Tuesday, January 17, 2012

REVIEW: GI Joe Dreadnoks Battle Set - Zandar

Produced by Hasbro | Released January 2012 [Big Bad Toy Store Exclusive]

ZANDAR is a master of camouflage and covert movement. In other words, he's good at hiding and sneaking up on people. And, of course, he doesn't behave this way to do anything good for his target. Like his brother ZARTAN, he can disguise himself as anyone. He's also an expert with silent weapons and can remain motionless for long periods of time.

Dreadnoks Battle Set Zandar
Yesterday we took a look at the first of the seven figures in the recently-released Big Bad Toy Store-exclusive Dreadnoks Battle Set, Zanya - and we liked her a lot. Today is the turn of her uncle, Zandar. How will he fare? Read on and find out...

We covered this in our Zanya Review but essentially, the packaging for this Battle Set is very good, although the plastic retaining tray can make getting the figures out awkward, as many have their hands or feet pushed through the tray. I also found Zandar's dagger (see below) had been a little bent due to the shape of the tray. That aside, all is fine though.

Sculpt And Design
OK, Zandar is going to be a love it or hate it figure. If you're a fan of the modern, updated character designs sported by the Pursuit Of Cobra and 30th Anniversary figures then you'll loathe this. Zandar is a nightmare of day-glo colours and ''punk'' fashions, as seen by a 1980s suburbanite. But if you're a fan of the classic 80s-style of GI Joe then you'll find a lot to be very happy with here, as this version of Zandar is pretty much a direct modernisation of the figure from 1986.

Where Zartan usually has a kind of cool mystique about him, his brother Zandar appears to be a cross between an aerobics fanatic and a boy-band wannabe. He'd look right at home in a Duran Duran video, except for the fact that even they never dressed this flamboyantly. Your response to the character's design will be the deciding factor here for sure, regardless of his articulation, paintwork or accessories. So if your immediate response is one of horror, there's little I can do to really make you change your mind. But if you dig what Hasbro has done here - essentially giving us an uber-retro character design with modern tooling - then you'll be very pleased with the results.

Zandar's basic sculpt is pretty neat, overall. Hasbro has captured the 80s look very well with this figure and there's some neat detailing in the folds and armour, over which Zandar wears an oversized neckerchief/Shemagh-style ''layer'' accessory. It's a very nicely sculpted piece that looks good and - along with the shoulder holster (which can actually hold a weapon) - adds a nice layered look to what could otherwise be a plain figure.

It's a shame his thigh-strapped knife sheath features a molded-in weapon, as it would have been a nice touch to be able to slot the included dagger (see below) into it for storage but it's not really that big a deal and adds a little extra touch of 80s GI Joe to the whole design.

The figure's legs and feet have enough detail to keep them interesting but there's really not much to get that excited about. Hasbro has - again - managed to maintain a kind of retro-look to his design, so that's cool.

Zandar's head sculpt is particularly good. Although his hair may be a little foppish and his headband/bandana makes him look more like he's about to have a particularly strenuous round of Jazzercise, the facial details are excellent. I know I wasn't a fan of the Renegades Scarlett but that minor slip-up aside, the last few waves of GI Joe figures I've seen have featured some amazing face work. And Zandar is no exception.

There's no denying this is a very good sculpt. Whether the subject and concept appeal is a different matter altogether but as a modern take on the original design, you can't really find much wrong with the execution.

Where Zandar's retro-styled look is cool, I'm saddened to say that Hasbro's designers seem to have decided to use a similar approach to his articulation.

Zandar is certainly pretty poseable and I'm sure you won't encounter too many problems getting him into most poses. However, I found - and this could be my Zandar, although I've a sneaking suspicion it's an issue with them all - that his shoulder and elbow joints almost felt as if they were ratcheted. In other words, I could pose them closed, slightly-open and open and there was nothing in between, if that makes sense.

Add to this that he struggles to hold his weapons (again, like Zanya his hand sculpts are odd) and that the two-handed weapons are a nightmare to get him to grip correctly (thanks to the limited range of his arms) and it all adds up to a bit of a disappointment.

Sure, it's possible to get him to hold his gear. Just expect a lot of frustration when you try to do so. It's disappointing to see how limited he feels in terms of his joint set-up, especially given how poseable the other recently-released Joes have been.

Like his sculpt, Zandar's paintwork will probably split collectors down the middle. Clad as he is in day-glo pink, neon blue and bright yellow (and with that uber-ginger hair) it seems odd that he's considered a ''master of camouflage.'' Maybe he hangs around in aerobics studios a lot.

But if you can buy into the 80s cartoon look, the paint app is actually very good. It's cleanly applied on the whole, except for some very minor fuzzy edges on my Zandar's knife. But that aside, there's really nothing wrong here.

His tattoos and facial details are also very nicely picked-out and cleanly applied. He may look a little goofy in his Rainbow Brite costume, but at least it's sharp.

Extras And Accessories
Zandar comes with a pretty good arsenal of weaponry and accessories.

The figure comes with his neck scarf and holster pre-attached (complete with silver pistol in the holster), plus a yellow/gold and silver harpoon gun, similarly liveried dagger and a black crossbow.

Both the dagger and harpoon gun are reasonably well-sculpted and the paint is cleanly applied but they also continue the 80s remake tradition by being rather garish. The crossbow fares a little better but is a little cumbersome and getting Zandar to hold it can be difficult. I'd have preferred to see him with a backpack to hold his bolts.

Zandar also includes his own name-plated stand.

Final Thoughts
Zandar is an unashamed tribute to a garish, toy-like GI Joe from the 1980s. If you can go with that then you'll really dig what Hasbro has done here. I'm sure adults who owned the original back in the day will find owning this version an excellent exercise in nostalgia. 

If you're a fan of the more modern, serious GI Joes you'll probably find yourself really hating this figure. He looks like he'd be more at home in a dance studio leading a group of housewives through some rigorous aerobics than he would stalking Joes in the Everglades. He's the epitome of bad taste 1980s colouring and his midriff shirt and headband combo are - frankly - disturbing. I expect him to start belting out some high-energy number - complete with high kicks, jazz hands and pirouettes - at any moment.

Yet the actual execution of the design - however strange - is done without any major problems. Yes, the articulation is a little limited and his accessories - although there are plenty of them and they're nicely painted - can be a pain to get him to hold but the actual production, sculpting and paintwork are all very good. It's just a matter of whether you like the subject.

If you like your Joes with a retro-flavour then you'll dig Zandar. For everybody else though, he's probably a bit of an also-ran.

Sculpt and DesignB
Extras and Accessories B+
Final ScoreB

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