Crimson Strike Team: Crimson Viper
Joe Con 2009 was a fairly exciting time for me. I was very happy to learn that the GIJCC was using modern style figures. I hadn’t totally committed to them yet, but most of what was on my display at my place in Manhattan, Kansas was modern stuff, so it was nice that the set I was getting from Joe Con that year would mesh with it. Plus, this was before the GIJCC released digital mock ups of the con figures, so there was an element of surprise to what the figures were going to look like. Yes, the Crimson Twins leaked on a Chinese eBay that was notorious for having gray market Joes, but beyond that, we really didn’t know for sure what we were getting until registration night on Thursday. However, that did leave me a little concerned because the backbone of the Crimson Strike Team was the Crimson Viper. I’d passed on the 25th Anniversary Viper a lot of times because of his terrible arms. I knew Hasbro had retooled the Viper arms into something useable for the Hall of Heroes Viper but no one knew if the GIJCC going to get to use them. Thankfully, the Crimson Viper got to use some great parts and it’s really the star of the set.
The Crimson Viper uses a lot of Viper parts but he’s the only figure in the Crimson Strike Team con set that wasn’t a straight up repaint of the modern version. Instead of the standard Viper legs, the Crimson Viper uses the lower legs of 25th Anniversary Barbecue and the upper legs of 25th Anniversary Snow Job. These parts mesh well together, and that’s no surprise since the Barbecue legs were designed to pair with the Snow Job legs. They’re not quite the same as the 25th Anniversary B.A.T. legs (which would reference the original Crimson Viper), but they do come surprisingly close and mean that the GIJCC didn’t have to accommodate for a holster and bring in the 25th Anniversary B.A.T. belt as well. The left leg still has the Pocket Patrol Pack on it that Hasbro put on these legs when they were used for 25th Anniversary Snow Job but the right leg has a little tech pack on it that I’ve never seen before. It looks like it’s some sort of short range communication device and I think it’s a pretty cool detail. I’m a little surprised a new piece like this showed up on a convention figure. From the legs up, this figure uses 25th Anniversary Viper parts and that’s fine. Aside from the original figure’s arms, the 25th Anniversary Viper was a pretty solid figure. The torso is a very basic military shirt and the rolled up sleeves look great. Thankfully, the Crimson Viper gets to use the lower arms from the Hall of Heroes Viper so the hands are actually useable. The gauntlets look appropriately thick and help hide the articulation cuts a bit. These lower arms look so much better than the original gauntlets and I think the detail work might even be stronger than the detail on the first 25th Anniversary Viper figure. Over the figure’s torso, he’s wearing the great vest that Hasbro tooled up for the first 25th Anniversary Viper. All the classic Viper details are still there, they just print better because of the larger canvas Hasbro has to work on. Topping off the figure, the Crimson Viper uses the Hall of Heroes Viper head. That means the goggles are back to being a molded element on top of the helmet rather than a removable piece. That means you don’t have to worry about the goggles popping off at the drop of a hat. This helmet also looks slightly more proportional than the first 25th Anniversary Viper’s head. From the few copies I have of the first Viper, that head just looked a little too small for the body. The newer Viper head looks like it can hold a head inside it and it’s been redesigned just a little overall that makes it look just a tad more realistic. The GIJCC designed a great version of the Viper here. It was probably the best modern Viper until the Pursuit of Cobra version rolled around in 2011.
Since this is a Crimson Viper, its color scheme is right there in the name. The base of the figure is nice, vibrant red. It’s not quite what I’d call crimson, but the Crimson Guard has never really rocked that color much either, so I’m fine with Crimson Vipers being red rather than crimson. The boots, thigh pockets, straps, goggles, gloves and vest are all black. The black contrasts very nicely with the red. The Viper’s gauntlets and trim work are done in silver and much like the black on red, the silver on black contrasts very nice and really pops. Finally, there’s also just a little bit of gold on the figure. The gold is used on his Pocket Patrol Pack, the communicator and the grenades. The gold looks quite sharp on the figure and everything comes together extremely well. Finally, we have to talk about the one slightly controversial choice on the Crimson Viper, his vac-metal faceplate. I don’t quite know why some toy reviewers hate on vac-metal plastic as much as they do, but I find it to be rather striking. The vac-metal on all the figures I’ve ever had with that has held up extremely well over the years and I’ve never had figures with vac-metal parts break on them. Those are the two common criticisms against vac-metal plastic and I’ve never seen any problems like that on the few Joes that use it.
Of all the figures in the Crimson Strike Team con set, I think the Crimson Viper probably has some of the best equipment. Part of that is due to the fact that the 25th Anniversary Viper’s original gear was so great, but the GIJCC also made an excellent choice when it came to the one weapon they added to his kit. Starting off, I figure I should talk about the backpack. It’s a great modern recreation of the iconic Viper backpack. It’s a great piece and Hasbro designed it very well and it looks incredible in red. The Crimson Viper’s primary weapon is the modern version of the vintage Viper rifle. Like the backpack, it’s an iconic piece that really helps complete the Viper’s look. It’s a nice, slightly futuristic weapon and it fits very well with the figure’s overall aesthetic. However, I think the other choice for weapon is just brilliant. Nothing says “terrorist” like an AK-47 and the AK looks great in the Viper’s hands. It’s a nice real world-inspired tie giving the Crimson Viper the most iconic terrorist weapon out there. The weapons are both silver and they look decent in this color, though parts of me would have loved to have seen a little paint on the AK’s wooden stock just to make it look a little more realistic.
The Crimson Viper makes me kind of miss the old way the GIJCC did convention sets. As much as I love each con set being a self contained battle in a box, there’s something great about amassing an army of 12 Crimson Vipers in one shot. I know I’ve said before that I’m not much of an army builder, but having the whole Crimson Strike Team up on display in my apartment back when I had the room to do that sort of thing did look legitimately cool. The 12 Crimson Vipers are all well-executed and the team looks great together. I only have the Crimson Viper up on display, but the set itself is still a solid entry in the history of con sets. I was a little nervous about the GIJCC rehashing their first o-ring set in modern style, but it turned out fine and is a testament to how solid the idea behind the original Crimson Strike Team was. I’m just a little surprised the GIJCC didn’t intentionally make a Fuchsia Strike Team souvenir set just as a nod to the color problems that plagued the original run. I would have been really tempted to drop a little more cash than I should to get a bunch of fuchsia Vipers as well. The version the GIJCC made for this set is just that solid. I know there are a lot of people that see this as the beginning of the end for o-ring collectors, but the Joe brand does have to evolve. Considering at least part of the impetus for the GIJCC shifting to modern style construction was because there were so few o-ring tools available anymore, I’d rather see the modern style figures just because it means the GIJCC has more leeway in parts choices to make some awesome figures. Let’s be fair, sets like the Zombie Initiative and Operation: Bear Trap wouldn’t have been possible using just o-ring tools and I think they’re great sets and the brand is richer for their creation.