When I was a child, playing with my G1 (A Real American Hero) Joes, there were some figures that really stood out above all others. Sadly, almost all of them were owned by my brother. Every now and then we'd each have one of the same figures, but for the most part my parents figured we'd be playing with them together anyway, so why should we have two of the same guy? (Obviously they never heard of army building. Pshh.)
I had lots of figures I loved, but my brother's always seemed to one-up mine. I'm not sure if it was because they were off limits to me when my brother wasn't around, or because they were genuinely awesome (probably both), but the point I'm coming to is that the Night-Viper was always one of those figures. The 1989 Night-Viper figure was one of the coolest-looking Cobra troopers, with a muted green and black color scheme and a wicked flip down visor with a telescoping sight. And it was never mine.
The Night-Viper was repainted for a G.I. Joe Collectors' Club exclusive set, but he never got a proper update until the waning days of the G2 Joes, and that figure was originally slated for their "Direct to Consumer" online-only/Toys Я Us-exclusive line, until that went under. Hasbro had come pretty far along in the production phase with that last set, however, so the figure eventually did get released. Unfortunately, it was also as a Collectors' Club exclusive, so while it was a pretty awesome figure, it didn't find its way into a lot of peoples' hands.
Now comes the Pursuit of Cobra line, and we finally get a Night-Viper update at retail, in the G3 style and christened "Jungle-Viper".
Jungle-Vipers are Cobra troopers with special training as silent marksmen. Their opti-camo ghillie suits have digitized camouflage blades, which make them disappear from any detection devices. They also use multi-visual imaging systems that give them wide visual displays of surrounding territory.
I like how the new filecards explain the gear a figure comes with,
because a lot of times I'd be all huhWHA??!?! Take the Jungle-Viper's ghillie suit or whatever: when I first saw prototype pics, I thought it was supposed to be some weird palm tree camouflage or something, and I suppose it still is, but it makes it a bit less ridiculous with the additional info about the blades having digitzed components that actually do more than look like palm fronds.
Under all those palm fronds there's a figure in there somewhere, and it's pretty obvious that figure is supposed to be a new Night-Viper regardless of his current moniker. He's got the green and black color scheme, and also the flip-down visor with the big ol' scope, only this time it's got three lenses and he looks like he's possibly compensating for something. His sculpt appears to be 100% new, and it's covered in pouches and pads and mesh.
He's extremely detailed, and I especially like the sculpt of his feet,
which appear to be wearing some kind of sound dampening pads instead of boots, and it really sells the whole "silent marksman" angle. Aside from the green and black, which use wash and drybrushing to bring out the detail, the only real paint to speak of is the Cobra sigil on his left arm, the red lenses on his gunmetal scopes, and his dull, pupil-less, dead eyes. Seriously, what's with that? Are we slipping back into
the genetic engineering days?
Start posing the figure and you might find a few surprises. He gets the usual Joe joints: balljointed neck, peg and hinge shoulders, peg and hinge elbows, balljointed waist, balljointed hips, peg and hinge ankles...but in addition to that, he's got peg and hinge wrists and double-hinged knees! When in a neutral pose, the right wrist hinge lets the joint move up and down, while the left wrist allows for side to side movement, and it really helps him hold his main included weapon. Speaking of which...
This guy gets a lot of stuff. One of the trademarks of the PoC line seems to be a buttload of accessories with each figure, but the Jungle-Viper pushes even that. He's got his ghillie suit, which is actually 8 separate pieces: the main backpack, the head-covering blades, the "wings"
(2 pieces each) and two blade groupings that fit on his arms. Every place the blades move features a balljoint, and there are seven in all. Seeing this guy in pictures made me think the backpack was ridiculously cumbersome, and took away from an otherwise cool-looking figure. However, having the figure in hand, it definitely adds a unique element to the figure's versatility. You can pose the blades flared out, or you can enshroud him nearly entirely, so that only his scopes peek out. And if you don't like the backpack, just remove it and your figure looks mostly fine without it.
This brings me to pretty much the only thing I don't like about the figure, however: the arm blades. Seriously, this figure would be about a hundred times better without those arm blades. They get in the way of posing the figure, and it's often hard to manipulate the outer blades so that they don't interfere with the arm attachments. They also cause problems
when he's holding his guns. And unlike the backpack blades, which can be removed with no trace, removing the arm blades results in two very obvious pegs sticking off of both forearms. If I weren't the type of person who can't stand to alter his figure in even the slightest way, I would just lop off the forearm pegs and toss the arm blades in the trash. They really just get in the way and do little else.
He also gets removable webgear that features a sort of neck protection collar and some thigh coverings whose function isn't really clear to me, as well as a working holster for the left hip. He has another working holster on the lower right leg, and pistols to fit in both. Which means cue the John Woo twin pistol poses! Awwww Yeeeuh!
Then there's his visor with its ridiculous "multi-visual imaging systems", which is both ostentatious and surprisingly badass. Equally ostentatious/badass is his final weapon, an absolutely gargantuan sniper
rifle that comes packaged in three separate pieces (remember what I said about compensating?). You plug the barrel into the main body of the gun, and then stick the bipod onto the bottom, and you have what the filecard calls a "Skulker-JS High-Powered Jungle Series Marksman Rifle". Gun buffs, however, will probably recognize it as a Lahti L-39, a Finnish rifle which was originally used to take down tanks. However, tank armor was eventually developed that could withstand the L-39, and so it became primarily a long range sniping and anti-aircraft weapon. As was previously mentioned, the added wrist joints really help the figure to hold such a huge honking weapon, although it may require some suspension of disbelief, as the actual L-39 weighed over 100 lbs. That coupled with the ghillie suit and you wonder how this guy in the field would be able to move at all.
Like PoC Firefly, Jungle-Viper seems perfectly decked out to perform his required task. As a "silent marksman" the Night... errr, I mean Jungle-Viper has the means to escape detection
(the ghillie suit), the gear to travel silently (those funky shoes), the optical equipment to spot targets over long distances, and the weaponry to take out a friggin' helicopter. He's a worthy update to one of my favorite Joe figures, even if he does have a different name. If it weren't for those stupid arm-blades and the non-removable forearm pegs, he'd probably be a contender for my favorite Joe figure ever. As it is, even with his shortcomings he's an awesome addition to any Joe collection.