Alley Viper (25th Anniversary)
The Alley Viper has always been one of my favorite Cobra troopers. Even back in 1989, the design was powerful and intimidating. Alley Viper was probably the figure I was most looking forward to out of either of the Cobra Island seven packs, and that’s saying a lot because there were quite a few figures in those sets that I really wanted since I had such strong childhood memories of their vintage counterparts. Alley Viper had the highest expectations and this version definitely met them. The 25th Anniversary Alley Viper was such a great figure, Hasbro gave him a second mass market release in the Pursuit of Cobra line and if you were lucky enough to find a Cobra Fury anywhere you could get one there as well. However, the Defense of Cobra Island Alley Viper was the one that started it all and while he may not be on display because the Pursuit of Cobra Alley Viper works just a little better overall as a figure due to the added accessories, the 25th Anniversary Alley Viper is easily one of my top 25 nostalgic favorites from the Joe line’s 25th Anniversary series.
Alley Viper gets a majority of his parts from a rather surprising place. From neck to knees, the Alley Viper shares parts with the 25th Anniversary Paine Brothers Snake Eyes. These aren’t parts you would think would work well for an Alley Viper, but they really do make a great base for an urban commando. His lower legs are new, but they are shared with the 25th Anniversary Range Viper released alongside him in the Defense of Cobra Island set. I love the armored look of those shinguards. They looked great on the Range Viper and they look great here, though I wish they looked a little more like his original boots. It’s not a deal-breaker, but those heavy-fronted Alley Viper boots always looked pretty intimidating. His arms and head are also new pieces and are unique to him. The arms mesh very well with the Snake Eyes body and really do a good job of referencing the Alley Viper’s original look while updating things a bit.
He’s still got the blue bands on his biceps and this time they have a really great Cobra sigil molded into them. It’s a really great look and it’s kind of reminiscent of a Nazi stormtrooper arm band, which is a vibe I like from the Alley Viper. They’re part of Cobra’s elite strike force so I can see the arm bands as part of that elite distinction. The lower arms each have some details added to the vintage design, but they’re different. The right arm has a functional knife sheath while his left arm has a blue cuff with a silver communicator mounted to the underside. I see the communicator as a more durable version of the wrist mics you see on the Secret Service and other elite combat groups in movies. It’s a nice addition to the Alley Viper design. His head is a newly-sculpted balaclava. It’s got individual eye holes as opposed to the eye slit from Beachhead’s. It’s also a bit baggier than most of the balaclavas the line has put forth. I like the look and it does remind me of the cloth mask the original Alley Viper had on under his helmet. Over the torso, he’s wearing a brand new, highly detailed vest. It looks like a heavy duty flak vest with all sorts of pouches and weapons attached to it. The knife sheath is functional and it looks good next to his grenade. Plus, the newly sculpted piece finally clears up what that was supposed to be. I remember not being sure what was on his chest because the details weren’t very clear. That’s definitely not a criticism I can make about the Alley Viper’s vest now. The back of the vest also has some great detailing, with stitched on pieces of additional padding and straps to hold the front pouches in place. They really pulled out all the stops with the details on the vest, including a zipper on the front with a zipper pull. However, the most-defining feature of the Alley Viper has always been his helmet with its flip down visor. This time, it is actually removable helmet and it looks great. The design is sleek and actually reminds me of an aerodynamic motorcycle helmet. Now I can just see a squad of Alley Vipers ripping through the streets of Manhattan on high speed bikes, causing chaos wherever they go. Keeping with the original Alley Viper look, there’s a flip-down faceguard. I’ll admit, that always confused me a little as a kid. How on Earth did he see out of it when it was down? I always used the cheat of saying that the Cobra sigil was actually a cut out like the slats on a knight’s helmet and that’s what I’m sticking with here, even though on this figure that’s clearly not the case. Practicality issues aside, though, it’s a great recreation of the Alley Viper’s classic helmet.
The one area where I think the 25th Anniversary Alley Viper surpasses his Pursuit of Cobra cousin is in the paint scheme. I’ve loved the Alley Viper since 1989 and that means I believe an Alley Viper should be blue and orange (or even yellow and black—either way, they’re not usually wearing the best urban camouflage colors). Yes, it’s bright, but I don’t care. The orange looks great though there is a bit of a color mismatch between his thighs and calves. It’s a function of the fact that most of the figure is molded in orange, but the lower legs look to be molded in black with the orange details painted on. I can’t fault Hasbro for doing it that way, but it can catch your eye every now and then. Over the orange, he’s got blue geometric camouflage. It’s applied well enough to make it clear it’s the Alley Viper, but at the same time, he doesn’t look too busy. Black and brown are also used on his boots and arms and even though the figure is primarily orange and blue, it’s a cohesive look and it works.
Finally, we have to talk about Alley Viper’s equipment. Alley Viper was one of the first figures I remember with a lot of great and unique accessories and the 25th Anniversary Alley Viper continues that tradition. Starting off small, he’s got a pair of daggers to fill the functional sheaths on his right arm and on his chest. I really like the idea of the Alley Viper still being dangerous even if he’s out of ammo. I know if I were playing with these figures now, every Alley Viper fight would end with the Alley Viper out of ammo and the Joes thinking he’s about to surrender, only to whip out his knives and make one last, violent stand. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but I do love it when accessories inspire play ideas in my brain even though I haven’t played with Joes in a while. The vintage Alley Viper had a great submachine gun and the new one they gave him here is great. It’s got a long stock and an extended clip but it’s still very compact. I can see it being extremely useful in urban combat situations because it’s so maneuverable in tight spaces. The Alley Viper’s original backpack was very detailed and I thought it was cool back in the day. I was always fascinated by his grappling hook launcher and I also was kind of a little disappointed that it wasn’t removable. Hasbro sort of remedied that this time around, however, the poor design of the backpack means it doesn’t actually stay on. The grappling hook gun itself is a great piece. It looks just like it did back in 1989 and I can see a squad of Alley Vipers whipping these out to gain access to a higher floor after being repelled by ground-level defenders and just deciding to bypass them. The backpack itself is also impressively well-detailed, with grenades and what I think it communications equipment back there. There’s also a place for the rifle to hook in but it doesn’t actually stay on there. There’s nothing to hold it there. I improvised with one of those clear rubber bands that came in the Defense of Cobra Island set, but Hasbro really dropped the ball there. I’m glad that they fixed it for the Pursuit of Cobra release, but such an epic failure here is kind of hard to overlook. How this got through the entire production process without anyone testing to see if the grappling hook gun actually stayed attached to the backpack is beyond me. To me, though, the Alley Viper’s defining accessory was his wicked shield. It was big, it was imposing and it was jagged so it looked like it could also double as a weapon. Honestly, the helmet and shield are the two most important pieces to me for the Alley Viper and Hasbro really nailed it here. The modern Alley Viper’s shield is an excellent piece. It’s the right size and shape and it still looks imposing in his hands. Inside the shield, there’s a clip for the Alley Viper to carry a nightstick. Apparently, even in Cobra, the nightstick is still a weapon of choice for urban pacification. Even before I got into comics and knew who Captain America was, the Alley Viper’s most dangerous weapon was his shield. He’d smash Joes with it in hand-to-hand combat or he’d throw it like a giant dagger. It’s nice to see that Hasbro still loves the classic wicked shield design for the Alley Viper.
Out of the fourteen figures in the two Cobra Island sets, I think Alley Viper is clearly the best. All the other figures did some things well but inexplicably dropped the ball in other small yet important to me ways. However, in my mind, the Alley Viper is nothing short of amazing. Yes, it sucks that they failed so badly on his backpack, but everything else is just so incredible that, while it’s a disappointment, it doesn’t really impact my views on the figure at all. It’s just a great recreation of one of the best Vipers released in 1989 and that’s all I really want from an updated Alley Viper. Yes, the Pursuit of Cobra version is technically a better figure, but my nostalgia for the original Alley Viper, complete with his orange and blue camouflage, really outweighs the other things that the Pursuit of Cobra Alley Viper succeeds at.