S.A.W. VIPER v.4 (2013)
The first S.A.W. (semi automatic weapons) Viper was released in 1990. My brother Doug and I had pretty much been completist collectors from 1982 to 1988. We didn’t own all of the vehicles but between us we owned all of the carded figures. We got most of the 1989 lineup but that was the first year that we didn’t seek out every new figure. By 1990 we were ready to walk away. Rampart was the only 1990 Joe I got and Undertow was Doug’s final Joe so neither of us ever owned the weird pink Cobra heavy machine gunner. SAW Viper held no appeal to me. He was pink and purple with a strange neon green visor. I liked my Cobra troopers to look cool and SAW Viper didn’t fit the bill. The same figure was released again in 2003 with a better “python patrol” paint scheme but I still didn’t like the mold and so I passed on it. I didn’t own my first SAW Viper until 2006 when a new version was released during the DTC days. (DTC stands for Direct to Consumer. There was a time, just before the modern era/25th anniversary figure launched in 2007, when Hasbro had stopped releasing figures to retail outlets. Instead they sold figures directly to consumers by way of their website). I thought the DTC version of the SAW Viper was a big improvement over the original both in color (black and red this time) and design. The entire figure was a repaint of a Rollbar figure, released a year earlier, but I didn’t own Rollbar so the similarities didn’t bother me. The design was much bulkier with a padded vest which seemed more appropriate considering the Viper’s specialty. The only element of the 2006 figure that tied it to the 1990 original was the inclusion of a removable helmet with a neon green visor. The helmet was bigger and simpler than the original version which wasn’t an improvement. I thought the helmet looked large, clunky and out of place on the figure.
Here’s a wee bit of Saw Viper trivia for you. A single SAW Viper killed more Joes than any other Cobra operative in the Marvel comic run. In issue 109 (1991) a SAW Viper mowed down four Joe prisoners: Doc, Thunder, Crank Case, and Heavy Metal. It was a pretty big deal as even in the comic, which was much more serious in tone than the cartoon, “name” Joes rarely died. Later in that same issue another 3 popular Joes, Crazy Legs, Breaker, and Quick Kick, were killed after escaping from captivity. That SAW Viper was supposedly killed “off-screen” by Storm Shadow but in a later story it was revealed that he lived (barely). In order to survive he had to be rebuilt as a Cyborg and he thus became Overkill, the leader of the B.A.T.S.
SAW Viper was one of the Cobra trooper types which had not been revisited by Hasbro in the modern era. Since I never owned the original and never cared for the look of him anyway I didn’t miss him. But earlier this week I went from having no modern SAW Vipers to having 3 of them. A while back I had pre-ordered the 2013 Joe Con 15 figure Convention set. This year’s set was called “Night Force: Nocturnal Fire” and it featured the Joe’s Night Force sub-team vs Cobra’s South American associates. The Joe Con was held the first weekend of April in Indianapolis. Those who attended got to take their sets home with them that day. Guys like me, who stayed at home, had to wait 2 months for theirs to arrive in the mail.
The set came packaged pretty much exactly the same as the 2012 set. There was a nice sturdy box with the Night Force logo on the glossy front. When I lifted the lid I found my certificate of authenticity and my exclusive comic book which stars the characters from the set. Beneath those lay the 15 figures packed snugly in black foam. There were 6 members of Night Force: Repeater, Psyche Out, Spearhead, Hit & Run, Muskrat, and Charbroil. Then there were the 3 “name” Cobra villains: Cobra Mortal, Cobra Letal, and newcomer Crimson Asp. To finish off the set there were 2 sets of 3 identical army builders: Frag Vipers and S.A.W Vipers. Beneath the foam were packages of weapons and file cards for each figure.
I will be reviewing each of these figures individually eventually but since this is my first review from the set I will give a quick overview of the complete package. It’s good, not great. The presentation is excellent and the comic was a good read. I like the character selection for the most part but not all of the figures were executed as well as they should have been. I have multiple production issues with my set. My Hit & Run has no holes in his feet so he can’t be displayed on a base and he’s too top heavy to stand on his own. My Repeater has 1 arm that can’t be bent because the paint has hardened over the joint. My Cobra Mortal is built funny so that one leg hangs lower than the other, and I have some looseness issues with a few of the other figures. Considering that this set cost me nearly $400 I expected more. However none of these errors are deal breakers for me. I still like the set but the Hit & Run issue is quite frustrating.
As for the SAW Vipers I guess I like them okay. This version is kind of a blend of the original and the DTC version. He retains the hot pink and purple color scheme of the original but he’s bulked up nicely with padding like the 2006 version. The body is mostly made up of a previously released Destro figure. It was a good choice as that was a bulky and imposing Destro. We’ve seen the removable vest before too but a double knife sheath has been added to the front and it’s a pretty badass addition. SAW Viper comes with two knives, a standard dagger and a nasty looking curved blade and they both fit nicely into the sheaths. His backpack is reminiscent of the original but nothing to get excited about. His lone gun is pretty cool and he came with an ammo pack to boot.
What I don’t like is the head. Like the 2006 version, this SAW Viper has a removable helmet. The helmet is actually the same one that came with the 2006 figure meaning it shares all of its flaws (big, clunky, lacking personality). Beneath the helmet is a masked face which is much better than a Rollbar face like we got in 2006. I wouldn’t want all 3 of my SAW Vipers to have identical faces after all, what is this the FRED program? (Joe-nerd inside joke). Unfortunately I don’t like this balaclava style mask they’ve given him. It just looks weird to me. I think he looks better displayed without the clunky helmet but I would like him so much more if his mouth and nose were covered. I actually think this would be a great figure if he had a solid ski mask, even though it would be unfaithful to the original SAW Viper design. Since I have 3 of these guys I plan to display one with the helmet, one without, and another with a lifted helmet. I expected to hate this figure and am quite surprised to find myself not minding it. 6 out of 10.