Zartan - Pursuit of Cobra
following is a guest review. The review
and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford
or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the
|Kevin Olmsted checks in tonight
with a terrific guest review of Zartan, along with a brief synopsis of
other figures in this wave. Appropriate, since several are on the list
for the People's
Picks and Poppies voting! Take it away, Kevin...
I love GI Joe. I’ve loved GI Joe since the first line of 3 ¾” figures
was released, which by my estimation, was when I was about 7 and I got
my first figure when I was around 8. And I’ve been collecting them ever
When Hasbro released the 25th Anniversary GI Joe line, they made a lot
of revolutionary changes, namely in articulation, which I’ll get into
later. In the two succeeding lines, Rise Of Cobra and Pursuit Of Cobra,
Hasbro has continued to improve the detail, sculpting, painting and
accessorizing of the figures.
So how to write about an entire line of figures in one review? It
seemed unfair to just write about one figure - especially if the entire
line is of note - but reviewing an entire line of figures would not
only be an marathon endeavor but would also shortchange individual
characters. So I decided to write a review that focused on one specific
figure but at the same time make relevant notes about other figures in
For this review I chose Zartan from the GI Joe: The Pursuit Of Cobra
line. I selected him for a few reasons.This Zartan is a good example of
the more realistic direction Hasbro seems to be taking the modern Joes,
and he is the figure whose look and styling has most significantly
changed from his traditionally-known look. Oh, and Zartan is my
all-time favorite character!
As I mention other lines I will abbreviate their titles as such-
RAH - Original 80’s line
25thA - 25th Anniversary
ROC – Rise Of Cobra
POC – Pursuit Of Cobra
According to yojoe dot com, this is the 20th incarnation of Zartan at
the 3 ¾ inch scale. So, here we go… Yo Joe!
Anyone familiar with Hasbro’s GI Joe packaging won’t find any big
surprises here. The POC package is a basic bubble-on-a-card similar to
past lines. The card itself is about the same size as the ROC cards,
but has foregone the die-cut portions and gone back to the solid
rectangle. The front of the card features the familiar Joe logo, now
styled in a nice silver/chrome color scheme. The character portrait is
nicely illustrated and the character name is printed in large font
vertically alone the side of the card. The Joe text is color-coded ,
making characters easier to spot on the pegs – red for Cobra, yellow
for GI Joe. Overall the new card-front design is very nice.
The back, however, is a graphic mess. The ‘collect-them-all’ reference
grid – which was drastically de-emphasized in the ROC line – is now
completely gone. The data filecard is there, but like the ROC line, it
is very different in size and shape than the original tan card design.
The rest of the cardback is a mish-mash of copyright information,
barcodes and a really shoddy product/diorama photo. I miss the old RAH
cardback and I feel there was no reason to deviate from it. I think it
did a much better job of selling you more figures than the new design
does. When you saw those bright character squares on the black
background, it screamed, “collect us all!”
Otherwise, the packaging is sturdy and prominently displays the figure
and it’s accessories.
Sculpting - ***
Hasbro really went in a different direction with the new Zartan design.
He’s gone through many changes over the years, most of them resulting
in terrible figures. But my favorite has always been the original
design with the maroon pants and hood with the black body armor. Hasbro
did a great job updating that look in the 25thA line; my personal
favorite being the carded version that came with the mini swamp skier.
The new POC sculpt seems to take that original idea and give it a more
real-world look. The hood is still there, now sculpted to look like an
animal hide with charms and whatnots hanging from it. He’s lost his
upper body armor in favor of a bare chested look but wears a pair of
armbands with some great intricate stitch sculpting on the inner bicep
area. He also wears loose fatigue pants with knee pads and a pair of
combat boots that feature some nice detailing.
Instead of using the mask gimmick as a disguise, the new Zartan comes
with a completely different head. It looks like a generic spec-ops-type
soldier and has some nice detailing, as does the combat vest that
replaces the hood when Zartan is disguised. The falcon accessory is
also realistically sculpted and even comes with a small hood for the
bird’s head. The bird is an odd accessory but somehow fits with the
character’s new look.
Gone are the primary colors of past figures. Zartan’s new color scheme
leans toward a more realistic, muted color palette and the paint ops
are generally well done. His skin has a great airbrush-looking sunburn
applied to the head, shoulders and upper torso. He also has strange,
off-white circle tattoos on his chest. His pants have a nice color
scheme – fading from dark grey to medium green and back to dark grey.
His trademark face tattoos are still there - this time a dark grey
rather than black, giving them a little more realism.
The above average paint detailing goes beyond the main figure and into
the accessories as well. The hood is detailed in a few places as well
as having been given an all-over dark wash that helps give it a dirty,
animal-hide quality. The combat vest also features a few painted
details. The falcon is also painted with a simple but effective and
relatively realistic scheme.
The extra head has no less detailing than the primary head, with the
same airbrush-look sunburn and detailing on the cap, hair and eyes.
I’ve seen loads of Zartans sitting on the pegs at various stores and
after scanning between 50 and 60 of them, less than a handful didn’t
have dead-on straight, cleanly detailed eyes.
In 1983, when we were
introduced to the ‘swivel-arm battle grip’ a whole new world of posing
possibilities opened up. The new articulation introduced with the 25th
Anniversary line was no less revelatory. Now GI Joe figures can strike
the same kinds of dynamic poses only 12” figures could previously
Another major change in the 25th Anniversary line was the total
elimination of the rubber o-ring, which in the early 2000’s, was
periodically replaced with a cut joint. The new figures have a plastic
pivot joint located at ribcage-level and the range of motion varies
from figure to figure. Despite the more limited range of motion (when
compared to the o-ring), I prefer this new development as the figure
Zartan features a true ball-joint neck that has a decent, but not
spectacular, range of motion. He also has the aforementioned waist
pivot. He features pin/disc articulation at the shoulder, elbow, and
ankle. The elbow doesn’t have quite the range of motion I would have
hoped but it’s not bad. He has double pin joints at the knee, which –
along with the ankle joint – allow the figure to take deep crouching
poses. He also has a metal t-bar ball-joint at the hips and cut joints
at the wrist. Elbow articulation is an issue for most post-25thA
figures and range of motion varies figure-to-figure.
Overall, I think these are the best-articulated small-scale figures on
the American market today. Hasbro also produces the various Star Wars
and Marvel 3 ¾” lines but their detail and articulation are more
hit-and-miss between figures. Takara’s Micro Man line is the only line
that surpasses the Joes, but to attain their amazing articulation, they
sacrifice realistic, detailed sculpts in favor of a more mannequin-like
appearance as well as ending up being quite fragile.
For this category, I consider any individual item that is easily
removed from the figure as an accessory. Any heads that are in addition
to the original included head I also consider accessories.
Zartan comes with an extra ‘disguise’ head that has a removable set of
goggles. He comes with his traditional hood and a combat vest as well
as a large shoulder bag with a separated compartment to hold his spare
head. He is outfitted with an automatic rifle, a pistol and two
machetes that can store on his belt. He is accompanied by a falcon with
a removable hood and a stand to perch on. That’s 12 accessories! GI Joe
has always been fairly generous with accessories when compared to other
similar-scale lines, but they’ve really outdone themselves with the POC
line. Many other figures in the line are accompanied by a similar count
Finally, Zartan – like all other Joes – comes with a figure stand. Same
style that was introduced with the 25A’s, which I really like. Joes and
Cobras get their own uniquely branded stand with the character name
printed on it. Every POC figure I’ve gotten so far has included a
two-peg stand and is a welcome development as some early 25thA figs
only had one peg.
I paid (or rather, my mother paid) $1.69 for my first Joe – Scarlett –
in 1984. In 2010, standard GI Joe figures can be found at most major
retailers for around $7-8. The better sculpts, paint jobs and selection
of accessories definitely help me feel I’m getting my money’s worth.
But 8 bucks is 8 bucks, and I rarely find myself buying more than 2 at
a time anymore. At least I’m not getting the ridiculous launchers
Hasbro was packing with figures during the initial ROC lines. With
those I felt I was getting cheap filler to justify the inflated prices.
If you visit a toy/comic collector store you’ll quickly figure out
which figures are either more sought after, or short-packed in cases,
as they will be asking much higher prices. I anticipated Zartan to be
highly sought after but alas, I was wrong. At all the local Targets and
Wal Marts, there were more Zartans and Destros sitting on the pegs than
any other POC figure. The next most common seemed to be Dusty and
These figures definitely cater to the older collector, despite being
widely available at most major retailers. I’m sure a smaller child
would find them extremely fun, but the detailed articulation makes them
a little more fragile than the old RAH figures and all of those small
accessories can be easily lost at best, dangerous at worst.
To Watch Out For -
As with many figures in this scale, regardless of product line, I look
at two major things - paint ops and figure/accessory distortion. The GI
Joe figure paint jobs have gotten more detailed and accurate over the
years, but they are still mass produced and not perfect. If possible,
examine multiple copies of same figures and look for the cleanest paint
ops, paying extra attention to the eyes. Are they straight and clean?
You don’t want a drunk Joe heading into combat.
The second thing to look for is distortion. When the figures and
accessories are being packaged, certain items can get bent out of shape
– sometimes permanently. I pay extra attention to wrists, ankles, rifle
barrels and knife/sword blades as they seem most prone to this problem.
Joes have always included decent amounts of small accessories. On
average, the new POC figures come with even more accessories and many
times they are downright tiny, like Snake Eyes’ silencers and Storm
Shadows throwing stars. Be careful not to lose those pieces and
certainly keep these toys from small children.
Eyes (POC v3) – ****
If you love GI Joe, you really can’t go wrong with any of new Pursuit
Of Cobra figures. While some figures suffer from minor articulation
issues (namely, limited neck and elbow range of motion) they are all,
for the most part, great additions to your collection. You get nice
updates on favorite characters and some impressive overhauls of
I also wanted to mention other noteworthy figures and their features in
the new POC line, along with an overall score.
This figure seems, for now, to be the definitive Snake Eyes. He is
almost all black - a clever paint job breaks up the monochromatic
scheme by alternating the matte black of the plastic and a high-gloss
black paint is applied to accentuate certain details like his visor and
boots. With the sinister color scheme and realistic sculpting, he can
strike a fearsome pose. He comes with both now-familiar heads and a
plethora of weapons. His web-gear is his best yet and features actual
elastic straps. Be warned - this figure also comes with some very small
accessories such as two knives that remove from their sheaths and two
tiny removable silencers – one for one of the pistols and the other for
a submachine gun. This Snake Eyes also features an additional point of
articulation at each wrist, enabling him to take more dramatic poses
when holding weapons.
This new version is quite a departure from the familiar Firefly design.
The new figure features a subtle monochromatic color scheme in shades
of grey. He wears a futuristic armored bodysuit and carries a very
large backpack that holds two mines and his extra head. The alternate
head is a very alien-looking helmet that, while unusual looking, is a
striking design that works well on the newly designed figure.
Viper – ***
This seemed to be a highly anticipated figure, though in my opinion not
living up to all the hype. The figure itself is really outstanding,
beautifully sculpted and while mostly black, what little it has helps
the details really pop. Like Snake Eyes features an additional point of
articulation on each wrist, allowing for better posing when holding
weapons. His complex ‘techno-ghillie’ set-up, probably one of the more
unique items in the new line, is impressive when attached and wrapped
around him, but is clunky, heavy and falls off his back very easily.
Also, two of the ghillie pieces attach directly to non-removable
ball-joints on his arms, so the posed figure without the camouflage
isn’t as attractive as it could be. In addition, the Jungle Viper could
have benefited from more/additional articulation on the head, so it
could tilt up farther when placed in a prone sniping position.
Job – ***
Another great accessory-laden figure. I have to admit I like the 25A
Snow Job’s outfit better (I especially miss the removable hood and
goggles) but the more realistic sculpt and accessory set make the new
POC version a winner. You can even assemble his ski gear and blanket
into a lean-to tent! I would possibly give Snow Job 4 stars but for a
few issues. 1) the sloppy paint op of ‘snow’ on the figure’s beard. It
could have benefited from the same snow-dusting treatment that Destro
got. 2) Due to his bulky sculpt and large overcoat, his has very
limited range of movement affecting most of his body.
Shock Trooper – ***1/2
This figure will make an excellent troop-builder. Hasbro opted for a
more realistic SWAT-inspired sculpt and accessory set-up and it is an
overall great package. He even comes with a taser!
Viper – ***
This is the same figure that was included in the Defense Of Cobra
Island boxed set with two differences – he comes with three extra
accessories and is painted in a more subdued dark-red-and-black color
scheme. While the new color scheme makes sense with the more realistic
line, I really love the original crazy blue-and-hazard-orange scheme.
(POC v1) – ***
I admit when I saw the arctic-themed Destro sitting on the pegs, I was
initially unimpressed. But I grabbed one anyway and am glad I did.
While his weapon – a large gun attached to a backpack via a hose that
squirts water – is somewhat silly, his two ice axes and ‘ice hit’
accessories are pretty cool. He features a armored sculpt that is solid
and crisp, and a nice coat that doesn’t really hinder his articulation.
His chromed head has a dust of snow on it, as does his entire body, and
it looks pretty cool.
Shadow (POC v1) – ***
This new Storm looks a lot like a number of the newer ‘shirtless’ Storm
Shadow figures released as of late, and that alone removes him from any
potential ‘definitive’ status for me. I prefer the fully clothed white
ninja as it always provided a nice visual counterpart to the all-black
Snake Eyes. This figure does, however, have a nice representation of
the samurai/Asian motif that has come and gone over the years. He also
comes with a very impressive set of accessories - a manrikigusari
featuring a real metal chain, two tekagis, four throwing stars and a
whopping SIX swords coming in three pairs that can be interlocked to
form longer twin-bladed weapons.
While not the definitive ‘Beach’ figure, the new POC version is pretty
damn cool. He features an amazing new head sculpt that has a great
look. Beachhead also has an armored wetsuit-looking upper body sculpt
that, along with new flipper accessories, give a better impression of
the semi-aquatic nature of the character his name suggests. He also
includes a nice selection of weapons and includes a nice gas
mask/helmet combo that makes him look quite imposing – and a little
frightening. I take half a star off this figure for the fact that he
has two working sheaths on his combat vest but only comes with one
He doesn’t come with a massive load-out of accessories or a revelatory
new design, but the POC Dusty has a nice, updated look and makes a
great addition to the new line. He comes with an original head
featuring a removable helmet and goggles and an alternate, more
futuristic, masked head. He also includes a real fabric cape, two
futuristic rifles and a length of coiled barbed wire.
This figure is something of an oddity. The figure itself features an
beautiful sculpt… except, that is, for the awkward downward angle the
neck is sculpted at, forcing poor Recondo to constantly stare at the
ground ahead of him. He’ll never see Cobra coming for him. Also - the
head, while nicely sculpted, has a more cartoony look to it when
compared to other figures in the line. He comes with some really nice,
detailed, well-designed accessories (two axes, two rifles, his vest and
hat) as well as some equally lame ones (the solar panel backpack with
recoiling trap feature, two foot traps and a strange wooden mask). The
foot traps are pretty delicate and fall apart easily. I really wanted
to like this figure but the poorly designed neck combined with only a
handful of really nice, useful accessories, really affected my final
This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer.
Photos and text by Kevin Olmsted.