Night Vultures (Project: Downfall)
I don’t have any childhood memories of Night Vulture. Truthfully, I don’t recall seeing any of the Air Commandos figures on the pegs when I was a kid. However, I definitely remember a scene out of a diostory that I can’t find online anymore (if anyone else remembers the sequence I’m about to describe, please let me know if you remember who came up with it in the comments section) featuring the Night Vulture and it was amazing. Cobra Commander dispatched a Night Vulture to kill Destro, and the sequence used to show off the Night Vulture had me hooked. While Night Vulture is by no means a household name, he’s definitely a neat addition to the Project: Downfall con set and turning him into Black Vulture’s troops because of their similar names was a stroke of genius on the GIJCC’s part.
Night Vulture’s build is exceedingly simple. However, that simplicity means you get a figure that comes together very well overall. From the neck down, Night Vulture uses the 25th Anniversary Paine Brothers’ Snake Eyes mold. All the details on this mold do a surprisingly good job at recreating the vintage Night Vulture look. The Snake Eyes legs give him relatively high boots, there are pouches on both legs and the one on the right leg has some straps connecting it to the figure, the torso is fairly basic and there are long, armored gloves. Those details all have analogues to the vintage figure and it’s a very good call to use this body to recreate them here. However, the Snake Eyes body also brings in some additional details that I like seeing on the Night Vulture. The Night Vulture has a pair of grenades on each arm, and I don’t know why, but I really like that look for him. I think part of it is because it just fits the commando look, but I also think that it’s because he’s not a terribly heavily-equipped figure so I like that the figure’s mold has a few additional, small weapons molded onto it that the Night Vulture could use in battle. To recreate the vintage figure’s vest, Night Vulture has a removable vest, but honestly, I’m not sure who it originally came with. I know my FSS 4.0 Interrogator wears a modified version of it, but I’ve been unable to track down what figure it came with first. Regardless of its origin, the vest is a nice touch and while it’s not a recreation of the vintage Night Vulture’s vest, it gets the idea across very well. Since the Night Vulture uses the Paine Brothers’ Snake Eyes torso, that means there’s a hole in its chest. The GIJCC honestly could have left that hole unfilled and I would have been fine with it, but they decided to give us the pair of knives that originally plugged into it to complete the look, and I really like the knives here. They fill the relatively open chest area quite well and the knives fit well with the stealthy, commando vibe I’ve always gotten from the Night Vulture figure. Up top, Night Vulture’s head comes from the Retaliation Cobra Trooper. This was a great call. The vintage figure had a relatively smooth facemask with large goggles and generally speaking, that’s what the Retaliation Cobra Trooper head has as well. There are quite a few more details and they work well for the Night Vulture. Rather than a facemask and goggles, though, the Night Vulture’s head looks more like he’s wearing a sleek, tight helmet and I think that’s a nice touch for a glider pilot. Yes, at its core, the Night Vulture is just a simple head swap, but the figure is so cohesive, I don’t mind that. The Snake Eyes body stands in very well for the vintage Night Vulture figure, so I think it’s great that it’s being used here. Add in the different head that, thankfully, doesn’t come from a different version of Snake Eyes, and you have a solid figure.
Night Vulture may be a Cobra commando and his name may imply a very dark color scheme, but the GIJCC went with a vintage look, and that gives the Night Vulture a fairly unusual color scheme. Personally, I’m fine with it, but there is a part of me that wishes they had toned the colors down just a little bit much like they did with E.C.O. Force Flint. I think it would have served the figure just a little better that way. The bulk of the figure is done in purple, which is a pretty great color for night operations. It’s dark, but it’s also not pure black, so it will blend in just a little better. Black is used as an accent color, covering his boots, kneepads, gloves and armbands. The base of the helmet is black and purple is used on the goggles. However, like the vintage figure, Night Vulture also has a lot of orange on him. There’s orange on his pouches and belt and also up on his vest and knives. Truthfully, the modern version has more orange on him than the vintage version did. I appreciate the vintage accuracy, but the photos I’ve seen of the vintage Night Vulture online show a bit darker orange than what this figure has. It’s not quite blaze orange like hunters wear for visibility, but it’s close and that’s a bit of a drawback. I think had the GIJCC gone with a slightly darker tone for the orange, it would be a bit more successful and not leave the Night Vulture looking quite so bright. It’s a vintage-accurate color scheme, so I’m fine with it, but at the same time, someone named Night Vulture should look just a little stealthier than this figure does.
The vintage Night Vulture figure didn’t have a lot of accessories, probably because most of the accessory budget went to the large, flying glider. If you count the chest knives as accessories, the modern Night Vulture is actually better equipped. It just doesn’t look like he has that much. Like the other glider pilots, the Night Vulture has the requisite Resolute Snake Eyes wingpack to replace the glider. It works well, but by this point in the set, I’m a little tired of seeing it. I know there aren’t a lot of options for alternate gliders, but all but two of the Cobras have this piece, and that’s just a tad repetitive. The wingpack is done with purple to match the figure and it’s got the winged Cobra sigil on the fabric like Sky Creeper. It’s a nice look and like that the wingpack matches its owner. Like the vintage figure, the Night Vulture’s primary weapon is a crossbow. The GIJCC grabbed the great crossbow from Retaliation Zartan and I really like it in Night Vulture’s hands. While I’m not sure how great a weapon a crossbow would be when fired from a glider, I can see the Night Vulture being very deadly with it on the ground while sneaking into a base. The chest knives fit with the stealthy combat expertise I’ve given to the Night Vultures and while I would have liked to have seen more in the way of gear, everything works well for the Night Vulture and he can carry it all while hooked into his wingpack, so I’ll accept the relatively light gear load. After all, it’s not like you can carry a whole arsenal on you when you’re piloting a glider anyway.
The modern Night Vulture is a fairly simple figure, but that simplicity definitely works in its favor. The figure itself comes together very well, is proportional, and looks cohesive. The color scheme is a little awkward, but so was the vintage figure’s. Plus, I really do love the more brightly-colored 90s figures and I like having a splash of color like this on my Joe display shelf. Night Vulture may not be the flashiest Cobra out there, and he’s truthfully not that well-known, but the GIJCC took an obscure figure and made a great modern version of him.