Review: Zartan, Machetes? Yes, Please!

Well folks, here we are.  Hasbro’s been pushing out some of the BEST friggin’ G.I. JOEs in the history of ever, and today we’re lookin’ at Zartan.  Once these Pursuit of COBRA figures started hitting the pegs, I did my best to scour the local stores in the hopes of snagging them all.  I blew through my cash pretty quick, between buying all the new JOEs…and some bad bets at the cockfights; but, I was more than happy to have my platoon of super-articulated warriors keeping me warm and listening to all my drunken ramblings.  Now, after a few plasma donations (and with Wave 2 in plentiful supply), COBRA’s master of disguise has made his way into my grimy hands.  Let’s get this sneaky bastard open, shall we?

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Zartan, or suffer from short-term memory loss, we’ll go through a quick rundown on this nogoodnik. Australia is known for lots of stuff and tons of great people. I only care about 3 of ‘em: Mad Max, Crocodile Dundee (but not Part III… I disavow it’s existence), and Zartan.  The fact that they’re all fictional doesn’t bode well for the land down under.  Anyway, Zartan leads an international biker gang called The Dreadnoks.  They generally terrorize small towns, chug the hell outta grape soda, and do odd-jobs for evil terrorist organizations like COBRA.  While running these hooligans, Zartan also finds time to assassinate people with the aid of his chameleon-like abilities. Oh, and he likes to get laid. Yep, ol’ Zartan’s got a couple of punk kids who have some of his same abilities and are also members of the Dreadnoks.  How he got the power to change physical form to mimic others has been explained differently through multiple media, but the short answer is: COBRA.

As you can see, the design team has managed to keep all the familiar elements of the character while still adding a more realistic look.  Zartan was one of the few JOE-verse characters that weren’t stripped of all their coolness in the recent film, but it was still a nice touch that they made no nod to it in this sculpt.  Basically, as long as the hood and facepaint are there then Zartan is complete as far as I’m concerned, and those elements are definitely present here. Thanks to the desert theme of the line, Zartan’s hood has been modded into a shemagh (look it up) and it really looks perfect.  His facial expression is very neutral and fits the character to a tee.  The upper body is not overly-muscled, and his arms are wrapped in laced-up guards.  The sash around his waist features lots of wrinkles and details in the fabric, and can also hold his twin machetes without it being obstructive.  The legs are a little less character-specific, but that fits with the disguise accessories.  The pants are sculpted with plenty of creases and wrinkles and ballistic kneepads help to hide the leg joints. Its hard to talk about the sculpt of this guy without getting into the accessories, since they consist of almost another whole figure with a sculpt all it’s own.  Wow, this has now become a more complicated review than previously planned. Perhaps we should just skip all this and go watch Beyond Thunderdome again. NO? Okay, you buncha Tina Turner-haters, on with the review!

Hasbro has been slightly upping the articulation with each new JOE line.  P.O.C. is no exception and sees the use of double-hinged knees for the first time.  The rest of the joints mirror the movie line as far as I can tell. Here’s the list of Zartan’s points of articulation: ball-joint head, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel/hinge elbows, swivel wrists (hidden by the glove cuffs), ball-joint torso, ball-joint hips (using the awesome 1980’s barbell), double-hinge knees, and ball/hinge ankles.  That’s plenty for a 3 3/4″ figure, but there is always room for more. Upcoming releases in the line feature ball/hinge wrists as well, so holding swords and rifles should look a lot more natural.  All the joints on this figure are tight and move easily and freely.  G.I. JOE has noticeably been one of the few action figure lines where this has never really been much of a problem.

The paint job on Zartan is very well done for a mass-market figure, especially one in such a small scale.  This is the first figure I can ever recall having realistic sunburn.  Looks like hes been passed out in a drunken stupor by the pool… or hanging in the desert, which is probably the look they were going for.  The iconic facepaint/tattooing on Zartan is present and tight, without any fuzziness on the edges.  His eyes are solid white and the gray helps them pop that much more when shadowed beneath the hood.  Speaking of the hood, it has some nice washing effects to give it the appearance of being worn and dirtied by the desert sands.  A simple line of gray runs along the border on the back with a COBRA logo stamped in silver.  The figure I got had a smudged symbol, so my rage quickly shot up as I saw it.  Luckily, it’s so small that it won’t be noticed by most people.  However, if it is, I shall burst into a rage-filled tirade the likes of which have rarely been seen.  Anyhoo, his chest has some small circle-patterns painted evenly across it.  Not sure entirely why these exist, so I’ll just hazard the guess that they’re scars from whatever procedures COBRA performed when giving Zartan his powers.  (Feel free to correct my ignorance in the comments section. I really would like to know, and it’ll keep me up at night cursing the sky til I’m made aware.)  The pants are airbrushed to show wear and it works well.  Other than the smudged symbol, the only problem I noticed was with the gloves.  Its nothing that’s too big of a deal, but the paint used is just too damn thick and kind of smooths out the sculpting details.  Overall though, Zartan’s paint job is one of the best seen in the line so far, and gives this hobo high hopes for the upcoming waves.

A bird?  Why does Zartan have a friggin’ falcon?!  Hell if I know, but I’m not one to knock on cool accessories.  The bird/falcon/hawk/chicken/whatever is able to perch on the staff thanks to it’s gripping talons.  A cover is included that can be placed over it’s eyes.  A quick note: that little cover was lost almost immediately after taking the above photo, so be mindful of it.  As stated previously up there somewhere, Zartan also comes with 2 machetes that fit into his sash.  They are molded in a dark brown color and are a nice, stiff plastic.  His hands hold them well, which is good since they look very intimidating  when he wields them.  A green 45 pistol w/ tactical light is held in the package and its a good sidearm; however, the large grip tends to either shift the pistol to the side, OR bend the hand open too far.

Yeah, that’s still Zartan.  Crazy huh? Who would have thought back when A Real American Hero figures first started showing up, that eventually they’d get to this point?  Psychics, that’s who! According to the bio, Zartan infiltrates the JOE team during their desert mission.  He does so by disguising himself as a fellow soldier. Mission accomplished!  Zartan comes with an extra head, goggles, A sleeveless BDU jacket, duffle bag (that can hold Zartan’s head inside), & a G36 assault rifle to complete the ensemble.  The head is wearing a toboggan and is sculpted with a face that is non-descript and would easily blend into a crowd of soldiers.  The goggles are removable and fit snugly over the eyes or placed on the forehead.  The jacket is black with lots of sculpted details, like a hydration carrier on the back and a canteen on the side.  It fits over the figure by removing the head and then snapping it closed on one side.  The satchel also fits over the figure once you remove the head and is molded in a tan color, so no paint required.  The G36 is the same sculpt we’ve seen multiple times over the past couple of years.  It has a tac-light mounted on the front rails and is an accurate sculpt to the real steel counterpart.

There it is in a nutshell… a very misshapen and confusing nutshell.  Zartan is an all-around amazing figure.  He’s a great representation of the character and fits in completely with the rest of the line.  He also comes with so many extra pieces that he is well worth the cost at retail.  If you get the chance, pick this guy up.  The one-time lead singer of Cold Slither (no joke) has never looked better, and your action figure collection can always use another schizophrenic badass.