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Zartan - Pursuit of Cobra
Hasbro

Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure

   "The 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 guest author."

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 ” 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 since.

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 the series.

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 inch scale. So, here we go… Yo Joe!

Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure

Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure
Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure
Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure
Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure
Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure
Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure
Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure
Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure
Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure
Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure
Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure
Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure
Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure
Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure
Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure
Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure
Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure
Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure
Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure
Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure
Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure
Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure
Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure

Packaging - **1/2
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.

Paint - ***
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.

Articulation - ***1/2
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 achieve.

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 feels sturdier.

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 ” 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.

Accessories - ***
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 of accessories.

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.

Value - **1/2
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 Jungle Viper.

Fun Factor -
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.

Things 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.

Overall- ***
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 lesser-known ones.

I also wanted to mention other noteworthy figures and their features in the new POC line, along with an overall score.

Snake Eyes (POC v3) –  ****
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.

Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure

Firefly – ***
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.

Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure

Jungle 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.

Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure

Snow 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.

Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure

Cobra 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!

Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure

Alley 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.

Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure

Destro (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.

Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure

Storm 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.

Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure

Beachhead – ***
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 knife.

Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure

Dusty – **1/2
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.

Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure

Recondo – **
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 scoring.

Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure


Zartan Pursuit of Cobra PoC G.I. Joe action figure


This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer. Photos and text by Kevin Olmsted.

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