G.I. Joe 30th Anniversary Cobra Hazard Viper
Readers might be surprised to hear this, but I have an admission... much to the dismay of Gyre Viper, I used to think the Volcano Vipers are just a bit overrated. I thought that much of the desire for them came from the fact that they were unreleased, which artificially created demand because collectors wanted them simply because they couldn't have them.
Once I got some in hand (thanks to the aforementioned Gyre Viper) my tune changed a bit. There was actually a lot to love about the Volcano Vipers. The awesome sculpting of the gas mask, the nearly perfect way the vest, mask, and hoses all connected together. The figure really impressed me once I got it in hand...but I still didn't think it was the "be all, end all" that other folks did. Because of the accessories, it was almost immobile, and there was this strange niche that it filled that I wasn't sure needed filling.
But, dammit, then came the Hazard Viper...and now not only is there a niche for this kind of trooper, but the Hazard Viper does an exemplory job of filling it.
There is a weird distinction I think between Toxo-Vipers and Hazard-Vipers. Where Toxo-Vipers specialize in the creation, distribution, and use of noxious substances, I think the Hazard Vipers are pure Hazardous material removal and containment. While Toxo-Vipers use their suits and abilities to design offensive weaponry, the Hazard Vipers are there to clean up after them and to design some of the gases that the Toxo-Vipers use. If the Toxo's are the soldiers, the Hazard Vipers are the R & D branch that gets the stuff designed and implemented.
Which is what makes them perfect for the whole Compound Z story that is beginning to run behind the scenes throughout the 30th Anniversary figures. Compound Z, according to Hasbro reports, is a virus that essentially "creates" Zombies that Cobra can use for their own nefarious purposes. Now, whether you want to use the Zombie Vipers as those created warriors, or invent a story where these Compound Z infected Cobra agents break free and terrorize the world, immediately Hazard Viper plays a critical role in the story. Somehow, even though I'm not a huge zombie fan, I love this. Maybe I'm just a sucker for storyline tying my toys together, but this is a very cool addition, and I find myself very excited to get some future figures to tie it all together. Hasbro marketing at work.
This figure is pretty much a straight repaint of the Volcano Viper, but instead of the typical Rise of Cobra trooper arms, he's got Skydive's arms, which work really nicely. This Viper does not come with the tank on his back, but you won't find yourself missing it very much.
I am constantly ridiculed for my love of bright colored figures, but honestly, I think the orange and gun metal make a huge difference with this figure. Volcano Viper was pretty much different shades of black, brown, and dark silver, and I must admit, these brighter colors really make the figure "pop". Very nice. It takes all the cool elements of the Volcano Viper and ends up creating a whole new branch of Cobra Vipers, even 30 years after the first blueshirt hit retail.
From an accessory perspective, Hazard-Viper has the Volcano Viper beat pretty easily. He comes with the same vest and helmet, which are both awesome. As I mentioned, he does not have the backpack, but I don't find myself missing it much. He has Arctic Destro's backpack, rifle, and the Rise of Cobra Destro's pistol-format flame thrower. All of these accessories make a ton of sense for a hazardous material guy.
The coolest accessory, though, has to be the suitcase with cannisters of Compound Z. Obviously the same tooling as what came with The Doctor, it still works perfectly for this purpose. Rounding off the weapons are a pair of the same pistols that came with Skydive, so if Hazard-Viper ends up in a tight spot, he's got a last line of defense.
All told, my initial reaction to the Volcano Viper and Hazard Viper was one of...well... "eh". But now that I have these figures in hand and we have a nicely established backstory with the Compound Z, I find myself really being drawn to these figures. They certainly stand out amongst the crowd and are a very interesting display piece with lots of potential for cool purposes within your Cobra army. Good stuff.
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