COBRA has knocked the top-secret M.O.T.H. satellite out of orbit. This military satellite was a top-secret laser defense platform that had the potential to disrupt COBRA operations worldwide. Desiring this technology for themselves, COBRA was able to pull the not yet operational M.O.T.H. out of orbit. In order that no one get their hands on this new technology, the satellite was programmed to break into four primary components that would be spread around the globe should it depart from its orbital plane.
And now, of course, it's up to special Cobra teams to round up the parts. The storyline is a tribute in some respects to the "Revenge of Cobra" animated mini-series, which had a similar storyline when Destro's Weather Dominator weapon skyrocketed into orbit and shattered into pieces that landed in various parts of the world.
The Club has four sets planned, each representing a different environment. The sets will be carefully boxed with artwork that can be set up to form a complete image. The figures, although of Cobra troopers, do represent distinct individuals within those ranks of Cobra specialist troopers, although I'm sure anyone who wants to army-build these figures a bit will be willing to overlook that particular file card detail.
The second set, first presented at the 2006 G.I. Joe Convention, is the DESERT THEATER Set. There haven't been a lot of desert G.I. Joes, or Cobras, over the years. This was once explained to me that arctic-based figures always tend to sell better. Okay. I can understand that. More of this country suffers through a frigid winter than a scorching desert-like summer. However, for those of us who live in a desert-like environment such as myself, we do tend to feel just a little bit stiffed sometimes when it comes to the environments represented within G.I. Joe. So, I'm happy to see a desert set here.
The set features a DESERT FLAK-VIPER and a DESERT RANGE-VIPER. Let's consider them individually:
The Flak-Viper was first introduced in 1992, and was really the last new Cobra trooper division to carry the suffix "Viper" that would be presented in the original G.I. Joe line. Introduced as anti-aircraft troopers, these were high-tech soldiers with experience starting all the way back to being video-game addicts. It was one time where the real world of technology caught up in the world of G.I. Joe, presenting a background for a trooper that actually would've been impossible in the earlier years of the line.
The Flak-Viper molds were used a couple of years back as one of the figures in the Cobra Urban Strike Team, although for reasons unknown, that character was named Nullifier, a trooper division more commonly assigned to the Iron Grenadiers. Still, it was a decent figure.
The Desert Flak-Viper is an incredibly cool figure, that honestly bears no great color resemblance to any of its ancestors. The original Flak-Viper wore a mostly green uniform with grey overpadding and blue trim. The blue was changed to bright red for its 1993 release, and the Nullifier was mostly dark blue and black.
The Desert Flak-Viper has been molded in a molded-camouflage scheme of tan and very pale tan. Most of the overpadding has been left unpainted. The helmet and gloves are brown, and the shoes and a few other details have been painted black. On the whole, it works superbly well as a desert uniform.
And, I am happy to report, I detect no hand-painted detailing whatsoever. Interestingly, one part of this figure that was hand-painted on the Nullifier incarnation -- the pouch on the side of the leg -- has been spray-painted this time around. This would mean they either found or remade the paint masks for it. Also, there's more detailing around the visible portion of the face. There's a little bit of tan surrounding the face in an area of detail that's never been painted before.
All of this just shows the level of attention to detail and quality that the Club is willing to go to in order to turn out some of the coolest G.I. Joe figures that have been seen in years.
The Flak-Viper also comes with all of his original accessories. While I am no accessories expert, even I recognize that big double-barreled missile launcher. The Flak-Viper's file card reads as follows:
Cobra Anti-Aircraft Trooper - Operation Flaming M.O.T.H.
File Name: Nostaw, Shane R.
Primary Military Specialty: Anti-Aircraft
Secondary Military Specialty: Artillery Coordinator
Birthplace: United Kingdom
The Flak-Vipers are trained in the use of portable artillery weapons to fire at any airborne targets that can be observed, aimed at and destroyed. Their multi-purpose assault weapons have a passive, infrared targeting and sighting system built into their helmets. While most Cobra troopers use computerized equipment that makes use of GPS (Global Positioning System) to obtain accurate aiming points, the Flak-Vipers have exceptional natural hand-eye coordination and the ability to concentrate simultaneously on two or more targets in their range of sight. This allows them to fire extremely accurate missiles at G.I. Joe aircraft with absolute impunity! To maintain the maximum level of effectiveness, Flak-Vipers spend long hours every day practicing simulated missile engagements using a program cartridge that plugs into their helmets.
This Flak-Viper comes from a family of bus owners in England, who watched their life's work suffer through years of aerial bombing during times of war. He grew up hating the idea of being helpless against aircraft and joined the Cobra army, where he strove like no other Flak-Viper to personally deny the enemy air superiority. Cobra Commander took notice of his unparalleled hit ratio, and chose him for Operation: Flaming M.O.T.H., where he will accompany a Range-Viper into the Australian desert to retrieve a vital piece of the downed U.S. military satellite.
"My thumbs never get tired - show up in my sights and its GAME OVER!"
Interesting that the file card makes a reference to GPS -- something that it wouldn't've done back in 1992.
Also interesting is the character's real name. Reverse the name "Nostaw" and you get "Watson", and Shane Watson is the real name of a very well- known and well-regarded G.I. Joe and Action Man collector from the United Kingdom, who has frequented many G.I. Joe Conventions, bringing with him a large supply of European merchandise that would otherwise be very difficult for a collector to obtain. He's generally easy to spot in the Convention dealers' room -- just look for the large area of bright orange Action Man packaging...
First introduced in 1990, the Range-Viper was easily one of the sillier- looking Cobra troopers. Although described as a Cobra Wilderness Trooper, it was hard to imagine that someone wearing a uniform that consisted of a fairly intense blue shirt, black trousers, yellow-gold trim, and a helmet with a face on it that looked like Cobra Commander had seen too many episodes of Masters of the Universe and decided to base it on Skeletor, would be a particularly effective wilderness trooper.
The Range-Viper Commander, Skullbuster, who came out as part of the 2000-2002 line, was a mild improvement. At least the uniform was a more consistent overall color -- even if that color was metallic purple -- and they didn't even try to disguise the skull-like nature of the face- plate, painting it white. Still, one couldn't really see this guy in the wilderness, either. One might hope that as commander of the Range-Vipers, Skullbuster's work was mostly a desk job.
And yet the Collectors' Club has this uncanny knack of taking the most ridiculous figures from the G.I. Joe line, and making them look cool. Finally, we have a Range-Viper that actually looks like he belongs in his assigned environment. Even the ridiculous helmet blends in, at least as much as something like that is going to.
As with the Flak-Viper, the figure has been molded in a molded-in desert camouflage of tan and very pale tan. The helmet, belt, gloves, and part of the boots are brown. The collar and boots are black. The ammo belt is silver. The skull-like face-plate is gold, with silver "teeth" and green eyes. And as far as I can tell, only the gloves are hand-painted, and very neatly. Given the amount of painted detail on this figure -- quite a bit of it -- that's pretty amazing. This really is a very cool figure. The Desert Range-Viper's file card reads as follows:
Cobra WIlderness Trooper - Operation Flaming M.O.T.H.
File Name: Holland, Keith B.
Primary Military Specialty: Long Range Recon
Secondary Military Specialty: Survivalist
Range Vipers are trained to survive long-term operations dep within unfriendly territory, completely cut off from communications or supplies. They have an unusually high tolerance for discomfort and can survive on a diet of snakes, grubs, roots, berries, nuts, and whatever slow rodents they can catch. They are expected to procure their own ammunition by way of hit and run raids on enemy camps and ammo depots. These troopers are the top of the food chain and can flourish in the uninhabited wastelands of any region.
The sole survivor of a suspicious accident in the Simpson Desert that claimed his entire family, this anti-social youth grew up to be the perfect candidate for the Cobra corps. Coincidentally, it was years later as a Range-Viper that he was the only survivor of a long range recon team that went into the rugged desert and disappeared without a trace. He actually enjoys being posted in remote locations, left to his own devices, and lying in wait to take out a G.I. Joe patrol. He was chosen by Skullbuster, the Range-Viper Commander, to return to the Australian Outback for Operation Flaming M.O.T.H. because of his knowledge of the area and his apparently uncanny knack for survival. He grudgingly accepts the aid of one of Cobra Commander's top Flak-Vipers, but no one is counting on them both making it back.
"No one enters my territory and leaves alive!"
Booooy, I never thought I'd feel sorry for a Flak-Viper...
Although it's not specified as such, I wouldn't be surprised if the green eyes in the helmet represent some sort of night-vision apparatus.
The Collectors' Club is really doing an outstanding job with these sets. It is my sincere hope that once "Operation Flaming M.O.T.H." has run its course, we can look forward to more similarly themed sets in the years ahead.
And honestly, I find the backstory a good bit more interesting than some of the stuff Hasbro has come up with in recent years. In my opinion, it's certainly a lot cooler than "Valor vs. Venom" and "SpyTroops" concepts .
I look at this set, and I come to an inescapable conclusion -- the
future of the 3-3/4" G.I. Joes is a lot better off with the Club.
The G.I. Joe Collectors' Club can bring us such amazingly well-made
and impressive figures as this OPERATION FLAMING M.O.T.H. - DESERT THEATER
Set! These two Cobras definitely get my highest possible recommendation,
and I certainly look forward to the two remaining sets in the line!