Hello there. It’s nice to see you again.
This review was supposed to be part of ‘Childhood Favorites Month,’ which I did last November. I took most of these photos at the beginning of last month and was planning to write the review then, along with three others. But that didn’t happen for various reasons. I’m still having a bit of a hard time.
So, let’s just say this is a ‘Childhood Favorites Month’ review in spirit, as this was a childhood favorite. Sure, the 2002 Cobra Mantis Sub wasn’t released in the 90s, but I was still technically a child when I bought it in 2002. 2002 was the year I graduated from high school, so I would have been 17 when I purchased this toy. Not yet a legal adult. And boy oh boy did I love this toy back then.
This is also the first time I’m reviewing a vehicle and its included driver at the same time, so you’ll have to forgive me if I’m still finding my footing with the whole thing. This is a more “gallery” style review, much like the more recent vehicle profiles I’ve featured on this website. I want to show it from every angle, and the photo gallery format seems to be the best at facilitating that approach.
So let’s dive in. Here’s the 2002 GI Joe Cobra Mantis Sub along with its driver, the 2002 Moray v2.
2002 GI Joe Cobra Mantis Sub: Entrance and Exit
I was pretty much all-in on the early 2000s GI Joe Vs. Cobra toy line. Ever since I saw a featured article in ToyFare magazine hyping up the toys, I couldn’t wait. In hindsight, it’s a weird one– Hasbro reduced GI Joe’s famed standard articulation, removed the figures’ o-ring construction, tweaked the figures’ proportions, and hoped it would be a success. The figures themselves ended up resembling post-o-ring Corps! figures and were not super popular with kids or long-time fans. Soon enough, Hasbro would bring back the o-ring.
The vehicles for the line were interesting. They were mostly straight up re-releases of older Joe vehicles with added missile launchers. If you never had the original releases of those vehicles, it was a fun time to find them in stores and bring them home. At the time, it felt fun and exciting.
I got the 2002 GI Joe Cobra Mantis Sub the second I saw it at my hometown Toys R Us. I figured it would go perfectly with some of my old figures, the new (at the time) Wet-Suit vs. Moray 2-pack, and the BJs 8-pack Wet-Suit and Undertow. It featured heavily in a lot of the GI Joe adventures I had in my late teens, most of which revolved around some sort of underwater conflict.
I loved the sleek design and striking colors of the Mantis, and I loved that it could hold two figures at a time. Frankly, I had a blast with the thing.
Then, sometime in the late 2000s, I sold all of my JvC, Spy Troops, and Valor Vs. Venom stuff to make room for 25th Anniversary toys. I don’t really regret that decision, but I have missed the Mantis since then. And I’ve wanted one since. Finally, thanks to the Crymzon Idol on Instagram, I got another boxed Mantis Sub last month.
I’ve been looking forward to reviewing it, even though I apparently took my sweet time. Oh well!
2002 GI Joe Cobra Mantis Sub Gallery and Review
The Cobra Mantis Sub was released in 2002 as part of the GI Joe vs. Cobra line. Unlike the Brawler, Rock Slide, and Dominator, it was not a re-released older vehicle with some new parts. Nor was it a completely new vehicle like the HISS IV or FANG III. Instead, it had its origins in another toy line entirely.
The Mantis was originally released in 1996 as the Quest Porpoise, part of Galoob’s Jonny Quest line, based on the Real Adventures of Jonny Quest animated series. I really liked that show at the time, but I didn’t pay any attention to the toys. So I had no idea this was originally a Jonny Quest toy until much later in life when the internet informed me otherwise. Hasbro owned Galoob by 2002, which meant they could use Galoob’s hard work for their own ends whenever they pleased. You can read more about the Jonny Quest line at YoJoe.com and Figure Realm.
Hence, we got the 2002 GI Joe Cobra Mantis Sub.
Here’s the boxed toy (you can click each image to see a larger version):
Though they’re not among the best package designs from the entire GI Joe line, I like the way boxed GI Joe Vs. Cobra vehicles look. The black box with plate-metal texture makes the bright colors, comic book-style artwork, and toy photos really pop. The box itself is nice to look at.
If you peep the back of the box, you’ll notice it doesn’t call out the toy’s spinning propeller action, but it does call out a weapon storage compartment that doesn’t actually exist. Sure, you can throw some weapons in the cockpit’s back seat, but I don’t think that’s what the box is getting at. We’ll probably never know.
Here are the box’s contents, including stickers, instructions, the figure, and all of the vehicle’s parts:
The stickers on this thing are terrible. They’re low quality, and the “rusted metal” aesthetic they’re going for really detracts from the sub’s overall appearance. I chose to only add the Cobra logo, which still doesn’t look amazing.
The blueprints and instructions are nice and do actually call out all of the toy’s actual features.
Putting the toy together is very fun! It really felt like putting together an old school GI Joe vehicle from the 80s or 90s. There are enough fun, separate parts that it gives that GI Joe vehicle feeling, even though it was originally a Jonny Quest vehicle. Everything fits together nicely and stays on like it should.
But before we get to the vehicle itself, let’s take a look at the included driver– Moray version 2 from 2002.
Moray v2 is a repaint of the Cobra Moray that came out the same year, which was available in a 2-pack with a newly sculpted version of Wet-Suit. I’ve always really liked both that version of Moray and Wet-Suit– the designs and sculpts on both figures are excellent, as is their overall coloring. They came with cool accessories, too.
This blue version of Moray doesn’t have any accessories, but it does look nice. The sculpt is fantastic and looks like a very credible diver who just happens to be oozing with Cobra-brand menace. Sure, the figure has the same name as a boat that came out in the 1980s, but very few kids getting GI Joe toys in 2002 were going to know or care about that.
I really like the colors on this figure. The shade of blue doesn’t exactly match the vehicle, but it complements it quite nicely. The breathing gear also looks cool, and the silver highlights pop in a pleasantly eye-catching way.
Here it is alongside its non-driver predeccessor:
The original Moray looks more intimidating than the vehicle driver version. While this driver version is cool, he just doesn’t quite measure up to the original. It’s a shame these figures never quite got the o-ring retrofitting, as I think they would have been popular offerings if they had.
The original Moray kind of looks like a Cobra TIE Fighter pilot, which is very fun. But since the vehicle driver uses the same mold, he kind of looks like an aquatic TIE Fighter pilot and looks excellent inside the Mantis’ cockpit.
Just for fun, here’s the 2002 Cobra Moray v2 alongside some 80s, 90s, and 00s Cobra aquatic forces.
Despite some differences in proportions and construction, he looks really good with almost all of them. I find he fits in particularly well with the ARACH-era Lampreys, Sub-Vipers, and Undertows.
Moray v2 is a figure I really like, but he’s not great for much other than his role as the Mantis’ pilot. You’ll see how he looks inside the sub soon enough, but first let’s look at the submarine itself.
The Mantis looks sleek and deadly. It’s fairly realistic in some ways, but it also works very easily as a more fantastical Cobra design. The dark blue and black color scheme works very well with the sort of abstract silver netting paint deco. Hasbro really didn’t skimp on the deco with this one, even if it is relatively simple.
The Mantis is absolutely packed with details, too– rotors on the stabilizer fins, antennas, spotlights, the main propeller housing, the segmented cockpit, and on and on. It’s just a pleasure to hold and look at.
The toy itself feels very sturdy, too. This thing could easily survive a kid in a bathtub, in a pool, or in the back yard with a puddle and a garden hose. Nothing falls off the toy easily, despite its plethora of removeable parts.
Now, let’s get to gimmicks and features. The 2002 GI Joe Cobra Mantis Sub has a lot of them!
First, we’ll talk about the working propeller. There’s a knob you can wind, along with a button that engages a locking mechanism. When you release the lock, the propeller spins like crazy. I’m not sure if this thing can float (if I fill up the bathtub, I’m going to actually take a bath and generally don’t take toys in with me), but that thing would easily propel the sub through water whether it sinks or stays on the surface.
Next, let’s talk about the winch.
A hatch on the bottom of the sub opens to reveal a claw, some string, and a mechanism to reel it all in. You have to unreel it manually, but it’s easy enough to do. The clamp/hook itself is odd, as it doesn’t open very far. It probably works nicely if you have the sub picking up something with a handle (salvage, a treasure chest, etc.) but can really only attach to a figure’s hand or possibly the lip of its waist piece. Still, this is a very fun feature for kids and probably made for a lot of imaginative play time.
Next, let’s examine the sub’s “arms,” which mostly fold nicely under its front stabilizer fins when not in use.
The right side of the Mantis sub has a claw with several points of articulation. It can’t move up and down, but it can move side to side any way you please. Its grip isn’t super strong, but it works pretty well. The left side features a series of spotlights on a similarly articulated arm.
There’s also a periscope on the Mantis’ right side, which can either pop up or rest alongside the cockpit. Come on– even famed drunk driving grumpo Kelsey Grammer loves a periscope.
You likely also noticed the bright blue torpedo sticking out of the submarine’s front end. If you press the little blue trigger next to it, the missile shoots out with surprising force. It’s a nice weapon for the Mantis, and gives it some offensive capability besides just its claw.
The last feature of the Mantis Sub is also a fun one. The wheels on the bottom of the vehicle are somewhat offset from the body, so when you push it across the ground the sub rocks up and down like it’s traveling through water. It’s a fish-like motion that makes the toy even more fun.
Now, let’s take a look at the cockpit:
The cockpit has two seats, one facing front and one facing back, along with some very nice detail on the chairs and side control panels. I did elect to use the forward control panel sticker, as it adds some life to the inside of the vehicle.
Here’s where we run into the 2002 Mantis Sub’s only real downside– it was made for smaller Jonny Quest figures, so the cockpit can be a tight squeeze for most GI Joes.
The Moray works well enough in the cockpit (good on Hasbro for checking), but getting the figure inside is a bit of a process. You also might scrape off some of that nice silver paint on the arms trying to get the figure in and out. The back seat is an even tighter fit for most figures, but you can get another Moray back there without too much of an issue.
You have to position any figure you put in the back seat very carefully, or the cockpit hatch will not close. Even if you get it perfect, there still may be a tiny gap between the sub’s body and the front of the cockpit hatch. Probably not noticeable for a kid, but it’s something you may care about.
I tried the Mantis with several other figures. I found that small figures like the 2022 Cobra Commander and any version of Undertow work pretty well. But bulkier figures like Sub-Viper and Lamprey don’t fit in all the way. It’s just something you’ll have to experiment with.
Basically, the Moray himself is the perfect driver for the Mantis. If you just keep him behind the controls and try out some other passengers (preferably on the smaller side), then you should be good to go.
So, yeah, that is a bit of a drawback. But I assume most of you will just plop the Moray inn the Mantis and stick it on a shelf, so it should be fine. As for me, I’m enjoying putting on some weird music like Trans Am or something, cranking the propeller, and wooshing the submarine around the house.
In-universe, I see a lot of value in the 2002 GI Joe Cobra Mantis Sub. Other than repurposed SHARCs and Barracudas, Cobra really only has the Sea Ray and detachable components of the BUGG and Hammerhead for submarines. The Mantis fills a very nice gap in the Cobra navy.
It doesn’t work perfectly as an attack sub, but that one torpedo does look like it could do some serious damage if it’s going on a hit-and-run type mission. Instead, though, I like to think the Mantis has two other distinct purposes.
First of all, its winch, claw, and various search lights make it perfect for both salvage and rescue operations. Since the vehicle came from the Jonny Quest line, I assume that was the vehicle’s original intended purpose anyway. It could retrieve valuable equipment (or treasure) from other wrecked vessels easily. It could also rescue stranded Cobra divers or other important personnel. You know Cobra is always messing up its underwater campaigns, so they need some way to bail out the hapless troopers that ran afoul of the GI Joe team.
Secondly, I think the Mantis would do a very nice job of transporting Cobra VIPs in a very inconspicuous way. It’s sleek and stealthy, so it could easily avoid detection while ferrying Cobra Commander or Destro to a meeting location or to an underwater base. If one of Cobra’s waterside bases is under attack, Baroness or Zartan could use a Mantis as an escape vehicle, as well.
The Mantis Sub is a toy that really gets my imagination going, is what I’m saying. And isn’t that what drew us all into GI Joe in the first place? I’m glad Hasbro reused this Galoob mold for its early-millennium GI Joe toy line. This is a piece you don’t see very often, but it’s a valuable part of both my collection and the little GI Joe world that lives inside of my head.
Overall: The Cobra Mantis is a fantastic toy. It has a stunning color scheme and a brilliant design full of fun little details. It’s packed with fun play features, it’s sturdy, and it holds two figures. It also fills a much needed role in Cobra’s naval forces. It can be tough to find at a decent price, though, and not every figure will fit inside the cockpit. So, for all of those reasons, this toy is Recommended.
Closing Thoughts on the 2002 GI Joe Cobra Mantis Sub
Thanks for joining me! I’m still trying to get back in the saddle. I had a hard time stirring up the motivation I needed to write this review, but I really enjoyed it once I got started. That’s a good sign, right?
Anyway, did you ever have the Cobra Mantis? What do you think of Hasbro using Jonny Quest vehicles in the GI Joe toy line? What’s your favorite aquatic Cobra vehicle? Let me know in the comments!
3 thoughts on “2002 GI Joe Cobra Mantis Sub Review”
Tough to find at a decent price? Really? Looking at ebay, these things aren’t uncommon , 1st wave of GI JOE vs Cobra saturated so much these went on clearance.
I disagree about Cobra needing submarines, Cobra has a lot, and it was almost a joke that Hasbro kept giving Cobra minisubs in the 2000’s. As far as vintage goes, I see the BUGG itself as a wheel submarine in its entirety. Not sure about the Hammerhead, because I never saw any propulsion on it. In terms of post vintage submarines, the winner is the Valor vs Venom COBRA STING RAIDER, which is also a flying vehicle…because why not? Oddly it was recolored and called COBRA MANTIS for RISE OF COBRA toy line. (What do Mantises have to do with submarines anyway?) I forgot they made an IG Con version, too. And an adventure team version? I think?
For Jonny Quest molds, the Mantis was better than the “Night Landing Craft” from The Real American Hero Collection. (What a waste of a release slot). I do like the two seater aspect of the Mantis, but yeah, tight squeeze. It’s just submarines are of such limited use to me. And Hasbro launching GvC with a Cobra water vehicle, a sub and no GI JOE counterpart was an odd choice. I can’t recall any retail GI JOE team subs from that era, except from the Built to Rule series.
I agree the Moray needed an o-ring version. The character design is solid, but the reduced articulation and yeah, that era’s proportions keep it from being great.
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I actually liked the Mantis quite a bit. Cobra always needed a small sub and this is way better than the lame Barracuda from 2000. I’m not sure what happened to mine, though. It wasn’t worth selling as they were worthless. But, I don’t think I still have it. I’ll have to open some boxes and see.
This is so much better than the NLC, though, which was another Jonny Quest vehicle. I give Hasbro credit for trying something different. And, at least the Mantis fits with Cobra, aesthetically.
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Man, I remember reading that exact same ToyFare coverage and salivating over the full-page ads that appeared in the magazine with the gorgeous artwork. I was right pumped for this toyline. I ultimately ended up only getting a Snake Eyes/Cobra Commander sound attack two-pack. The proportions, stance, lack of O-ring, and intrusive sound gimmick drove me away immediately.
As a result this whole era is a big blind spot for me. Sure I saw stuff on shelves but only noticed it in passing. I’d never seen this vehicle before reading this article, and I certainly had no idea it came from a Jonny Quest line. I like it in theory – the function of it in the Cobra military feels right. But the look of the toy, with the big blue missile, the weird gold hashmarks, and the awful sticker sheet, still kinda turn me off, even as I’ve gotten more appreciative of gimmick-heavy toys of the 90s and early 2000s. I think I might like it better in another color scheme (and looking at the Quest Porpoise, I find I like that version a little better too).
Side note, I’ve long wondered if any of the sculptors/designers of this Joe line defected to Lanard, or if it’s just happenstance that the Corps! figures of the 2000s look and feel so much like that era of Joe.
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