Kre-O Serpent Armor and RAM
From the original SNAKE to the Joe Armor-Bot to the Deviant and Steel Marauader, battle mechs have always shown up in the Joe line, and I’m absolutely fine with that. I’ve always thought that they were a cool concept and it fit well with the Joe line’s slightly futuristic military vibe. Considering how long mechs have been in the Joe brand, it only makes sense that they should show up in the Kre-O line as well. The Serpent Armor is the name Hasbro gave to the SNAKE during the Rise of Cobra era, but the Kre-O Serpent Armor really doesn’t bare any similarities with the SNAKE of old, but I’m fine with that. I really like the new mech addition to the Cobra ranks.
Kre-O Joe owes a lot of its design ideas for the Serpent Armor to its Transformer brethren. I’m glad they had a chance to experiment with bipedal robots before thanks to their line of combiners before porting it over to the Joe line. I think the experience really helped them come up with a solid design. The Serpent Armor is clearly bigger than its main-line predecessors, but that’s fine. While I like the retro-look of the SNAKE, I always thought it was just a little undersized and that made it look somewhat unintimidating. The Kre-O Serpent Armor stands a little over two Kre-O figures tall, so in scale you can put it about 12 or 13 feet. That’s a rather large and intimidating look and makes a lot more sense to me than a clunky suit of armor that completely encases its operator. The legs and arms attach to the main body via balljoints which gives the Serpent Armor a lot of poseability. Its feet and elbows have hinges. I do wish the Serpent Armor had knees, but that would have required it to be taller and I think the additional height would have thrown off the overall look so I’m okay with a lack of knees. The Serpent Armor is very solidly built. It looks like it can take a lot of abuse and still keep on trucking. Honestly, between the claw arm and the open driver’s position, it reminds me of the cool forklift mech from Aliens and that’s a great parallel to have. It’s a classic mech and that adds a level of street cred to me in terms of its functionality and dangerousness. For weapons, it’s got the aforementioned claw on one arm (which can actually hold a Kre-O figure) and a combination flamethrower and laser cannon for the other. Those are great weapons for something this scale, and they’re also weapons that reference the Cobra B.A.T.’s arm attachments. I can see a trio of Serpent Armors, supplemented by a group of B.A.T.s, being able to lay waste to a military base with relative ease. My only real problem with the design is a lack of a control panel. I realize that since they had to hinge up the front armor to keep the Cobra Mech Pilot in place and allow him in and out they couldn’t really give him any control sticks, but even a sticker on the inside of that panel would have meant I didn’t have to question just how exactly the Cobra Mech Pilot controlled this beast in battle.
Though the Serpent Armor doesn’t really share a lot of design similarities with the SNAKE, its colors are classic Cobra SNAKE and the stickers also reference its old-school counterpart. The majority of the Serpent Armor is white but light gray, black and dark red also make some appearances here. Black and red also showed up on the classic SNAKE so the only new color is some light gray. The “6” sticker also references the classic SNAKE and is a nerdy nod that makes me smile whenever I see it. The red accents on the shins and shoulder armor also look great. They’re new details, but it fits the overall design of the Serpent Armor very well.
A mech suit needs a pilot, and rather than just throw a regular Cobra Trooper in there, the Kre-O folks designed a new character for the Serpent Armor and I really like him. The Cobra Mech Pilot’s details are rather simple, but they fit with the overall look of the set very well. From the look of his pants, it’s clear the Cobra Mech Pilot is wearing a basic blueshirt uniform, but he’s wearing some additional armor over it. The tampo work on the armor is spot on and the Cobra sigil over the left side of his chest looks very crisp. Though I do wish they’d included an add-on vest piece instead, I understand that the limitations of him needing to fit in the Serpent Armor dictated that decision. The chest armor looks very high tech and the shoulder pieces share the paint color so it’s clear he’s got protective shoulder pads as well. The Cobra Mech Pilot wears a basic white helmet with a black visor. It reminds me of the tinted visors fighter pilots wear and I can just imagine that the heads-up display feeds data to him on the inside and helps him use the Serpent Armor effectively in combat. His actual head is a red masked Cobra Officer so to me the Cobra Mech Pilot as a specialization of the Cobra Trooper corps. Cobra Officers deemed proficient with vehicles are allowed to break off from the standard officer corps and move into the mech pilot division. They’re still Cobra Officers and command Cobra Troopers while fighting in the Serpent Armor, but they’re still not as specialized as the Motor-Vipers. The Cobra Mech Pilot also comes with a grenade pistol, for lack of a better term. I really like the design of this piece and it makes sense for a guy like this to be packing heavy weapons. While it looks a little out of place in his hands while he’s piloting the Serpent Armor, it can plug into the shoulder armor, giving him one more weapon that can plug and play into the Serpent Armor.
The Battle Platform Assault gave us a lot of classic Joe pieces and I like pairing up the RAM against the Serpent Armor. I can see the Joes sending out a fast-attack motorcycle to slow down a Serpent Armor long enough for either some heavier weapons to come into play or for Low Light to line up a shot on the driver. The RAM is another old-school Joe vehicle that looks great in Kre-O form. It’s based around the standard Kre-O motorcycle but it has added on pieces for the saddle bag and Gatling gun. I find it somewhat ironic that the one Kre-O motorcycle that doesn’t need a kickstand to stay balanced is the only one so far that’s been given one. The fact that the Gatling gun sidecar balances the RAM better makes it such a great piece. It’s got a lot of playability and it’s a fun little piece, but at the same time, you can set up a display and not have to worry about the cycle toppling at random. The olive drab it’s molded out of fits the RAM look quite well and the stickers do a great job reference the original RAM’s look as well. My only real question is why there’s a shotgun mounted to the back of the sidecar. Neither Duke nor Roadblock (the two Joes from the Battle Platform Assault set) have ever been shotgun guys. I do wish they’d included a regular rifle so Duke didn’t have to raid the spare weapons from the set to give him a gun. It’s just an odd choice and I would like to know why they made it.
Duke’s look transfers surprisingly well to the Kre-O form. The olive drab pants and khaki shirt look good together and the paint team did some incredible work with his tampoed details. All the sculpted details the original figure had, from his two collars to his small airborne pin, are expertly recreated with paint here. The paint work is crisp and there’s no slop. Duke’s face is well done and he’s got a bit of a grin, but not the dopey grin the original figure had. Duke is clearly a guy who’s confident in his abilities as a soldier and his face shows that, but he’s not the dopey guy-smiley we were stuck with until the 1990s. Duke’s still wearing his green helmet, but I do with they’d giving him a rifle since he had one back in the day. The large pistol that was a spare weapon with the Tactical Battle Platform is an okay stand-in, but with as good a job as Kre-O has done referencing original weapons even if they can’t replicate them perfectly, I’m a little bummed Duke’s only walking around with a pistol that wasn’t really his to begin with. The pairing of the Serpent Armor and the RAM is just what I love about Kre-O. Vehicles from the main Joe line have been a lot of rehashes. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that Hasbro has to get as much mileage out of its molds, both action figures and vehicles, as humanly possible, but there really wasn’t a lot of that in the classic line, especially when it came to vehicles. I love updates of vehicles like the RAM, but I miss the vehicular innovation that the ARAH era had. I’m hard pressed to think of any duplicated vehicles in my childhood collection but the modern vehicles in my collection are often a lot of the same. I don’t think that’s a bad thing per se since there have been some innovations between different versions of the HISS and the VAMP, but it still feels like it’s more of the same. The all new, not based on anything nostalgic Serpent Armor is a breath of fresh air in the Joe line and I’m glad that Kre-O is taking advantage of its building block nature to give us some new designs that reference classic vehicles but do different things with them. At times, the modern Joe line has felt a bit stale, but the Kre-O line has seemed quite fresh throughout the two years of its existence. The design team has hit up a lot of the classics, but at the same time, they’ve thrown in some new ideas that help keep things interesting.