City Strike Alley Viper
Hands down, the figure I was most looking forward to out of the Defense of Cobra Island set was the Alley Viper. I have fond memories of that orange and blue urban assault trooper and Hasbro really ran with the ball there. However, and this surprises me most of all, that version of the Alley Viper didn’t make the cut when it came to keeping things on display after I moved. Instead, the Pursuit of Cobra Alley Viper (ostensibly the same figure) is on display instead. Pursuit of Cobra Alley Viper is a great repaint and works not only on a nostalgic level for me, but also as his own action figure. I guess it really shouldn’t surprise me since after I got the 1992 Alley Viper, the original got used a little bit less. I guess second-version Alley Vipers always do just a little better job of building on the ideas the first one used.
When Hasbro announced that City Strike was one of its themes for Pursuit of Cobra, it was obvious the Alley Viper would be a great fit for that theme. After all, he was Cobra’s first (and up to that point only) urban operations trooper. At his core, the Alley Viper is a cost-saving repaint, but the designers did decide to mix up the parts a little bit just to keep things interesting and I appreciate that. Straight up repaints (cough, cough) Tactical Ninja Snake Eyes (cough, cough) are honestly kind of boring, even if they do different things with their paint schemes. However, Alley Viper gets one subtle change that I really like. His arms and legs come from the 25th Anniversary Alley Viper (though the upper legs were also shared with the 25th Anniversary Paine Brothers Snake Eyes, but it’s the exact same pairing the 25th Alley Viper had) and his torso is the same 25th Paine Brothers Snake Eyes torso that the original used, but to liven things up, the designers opted to use the head from the Resolute Alley Viper as opposed to the cloth-masked head the 25th Alley Viper came with. The Resolute Alley Viper’s head just looks a little more intimidating. He’s staring out at you from behind and armored facemask as opposed to a balaclava. That makes him look like far more of a bad dude in my opinion. The arms and legs work very well together and have an urban assault feel to them. He’s got armored shins and heavy-duty looking kneepads to keep him safe from getting banged around during urban combat and the arms look appropriately strong. Remember, the original Alley Viper filecard detailed their full training regimen and to say that it’s brutal is kind of an understatement. The detail I really find myself enjoying, though, are his arm bands. They just scream “bad guy shock troop” to me for some reason and I like the fact that they Cobra sigil on each arm is a molded detail rather than a painted on one. A painted detail means the arms can be reused without any fuss for another Joe figure, but the fact that the sigils are sculpted in means that we’re not going to see these arms reused for every Tom, Dick and Clutch. The right arm also has a working knife sheath molded onto it. The designers really did an amazing job at capturing all the little details like that from the original 1989 Alley Viper and translated them to a modern, more detailed figure excellently. The Snake Eyes torso is covered with a new vest that looks like the original Alley Viper. Again, we have a functional knife sheath and it holds its knife very snugly despite having to work against gravity a little bit to do it. The vest looks appropriately bulky and it really looks like it could stop a pretty impressive amount of gunfire. The pouches are nicely detailed and the Alley Viper looks like he’s very well prepared for a long firefight in the field. The detail that really sold me on the vest, though, was his grenade. Growing up, I could never really tell what was supposed to be up there with his knife sheath. The detail was just a little too soft to be recognizable, but on the modern Alley Vipers, it’s very clear what it’s supposed to be. I realize I may be the only one that couldn’t tell what it was, but the designers successfully eliminated my one real criticism of the original figure.
As a cost-saver, the only significant change between the 25th Alley Viper and the Pursuit of Cobra Alley Viper comes from their paint schemes. To me, the original Alley Viper and all figures based on it should be blue and orange. However, since they’ve changed up the head sculpt, I’m more than okay with giving him some different, and in reality, more realistic colors. The base of this figure is black. Most of the figure looks fine that way, but I do wish they’d done a little more with his head sculpt. The armored plates on the front of his boots and his kneepads both got different colors to help the detailing stand out. However, the armored face plate doesn’t get the same attention and I think that hurts the look a little. I realize that it would look a little off behind his classic Alley Viper helmet, but I’d rather see the additional detailing. It would help it stand out a bit more from the classic look. Honestly, I’d forgotten they used the Resolute Alley Viper head until I picked up the figure to review it. With all that detail getting lost in the black of his head sculpt, I’d erroneously assumed it was the 25th Alley Viper head up there too since I’ve usually got him equipped with the classic Alley Viper helmet. To break up the black body, he does have a little bit of light gray, geometric urban camouflage. While the look doesn’t make much sense on its own, a Joe fan luckier than I who found a Pursuit of Cobra Fury noted that the camouflage on the Alley Viper is similar to the designs they put on the Fury. That’s a nice way to tie a vehicle and trooper together, it’s just such a shame the Fury was almost mythically impossible to find. Had I been able to find one, I might have bought a few more Alley Vipers to man it just because of that paint similarity. The Alley Viper’s vest and helmet are maroon and while I wasn’t sold on it initially (and to be honest, I passed him on the pegs quite a few times before I eventually bought him) but it really has grown on me. I don’t know why, but it really makes me think the Alley Viper looks a bit more sinister. For some reason, I find characters in dark reds and blacks to look more intimidating. I’m not quite sure why, but this Alley Viper just looks mean. The vest picks up a few additional colors with two different colors for his two sets of pouches. The black on the pouches isn’t applied as cleanly as I’d like, but it still looks good. It’s only when you get really up close to it that the pouch paintwork looks a little sloppy. I do wish the Cobra sigils on his helmet would have gotten some paint, or that there had at least been a dark wash to bring the details out a little more, but all in all, I’m satisfied and while it’s not my blue and orange Alley Viper, that’s fine. Hasbro made sure to get me one of those already, so much like the changes made for the 1992 Alley Viper, I’m okay with a pretty big deviation from the norm. It still works well for him, and that’s all that matters.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Pursuit of Cobra figure without having a lot of gear to talk about and the Alley Viper is no exception. Only two pieces of his gear aren’t shared with the Defense of Cobra Island Alley Viper, but when it’s as good as this stuff is, that’s perfectly fine with me. Starting off small, he has a pair of knives for his functional sheaths. The knives fit tightly and look decent in his hands. I’ll admit to thinking they’re a little too small in general, but I understand that you’d want your knives to be relatively small so they don’t get in the way too much. His machine gun is a new design that looks like the 1989 Alley Viper’s gun. It’s a relatively basic submachine gun design, but with some added on pieces that I can see an urban operator finding very useful. The scope gives him a little more range, the expanded clip gives him more shots and the forward grip will assist him in moving the weapon around in tight spaces. Almost as iconic as the Alley Viper helmet visor is the shield and again, this piece faithfully reproduces the original design. It’s sharp and angular and provides a good deal of coverage for him. I’ve never fully understood the jagged edges, but I know growing up, I tended to see that as meaning the shield could be used a bit like Captain America’s shield as an effective and painful close-quarters weapon. Getting smacked by a shield is bad enough, but a shield with a sharp edge that can cut you means you’re also facing off against a guy with a three-foot long, heavy knife. That’s not something I’d want to do, and I’m sure you’d agree with me. The shield also has a pair of clips inside to store the Alley Viper’s nightstick. It’s a simple design, but again, it really gives him an urban feel. When you think of SWAT, you think of shields, helmets and nightsticks. This is basically an evil Cobra version of the look. For head gear, the Alley Viper has three options, the classic Alley Viper helmet (though how awesome would it have been if they’d invested a little tooling money to give him the fanged visor from 1992), the Resolute Alley Viper helmet and goggles and 25th Anniversary Shockwave gas mask. All three options are great and while I keep the classic Alley Viper helmet on for nostalgia’s sake, he really looks great equipped in any of the three ways he can. His backpack and climbing gun are the one area where Hasbro clearly improved on the Defense of Cobra Island Alley Viper. The backpack is still as detailed with all the grenades and other gear, but this time, it can actually hold the climbing gun in place. The Defense of Cobra Island version’s backpack was designed improperly (Hasbro even admitted they made a mistake there) and couldn’t actually do that. You could repurpose a clear band from the box to hold it in place, but it was kind of annoying that you had to fix it that way. This time, they took the time to remold the accessory and as such, you have an Alley Viper that can carry almost all of its gear on him at one time. I love when figures can do that and for whatever reason, it really does add to my level of enjoyment of the figure.
This version of the Alley Viper is a bit of a surprise to me. I really figured since I had my updated 1989 Alley Viper from the Defense of Cobra Island set, I didn’t need this version. However, after seeing him on the pegs a few times while scoping my local Target for new stuff, he just started growing on me. I liked the original Alley Viper, and I started liking this guy too. Add in that he was using the head from the Resolute version, which I figured wasn’t going to show up in my collection any time soon, I felt it was different enough from my regular Alley Viper to add him in. After all, by that time, I had six slightly different Snake Eyes figures. Why not add in a new Alley Viper that looked a little different from my other one? I’m very happy to have the 1989 update, but even if the Pursuit of Cobra version had been the only Alley Viper Hasbro released, that would have been okay. I’m glad that Hasbro decided to use the cost-saver figure of the wave to allow for a larger release of a popular army builder. I’m not sure I’d have the Cobra Island sets in my collection had they not been at the Joe Con store. If that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have had an Alley Viper. However, Hasbro smartly decided to give that figure a wider release. They changed a few things up, some for the better, and still made a great version of the Alley Viper that fits in well with the post-Rise aesthetic. It’s a great army builder that looks like it belongs with the rest of the figures it’s being released with. It’s hard to ask for much more than that out of the Joe line.