Thursday, February 9, 2012

REVIEW: GI Joe 30th Anniversary - Zombie-Viper

Produced by Hasbro | Released December 2011

ZOMBIE-VIPERS are COBRA infantry troopers who have been given a mysterious chemical substance, Compound Z, that has turned them into drones. Wiped of all thought, they follow orders mindlessly and cannot be reasoned with or sidetracked. They have retained their skill in combat; in fact, their desire to fight has been increased, making them more dangerous than before. In other words, they are deadly zombie warriors.

30th Anniversary Zombie-Viper
So now the whole Hazard-Viper thing makes sense. That mysterious Compound Z they're all toting around? Well, you knew something bad would happen when a character comes with something so ominously named. And here's the result - the Zombie-Viper.

Sadly, like most of the 2012 Wave 4 figures, I was unable to locate the Zombie-Viper at retail (I ordered the entire Wave from Big Bad Toy Store). It seems like some stores - such as Target - are finally restocking (based on anecdotal evidence) so here's hoping we'll be seeing them on shelves soon.


Until I read the file card I was under the impression that the Zombie-Viper was an unfortunate accident, as if Cobra had been experimenting with some kind of Super Soldier Serum to create enhanced Vipers but the tests had resulted in the creation of uncontrollable zombies. I don't know if I'm a fan of these guys ''[retaining] their skills in combat'' and being still under the control of Cobra, as - let's face it - a wild zombie is a lot more fun than a compliant one...

Anyway, the packaging itself is the standard blister pack and aside from the rather unexpected use of a rubber tie around the knee to hold the tendril in place (more on that later) there are no real surprises here.

Sculpt And Design
I think it's probably safe to say that the Zombie-Viper will split fans of the series. Some fans will love them (as they're simply the logical extension of the BAT) whereas others will probably think they're too outre (given the more lifelike style of figures seen in the Pursuit Of Cobra line.) I have to say I'm in the former camp and I simply love the concept of a Zombie-Viper. It seems natural to me that Cobra - being so ruthless - would experiment upon their own soldiers to ''improve'' their combat abilities and in effect ''play God.'' 

But I digress.

The Zombie-Viper features a superb sculpt. The shredded clothing, the pustular skin and the tormented, post-rigor mortis-twisted fingers all look fantastic. I love that the straps, for example, on his harness  genuinely look severed (as opposed to simply being cut short) and the detailing on the clothing itself - from textured cloth to folded material - looks great. But then add to this the zombified limbs and you're left with an awesome-looking figure.

One of my favourite details is that the sleeves feature shredded remnants around the forearm/elbow. These pieces look great and give a real sense of the figure as being clad in clothing (rather than the skin ''ending'' where it meets the clothes, if you see what I mean.) It's a multi-layered effect that - along with the harness - gives a really ragged look to the figure.

The head sculpt is very good, too. Indeed, it's a shame to cover the face with the compound-dispensing helmet (see below) as there's a superb level of detail here. Whether you'll actually like the facial sculpt depends entirely on your view of zombies in the Joe universe but even if you're not a fan you'll be impressed with the sheer level of detail in the tendons, pustules and ripped skin featured in the design.

This is a very cool sculpt.

The Zombie-Viper features a couple of additions over the regular GI Joe articulation rig, in the form of tilt-able wrist joints. These two extra joints make all the difference when posing him, as they allow you to recreate the cramped/spasming joint-twisting often seen in zombie movies perfectly. There's also a mid-forearm cut joint, although that's simply a serendipitous side-effect of the tendril feature (see Extras And Accessories.)

Sadly there's no rocker-joint ankle but with both wrists featuring tilt-joints, I can live without that.

If I had one major criticism of this figure it's that the design of the paintwork could be better. I'm not for one moment suggesting that the neon-blue Compound Z details should be replaced with blood red, as I know how much outcry that would have caused to parents buying this figure for their kids. I can handle the Compound Z colouring, even if it does seem a little off in places (such as the weird ''snot moustache.'') The thing I'm not a fan of is that the sculpt shows the Zombie-Viper with hair. As does the card art. It's disappointing then to see that the figure's paint design makes no attempt to colour the hair. It's a shame, as adding some black paint detail would have really made the figure pop and done wonders to enhance those exposed brains...

Take a look at this custom paint job by Stronox at The HISS Tank. Even looking past the skin recolour (which is excellent, BTW) notice how the painted hair really adds to the figure's look.

The actual app is good, though - hair issue aside - and there's a definite sense of dirty, dead nastiness about the figure thanks to the palette choice and the - surprisingly subtle - detail wash. Although why his left calf is so grubby compared to the rest of the figure is a mystery. And it's a minor point but if he's a Cobra Infantry trooper, shouldn't his uniform be blue?

Extras And Accessories
I've come to the conclusion that whoever wrote the card back doesn't really know much about zombies - or even this figure. The first point - and it's a minor one - is that the card file states that the Zombie-Viper is armed with ''barbed wire.'' Not so. Presumably the item was removed at the last minute before the figure went into production.

Secondly, the description of the Zombie-Viper states that they ''retained their skill at combat'' but there's not a single weapon included with the figure. That seems odd to me and makes me think that the writer simply wasn't briefed properly. 

Anyway... Let's take a look at what the Zombie-Viper actually does come with.

The pack features the figure sporting a removable harness, into which can be plugged the Compound Z canister, which connects to the helmet and feeds the Zombie-Viper the life - or unlife - giving chemicals that, presumably, keep him going. The helmet is probably one of the best-looking bits of headgear I've seen in a long time. The semi-transparent plastic and cool shape of the design are great and it's an unfortunate thing that the Zombie-Viper includes both a great head sculpt and a face-obscuring helmet...

The actual pieces fit together nicely, although it's odd that the harness and helmet both feature additional ports into which more canisters can be slotted. Presumably Hasbro originally intended to include more but later cut them.

The other accessories are the ''alternate tendril arms.'' These pieces (of which there are two) can be popped onto the below-the-elbow ''stump'' left when the ''normal'' forearms are removed. Part of me likes the idea of Compound Z being so powerful a mutagenic that it can literally twist flesh but I'm also a big fan of my zombies being old school. It also doesn't help that the tendrils are just a little too unusual to look effective - at least in my view. Yes, I know we're talking about the walking dead here but even I have credibility limits.

The other thing I'm not a fan of is the way they slot into place - or more specifically, how dangerous it feels when you're pulling the forearms from the elbow. It just feels as if something is going to snap-off as you do so. It's good that the forearms/tendrils are such a tight fit but at the same time, it does feel like you're breaking the toy whenever you try to switch them.

The Zombie-Viper also comes with his own base.

Final Thoughts
The Zombie-Viper is, overall, a technically very competent, well-produced and good-looking figure. The ragged, dirty look of the figure is superb, there's some nice articulation and the sculpt features some great detail. OK, so perhaps the paintwork isn't to everybody's tastes and it's a major oversight that they didn't paint his hair but beyond that there's little to criticise here.

I think the biggest influence on your buying decision is whether you think zombies have any place in the GI Joe universe. Personally I think creating an army of undead soldiers is exactly the sort of thing Cobra would try and although I'm not a fan of the official explanation about them being able to follow orders and retaining their combat skills, I still dig this figure. Like I say, to me it would seem more logical if the Zombie-Viper was a mistake and the Hazard-Viper's role was to try to contain the experiment-gone-wrong. That's my take and I'm sticking to it.

Minor origin quibbles and paint issues aside, though, this is a superb figure.

Sculpt and DesignA-
Extras and Accessories B+
Final ScoreA-

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  1. Replies
    1. Yeah, he's a very cool figure. A lot of fun to pose and play around with.


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