to come with a repainted Mole Pod, dubbed the "Lava Pod," but general slow sales of the movie toys (which Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner admitted was due to the price, not the quality) meant that the third series of "Alpha" vehicles was cancelled outright, although it had already gone into production. The Volcano-Viper was not going to be released.

Below the neck, this figure uses the same mold as the Ice-Viper: same torso and arms as most of the other various movie Vipers, plus those giant skiboarding pants. Rather than white camo, the pants are grey with silver fronts, suggesting thermo-reflective material. You know, like the blankets they give marathoners after the race. It's amazing how easily a simple paint change can reverse the entire concept of a sculpt.

As before, the torso is entirely covered by a thick vest. The vest is not reused from the Ice-Viper, because a vulcan trooper doesn't have any need a fur-lined hood. It's sculpted to look like heavy material, with a pad over the right shoulder, and large, rectangular pouches around the waist. Since he's working in a hostile environment, there are two air tanks on the chest, and a third behind his shoulders. The pouches are grey with dark red flaps, and though the tanks are black, they have incredibly detailed warning labels tampoed on.

The Volcano-Viper wears a skimask that hides everything but his eyes, but like many other Cobra operatives over the years, that's just the base layer beneath a more identifiable piece of headgear. His is an entirely new design, but very appropriate for a guy working in volcanoes. He's wearing a gaskmask with translucent red lenses, and there's a crinkly hood pulled up over the head and cinched around the face to make him airtight. It's even sized to plug down into the collar of his coat! It's a very cool look, and was half the reason I wanted a Volcano-Viper in the first place.

As an intended vehicle driver, VV is very light on accessories: he has the same cloth-wrapped gun as the Ice-Viper (a MARS Industries D57-A extreme environment tactical pulse rifle [according to the not-included-with-my-purchase filecard]), and three hoses to connect the gasmask to the airtanks. Without any included instructions, I had to guess at how to assemble them, but it's not impossible to figure out: the loopy one goes on the left, the short one goes from the top tank on his chest to the front hole on the right side of the mask, and the long tube has to be twisted around, but it'll eventually fit perfectly.

Interested in the Lava Pod? Here's the info from the back of the box:

Lava Pod vehicles burrow into extinct or dormant volcanoes to reactivate them and turn them into weapons of destruction. The subterranean vehicles drill through rock with a composite carbon steel bit, and have an EHS-3 extreme heat shield armor that withstands heat up to 3000 degrees Fahrenheit (1649 degrees Celsius).

Neat. Reportedly, the Volcano-Viper won't fit inside the Lava Pod, due to his huge legs and bulky smock. But since I didn't get a Lava Pod, that's not a problem for me. No great loss, either, since I didn't care about the vehicle: I only wanted the figure, so the price I paid to get him shipped from China was less than I would have had to pay if the set had actually shown up in stores here, and now I don't have to worry about storing or unloading a so-so vehicle.

The Volcano-Viper's series may have been cancelled in the US, but it did reach regular retail in the Philippines, so owning one isn't an impossible dream. And I admit, I kinda get the appeal of owning a figure that almost no one else ever will. That said, the point of OAFE isn't to rub our finds in your faces; it's to share our love of toys with you and make you want them, too. The Volcano-Viper is a very cool figure, almost a modern take on the old Toxo-Viper. If he strikes your fancy, it's worth the effort to try and hunt him down. Just because he won't be released in the US doesn't mean he's not on the market, and for once, it's not (necessarily) because someone sneaked a box of them out the side door on their smokebreak.

-- 04/30/10

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