Toys / Comics to Toys / G.I. Joe

Cobra Island Viper


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By Hervé St-Louis
November 6, 2022 - 10:20

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The Cobra Island Viper is the G.I. Joe Classified’s answer to the classic common Cobra trooper introduced in 1986 as a replacement to the Cobra trooper/ enemy that had populated the comics, the cartoons, and the toys since 1982. These were meant as the grunts of the Cobra forces, where everyone started. The Vipers were the same but with fancier suits and better gear and weird unexplained goggles on top of the metallic faceplates. In the exclusive toy was introduced in January 2021 and has been difficult for many collectors to find.

There has been an open debate for decades about the difference between Cobra troopers/infantry and Vipers. If you ask G.I. Joe writer Larry Hama, there are all the same. In many early comics before the introduction of Vipers, he referred top Cobra troopers as Vipers. Then it was customary for Hasbro to introduce replacement action figures after some had been ion the shelves for at least two years. Thus, the Viper could be seen as the logical replacement of the Cobra trooper. But one contentious point is that the Viper was specifically described as infantryman, while the Cobra trooper was more generic in his military specialty, occupying any position, including armoury, artillery, service, sailor, and anything you can think of.

With the introduction of both the Vipers, the Cobra troopers and a separate Cobra infantry action figure as army builders, Hasbro confused collectors with nearly exchangeable figures. Hasbro only cares about collectors buying multiple sets of Vipers, troopers, and infantry. The narrative logic behind the characters does not have to make sense. The figures just must look cool enough and remind collectors of their early collecting days as kids.

I like to think of the Vipers as the marines of the Cobra forces, so another service entirely from the Cobra troopers and infantry who are army based. Because they sport backpacks and several grenades, they are the perfect troops for extended sea-to-shore landings and perfect patrols core for Cobra Island. Their training is somewhat better than the Cobra troopers and infantry, but then again, the serve in a different corps! There, I solved this age-old problem!

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Likeness

While the Cobra Island Viper looks much like his 1986 toy counterpart, the main difference is the lack of rolled up sleeves. The 1986 had rolled up sleeves, like many other G.I. Joe figures at the time. It was always weird that a standard uniform for troops included rolled-up sleeves. There are rolled up sleeves that go only to the forearms. This creates a stark visual change from the 1986 figure. This is one figure that takes as much inspiration from the original with solid updates. For example, the grenades are contemporary designs, instead of classic rounded contraptions that we often see in popular media. The vest is different from the original with a lack of padding on the sides to protect the ribs.

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Sculpt

Compared to the head of the 1986 action figure, the Viper’s helmet is not as thick or large. Although it looked like a bit goofy on the 1986 toy, the proportions were correct for such a wide helmet. Thus, it means that the Viper’s helmet is very compact and not great for claustrophobes. The feet seem a tad small compared with the top-heavy figure. The goggles on the helmet have always looked odd but they complete the look so well. While the Viper may be using the same shoulders that came with Duke, Flint, and Breaker, the rest of the figure, save for the forearms, and perhaps the crotch, appear to be a new sculpt. The bare neck could be a reused of Duke’s.

It seems that the helmet is made of one piece and is not glued on like Cobra Commander’s. That means that it is symmetrical, unlike Cobra Commander’s whose helmet could be off, depending on which figure one would get at the store. This figure feels less slender and movable than the Cobra troopers and infantry.

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Paint

All red areas on the figure are painted on. To some degree, the red covers the underlying plastic or other painted colours well enough. The red Cobra logo on the backpack could have used another coat of paint though. I wish the Viper’s helmet was in vac-metal polish instead of regular silver paint that will rob off over time.

Scale

Because of his helmet, the Viper is taller than Cobra troopers and infantry, but still a bit shorter than Cobra Commander. He is about the same height as an Alley Viper and a bit shorter than a BAT. He is taller than Duke.

Stability

While top-heavy and with short feet, I find that the Viper is stable, even with his backpack on. Because his hip articulations are stiff, you may want to heat the figure to allow better posing for balance.

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Articulations

The Viper has the standard G.I. Joe Classified articulations at the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, abdominal, waist, hips, thighs, knees, calves, and ankles. The neck has two ball joints that allow for more mobility. The scarf will be a problem though, limiting the side to side and head pivots. The shoulders have butterfly joints that work well, even though the vest is heavy on the figure. The shoulders move at no more than 90 degrees up. There are bicep curls that rotate 360 degrees. There are double elbow articulations that contract well and add much mobility.

The right wrist can bend inside, while the left one can move up or down. Both can rotate. The abdominal crunch will not be of use because of the thick vest on top of the figure’s chest. However, there is a ball peg on the waist which as well as allowing the figure to twist, can also pivot in any direction. The hips are stiff and have the drop-down feature which I am starting to dislike as they make the figure fragile without adding much range of motion. The thigh swivels are useful. The range on the double knee articulations are good. The ankles can pivot and bend up and down.

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Plastic

Vipers are made of PVC plastic. The wrist guards and goggles are in softer plastics.

Props

Vipers come with a light grey scarf, goggles that do not fit well on their helmets, rifle with removable magazine, a handgun, and well-equipped backpack. I’m not a fan of the shape of the scarf. The goggles are problematic and are too small to fit properly on the Viper’s head. If you try to stretch them on, it may break the plastic. Hasbro did make the lens of the goggles polished to mimic glass. The rifle is good, but I dislike the way the handle is shaped as it’s a bit more difficult to slide the figure’s hands on the rifle’s handle. The backpack is good and solid, but it’s not possible to store the rifle on it. The handgun fits into a holster on the right thigh of the figure.  

Nevertheless, it’s not just black plastic, as the rope on the back is painted, as well as the back cover and the sculpted-in grenades. There is a red Cobra logo on the back cover of the backpack. The backpack looks like one troops would carry with them when going into expeditions, with necessary survival and warfare goods. The Viper has removable wrist guards that reveal the exposed forearms of the figure. It’s good to be able to mix and match the look of a Viper unit.

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Packaging

The packaging by Anthony Petrie is comic book-like colour line art featuring several Vipers on the front and the left side of the box. In the back, there is a map of Cobra Island with details about specific defensive installations.

Cost

The Cobra Island Viper retailed for $22.99 USD. On the aftermarket, this figure is much more expensive.

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Availability

The Cobra Island Viper is no longer available at Target in the US, or Toys R Us in Canada. The toys were difficult to obtain the moment it came out with limited stock and weird distribution by Hasbro. Many collectors were pissed and had to obtain their Vipers from the secondary market. Instead of releasing new Viper stock as they did with the Cobra troopers and other characters such as Beachhead, the Baroness, Breaker and his RAM cycle, Hasbro chose to release and new Viper three-pack. More on that in my next review.

I got my single Cobra Island Viper from a fellow collector. Their price never came down on auction sites. The other collector did give me a great deal. I wanted this Viper so that I had at least one original Viper before getting a few three-pack Viper sets. I’m happy to say that while the red of his uniform is brighter, that he still fits with them.

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Last Updated: November 6, 2022 - 10:25

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