G. I. JOE Classified: Serpentor and Air Chariot by Hasbro

As someone who started playing with the Real American Hero toys back when the line was first released, I don’t think anything suitably prepared me for the bat-shit crazy rollercoaster that would envelop the toyline by 1986, when Serpentor arrived to take over the reigns of Cobra. Sure, Cobra Commander was portrayed as a buffoon in the Sunbow cartoon, but he sure looked the part of a serious terrorist leader in his smartly cut military uniform and terror mask. Silly snake lisp or not, he looked like a dude that you could take seriously. Then he got replaced by a freaking zombie-clone-military genius in a carnival snake suit, and somehow it all made sense. I’m sure part of it had to do with a bunch of Cobra agents getting so tired of being bested because of Cobra Commander’s hairbrained schemes, that they didn’t think they could do any worse. But a lot of it had to do with the way Serpentor was portrayed. Yes, he looked ridiculous in that suit, but he was so goddamn terrifying, that nobody was going to call him out on it. This was an undead warrior who could summon snakes and throw them like javelins. He was prone to rage, and not like the little tantrums that Cobra Commander had. When Cobra Commander got upset, he usually threw a chair into a TV monitor. When Serpentor got pissed, he seemed capable of twisting someone’s head off. And that’s why I love him and why I’m so excited to see him appear in the Classified line!

Unfortunately, Serpentor was released as a Pulse Exclusive, which I think was a pretty shitty idea on Hasbro’s part. Everyone was going to want this guy, and getting in on the pre-order was exactly the kind of white-knuckle affair that has been trying my toy collector patience as of late. Just the fact that he’s going for twice the retail price since selling out is proof positive that Hasbro needs to rethink its distribution strategy. But, with all that having been said… Boy did Hasbro go all out on the packaging here. There’s a corner-slipcase that slides off to reveal what looks like the Cobra Lab that engineered this big baddie, as well as the garage where his Air Chariot was built. Open up the slick hybrid DNA-Cobra Insignia and you reveal the figure and some cases containing his accessories. Pull out the entire tray and you reveal the unassembled Air Chariot. It’s some absolutely wonderful presentation that looks like a Convention Exclusive, and the character art absolutely kicks ass. Let’s start with a look at the figure first, and then we’ll check out the Air Chariot. Buckle in, Snakelings, this will be a long one!

And… Wow, what a gorgeous figure! I’m pleased to report that Classified Serpentor doesn’t deviate from his original vintage toy design. Indeed, this is a pitch-perfect update, which captures all the beautiful eccentricity of the snake suit we first saw way back when, only with a lot more detail and realism added to the sculpt. The scaly copper suit features a golden snake belly running up the chest, and a similar motif down on the boots. Green armor plates are added to the knees and thighs, as well as scaled green fingerless gauntlets on his forearms. His belt is a snake wrapped around his waist, with the centered snake’s head looking out with the most adorable little expression, which I will have to admit is kind of unintentionally hilarious. DOES ANYONE ELSE FEEL LIKE A HAVING A LITTLE CHORTLE WHEN THEY GAZE UPON MY CUTESY SNAKE FACE BELTBUCKLE??? SIR, NO SIR! Similar green snakes touch tails at the center of his chest and coil under his arms, and up around the tops of his shoulders. The ensemble is punctuated with a green cloth cape, complete with a quilted scale pattern. Classified Serpentor definitely takes this ridiculous design and absolutely owns it. This guy looks like the worst combination of crazy and terrifying, just like a proper undead snake emperor should be. As far as the suit is concerned, Hasbro nailed it and I wouldn’t change a thing!

Hasbro did something rather interesting with the portrait, which I didn’t know about until opening the figure. He comes out of the box with a fixed cobra headdress, which prevents any neck articulation, as it essentially fuses his head to his upper back. I’m not sure this was entirely necessary, as I think the alternative that we’ll see in a bit is every bit as good, but I guess it’s nice to have options. Either way, the sculpt is fabulous with some lovely detail in the Cobra hood, and the way the snake’s mouth opens to frame Serpentor’s face. And what a face it is! Serpentor looks like he’s eternally cross with whoever happens to be in front of him. He has a dour scowl on his face and narrowing red eyes. Hot damn, this is an impressive sculpt, only brought down a few pegs by the pudgy snake fangs that dangle in front of his brow. Yeah, those could have been done better, but that’s literally the only thing I can find to nitpick with this figure so far.

To swap heads, the cobra hood and top of the snake head comes off as one piece and gets replaced as two. Thus, Serpentor’s head is no longer attached to the hood and can articulate freely. Again, I think this looks fine, and I can’t imagine ever again bothering with the other pieces. The face sculpt is the same, and to be honest, had Hasbro not included the fixed style headdress, I wouldn’t have missed it at all. All things being equal, I would rather have had a shouty angry face to swap out instead of the fused snake hood. Onward to the accessories!

First off, Serpentor comes with his extendable blades on his right arm, although they aren’t actually extendable, but rather create the illusion with two different pieces: One with blades retracted, and one with them extended. These simply tab into a slot in the arm. I remember my original figure having a sculpted silver thing on that arm, but I’m not sure I knew that’s what it was. It’s a cool weapon, but even the retracted piece is a bit cumbersome. I would have liked to have had a plain plug to pop into the socket as well.

Hey, remember in the cartoon when Serpentor would grab one of the snakes off his shoulder, make a javelin out of it and impale his enemies with it? Well, here you get one of those snake javelins! Can you imagine working at a place where your boss throws living snake harpoons at you when you don’t perform effectively? Yeah, no thanks!

Next up is this rather regal looking Cobra scepter. Because wearing an entire snake suit doesn’t quite drive the point home enough, right? This comes across as a bit much to me, and I may wind up giving it to Cobra Commander. It is a nice piece, though. I appreciate that Hasbro even painted the rubies at the base of the shaft.

How about a short sword? This bitchin piece of cutlery has a funky, futuristic-style silver blade and a gold hilt with yet another Cobra head sculpted on it. I love the fact that Serpentor carries a sword around instead of a gun, no doubt a callback to all that historic warrior blood he’s gut pumping through his undead veins. I kind of get a little bit of a Roman Gladius vibe off of it. Pity he doesn’t have a scabbard or a loop or something to carry it. OK, so we got a snake javelin, a snake scepter, a snake-hilted sword… what’s left?

An goddamned snake, that’s what! This is kind of weird accessory, since it doesn’t seem like it’s really made to interact with Serpentor, so I guess you just put it by him. Maybe it’s a pet? Or a distant relative? Maybe it’s transformed Cobra Commander? It’s a damn fine sculpt and I sure don’t mind getting it in the box, but it might have been cooler to have it sculpted so that it could wrap around his arm or neck, or allow him to wear it in some way. But hey… Bonus snake! And that wraps up Serpentor’s plethora of accessories, so let’s move on to his rather iconic vehicle, The Air Chariot!

Part of me was not absolutely sure that we were going to get this vehicle when Serpentor was first teased, especially since we didn’t get Zartan’s Swamp Skier, and boy am I still bitter about that! But it’s hard to stay mad when I’m holding this absolute work of toy art in my hands! The Air Chariot is big and beefy and absolutely packed with detail, and a few cool little features. The bulk of the toy is cast in gold plastic, but you do get some beautiful gold and copper paint applications to pick out the detail and make it shine. There are some panel lines and hatches sculpted in the hull, and the bolted panels on the wings give it a bit of a retro WWII vibe. I also love the hazard warnings and other practical markings that really harken back to the stickers on the original RAH vehicles. All it’s missing is a couple dozen NOT A STEP signs. These little touches give this crazy design a grounded sense of realism that sells it wonderfully. The massive guns can articulate indepentently of one another, and can also be removed and wielded by The Cobra Emperor himself, should the Air Chariot get shot down and Serpentor has to make a last stand.

Some fun features include three retractable landing gear, and a VTOL engine that can spin, but only by flicking it. It doesn’t have a trigger mechanism or anything like that. The cobra’s mouth even opens to reveal a gun and folding fangs. I think the only thing missing is a clear flight stand. I don’t want to complain too much, because I really am absolutely in love with this toy, but not including a stand similar to what Hasbro gave to the Star Wars Black Series Speeder Bikes feels like a huge oversight.

Serpentor can mount his Chariot by using the foot pegs and grasping the steering column. It’s a perfect fit, and I imagine that he would stay put, even if I were to whoosh it around the room making pew pew noises and shouting THIS, I COMMAND! But I’m a 50yo dude, and I would never do that, so I can’t say for sure, riiight?

At $80, I confess that I balked at the price a little, even when I slammed that pre-order down, but from the moment I took this out of the shipping box I have been beyond impressed with what we got. From the first class packaging and presentation to the superb figure and the intricate detail on the Air Chariot, this set is an absolute winner and well worth the price to me. And seeing how well Hasbro executed the Air Chariot makes me excited for future prospects of the Trouble Bubble and perhaps the FANG. After coming off the high of reviewing Tomax and Xamot, and now this, I have to say that GI JOE Classified has been one of the most consistently impressive toy lines of this year. I’d say only Super7’s Ultimate ThunderCats have been given Classified a run for its money, and that may not be a fair comparison, since one is designed for retail and one is not. Which brings me back to the Pulse Exclusive thing. Hasbro, you gotta fix that and make Serpentor available as a wide release through online retailers. A figure this great, and a character this important, shouldn’t be hard to get.

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