The Origin of Zartan, Part 2

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G.I. Joe: Origins #17
Origins17 cvrB.jpg
"The Origin of Zartan, Part 2"
Publisher IDW Publishing
First published July 14, 2010
Cover date July 2010
Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by Alex Cal
Colors by J. Brown
Letters by Chris Mowry
Editor Andy Schmidt
Assistant editor Carlos Guzman

Though Emil Zartan is dead, his story does not end there...

Synopsis[edit | edit source]

Cobra Commander is not happy with the Baroness. Emil Zartan, a valuable Cobra assassin, has died thanks to a malfunction of Destro's M.A.S.S. teleporter — and though the Baroness tries to assure him that she will be directly overseeing the M.A.S.S. experiment, the Commander is unimpressed, wanting results over empty promises. Instead, he contacts Dr. Taggac, a Cobra geneticist currently in the process of convincing World Health Organization director Helene Cottilard to agree to an illegal procedure to save her son's life. The Commander wants to know if Taggac is capable of re-creating the entire genome of an individual, and though Taggac explains that he would need a complete genetic map of the subject, the Commander believes that he can secure that — along with the funding necessary; as such, he calls Dr. Mindbender, who is overseeing an experiment in Cobra's Section Nine facility. Though Mindbender isn't happy to be called away from his work (which explodes catastrophically without him), the doctor reluctantly agrees to the Commander's orders to travel to Section Zero — ostensibly to assist with the M.A.S.S. experiment, but his true mission is to establish a secret uplink with the device's Relay Star satellite. As Cottilard's son recovers from his heart surgery, she offers Taggac payment, but he doesn't want money — as the director of the WHO, she has the authority to lift restrictions on the failed antiviral Zuprestin. Cottilard objects, but Taggac advises her to keep in mind what a group with the power to save her son's life could do to her if angered.

With the link to the Relay Star established, Taggac downloads Emil Zartan's genetic code and replicates it in a plasmid serum, before selecting a genetic blank "vessel" to host it. Activating the body, Taggac injects it with the serum, and the subject's features shift to resemble those of Zartan... only for it to start screaming in pain and horror! Something has clearly gone wrong with the process, as the writhing clone's body becomes deformed with tumors and biological failures; the scientists attempt to subdue it, but the super-strong clone fights its way past them until being tazed into submission by Taggac. The other scientists believe that the experiment cannot possibly live long, but Taggac sees something different in the misshapen clone — something wondrous...

With bio-magnetic pads attached to "Zartan" to keep his biology stable, Taggac takes it upon himself to teach the clone language, mathematics and general knowledge. During one of Zartan's lessons, a Cobra technician enters his room to speak to Taggac, and Zartan notes that the other man is of the same height as him... and alters his face and skintone to match! Taggac chastises Zartan as the technician flees, wanting him to keep his abilities a secret, though Zartan wishes to leave and experience the world for himself. Some time later, after the stabilizing pads have been implanted beneath Zartan's skin, Taggac sings the praises of the clone to Cobra Commander; though he is not truly Emil Zartan, he has the potential to become a perfectly loyal asset and assassin — and what's more, the results are potentially replicable.

Zartan once more asks to be free, to join the world, but Taggac again forbits him, claiming that he needs preparation and experience that he doesn't have. Zartan disagrees, though; his media consumption and learning has lead to the conclusion that humanity is made up of greedy, cowardly sheep that he has nothing to fear from. Taggac, concerned by his words, maintains that Zartan needs practical experience, and the clone appears to bow to his judgement... but the next time that a member of the kitchen staff enters Zartan's cell to serve him a meal, Zartan attacks him, stealing his clothes and shapeshifting to match the boy. When Taggac enters the cell, he realises what has happened, and sets a team to hunt Zartan down; because if he has reached the surface, he could be anywhere — or anyone.

Featured characters[edit | edit source]

(Numbers indicate order of appearance.)

Cobra Others

Quotes[edit | edit source]

"Don't be in such a hurry, Zartan. The world is a dangerous place. You need preparation. Knowledge."
"I disagree. I have read hundreds of books. Viewed thousands of hours of television. Explored the internet. Humanity is made up of self-serving, greedy, cowardly sheep. I have nothing to fear from them."

Dr. Taggac and Zartan debate.

Notes[edit | edit source]

Continuity notes[edit | edit source]

  • The first part of this issue must be set during Destro and the Baroness's submarine ride in G.I. Joe #9, as the Baroness refers to taking control of the M.A.S.S. experiment but Mindbender has not yet moved to Section Zero.
  • Mindbender wears a comically oversized hazmat suit, which he was shown on a screen with in G.I. Joe #16; as such, the project he's working on here must be the Tachyon project, which he was ordered to return to in G.I. Joe #15.
  • It's Cobra Commander! The big bad of the G.I. Joe franchise first appeared in IDW continuity via telepresence in G.I. Joe #16, and then in person the next month in Cobra II #4.

G.I. Joe references[edit | edit source]

  • Now that's more like it! Emil Zartan wasn't a whole lot like the classic version of the character, but his clone draws on his traditional portrayal as a master of disguise; he shares his original counterpart's chameleonic skin, based on the color change gimmick of his original toy, but while the original used make-up and holograms to disguise himself, the IDW version is a full-blown shapeshifter.

Real life references[edit | edit source]

  • While watching TV, Zartan's features imitate those of caustic reality TV personality Simon Cowell.

Errors[edit | edit source]

  • Cobra Commander refers to himself as the head of the Cobra Council, something that doesn't line up with its subsequent portrayal during Cobra Command as a body which the Commander is answerable to.

Covers (3)[edit | edit source]

  • Cover A: Zartan's face in collage, by Tom Feister.
  • Cover B: Zartan experiences the pain of being brought into existence, by Alex Cal and J. Brown.
  • Cover RI: Virgin version of cover A.