Desert Battle Zartan | Produced by Hasbro | Released Sept/Oct 2010
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.
A new chapter opens for That Figures as we present our first GI Joe Review!
Having virtually exhausted the supplies of Marvel Universe figures available locally, I recently decided I wanted to start collecting a new toy line. To that end, I purchased this Zartan GI Joe toy and a Terradive Transformer, to see if either line had improved since my experiences with them some years ago. Which one won-out? Read on and find out!
The packaging is relatively simple, a blister-pack with each figure having his (or her?) own unique artwork. It's eye-catching enough and makes it relatively simple to find specific figures when they're on a store spike. The rear includes a cut-out and keep information card and a ''mission briefing'' on the campaign (i.e. wave), along with some nicely painted artwork.
The plastic blister-pack does a good job of showing-off the toy and with a bit of re-angling it's possible to see the extra pieces (of which there are many) within the box. Sadly the pack must be torn/cut open to access the toy, but that's pretty much what I've come to expect (Microman toys being the obvious exception.)
What about the figure itself?
Zartan is a great-looking toy. With his multiple accessories (see the Extras below) and unusual design, he's a superb piece of plastic. But what makes him work so well is the way he actually looks realistic. This isn't a cartoonish, Technicolor nightmare in plastic. Zartan looks like a real person, thanks to a combination of lifelike paint, good proportions and well-designed accessories that - gasp! - actually fit the figure!
The sculpt is excellent. His head(s) - more on that below - and clothing are particularly impressive. There are creases and folds in his pants, for example, that capture the shape and fall of cloth perfectly, yet his knee-pads appear solid and details such as boot laces and his arm bracers are well-executed.
The paint-work is also impressive, with muted tones and multiple, coordinated base colours working to give a real sense of Zartan as desert warrior. Washes and low/high-lights are applied well and augment the sculpt perfectly. Paint is applied cleanly and accurately.
Joints-wise, the toy isn't the most poseable toy I've encountered. His elbow joints seem a little restricted and his knee double-joint doesn't ''flatten'' completely (i.e. he can't sit on his heels) but overall there's a good amount of movement and it's possible to strike some nice poses with the toy. The joints themselves are perfectly fine, with no looseness or overly-tight ''cracking'' when you bend them.
Zartan's gimmick is he's a master of disguise and - as such - comes with a number of accessories to allow him to blend-in with the Joes, specifically a new head and jerkin. By switching these two pieces (his head pops on and off easily enough) Zartan can assume his new identity.
What's great here is what could have been a simple, cheap after-thought is very-well thought-out and executed. The extra pieces are as detailed as the ''core'' parts (the goggles are individual pieces that can be removed) and Zartan's shoulder bag is designed to accommodate the spare head when not in use, which is an excellent idea.
This is one of the things that's so cool about Zartan's design - you can dress the figure with virtually every accessory he comes with. I like that, as I find it a pain when a figure comes with extra pieces that can't be stored/used with the figure concurrently. It works very nicely and shows a lot of thought has gone into his production.
Where to begin? Zartan comes with a lot of extra weaponry, equipment and costume pieces.
His belt houses two Wakizashi swords which fit snuggly into his belt but - surprisingly - don't tend to sit too-well in his hands (they have a habit of dropping out). However, the rest of his weaponry - a pistol and an SMG - both sit just fine in his fists.
Zartan's core costume features his hood (which again, is a good fit) and a second ''disguise'' jerkin, both made from a soft, flexible plastic. Fitting the latter requires removing Zartan's head, but given you're probably going to switch it to the disguise head included with the figure anyway, this isn't a problem.
Zartan also comes with his companion - a falcon - and desert staff-cum-perch, upon which the falcon sits (although the rubber claws may need a little prising/squeezing to make him stay there.) The falcon even has a hood, that fits snuggly over the its head.
As mentioned above, his spare head fits nicely into the shoulder-bag he comes with, which - in turn- fits nicely over his shoulder or can be held tightly in his hand.
Zartan also comes with his own individual stand and a fold-out preview ad for the other figures in the wave.
I'd never paid much attention to the GI Joe line - the last time I saw them they were predominantly militaristic toys that were a little too mundane for my tastes and I've always preferred fantastical/sci-fi figures over army men. So you can imagine how pleased I was when I saw how unique - and frankly cool - this toy was.
Zartan is toy-enough for a child to enjoy playing with but comes with enough detail to make him a nice collectable piece. He may not be as articulated as some toys at this scale but he still looks great when you pose him and the fact that you can dress him with most of his equipment is a nice touch, showing that a lot of thought went into the design of the toy.
So which toy won and ended-up being my new obsession? Well, if it wasn't already clear from this Review, let me share something that might help: I just bought an assortment of seven GI Joe figures and vehicles today. And no Transformers.