The SpyTroops line is winding down, soon to be replaced with some more run-of-the-mill two-packs. But regardless of what the name on the front of the card says, Hasbro is still giving us plenty of updates of the cool old characters.
Gung Ho is just about the toughest Marine who ever slogged his way out of that vacation paradise otherwise known as Parris Island, but he doesn't put on any airs about it. His toughness isn't in bravado or swagger. His toughness is internal and deep. Every member of the GIJoe team knows that when Cobra pops an ambush, Gung Ho can be counted on to lay down a covering counter-fire with his grenade launcher withut hesitation. They know he'll do his job under fire, and there's nothing better you can say about any soldier.
Gung Ho was one of those characters on the old cartoon who were lucky enough to get a distinct personality, even if it was drawn in broad strokes: he was the gumbo-lovin' Cajun with the bare chest. The second figure of the character saw Gung Ho in his Marine dress uniform, but the first incarnation is the truly iconic one.
It's sad, then, that his new look doesn't even try to draw upon his history -
Gung Ho is wearing a padded vest (that doesn't show off the big Marine insignia tattoo on his chest anymore), a green shirt and gray pants.
His old hat is gone, replaced by a mundane ballcap, and even his big bushy moustache has been turned into a goatee. There are two versions of Gung Ho - one with blonde beard and one with brown - but neither match the original's black. Maybe it's time for a custom. Because, really, this figure looks a hell of a lot more like Rock N Roll than Gung Ho.
Gung Ho's weapons include a black machine gun, a black pistol, a gray knife, the afore-mentioned baseball cap and grey web gear that doesn't really fit over the molded elements of the figure's uniform. None of his accessories are very exciting, but they are generic enough to build your arsenal.
An astounding mimic and quick study, Zarana only needs moments of observation before she can assume a subject's body language and voice characteristics down to the smallest detail. Zartan makes his impersonations work with exact physical resemblance. His sister's approach is far more from the method actor's point of view; she tries to become her subject, going as far as trying to think like them. As convincing as her impersonations can be, she can't sustain them for very long without revealing the unbridled nastiness that is at the core of her real self.
Zartan was pretty cool to start with: he led a gang of bikers against the military's elite troops, and usually came out relatively unscathed. Pretty badass. Then, in 1986, we met his brother and sister, a pair who made that screwy family even cooler. Though Zandar seems to have been lost to the mists of time, Zarana is back in the new line of GIJoe figures and looking better than ever.
Zarana was originally a white trash valyrie straight from the edge of ruin. Her tattered clothes gave her a bit of a slutty punk look, and the angry look just helped cement that idea. However, having her bright red hair done up in a bun sort of derailed the ensemble. Fortunately, Zarana's been updated quite well: she's dyed her hair pink and is dressing a bit more conservatively; she's less "punk slut" and more "biker grrl" now, with a dark vest over her white t-shirt, and yellow elements on her black pants. Zarana still looks just as rude, tight-fisted and generally mean as she should.
Zarana's weapons include a grey machine gun and a remolded version of the weird spur-like saw she had back in the '80s. As part of the SpyTroops line, Zarana's "disguise" consists of a ghillie suit that you can slip ontp the figure. For a renowned master (mistress?) of disguise, that's pretty lame.
This is an okay set - while Zarana is a terrific update, Gung Ho is so unrelated to his previous version that it might as well be a new character.
Who's responsible for the tremendous screwup with Gung Ho? Tell us on our message board, The Loafing Lounge.