The fourth and final figure set of the G.I. JOE COLLECTORS' CLUB exclusive series of G.I. Joe figures: OPERATION FLAMING M.O.T.H., has finally arrived!
Following the first Jungle Set, which featured a Night-Viper and a Frag- Viper; the Desert Set, which featured a Range-Viper and a Flak-Viper; and the Pacific Theater Set, which featured Shipwreck and Chuckles, it's no great surprise that the final set is an Arctic Set, and includes the Cobra Snow Serpent Commander, and a Cobra Ice-Viper.
Let's consider these figures individually.
SNOW SERPENT COMMANDER: The Snow Serpents are Cobra's main polar-based troopers. It's interesting to note that, for all of the arctic specialists that the G.I. Joe Team has fielded over the years -- Snow Job, Frostbite, Iceberg, Sub-Zero, Windchill, Blizzard, and quite a few others, and given Hasbro's own admission that arctic-based toys always sold very well in G.I. Joe (which is why there were more of them than of desert or jungle-based figures), Cobra never really expanded their ranks of polar troopers beyond the Snow Serpents and the Ice-Vipers.
That's not to say that there wasn't more than one version of the Snow Serpent over the years. Although the Ice-Viper was relegated to one use, the Cobra Snow Serpent forces continued to crop up here and there. The original version was released in 1985. A second version, a totally new figure, was produced in 1991, to a somewhat less enthusiastic response. This version of the Snow Serpent would actually receive an improved color scheme a year or so later as part of a mail-order offer, and would appear again in 1998 as part of the Cobra Polar Force three-pack, which included arctic versions of Firefly and the Night Creeper, which if anything showed just how few arctic troopers there indeed had been for Cobra over the years.
The Snow Serpent made it into the new-sculpt line, and was later redubbed the Snow Wolf when Dr. Mindbender started tinkering around with genetic engineering, but the original Snow Serpent figure never appeared beyond his 1985 debut. The headsculpt turned up as part of the Heli-Viper in the early 1990's, a very decent figure, especially since he was cobbled together from parts of the Snow-Serpent, Night-Viper, and Techno- Viper, but it did seem as though the original Snow Serpent was gone.
Until somehow, the G.I. Joe Collectors' Club managed to turn him up after over twenty years.
It's not hard to see why the original Snow Serpent has always been a well-received Cobra trooper among fans and collectors. The design is perfect. The figure looks like he's well-outfitted for the arctic, and there's no mistaking him for a good guy, either. The original 1985 Snow Serpent had a pale grey uniform, with a white furry collar and white fur sculpted around the gloves. The goggles, harness, belt, and boots of the figure were colored in dark "Cobra" blue, and if that wasn't enough to enlighten a person as to the allegiance of the character, there was a small Cobra insignia on the upper left arm. The figure wore a black mask covering his face. Early releases of the Cobra Snow Serpent painted the eyes on the mask in silver, but this practice was quickly dropped. It was one less spray application for the figure and presumably a mild money-saver.
The original Snow Serpent's uniform was clearly designed to look bulky and well-padded. Cobra didn't need its arctic troopers freezing to death on the frozen tundra, so the outfit appeared to offer good protection.
Although I've never been much of an accessory nut, it's certainly worth noting that the Snow Serpent came with a wide array of equipment, including a large backpack, a waist pack, and a pair of very well made snowshoes.
There's a lot of G.I. Joe collectors around that will tell you that 1985 was one of the best years for G.I. Joe. This is a hard point to argue. Along with such incredible items as the G.I. Joe Aircraft Carrier, 1985 also saw the release of some of the most impressive Cobra troopers, including the Crimson Guard, the original Cobra Eel, and the Cobra Snow Serpent.
So, I have to say, that it's very cool to have the original Snow Serpent back for a return performance, except this time, the figure is an individual, and he's the Snow Serpent Commander.
The molds are all the same as before, right down to the 1985 copyright date on the inside left leg. But the color scheme is quite different, and believe me, this guy looks like he's the commander of the Cobra Snow Serpent forces.
The uniform has been molded in a very stark white, and given some jagged, very effective-looking dark grey camouflage. The fur collar and the fur around the gloves has been colored dark tan. The harness, belt, and boots have been painted black. In a couple of additional levels of painted detail that the original Snow Serpent didn't receive, the straps running under the arm have been painted black, and the buckles on the harness and belt have been painted gold. Everything on this figure has been painted very neatly and with great precision.
The faceplate has been colored in dark "Cobra" blue this time, and the eyeslits have once again been painted, this time in gold, to match the goggles on the helmet. Overall, the color scheme of the figure has been very well thought-out and carried out. Of course, he has a Cobra insignia on his left upper arm, just as before.
And among the accessories -- the snowshoes are back!
So, precisely who is the Snow Serpent Commander? Here's his file card:
SNOW SERPENT COMMANDER
Cobra Polar Assault Leader - Operation Flaming M.O.T.H.
File Name: Egavas, Munroe B.
Primary Military Specialty: Arctic Operations
Secondary Military Specialty: Infantry
Birthplace: United States
Snow Serpents are Cobra's arctic specialists, a branch of the already highly-trained Eel (frogmen) division. They are screened for optimum strength, endurance, and motivation, and then subjected to a grueling and dangerous training program with over a 50 percent drop out rate. Skilled in every possible cold weather discipline, from airborne to artillery, their training is rigorous, and the environmental conditions are unforgiving. But as with most of Cobra's army, they are ultimately in it for the money - and no troops bring home more cold hard cash than Snow Serpents.
The Snow Serpent Commander is a formidable arctic fighter, mainly because of his exceedingly mean-tempered and nasty attitude. He has proven himself to be fearless in dangerous and often thankless assignments in the farthest corners of the globe. years of training and discipline have made him Cobra's premiere arctic environment combat specialist, a harsh taskmaster who does not hesitate in making things even more uncomfortable than they already are if it helps weed out the weak. It is this zero-tolerance attitude that led Cobra Commander to personally select him to lead an Ice-Viper on Operation Flaming M.O.T.H., in hopes of retrieving the final component of the fallen satellite before it is lost in the frozen wasteland forever.
"Lunch break? Maybe a few laps around the igloo in your underwear will quiet your whining!"
Okay, so he's not a very nice guy. He's a Cobra - what do you expect? But he's still a very impressive figure, and I know many fans will welcome this new version of the original Snow Serpent to command their troops! Now let's consider the other half of this set:
ICE-VIPER - The Cobra Ice-Viper, really the only other significant
arctic trooper in Cobra's ranks, was introduced in 1987, as the driver
of the Cobra Wolf, a somewhat peculiar-looking (but, so what else is
The Cobra Wolf, which technically stood for "Winter Operational Light Fighting" Vehicle -- was a medium-sized vehicle that had a two-person, front to back cockpit with canopy on the left side, and featured a missile rack and "ski-torpedoes" on the right. It was a wheeled vehicle, but it also had visible skis on the front and side. I'd be inclined to say that it was Cobra's best arctic vehicle. It wasn't terribly implausible, and it looked cool.
The original Ice-Viper was molded with a stark white uniform, with a dark grey helmet and collar, black belt, boots, and gloves, and a tan harness that ran over the figure's left shoulder and across his chest and back. This was an odd-looking part of the design, since the width of the harness varied rather considerable. It seemed to have snaps or rivets in it. Whether these were equipment pouches was never made clear. There were also diamond-shaped tan patches on the shoulders and upper legs.
There were two unusual attributes to the original Ice-Viper. First off was that, underneath the removable helmet, the figure was wearing a bright red ski mask. Although red was certainly a Cobra color, this was a rather glaring aspect to the overall uniform design.
The other unusual feature was among the figure's accessories. He came with two sais. This struck me as a little odd. It would seem to me that attempting martial arts combat in the deep snow of the arctic wouldn't be the best way to take on a foe. Maybe he used them to chip ice off the canopy of the Wolf? In any case, the sais did attach to small clips on the legs. Nice touch, even if it does seem unusual equipment for an arctic soldier.
Now, let's consider the modern Ice-Viper that comes with the Operation Flaming M.O.T.H. set.
As before, the uniform has been molded in a very stark white. The Cobra emblem is on the upper right of the shirt, just as it is on the original Ice-Viper. However, the figure has the same intricate, rather jagged dark grey camouflage of the Snow Serpent Commander. The gloves, boots, and belt are black, but the belt buckle is gold, not silver. and the fur on the boot tops is tan, not dark grey. Some tan trim has also been applied to the gloves. The fur collar has also changed from dark grey to tan.
The diamond patterns on the uniform have been painted black, and the formerly tan harness has now been done in Cobra blue. So has the ski mask, which is an immense improvement over the original. The helmet is white, which also looks impressive, and unlike its unpainted predecessor, the goggles have been painted with gold lenses, and the strap has been painted black.
I would also like to point out how neatly the eyes on the face have been painted. Although the original was nicely done, no complaints there whatsoever, the new Ice-Viper has tan eyebrows, black outlines around his eyes, with black pupils, and they even painted the whites of the eyes. This sort of precision isn't always easy, but it was carried out superbly well here.
Although this Ice-Viper obviously doesn't come with his Cobra Wolf, he does have some nice accessories, including spiked shoes that clip to his feet, in order to allow him to cross frozen areas more easily, and yes, he has his two sais. Interestingly, they were packed separately from the other accessories. Perhaps they were a little hard to track down?
The Ice-Viper's file card reads as follows:
Cobra Arctic Technician - Operation Flaming M.O.T.H.
File Name: Mehtal, Charles L.
Primary Military Specialty: Arctic Operations
Secondary Military Specialty: Transportation
Birthplace: United States
Ice-Vipers are the mechanized branch of Cobra's polar assault troops, specially trained to operate, service, and repair the fleet of various cold weather vehicles in hostile arctic environments. Because of the likelihood of mechanical weapons freezing, they are further trained in several martial arts as well as the use of exotic edged weapons. Unfortunately the cold climate causes most of their tools and weapons to freeze in mid-use and otherwise become unusable. Thus, the Ice-Vipers end up using their field-issue sais to scrape ice off the frozen parts of their vehicles, as well as battle opposing forces.
This ex-soldier was a born rebel who yearned for something other than his dead-end existence as an auto repair mechanic. He joined various militant groups looking for excitement until he finally found a home in Cobra. His natural talent for driving and maintaining virtually any vehicle led to his being assigned as Cobra Commander's personal driver and bodyguard during arctic operations. He can drive any tracked, articulated, all-terrain, amphibious and multi-use transport vehicle in even the harshest weather conditions. An expert at navigating normally impassable "black road" conditions, the Snow Serpent Commander has chosen him for the final mission of Operation: Flaming M.O.T.H., in a race against time to locate the last component of the military satellite.
"I am the wolf and you are the prey... let the hunt begin!"
Nice reference to the Wolf there -- sort of. I'd also like to make it clear that I had not read the file card prior to making my joke about using the sais to scrape ice off the canopy. And apparently these guys do receive training to use these weapons in the arctic. The explanation presented here in the file card makes abundant sense.
On the whole, this is a very cool set of G.I. Joe figures, and based on my observations, has attracted the attention of some collectors who weren't necessarily interested in the others. Of course, ANY and ALL of the Operation Flaming M.O.T.H. sets certainly have my highest recommendation! These are cool figures, bringing back some longtime favorites in proper traditional-style form, and indeed improving on some of them as well!
There's a vehicle in the works for this line. At this time of writing,
I have no idea what it is, or who its driver is, but I look forward
to reporting on it at some point. In the meantime, the OPERATION FLAMING
M.O.T.H. Set IV - Arctic Theater - definitely has my highest recommendation!