Monday, January 3, 2022

Wrapping Up 2021: Master of Disguise Zartan from G.I. Joe Classified Series by Hasbro


   It's now officially time to start wrapping up my action figure reviews of stuff from 2021 and since November and December were filled with releases I'll be working overtime in January to catch up. I'm currently in a bit of a G.I. Joe Classified Series mini marathon and today I'm checking out Master of Disguise Zartan, the deluxe Hasbro Pulse Convention exclusive version of Zartan who went up for sale in late October. I received mine in mid December so I'm not too behind, I guess. Hasbro has been getting a lot of flack about their "deluxe" offerings of late, especially in Star Wars: The Black Series, but Zartan is absolutely what a deluxe offering should be. This guy has so many alternate heads and incredibly cool accessories that you'll definitely be quite pleased even with the higher than usual price. The standard Zartan figure released in early 2021 was pretty good but this version, while mostly a repaint, still manages to top it. Let's take a look at Master of Disguise Zartan after the break...

The Facts:

Height: 6 1/4ths inches

Articulation: Swivel/ hinge ankles, boot swivels, double hinged knees, swivel thighs, ball jointed drop down hips, ball jointed waist, mid-torso hinge, butterfly pecs, swivel/hinge shoulders, bicep swivels, double hinged elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, ball jointed neck base, hinged neck, and a ball jointed head.

Accessories: Pistol, knife, 4 masks, 3 swappable heads, hood, bandanna, two-piece backpack, quiver backpack, bow, sniper rifle, magazine, and suppressor.

Non-Scalper Price: $37 dollars

The Packaging:
* I'm definitely getting to the point where I recycle/ dispose of the packaging of 99% of the figures I buy but I can still recognize some cool packaging and, so far, the G.I. Joe Classified Series has delivered. The exclusives have been particularly nice and Zartan's packaging is kind of cool. It's a 5 panel window box with the front panel depicting a cool mural of Zartan in some different poses. Even cooler is that his head is printed on a disc underneath the top layer of cardboard. Rotate it and the Master of Disguise rotates through most of his different looks in this set.


* The Master of Disguise Zartan is on the left while the standard Zartan is on the right. The base figures are the same with differing paintjobs. The standard figure has much darker armor while the Master of Disguise variant has brighter browns and more silver armored panels. They both look good and I could see fans really being torn about which one they prefer.

The Positives:

*  Like the standard version, I'm extremely happy with this Zartan sculpt. He's very faithful to the vintage toy overall but with some details from other eras. The armored he's wearing reminds me a lot of the Sigma 6 Zartan (which showed up on the 25th Anniversary Zartan, too). The armor is a separate piece over his torso but it's not designed to be removable. The sculpting is excellent and he's covered with interesting textures and armored gear. The colors pop a bit more on this guy thanks to the silver and light brown pants, which breaks things up nicely. This one might feel a bit more "vintage" due to those color choices.

* The headsculpt is the same as the previous figure but still so creepy! At first you might think he has whited out eyes but when you look at him a bit more you'll realize they're just really, really pale. The headsculpt reminds me of Arnold Vosloo who played Zartan in Rise of Cobra and retaliation. It's an incredible headsculpt with lots of character and personality. The paintwork is just phenomenal, too.

* Zartan's hood is removable and he looks really cool  wearing it. The hood seems to me a mixture of some sort of leather and some sort of hide. maybe gator hide or snake skin? It fits on him really well as the interior is sculpted to fit perfectly over his head, so no worries about this slipping off. It's a bit lighter than the hood from the standard figure, just FYI.
* Zartan presumably hangs out in lots of rough and nasty places so he's equipped with some pretty durable boots and lots of strategically placed armor to give him the edge in a fight. I imagine there might be tech in their that can help him with his disguises if you go with the theory that he uses a blend of his own arcane powers and holographic technology to truly change his appearance.

* The G.I. Joe: Classified Series has some incredible articulation and Zartan is a great figure to show it off with. he's got all of the joints you expect and almost nothing that gets in the way of him using them. His shoulder pads are attached to his armor and are a bit flexible so they can move around as needed.

* Zartan comes with lots of accessories, some new and some reused from the previous figure. First up is his pistol which the previous release included. It's very similar to the vintage Zartan's pistol with a slightly more modern edge. There's got to be more to this than just being a pistol, right? I'm sure it has some nasty surprises packed inside.
* Next up is another accessory from the previous release: A pretty fearsome looking knife. This is a close quarters weapon for sure and I hate to think of what Zartan is capable of when wielding this thing.

* Zartan also comes with a bow this time around. It's actually a reused weapon from Arctic Mission Storm Shadow but with a new paint job (white and black instead of black and gold).
* My favorite new piece for Zartan is this is incredible sniper rifle. This is a really advanced looking rifle that manages to strike a nice balance between the look of a functional firearm and something just a bit futuristic. It has a very sharp, detailed sculpt with lots of detail and even a paint application on the handle. There's a permanently attached sling as well (it's on the other side of the rifle so it's not visible in this picture) so Zartan can tote it around with him.

* The suppressor on the barrel is removable which is just really fun. The bipod also works and can fold up and down.

* Lastly, the rifle has a removable magazine. The bottom of the rifle has a hinged flap that folds down so the magazine can be removed. It's an unusual looking magazine but a very cool feature nonetheless.

* This version of Zartan also comes with the bandanna from the previous release. It's not the same sculpt as the Viper's bandanna as it's a bit smaller and thinner. It just clips around his neck and while it's brown, it's a lighter brown and adds nother touch of color to the figure.
* Another inclusion from the previous release is Zartan's bulky and oddly shaped backpack. It's very similar to the vintage toy's accessory which was also included with the figure in the 25th Anniversary line and the Rise of Cobra line. It's always been used to hold Zartan's disguises so that's the purpose it serves here...

* Inside is a a rather sophisticated interior with lots of details and a mask. The idea seems to be that Zartan's backpack can create masks, probably similar to how the disguises are made in the Mission: Impossible films. That's a really cool idea and I like how, again, this figure shows Zartan using technological means while also hinting at his supernatural abilities. The backpack comes apart easily and the mask fits securely inside.

* The mask looks similar to the vintage toy's mask. It's a true mask, not an alternate headsculpt, and it just fits over his face. With the hood on the seams are hidden and you get a really disturbing and pupilless visage. Again, I imagine Zartan prints masks and then uses his other abilities to help complete his "disguises."

* Since this version is the Master of Disguise Zartan, Hasbro made sure to include multiple masks and alternate portraits to allow him to live up to that moniker. The assassination of the Hard Master by Zartan is a key event in the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero comic series and most of the disguises in this set are connected to it. First up is a mask of the Soft Master. While the Soft Master has a very friendly face and demeanor there's something rather unsettling about the blank white eyes here. I'm sure Zartan has used this disguise to torment Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow.

* The Hard Master is also included here. He looks much sterner than his brother and has a great scar down the right side of his face. How disturbing would it be for Zartan to appear to Snake Eyes or Storm Shadow while wearing this disguise? Like the mask included with the basic Zartan, these are simple masks that fit over the figures face.



* When Zartan wants to infiltrate G.I. Joe he can use this Snake Eyes disguise. It's the standard Snake Eyes headsculpt included with the basic or deluxe Snake Eyes. This version is molded in black with a gray visor. The color scheme here is very reminiscent of the vintage Snake Eyes v2.


* Zartan is also aping Storm Shadow! This is the same portrait from Arctic Mission Storm Shadow but with a white balaclava instead of black. It's quite cool and some folks might prefer it on the previous Storm Shadow figure. Zartan definitely was disguised as Storm Shadow when he killed the Hard Master so this is a worthwhile inclusion.


* My favorite mask to come with Zartan is this crazy skull mask. What's the deal with this thing? It's terrifying and has some fantastic mechanical eyes with red pupils. Maybe thermal vision? This is just amazing and it fits him really well.

* When Zartan killed the Hard Master in the comics he used one of Tommy Arashikage's arrows so that he would take the blame. To pay tribute to this Hasbro included the quiver backpack from Arctic Mission Stormshadow. It's the same mold but now with red details instead of gold. You can even plug Zartan's bulky backpack into the hole and have him wear both packs.


* Zartan's knife fits nicely in this croc skin covered holster on his back where it is ever ready.


* Lastly, Zartan actually changes color. Yes, indeed! That was an unusual feature the vintage figure had and Hasbro has recreated it here. This time, though, place Zartan in the freezer or out in the cold and his skin turns purple. It looks fantastic and very creepy. A little heat (just a touch of your finger) and he begins to turn back to normal. I love how this figure seems to meld together Zartan's technological gear with his mystical/ mutant abilities to showcase how he truly can become whoever he wants to be when going undercover.

The Negatives:

* The Snake Eyes head has a really messy visor and it just seems really undersized on Zartan. Kind of odd looking, right?


* I do like that Zartan has a place to store his pistol but it still seems really weird to have it attach to the peg on his backpack via the trigger. That's just so awkward.


*Like I said on my review of Arctic Mission Storm Shadow, this bow looks really cool but where is the bow string? There's not even really a place to add one on nor is there even an arrow included here. Honestly, the advanced compound bow he used to kill the Hard Master would have been a better choice though Hasbro didn't have that mold just setting around I imagine.

   Yeah, some of the deluxe releases Hasbro is trying to justify in Star Wars: The Black Series and a couple other lines seem really silly but Master of Disguise Zartan really seems to live up to the ideals of a deluxe release. If you're happy with the standard release that's great. It's an amazing figure and a worthy Zartan. This guy, though, has the two alternate portraits of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, an incredible sniper rifle with lots of features, the archery gear, and four masks, including that crazy and creepy skull mask. Zartan is loaded with incredible accessories and gear that give him lots of options for display and play. He was an Epic figure as a basic release and this guy, with a bunch of cool gear, is Epic as well. He's one of the best of the year for the Classified Series and it's a darn shame he was so limited. 



For more of Zartan check out the standard Classified Series Zartan figure. 

For more G.I. Joe Classified Series reviews check out the following:


  1. I haven't really been into Joe since the 80s but Zartan had always been a favorite if just for his look if nothing else.

    1. Yeah, he's very unusual. Just an odd character with a cool mix of technology and occult abilities.

  2. I forget, how did the 80s Zartan figure change color? Was it water or sunlight?

    1. The vintage Zartan was changed by sunlight or heat.


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