|Code Name: VIPER|
Introduced in 1986, the basic Viper (no relation to the Viper Pilot, which was basically an original trooper with a silver logo and a flimsy glider) was designed to take over from the basic Cobra Trooper as Cobras standard infantry type, though it didnt really work out that way in official fiction, where they were generally just depicted as another unit like the Crimson Guard. Still, along with the earlier Tele-Vipers, they helped cement the naming conventions of most subsequent Cobra rank types we got Ice-Vipers, Sub-Vipers, Medi-Vipers, Bio-Vipers, Strato-Vipers, SAW-Vipers, Rock-Vipers, Nitro-Vipers, Neo-Vipers, Nano-Vipers, Para-Vipers and so on.
To be honest, while some of the Vipers have their merits, I was never particularly enamoured with the basic Viper. In these days of 25th Anniversary figures available at the sort of prices which make army building a lot easier, I saw no real reason not to concentrate on Trooper types. However, I picked one 25th Anniversary Viper out of curiosity, and was so impressed I grabbed a few more. However, not for the first time I didnt research properly and discovered the hard way that there are two near-identical Vipers in the line, but the later version has some small but significant changes which vastly improve the thing.
The first version was released as a single blister-carded figure, and is by far the easiest to find. It looks pretty good, with its rolled up sleeves, patterned gloves and inner thighs, flak jacket and distinctive head design. I even love the gun and backpack - one of the few failings of the 25th Anniversary line is a relative lack of backpacks; it seems if the character predominantly appeared in fiction without a backpack, they dont get one in the 25th Anniversary line. The likes of Mainframe, Shockwave and Tunnel Rat could have done with one. Going back to the Viper itself, it does have a couple of problems, though. Firstly it uses the same weird bent-wrist arms as the 25h Anniversary Tele-Viper, which not only gives the Viper a very awkward set of poses, but means that it struggles to get both hands on its gun (sadly another early 25th Anniversary failing, though here it could have been easily avoided). Secondly, the goggles on the helmet are a separate part, and tend to pop off easily. Which wouldnt be a problem if they werent so difficult to get back on; theyre made out of a rubbery plastic that stretches slightly and only hook onto the helmet at the back; if you dont attach them quite right they just ride up and fall off again.
correct both these problems for the second version, released in the
Hall of Heroes range. The arms are remoulded to a more conventional,
useful straight-wrist position which can more convincingly grasp the
figures assault weapon. The goggles are also now a moulded part
of the head too. On top of this the paint job is freshened up
the visor of the helmet is chromed, the red details are brighter, the
lenses on the goggles are painted, and the rifle is now a gunmetal colour.
All of which basically takes care of any drawbacks. Its a difficult
choice to make the second is the better figure, one of the best
from the series, but closing on prohibitively expensive for troop-building,
which is surely a major reason why most collectors would be buying a
Viper; however I just cant bring myself to endorse the first version,
even at the cheaper price, when the drawbacks are just down to sloppiness.