In every race, there has to be a loser. No matter how many contestants there are one must always finish last. It's not a harsh view of the world-- it's a realistic approach to life. It's also true of artists, actors, painters, poets, playwrights, etc. Take John Wayne, for example. The Duke starred in a terrific number of films and most of them were really pretty good. Yet, such is life that not every one can be a gem. For every "The Shootist" there will always be a "Ghenghis Khan". This pack is Valor vs. Venom's "Ghenghis Khan."
The Joe’s resident desert trooper receives his second sculpt since the relaunch of the line and it’s not really a necessary update. Dusty comes across less as a desert trooper than he does an extra from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. (Seriously, take off the helmet and bandoleer and tell me that he’s not wearing a beige version of Commander Decker’s uniform!) The previous version of Dusty had a nice military feel to him—this one is definitely taking the more science fiction approach. Don’t get me wrong—this is a great sculpt, but it doesn’t surpass the previous Dusty (v6). The figure does use the same head sculpt (which is unusual for Hasbro considering the treatment of Shipwreck and Wild Bill) but in this case the helmet is removable. As an “old school” fan of RAH, I’m always happy to see the helmets as a separate piece rather than as a part of the figure mold.
One downside to Dusty is the rubberized skirt that is supposed to represent the bottom of his jacket. Hasbro has been using these on a lot of more recent figures with varying degrees of success. They hampered neither Nunchuck nor Kamakura but Dusty suffers the same fate as the most recent Cobra Commander. Simply put: the skirt prevents him from sitting down. Again, it’s a minor annoyance but it is something that limits the uber-poseable nature of the GIJoe standard buck. The other downside to Dusty is the quality of his lower arms and legs. In recent waves Hasbro has been experimenting with a significantly softer plastic for these parts and this seems to be the softest yet. It is so soft in fact that I’m worried about how well these figures will hold up over time. I fear that several of the figures in this wave will bow and warp over time unless they are kept in a cool environment. This is a puzzling move as earlier figures in the GvC relaunch were not composed of such a soft material and one can only speculate at the reasoning behind it.
I think then-Vice Presidential candidate Lloyd Bentson’s words to Dan Quayle during a debate best describe my thoughts on this figure. After Senator Quayle had compared himself to a young JFK, Senator Bentson turned to him and said, “I knew JFK. JFK was a friend of mine. You are no JFK.” That quote summarizes my opinion of this figure perfectly. I’ve known Zartan since 1984. Zartan has been one of my favorite Cobra affiliates for the past 20 years. This figure is NO Zartan.
For a redesign of a classic character to work it either has to incorporate elements of the original figure or be such a solid design as to blown the audiences away. This figure does neither. First of all, his colors are a mess: red and purple shirt, black stocking cap, black pants with white trim, and a white version of Batman’s utility belt. Honestly, aside from Ben Matlock when was the last time you saw ANYONE under the age of 60 wear a white belt? Also, there is no trademark hood. I for one hated the orange-Mohawk-wearing Zartan of Ninja Force. There is no way a true ‘master of disguise’ would ever wear anything like that. In this case, Zartan appears to have stolen Shipwreck’s stocking cap and run for the hills. For me, nothing on this figure works in any way. You can chop him up for custom-fodder but the stain will still remain. I’m still waiting for a good Zartan figure and I guess I’ll have to wait a while longer.
In the end, I honestly don't know what the design team was thinking. Dusty's uniform belongs more in the first Star Trek film than it does in the desert and who the heck knows what was going through Zartan's head when he put on that outfit. Honestly, these have to be two of the ugliest redesigns since the relauch now two years ago. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Since these two design school rejects come packaged together you can skip this pack entirely and save yourself the grief of having to explain to your friends why you own a figure as ugly as Zartan. (Also, think of what the other Dreadnoks would do to him if they caught him in that outfit.) Skip this and consider it money well saved!