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GI Joe: Pursuit of Cobra
by Monkey Boy

There was a time when being a Zartan fan was rough. Despite being a pretty major player in the GI Joe comics and cartoons, there were only two Zartan figures produced in the entirety of Generation 1 of the "A Real American Hero" Joe line. The first was the "classic" Zartan released in 1984, and the second wouldn't come for almost 10 years, and it was definitely not worth the wait, orange-mohawked monstrosity that it was.

Things are much better now, as we've seen several versions and styles of Cobra's resident master of disguise in the modern Generation 3 style. We've had comic-inspired Zartan, classic-style Zartan (two versions [or three depending on whether or not you count the Hall of Heroes version separately]), Resolute-style Zartan, a live action Arnold Vosloo-style Zartan, and finally Pursuit of Cobra Desert Battle Zartan.

Zartan is a master of disguise who works for Cobra as a mercenary and covert agent. This expert mimic can impersonate anyone. During the desert battle, he disguises himself as a desert native to slip behind enemy lines, then impersonates a GI Joe trooper to steal valuable battle information.

That "Character I.D. Card" is blessedly simple, and thankfully contains none of the convoluted "paranoid schizophrenic" info of the original 1984 filecard. Initially, pre-production figure samples showed this figure with the Arnold Vosloo headsculpt of the Rise of Cobra movie Zartan figure, but the final version features the sculpt they've been using on the previous G3 Zartan figures. While masked characters like Snake-Eyes and Cobra Commander seem to be utilizing their movie parts and designs for the PoC line, Hasbro seems to be tossing out the likenesses of the movie actors when it comes to characters whose faces are visible.

Zartan's look here is recognizable, but still a little unlike the Zartan we're used to. The "desert native" line in the I.D. card might explain this, as Zartan is mostly bare-chested, with laced up leather wrappings covering his arms. He's wearing a hood like he usually is, but it's quite dingy and ragged, with hanging trinkets and strips of sculpted fabric covering much of his torso. The hood is removable, unlike previous G3 Zartans, so while the face is the same, the back part of the head is now filled in with no hole or groove for a glued-on hood, which means he can now be displayed in all his bald glory.

Below the waist, his body is pretty standard: brown pants with knee pads and boots, but it works pretty well. Those legs feature the only spot where Zartan surprises in terms of articulation: double hinged knees. Other than that he's got the usual balljointed neck, peg-and-hinge shoulders, peg-and-hinge elbows, peg wrists, balljointed chest, balljointed hips, and peg-and-hinge ankles. We really must mention the paint, too: notice how his skin seems to be painted two different pinks? He's in the desert - it's a sunburn! You do have to give it a once-over before you buy, but this is a smart addition.

The PoC line has really been upping the ante with accessories, and Zartan continues the trend. He's a master of disguise, so of course we get an alternate outfit. This time it's an extra head and vest that allow him to look like a generic Joe trooper. The head has a knit cap and removable goggles, so it sort of recalls the Joe character Low-Light, and I'm sure customizers will take note (he's even blonde like Low-Light - check the eyebrows). The vest is nicely done, with painted straps and a sculpted canteen. Both the vest and the hood have holes for backpack pegs, even though the figure doesn't come with one. He does, however, have a large satchel that can fit his extra head, but it's slung over Zartan's right shoulder, not plugged into his back.

Usually that would be enough accessories for one figure, with maybe a gun thrown in, but Zartan is nowhere near finished. He's got an assault rifle with a flashlight attachment which we saw with the Pit Commando figure from the RoC line, as well as a smaller brown pistol that also has a flashlight attachment. Then there are the two "hand-forged steel wakizashi swords" which are pretty awesome and can be slid into slits in his belt when not being held.

There's still more. The "desert native" Zartan disguised himself as is apparently a falconer, and he comes with an animal friend to reflect this. It appears to be a peregrine falcon (the fastest bird in the world, able to achieve diving speeds of 200 mph) judging by its markings, and it gets a staff to perch on and a hood to cover its eyes. The inclusion of the feathered friend, along with the ragged hood, bare chest and the trademark Zartan raccoon eyes, calls to mind Raptor, the ridiculous Cobra agent who dressed like a giant bird back in the G1 days. It's a nice homage without going overboard, and it really sets this figure apart from other Zartans.

The nomadic wanderer look isn't one you immediately would associate with Zartan, but it really works with this figure. While it's about as far away as can be from the high-tech, armored-up Zartan seen in the GI Joe: Resolute set, and you wouldn't expect Zartan to look like this all the time, it definitely makes sense that with all the sneaking around he has to do that he might need to rough it for a while and get back to basics. In addition to being loaded with accessories, the Pursuit of Cobra line is notable for giving us some inventive twists on classic character designs. Zartan scores on both counts, and it makes for an extremely fun figure.

-- 10/08/10

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