REVIEW: G.I. JOE RETALIATION COBRA ALLEY-VIPER
It will likely come as no great surprise that the Cobra trooper division that has had the most versions since the inception of the line has been -- the Cobra Viper. This basic infantry trooper, which largely eclipsed the basic "Cobra Trooper" when they were introduced in 1986 (although Troopers still turn up from time to time) has had more recolorations and variations over the years than any other Cobra division.
What's interesting is who's in second place -- the COBRA ALLEY-VIPERS. These urban specialists, first introduced in 1989, have turned up a surprising number of times in every incarnation of the line since then. I don't think there was ever a 12" Alley-Viper, or a Sigma Six version, but apart from that...
So it's perhaps no great surprise that the Alley-Vipers have returned for the action figure line derived from the live-action sequel movie, G.I. JOE: RETALIATION. These Alley-Vipers are not actually in the movie. But that's okay. As we saw with the "Rise of Cobra" line, there was no shortage of figures and vehicles under that particular banner that weren't actually in the movie, but just designed to look as though they might have been. Such is likely the case with the Alley-Viper.
And perhaps it's not really all that surprising that Alley-Vipers have endured for so long. I think many people tend to see combat as something that takes place on open battlefields, away from areas of civilization. And to some degree that's true. But given the kind of warfare that takes place these days, urban combat is increasingly common. And in the case of Cobra, they're not necessarily interested specifically in claiming large parcels of land. They want to take over and control the infrastructures of existing areas -- and that means conquering the cities. And that's a special kind of combat that requires a special kind of soldier.
The original Alley-Viper didn't look much like an urban warrior. Introduced in 1989, a time in which the G.I. Joe line was seeing quite an explosion of color, the Alley-Viper managed to stand out even in this crowd, with a fairly bright orange uniform, with rather bright blue camouflage trim. About the only urban locales where the original Alley-Vipers could've really gotten away with being dressed like this might be Mardi Gras, Times Square, a Hawaiian luau, or the Las Vegas Strip.
The Alley-Viper was nevertheless popular, and returned in 1993, with a mostly yellow uniform with significant amounts of black, including tiger stripes. While the yellow was still a pretty intense color, the black helped tone down the overall look a bit, and this remains my personal favorite incarnation of the Alley-Vipers to this day. This Alley-Viper was recolored in 1994, returning somewhat to his original color scheme, but the blue was more of a turquoise, and there was more of it, so it wasn't quite as glaring as the original 1989 incarnation.
From this point forward, for the most part, the Alley-Vipers tended to dress a bit more sensibly. One came along in the 1997-1998 revival, where he was mostly dressed in more muted colors of blues and grays with a certain amount of brown trim. However, a certain amount of rather odd speckled trim made him look a little like he was wearing pajamas.
Several traditional-style Alley-Vipers made it into two-packs, during the transition time into the newsculpt line in 2002. These were the most appropriately-colored Alley-Vipers yet. Their uniforms were several shades of gray and black camouflage, some of which was actually molded into the plastic, and the trim, such as the chestplate and helmet, were a dark steel blue. Boots and gloves were black. Here was a Cobra Alley-Viper that looked like he was well-prepared for an urban environment.
The next Alley-Viper, in the same time period, was a slight recoloration of this version. The dark blue trim was traded out for red. But it wasn't an especially bright red, and still worked well enough, and the red color made the Alley-Viper look like he was that much more a part of Cobra.
The third and final Alley-Viper from this particular segment was a complete recoloration, with a mostly blue uniform. It was a fairly bright blue, but no moreso than Cobra Commander's original uniform color back in 1982. The boots, chestplate, and face mask were black, and there was some black camouflage on the uniform, so he still looked most impressive. There was also a newsculpt Alley-Viper around this same time period, who had a similar color scheme to this.
And we still weren't done with the Alley-Viper. One more coloration of the traditional-style Alley-Viper turned up in a special six-pack that comprised a Cobra Urban Strike Team. I mean, you're not going to do a Cobra Urban Strike Team and NOT include an Alley-Viper. The rest of the team included Storm Shadow, Scrap-Iron, Firefly in a fancy urban camo uniform, somewhat shared by a Night Creeper ninja, and a Nullifier, formerly known as a Flak-Viper.
The entire set was cool, but the Alley-Viper was somewhat of a standout, with an almost entirely black uniform, with brown gloves and a few other brown details, and a few silver highlights, including around the edge of the helmet. Seldom had the Alley-Viper looked quite so dangerous.
Heading into the modern line, the Alley-Viper took a little while to show up. However, one appeared, in his original color scheme, as part of a special set of figures -- that I'm still kicking myself for not picking up at the time -- titled "Defense of Cobra Island", which featured modern-style versions of certain notable Cobras -- including Dr. Mindbender, a Lamprey, a Range-Viper, a Night Creeper, and a few others, in their original color schemes. Some of these were, arguably, some of the more brightly colored and oddball figures from the late 80's that might have been tough sells on their own, but they made for an impressive set, and the Alley-Viper, in all his orange and blue glory, was among the crowd.
This, of course, enabled the Alley-Viper to be brought into the modern line in other variations, which he was. A remake of the Cobra Rage, now dubbed the Cobra Fury, included an Alley-Viper Officer, outfitted mostly in black and grey, with a very dark burgundy helmet. Another modern-style Alley-Viper was offered on an individual card a short while later. This Alley-Viper had a mostly black uniform, with some light gray trim, and some interesting markings of diagonal white and black lines on one sleeve and one leg. The chestplate and helmet were dark red, resulting in a most impressive and plausibly-colored modern Alley-Viper.
And now, the Cobra Alley-Viper has joined the ranks of Cobras participating in the Retaliation line of G.I. Joe characters.
So, how's the figure? Very impressive, if perhaps not quite as -- urban-colored as his most recent predecessors. On the other hand, neither is he bright orange and blue. The Alley-Viper's uniform is mostly red. It's a fairly straightforward red, not especially bright, but neither is it all that subdued. There's a certain amount of light gray camouflage on the uniform, and the armored knee pads and the armbands on the upper arms are also light gray. The Alley-Viper's gloves and boots are black.
To a significant degree, the overall color scheme is similar in many respects to one of the 2002-era traditional-style Alley-Vipers that wore a mostly gray camouflage uniform with significant amounts of red on the helmet, chestplate, and backplate. It's just that in this instance, the red is a far more dominant color.
Modern Alley-Vipers have removable helmets, something the originals did not. The Alley-Viper is wearing a black mask that covers the entirety of his head except for eyeholes. His eyes and a certain amount of flesh-tone skin can be seen around the eyes here. There's a sort of high-tech black "muzzle" covering the lower face, attached to the mask. Its purpose is unknown, but knowing Cobra, it wouldn't surprise me if it was an air filter in case the Alley-Vipers decide to use some tear gas grenades -- or something a lot nastier. Or it might include communications equipment.
The helmet is the same color red as the majority of the uniform, and is styled very much like a traditional Alley-Viper helmet, including the drop-down face shield. Both the shield and the forehead of the helmet itself have Cobra emblems sculpted on them, and painted black.
The Alley-Viper's uniform does have a chestplate, and a limited backplate. These are sculpted in a more high-tech fashion than the original Alley-Viper, with a sort of segmented, angular design, but they still look cool. On this Alley-Viper, they are dark burgundy red with gray camouflage.
However, over this, the Alley-Viper is wearing a black equipment harness that, interestingly enough, doesn't show up in any of the photographs of the figure on the back of the package. It's also different than the harnesses worn by the previous Alley-Vipers which I cited in the Alley-Viper history in this review.
The harness has a very protective back, and a series of straps along the front. This gives the Alley-Viper quite the series of straps, as his torso is molded to look like the chestplate is also strapped on, and the straps, and their buckles, have been distinctly painted black and silver, respectively.
The front of the harness has an assortment of equipment sculpted to it, most prominently several ammo clips, assorted pouches, and a large sheath for a knife. The harness does have a snap on the right side, rather nicely concealed, but despite the fact that it doesn't turn up in the photographs (perhaps it simply wasn't ready?), it doesn't really look like it's designed to be easily removable. It's been my experience with modern G.I. Joe figures that the only way to get some of these harnesses off, if one so feels the need, is to pop the head off in the process. That sort of tells me they're not really meant to be removed.
On the whole, the Alley-Viper looks to be very well-equipped, just on his figure. Along with the harness, he has more pouches on his legs, and who knows what might be under those Cobra emblems on his armbands?
But this is hardly the extent of the equipment that the Alley-Viper comes with. G.I. Joe fans who like their figures to come with plenty of equipment should really appreciate the Retaliation line in general. All of the figures that I have picked up so far come with an abundance of equipment.
In the case of the Alley-Viper, this equipment includes two rifles, two knives, one of which fits into the sheath on his harness, the other fitting into a small black sheath on his lower right arm, and a truncheon. He also has a large shield, red with gray camouflage. This is also typical equipment for Alley-Vipers, and always has been. And then there's the Zip-Line mechanism.
The Alley-Viper comes with a zip-line device "for sky-high battle action", according to the package. One assumes that this is something the Alley-Viper might use to get from one rooftop to another in an urban setting. What's remarkable about this particular zip-line device, and he's hardly the only figure in the Retaliation line to come with a gadget like this, is that it comes with no less than seven feet of string!
The last time seven feet of anything turned up in the G.I. Joe line, it was the U.S.S. Flagg Aircraft Carrier! There's enough string with this Alley-Viper's zip-line to start at one end of the carrier -- if there was a pole set up for him to rig it from -- and very nearly make it to the other end. Of course, with enough momentum built up, he'd probably just bounce right off the back of the ship and into the ocean.
The Retaliation figures, sadly, do not have traditional file-cards. However, there's a couple of brief sentences on the back of the package card that outlines the character. The Alley-Viper's profile reads as follows: "The evil Alley-Viper is an expert at urban combat. He glides high above the city on a zip line to ambush his unsuspecting enemies. He is equally at home on rooftops, dark alleys, and underground sewers, always ready to attack!"
Paintwork on the figure is excellent. Granted, it's hard to mess up camouflage. But the areas that needed to be more precisely painted -- eyes, straps, buckles, etc. -- have all been done so superbly well. I'm sincerely impressed here.
And, of course, the figure is very well articulated. The Alley-Viper is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, knees, and ankles. In a time when it seems a number of 4" scale action figure lines are cutting articulation across the board, it's nice to see most of the G.I. Joes keep up the good range of movement.
So, what's my final word? I've always liked the Alley-Viper -- even when he was bright orange and blue. The vast majority of his incarnations have been excellent, and some have been really outstanding. This latest version of the Alley-Viper for the Retaliation line is a truly superb addition to the Alley-Viper legacy. He looks great, and comes with plenty of equipment. Even if he's not actually in the movie, there's no reason not to buy him, even to buy several of him to bolster your Cobra forces, and certainly this Alley-Viper does not need to be restricted just to the movie-based toys.
The COBRA ALLEY-VIPER from the G.I. JOE: RETALIATION line definitely has my highest recommendation!