Recently, I have been re-reading the final 30 issues of the Marvel G.I. Joe comics from 1992 through 1995 This exercise has shown me a couple of things. First, those issues are largely as bad as I remember them. The stories and artwork are nowhere near the standards put forth on the G.I. Joe book from the earliest days of Kwinn, Dr. Venom and Scarface. Beyond that, though, you see the Hasbro influence coming through. While there were still many classic characters involved in the book during those final years, there was also a heavy emphasis on the new figures that were being sold at retail. In some cases, these substitutions worked well. In others, they seemed very forced. But, Hasbro's influence was at least a constant in the original Joe comic. What was most interesting to me, was the way that those comics still blended classic Cobra forces with many of the newer (and much brighter!) Cobras that were being sold at retail. Among these new Cobra army builders was the oddly menacing Cyber Viper.
I have looked at the Cyber Viper before...over nine years ago. In that time, my perception of them has not really changed. they are solid molds whose brightness is so bad, it makes the figure good. But, closer inspection of the mold in general shows that the designers created the figure with attention to detail and care that was common with the line's entire history. The head is incredibly intricate, even down to the mouth sculpted behind the bizarre face covering. The entire body mold features very subtle details that are lost in the lack of paint details. This is a figure that should be high on the list for customizers due to the potential it yields for repaints. But, the general obscurity and scarcity of the mold has likely prevented that.
The Cyber Viper is cast in neon green, yellow, red, flesh and grey. That combination should not work on any level. But, it does. There is something so off about the figure that it has a cachet. It clashes so badly that it works. Combined with a vehicle like the Detonator, the Cyber Viper is a decent contrast that stands out as a crewmember. The same is true in the Terrordrome. Cobra has always been a bit outlandish. So, having something so bright that it induces headaches would not be completely out of character...especially in the various hidden laboratories under Cobra's domain.
Cyber Vipers are, at their core, cyborgs. The head features electronics that connect directly to the character's brain through his skin. On some level, this is a bit too far fetched for the Joe line. (Though, really, more plausible than space aliens and zombies.) But, how far off are cybernetic human enhancements? We have seen glasses and watches and phones that can do things that were unimaginable in 1993. In another 10 years, it will be commonplace for people to have access to even better technology that is even more embedded in their body. The difference is that they won't wear outer casings like those of the Cyber Viper that advertise their enhancements. They will be subtle, nearly unnoticeable. But, the concept remains, basically, similar.
In the context of the Mega Marines concept, Cyber Vipers work rather well. They are somewhat sci-fi and colored in line with the other members of the subset. However, I like to see their role as much broader. The Cyber Vipers can be scientists, deranged troops who work with unholy, man made abominations or just technological troops who happen to wear bright uniforms. I find the general figure so nice that I come up with ways to integrate the Cyber Viper into as many situations as possible. On display, though, the Cyber Vipers find their best home as a crew of a Detonator. I have always associated the Cyber Viper and Detonator together. So, seeing them on display together seems just about perfect. It isn't a huge role. But, given the prominence of the Detonator in my collection, the figure is front and center more so that he would be for most collectors.
The Cyber Viper's accessory complement is nothing great, but also not terrible. The weapons are cast in a unique grey color which gives them a distinct visual appearance. Some of the actual weapons are appropriate as they are originally from the Toxo-Viper and Incinerator figures. The remaining weapons from Voltar and the Rock Viper, though, are generally useless. The Incinerator flamethrower is a weapon I've liked since my first encounter with it when I purchased my first Crimson Guard Commander figure. I see it as less a flamethrower and more a high tech rifle that Cobra gives to more specialized troopers. Within that context, I like the weapon. I've never been a fan of the Toxo-Viper's rifle. But, the link between Cyber Vipers and Toxo-Vipers is close enough in the tree of Cobra specialties that it's appearance is acceptable. (However, the figure is missing any backpack into which either of these weapons could plug. So, that diminishes them a bit.) The figure also includes the requisite neon green body armor, can of play-doh and bright yellow missile launcher that were hallmarks of both the Mega Marines subset and other figures from the time. The problem is that this surplus of gear makes tracking down complete Cyber Vipers somewhat more difficult. But, since the armor and launcher don't really add much to the figure for me, I'm willing to sacrifice completeness in order to acquire some additional army members.
There was a time that collectors despised the Cyber Viper and avoided them like the plague. In time, though, collectors grew to accept the neon years and figures like the Cyber Viper (which were produced in lower quantities than most of his contemporaries) started to dry up. Now, Cyber Vipers are actually somewhat pricey and can be difficult to track down. Mint and complete with filecard versions often sell for $22 or more. Carded figures can go as high as $40. For a figure that was basically worthless in the late 1990's, that's quite a change. But, the rarer nature and the camp appreciation that comes with a figure that is so terribly done have made the Cyber Viper among the more desirable neon heavy releases from the line's final years. I find myself guilty of liking them and have built my own army since the figure is so interesting to me. Granted, I don't know if I'd do that had each figure cost me as much as they do today. But, I am glad that more than one Cyber Viper calls my collection home.