The Origin of Zartan, Part 3

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G.I. Joe: Origins #18
Origins18 cvrB.jpg
"The Origin of Zartan, Part 3"
Publisher IDW Publishing
First published August 18, 2010
Cover date August 2010
Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by Alex Cal
Colors by Filippo Flores
Letters by Neil Uyetake
Editor Andy Schmidt
Assistant editor Carlos Guzman

With Zartan escaped from Cobra's laboratories, Dr. Taggac orders him brought in at any cost.

Synopsis[edit | edit source]

Under the orders of Dr. Taggac, a Cobra retrieval team scrambles for the surface to track down the escaped test subject Zartan; though they are confused by the doctor's claim that no physical description is relevant, the team are confident that they can take him in with his subcutaneous tracker implant. The team closes in on his position, but as they do, he disappears behind a huge crowd of people — as Zartan, with his shapeshifting abilities, has changed his face to match a celebrity from the cover of a magazine, and been surrounded by adoring fans! While Taggac is confronted over video call by an unimpressed Cobra Commander, Zartan flees through the traffic to the entrance to the city's subway — only to find himself at gunpoint from the Cobra forces. The team's leader orders him to surrender or die, but Zartan takes neither option; elbowing an unprepared Cobra trooper in the face, he steals the man's shotgun and tells the other men to leave rather than let themselves be caught by law enforcement, and when his gambit fails he flees into the subway, clearing the crowds with his stolen weapon.

With lethal force now authorised, the Cobra team pursues Zartan into the underground station, and he is forced to jump through the path of an oncoming train to escape their gunfire; as he pulls himself up on the other platform, though, he is confronted by Cobra technician Bryson, whose face he had copied while still learning his abilities. Though Bryson threatens to execute Zartan, seeing him as a monster, the shapeshifter grapples him and throws him into the path of an oncoming train, and he is run over instantly. By the time that the other Cobra forces arrive, all that is left is a puddle of gore and meat... but the chip still transmitting from the remains seems to mark them as Zartan.

"Bryson", bleeding from his forearm, returns to the public front of the Cobra laboratories, claiming that he was nicked by a bullet. Taggac, in his lab, assures the field team's leader that Cobra will be able to cover up the events of Zartan's escape now that he is dead... but as he hangs up, Zartan enters the room, his arm bandaged and Bryson's gun in his hand! Having ripped his transponder out with his teeth, Zartan has now returned to Cobra; not, as Taggac surmises, because he has nowhere else to go, but because he wishes to truly be Zartan — and to do that, he must understand who Emil Zartan was. Taggac insists that the clone only resembles his predecessor, and is not truly him, but Zartan disagrees — he escaped an inescapable lab, outfoxed expert Cobra security, and infiltrated the laboratory once more. He can do everything that Emil Zartan could do... but even more so.

Zartan has Taggac put him through to Cobra Commander, who is none too happy to be disturbed; with the assurance that Cobra may do with him what they will if he fails to convince the Commander, Zartan lays out his case. If Emil Zartan was a valuable asset to Cobra before his death, he must now be indispensable — a skilled assassin with a thousand faces; the Commander admits that he sees the potential in Zartan, and so the shapeshifter sets out his three conditions: his freedom, his own unit within Cobra... and that only Zartan and the Commander know his secret. As the meaning of Zartan's words sink in on a horrified Taggac, Cobra Commander agrees to the terms, and Zartan executes his "creator". He wonders out loud why the Commander trusts him so much, but Cobra Commander claims that he doesn't — and yet he has no fear of Zartan, for despite his powers, Zartan has no idea what the Commander looks like beneath his mask.

When the security team breaks into the lab, the Commander informs the confused men of a change in personnel — and with his freedom secured, Zartan leaves the room, intending to go "home". Some time later, in the Spanish city in which Emil Zartan grew up, his clone finds the film poster from which he took his name, still on the wall affter all those years. His reverie is interrupted by a policeman who claims to know him; but though they did meet once before, it was in a different lifetime... and Zartan sticks his fingers into the man's throat, leaving him to choke as he leaves, the torn shreds of the poster falling to the floor.

Featured characters[edit | edit source]

(Numbers indicate order of appearance.)

Cobra Others
  • Celebrity (magazine cover, 5)

Quotes[edit | edit source]

"If I was of use to Cobra before then, I would be indispensible now, would I not? A talented assassin with the ability to appear as anyone? A trusted comrade? A sibling? The target himself?"
"There are certain possibilities."

Zartan makes his case to a poker-faced Cobra Commander.

Notes[edit | edit source]

Continuity notes[edit | edit source]

  • The man that confronts Zartan in the Spanish city is the same police officer that got kicked in the throat by the young Emil Zartan back in Origins #16. You really would have thought he'd have learned the first time.

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

  • Zartan's desire for his own unit within Cobra is a clear nod to the Dreadnoks, the biker gang that Zartan led back in the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero line. It's just a coy reference, though; when the Dreadnoks finally appeared in IDW continuity, it'd be in an entirely different context.

Real life references[edit | edit source]

  • Though the city isn't named in dialogue, multiple background details — including copies of the Faro de Vigo, ADN, and La Voz de Galicia newspapers, the Sousa Comics store, and the restaurant El Porrón — mark it as the city of Vigo in Spain, the hometown of artist Alex Cal. The IDWverse version of Vigo apparently has a subway system that the real one lacks, with the station that Zartan flees to being located near the Balaídos stadium. Chuck Dixon seems to have not got the message, though, as a future issue refers to Zartan's creation as taking place in Brussels, Belgium!

Errors[edit | edit source]

  • When Zartan is discussing terms with Cobra Commander, "indispensable" is misspelled "indispensible".

Covers (3)[edit | edit source]

  • Cover A: Zartan does a sick bike stunt, by Tom Feister.
  • Cover B: Zartan mirrored in Cobra Commander's helmet, by Alex Cal and J. Brown.
  • Cover RI: Virgin version of cover A.