Yes, friends, you probably won’t believe it, but years before Dana Carvey blessed us with his seminal work, The Master of Disguise, there was G.I. Joe villain named Zartan who was pretty much a master of disguise himself. Who knew!?!
I kid, I kid. I know Joe is pretty serious business for a swath of fandom that won’t rest until they have like, nine jillion Cobra Vipers, but when I can find these figures, I am having a lot of fun with this line so far. It almost seemed unbelievable that I saw Zartan came into stock at GameStop.com and I was able to go there and just, you know, order him. It is an understatement to say that this line currently in high-demand, especially for those store exclusives, so I was pretty pleased that was able to secure my Zartan earlier than originally expected.
As cool as the Joes themselves are, like a lot of 80s properties, the over-the-top villains are generally the most colorful and interesting. Zartan is, of course, a member of the dreaded Dreadnoks from down under, and while I never owned his figure as a kid, I know he is held in high regard amongst a lot of Joe faithful as one of the coolest figures in the line. I was excited for this figure because not only does he look cool, but he does so by staying pretty darned faithful to the iconic look from the original A Real American Hero series. I think this line is starting to find its stride with the balance between classic and new in terms of design, and Zartan, along with the upcoming Flint and Lady Jaye look to be the best examples of this yet.
While previous offerings like Cobra Commander, Storm Shadow, and Cobra Ninja feel pretty derivative from the looks that made them iconic, Classified Zartan retains the same basic costume design and silhouette that originally made him famous. Sure, the browns in the costume could be a bit warmer shade of reddish-brown, but all of the classic footnotes are in place. Even if you do not agree with all fo the design choices in the line, there absolutely no denying the level of detail is beyond impressive. The attention, love, and care shine in the obvious places, but also in places unlooked for, so seeing some added detail in the hood is pretty logical, the scaling details in the fingers of the gloves is pretty damned impressive. Zartan is rightfully adorned in mostly brown and black, but the lack of color variation doesn’t mean a crazy level of detail is not imparted in the sculpture.
Zartan might be sporting his crop top like a boss, but I really dig the character and his disguise capabilities. While this figure doesn’t have the color-change effect of the 1980s figure (bummer), it does come with a swappable face that works entirely too well, and has left me feeling pretty impressed. The face mask can store in the backpack when not in use (I LOVE that most of these figures can carry just about all of their accessories, even when not using them) but slips over the face and holds remarkably well when in place. The hood allows you to hid the seams on the side, and it is pretty crazy that the figure looks perfectly natural with his own face, but also with the mask. One does’t look too small or too large, and that is pretty crazy considering that mask is noticeably bigger when off the face.
Zartan also comes with a pistol that can store on the backpack, as well as knife which can be kept in the sheath on the back of the belt. Those are cool and all, but they kind of pale in comparison to the snake head and monkey’s paw that are also included. THIS FIGURE COMES WITH A MONKEY’S PAW, YOU GUYS! As I have said before, I am not a walking Joe encyclopedia, so there is probably a perfectly reasonable explanation for the paw, but I am just delighting in the fact that this is the first action figure I have ever owned with such an accessory. The ubiquitous nature of dangerous quicksand and monkey paws for magical purposes was much more apparent in the 80s, so it is good bring those threat levels back via action figures.
The Classified line is also made great by the articulation scheme it features. Zartan features the much of the same articulation that previous figures sport, and most of it is very well executed. I am always appreciative of double elbows, double knees, rocker ankles, and butterfly shoulders, all of which carry good movement here. Zartan does have the partial ball drop-down hips that this line is becoming known for, but like some of the other figures, the joints themselves are pretty tight. I know that shock oil can help reduce some of the friction to get a better range of movement, so that is probably needed here. I would rather have hips a little too tight than too loose, so this is something I am willing to work through. As far as I am concerned, drop-down hips need to be standard on all super-articulated figures, so the fact that is has become pretty standard in the Classified Series is great news to me.
I am slowly piecing together my first G.I. Joe collection, and with the exception of joyless experience of finding some of the exclusives, I am having a good bit of fun. Zartan is a great figures on his own, but it also feels like he is representing a movement more towards being faithful to his original iconic designs, and I am really happy with that. Fortunately, Zartan is not a store exclusive, and while I nabbed mine at GameStop, you can get your order in at BBTS or Dorkside Toys now, as he should be hitting those spots soon. An updated Cobra Troopers is shipping alongside this figure (that goodness), and then Flint and Lady Jaye are up next. We are not sure who is coming after that yet, but it sure as heck better include my boy Chuckles!