The Rock Viper’s repaint into Python Patrol has already been covered here, but the original figure still holds some interest thanks to a sensible color scheme, a functioning climbing backpack, and a bit of facial hair.
I’m disappointed that these more specialized Cobra troops were released after I had finished my childhood collecting. I’m sure I would have picked this figure up and dangled it from many an outcropping of rock, or a staircase when playing inside. Had they been released a few years earlier, these guys would have been giving my Alpine figure fits hanging from the living room stairs. The working backpack doesn’t have a fancy automatic climbing feature, but the ability to string a climbing rope through it and hand wind it is still a lot of fun. I don’t care how old you are, toys with grappling hooks are awesome.
Most vintage Rock Vipers I’ve run across have a broken crotch. Some GI Joe figures over the years were simply prone to breakage, due to either a slightly thinner build in that area, or even the quality of the figures’ plastic. Broken bits aside, this is one insanely detailed Cobra trooper, and far superior to the modern re-imagining. At least the original has its own unique helmet, and though not removable, it won’t fall off at the slightest movement.
One sort-of sore spot of the Rock Viper is its rifle. While not as bad as the SAW Viper’s weapon, this thing is almost too big to be effective in display. The mold was released again and again in the 90s, and also in black as part of the Cobra Infantry Forces pack. I must have a few couple dozen of them floating around my miscellaneous weapons bins. I probably would like it more if it hadn’t been so ever-present. It’s a cumbersome rifle, and could have been really great if it were just smaller. It does have a redeeming quality in its ability to plug into the backpack. That’s a handy feature for a guy who probably needs two hands free most of the time.
Finally, there’s the mystery of the facial hair. For a troop builder to have such a distinctive feature is odd, but I can dig it. After all, if Cobra can be thought of as the antithesis of GI Joe, then it stands to reason that the bad guys might require its membership to grow facial hair. Even though the 80s Joes have their fair share of cookie dusters, this one is decidedly evil looking. Now that I’m thinking about it, this figure reminds me of another mustachioed evil-doer who frequented toy mountainsides in the 80s. Could the Rock Viper have been inspired by the Sky Commanders series’ own Raider Rath?