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GI Joe: Retaliation
by yo go re

Love it or hate it, there are some things that Rise of Cobra indisputably did right. The interactions of Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow, for instance, or Destro's attitude. And also, Zartan. Everything about Zartan.

Zartan carries out his sinister missions for Cobra Commander. As the master of disguise, Zartan can impersonate anyone, but if you look closely into his eyes, you may see a tell-tale reddish glow that reveals his true identity.

It's a safe bet that this figure doesn't actually represent the Zartan we'll see in Retaliation when it finally comes out: after all, the trailers have already shown him in action, and he doesn't look like this. Granted, there could be a drastic change later in the film, but right now it seems like this is just one of those "invented for the toyline" outfits - not that that's in any way a bad thing, especially once you realize where the inspiration for the costume came from.

Basically, this is Renegades Zartan. There is just no way to deny the parallels. Zartan started out as a regular biker with a penchant for impressions, but later on got a stealth suit that brought him more in line with his classic verion - hood and all.

Now, sure, there are differences between this figure and the Renegades design, but they're no more extreme than the differences between, say, the Snake-Eyes toy and design. The sculpt has a lot of small details that would have no place on an animated figure - piping on the seams, tiny wrinkles where the body beneath would flx, etc. - but the same could be said of any Renegades toy. In broad strokes, the pieces match up. He has a brown hood and a gray suit, and several bits of black armor as well. If you look at the shapes on the animation model, you'll find matching shapes on the toy, even if they're not painted the same. Panels on the ribs, lines on the gloves, pouches on his chest and back... even the bumps on his knuckles are taken right from the toon!

Not taken from the cartoon? The head. Not taken from the movie, either. It's jut a generic "Zartan" head. He has a scowl and a pointed nose, and generally looks very Zartanish. The only thing missing is the dark patches around the eyes, but if you miss them, that's got to be just about the easiest custom imaginable. Got a pen? Boom, done!

In the best Zartan tradition, you can disguise him as other characters. But it's not just a mask that slips into his hood this time. Rather, the effect is accomplished by interchangeable heads. The figure includes three: Snake-Eyes, Storm Shadow, and... some random guy? It's not sculpted to look like anyone, so we can only assume it's meant to be this Zartan's version of Beard Guy. All the heads except Snake-Eyes have a light-piping block in the middle of the head, and there's a slit in the hood so light can still get in (in all honesty, it doesn't work very well, however). Zartan's normal head has a green block, while the other two get red, as hinted at in the bio up above.

In addition to the heads, Zartan comes with a fancy new crossbow, a quiver with four molded arrows, a small pistol and the same swords and double-sheath that four-pack Storm Shadow came with. Unexpected! The quiver has a peg designed to fit in his backpack hole, but if you've got the swords in there, what are you supposed to do with it? Well, there's a hole on the underside of the crossbow, and you can plug it in there. The pistol can be stored on the harness in a sort of armpit holster. There's a knife across his chest, but it's just molded on, not removable.

So, the question of all questions when it comes to Retaliation toys: articulation. I admit, I'm in the crowd that misses the joints we no longer get. Zartan has a balljointed neck, swivel/hinge shoulders and elbows, swivel wrists, swivel/hinge torso, balljointed hips and hinged knees. Really, the only things he's "missing" are ankles and double-hinged knees, and yet I find myself wishing they were here. The ring in the center of the shoulder is flattened and squared off, but the shoulder outside it is still round, so that's a slightly weird meeting. He can't really turn his head when the hood is on, but anybody who has a problem with that has clearly never worn a hoodie before: if you have, you know that you can't turn your head very far without getting a face full of hood.

Zartan may not have much to do with the movie he's purported to be from, but that's okay; the important thing is that we finally have another Renegades character, not the name on his packaging. After all, didn't we all buy City Strike Snake-Eyes specifically so he could be our Resolute version? This is the same deal. The articulation may have dropped, and the accessories may be unpainted chunks of color, but this is still a good figure. Now come on, Hasbro, do the same with the other missing Renegades toys!

-- 06/22/12

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