Review & pics by: Fred Meyer
G.I. Joe 50th Anniversary Heated Battle HEAT Viper
Someone at Hasbro obviously loves a good pun. When I think of a “heated battle” I don’t necessarily conjure up images of flame throwers and incendiary anti-armor weapons lobbing “hot death” across a battlefield. Yet, that is exactly what this 50th Anniversary two-pack- the “Heated Battle” is all about. It’s a pack that consists of two figures and much like the bride’s tradition before the wedding it has “something old and something new.” Or at least something quasi-new. So, before this introduction gets anymore tenuous, it’s time to take a look at the figures from the “Heated Battle” G.I. Joe 50th Anniversary two-pack that’s exclusive to Toys R Us and select online retailers.
This two-pack is comprised of two figures: Blowtorch and the HEAT Viper.
I’ll be honest-- I got out of the original A Real American Hero line in about 1987. As such, I wasn’t around for the “DiC era” characters and therefore have zero childhood nostalgia attached to them. Characters like the HEAT Viper, Frag Viper, Night Viper, and even the SAW Viper were all troops that I discovered as an adult collector. As such, they’ve always felt a bit “out of place” to me as a Joe fan considering that I grew up with a blue-clad Cobra. Yet, as odd as some of their appearances may seem there are some really interesting concepts in the latter half of the ARAH era.
I’ll say this-- whoever put together the design and deco for this figure did a pretty spot-on job replicating the look of the original HEAT Viper. To my eyes, this appears to be the 30th Airtight body with the addition of the same removable holster that was last seen on the Retaliation Joe Colton figure. (Or on the 2014 Joe Con exclusive 1:18 Code name: G.I. Joe figure!) The original 1989 HEAT Viper had a very simple overall design and these parts just work to recreate that original look. Of course, how hard can it be to replicate a simple orange jumpsuit with some purple piping on the seams, right? Apparently harder than one might think.
The 50th Anniversary line is already noteworthy for having some pretty shoddy quality control issues-- especially for a celebratory line produced by the #2 toymaker in the world. (Lego has officially passed them up. Something to think about.) For the HEAT Viper, the issues are confined to the purple piping that runs along the outer edge of the arms, down the center of the torso, and in the bands around the thighs. This figure body is amazingly detailed with lots of sculpted folds in the uniform. It would seem that whomever/whatever is responsible for painting these figures finds that sculpting detail challenging as the paint apps frequently don’t produce a solid stripe. Instead, the result is something that looks more like a “first pass” than a finished product as the paint frequently fails to cover the uneven surface of the figure. It covers the high points, but the sculpted folds are devoid of color. Poor form, Hasbro. Poor form.
There’s an odd dichotomy in the G.I. Joe fandom when it comes to new releases of classic characters. There’s one camp that wants to see vintage characters updated with a modern flair to be more representative of today’s military. Conversely there’s also a group that espouses the polar opposite and vehemently expresses displeasure every time a figure is released that isn’t a carbon copy of a design from the glory days of the A Real American Hero classic era from the 80’s and 90’s. The HEAT Viper is a figure that is going to give both ideologies some pause as it presents a near-classic sculpt with an altered color scheme. In 1989 the HEAT Viper was one of the few characters in the vintage that differed significantly from his card art. On the package, this tangerine-hued anti-armor trooper featured an asymmetrical pair of visors on each side of his helmet. However, the figure only had silver paint applications on the right hand side and instead featured a plug-in port on the unpainted left side. In reproducing and updating the HEAT Viper, the folks at Hasbro chose to base the figure on the card art instead of the production figure.
In terms of gear, Hasbro felt the need to recreate the original HEAT Viper’s kit-- at least after a fashion. Included with the figure are:
To me, this is where the wheels start to come off of this figure. I understand the desire to recreate the original figure’s kit and understand that due to cost issues the complete kit can’t always be replicated. However, I think it’s important that a figure not just come with gear but that the figures come with gear they can actually use. In this case, the HEAT Viper falls short. Remember the comments about the plug-in port on the helmet earlier? Well, this figure doesn’t have the port but he comes with the hose that is supposed to connect to it. Typically this might not be a problem as there are typically other places it could be plugged into-- such as a knob or other protuberance on a backpack. Yet the hose, like the FANG launcher, is molded out of a rubber plastic that is too soft to stay rigid but too flexible to stay bent. The result is a hose that just sort of hangs there with nowhere to go. When this launcher was released with the Cobra CLAWS back in the beginning of the G.I. Joe vs. Cobra line in 2001, the hose could just be coiled around the launcher and plugged into the second port on the weapon. (This is a legacy connection for a second hose from the 1989 version. Seriously-- it’s a wonder these troopers didn’t end up tangled up in a ball of wires back in the early 90’s.) Instead-- it just sits there… like a sculpted light gray lump and does nothing.
So, at the end of the day is the HEAT Viper worth getting? Honestly, it’s all going to depend on how much you like late 80’s/early 90’s DiC-era troop builders. The figure itself isn’t bad as the Airtight body offers a nice range of motion and poseability. For me, it’s the shoddy paint apps and the incomplete figure kit that keep me from becoming a convert to the Cult of Tangerine Anti-Armor Specialists. While I might not be as familiar with the character as some who grew up with him, I find that negatives in the figure’s execution don’t do anything to further my own acceptance of a rather unusual figure design. As evidenced by the peg and half of the Heated Battle two-packs gathering dust at my local Toys R Us, I’m not alone in finding this figure (and this two-pack) to be the most disposable of the 50th Anniversary line. The HEAT Viper is one of those figures that reminds of Captain Kirk’s line to Khan Noonian Singh in the classic “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”:
“You managed to kill everyone else but like a poor marksman you keep missing the target.”
For me, this anti-armor specialist with his 90’s aesthetic is just that-- a shot that missed the target. Whereas the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club’s updates of figures like the SAW Viper and Frag Viper have given me a new appreciation of some later troopers, this one just falls short. Of course, that’s just one Joe fan’s opinion.
The Bottom Line: Shoddy paint QC and an incomplete weapons kit keep me from seeing this an essential addition to any G.I. Joe collection. Unless you’re a DiC-era fan, this one’s a pass.
Questions? Comments? Think he should be called the Tangerine Viper?
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