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By Thomas Wheeler

One of two comic-based three-packs released by Hasbro for internet only sites (, this particular set reflects issue #74 of the Marvel comic, and features three notable Cobras -- Zartan, Zarana, and Cobra Commander.

It's a surprisingly good set. This was one set that I was honestly prepared to be a little disappointed with. After all, neither Zartan nor Zarana really need new head sculpts, which has been one of the hallmarks of the comic-based line, and I've never been especially impressed with the "Battle Armor" Cobra Commander figure. But this set was really a very pleasant surprise.

ZARTAN: Although it can be debated whether this popular character actually needed a new head sculpt, there's no denying that he got a good one. The hood, especially, is distinctly longer than the original, and has the downward "V" in the middle that the original lacked, which lends a certain additional menace to the overall appearamce of the figure. The color selection is good. The figure doesn't change color, and his chestplate and leg pieces don't have their color altering stickers, but the overall look of the figure is excellent, and Zartan comes complete with a nice assortment of archery equipment, which in the storyline featured in these issues -- the Cobra Civil War -- he used to bring down Serpentor.

Zartan's file card reads as follows:

ZARTAN Cobra Master of Disguise

File Name: Unknown (aliases too numerous to list) Primary Military Specialty: Infiltration Secondary Military Specialty: Sabotage Birthplace: Unknown

ZARTAN is a master of disguise, the leader of the Dreadnoks and a master of several martial arts. He is a gifted ventriloquist, linguist (over twenty languages), and acrobatic contortionist, and a highly skilled archer. Tight-lipped and evasive, Zartan has always maintained that the secret of his amazing chameleon-like powers lies in his manipulation of advanced holographic technology. Some have suspected that his ability to change his skin color to blend in with his environment is due to an actual genetic mutation. Either way, Cobra Commander keeps him on the payroll with a standing order to remove anyone, "friend or foe", who may threaten his supreme leadership.

"I am never what I appear to be, and I am always something other than what I am expected to be. Those who think they know me are deluded."

This is really an excellent update of Zartan's profile. It's worth mentioning that, like all of the online G.I.Joe offerings, the overall package design has done a nice job of reflecting the original package design of the 1980's, blended with a modern style. The file card is excellent, and certainly is a superb profile of Zartan, answering many of the questions about his unusual abilities while really leaving it up to the reader to decide for himself. Are Zartan's abilities natural or technological? Could be both, really. Nicely done.

ZARANA: While a welcome addition to the set, I have to say that I really don't like the headsculpt. While no one would ever accuse Zarana as being a lovely young lady, any trace of femininity has been erased by thus new head sculpt. There's something especially about the eyes and eyebrows that, just looks a little to manly. Apart from that, it's a decent figure, actually not terribly different from the original, but then it didn't really need to be. Still, I rather wish the original headsculpt had been used here.

Zarana's file card reads as follows:

ZARANA Sister of Zartan

File Name: Unknown Primary Military Specialty: Intelligence Secondary Military Specialty: Sabotage Birthplace: Unknown

The sinister sister of the sardonic shape-shifter (well, somebody was feeling particularly alliterative here, weren't they?!) is a disguise artist in her own right. An astounding mimic and quick study, she needs only moments of observation before she can assume a subject's body language and voice characteristics down to the smallest detail. Zartan makes his impersonations work with exact physical resemblance. His sister's approach is more from the method actor's point of view; she tries to become her subject, going as far as trying to think like he or she would. Zarana would be much more successful at her craft if she wasn't so rude, tight-fisted, and generally mean. As convincing as her impersonations can be, she can't sustain them for very long without revealing the unbridled nastiness that is at the core of her real self. Getting discovered is a relief for her in a way, since she can then demonstrate her prowess with knives, small-bore pistols, and spiked brass knuckles.

"I wish there were two of you. Then I could knock your heads together and really get your attention."

Nice lady...

COBRA COMMANDER: The time of issue #74 was a time when the real Cobra Commander was believed to have been dead, at least by the meager handful of people within the story who knew about it. He had been replaced by a particularly ambitious Crimson Guardsman of the elite "Fred" series, one of those who underwent cosmetic surgery to be given a face identical to a cadre of such CG's. Since the Battle Armor, which he himself had built, covered the entire face, and provided electronic voice modulation, there was no way for the average person to know that it wasn't the original Cobra Commander inside the uniform.

The figure reflects this. Although the body is the Battle-Armor Cobra Commander, a new helmet has been sculpted, which is removable, revealing a "Fred" head underneath! It's actually pretty cool to finally have an official figure of the "Fred" Cobra Commander after all these years. It's not something that I'd put on a level of Kwinn or the Oktober Guard, but it's still pretty cool.

The file card manages to be amusingly cryptic:

COBRA COMMANDER Cobra Supreme Leader

File Name: Classified Primary Military Specialty: Intelligence Secondary Military Specialty: Ordnance (Experimental Weapons) Birthplace: Classified

Cobra Commander likes to be up front in the thick of the action when his troops confront the G.I.Joe team. To protect their leader in the heat of battle, the best technical minds at the armament factory run by Destro and a "Siegie" known as Fred VII have created a special suit of body armor. This self-contained masterpiece combines flexible bulletproof polymer fabrice with beryllium steel plate components. The entire suit is air-conditioned, solvent-resistant, and ray-shielded. The helmet is fitted with an integral communications system, internal read-outs for environmental quality and a miniaturized computer display. The plate parts can withstand a direct hit from a heavy machine-gun and the flexible parts will stop anything up to a .357 Magnum.

"Several members of the Cobra hierarchy have become suspicious, since it could be anyone hidden under the helmet. However, no one would dare confront Cobra Commander or try to remove his helmet, since it has an anti-tamper device with a direct hook-up to a half-pound of plastic explosive!"

Boy, that'll cure your headache. That remark about the "armament factory" is a bit of a stretch, since in the comic book (not the issue included with this set), Fred VII actually built the armor more or less in his spare time while working in deep cover as a car mechanic in an auto garage.

Overall, the set is cool, but in one respect, it reflects a growing problem with the ongoing traditional-style G.I.Joes -- the same molds are getting used over and over. Portions of the Battle-Armor Cobra Commander were used in the Cobra Imperial Guard figure. Zartan and Zarana both turned up in the 2004 Convention Set. The last really new traditional- style figure, and I'm not complaining since he was long overdue, was Horror-Show. If this line is going to continue, and I pray it does, then more of the original molds must be brought into this line, whether it's the original molds, or remakes. I know this latter is an expensive procedure, but it would be well worth it.

However, this is still an abundantly worthwhile set, and it certainly has my recommendation. YO JOE!