I will admit that I was not always high on the '97 Joes. In fact, I didn't buy any of them except for the Star And Stripes set because I felt they weren't worth the $9.99 retail cost. I have, though, taken to a couple of figures from that Star And Stripes set, the aforeprofiled Stalker and Snake Eyes. Aside from those two, though, there was not another '97 figure that I had who I liked, or another that I wanted. As the years have passed, though, I've become a completist and wanted to fill in those missing holes in '97. This process has proven incredibly frustrating as '97 Joes were almost non-existent on the second hand market. The few you could find were to overpriced that I couldn't justify them. Since there was still no one figure that I really wanted, I just kept putting their purchase off. A couple of months ago, though, I was reading General Hawk's fabulous dio-story Power Struggle and saw where he made the '97 Alley Viper a key player in one episode. That piqued my curiosity and I started searching for a '97 Alley Viper. Just recently, though, I've got lucky and hit upon a couple of great stashes of '97 figures. One of these included my much sought after Alley Viper.
I've been wanting to profile an Alley Viper. All versions of him are just great. The original, though, is a very renowned figure that sees lots of use in most people's collections. He just didn't fit the normal definition of a Forgotten Figure. The '93 version of the Alley Viper is also very nice. The yellow and black color scheme along with the updated, scarier face mask make this guy an almost better figure than the original. However, my lone '93 suffers from severe paint wear. Because of that, I was trying to upgrade my figure before he appeared here. (Strangely enough, the lot in which I acquired the '97 Alley Viper also included an excellent '93 Alley Viper as well. Oh, well. He still may appear here one day.) The '94 Alley Viper is one that most people don't even know about and would have been a logical choice to appear here. Since I don't own one, though, I had to wait for him as well. I had never really given the '97 Alley Viper any thought as I didn't think I was going to get one for a long time. He is, though, now my favorite version of the character and one that I wish I could amass as easily as I do the '89's.
The primary thing about this version of the Alley Viper is his color scheme. While the original versions of the Alley Viper all featured bright yellow or orange (which worked with them), this guy offered us Cobra blue as his primary color. What makes this so surprising is that the other figures that came out in '97 were usually in truly terrible color choices. The fact that they got this guy so right is really out of place. The blue, black, and white allow this guy to mingle with other Cobra Troopers and not stand out. He also features the updated face mask. For me, this is what makes the figure. These masks impart the type of fear that would make a unit of urban commandos too fearsome. I always imagined Alley Vipers as the guys who came in the middle of the night and just took over small towns in rural America. They are big, strong, and designed to look like they mean business. If this uniform wouldn't portray that message, then I don't know what would.
There is only one drawback to this version of the Alley Viper: his gun. The original Alley Viper gun that came with the '89 and '93 version is one of my all time favorites. All my Alley Vipers carry it, as do my armies of '92 and '93 Headhunters. Alas, though, this guy does include that great weapon. Instead, he comes with a black version of the original Dial Tone's weapon. It is okay, but just doesn't do the figure justice. As my available Joes are limited right now, I only had a couple of weapons with which to outfit this guy. The one I chose is the rifle from Red Star. This rifle seems to fit a Cobra character much better. The size and design of the weapon also seem to fit with this Alley Viper. The weapon I turned to because of necessity will now be this guy's permanent gun. While it is hard to see against the dark background, it is the gun the figure in the picture below is holding. It just goes to show, though, that a good, though poorly accessorized, figure can always be made better by a quick trip to your weapon reserves.
Lately, 1997's have become a bit easier to find. That still doesn't mean they won't cost you, it just means you can actually buy them on the second hand market. Alley Vipers, though, aren't too expensive. Mint and complete, they sell for around $15. Considering how few of them were actually separated from their Rage, that's not too bad. (One other thing to consider. Back in '97, many of these guys were stolen right out of the Rage box. If you find someone who has a whole bunch of loose, incomplete '97 Alley Vipers and no Rages or anything else to back them up, chances are you might be buying stolen property. Just something to think about.) I've currently got just the one of these guys, but have a pending deal to acquire another. Frankly, I probably wouldn't stop until I've got about 12 of these guys. They just work great as army builders who blend in with other, more subtly colored Cobra forces. Since I'm not alone in this thinking, though, I don't expect it will be easy to find these guys in any numbers for several more years. Still, I'm taking advantage of any opportunities I have to pick any of these guys up. They are a great addition to your collection and will certainly be worth their current price.
I like this guy. I know there are many people out there who claim not to. If you are serious in disliking this guy, email me. I'm pretty sure I can take them off of your hands.