ALLEY VIPER v.11 (2009)
I love the look of Cobra’s basic infantry. The “blue shirts” as they are affectionately known. They’ve been around since the beginning of the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (RAH). The first two bad guy figures released in the line were a Cobra Trooper and a Cobra Officer. They both had royal blue uniforms and helmets and a balaclava over the face. However there were some slight differences between the Troopers and the Officers such as the color of the Cobra logo on their chests. Those differences made owning both of them a requirement. If I’d had my own source of income when I was 5 years old I probably would have army built the hell out of those figures, padding my Cobra ranks until they outnumbered the Joes. Cobra blue shirts were the backbone of Cobra’s army in the early episodes of the cartoon and issues of the comic. In fact the Cobra forces were so lacking in “name” characters at the time that comic writer Larry Hama turned a blue shirt officer into a name character (Scarface) and gave him a pivotal role in the book.
Cobra’s ranks didn’t need padding for long and the desire to army build that figure was diminished as new types of Cobra Troopers were introduced. There were the frogmen known as Eels and the arctic troopers known as Snow Serpents. One of the most iconic additions to the Cobra roster was the Viper. The Viper was Cobra’s new basic infantry, essentially a replacement for the old blue shirts. The Viper motif caught on and soon every new assortment of Joe figures included at least a couple of new specialized Vipers. I’m a big fan of most of the Vipers. Some, like Frag Viper, were kind of dull, but others, like Ice Viper or Heat Viper, were awesome.
One of my favorite Vipers was the Alley Viper which was released in 1989. The Alley Viper was an urban assault trooper. They were dressed in bright orange outfits with a blocky blue camouflage pattern. It’s been questioned by many a Joe fan just how exactly that color palette was supposed to help them blend into an urban environment and I do not have an answer for that. It seems like a weird decision on Hasbro’s part but I loved that color scheme regardless of its absurdity. It was bright and unique and looked great. The overall design of the figure was really cool with a flip down protective face plate and a bizarre shield. I used my Alley Viper figure as a unique character when I was a kid and he was one of Cobra’s deadliest soldiers.
The Alley Viper must have been popular with kids because Hasbro released 2 more variations of the trooper before the RAH series wrapped up in 1994. When the new sculpt era launched in 2002 a revamped Alley Viper was introduced. The new sculpt Alley Viper was a prime example of everything that was wrong with the new sculpt era toys. It was one of the ugliest, lankiest Joe figures ever released. A nasty blemish on the Alley Viper’s legacy.
When the modern/25th anniversary Joe era began in 2007 I was stoked to get new interpretations of my old favorite characters in their most iconic uniforms. Hasbro has covered a lot of ground in the past 6 years but there are still a number of RAH figures who haven’t yet been modernized. Sadly my two favorite Vipers have thus far been omitted. There’s been no Heat Viper at all and the modern Ice Viper bore no resemblance to the 1987 classic version. At least my third favorite Viper, the Alley Viper got a modern day makeover as part of the Defense of Cobra Island 7-pack in 2009.
I think this is a fantastic update of the original figure. It retains all of the quintessential features of the 1989 version including the face plate, shield, and wacky paint job. He still has the padded vest and sheathed knife on his chest but this time both are removable. He still has the removable faceplate but this new version’s entire helmet can be lifted off, revealing a solid blue face mask beneath. It doesn’t necessarily enhance the figure a great deal in my mind but it’s cool anyway.
The original Alley Viper had a grappling hook that was attached to his backpack. This one has a grappling hook gun that can be stored on his backpack. I really appreciate Hasbro’s attention to detail here in recreating his old accessories. He also came with a submachine gun and nightstick. No complaints here. A great update. 10 out of 10.