50th Anniversary Night Viper
I don’t know why, but I’ve always been fascinated with the Night Viper. I remember seeing it on the card back when I was a kid and hoping I’d find it someday. Alas, that never happened. So you can imagine how excited I was when I learned that the Night Viper was going to be in the last wave of Retaliation figures. However, that wave turned out to be a pretty epic phantom wave so it was pretty much impossible to find in my area. Thankfully, Hasbro realized how bad their distribution was for Retaliation and threw us Night Viper lovers a bone by putting him in the 50th Anniversary line as well. I’ve never had a Night Viper until now, but I have to say, this modern version really lives up to my lofty “wanted it since childhood” expectations.
The Night Viper uses an excellent combination of modern parts that come together amazingly well to create a modern version of one of the best 1989 Cobra figures. The legs are a pairing of Pursuit of Cobra Skydive uppers and 25th Anniversary Night Creeper lowers. While they’re not a perfect match to the 1989 Night Viper, they are a dead ringer for the legs the 2008 version had. It’s close enough to the original that the parallels are there, but I do appreciate that while they lacked the parts to replicate the original Night Viper’s legs, they at least kept their design in line with a version of the Night Viper. The upper body all comes from the Pursuit of Cobra Shock Trooper. That was a great call. The original Night Viper’s torso was relatively smooth, and the very tight shirt the Shock Trooper has looks quite close to the original look. The arms also have some design parallels to the original Night Viper. They’re a bit more wrinkled (implying whatever he’s wearing over his chest is more like a bulletproof vest rather than his standard shirt) and have pouches and elbow pads built into them. The original Night Viper had elbow pads and while he didn’t have pouches on his upper arms, he did have spare shells up there, so the reference works. To help complete the look, the Night Viper is also wearing the Rise of Cobra M.A.R.S. Weapons Officer webgear. The shoulder pads and straps reference the classic Night Viper torso quite well. The functional shoulder holster is a nice touch and it’s nice that the Night Viper can carry quite a few weapons onto the battlefield. I know the Night Viper has been traditionally viewed as a sniper, but I think the design is too cool to waste in such a limited role. With all the gear he comes with, he can really take up a wide variety of battlefield roles. Ironically, the head comes from Pursuit of Cobra Jungle Viper, a figure many argued was a spiritual successor to the original Night Viper. It’s nice to see this head being used here. The armored facemask has eye holes shaped similarly to the eyeholes of the original Night Viper’s helmet. Over the head sculpt, the Night Viper also gets a brand new removable helmet. This thing is an amazing piece of work. I love that they managed to keep the traditional Night Viper head shape but turned it into an amazingly detailed removable helmet. The monocle and visor are much more proportional compared to the original figure. The sculpted details are very well executed and it’s amazing how excellent this piece looks.
Night Viper is one of the few 50th Anniversary figures that I wish they hadn’t changed the color scheme on. I don’t hate it, but I do kind of wish I had a classic green and black Night Viper. At its most basic, the Night Viper is wearing red and black and while it’s a striking color combination, I just don’t think it works well for someone called “Night Viper.” I can justify it in the same way I justify all the Crimson Vipers and other characters that got brought into the elite ranks of Cobra by getting a red repaint, but at the same time, using red on a Viper doesn’t necessarily preclude them from achieving their primary mission. However, a relatively bright red on a figure who is supposed to be a night fighter seems a little odd. That said, the red and black do look good on the figure, so I really can’t knock Hasbro too much for using it here. The chest harness and webgear are done in a light gray and while it fits with the overall look, I think it might have worked a bit better had it been done in black like the rest of the padding and trim. My favorite detail is the tampoed logo on his left arm. It’s got all the hallmarks of a sinister organization’s logo. It’s a skull with a dagger behind it and a thunderbolt behind that. Those are all sinister pieces on their own, but added together, they’re a trifecta of evil logos. The yellow stands out very well against the black pocket and it’s nice that such a great detail is so easily visible.
I’ve alluded to the fact that Night Viper has a lot of great mission equipment. This is one very well-equipped Cobra. Starting right of the bat, Night Viper has a pistol for his shoulder holster, however, I didn’t realize that’s who the pistol was supposed to go with initially so it wound up in Low Light’s backpack. After seeing Rob’s review of the figure I quickly gave the pistol to its rightful owner, which also addressed my criticism of an unfilled holster. I didn’t realize that the Retaliation Night Viper got this weapon. YoJoe also shows the Night Viper came with a machete as well, but I like that in Low Light’s hands so much, I’m loathe to have him give it up, especially since the Night Viper doesn’t have a way to carry it. You can slip it through the strap on the front and approximate the knife sheath the original Night Viper had on his chest, but when I experimented with that, it didn’t look that great to me. Beyond the gear that I misappropriated to Low Light, the Night Viper has a lot of great pieces. Starting off a little more basically, the Night Viper has the really great assault rifle that Pursuit of Cobra Jungle Assault Duke came with. It’s a nice-looking weapon with a real-world military vibe. I can see this being the Night Viper’s primary weapon for most missions. It’s a little bit of a departure from the classic sniper role most people ascribe to the Night Viper, but I like that the Night Viper can take on multiple missions because that’s not the only gun he comes with. If he’s operating a bit more as a shock trooper, he’s carrying a great combat shotgun. It’s the new mold they started using during the Retaliation line and I like seeing it here as well. It looks really nice in the Night Viper’s hands. To hearken back more to his sniper roots, the Night Viper also has the great sniper rifle that Resolute Zartan came with. It’s a great rifle and its design does remind me a bit of the classic Night Viper rifle, but it has the added bonus that he can actually hold it in a realistic firing position. I know Rob mentioned that he had a hard time getting the Night Viper to hold any of his accessories, and I’ll admit they can be a little fiddly, but mine have actually stayed in his hands pretty well. The Night Viper also gets a backpack. While it’s not nearly as high tech as the one the Night Viper wore back in 1989, I like that it’s a bit more simple of a piece. It looks like a MOLLE pack that soldiers wear in combat today and the backpack itself has a slit on the left side that can actually hold one of his weapons. I’ve been able to get the shotgun and the assault rifle to fit in there pretty well so pick your poison as to which gun the Night Viper carries there. It’s nice that you have two different options for the weapon to be carried. Night Viper also carries the satchel that the comic pack version of Beachhead came with. I like the piece because it’s got an open slot in it. When it came with Beachhead, you could put the spare removable clip for his rifle in it. However, the Night Viper doesn’t have that, but the flashlight he comes with fits in that slot surprisingly well. It sticks out a bit like it would realistically and I’m glad that Night Viper has a spot to carry his flashlight even though I don’t know why you’d need a flashlight if you’re wearing a helmet with a very fancy night vision rig built into it. The flashlight has been seen a few times in the modern line, but I still like seeing it here. I like when Hasbro occasionally gives us neat pieces that can be used by soldiers but also wouldn’t be out of place in the hands of a civilian either. If I did diostories like Justin Bell over at Generalsjoes, I’m sure I’d appreciate being able to give someone like Law a flashlight if I were using him a generic cop doing nighttime security on a secured facility.
I know a lot of Joe fans have been kind of down on the 50th Anniversary line. However, I have to applaud Hasbro for being able to use the 50th Anniversary line to give us a second shot at some really great figures that were really hard to run down the first time they were released. Yes, Hasbro should have fixed their distribution issues so they weren’t nearly impossible to find on their initial release, but much like with Star Wars, it’s nice to see that Hasbro is finding ways to rerelease hard to find figures to appease the fanbase. The Night Viper is too good a figure to be hoarded by eBay speculators. Though I’d still prefer the classic green and black version, the red and black figure looks sharp and I have no problem with the idea of the Night Vipers joining the elite ranks of the crimson figures.