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G.I.JOE: A Real American Hero
Valor VS Venom

Cobra Communications Specialist

Toy Review

By Mark Patraw

Manufacturer Information:
Pawtucket, Rhode Island


The Package:
This figure comes on a blister card, and a mighty small one at that (roughly 4 inches wide x 6 inches tall). Due to the size, they're relatively easy to miss on the pegs if you're not paying attention. The predominate color is green. The front of the card sports the G.I.JOE and Valor VS Venom logos, a comic book style portrait of the Tele-Viper, and a Cobra emblem in the background. The back of the package has the all-important file card, but no information about the other figures available. I should note that the UPC says it's worth 2 Battle Points, so that might be worth saving as well if Hasbro has any promotions you can use it with (which, I highly doubt, as the Valor VS Venom wave was discontinued some time ago--the copyright date on the package is 2004, and 2003 is stamped on the bottom of the figure's left foot). The Tele-Viper, and his accessories, are completely loose inside the transparent bubble, there's no twisty ties or anything else keeping them in place--rip the plastic prison off and you're good to go.

Who does Cobra Commander turn to when he needs a secure line to order a large pizza, with all of the fixings, at 3 A.M.? The Tele-Vipers, that's who. In case you were too lazy to read the file card image above, the Tele-Vipers perform the all-important role of handling Cobra's communications, as well as jamming the JOEs'--break the chain of command and you break your enemy. While this redesign is pretty close to the 80s original, I do prefer the larger helmeted head of the first Tele-Viper to this smaller, sleeker one (remember on the original cartoon, when text messages use to scroll across their visors--how cool was that?). While a lot of the body's sculpt is smooth, there are also some great small details such as the cobra insignias on the helmet and belt buckle, the diamond texture pattern on the upper vest, and the tiny wires/transmitters on the back of the helmet. Proportionately, his arms and hands seem to be a bit on the large side and his head a smidgen too small. The screws in his back and inner hips mar the appearance somewhat, but they're par for the course with Hasbro's 3-3/4" line of JOEs, and you can cover up the one in the back with his pack. Despite the cheap price, the paintwork is surprisingly solid and error free. While his uniform is predominately dark blue and purple, the orange shirt sleeves and a bit of gold and metallic blue on his belt, as well as his visor, supply some pizzazz. Strangely, his lower arms and hands are painted flesh tone, while the upper arms, the bits immediately below the shirt sleeves, are molded in flesh color--I wonder why? You would think it'd be cheaper to mold the lower arms in the same color, rather than paint them. In this age of hyper-articulation, the basic 3-3/4" G.I.JOE poseability isn't terribly impressive, but it still gets the job done. The Tele-Viper has: A rotating neck (I can't get any forward/backward movement out of it at all); rotating/swiveling ball-jointed shoulders; cut rotating biceps; pivoting peg-joint elbows; rotating/swiveling O-ring waist (for some reason, mine has a tendency to tip slightly to his left); rotating/swivel ball-jointed hips; and pivoting peg-joint knees. The elbow joints are a tad on the loose side, but the rest are nice and tight. He can stand on his own, although it can be a little tricky at times, given the relatively limited range of motion he has in his legs (ankle joints and/or ball-jointed knees, would have done a lot to alleviate that). His pre-posed hands are capable of holding both guns and the cell phone--I wish he had a holster, or some other means for attaching one of the guns, or the phone, to his body, because then he'd be able to hold all of his accessories at once (something I like my figures to be able to do), as it is, one of those three items must always remain loose.

The Tele-Viper comes with a generous assortment of gear. I was impressed with the number, considering the price point--Hasbro could have easily cheaped out here, but they didn't. The only things that he didn't come with, that I think would have been nice to have, are a video camera and a stand. I guess, in terms of accuracy, I should note that his file card says that Tele-Vipers use suppressed sub-machine guns and grenade launchers--while he does come with two guns, neither one of them matches those described (to be honest, I don't care--I'm happy he came with two guns period, regardless of their make). I'm also pleased to report that none of the items are warped or bent--the plastic used for them is fairly rigid.

- Shotgun. This is molded in black plastic. It's tricked out with a stock and a laser sight. The sculpt is quite detailed for something so small--there's little rivets, ridges on the pump action, etc.

- Silenced Pistol. Molded in black plastic. The silencer is thin and could be damaged fairly easily if you're not careful with it. Oddly, the area around the trigger isn't cut out, like it is on the shotgun. Nice sculpt on this one as well.

- Cell Phone. "Can you hear me now?"--sorry, couldn't resist. Molded in black plastic, this thing is really, really tiny. It's ridiculously easy to lose, so make sure you keep a close eye on it. While not the most exciting of accessories, it makes sense given the Tele-Viper's specialty (you can always use it as a detonator for a bomb or a remote starter for one of the vehicles in your Cobra motor pool too). The front has some sculpted details, but the back is entirely smooth except for a large "5" stamped into the back at the factory. My guess is that this secret code number stands for "Make five of these phones, because we're going to lose four of them before we get one into the package".

- Microphone. Molded in, you guessed it, black plastic. This plugs into the ear-hole in the right side of the Tele-Viper's helmet. It rotates once you have it in said socket, but, unfortunately, it pops out fairly easily while you're turning it (it stays in just fine if you're not moving it). This is another small item that's easy to lose, so take care.

- Backpack. Ah, nostalgia, this is the same backpack that came with the original Tele-Viper back in the 80s. It's molded in black plastic and the sculpt is fairly smooth and hi-tech looking. It attaches to the figure's back via a large, cross-shaped peg that goes into the screw hole. It doesn't go all the way in, and that's good, because you need some clearance room to accommodate the added width that the shoulder antenna creates on the body when it's attached. While they're pretty sturdy, it's possible to snap the peg off of G.I.JOE backpacks if you jam them in too tightly--I did it with a few of the ones I had when I was a kid--so don't go overboard.

- Shoulder Antenna. What's this, an accessory that isn't made from black plastic?--scandalous! This one is molded in dark blue and matches the color on the body pretty well, although it doesn't have quite as glossy a finish. The detail work is nice with all sorts of little electronic doodads, lines, rivets, etc., not to mention the long antenna sticking out from the top (mind you don't break this, as it's quite thin). It goes over his right shoulder and snaps into place via two small pegs that correspond to the two tiny holes on the front and back of his body. It stays in place pretty well too.

All this for two bucks? I was really hesitant about buying one of these solely because of the price. In fact, I passed on buying this Tele-Viper, not once, but twice, even though I was sorely tempted both times. Why? I figured, at two bucks, Hasbro must have cut some serious corners and that the quality of the figures would be horrid (I envisioned a figure that would be made from junk plastic and literally fall apart in my hands when I tried to pose it). I'm happy to say that I was completely wrong--this figure is every bit as good as the ones that Hasbro sold at higher price points in the past. Toy prices have gotten absolutely ridiculous as of late--if you like G.I.JOE figures, and you're on a budget, definitely consider these as an alternative to the newer, and more expensive, 25th Anniversary and Sigma 6 figures.

Final Analysis:

- Sweet price. You're getting a very good value here. Despite the low price tag, no corners were cut.
- Nice selection, and quantity, of accessories. Using the original Tele-Viper's backpack is a nice nod to the past.
- Fairly well articulated figure.
- Very clean/professional paint application.
- He belongs to Cobra; bad guys always score extra points with me. As a generic trooper, he also has army building potential.
- Small card saves space and is better for the environment. It also makes them easier to store if you're an MOC collector.

- Tiny accessories, while neat, are super easy to lose. I pity you if you drop that cell phone on a dark carpet where it will blend in.
- Some instructions wouldn't have hurt. It isn't hard to figure out, but I imagine some people, particularly those new to the character, could use some direction regarding the microphone and shoulder antenna.
- Purists may not care for the redesigned look. I prefer the larger, helmeted head of the original Tele-Viper to the smaller/sleeker design seen on this figure, but that's simply a matter of taste.

Where to Buy:
Family Dollar seems to be the only one still carrying the Valor VS Venom incarnation of G.I.JOE. Everybody else has moved on to Sigma 6 and the 25th Anniversary collections. In addition to this Tele-Viper, they also had Snake-Eyes (in ridiculous quantities, as per Hasbro's usual), Stalker, Dusty, Baroness, Storm Shadow, Night Creeper, and Desert Scorpion (or maybe his name was Sand Viper, I don't remember)--kind of a strange assortment of characters. The Tele-Viper seemed to have the most accessories out of the bunch, but everyone came with at least two items. Army building prospects don't seem good (unless, for some strange reason you want a Snake-Eyes army), as the generic Cobra troopers (Tele-Viper, Night Creeper, and the desert dude) were short packed. Of course, if you have more than one Family Dollar in your area, or people from other geographic locations willing to buy for you, then you can potentially meet your Cobra recruitment quotas.

For Parents:
Hasbro recommends this figure for ages 5 and up. The choking hazard is definitely a factor here, as there are some really small accessories. The antenna on the shoulder pad, and the silencer on the gun, are thin and would be relatively easy to break.


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