Ice Viper and Cobra WOLF
I never knew about the Cobra WOLF growing up, but the first time I saw it, I was really impressed. I found Justin Bell’s diostories on the Internet when I was in high school but I never read them until I was in college. I grew up with a relatively slow dial-up connection and the phone line at a pastor’s house can’t be kept busy for long periods of time so reading something so picture heavy wasn’t really an option unless I was online super late at night. Chapter 5 of his epic diostory universe was called “Bitter Cold” and while it was a bit short since it was designed more of as a transition piece between arcs, it featured the Cobra WOLF heavily and ever since seeing it there, I’ve been hooked. So, when the Battle Below Zero set was revealed to be a Cobra WOLF versus a Joe Sky Hawk, I was really excited. I was going to finally be able to experience the awesomeness of the Cobra WOLF firsthand. Add in the fact that Hasbro decided to update the vintage Ice Viper and you have a set that really appealed to me. While I think the Ice Viper is a little weak, the WOLF more than makes up for it and it’s a really solid set.
The Ice Viper started his life as the driver of the Cobra WOLF so even though he got a carded release during the Rise of Cobra line, it’s nice to see his classic design here behind the control stick of his iconic vehicle. The bulk of this figure comes from the 25th Anniversary Arctic Snake Eyes/Snow Serpent, but they change up/add enough parts to keep him from feeling like something I already have in my collection. The legs are from 25th Anniversary Arctic Snake Eyes, but to better replicate the original Ice Viper’s look, the big pockets are replaced with pieces that wrap around to the side so he can carry his sais there like the classic figure did. The legs work well for an arctic figure, but I think the pieces that hold the sais sheaths on don’t fit quite perfectly in the ports they go into. His left leg has a particularly noticeable gap between the halves of his thigh pieces which is probably an indicator something doesn’t quite come together properly because of the new piece. The upper body also comes from 25th Anniversary Arctic Snake Eyes, but for some reason, they decided to swap out his lower arms for some Rise of Cobra Neo-Viper arms. This swap doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me. The Neo-Viper arms had some pretty bad articulation and I think it hurts the Ice Viper’s overall look since he’s got these funky gloves on. Everything else looks pretty realistic, but then the sci-fi gloves just kind of throw things off a little. As much as I would have rolled my eyes at Hasbro just using the 25th Anniversary Arctic Snake Eyes gloves, they would have worked much better here to represent the original Ice Viper’s long padded gloves. To help distance the Ice Viper from 25th Anniversary Arctic Snake Eyes, he gets a new belt and a new bandolier with a fur collar. They really help make the figure look like the classic Ice Viper and obscure the parts reuse quite effectively. The belt is nicely detailed and he’s got his belt buckle with a star on it (the classic version of which was featured during Belt Buckle Week 2014). The bandolier has changed a bit from the classic incarnation, but I like the modern bandolier better, so I’m fine with the change. The bandolier on the classic Ice Viper looked kind of like a long, thick leather strap that really didn’t serve much of a purpose, but with all the pouches on the more Chewbacca-styled bandolier, it at least explains why the Ice Viper is wearing something like that. The fur collar is molded as part of the bandolier and I think looks great. It’s not the full fur cape that the Snow Serpent had, but that makes sense since the Ice Viper spends most of his time in the field inside the cockpit of the Cobra WOLF. He wouldn’t necessarily need as much protection from the elements as Snow Serpent, but he’d still appreciate having some cold weather gear in the event that he has to get out of the WOLF. Ice Viper’s head come from the 25th Anniversary Para-Viper and I think it’s a great choice. A balaclava makes much more sense than the ninja mask that the classic Ice Viper wore. The Para-Viper head also gives him a pretty intense stare and I like that coming from the Ice Viper. Having spent a lot of time driving in winter road conditions, you are never care free when behind the wheel of a vehicle travelling across snow and ice. It takes a lot of concentration to make sure you’re driving safely on roads in the winter, so imagine how much more you need when you’re travelling cross country in a giant armored snowmobile. Finally, to help complete the Ice Viper look, he also gets a helmet and pair of goggles. The helmet comes from the 25th Anniversary Resolute Cobra Trooper while the goggles appear to come from the Pursuit of Cobra City Strike Hawk. In theory, the pairing makes sense. The Resolute Cobra Trooper helmet really looks a lot like the Ice Viper’s original helmet, but the goggles really don’t fit on the helmet that well. They’re very loose and don’t really hook stably onto the helmet either in the goggles up position for when he’s driving the WOLF or goggles down when he’s working outside. I think Hasbro probably should have just invested a little bit of the tooling budget into creating a new helmet just for Ice Viper just so everything looked better. Let’s be fair, aside from the Cobra WOLF itself, everything else in the set has been used before. I can’t imagine a new helmet would have broken the bank on this set.
While I’m generally pleased with the overall design of the Ice Viper, his paint work is a little sloppy and that’s somewhat disappointing. The colors are all straight out of 1987. Ice Viper is primarily wearing white but there are some light gray camouflage dots on the uniform to help break up the whiteness. The camouflage looks great and it makes sense for him to have it even though he’s a vehicle driver since he’s the primary field mechanic for his vehicle as well. If the WOLF breaks down, it’s going to be the Ice Viper that’s out there fixing it and I can see him wanting to blend in with the environment a bit more. His boots and gloves are black like the classic figure, though I do miss the fur detailing on the boots. The bandolier is brown and the neck fur is gray. It’s a surprisingly good pairing and I’m glad it still works nearly 30 years after the original figure was release. Finally, Ice Viper’s mask is still red and while it’s not the best choice for someone who works in the snow and ice, considering his helmet is gray, which minimizes the overall brightness of his head so I’ll accept it here. I just find myself wishing the
colors were better applied throughout the figure. The add-on pieces for his sai sheaths were clearly molded in brown but there’s a lot of brown bleeding through, especially on the already problematic left leg. There’s also quite a bit of paint slop where the neck fur meets with the bandolier. That’s an area that needs to be crisply done and the paint team kind of fell short there. Ice Viper gets a gold Cobra sigil on his right breast pocket. It’s a great nod to the original figure while at the same time clearly identifies him as part of the 50th Anniversary figures. If there’s any solace to be taken in the slightly weak paint work, it’s that it’s confined to the lower body and back of the figure. Since the Ice Viper spends most of his time in the cockpit of my WOLF, it’s not that big an issue. However, I do kind of wish that if I wanted to display him outside of his vehicle that the paint work is weak enough that it would disappoint me a little to do so.
For a vehicle driver, the Ice Viper gets a surprisingly large amount of accessories. They’re great pieces and with a little judicious balancing, he can actually carry them all at the same time, which makes me happy. It’s just a shame at how poorly the sai sheaths actually hold them. Starting off small, the Ice Viper gets his signature accessory, a pair of sais. While they’re not unique to him like they were back in the day, they’re still—for better or worse—a defining weapon for the figure. I’ve never really understood why an arctic vehicle operator carried a pair of ninja weapons, but they’re there and I’m sure most Joe fans would have been absolutely livid- had he not had these pieces. They can be attached to the figure thanks to his leg sheaths, but they don’t stay in very well and I find that to be disappointing. I would have forgiven the fact that the leg sheaths make this figure look a little awkward if they actually worked well, but since they don’t, I find the fact that Hasbro had to mold special pieces just for them to be a little bit annoying. For firearms, the Ice Viper carries a pulse pistol and a submachine gun. Both these pieces came from Rise of Cobra figures so I find their inclusion here to be an amusing nod to the brand itself. The name Ice Viper was pretty much dormant from Hasbro proper until the Rise of Cobra line, so I find it worth at least a little bit of a chuckle that they tossed the Ice Viper a couple of great weapons from there. The pulse pistol can be tucked into the bandolier, though I wish that, considering they gave us the pulse pistol with a peg on it, there was some place to plug it into instead, but that’s just me. This submachine gun mold is a great weapon and I love seeing it here. It’s something that’s compact so it can be carried in the WOLF’s cockpit without getting in the way, but it provides enough firepower that if the Ice Viper is part of a firefight, he’ll actually be contributing to it.
While the Ice Viper might leave me just a little cold, the Cobra WOLF is an amazing vehicle and it’s even more impressive than I had ever hoped it would be after seeing it for the first time about 10 years ago in a diostory. At its most basic, I’d call the WOLF a snowmobile tank and that’s a really neat concept. By definition, a snowmobile is a fast attack vehicle and a snowmobile tank is not something you see a lot of in military fiction. Any action movie that involves the arctic tends to rely on tricked out snowmobiles for both the good guys and the bad guys. However, M.A.R.S. Industries decided that wasn’t enough and decided to up the arctic weapons game. The WOLF’s sloped body looks sleek and fast, lending to the snowmobile tank idea. The cockpit is on the left side while the right side of the WOLF is dedicated to heavy weapons. The WOLF has a rack of four missiles that can flip up into firing position. They strike me as a shorter range surprise weapon. When the missile compartment is folded down, it really doesn’t look like there’s anything under there. I can see a smart Ice Viper waiting until a Joe vehicle is bearing down on the WOLF and thinking it’s unarmed before popping these up and unleashing a volley of rockets on them after they’ve committed to the charge. When the missile rack is folded down, it creates a good sloped surface for the WOLF’s other weapon to be deployed—the infamous skipedos. I’d not noticed how genius that design was until I was fiddling with the WOLF on my desk before reviewing it, but now I can just see the skipedo sliding right down the front of the WOLF with a small charge set off behind it and then a secondary booster triggers to carry it to its target. That’s some incredible attention to detail in this design and I really love it. The WOLF has one final weapon that I see being most useful in extremely close-combat, a double-barreled machine gun that is operated by the gunner who sits above and behind the driver. The higher position gives the gunner a bit better view of the battlefield while whipping around at high speeds and the high gun mount allows it to hit from a bit further out and from just about any angle you can think of. I see it as more useful against actual soldiers or soldiers on snowmobiles more than I do a heavier Joe arctic vehicle like the Snow Cat, but it is nice that the WOLF has more than just six shots before it’s unarmed. The design of this vehicle is incredible, but there were a couple missteps on this modern version.
First off, the lower quality plastic issue rears its ugly head once again in the 50th Anniversary line. While it wasn’t actually broken, the tri-peg that holds on one of the wheels on the tank treads was very badly bent when I got it out of the box. I count myself extremely lucky that this didn’t come broken and didn’t break when I delicately put it back into place. My other issue comes from the footpegs on the side skis. Much like on the GIJCC’s HAVOC, not all the footholes on Joe figures worked well with them. I was especially bummed because I was hoping that I could put the two Snow Serpents from the Extreme Conditions: Arctic set on the outside and have the Snow Serpent Officer acting as the vehicle’s gunner. As you can tell from the photos, that didn’t happened and it was due to the fact footpegs are an awkward size. I was able to get the Tele-Viper from that set to work on there, but neither of the Snow Serpents nor Vipers could balance well enough on the footpegs to actually work well. I was glad I ran across my Rise of Cobra Arctic Assault Storm Shadow to fill out my WOLF squad.
The WOLF is a really great callback to the history of the Joe line. Judging by the date stamp on the bottom of the vehicle, the molds are mostly taken from the original 1987 version and the color scheme is all vintage and that’s fine. They nailed in 1987 and I’m glad they didn’t feel the need to change it up. Most of the body is done in a grayish-white color and it looks sharp here. The undercarriage, skis, treads and machine gun are all a dark gray. It’s a great color combination and while it’s a little bland, the stickers at least help keep things from looking too boring. The classic WOLF logo looks great and I’m glad they kept it. The blue polarized cockpits also help make things look a little more interesting. Plus, it also makes sense for the cockpits to be polarized to keep the driver and gunner from being snow-blinded during daytime operations.
The WOLF is a Cobra vehicle I’ve always wanted and I love it here in modern form. It’s amazing how well this design has held up. Even more interesting to me is that when I was looking at a photo of the later Cobra Ice Sabre, a lot of similar design elements could be found there. It’s nice that Cobra’s arctic motorpool has a degree of synergy. The WOLF is a great Cobra vehicle and looks incredible on my shelf. I love seeing such a faithful update of a great vintage Cobra vehicle. While I think the Ice Viper is still a little underwhelming, the WOLF is just so awesome I’m kind of okay with a weak driver sitting behind the control stick. It’s just so great, it’s hard not to like it and if you’re going to have a WOLF, you have to have an Ice Viper. I’m glad Hasbro went back and redid the classic look over giving us a repainted Rise of Cobra Ice Viper and calling it a day. The Battle Below Zero set is all shades of awesome and the WOLF really brings the heat here.