REVIEW: G.I. JOE JUNGLE TERROR TWIN BATTLE GUN with RANGE-VIPER
During the run of toys based on G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra live-action movie, Target carried a series of store exclusive items. These consisted of small vehicles, with an exclusive figure. The SNAKE Armor was reissued in black. The Cobra CLAW returned, with an Air-Viper Commando. Grand Slam showed up with an Air Assault Glider. And so forth...
But, just as an additional assortment was starting to be rumored and reported on the Internet as being in the works, but not yet in the stores, the line came to an end. With the movie having run its course, Target, which tends to be rather merciless with its merchandise anyway, clearanced what they had, and this final assortment never turned up -- which was a real shame since it looked to be the coolest of the lot.
It seemed largely forgotten. Then, word got out that this assortment had in fact turned up, Target exclusive stickers and all -- at Ross. G.I. Joe collectors, myself included, quickly headed to their local Ross, if they had one accessible to them. For myself, after two days of totally striking out at my nearest Ross, I finally scored the toys, which by two days later -- you'd have never known had ever been there. And this was from a fairly decent supply.
Among this highly impressive assortment is the vehicle and figure I will review here, the COBRA JUNGLE TERROR TWIN BATTLE GUN, and its operator, a COBRA RANGE-VIPER.
Before I get to the vehicle, I'd like to mention the packaging. Unlike the previous assortments of these Target exclusives, which were packaged in window boxes with the vehicle and figure on ready display, this particular assortment was packaged in a solid box, with a small window displaying the figure only, much like the G.I. Joe vehicles of the 1980's. Although, of course, these boxes bore the movie logo.
Additionally, the illustration on the front of the box was amazing. Now, I may not be the world's biggest fan of either the live-action G.I. Joe movie or the current figure format of G.I. Joe. But I like to think I know good artwork when I see it, and the artwork that has accompanied the modern G.I. Joe line starting with the movie and ever since has been nothing short of staggering. The illustration on the front of this box shows the Twin Battle Gun perched near the edge of a jungle cliff, manned by the Range-Viper, with a Cobra base in the background, several Cobra Gunships in the air, and a waterfall in the distance. Not exactly a pastoral scene, but an impressive illustration blending the toy with its designated environment.
The text on the back of the box provides as good an explanation as any, reading: A Range-Viper races to a Jungle Terror Twin Battle Gun that's concealed in the thick foliage outside the Cobra fortress. Aerial surveillance (hence the Gunships) has spotted the G.I. Joe team approaching the building's location, and the Range-Viper intends to stop them with the help of the artillery weapon's twin gatling guns!
The other thing that surprised me with these items was how Hasbro managed to pack them in such relatively small boxes. Each item was encased within a smaller box inside the outer box, while the figure sort of had his own space. And each time, I thought, "They managed to squeeze a -- whatever it was, in this case, the Twin Battle Gun -- into THIS!?" And yep -- they had. Some assembly required to some degree, but I didn't have a problem with that.
Now, let's consider the vehicle, although technically, it might better be called a gunnery station, since it has no motive power of its own. It does have wheels, but it needs to be towed if it's going to get anywhere.
It may currently be going by the name of "Jungle Terror Twin Battle Gun", but this item started its existence in 1983, the second year of G.I. Joe, as the Whirlwind Twin Battle Gun -- so please forgive me if I refer to it as the Whirlwind every once in a while. Originally, this gun emplacement unit was assigned to the G.I. Joe team, and was molded in a dark military green. It was a small boxed item that year, and did not come with any figures of its own, and was arguably considered in the same size range as the SNAKE Battle Armor, even though for its size range, it's a pretty good size. It was probably just shy of fitting into the assortment that year that featured the Polar Battle Bear Snowmobile and the Cobra FANG Helicopter.
The Whirlwind would make its rounds over the years. Although it would not return to the American G.I. Joe line during its original run, it turned up in Europe, as part of their Action Force line, recolored in a different shade of green, as well as some black, and assigned to the Z Force (pronounced "Zed Force") squad within the Action Force team. It would also appear in the early 1990's in Argentina, oddly enough maintaining its "Whirlwind" name, rather than being translated into something in the native language.
The Whirlwind would appear again in the United States in 2004, as part of a boxed set exclusive to Toys "R" Us, accompanied by a VAMP Jeep, and sold with traditional-style figures of Pathfinder, Big Brawler, and Lt. Torpedo. This explains the revised 2003 copyright date on the toy, which it still possesses in its latest form.
For its entry into Cobra, the Whirlwind has not only been renamed the Jungle Terror, it's been substantially recolored. It is now black, with a few highlights in gray, rather than the original dark green. The platform, guns, and front shield are black, while the gunner's seat and control console are gray.
Assembly is most definitely required. Although the wheels have been snapped to the base, everything else needs to be properly secured. None of this is too difficult, although it can be a bit of a balancing act to get the large twin battle guns to stay on their mounting post long enough to snap the control console in over them to complete hold them in place.
Additionally, one thing has never really changed over the years -- that front shield just doesn't stay put all that well. It's designed to be wedged into place more than snapped into place, along a vertical ridge on the front of the control console post, and attached along two little brackets at the base. At no point does the shield actually snap into something, and it doesn't take much for it to come flying off. I have found over the years that some good cement glue along that ridge and the brackets very agreeably holds it in place, and the ridge and the brackets are largely unseen, so you're not going to mess up the look of the completed vehicle by gluing this one particular piece in.
When finished, the Jungle Terror is an imposing piece of artillery. The gun barrels are over 5-1/2 inches in length, and there are somewhat concealed dials underneath each one that rotate the machine gun barrels that protrude from the housing. There is a seat and control console for the user, with a small targeting screen, and a label that attaches to the post beneath the screen that shows additional controls, and two handles for the user to operate the gun system. The entire set-up is mounted to a platform that attaches to the base and allows for 360-degrees of rotation. Add to this the fact that the twin guns have a fair range of raising and lowering, and you've got a high-powered weapon with a frightening range of fire.
The platform on which this gun station sits is designed to be towed by a vehicle. It has an extended arm with an attachment point at the tip. It has been pointed out, quite correctly, that the Jungle Terror is a good match with the Cobra Stinger Jeep -- another relatively scarce item that turned up at Ross a while back, unless you're fortunate enough to still have your original Stinger from 1984. Either will work, as will any HISS tank with a tow hook.
The two wheels of the platform can be pivoted 90 degrees so that they can rest flat on the ground, giving the Jungle Terror some stability in its designated position. Otherwise, the recoil of these guns would probably knock it back ten yards with every shot.
Of course, the Jungle Terror has a supply of labels, as all G.I. Joe vehicles generally do. A few of these have been placed in advance. These include two labels on the towing arm on the platform, and several on the front shield. One of these is a red Cobra emblem. The other labels, on both the shield and the tow arm, are camouflage labels, printed in a jagged pattern of green and black, and are really pretty cool. These have red Cobra emblems on them, and one of the shield labels has a registry number on it, which is 1-Delta (a triangle) 2/37.
f the labels that you get to place yourself, most of them fit well into their designated areas. Two of them, however, additional registry numbers, have no assigned place, and the instructions more or less say that "Remaining labels can be placed anywhere on the toy". I can't say that I've ever seen that before! Fortunately, these registry numbers have a perfectly good spot, and can be placed on either side of the base platform just before it starts to taper into the tow arm. At least that's what I'd recommend.
And two of the labels have, to me, some seriously hysterical text on them. They read: HAZARD - Improper Use of This Vehicle May Cause Serious Injury or Death. This in tiny little eyestrain-inducing printing. Still -- the thing is a GUN PLATFORM. Seems to me that PROPER use of it could cause serious injury or death, too!
In any case it's definitely a cool item, and the Whirlwind is hardly the first vehicle in the line to switch sides here and there, but it is the first time that it has done so, and it looks pretty impressive in Cobra black!
Now let's consider the gunner that comes with it, the RANGE-VIPER.Range-Vipers are not new characters. But they have always struck me as just a little bit -- weird. And not just because of the weird skull-faced helmets they wear. Range-Vipers were first introduced in 1990, and were designated as Cobra's Wilderness Troopers. Okay, that's fair. It wasn't a specialty that Cobra had developed to date, and it was certainly legitimate. It didn't really explain the skull-like helmets, unless the Range-Vipers somehow used these to scare off pesky wildlife in the wilderness.
What really went unexplained, however, was the fact that Range-Viper uniforms featured rather intense blue shirts, blue helmets, and bright orange-gold ammo belts! Now, you're going to try to conceal yourself in the wilderness dressed like that!? It's bad enough you've got a helmet that makes you look like a technologized version of Skeletor, but you've got a color scheme that would have trouble blending in at a Hawaiian luau, never mind the middle of a forest. Needless to say, the Range-Vipers were a little hard to take overly seriously. Several appearances in the less-than-stellar DIC-produced animated series of the time didn't really do much to help their reputations any, either.
Subsequent appearances of the Range-Vipers, or parts of them, continued over the years. Their notable helmets were recolored in a metallic brick red, and used for the Cobra Imperial Guards, part of a special six-pack of figures, that included four Guards, plus a red-garbed Cobra Commander and Baroness, offered as a set at Toys "R" Us. They looked more menacing, certainly, but then this crew wasn't being called upon to patrol the wilderness, either.
The Range-Viper as a whole was recolored into an individual character named Skullbuster -- not inappropriate given the faceplate of that helmet -- who was considered the commander of the Range-Vipers. Arguably, he had even worse color sense, as his uniform was predominantly metallic purple!
There was a newsculpt Range-Viper around 2005, that was a reasonable tribute to the original, and had the advantage of a somewhat more subdued color scheme, but he was still mostly blue and gray -- not exactly colors associated with the wilderness. In 2006, the Official G.I. Joe Collectors' Club, as part of a series of environment-themed two-packs, produced a desert-based Range-Viper, using the original molds. Here, finally, was proof that the Range-Viper could look very decent if molded in a sensible color scheme. The helmet was still strange-looking, but by now had become something of a trademark to the Range-Vipers, and the brown and tan color scheme was certainly a vast improvement.
Finally, there was a 25th-style Range-Viper, that was sold as part of the Defense of Cobra Island set. Although the colors were somewhat more subdued than the original, the figure was still intended as a 25th-style incarnation of the original, and so blue, gray, and black dominated the day, with orange trim.
So, what drew me to this Jungle Terror Twin Battle Gun set? Well, a cool artillery piece, yes. But we finally have a Range-Viper with an appropriate color scheme to his intended environment! Amazing, isn't it!?
The predominant colors of the Range-Viper accompanying the Jungle Terror Twin Battle Gun are gray, black, and metallic green. Now, this is something I can see working well in the wilderness. The figure is not a perfect analog, designwise, to the original Range-Viper, but all of the basic elements are certainly accounted for.
Obviously, there is the trademark helmet. Unlike the original Range-Viper, this is actually removable. The head underneath it is wearing a ridged ski-mask, so there's no real telling what the face looks like. The head is rather obviously based on the Beach-Head figure, although it is molded in gray, and interestingly enough, the facial features that do show through an opening in the mask around the eyes give the figure African-American skin tone, the only place on the figure where this shows.
The eyes and eyebrows are painted very nearly, and the eyeslits in the helmet align superbly well with the eyes on the figure's head, something which for some reason I tend to believe is not that easily achieved. The helmet captures the basic essence of the Range-Viper, in that the faceplate has a stylized skull-like design to it. The face of the helmet, and a ridge over the top of the head, are painted in metallic green, while the rest of the helmet is black. Not missed at all, I might add, are the sculpted lines on the top and sides of the head of the original Range-Viper helmet, which looked faintly like exposed brains. They're not present on this Range-Viper, and it's no big loss.
The bulk of the Range-Viper's uniform is dark gray. The torso has ridges in it, like corduroy or a sweater of some sort. These ridges are absent on the sleeves. There is some armored shoulder plating, which is identical to what I have also encountered on Air-Viper Commandos and Swamp-Vipers. Obviously the same parts, but it looks good, and it meshes well with some padding or plating that appears on the shoulders of the torso of the figure. All of this is painted in the same metallic green as the mask.
The figure is wearing a green belt, and has green knee pads, that are the same green color as the metallic trim elsewhere on the figure, but is not in and of itself metallic in finish. The boots are black, and have metallic green trim on them, as do the backs of the gloves.
Interesting, the figure shown on the back of the product box has a red Cobra emblem sculpted into the left side shoulder armor. That Cobra emblem is indeed present on the actual figure, but it has not been painted. This is something which can likely be remedied if one so chooses, with some red paint, a fine brush, and a very steady hand. But the figure looks fine as he is, as well. The Cobra emblem is still there.
Completing the Range-Viper image is a large ammo belt draped over the right shoulder. The belt is grey, and the bullets attached to it are gold with silver tips. There is a grenade attached, painted in silver, and a gray gun holster. Among the accessories included for the Range-Vipers use in the set is a small pistol, which should nicely fit the holster, as well as a long rifle with a small tripod attachment, which I personally recommend attaching with a small amount of glue to prevent loss.
The file cards for figures from the movie-based line tend to be rather short on extensive information. The one included for the Range-Viper features a superbly painted portrait of the character -- and one has to believe that doing that skull-like helmet face and making it look serious wasn't the easiest thing in the world -- and reads as follows: Range-Vipers are trained in guerrilla combat tactics that focus on stealth, surprise, and mobility. In units assigned to jungle regions, they use the dense undergrowth, heat, and challenging terrain to gain the advantage over their enemies.
Of course, the figure is very nicely articulated, and is neatly painted, and I really have to say that this is a Range-Viper that LOOKS like he lives up to their long-established specialty of being wilderness troopers. If the Range-Vipers had been colored like this in the first place, back in 1990, they might not have been seen as such a joke for all these years.
So, what's my final word? This is a cool set. The Whirlwind Twin Battle Gun, now the Jungle Terror, has been a longtime favorite with many G.I. Joe fans. It's an imposing piece of hardware that looks very authentic and certainly would be effective on the battlefield. Its new Cobra-based color scheme gives it an extra edge of menace that really adds something to the threat it implies, and allows it to work well within the Cobra legions, including as a towed weapon platform behind any number of similarly-colored Cobra vehicles.
And the Range-Viper is particularly cool. Hasbro has taken a character that was more than slightly bizarre when he was first introduced, has arguably had one really effective incarnation courtesy of the Collectors' Club, and made him look far more menacing and effective than could have ever been expected. This is a Range-Viper to be taken seriously.
Admittedly, this set is NOT going to be easily found. The assortment to which it belongs came and went at a clearance-type store that is notorious for having certain toys ONCE, and then they're gone. I have no idea what the total inventory of this assortment might have been, but word scarcely got out about these, and they vanished into the night faster than you could say, "Hey, where'd these come from!?".
However, as I often tend to say with these hard-to-find toys -- they exist. They're out there, they've been released to the public, if on a rather limited and unexpected basis, and that means, that they can be found. Doubtless through the "secondary market" at this point, but it shouldn't be impossible. And any G.I. Joe Collector would welcome this very impressive figure and vehicle combination.
The G.I. JOE COBRA JUNGLE TERROR TWIN BATTLE GUN and COBRA RANGE-VIPER definitely have my highest recommendation!