Yet even more GI Joe, and while some might argue there is no effort in this line there are still others who say this line is stronger than ever. Who is to say, well history will tell more than I can. Still there are figures coming out left and right lately so I thought this round I would look at a few more from the POC and 30th lines. The irony of the 30th line is the first wave only has 2 new figures. Now some would argue the remainder of the figures were hard to find, which they are, but we should keep in mind this is the first wave of the 30th anniversary, one would think putting the best foot forward would be the goal. While it is good that some of those late POC figures moving forward, part of me thinks on a marketing level the first wave should have been fresher with the bring forwards being spaced out a bit. That might be just me, but at the same time GI Joe lately has been kind of needing a shot in the arm. BUT I will say what we have seen for 30th might be the shot Joe needs.
One thing that I would like to mention that I generally avoid is the packaging this time. The red and blue on the boxes kind of reminds me of the early 90's versions of the packaging. The colors are a bit darker but the shades and style seem to be influenced by that era of the line. Is that a good idea, maybe and maybe not. Still it is an interesting thing to note with the packaging.
Out of the new wave, I only got two figures, the two new ones. Well not new necessarily new but even though they are repaints they are repainted in a way that makes them seem fresh.
The prime example of a repaint being fresh is the first figure of this review, Hazard Viper.
First, for the record, when I look at this figure I am reminded of the Doctor Who episode when the Doctor showed up in World War 2 Britain during the blitz and found a group of people who were fused with their gas mask. As it turned out the people were infected by nanaites that were programmed to heal, but their first encounter with humans was a young boy who was wearing a gas mask and the little robots thought that was normal for humans. The Doctor reprogrammed them to heal humans properly, but it was a cool, cool episode from the days of Christopher Eccleston (who also played Destro in the Rise of Cobra movie).
But the figure itself is one of those great things that harks back to the older days of GI Joe. Many are referring to this as the updated Toxo-Viper, and I can see this to an extent. But he is unique enough to be not mistaken for Toxo-Viper. There is a question remaining about if Zombie Viper is related to this figure in the same way that Toxo-Viper and Toxo-Zombie are related. Still that is for later when we finally see Zombie Viper.
Like the Toxo-Viper, Hazard Viper has an unusual color choice in orange (Lavender for Toxo-Viper). It's surprisingly good looking on the Hazard Viper though. I suppose part of it is that the mind justifies the color for the specialty much like Airtight was excused by many fans when he came out. To me the orange is one of those colors that just implies some of the silly aspects of older GI Joe (in a good way). Hazard does remind me of Dukes of Hazzard and the orange does match the General Lee. It's silly I know but ever since I saw the press pictures of this guy I have thought this.
The figure itself is mostly a repaint of the Lava Viper. If I were to be a nitpicker about realism I would point out that bell bottom pants are not the best attire for a haz-mat trooper. I'm not a nitpicker so I won't mention it LOL.
Accessories, well once again Hasbro is doing some major recycling here. The case and tubes should be easily recognized from the ROC line. Hazard Viper also comes with Artic Destro's backpack and water gun, but I admit it looks better with the Hazard Viper than it did with Destro. He also has some pistols but no way to carry them other than in his hands. While in many ways this would not seem to be a big deal, in the age we are at now it seems odd to have pistols without a way to carry them. Perhaps we really have been spoiled. Hazard Viper also has "Compound Z" in the vials in his case. The file card strongly imply that only Hazard Vipers can handle this mysterious compound (which is supposed to be part of the Zombie process that leads to Zombie Vipers as I understand it). Still I would think (again marketing here) explaining what Compound Z is would help to tie the line together somewhat.
If I had a knock on this figure it would be the question of why he exists. Toxo-Vipers were already Haz-Mat troopers and an update to them would seem more logical. His existence seems a bit redundant. I like him a great deal but I am dumbfounded as to why Hasbro went this route. Oh well.
Still, I have to say he is one of the must buy figures of the year. He is off the hook but still grounded enough in reality to warrant a look. His gear is recycled but is still kind of unique. Not bad for a repaint of the Lava Viper:
So jumping off the 30th for a second I thought I would talk about the Volcano Viper. I found him in a store that doesn't normally carry Joes with his Lava Pod. He was $5, a hard deal to pass on and he was with some of the others of his wave, but this was the only one I wanted (even though this store had nothing to do with Ross, which I thought he was exclusive to, so the mystery deepens on this figure and his wave-mates).
Like I said with the Hazard Viper, the mold is pretty cool and with Volcano Viper the paint is perfect for one of those lava suits we have seen on volcano documentaries for years. His major knocks would have to be the lame ROC gun he had with him. It's sad that the ROC vehicle drivers were not given anything but finally one was and it was a lame laser type gun. He mostly reuses parts from the Ice Viper, but with the newer vest and such he looks like a completely different figure for the most part. He also could have stood to have a few more details (like the gloves) painted differently to bring them out more. Still all of that is minor for the most part, but does effect the overall figure.
I think the name could have been better too. Volcano Viper is a bit of a mouthful and I tend to refer to him as Lava Viper for simplicities sake. If I slip in this review you might understand why now.
Still it is hard to knock a figure that is cool and comes with a vehicle but is still at the price of a lone figure. Granted that came about in a very odd way but with that bargain it is hard to say too much against him even if I didn't like him as much as I do.
The Lava Pod he came with, well there is a whole lot to say there.
*SIGH* I look at the Lava Pod and I think "What could have been." On paper it (and the mole pod) are very cool ideas. Originally my major knock to the Mole Pod was the price tag and while I ended up getting one later I was massively disappointed in it. The same can be said for the Lava Pod. The truth is the vehicle is just too small for it's own good. A drill vehicle like this one probably should be in the bravo vehicle class rather than the smaller ones.
Yes it's a Cobra vehicle and is a bit off the wall, which is something I kind of like about the Cobra vehicles to be honest. They skew the lines of believability while still looking like they would be functional. The truth is I wanted a drill type vehicle since we saw one in the old cartoon days, but this just doesn't quite cut it and falls a bit short, just as the mole pod did. A new paint job does not improve the sad design.
One of the features that has made me cringe from the start is the fact that the cockpit has the steering wheel on the side as if to imply there was a passenger area, the problem is that there is NO POSSIBLE way to fit two figures in this cockpit. The lack of detail in the cockpit is another gripe, but I will state that it is better than some of the ROC vehicles I have seen.
Really the only way this thing earned a star was the price, when you factor in the cool Volcano Viper you are basically getting the Lava Pod for free. But the Lava Pod proves that a different paint job doesn't always make for an improvement.
Which brings me to the final figure of this review, whom I did not realize was a repaint until I had him in hand, Stalker.
Stalker is one of those characters that has had plenty of redecos but has been done so infrequently at this point that when he does show up he seems like a breath of fresh air, which is exactly what I needed from GI Joe. While he had a couple of figures in the 25th line and was in the Resolute pack, it feels like we haven't seen him in a while and I welcome him like an old friend. PLEASE Hasbro don't take that as a sign to do 100 Stalkers in the next year. I am happy with the lower frequency than I am with Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Cobra Commander ect.
Stalker is one of those characters that could easily slip into a cliché' without too much effort. He is the first minority of the ARAH brand and his original file card somewhat reflected a stereotypical type of "street thug" background. However, what I have always liked about Stalker is the fact the character has managed to transcend such labels and come into his own. I don't believe his street gang background was ever brought up in any Joe media, but I could be wrong. This could have been his defining characteristic but instead his defining characteristic is his tough as nails and skilled as hell resolve to fight Cobra, a ruthless, terrorist-Oh yeah, sorry kind of got into announcer mode for a second.
To say Stalker was unfortunately named would be another way to point out how he has managed to avoid stereotyping. Let's face it, in 1982 the word stalker had a completely different meaning than it does today. Still he somehow doesn't fall into the stereotype for his name, which I count as a good thing.
The figure is a repaint of Wave 3 Snake Eyes which in some ways is disappointing. Sure the SE body is generic enough to work, and to a degree there is a level of symmetry since Stalker and Snake Eyes did share the same mold in 1982. At the same time I was thinking Stalker would have his own mold which would be unique to him alone. I know I would prefer that. It's not enough to take away from the figure though, the mold works on a great many levels.
This version of Stalker is sporting a set of dreadlocks much like his Resolute version did. I couldn't help but poke at the fact this gives him a very Jamaican look (as readers of Scale Wars already know-Shameless plug). However the dreads are distinct and cool enough to warrant in this case and really do not take away from the figure in the slightest.
His accessories are mostly recycled (again) with the pistol and silencer combo as well as knife from Snake Eyes as well as a knife from Shadow Tracker. However his knife on his belt is not as recognizable to me, it might be new. I confess I have not compared the rifle to any of his 25th versions, so that might be recycled or might be new. It works either way.
What the end product becomes is what is the most important here. With the camo paint Stalker has enough of his original look combined with some updates to make him an interesting and very cool figure. Again I wish the mold was more original, but such is life.
Even if you have a 25th version of Stalker I would recommend picking this one up. He is cool, different enough, but also familiar. He embodies what I wish Hasbro would do with the original 13 GI Joe characters, give them just enough in their original looks to be recognizable but also give them some tweaks to make them more individualized. Hasbro has done this with some of the characters with some level of success (Rock N' Roll for example) but while they have done versions of Short Fuse, Grunt and other members of the original team, they were too much like the originals for my tastes. I have always thought those characters suffered from the necessities of the original launch (i.e. low budget) and deserved some fantastic upgrades. And now I am off track.
Buy Stalker, he's cool.