REVIEW: G.I. JOE THE RISE OF COBRA - COBRA C.L.A.W. with AIR VIPER COMMANDO
As I've said in other reviews of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra movie items, one of the most interesting aspects of the line is the vehicles. Some are brand new. Others are longtime favorites, given new life in the movie line. A number of these haven't been seen in years. One such is the Target exclusive COBRA C.L.A.W.
The Cobra C.L.A.W. was first introduced into the G.I. Joe line in 1984. It could be argued that the CLAW (enough with typing all those periods) served two purposes. It could be seen as a successor of sorts to the large styrofoam Viper Glider, which along with the G.I. Joe Falcon Glider had come and gone the year before. The CLAW bore a superficial similarity to the Viper Glider insofar as it was a one-man winged vehicle, and the pilot (although the CLAW did not come with a figure of its own) flew the vehicle much in the same way as the Viper Glider, riding it not unlike one would a hang glider.
Secondarily, however, as the CLAW was not a glider, but rather specifically stated on its package to be a Jet Pack, it could also be seen as a counterpoint to the G.I. Joe JUMP Jet Pack, which had first emerged in 1982, and had been reissued in 1983 with a version of Grand Slam as its designated pilot. Cobra was frankly in need of some serious one-man flying power, and the CLAW gave it to them.
CLAW, for the record, stands for Covert Light Aerial Weapon -- one of those frequent occasions where I'm fairly certain the abbreviation came before the explanation, but honestly, the explanation here is one of the better ones.
The original CLAW was released in 1984, with an off-white color to it. This wasn't too unusual for Cobra, as they'd also used it on their SNAKE Armor. The original molds were never heard from again, except for a European usage.
In 2008, as part of the extended 25th Anniversary line, the CLAW reappeared in the world of G.I. Joe, packaged alongside the Cobra FANG one-man attack copter. Not a bad combo, really. However, although the CLAW bore a significant structural resemblance to the original, including the original color scheme, it was a vastly simplified version compared to the original.
Now, arguably, some accommodation would have had to have been made in order to allow the new type figures, with the entirely different back peg, to be properly attached. However, many other changes were also made. Gone was the wheeled landing gear of the original. There were a lot fewer moving parts. The original CLAW had slightly extending outer wings and movable ailerons. The new CLAW had neither. One alteration that was a visual improvement over the original was the new set of control handlebars, which were more detailed than the original CLAW.
One is left wondering what happened to the original CLAW. It's entirely possible the molds were no longer available. It's also possible that it would have been too expensive to produce at a price point agreeable to its size today. For a decidedly small vehicle, the original CLAW was surprisingly complex.
The new CLAW appeared in its original off-white format a couple of times, and once in a rather striking red color, among a series of vehicles that barely made it out (and then only online) just prior to the switchover to the movie line. In this instance, the CLAW was packaged with the G.I. Joe FLAK Cannon. Hey, what good is an anti-aircraft cannon without an aircraft to shoot at?
Now, the CLAW has been brought into the movie-based line, one of a series of small vehicles with figures that have been available exclusively at Target.
So, what's my take on the new CLAW? I have to admit, it looks pretty cool in black. There's some silver trim on the top of the vehicle, a pair of stripes as well as a gun barrel, that aren't visible from the package, since the vehicle and figure are packaged to look as though the figure is in flight with the CLAW.
Although the CLAW has been simplified from its original appearance, it still looks very much like the original CLAW, and is superbly well detailed. Sculpted panels are visible across the wings, the extensions, although they don't officially extend anymore, are present and accounted for, as are the ailerons.
The CLAW does have SOME moving parts. The smaller wings up near the front of the vehicle still pivot, as they did originally, and the control handlebars move back and forth. One gets the impression that it would take something of a madman to be willing to fly this thing. Then again, all one really has to do is watch extreme sports to realize that there's no shortage of daredevil lunatics in the world.
What the new CLAW may lack in -- for lack of a better term -- articulation, relative to its original predecessor, it tends to make up for with destructive capabilities. The original CLAW came with two small missiles, and a bomb that could be attached to the underside where the pilot normally -- hung out -- allowing the CLAW to be used as a remote-controlled flying weapon.
The new CLAW basically comes with its own munitions depot. It has four small missiles, two fairly bulky bombs, four narrow, bright green rockets, and two additional missiles that are almost as tall as the pilot! The CLAW can carry any four of these at any given time, so there's no way that it can be fully loaded with this entire arsenal. Even the illustration on the back of the package rather artfully shows the CLAW being flown with its missile racks full, but the additional missiles seemingly being "dropped" from the vehicle. As to which missiles would best befit the CLAW, that's entirely up to you. One might suppose it would depend on the mission parameters, and just how much firepower the pilot is willing to carry around with him.
The CLAW comes with a series of labels, which fit well in the designated areas. A few of them use the quirky, squared off, and at times barely legible type face that quite a few Cobra vehicles from the movie line have made use of. Overall, while it may seem to be a little less than its original predecessor, it's not a bad vehicle in and of itself at all.
Now let's consider the pilot figure. He's officially named AIR-VIPER COMMANDO. What's interesting is that this isn't the first use of this name. In fact it was actually assigned to a previous figure that came with one of the previous modern CLAWs. That figure was a recolored Strato-Viper. The Air-Viper Commando that comes with the movie-based CLAW is a recolored AVAC.
There's a name with some history in the G.I. Joe universe. The Cobra AVAC was first introduced into the line in 1986, as the pilot of the Cobra Firebat, a small, one-man rocket-plane that came with the massive Cobra Terror Drome. The AVAC has always been a personal favorite of mine. I always considered it a little unfortunate that such a cool figure came with such a massive playset. In theory, the AVAC was an army-builder, but who was going to buy that many Terror-Dromes just for the figure? Fortunately, a few years later, Hasbro offered the AVAC, as well as the Firebat, through their mail order service at the same, sans the massive Terror-Drome.
The AVAC made the transition into the 25th-style line with the re-release of the Cobra Firebat, as a boxed item during the extended run of the 25th Anniversary line prior to the movie. Honestly, the figure was one of the more effective transitions. The helmet was an excellent reworking of the original somewhat triangular-dome that was the trademark of the AVAC, and the red uniform with silver helmet and armor, and black trim, was carried out -- honestly, a lot better than some of the other transitions from original figure to 25th-style. I'm not saying that the new version was superior to the original -- but it worked well within the new figure format, certainly.
Those particular molds have since seen some additional use. Along with the Air-Viper Commando, they've also been used for one of the figures sold with the Toys "R" Us Exclusive Sting Raider, as a Cobra trooper known as a Swamp-Viper. There, the figure has a dark grey uniform with metallic green helmet and armor. It's easily one of my favorite 25th-style G.I. Joe figures.
Which brings us to the Air-Viper Commando. If "AVAC" stands for "Air Viper Advanced Class", then perhaps this guy should be known as "AVC"? Maybe not. I'm not sure how you'd pronounce it. The Air-Vipers seem to be becoming increasingly prevalent in the current world of G.I. Joe. Not bad when you consider that the only way they ever got a figure in the original-style line was when the Collectors' Club made one for their parachute drop event at one of the Conventions years ago. Prior to that, there had never been an actual Air-Viper figure. There'd been the AVACs, there'd been the Strato-Vipers (whose file card even made reference to Air-Vipers), and there was even an Aero-Viper, but never an Air-Viper figure. Weird, given how obvious a name it seems to be.
Now, there have been Air-Vipers, Strato-Vipers, AVACs, and Air-Viper Commandos. If we take their movie-based uniform as an example, then it's reasonable to assume that they're somewhere beyond the ranks of Air-Vipers, and perhaps on their way to becoming AVACs. Or perhaps they're a sidestep of some sort. Either way, the coolness of the uniform design holds up rather well.
The color scheme is -- interesting. When Hasbro issued this figure as the AVAC, of course they used the original color scheme. And I remain extremely impressed with the Swamp-Viper color scheme. The Air-Viper Commando... hmmm.
One gets the impression that what Hasbro wanted to do here was to come as close to AVAC colors as the admittedly VERY subdued color palette of the movie figures would allow. The days of brightly colored G.I. Joe figures are pretty well in the past. Technically, they have been for years. The newsculpt line which ran from 2002-2006 was much more limited than the color schemes allowed in the early 1990's of the original line. For that matter, so was the 2000-2002 line. The 25th Anniversary line let a little color in, simply because it was trying to do accurate representations of classic figures in the new figure format. The movie-based line has been, by far, the darkest and most limited palette yet.
Obviously, the red and silver AVAC uniform wasn't going to be appropriate for a toy tied in with the movie. But it's not that easy to "subdue" red and silver. To Hasbro's credit, they gave it their best shot, and it pretty well worked. However, the end result is a figure whose uniform colors are honestly a little hard to define verbally.
The uniform is a sort of washed out greyish lavendar, for lack of a better term. The closest basic color was, of all things, "Lilac". Not the most military-sounding color I've ever heard, and really, the Air-Viper Commando's uniform is a little darker and greyer. Then there was "Metallic Maroon". Closer in a way, but the uniform doesn't have a metallic finish. The armor does, but not the uniform. Any way you look at it, it's an interesting color.
Then there's the color of the helmet, chestplate, and other armored trim. At first, I was going to call it pewter. But it has a very slight greenish caste to it. Nowhere near that of the very distinctly metallic olive green of the Swamp-Viper, but it's not exactly a straight metallic grey, either. Maybe call it metallic pewter-olive? I'm starting to think that Hasbro came up with these colors just to see how unusual they could get with the plastic and paint.
The visor on the helmet is rather thankfully a fairly straightforward silver, and the gloves, boots, belt, and some trim details are black. Nice, uncomplicated colors. Most of the paintwork is very neatly done, but there's a bit of a smear up one leg of the armor trim, and what looks like a thumbprint on the armor around one of the boots. I realize these figures are mass produced in something of a hurry, but somebody needs to be told how to aim and to keep their fingers of the figures until the paint dries.
Any real complaints about the figure beyond this? Not really, although I do wish they'd imprinted the Cobra emblem on the chestplate, as they did for both the AVAC and the Swamp-Viper. It's not there, and the chestplate is left looking like a large, flat, empty space. I suspect this can be rectified for those so inclined with a properly sized Cobra emblem label. Unfortunately, even the smallest one with the CLAW is too large -- and it belongs on the vehicle, anyway. I'm sure there's something out there, though, but it's a shame that it was left off in the first place. Its absence is VERY noticeable.
And, just in case all of the assorted rocketry that comes with the CLAW isn't enough to get the job done, the Air-Viper Commando comes with his own rifle, on a strap, so he doesn't have to actually hold onto the thing in flight and try to maneuver the CLAW at the same time. Give the poor guy a break, he's only got two hands...
The file cards for the movie-based figures don't tend to go into a lot of detail -- although the artwork is superb. In the Air-Viper Commando's case, it describes him as being the aerial attack and combat troopers for MARS Industries, and lists as their preferred weapon the "Covert Light Aerial Weapon" -- so the original abbreviation explanation has been carried over, which is pretty cool.
So, what's my final word here? This is a cool set. Although the CLAW is not the original, it's still impressive. It certainly comes with enough assorted missiles and bombs to make it a viable threat on any battlefield. And the Air-Viper Commando is a cool figure. His colors might be a tad peculiar, but on the whole, he's a very impressive reworking of a very impressive original figure that's always been a personal favorite of mine.
Ultimately, the G.I.JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA Target exclusive COBRA C.L.A.W. with AIR-VIPER COMMANDO definitely has my very enthusiastic recommendation!