In my opinion, the Cobra Armored Assault set was probably the best one out of the first wave of Kre-O product. It came with a great classic Joe character, a cool Cobra vehicle and a pair of Cobra blueshirts. While I’ve used the blueshirts on with a couple of other sets, I have yet to talk about the vehicle itself. The vehicle is unnamed, so I’ve taken to calling it the Ringneck. Yes, it has very few similarities to the Cobra vehicle of the same name released in 2003, but they’re both armored, fast-attack vehicles so I think the name works.
The Ringneck is a great design. I loved it from the moment I saw it on the shelves. The design is sleek and angular yet armored. It reminds me a bit of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and that’s part of why I like it. Cobra’s always had great vehicles, but they usually don’t have any sort of real world counterparts. There’s no real world tank that even looks vaguely like a HISS. This, however, feels a bit more like something Cobra bought on the open international arms market and modified for their own nefarious purposes. I love the six-wheeled configuration. I’ve always that was a cool look and it’s just as great here as it was on the original Ringneck. The front end can flip open where the armored cockpit protects the drive but the entire front end assembly can also open up. It’s really handy for getting the driver in place, plus it shows off the stickers inside the cockpit. The driver’s compartment is rather sparse, but it works well. You’re not going to be spending a lot of time with it wide open anyway, so it doesn’t really matter all that much. There’s a steering wheel for the driver to operate the vehicle with plus stickered technical details. It’s simple, but it’s still a good look. Moving back, the Ringneck also has a large passenger compartment in the back. It comes with a large weapons rack inside, but if you take that out, you can fit a few Kre-O figures in the back. Cobra has never really had a personnel carrier, so I really like that the Kre-O line gave the Cobras something like that. Inside the back end, there’s a radar screen so the Cobras inside know what’s going on outside. The weapons rack gives you a lot of different weapons including a sniper rifle, a pistol, a grenade launcher and a pair of grenades. This will really help you flesh out a Cobra assault squad’s equipment load. It’s also modular enough that you can swap out weapons and it still works well. To access the passenger compartment, you can flip down the back door, but again, to facilitate placing figures in it, the top of the compartment can also hinge up. The exterior of the passenger compartment also looks suitably military I love the guard rails on the side that provide some protection for the passengers inside. Until I moved my Kre-Os to the permanent display place, Flint was pulled in close with one foot on the Assault Quad and was hanging on to the side of the Ringneck. This thing is definitely playable and it’s a fun little vehicle. Finally, on top of the vehicle, there’s a large turret with two missile launchers (which I see more as heavy cannons than actual missile launchers). A Cobra can sit behind the cannons and man them and the turret can rotate the full 360 degrees. While I’d like the Ringneck to have just a little more firepower, it still looks good and it feels appropriate.
The Ringneck is a nicely-designed vehicle and the colors also really help sell it as a Cobra vehicle. The bulk of the vehicle is a dark blue. It’s a great color and I like that the Kre-O versions of the HISS, ASP and Ringneck all share a color scheme. It really helps bring some much-needed cohesion to the Cobra motor pool. Plus, it’s a really great color. A dark gray and a light gray are used for the trim colors and it works really well with the dark blue and there’s just a little bit of red accenting on the cockpit and turret. It’s a very good looking vehicle. Inside the cockpit and passenger compartments, there’s a bit more dark red used but from the outside the vehicle looks to be almost all one color and that’s definitely a good thing. The stickers are very nice, though again, I do feel the need to complain about the fact that are just a little too translucent and the lighter colored stickers get a little overwhelmed by the dark blue base they’re being placed on top of.
The figures that came with the Ringneck were both great, but I decided to switch them out for two of the best Cobra troopers from the first wave of blind bagged Kre-O figures. I’ve put a Crimson Guard behind the wheel. I like the idea of an elite Cobra trooper being the wheelman on a scout vehicle. He’d definitely be in charge of the scouting party and I think that’s a good call. The Crimson Guard is a very well done Kre-O figure. The red is a very good, deep crimson color. It coincidentally matches the interior of the Ringneck pretty well. It’s a great color and I honestly prefer it to the redder look the Crimson Guard has had since 1985. The Crimson Guard was one of the most detailed figures from 1985 and the tampo work on its Kre-O counterpart does an excellent job recreating its look here. Everything from the buttoned front to the rank cords to the codpiece are created in paint form on the torso and it’s spot on. Even more impressively, they put the old Crimson Guard rank sigil on the left shoulder and it’s amazingly crisp for such a tiny and intricate detail. Unfortunately, I’m not sure the tampo work on the Crimson Guard’s face mask is quite as successful. The classic Crimson Guard helmet works really well in 3D but it feels a little too flat when applied to a cylinder. To help create the look further, the Crimson Guard also wears a standard red helmet over the top and I think that’s another strike against it. The Crimson Guard’s look has always been very angular and I think the loss of 3D structures on the facemask and the helmet does detract from the overall look a little. I would have preferred them to just tool up a helmet for it. The Kre-O Transformers line is very good at repurposing “animal heads” into helmets for their other figures, so I think the Kre-O Joe team could have found more than one use for an honest-to-goodness Crimson Guard helmet. Since it looks like it’s the end of the line for Kre-O, I think it’s a shame they never got to revisit the Crimson Guard and give us a Fred series head with a removable full Crimson Guard helmet. In addition to the helmet, the Crimson Guard also has a rifle with a bayonet and they used the modular nature of Kre-O weapons very well to recreate his signature rifle. The rifle itself is your basic AK-47, but with the addition of a clip and a knife, you get a great stand in for the original Crimson Guard’s rifle. I like my Cobras armed with AK-47s and the AK looks great in the Crimson Guard’s hands.
Manning the turret is the Alley Viper. I see the Ringneck as an urban scout vehicle and who better to be part of an urban strike team than the original urban Cobra trooper. I was impressed by the detailing on the Crimson Guard’s torso, but the Alley Viper just blew me away. There were all sorts of patches and gear plus camouflage on that figure’s torso and they did a great job making them work with nothing but paint. All the pouches are sharp and the blue camouflage laid over them doesn’t muddy things up at all. My only real complaint is that they didn’t put any blue camouflage on the back of the figure. I realize he’s got a backpack to cover that, but I still think it’s a little lame because it really shouldn’t cost any more to put a little blue paint on the back of the figure as well. The classic Alley Viper helmet is recreated with a standard full face Kre-O helmet with a visor and while I understand it would have been impossible to make the classic Alley Viper helmet work without all new parts, I’m still a little disappointed. With the solid visor, it reminds me of Luke Skywalker with the blast shield down in front of his face while training on the Millennium Falcon. I could suspend my disbelief on the classic Alley Viper helmet because the Cobra sigil looked kind of like it had slits in it that the Alley Viper could see out of, but this is just one solid piece. Academically, I understand it’s a function of the more simplified, building-block design, but it still bugs me just a little bit. Underneath the helmet, the Alley Viper is wearing the same blue balaclava that the 25th Anniversary version gave him and I like that being referenced even though it’s a relatively new addition to the overall Alley Viper look. We’ve always known there’s blue fabric under the helmet, but we didn’t see what it looked like until the 25th Anniversary line. The Alley Viper is also one of the best-equipped Kre-O figures out there. He’s got two different shields, a backpack, a rifle and a grappling hook launcher. The shields are the same general design, just two different sizes. I’m not quite sure why there are two of them, but I do like the option of having him with a smaller shield if I so choose. The black rifle is your basic Kre-O rifle and it looks okay, but I really prefer the look of the grappling hook launcher in his hands. The grappling hook launcher is made from the two handled Kre-O assault rifle with a grappling hook clipped to the bottom. I like that it’s more of a rifle with a grappling hook launcher slung under the rifle barrel than just a straight grappling hook launcher. I think it’s more useful that way. Finally, to help him carry all his gear, he’s got the basic Kre-O backpack and I like that you can clip the rifle on to the side of the backpack just like the old days. To me, the Kre-O Alley Viper was definitely the shining star of the first wave of blind bagged Kre-O figures and I’m glad that my older brother (who I’ve gotten into Kre-O through the Transformers series) was willing and able to run him down for me.
The Ringneck is what I love about Kre-O and it was something they built on in the line’s unfortunately short life. To me, the Joe line I remember was always about innovation. Don’t get me wrong, I love that the modern Joe line is making amazing homages to the figures I had growing up, but I miss the freshness. However, the Kre-O line has giving us great classic homages but has also created some new Joe and Cobra vehicles out of whole cloth. The Ringneck is a great example of this. It’s new, but it definitely looks like it belongs in the Cobra motor pool. I understand that the way the toy aisles are that we aren’t going to see a lot of Joe vehicles anymore. There just aren’t a lot of lines that do a lot of vehicles anymore. That’s an unfortunate artifact of the 1980s, but man, as long as Kre-O keeps going and I get my vehicle fix in building block form, I’ll be a satisfied Joe fan.