Many G.I. Joe fans will tell you that Hasbro reached its apex in action figure production with the Real American Hero line in 1985/1986. Certainly that seems to be where the most timeless and memorable characters made their debut. I would argue, though, that in 1989 Hasbro was still going really strong and ’89 provided a wealth of fantastic characters and Cobra troopers if you could look past their color schemes. Cobra especially got a great boost to their armies that year with the inclusion of Night Viper, Alley Viper, Frag Viper, and HEAT Viper. Three of these characters have gotten mixed reactions over the years, mostly due to color schemes (but also likely due to some weird weapons and trooper classifications). As a fan of bulky, yet poseable figures, I have a lot of love for what we got in 1989. Figures like Annihilator and HEAT Viper were larger sculpted figures, but still very sleek and flexible.
For a long time I established the HEAT (High Explosive Anti Tank) Viper as one of my favorites, and when he was repurposed as the Fast Blast Viper in 2001, I loved it. We had the great sculpt of that classic figure, but in slightly more muted colors (plus the addition of that hokey, but awesome “fear removal” genetic alteration). Hasbro does a pretty great job of taking the best elements of that classic figure and repurposing them for the modern line.
Using mostly tooling from the 30th Anniversary Airtight (with a modified torso and new head sculpt) the figure remains bulky, yet sleek and with great range of motion. The addition of the raised seam down the chest of the torso goes a long way towards identifying this figure as the HEAT Viper, although I’ll say the purple paint trim has some mixed results. There are obvious visible gaps in purple paint where yellow shows through, and the addition of the paint-only “straps” in several places comes across sort of weird. Beyond those paint issues, though, I (surprisingly) found this figure one of the most enjoyable of the 50th Anniversary figures I’ve sampled so far. He poses well and holds his weapon nicely, even if his hands are super-soft plastic.
Now, as for the head sculpt… I know there have been complaints about the head, mostly because the peg for the “Fiber Optic” sight is gone. The inspiration for this head design was obviously the vintage card art, which actually makes it seem like the vintage version was a last minute change. I love the addition of the second metallic plate, and I found a peg on the backpack to plug the cable into, but yeah, I don’t disagree that it would have been cool to get the cable to attach to the head like the older figure did. Strictly from an aesthetic perspective, though, I much prefer the double faceplate rather than the mostly yellow helmet of the vintage version.
Admittedly, I grew pretty tired of the HEAT Viper rocket launcher after it was used countless times during the new sculpt era, but at least including it here makes sense. This figure also comes with a nicely retooled backpack with the modern peg, and the fiber optic cable is present as well, though has to be somewhat rigged to plug somewhere else.
A really pleasant surprise was that the figure came complete with the straps around his legs (which are added pieces not part of the sculpt unlike the vintage version) and the six rockets. This was a pretty big identifying aspect of the vintage figure, and I love that they’re present here, too. I’ll say for folks who don’t like it, the straps are probably removable, I just didn’t want to force the issue for the review. As one might expect, especially with the softer plastic, the rockets don’t stay on especially well, but for display purposes, they work okay. Completing the accessory compliment is a shoulder holster with pistol that both pays homage to the gray shoulder straps of the vintage figure, but also gives him a secondary sidearm in case close quarters combat is necessary.
This figure is great. A lot of fun. It helps that I’m a big fan of the HEAT Viper anyway, but I think Hasbro did this guy proud. He has some of the soft plastic issues of the other figures, and yes the paint gaps make him look even more “discount store” than some of his compatriots, but he’s a very fun figure, and as the last necessary entry into the Class of ’89 Viper Corps, I’m thrilled to get him into my collection.