Neo Viper Commander (2003)
Step into the kinda-wayback machine with me to the era of Spy Troops. So much has happened in the Joe brand since 2003 that this fairly recent era seems almost a distant memory. Imagine a time in this not too long ago past when Joe product was readily available at retail. And in two packs at that.
Neo Viper Commander was a part of a “filler” wave that also included what was at the time the greatest troop builder pack, the vintage style (and finally blue) Viper and Alley Viper. This particular pack however had both the regular Neo Viper, the newest basic Cobra trooper as well as the Neo Viper Commander in a corrected o-ring format. As a troop builder pack, one would surmise that both characters represent members of a legion of troops and not individuals. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. He’s clearly indicated on the file card to be THE leader and trainer of Cobra’s backbone forces.
The head design stands out to me considering its resemblance to the classic Crimson Guard design. The head is clearly borrowing elements from the old CG helmet, and the red color scheme speaks for itself. I suppose it’s a cool homage, but the Crimson Guard is so ingrained in fans’ minds that it’s hard to see this figure as anything but the elite trooper of old.
Regardless of the figure’s background, I do enjoy this mold, and find that the head mold change is a world of improvement over the regular Neo Viper head. My only complaint is a case of pin headedness. On the other hand (pun intended), one of my favorite aspects of the mold is its ability to hold a rifle at the ready in a two-handed position thanks to the turned in left hand, a pretty cool feature in an era prior to the now standard wrist swivel.