Produced by Hasbro | Released 2010
The Lava Pod with Volcano-Viper is yet another ''cancelled'' GI Joe toy that's made it's way to retail via a discount outlet. Although we've already seen the (rather uninspiring) vehicle in another guise, the pack may be worth a look, if only for the driver, as the Volcano-Viper is set to make a return appearance very soon...
In a break with tradition I'll be discussing the Lava Pod first and saving the Volcano-Viper for later. The reason? This is essentially the exact-same vehicle as featured in the Mole Pod with Terra-Viper set. Please consult that Review for details, as - colour changes aside - the two are identical.
Given that the Lava/Mole Pod vehicles aren't really that great, is there a reason to buy this set? And could that reason be the included Volcano-Viper? Let's take a look and find out.
The Volcano-Viper's sculpt is certainly unique, clad as he is in flame-retardant clothing and a protective (and removable) gas mask. His thick pants (which I believe may be from the previously-released Ice-Viper) and heavy protective vest (which is removable) give a real impression of him being equipped to cope with extreme temperature. It's a good look augmented further with the breathing apparatus of cables and canisters strapped to the figure's body (even if one on my figure insists on hanging loose and keeps popping-off from the chest connector.)
The head is the fairly generic, balaclava-clad Viper we've seen many a time. The removable gas mask, however, is something new. Cast from a softer, rubbery plastic, the mask (or more correctly, hood) fits neatly over the basic head and then clips into the vest's collar very snugly, resulting in a tight-fitting, ''sealed'' helmet. I particularly like that the eyepieces are cast from clear red plastic. Although you can't really see the basic head through them, it's a nice touch and the fact that the Volcano-Viper is so ''faceless'' gives him a pretty cool, menacing look.
These looks come at a cost though. Articulation is very limited, thanks to the thickness of his legs, the vest's ''tails'' and the multiple cables and connectors holding the mask and vest together. I could just about live with these issues and take the cool looks, except for one thing: the Volcano-Viper is intended as the pilot of the Lava Pod, yet it's impossible to get him into the cockpit. Short of rotating his joints to point backward or snapping the legs off at the knee, I don't see how it's possible to get him to sit in the vehicle.
On the plus-side, his arms move nicely and although he lacks wrist articulation (there's a rotating joint at the elbow/forearm) it's perfectly possible to get him to hold his rifle in both hands. So at least that's something.
Paint-wise, the Volcano-Viper looks pretty cool. The use of silvery plastic is - for once - a boon, as it gives his clothing the look of being made from heat-reflective materials and the shininess works in the figure's favour. There's also some nice detailing on the figure's various canisters and a few smaller details such as leg straps and pouches that are cleanly picked-out.
The Lava Pod - like the Mole Pod - includes a firing missile. The Volcano-Viper comes with a removable helmet and vest, plus an assault rifle.
The figure does not come with a stand.
The Lava Pod is simply a repaint of the original Mole Pod. Personally I thought it was one of the weakest vehicles in the line and although the paintwork is a little nicer here, I'm hardly won-over by the Lava Pod.
That leaves us then with the Volcano-Viper.
As a vehicle pilot, he fails utterly. He barely fits inside the Lava Pod's cockpit, he can't sit down and even if you manage to force him into it, you'll either never get him out or do the toy some permanent damage.
As a stand-alone figure he's actually not bad. There's not a massive amount you can do with him, pose-wise and he's not going to win any awards for his play-factor but the sculpt and paint work well together to produce a cool-looking figure. The hood/mask is especially good and gives him a cool, faceless look. Add to that the shape-obscuring bulk of his protective gear and you're left with a figure with a very alien, menacing look to it. I like that.
And it seems somebody at Hasbro does, too, as the Volcano-Viper is set to be released with some minor retooling, additional accessories and a new paint job as the Hazard-Viper in the upcoming 30th Anniversary Wave 1. So if you're considering buying that figure when it comes out, take this Review as also an early preview of what's to come: a pretty cool-looking figure with some poor articulation and limited poseability. Let's just hope Hasbro does something to address the latter.
As for this pack, it's one of the many Alpha vehicle sets that show-up at discount stores such as Gabriel Brothers, Ross Dress for Less and TJ Maxx for around $8. At that price it's not a bad investment. If you disliked the Mole Pod then the Lava Pod won't change your mind - it's just the same vehicle repainted. The Volcano-Viper, on the other hand, is an interesting-looking - if flawed - figure. At the end of the day, base your buying decision on him. If you like the look of the figure, then go for it. If not, you can pass quite easily on this set. You're not really missing-out on much.