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GI Joe: Pursuit of Cobra
by yo go re

Hellllllloooo, Cleveland! Are you ready to rock? I said are you ready to rock!

Cobra Rock Vipers are mountain assault specialists trained in mountaineering and vertical assault. They are experts at climbing treacherous terrain of rock, snow or ice. They use sophisticated climbing gear and weapons designed for compactness and versatility.

Aww, how sad! This ignores one of the cooler bits on the original Rock-Viper's filecard. It said "candidate Rock-Vipers are dropped from helicopters onto the top of a 500 foot, sheer-sided mesa rock formation. They are outfitted with 250 feet of rope and informed that only 50% will graduate upon completion of this final test," the implication being that the way to pass was to kill one of your classmates and take his rope. It really demonstrated Cobra's sociopathy even toward its own forces. These new filecards are functional, but dry.

The Rock-Viper (yeah, we like it better with the hyphen than without) is less of an update and more of an homage. He passes "the squint test," but there have been a lot of changes - many of them because of the parts they reused to make him. He has the torso and upper arms of the Jungle-Viper, the upper legs of Low-Light and the arms and shins of one of those "Action Feature Snake-Eyes" that nobody ever bought.

For the most part, the pieces they chose to build the Rock-Viper are good ones: the armor on the extremities does a decent job of duplicating the old toy's design, while the re-use on the shirt makes it look like the Rock-Vipers and Jungle-Vipers get their clothes from the same source (which, of course, they do). The thighs do an okay job of suggesting the holsters on the old toy, but the thing on the left leg is an attachment point for a sniper's scope, an accessory this figure doesn't have.

The most disappointing part of the figure is the head. The original toy had a unique helmet with a big green visor, and the wearer had a black mustache - in other words, a very distinctive look. This version gets one of the plain ski mask heads and a normal helmet to wear above it. How shockingly dull! Even repainting Slip-Stream's head would have been preferable.

The Rock-Viper uniform is painted beige and dark red. The pouches on his chest are black, as are his boots and gloves. He has brown camo apps on his shirt and pants, and you can easily imagine him blending in with the sheer rock face he's climbing. Well, as long as it's a desert rock. He's got the modern Joe articulation, including the swivel/hinge wrists, but the swivel joint in the left elbow on mine is loose - it just flops around. Man, when was the last time a GI Joe figure had a loose joint? The wrists look rather bulbous, but that may be because his forearms are bare.

The figure includes a fine selection of accessories, though some of them are better than others. To begin with, there's City Strike Snake-Eyes' ascender backpack, which makes sense for a mountaineer, and also has straps that help make this figure look more like the old one. There's a compact sniper rifle with a huge scope, a bullpup submachine gun, a pistol (without any kind of holster for it), a knife, a pickaxe and what the packaging calls a "tactical spear." What? Seriously, it's a 4½" spear, nothing special about it; what does that have to do with mountain climbing? It's definitely not versatile or compact, like the filecard would have us believe. The filecard also mentions climbing shoes, suggesting he was supposed to include some crampons, but there's nothing of the sort here.

There was always controvery about the original Rock-Viper's head: did the mustache mean he was an individual character, or did the entire Rock-Viper Corps sport lip-fuzz? This version avoids that problem, thanks to his new head, but it's created its own controversy: is the old design or the new one better? Depends on what you want. Do you want a figure that looks like a 21-year-old figure, or do you want a figure that looks like it might be an actual soldier? The Rock-Viper is a decent addition to Cobra's ranks, but only if you're not paying more than retail to get him. The Rock-Viper is one of those figures in "the series that nobody ever saw," as Monkey Boy put it, which makes him prime scalper bait.

-- 11/14/11

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