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Scarlett & Zartan

GI Joe vs. Cobra
by yo go re

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

You can't convince me there's any good reason that no Marx Brothers DVD box set is available. But that's neither here nor there.

Time doesn't really fly like an arrow; it's more like a boomerang. Or did you think it was a coincidence that The Brady Bunch had two movies and no self-respecting anti-hipster would be caught wishing he were dead without an Atari-logo shirt? Everything old is new again - or at least profitable - as Generation X turns in its collegiate righteous indignation for disposable income and a longing for the sugar-induced comatic Saturday mornings of its collective youth.

(Geeze, I gotta stop writing these things while watching Dennis Miller)

He-Man and the Transformers share an hour of weekly airtime, ThunderCats and Micronauts comics are on the shelves, and there are even the barest rumbles that a Silverhawks revival is in the works. Everything comes back. Heck, I'm not sure how many people have been dreaming longingly of the Cowboys of Moo Mesa, but for all both of you, I'm sure it's on its way. Just wait 20 years until Pokemon gets revived and all the cool kids are wearing Dreamcast shirts.

Hasbro is one of the biggest past-profiteers, holding the licenses to two of those not-so-distant properties: Transformers and GI Joe.

Bumping around in one diminished form or another since their respective cultural curtain calls, the 'bots and the Joes have suddenly come roaring back, with comics, cartoons, and new lines of figures. I've already reviewed some Transformers, so now we turn to Hasbro's military might.

The line is officially called GI Joe vs. Cobra, and the figures are released in two-packs that reflect that; one Joe and one Cobra agent in the same blister. Running about $7, each figure costs pretty much the same as they did back in the day, and that's a pretty nice find. This set, my first, includes counterintelligence agent Scarlett and master of disguise Zartan.

The U.S. military relies on special agents to gather information about the plans of its enemies. These agents put their lives on the line to find and bring back this important knowledge. One of these agents is Agent Scarlett. She started her counterintelligence work by analyzing evidence, setting up surveillance equipment and preparing reports. After she proved her abilities in small missions, she began to conduct field operations. Much of her job is finding and verifying information, but that's dangerous work when you're dealing with sources that are part of the evil Cobra organization.

Scarlett was one of the more popular members of the original Joe team, being the original female on the team as well as a regular player in the cartoon and comics. I never had the original figure, so I was definitely looking forward to the new release.

Scarlett, unfortunately, falls victim to the same malady as most of these new releases; poor proportions. While most of the men are ridiculously barrel-chested, Scarlett has a tiny little noggin. Her legs and torso are very slender, but her arms are quite bulky. She's really a mixed bag.

The new design of her costume is a nice updating of her classic look, with a blue and yellow bodysuit. For the first time she actually has a molded plastic ponytail. She's got weapons strapped to her arms, and comes with a "Sound Attack" crossbow and a black rifle.

Standing 3¾" tall (duh), Scarlett moves at the neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, waist, hips, left thigh, and knees.

Zartan can become anyone by changing his looks, personality and voice. He's a genius with make-up and disguises and speaks over 20 languages and dialects. He can get in and out of places the size of a shoebox. A mysterious member of Cobra, he proved his value to the organization by impersonating Cobra Commander then revealing his brilliant deception to the stunned - and impressed - commander.

The original Zartan had one of the coolest features of any '80s toy; put him in the sun, and his "unique skin condition" made him turn blue. That feature has, alas, not made it to the present day. He doesn't even come with a mask anymore!

As with most of the new Joes, Zartan is way too bulked up. His chest is too wide and his back arches painfully. It's nice that you can remove his trademark hood, but the dark marks on his eyes were painted incorrectly. While I do somewhat like this new Zartan, I'm glad I still have the original.

Zartan has all the classic GI Joe articulation, right down to the O-ring, plus new wrist joints. He comes with a "Sound Attack" buzzsaw, a pistol, and a backpack.

These "Sound Attack" weapons plug into certain vehicles and make appropriate sounds when a button is pushed. Personally, I think the giant plugs just look out of place, and I plan to cut them off. There are also variants of both figures - Scarlett packaged with Storm Shadow, and Zartan packaged with Stalker. Colors are changed, and there are slight changes to the filecards, but they're basically the same.

When I got these figures, I really liked them. As I've written this review, however, I've found all the faults that nostalgia glossed over before. I still like the figures, but I recognize they're not as great as I thought. I recommend them, but mainly for the flashback buzz; we really did have better toys when we were kids.

-- 11/16/02

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