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GI Joe Generation 3
by yo go re

"This figure is different enough that Hasbro could release a '1984-accurate' Zartan in a later wave, and people would still buy it ... heck, if they decide to release a 'shirtless' version with his old armor and a Chameleon Swamp Skier, I'll probably get that one, too."

That's right, kiddies, I can see into the future.

Zartan can alter his skin color at will to blend in with his environment. He is also a master of make-up and disguise, ventriloquist, linguist (over 20 languages and dialects), acrobatic-contortionist and practitioner of several mystic martial arts. Very little is known of his background and origins, but most security agencies agree that he must have had European military academy training (probably St. Cyr). His training and skills make him difficult to find and almost impossible to capture. He has established a criminal compound in a remote swamp region, which he navigates on his customized Chameleon swamp skier.

The previous Generation 3 Zartan was a decent figure, make no mistake: he has an interesting design, he plays well and he changes color in the cold. It's very fun, but it just wasn't the classic look, and that was enough to make a lot of fans complain. Of course, a lot of fans complain about Duke's elbows and the Viper's hands, too, so don't assume there's actually anything wrong with it.

Zartan's legs are the same as the last figure, and that's fine: it's not like there's another mold out there with those armored pads on the thighs. His torso comes from Gung-Ho, which is the standard "bare chested" body for ths line; Zartan's not even the first Dreadnok to use it (it does make him taller, though). He gets new arms, complete with the odd spaulders, so maybe this means we'll be seeing G3 Zandar and Zarana in the future. The gloves are new, and he wears a separate piece of chest armor, though it doesn't have a color-changing feature; nothing about this new Zartan does.

Though this figure shares his head with the previous Zartan figure, it's not immediately apparent. The shadows on his eyes have been repainted - they're a different shape altogether, but at least there are still two of them, not just one big one. Hate that. His eyes are a yellowish green, pale enough to look blank under normal conditions, and he's sculpted with a slight sneer. Though the head is the same, the hood isn't - this version bunches more at the shoulders, rather than hanging straight down. And yet there's still probably someone out there who thinks it's supposed to be hair.

The first G3 Zartan changed color - something that hadn't been seen since 1984, and something this Zartan doesn't do. However, he does have a different feature that hasn't been used since that first release: the Chameleon Swamp Skier. Now, the old version was sold in a box and required some assembly; this one is just in the blister on a single card, so it's going to be necessarily smaller. And oh boy, smaller it is.

The original was about the size of a motorcycle, but this one is more like a mini bike - it's not even 3" long! Yes, the sculpted details are all related to the original design, they've just been greatly compressed. Zartan can ride this little thing... he just looks goofy. The engine and handlebars are removable, in case you want to make it even smaller. The tiny skier isn't inexcusable, but you almost get the feeling Hasbro is going to double-dip later, to get all of us to buy another set with a full-sized Chameleon.

Beyond the evil scooter, Zartan has the same knife and crummy backpack as the previous release. He gets a new pistol, similar to the one the G1 figure had, and two new masks. Yes, instead of the bearded man, this Zartan can disguise himself as Duke or Storm Shadow. But honestly, couldn't anyone disguise themselves as Storm Shadow? He wears a full mask! That's not an example of Zartan's skills (though it is a nod to events in the Marvel comic series, so that's something). The masks still don't fit well beneath Zartan's hood - sitting forward a bit too far - but they do stay in place securely, thanks to the edges of his hood.

This Zartan is more like the one I loved so much as a kid. I still like the Zartan they did last year, with the color-changing feature, but this one is an excellent offering. Yeah, yeah, his Swamp Skier is crazy small, but it's an accessory - you're not paying any more for Zartan than you are for other figures, so he's much like Specialist Trakker in that regard. If Hasbro does decide to do a full-sized version of Zartan's ride, in a box set or something, I probably won't pick it up unless they give him a color-changing feature.

-- 02/06/09

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