Para-Viper (25th Anniversary)
I think every Joe fan out there has that one figure that makes them realize the brand is doing something special. I don’t know what that figure would have been for me in the vintage line, but during the relaunch era it was probably Barrel Roll. That figure was the perfect combination of design and character and it just became something more than it was. In the 25th Anniversary line, the figure that made me realize Hasbro was doing something special wasn’t a modern take on a vintage figure, it was the all new Cobra Para-Viper. The figure itself is great, its gear really adds a lot and even the color scheme adds to the awesomeness. Yes, nothing exactly like this ever showed up in the Joe cartoons or comics, but I think that’s part of what makes it so amazing. Hasbro created an excellent new Viper specialty on their own and did a bang up job on it.
While there’s a lot of new on the Para-Viper, there’s also a surprisingly large amount of old on it as well. From the neck to knees, the Para-Viper uses 25th Ace parts. The flight suit base actually works pretty well for a paratrooper. However, you won’t be seeing much of the Ace parts because of the incredible new parachute harness Hasbro tooled up for this figure. This thing is an absolute work of art. It’s incredibly well detailed and looks very realistic. On the back, the Para-Viper has his main chute, but there’s a backup chute on the front as well. There’s a two-part oxygen supply system built into the rig which leads me to assume that the Para- Viper is primarily inserted via HALO methods. The pouches on the parachute rig all look appropriate and I love that there’s a raised Cobra element on the back of the parachute pack. To help secure him into the parachute rig (in the real world), the Para-Viper also has a set of leg harnesses that really add to the overall look. Of course, just using all Ace parts would be boring and the new pieces do add a lot. The figure’s lower legs and knees are new. I like the substantial kneepads on this figure since a paratrooper may not know what they’ll be landing in. The lower legs themselves are pretty interesting because they have pegs sticking off the back of them. I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen that on a Joe figure. The pegs are there to accommodate the swim fins that the Para-Viper has. Again, I see this as part of the Para- Viper’s gear because it’s possible Cobra may need to insert them into an aquatic situation so they need to be able to function there as well. Honestly, with all the great gear on the figure, I kind of see Para-Vipers as Cobra’s versions of Navy SEALs. They may be primarily paratroopers, but they’re cross-trained in a wide array of fields to make them the most dangerous Cobra troopers out there. The lower arms are also new and have some interesting details molded into them. First and foremost, you have the angled pieces of wrist armor. I think these are based on real-world paratrooper equipment that’s used to decrease drag on HALO insertions. Even if it’s just something Hasbro created themselves, it’s still a nice touch. There’s also what looks like a watch on the Para-Viper’s left wrist. Personally, though, I see it as an altimeter so the Para-Viper knows when it’s safe to deploy their chute to avoid being picked up by Joe sensors. It’s all the real-world detailing on the Para-Viper that really makes me think this figure is something special. Up top, the Para-Viper also picks up a new head. It’s a simple balaclava, but it’s definitely not the same one as 25th Anniversary Beachhead. Much like the Ace parts, though, you’re probably not going to see it much because the Para-Viper came with such a great helmet. This helmet is absolutely incredible. It’s very well detailed and looks like it stepped off of a military base and into my hands. The goggles up top are a nice touch since paratroopers often do have goggles on even though they have eye protection built into the helmet. The hoses from the back plug in securely to the four ports on the helmet. Of course, all this gear does somewhat negatively impact Para-Viper’s ability to move, but honestly, the gear is just so cool and works so well with the figure’s specialty, I kind of give it a pass. I remember Fast-Draw’s gear kind of limited his ability to move well when he was all geared up but I still loved that figure, so I kind of see the same thing here. Yes, it would be amazing if the Para-Viper could still move as well as the other Joes with all his gear on, but as it stands, it’s not that big a deal. You can still get the figure into a good jumping-out-of-a-plane pose and that’s honestly all I think he needs.
Para-Viper’s construction is incredible and his paint work is just as good, though there are a few things I question when it comes to choice of colors. The Para-Viper’s base color is a dark purple, which does work pretty well for a Cobra. It may not be a color we’ve seen on a lot of Cobras, but it’s still decent. There’s also a lot of gray on the figure from the parachute and helmet. The dark gray works well with the purple. However, there’s also a lot of bright yellow and bright reddish orange on the figure. From what I understand, paratroopers do often wear a little bit of gear with reflective stripes on it so other paratroopers in their squad can find them in the sky, so I’m actually okay with most of the bright yellow. However, the bright yellow knife sheath seems a little off. I also don’t mind the bright reddish orange on his elbow pads and wrists, but on the kneepads it just seems a little too much. Just tweaking those colors and getting them off the lower legs would probably make this figure work just a little better. It’s still an amazing looking figure, but that very bright stuff on the lower body is just a bit distracting. The paint work itself is crisp and clean with very little slop. The paint work on the Cobra sigil on the back alone is worthy of praise. The paint on the helmet is also very well applied and it really looks sharp. The Para-Viper is a great looking figure and I’m pleased with the bang up job Hasbro did on him.
A lot of Para-Viper’s accessory budget went into his helmet and parachute harness, but there are still a few pieces that need to be mentioned. Starting off small, the Para-Viper uses the 25th Anniversary Torpedo knife to fill his sheath. I like seeing this knife here because it’s different and I think it makes more sense for a paratrooper to have a bit smaller blade. Para-Viper’s primary weapon is a great little submachine gun. I’ve talked about my love for this piece before since it did get reused a few times, but it was first included with the Para-Viper and I like that a great figure got such a great weapon. The Para-Viper’s other weapon is a bit strange. It’s a long rifle with a bipod and removable clip. Full disclosure, the bipod on my Para-Viper’s rifle went AWOL at some time, likely when the Para-Viper decided to make a jump during some artillery testing at Fort Riley that was shaking my apartment for a couple of weeks. The bipod didn’t fit that well in the gun to begin with, so that’s my only real criticism of the weapon. It’s rather fragile. It’s an okay piece, though it’s never come with a figure that I think it works for, but it’s nice that the Para-Viper got a couple of new weapons considering all the new tooling he required.
In my opinion, the Para-Viper is something really special. I know a lot of Joe fans wanted a Cobra paratrooper ala the ones we saw in the comics. The Para-Viper takes that idea and turns the dial up to eleven on it and created an incredible action figure. I think Para-Viper is probably one of the best 25th Anniversary figures Hasbro released. Part of it is because it legitimately is something new. Cobra never had a dedicated paratrooper until this figure came out. However, it’s hard to deny that the Para-Viper is a good looking figure and that’s a testament to Hasbro’s design team.