In early 2002, the infamous Wave V was released to select online retailers. This wave has one of the lowest production runs of any group of Joe figures and has become rather sought after. The most expensive pack from that wave is the Serpentor/Shock Viper pack. In an attempt to help out the large number of collectors who were either not able to acquire a Shock Viper at all, or just not amass enough of them, Hasbro decided to release a re-colored Shock Viper at retail in late 2002. While most will agree that this V2 is not as nice as the V1 figure, I have been strangely captivated by the V2 figure since I first acquired one and have found myself using it even more than I do the V1.
Technically, the Shock Viper is a Cobra flamethrower. However, as I've said in previous profiles, I have little use for human flamethrowers any more. The BATS take care of that duty, now. As such, I've had to find some other uses for the Shock Viper. While I had a specialty in mind for my V1 figures before they were even in my possession, I've found that this figure does not really fit into the role I've assigned for the V1 figure. Mostly, I use these guys as gunners or Cobra armour troopers. I've found they look nice in the turret of the Strike Hiss Tank. I also use them, from time to time, in place of Track Vipers at the helm of my original Hiss Tanks. I also, though, find myself just using these figures as common Cobra soldiers. Their look indicates they wear a bit more body armour than traditional Vipers that are used in my collection and that, to me, makes them the type of soldier who can be used in more dangerous environments. Their look is also not as familiar as that of the more traditional Cobra troopers and allows me some diversity in my Cobra ranks.
In the summer of 2002, at the annual Joe Convention, Hasbro first announced that the Shock Viper would be coming to retail. However, the figure they showed was a nice blend of black and grey and looked like a really different type of Cobra figure. For some reason, though, this color scheme was changed prior to release and the retail Shock Viper is a near-orange and copper concoction. I think that this color change really dampened some of the enthusiasm that awaited this figure and turned many collectors off to this version. One criticism of Hasbro's recent retail release army-building figures has been that the color schemes applied to them appear to be rather skimpy. This figure is cast in just 2 colors. That's the type of laziness that was indicative of the line in 1994. Personally, it seems to me that the lackadaisical color choices are a subliminal message sent by Hasbro. In '94, the lack of colors were indicative that Hasbro no longer cared about the line. Following that logic, it would seem that Hasbro really does not care about ARAH mold releases. The Viper, Alley Viper and vehicle driver releases have been poorly colored at best. What is more frustrating, though, is that figures like the Convention exclusives are highly detailed and show a more meticulous approach in their design. Hopefully, this trend was just a passing fad. However, the lack of paint detail on the 2003 Viper and Alley Viper seem to indicate the opposite. It is unfortunate that some otherwise nice figures are treated like second-hand citizens of the Joe world when we know that Hasbro is capable of so much more.
Aside from the two-tone coloring, the Shock Viper also fails in the accessory department. He comes with a copper, sound attack gun that is, essentially, useless as well as the Fast Blast Viper's gun. This weapon doesn't really fit this figure, either. Though, it can work in a pinch. I've mostly used various other weapons that are lying in my 2002 Joe drawer with this Shock Viper. If you have extras around, he also looks very nice with the 2001 Laser Viper accessories. Some work, others don't. You can see the diversity of weapons in my photos below. Mostly, my choice of accessories depends upon the role I've assigned for the figure at the time of use.
While this Shock Viper is more easily acquired than the V1, it also suffered from less than full retail saturation. For some reason, this figure was shortpacked in Wave 4 cases and, thusly, was less available than many collectors would have liked. Adding insult to injury is the fact that Hasbro was not able to ship all of their Wave 4 cases to retail. As such, a large number of them were bundled into "Value Packs" (which were 2 2-packs wrapped in a special package and sold for a lower price) that were only shipped to brick and mortar Toys R Us stores. Effectively, this raised the price point for many Shock Vipers and left collectors with a larger number of extra, unwanted figures if they wanted to army build this figure. The end result is that this figure isn't, exactly, all that common to find, either. His lack of overall popularity helps keep him affordable, though, and you can still pick up extra Shock Viper packs at a few online retailers. Personally, I like the figure enough to pick up a few more, but not enough that I'm going to spend any significant time looking for them. He is a neat addition to a collection, but not a Cobra army builder that I would deem imperative.
These Shock Vipers were decent. However, I would still like to see the grey version that was showcased at the 2002 Joe Convention in a retail release. Would you?