G.I. Joe: 25th Anniversary Zartan
Before I dive into this review, I'll say right up front, that yes the spirit of the 25th Anniversary line revolves around new versions of existing looks...fans love the classic looks of their favorite characters, and most people want to see those vintage characters recreated, inch for inch. In a way I can appreciate that feeling. And then we get a figure like this. A version of Zartan that is, to me, quite simply, the best 3 3/4" rendition of this character I've ever seen, and I can only say "bring on the new stuff"!
I appreciate folks wanting their favorite versions of these characters recreated faithfully, and yes, part of me hopes we do get a more classic-accurate Zartan in upcoming waves or packs, but I can't help but stand back and look at this Zartan and just be totally impressed with what they've done with it. I love this version of Zartan, and if he were an o-ring figure I would tell Hasbro to stop making Zartan figures now, because I don't think it can get much better. Is that fanboy hyperbole? Probably a little bit, but still, this is one fantastic version of one of my all time favorite characters, so I think a little hyperbole is acceptible in this case.
If you haven't figured it out by now, it's obvious that the sculptors on this line have an affinity for the Devils' Due comics. Serpentor's mix of classic and DDP armor, Buzzer's more modern almost Devils' Due style look...Firefly's familiar seamed facemask...yeah, there is some serious Devil's Due influence going on here. While I don't think the Serpentor experiment was successful, I love how Firefly came out and Zartan? Zartan is just fantastic, even though he's not a strict translation of the Devil's Due version.
It's totally obvious that the more modern Zartan was a serious influence here, though. From the shoulder pads to the skull belt buckle, to those familiar looking legs and even the chains around the wrist. No doubt about it, this figure is strongly based on how the Master of Disguise appeared through the Devil's Due run. If he was done that way head-to-toe, I probably wouldn't be as wild about the figure. But the fact that they worked his chest armor in there really beefs up the figure, combines the two looks, and gives us a terrific updated version of this immortal character.
The minute I saw the stern, menacing glare coming from that great head sculpt I knew I was going to like this figure. Even as his flesh turned a sickly green in the package I smiled, and the way they sculpted the rubber hood over his head and draping over his shoulders is simply fantastic. The paint of the facemask is perfect, and the sculpt of his face just works. One of the reasons I don't mind the Devil's Due version being chosen for this is that it does share some elements of the classic one. Those familiar legs and boots are very reminiscent of the classic Zartan, so immediately you have a figure that does bear some resemblance to the vintage model.
I really love how the chestplate armor was designed and sculpted, and it integrates nicely with the layered shoulder pads and boots, and gives him a somewhat vintage look. But instead of the bare skin on his torso being underneath this armor, he's covered in the black/gray long sleeved shirt that he wears in current pages of the comic, and this is where the bulk of complaints come. I can understand that to a degree, definitely. Fans want an updated version that is just like the classic one...everyone else is. But myself, I kind of like the new concepts, and this version of Zartan works. Not to mention the fact that because they now have this base, I think the chances of getting a purely vintage version of Zartan are probably pretty good.
With the black shirt, brown pants, and assortment of silver and black trim, Zartan is perfectly colored and even in this non-classic mold has a classic feel and familiar look. It's not the definitive Zartan all long-time fans remember, but it's still a great version of the character, in my opinion.
Now another thing causing some consernation among fans is the whole color changing ability. Where the original Zartan turned blue in sunlight, this version appears to turn more of a green color, and it seems to be cold that triggers it instead of warmth. I can't get into the chemical or scientific reasons for this with the newer style of plastic because I don't know the real reasons, but it doesn't bother me a whole lot, I'm just happy they included it. One of the unfortunate side effects as you can see in the pictures is that I shoot my reviews outside in my garage/studio, which is unheated. Since I live in New Hampshire, it currently runs about 45 degrees and my Zartan ends up a somewhat permenent light green shade. If I breath some hot air on his face, he does fade back to flesh, but ultimately slowly turns back to light green. Not a big deal, but just something to think about for those of us in cold climates. ;) I did place him in the freezer just to see what would happen, and he turns a considerable shade darker green and looks pretty neat, I think. There also appears to be a non-color changing version of Zartan out there at retail as well, so take your peek. I'm not sure which one is more or less rare...
From an articulation standpoint, Zartan works quite well...he's got all of the familiar joints and good range of motion. The mid-torso joint works well being integrated with the chest armor, and his hip sockets are nicely tooled to allow for good range of motion. The trigger fingers are sculpted well, and the swivel wrists work well with the machine gun. Elbows again are a minor issue, I do wish they moved a bit more, but besides that Zartan works well. The double-hinged knees are awesome and he moves excellently.
Zartan's gear is a bit of a head scratcher. I like the classic themed backpack, which actually fits his mask (though not as nicely as the vintage one did) and I really like the rest of the weapons, too, though they don't necessarily fit the vintage Zartan character.
This new mask is pretty oversized and really looks terrible on Zartan's head, but really we know it doesn't fool anyone anyway. The small knife is actually really cool and the double-bladed dagger that is amazingly reminiscent of the knife that Toxic Zartan comes with, which is a pretty sweet touch, I think. The gun does not fit anything that anyone has ever used in the past, but truth be told, it is a pretty sweet looking weapon. I love the oversized scope, and integrated stock of the rifle, the slanted ammo clip...I really love everything about it. It's a pretty futuristic weapon, which suits Zartan okay, and even though it does not fit his character, it still looks very cool. I really do like it, even if it doesn't fit. Not too bad overall, though I wonder why he didn't come with some sort of bow and arrow, considering they try and make these accurate to the character.
Regardless, I do like the weapons (well the knife and gun, anyway).
EDIT: Thanks to Alyosha for pointing out that Zartan's weapon is of Russian descent...a VSS-DU sniper rifle. I found a link to something similar on my favorite real-world weapons site. Thanks for the info!
A critical component of the G.I. Joe history, Zartan belongs in the 25th Anniversary, though most would argue that this should not be how they look. In the spirit of the 25th, I agree that this probably isn't the best representation of the character, but from purely a toy point of view, I absolutely love this figure. It's a new concept, yet is very traditional and a great homage to the classic version. Intricate sculpting, fantastic detailing, decent articulation, and a nice (if not extraordinary) accessory compliment. Even though this doesn't look like the Zartan you remember, it is a great version of the character, and I really love it from an action figure perspective. Hopefully somewhere down the line we'll get a historically accurate version of the character to make everyone happy, but until then, I'm thrilled with this one and highly recommend it to everyone.