G.I. Joe Spy Troops Exclusives - Python Patrol 6-Pack (Toys "R" Us)
Even as a kid, sub teams were not really my thing. I was always someone who rushed out and bought every figure I could find, even when I was young, and the fact that I had to buy the same figure many times over just to own a sub team really drove me crazy. Not only that, but I was constantly disappointed with the sub team repaints...they always seemed sub par to the originals, at least until Night Force came along.
Well, it became quickly evident earlier this year, with the release of the Collector's Edition Tiger Force set, that the prospect of repainted sub teams was not over yet. Hasbro still wanted it going strong. But that being said, I can also say I have a much different opinion of sub teams in general now.
While as a kid, I found it monotonous and expensive to have to buy all of these different versions of the same character, now I think some of the sub team themes are interesting, and provide a cool, different look for a character. The Toys 'R Us Exclusive Tiger Force set was not a set of figures that I could use, but the paint jobs were terrific! The color schemes bright and interesting, and the figures pretty neat. So, as an adult, I found a new appreciation for the themed sub teams, even though I couldn't really rationalize the existence of troopers who stormed the jungles in bright baby-blue and blinding yellow camouflage pants.
But how would my newfound appreciation affect these new Python Patrol figures? What could they do to impress me? I was barely a fan of the originals...the strange yellow and gray and oddly hued green figures really turned me off as a kid, and the notion of army building wasn't even in my young mind with a $15 per week allowance, so Python Patrol was a dead issue for me. How could Hasbro possibly pull it off with these new figures? What chance did they have of making an impact, colorful, yet USEFUL set? Well, they started strong by announcing the six figures...six figures whose molds really impressed me. Even before I saw the figures, the names brought back great memories. Everyone who reads my reviews and profiles knows of my love for obscure late 80's, early 90's molds, and that's what this set was. Not only that, but it was 5/6 army builders! Five COBRA Troopers and a seemingly cool version of Major Bludd for $20.00 seemed like a good deal...but how would they look? Strange and goofy like the originals? Bizarre, nonsensical paint jobs? Or even worse, would the figure names be swapped around with some other strange molds that weren't nearly as cool as the originals?
Well, when pictures finally surfaced, my fears weren't only diminished, they were stomped, mashed, and crushed. It became quickly evident and obvious that with this new Python Patrol set, I had absolutely nothing to worry about. I can tell you with complete honesty, that I haven't seen such a cool group of COBRAs together in several, several years. I'm going to take each figure step by step, then give my general opinion at the end. There are a LOT of pictures here, so please have patience and bear with me, especially if you're on dial up! :)
First on the chopping block is the Python Patrol's evident leader, Major Bludd. Now, I have no idea where Hasbro got the idea to throw the Battle Corps Bludd's head on Sonic Fighter Zap's body, but whoever did it deserves some high recognition. These pieces and parts flow together like they were meant to be. I've always hated the Battle Corps Bludd, which is unusual, because I love most Battle Corps figures, but the Major Bludd was just blocky, strangely colored and really didn't work for me as the character he was supposed to represent. But his head here gives new life to the character, especially combined with that awesome early 90's Zap mold.
The figure is sleek, yet tough. He has a great range of movement, yet doesn't look skimpy. While one must always question the motive behind strapping four rockets to your chest, on this figure, everything just works...it just flows right. The detailing on the pads on the legs...the elbow high padded gloves. Those cool metal trims on the calves all work really well together and bring the lower mold and the head into one cohesive character and figure. What really works to top this figure off (in the figurative and literal sense), is his helmet. A lightly spiked gold plate on top of a greatly designed helmet and cool cybernetic eyepiece really show off what was once a horrible figure.
But everything on this figure is only as effective as the color scheme used, since the colors are such an implicit part of a sub team in general, or the Python Patrol particularly. Hasbro could not have made a better choice. The crosshatch pattern is a trademark of these stealth-suited COBRAs, so that part of it was necessity. Well, on Bludd, it looks like it belongs there. The black base and light crimson striping work seamlessly together, and the small touches of red trim on his collar and belt are perfect. From the menacing scowl on his face to the straps of shells on his right shoulder, to the intricate, and very cool Python Patrol patch on his left shoulder, this figure is a terrific one, and a well-suited leader for COBRA's newest, and best, sub team
But, unfortunately, not even the amazing Python Patrol can be absolutely perfect. With all of these awesome paint applications throughout most of the figures, someone had to take one for the team. That someone was S.A.W. Viper. To be brutally honest, this decision really doesn't bother me a whole lot, since the S.A.W. Viper mold is my least favorite mold of the pack, and probably my least favorite COBRA Trooper mold from the '90 series. He seems skinny, awkward and not nearly as threatening as his specialty should indicate. Guess what? He's even less threatening in this new pink uniform! :)
I honestly think that Hasbro's budget was probably running a little dry and they needed to make a cut, so the S.A.W. Viper ended up being a more solid hue than his comrades. It looks like they went for the same color they used for the red striping, but in such large amounts, it just does not work. He's bright, loud, and just kind of strange looking. Hasbro did an all right job trying to salvage a little out of the color choices by giving him some Python Pattern underneath the garish pink and gold uniform, but it still does not work very well. Perhaps if it had been a darker, duller red, it might have worked, but as was said in the Python Patrol review on TNT's Webcamp, this guy looks more like the gunner for the Fuchsia Strike Team than the feared and insidious Python Patrol.
Not only that, but his weapons are darn near impos-sible to use. His gun is overly huge and ak-ward, and the machine gun belt has no chance of hooking properly from the weapon to the backpack, which doesn't really matter, since the S.A.W. Viper simply cannot even hold his weapon. This is an issue carried over from the original figure, but it's just as irritating now as it was 13 years ago. Overall, this is probably one of the more forgettable repaints, and amongst these other figures, which are so amazingly done, he unfortunately sticks out as even more of a sore thumb. It is too bad, but as I said, the S.A.W. isn't one of my favorites anyway, so there's no love lost as it is.
Next up in line is the Laser Viper. Like the S.A.W., L-V was never one of my favorites as a kid. I'm not sure what it is about the COBRA Troopers that came out in 1990, but they appear flimsy and somewhat dull. Or at least these two figures did to me. But this new version has really brought the mold alive to me. The old gray and blue version does not knock my socks off. His bland colors mix with a bland mold and just make him a background character. But with this flashy new Python paint job, this figure has a LOT more potential for me and is a figure that really makes an impression.
The Laser-Viper's mold is a simple one. There really isn't much there. A slim build without an abundance of detail, but what detail is there works very well. That odd chest plate and shoulder straps combination adds some nice zip, and the little touches like the pouches on the belt add even more. His helmet is very cool and fits nicely, making the Laser-Viper look threatening as well as functional. Yet even without the helmet, the traditional COBRA mask lives on here and looks great.
But all of this is only amplified by this great new color scheme Hasbro was worked up. The black and red works wonders on this mold, and is supplemented nicely by the gold trim. It all fits together perfectly, especially with the thigh high black boots and long gloves. While this figure doesn't blow me out of the water like Major Bludd or some of the others, he is a great, solid COBRA figure and a nice addition to the Python Patrol. Combine that with his cool laser weapon backpack and you've got an awesome faceless legion of COBRA.
So, the Laser Viper didn't really wow me...but who's next? Lamprey, the oldest mold of the Python Patrol set makes an appearance here, only two years after his return in the Real American Hero collection. And to tell the truth, Lamprey never did a thing for me until he appeared in the driver's seat of the COBRA Man Of War. As a kid, this figure just was sort of filler to me...he didn't do anything, he never really served much purpose, even though I had a Moray Hydrofoil for him to drive. He is but one of many, many figure who I've gained a new appreciation of in my later years. :)
The mold is his first very strong suit. Even though he originally came out in 1985/86, his bulky, solid mold fits right in with the newer figures in this set. Like Laser-Viper, there isn't a whole lot of extraneous detail in the mold, but this figure doesn't need it. He's wearing some kind of rubberized wetsuit, with pouches on his shoulders and nicely adorned zippered boots and gloves. His trademark life vest is hued in gold, and while it's not a very realistic paint scheme, it works on this figure. As with Major Bludd and Laser-Viper, the Pythonized paint job really shines with this figure and makes him even cooler then he would have originally been. The dark black paint job with the nicely placed red cross-hatching makes this mold shine even more. Even though he is an older figure, this paint and the mold's very design makes him integrate flawlessly with the other figures in this set, and he fits right in with the rest of his pack-mates.
Anyone whose read my profiles of past figures on this very site know that I am a fan of the original HEAT Viper. His bulky, muscular, well-detailed mold really shined through as a highlight of the 1989 series (which had a LOT of highlights) even though his bright and odd colors were a drawback. Then, in 2001, we got the Fast Blast Viper, who took that terrific HEAT Viper mold, changed the head, and made him a totally different and terrific new trooper. Now, we're back where we started in '89, with the trusty, trademark HEAT Viper helmet back, and with one of my favorite troops in one of my favorite new exclusive sets. Where could it go wrong?
Simply said...it doesn't. This figure takes everything that was cool with the 1989 figure and improves it. The layered body suit mold is amazing in black and gold (rather than, say...yellow and purple...), and the different color trims Hasbro has thrown in there do nothing but improve on it. Those great full length leg-pads in black, with the gold plated boots...the gold gloves and vest...the Python pattern is just all of the right places. This figure is GREAT. All of those little additions are only exemplified by the intricate silver trim here and there, and the mesmerizing red cross-patterns throughout. This is a classic example of what Hasbro was capable of only a few short years after what many fans consider their "heyday". You don't need to look any farther than this figure and the other COBRA Troopers from that timeframe to prove this common theory wrong. And if anyone doubts that Hasbro cares about their fans, or that Hasbro is capable of making good figures now, in the 21st Century, well I challenge you to pick up this set and continue that argument.
So, have you had enough gushing yet? I hope not, because it's not over. :)
I've always been a HUGE fan of the Rock Viper. Where other 1990 COBRA Troops fell off the radar, Rock Viper simply shined. He was bulkier than his comrades of that year...had a more elaborate mold, with greater detail, and an absolutely awesome compliment of accessories. Guess what? Thirteen years later, released in this set, all of the same facts hold true.
Back then, Rock Viper was cool, because to me, as a kid, he had a really definable purpose. He was a mountain trooper, and he really looked the part. His grappling hook backpack, huge rifle (which fit in the backpack for those treks that required both hands!) and he was the bane of Alpine and Hit & Run's existence even in my younger years. But whatever I appreciated about him as a kid has only grown as an adult. I now own 5 Rock Vipers and I'm glad that I do, because as cool as they are, they are even greater in groups!
When the "Rock Viper" was announced as part of the Python Patrol set, I was a little concerned. After all, they had released a Rock Viper only a couple of years previously, but instead of the traditional R-V mold I knew and loved, it used the Range Viper mold instead. Granted, the Range Viper was always a very cool mold as well, but just never hit me as much as the actual Rock Viper mold did. So, suffice it to say, when pictures were finally released, I was quite pleased to see an actual Rock Viper in the set...and not only that, but the Rock Viper looks GREAT. His black and red body suit is worlds better than his tan and brown of the older days. His chest pad is still black, but now outlined in a great gold trim (with nice brass bullets across it) it stands out even more. As a matter of fact, all of the great details of this mold are only exemplified by the gold trimming, contrasting brightly on the darker backgrounds. His forearm and shin guards...a trio of rockets for his rifle on his right thigh, with a nice short knife on his left. A terrific gold helmet w/ red goggles and the ever-present padding everywhere. Wow, what a great figure.
The Python Patrol set encompasses everything that is great about Hasbro's new GI Joe philosophy regarding repainting the old figures. Take some obscure, but solid molds, apply some free thinking and interesting paint schemes, and unleash the potential of a terrific classic figure who may have been cool back in the day, or may not have been. The fact that the big "H" went through the trouble to model these new figures after the awesome classic Python Patrol vehicle scheme shows just what they can do to nod their heads to older fans, while bringing something new and exciting to the market as well. It may see like I'm going a little over the top, but this set really knocked my socks off, and I'm thrilled that we can get great caliber classic repaints like this, while also getting some great new figures as well.
As individual figures, most of these work well...as part of the larger whole, they come together in a fantastic manner, bringing out the best in each mold, all the while sporting incredibly intricate, interesting new color schemes. Odd colors for sure, but they work.
I've been impressed with the quality of the Hasbro exclusives as of late, but had been less than impressed with their functionality. While they all seemed to be great display pieces, there weren't a whole lot of figures there that I could find a use for. Well, the Python Patrol I can definitely find a use for! Their strange colors and uniform patterns have a rock-solid explanation, and the cool-as-heck molds used only increase the play value of these guys. You can fully expect to see the Python Patrol appearing in Dio-Stories very soon. Nicely done, Hasbro...now, let's keep it up with the upcoming Night Force! :)
Huge thanks to Sentinel of Joe Sightings for snagging me this pack from his local TRU, and here are a LOT more pics of my Python Patrol team in action:
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