Yes, I know, I’m pretty unabashed in my love for the G.I. Joe: Classified line and I’ll readily admit that I’ve enjoyed pretty much every figure they’ve released so far.
But, from time to time, one figure rises above the others, and evven in a line full of great toys, there is a new one that stands above the crowd. The G.I. Joe: Classified Zartan is just about as close to a perfect G.I. Joe toy as you can get.
Zartan has always been one of my favorite characters in the G.I. Joe lore. The way he walked a narrow line between good and evil (he was always better evil, however) his near-supernatural shape shifting abilities, his twisted sense of honor and loyalty, as well as the way Larry Hama interwove his backstory into Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow.
Zartan was the epitome of everything I loved about G.I. Joe. Just the right hint of supernatural, just the right hint of futuristic sci-fi–a mix of weaponry and martial arts skills. I love Zartan and I really, really love the G.I. Joe: Classified representation of him.
Very much like Destro, the design for Zartan leans heavily into his vintage look, giving him the familiar brown hood, eye make up, layered chest armor, etc… But also like Desro, they’ve gone an extra step in adding some really interesting modern flair throughout a pretty familiar looking design.
In some cases, the changes are subtle, like the layered texture throughout his hood that really gives it a third dimension. Other changes are more obvious, like the reinforced armor on his forearms and the spectacular snakeskin texture on his gloves.
The figure is a nice, solid size, though not as big and bulky as Gung Ho or Roadblock. I thought at first he might be built on their buck, but in fact it appears as though his bare torso and arms beneath the armor are completely new tooling. Paint applications are very familiar, with brown pants, black armor (though some of that armor has a great, understated metal “sheen” to it).
Again, the benefits of the larger scale really show through with the vast amount of sculpted texture that really bring the figure to life. You can see where there’s metal, where there’s fabric, and even the different changes in fabric texture. Though the figure is mostly two colors – brown and black, the variant shades and sculpts beneath those textures tells a really great story.
Like most Classified figures as well, Zartan can carry every single accessory he comes with, between a great sheath on his belt and a peg on his backpack (more on that awesome backpack later), not to mention the snake’s head and monkey’s paw that adorn his belt as well.
From a design perspective, Zartan is an absolute home run.
As with the other Classified figures, Zartan’s articulation is pretty much perfect. The armor is sculpted in a way to not hinder the way he moves and he’s capable of achieving almost any pose you’d want. His large shoulder pouldrons are een designed in a way to move with his arm movements so he can look imposing standing still, but also stretch his arms out in nearly any fashion.
My goodness, the accessories Zartan comes with a pretty close to perfect. No, he doesn’t come with a ton of gear, but he comes with just enough, and you get a fantastic combination of warm nostalgia and cool new touches to go along with it.
The backpack is, just as it should be. Very evocative of his original 1984 version, it even holds the mask just like that previous figure did. The mask fits perfectly and while of course it won’t fool anyone, it really leans heavily into that classic toy functionality and I love it. Zartan comes with a pistol that’s very much like his original version as well, plus the bad ass knife that slips into his holster.
New additions are both the monkey’s paw and the snake head, which are elements that tie him into his swamp background and give him a bit of a cool “voodoo” edge. Such a neat touch. He comes with the same scarf as the COBRA Viper, only in brown instead of gray, which is removable if you don’t like it. The hood also comes off, yet it stays on his head perfectly well, too, for some added variability.
How much praise can I heap on this figure? It ticks every single box you’d want it to tick. You like the vintage look? We got it. You like the modern “G.I. Joe: Classified aesthetic”? Got those bases covered, too.
I honestly cannot think of a single complaint about this figure. In a line that has already impressed me with nearly every single offering, somehow they just managed to one-up themselves. Not only that, but this is a standard release figure, which should make it easier to acquire. I know when first announced there were pre-orders across the board at Pulse, BBTS, Entertainment Earth, Gamestop and others. Word is that the figure can already be found at Walgreens as well.
Hopefully this is a sign of things to come as far as avaialability goes.
Meanwhile, I am thrilled to add this figure to my growing roster of COBRA agents. Classified is once again gaining ground as perhaps my favorite iteration of G.I. Joe since the classic days. Watch out, Sigma 6, it might be gaining on you!
G.I. Joe Classified COBRA Infantry
This figure is just about as perfect as you can get. A great, timeless character, some nice vintage throwbacks, but with some really great modern twists. The perfect allotment of accessories, fantastic articulation– yeah, Zartan is where it’s at.