ICE-VIPER v.4 (2014)

Joe-Ice Viper v4 fullG. I. JOE : 50th ANNIVERSARY

It’s finally here. The Ice-Viper figure I’ve been waiting 7 years for. When I got the original Ice Viper in 1987 he immediately shot up to the top of my Cobra hierarchy. Not in any official manner, mind you. It’s not like he was leading my Cobra Forces or anything. He was just a regular grunt who took orders from the Commander like everybody else did. But in terms of sheer power no one tipped the scales more than Ice Viper. He could tear through the G.I. Joe team like the Incredible Hulk. Even Snake Eyes, who was no slouch, couldn’t stand toe-to-toe with him. Only the Joe team’s SWAT trooper, Shockwave, could match Ice-Viper in destructive power.

I realize that having a nameless, faceless vehicle driver in a parka beat up an entire army of America’s most capable soldiers is pretty retarded but I was a little kid so whatever. The point is I loved Ice Viper. I can’t really explain why. It’s not like he’s any cooler looking than any of the other Vipers variations or even the blue shirted Cobra infantry. And it’s not like the Ice Vipers were prominently featured in any comics or cartoons. The fact that he’s a cold weather trooper probably limited his use for a lot of other kids. I’m not sure what it was that struck such a chord with me in ’87 but I absolutely loved that figure.Joe-Ice Viper v4 side

I started collecting Joe figures again in 2002 when the then dormant toy line from my youth was resurrected with newly sculpted figures. Not only were the figures newly sculpted but also newly constructed. They looked and felt different than the vintage figures but they could still be displayed together fairly seemlessly. The new construction style had its flaws but I was just happy to be getting new figures after so many years of lackluster vintage repaints.  I liked that the new sculpt waves were made up largely of new characters.  It breathed some new life into the brand.  But I was also keen to get new versions of all my old favorites. A new Ice Viper was near the top of my want-list. Hasbro never released a new-sculpt Ice Viper but the Collector’s Club released a pretty sweet repaint of the original in 2007 which filled the new-sculpt Ice-Viper void to my satisfaction.Joe-Ice Viper v4 back

But later that same year Hasbro rendered the new sculpt figures moot but relaunching G.I. Joe again in an all-new more detailed modern style to celebrate the brand’s 25th anniversary. The modern figures were taller than the vintage and new-sculpt toys and constructed in a whole new way, combining the best elements of both previous generations. They could not be displayed cohesively with older figures due to the drastic design differences so it was like I was starting to collect G.I. Joe from scratch. The change in style may have frustrated some but I found it exciting; it was like the early 80s all over again.

As modern versions of old favorites were released I scooped up each one of them. It took a year or two for Hasbro to get to some of my favorites like Shockwave and Zarana but that was to be expected; you can’t release everybody all at once. I worried that Ice Viper was perhaps too minor a player to get the modern figure treatment but I held out hope as other C-list characters continued to roll out.Joe-Ice viper v4 box

The steady flow of 25th anniversary figures was interrupted by the release of the first live-action Joe movie, Rise of Cobra (ROC).  Where the anniversary figures were homages to the toys I grew up with, the movie based figures were drastic departures.  Nostalgia took a back seat to movie-based figures dressed all in black and featuring actor’s likenesses. Amidst the drab movie figures Hasbro released a modern Ice Viper. I didn’t know how to feel about it.  The movie Ice Viper figure didn’t look anything like the Ice Viper of old but a part of me was just thankful to have gotten a modern Ice Viper in any form. I didn’t even dislike the figure but it was hard to imagine him as MY Ice-Viper.Joe-Ice Viper v4 compare

The ROC Ice-Viper was later rereleased with a few tweaks to the paint job and dubbed Elite Ice-Viper and thats the version I’ve had standing in as my bad-ass super soldier Ice-Viper of the 80s.  But no more.

As part of this years 50th anniversary series (commemorating the original 12″ Joe  dolls of the 1960s) Hasbro has finally given me a modern sculpt version of the 1987 Ice Viper. He came in a boxed set titled “Battle Below Zero” along with a cold weather Snake Eyes and 2 vehicles; a gray Skyhawk for Snake Eyes and a brand new Arctic Wolf for Ice Viper to pilot.  The whole set is pretty stellar but I’ll talk about the other pieces in another post, for now lets focus on Ice-Viper.Joe-Ice viper v4 contents

His body is mostly made up of the modern Snow Serpent body but the lower legs and lower arms have been swapped out.  I’m pleased with the parts choices as the Snow Serpent makes sense as a base but a straight repaint would’ve been kind of boring.  The Neo-Viper gloves give Ice-Viper a more unique look.  I also appreciate the modifications made to the legs to add the sai sheathes/holsters of the original.  The fur collar and ammo belt is a newly sculpted piece that looks great and is more realistic than the bizarre “sash” of the original.  The ’87 Ice-Viper had a smooth ninja like mask but this one has a ribbed ski mask which makes more sense given his environmental specialty. At first I assumed this was a re-painted Beachhead head but it may actually be a brand new piece; either way it looks good.  The paint job on the eyes is very well done.  The only issue I have with the sculpt of this figure is that it’s got a bit of a giraffe neck.  The fur collar hides it somewhat, especially from the side, but this figure would look that much better if the neck was a few millimeters shorter.Joe-Ice Viper v4 vehicle

One of my favorite things about the original figure was the removable helmet. The red ninja mask looked great but I liked having the option to put on his gray helmet which had a pair of unpainted goggles sculpted to it.  This version takes it a step further by having the removable gray helmet but also a pair of separately sculpted removable goggles with a black strap and translucent blue lenses.Joe-Ice Viper v4 sais

 

 

Ice-Viper v.4 comes with 2 sais just like the original but he has a pistol and submachine gun as well.  He also comes with a display base with a gold Cobra logo.

I’m super stoked to finally have this figure.  Other than the  long neck I think it’s amazing. I love the changes they’ve made like the removable goggles, improved ammo belt, and subtle gray camo on the outfit.  The joe team better watch out because Ice -Viper is back to kick some ass. 10 out of 10.Joe-Ice Viper fightJoe-Ice Viper v4 line-up

FLINT (micro force) (2013)

Joe-Flint micro fullG. I. JOE : MICRO FORCE

2013 was a weird year for G.I. Joe.  There was a successful live-action movie playing in the theaters but there were hardly any movie-based toys to be found.  That would probably be considered poor planning in the case of any action movie geared towards young boys but its  an even bigger fail in this case since we’re talking about a movie thats based on a toy line. I think the biggest problem was the fact that the film’s release date got pushed back 9 months just weeks before it was slated to hit theaters.  Toy aisles were stocked pretty heavily with wave 1 movie product in 2012 which was expected to sell through based on brand awareness created by the film.  But the film got delayed and so kids didn’t want the toys and so the toys sat for months until they were marked down.  My local Toys R Us still has that 2012 product on their shelves.

When the movie finally came out in 2013 and kids might have actually wanted the toys, retailers refused to stock Joe items because of the toy line’s poor performance the year prior.  I never saw wave 2, 3, or 4 product in stores; I had to order all my figures online.  Oddly enough, even though new 3 3/4 ” figures were almost impossible to find in 2013, these strange little 1 inch figures started popping up in stores. Joe-Flint micro packaging

The new mini figures were part of a line called Micro Force.  It featured over 40 figures that were available in carded 5 packs or in single blind bags.  Most of the characters were familiar faces but there were a few new concepts thrown in as well such as a zombie Cobra Commander and Ghost Ninjas (both of which almost made it into the 3 3/4″ line). The figures are made of soft rubber and they don’t have any articulation.  They have holes in their feet and can be removed from the round black display bases they come on.  I’ll admit that I was tempted to buy them when I first saw them.  They’re cute, they’re different, and more importantly they were the only new Joe product available.  However, I’d already been drawn into cute versions of G.I. Joe before by way of Mighty Muggs, Combat Heroes, and the Loyal Subjects vinyls.  I decided I didn’t need to open another can of worms and so I passed on Micro Force.Joe-Flint micro side

But then my brother Doug bought me a 5-pack as a stocking stuffer last year.  He bought me the pack featuring my favorite Joe, Shockwave, as well as Snake-Eyes, a Cobra Trooper, a Red Ninja, and this guy, Flint.

I have previously reviewed 3 different Flint figures so I don’t have a whole lot more to say about the character.  I always liked the way he was portrayed in the comics and cartoons.  I liked the way he was portrayed in the live-action movie, and I even liked the way Doug portrayed him when we were kids (Doug owned the 1985 original figure and the 1988 Tiger Force repaint). He’s a cool character and I’m always happy to add a new version of him to my collection, even one as useless as this.Joe-Flint micro back

This figure doesn’t move but at least he’s posed in a cool position.  The Shockwave from the pack is kneeling which is really annoying because its not a very actionable pose.  Flint looks like he’s cautiously walking into a potentially hot situation.  He’s clutching his rifle with both hands and he’s got his trusty shotgun and a couple grenades at the ready on his back if he needs them.  The sculpt is surprisingly decent with some real attitude emoting from the face and the paint apps are pretty good too ( I really like that they added the red paint to his shotgun shells).  And while the figure technically doesn’t move, the softness of the rubber allows you to bend him into some different positions.

Joe-Flint micro attack

 

 

 

 

All in all, it’s not a bad little figure for what it is.  I wouldn’t have bought it myself and I have no intention of buying any more Micro Force figures, but as a gift it was a neat little thing to keep me entertained while bumming around my parents house over the holidays. 4 out of 10.

FRENZIED FLAMINGO

BB-Flamingo fullBATTLE BEASTS

This here is Frenzied Flamingo. He was released as part of the third series of Battle Beasts(the final series before they transitioned into Laser Beasts). As a kid I managed to collect nearly all of series 1 and 2 in their entirety but the third series was more elusive. I’m not sure if it was because fewer stores were stocking them as the line’s popularity cooled or if it was the fact that they were only available in 8 packs, instead of the usual 2-packs, thus making them more expensive for my folks to buy for me.  Whatever the reason, I only got a few figures from the third wave. It was frustrating because I was definitely still interested in the line at the time. I scooped up all of the Laser Beast 2-packs when they came out a year or so later.BB-Flamingo box

Throughout my teens and 20s I slowly filled in the series 3 holes in my collection by way of trades, flea markets and ebay. Frenzied Flamingo was one of those late additions to my BB collection.  I finally completed my Battle Beast collection a couple years ago with the purchase of Pugnacious Penguin. I developed a bond with almost every toy I played with as a kid, like Andy and Woody from the Toy Story movies, but toys I acquired as an adult, no matter how cool they are, lack that personal connection.

BB-Flamingo back

Since I didn’t get Flamingo here until long after I had outgrown playing with my toys I don’t have any connection to him. I’m glad I got him, as I needed him to complete my collection, but that’s where our relationship ends. I can’t look at Sly Fox or Rocky Rhino without wishing I was 8 years old again playing with them in my backyard. I look at Frenzied Flamingo and feel no such thing.BB-Flamingo face

But even if I owned this figure when I was a kid I don’t think he’d hold any nostalgic power over me today. I’m just not a big fan of this toy. Takara managed to make some really cool anthropomorphic warriors out of some unlikely candidates like a seahorse and a duck but I feel they missed the mark with Frenzied. Flamingos are pretty dorky birds in real life and this figure is dorky too. Firstly, there’s the color. Now, I know there’s nothing he can do about being pink, he’s a flamingo, but being pink is not his biggest color crime. I think the blue and red armor on this figure is just ugly. With many Battle Beasts the armor was a painted a complimentary color to the skin tone to create a visually appealing figure. I’m not sure what color would’ve worked better in this case I just know I don’t like this combination.BB-Flamingo side

The sculpt on this guy isn’t great either. It’s alright, he’s identifiable as a flamingo at least, but I think they could’ve done a lot better. Flamingos have very recognizably shaped beaks and this figure doesn’t have it.  Instead of a angular downturned beak this guy has a big roundish one that looks like a big pink nose. I think some black and white paint on the beak would have done wonders for this figure but unfortunately paint apps were minimal with this line. He’s got long flamingo legs which is good but they’re way too thick, especially near the top.  It almost looks like they sculpted skinny legs but then just left a bunch of excess pink plastic around them to support the weight.  Plus he’s wearing a dorky Lobot headpiece.  There’s some nice sculpting in the wings and feet but it’s not enough to save this figure.

This figure is definitely one of the weaker links in what is a mostly strong toy line. 5 out of 10.

SCARLET SPIDER (KAINE)

Marv-Scarlet ML fullMARVEL LEGENDS

It’s time for another Scarlet Spider review. I’ve previously reviewed 2 Scarlet Spider figures but none of the three are actually the same character. Let’s recap…

The first Scarlet Spider was a clone of Spider-Man. Back in issue 149 of Amazing Spider-Man published in 1975 Peter Parker’s deranged university professor, Miles Warren, nabbed some of Spidey’s DNA and cloned him. The clone was convinced he was the original and this led to a conflict between him and the true Spider-Man. The battle ended with the clone’s apparent death. End of story. Not quite. In the 1990s the clone returned. The writers explained it by saying that the clone never actually died; he just packed his things and left town after he realized he was the phoney. During his years in exile the clone took the name Ben Reilly. Upon his return to the big apple Ben and Peter became friends. Ben dyed his hair blonde and they explained away their physical similarities by telling people they were cousins. Ben donned a red spandex suit and a blue hoodie and took the name Scarlet Spider. He and Spidey fought side by side for a little while and things were all good. That is until the Green Goblin showed up and killed Ben. For more details check out this post.Marv-Scarlet ML thwip

The blue hoodied hero was gone and Ben was dust but the Scarlet Spider returned in the pages of Avengers: Initiative. A new recruit of the Avengers with enhanced athletic abilities named MVP was killed during a training exercise. But it just so happened that a mad scientist who lived in Avengers basement at the time made 3 secret clones of MVP whom he named Michael, Van, and Patrick. He dressed them all in the Iron Spider-Man costume that Spidey wore during the super hero civil war. They took the name the Scarlet Spiders and became members of the Avengers Shadow Initiative team. All was well. That is until Van and Michael got killed in battle , leaving Patrick as the sole clone of MVP and sole Scarlet Spider. Then the Initiative book got canceled and Patrick faded into obscurity. For more details check out this post.Marv-Scarlet ML cover

The Scarlet Spider recently returned for a third time with another new costume, the black and red number you see here. This Scarlet Spider upholds the SS tradition of being a clone but it isn’t Ben or any of the MVPs; it’s Kaine, the “evil” clone of Spider-Man. In the same 90s storyline that gave us Ben Reilly we got Kaine. He was a mystery man at first but it was eventually revealed that he was in fact Professor Warren’s failed first attempt at cloning Peter Parker. Soon after he was created Kaine’s unstable clone body began to degenerate. He was of no use to Professor Warren like that so he was cast out while the professor worked to perfect the process. The degeneration left Kaine hideously scarred and a little insane. He became obsessed with killing the successfully cloned Ben who Kaine saw as the reason that he was rejected and abandoned by his “father” Miles Warren.

Kaine was a thorn in Spider-Man’s side for a while but once Ben was dead Kaine faded out of the picture. Overall, Spidey fans didn’t like “the clone saga” which spanned years and permeated multiple titles. Apparently sales took a hit.  Sweeping Ben, Kaine, Lady Doctor Octopus, Seward Trainor, Traveller, and anyone else associated with the bloated clone story line, under the rug seemed to be the mandate to get fans to come back. Kaine made frequent appearances in the alternate MC2 universe inhabited by Spider-Girl though so he wasn’t completely wiped out of existence.Marv-Scarlet ML swing

Kaine returned to the core Spidey books with the Grimm Hunt storyline. During the hunt he sacrificed himself to help Spidey save the day, ultimately redeeming himself. But then he was resurrected as a spider monster during the Spider-Island storyline which found pretty much all of the denizens of New York transformed into spider monsters. Luckily, the team at Horizon Labs mange to whip up a cure and revert everyone back to normal, including Kaine. A side effect of the cure was that Kaine’s degeneration scars healed. This redeemed and, for the first time ever, handsome Kaine left NYC to start a new life. He found himself settled in Houston where circumstances forced him to take on a new heroic costumed identity. He went with the name coined by his fallen brother Ben, the Scarlet Spider.

There, now you’re all up to speed. This figure is from the 6” Marvel Legends line. I don’t usually buy Legends figures because I collect the 4” scale Marvel Universe line. But unfortunately many characters I want figures of (Black Cat, Superior Spider-Man, Spider-Girl) are only available in the larger scale so I’ve made a few exceptions. This Kaine/Scarlet Spider is one of those exceptions.Marv-Scarlet ML back

Once I broke the Marvel Legends seal with my Black Cat purchase I ordered this figure from BigBadToyStore. He was marked down to clearance so I think I only paid about 8 bucks for him. That’s less than I spend on the 4” figures so it was a great deal and I was happy to him to my collection. The sculpting and articulation are quite nice on this figure. You can pose this guy in many realistic and exaggerated spidey-like poses. I like how his eyes are actually sculpted onto the mask instead of being just painted on. The crimson red and black look really great together. It’s a very good figure of the current Scarlet Spider.Marv-Scarlet ML piggyback

My only issue with this figure isn’t really with the figure itself so much as it is with the design of the character. I know Ben Reilly’s hoodie costume was silly but I really liked it. Ben left some big shoes to fill and I think this costume misses the mark. There’s just way too much red. I would’ve liked to have seen them take some risks with this costume; like they did with the agent Venom design. Between this guy, Spider-Man 2099, Ultimate Spider-Man, and the real Spider-Man there are too many guys running around with the same powers and essentially the same costume. I don’t mind this look but Marvel played it safe here, and safe can be boring, which I would guess is partly why Scarlet Spider’s book got cancelled only 2 years in. If you’re interested in seeing what he’s up to now though you can check him out in the most recent version of the New Warriors.

I’m glad this character and this toy exist but I wish it didn’t look so similar to the dozens of Spider-Men I already have in my collection. 7 out of 10.

DEATH’S HEAD (2014)

Marv-Deaths head fullMARVEL UNIVERSE

I grew up as a strict Marvel fan. I pretty much only ever bough Marvel books; with maybe 1 or 2 rare exceptions. My brother Doug was the same way. Between the 2 of us we had a pretty strong grasp of what was going on in every corner of the Marvel universe in the 80s. One of the books we collected was “the official handbook of the Marvel Universe” which was not actually a comic book but a multi-volume encyclopedic guide. Each month a new issue would come out featuring about 30 write-ups on various characters, all presented in alphabetical order. The MU handbook educated us on all sorts of characters we’d never been exposed to; like those that appeared in the handful of monthly books we didn’t buy and those featured in stories from before our time.

I can’t say for certain, but I think my first exposure to Death’s Head was probably in the MU handbook. If not that, than some other “non-comic” publication like “Marvel Age” or the “Marvel Requirer”.

Marv-Deaths head face

I knew very little about him but I know he looked cool as hell. The reason he was so obscure is because he was originally created by writer Simon Furman as a throw away character for the UK Transformers comic. For years after Marvel stopped publishing Transformers comics in America they continued to release them in the United Kingdom. Apparently Furman wrote the character into an issue for a minor role but after seeing how cool Death’s Head looked after the artist rendered him Furman didn’t want to waste him as a background Transformers character. They cleverly snuck Death’s Head into another Marvel book before his scheduled appearance in the Transformers series. This ensured that ownership of the character went to Marvel and not to Hasbro. That way Death’s Head was able to make an impact in the broader Marvel universe rather than simply be confined to the limited universe of the Transformers. Though it is interesting to wonder what might have been had Hasbro taken ownership of Death’s Head. Would he have become a recurring character? Been worked into the Transformers toy line? Possibly ended up in the live-action movies? Who knows.Marv-deaths head cover

After his appearance in the UK Transformers book DH got his own spin-off series which unfortunately only lasted 10 issues. They were UK releases only so I didn’t get a chance to read them until they were reprinted in America a few years later. I think the first comic I actually owned with Death’s Head in it was Fantastic Four issue 338 (1990).

In 1992 this Death’s Head got replaced by Death’s Head II. DHII starred in a string of limited series’ in the early 90s and he was very cool in his own right but I wanted more of the original. Death’s Head II was later replaced as well by Death’s Head version III in the pages of Amazing Fantasy. DH III was alright by I tended to like Death’s Head less and less with each redesign.198273-19186-114879-1-death-s-head-ii

In recent years the original Death’s Head has finally been showing up in mainstream Marvel books with some regularity. He appeared in an issue of Avenging Spider-Man and was recently featured in an Iron Man story arc.

I never expected to own an action figure of Death’s Head. When it comes to obscure Marvel characters you can’t get much more obscure than this this cybernetic bounty hunter who mostly only appeared in books overseas. It blows my mind that he somehow worked his way into the Marvel Universe line. I was super stoked when I first heard that this figure was planned for release but then the future of the MU line was up in the air for a while and I was pretty sure this figure would never see the light of day. There was a longer than usual wait for this toy to hit shelves but to my surprise he actually got made. yippee!Marv_Deaths head back

When BigBadToyStore first started taking pre-orders for this figure they were only taking orders on the full wave of figures. That sucked because most of the figures from that particular wave were re-issues of figures I already owned. The only other one I needed was Red She-Hulk and I found her at Monster’s Comic Lounge a little over a month ago.Marv-Deaths head face side

I considered buying Death’s Head on ebay at some stupid inflated price but I ultimately decided to be patient and hope that I might happen across him in a Wal-mart someday. I did not expect to find him hanging on a peg at Strange Adventures as was the case last week. I especially didn’t expect to find him at Strange Adventures for $13. These MU figures sell for around $12 at Wal-mart and most specialty shops mark them up to $16 or $17. I fully expected to pay $20 or more for this figure at a comic store because he’s probably short-packed and in-demand by hardcore Marvel nerds like me. $13 was a steal, all things considered. Most of these MU figures are scrawny guys in tights with no accessories so i always feel like I’m overpaying for them but Death’s Head is a bulky figure with a sword,  axe, shield, and a removable cape so I feel he was worth every penny.Marv-Deaths head victory

The torso, arms, and upper legs, are all lifted from the previously released Colossus. That’s fine with me as Colossus was a great figure and the parts work great for DH. He does have new hands and lower legs which I appreciate as he has some unique characteristics such as spikes on his knuckles and boots that could not have been replicated properly with existing pieces. His skirt, cape, and head are all new too. The clothes look great but I wish the cape was a bit shorter so the breast plate would rest flush against his chest. I absolutely love the head sculpt on this figure, mostly because I love the head of this character. He has such a unique and cool look to him. The horns, the Darth Vader-like teeth, the big yellow eyes and best of all the under-bite with the spiked jaw, all come together in the most wonderfully weird way.

Death’s Head totally rules and this figure does him justice. But I must admit I’m feeling greedy and would now like to see an ever more detailed Marvel Legends version. 10 out of 10.Marv-deaths head pose

NOOB SAIBOT

MK-Noob fullMORTAL KOMBAT: KLASSIC

I don’t consider myself a gamer by any means but I go through stints where I get hooked on certain video games. Civilization is all I play these days, but I’ve lost many hours to Golden Eye, Mario Kart, Pikmin, and others over the years.  My early childhood pre-dated Nintendo.  I remember when Atari was all the rage.  We never owned an Atari when we were kids but we had a Commodore 64 computer and we owned hundreds of games on floppy disks. My dad would swap games with guys he worked with so he regularly brought home new disks with loads of new games on them. They weren’t very complicated games mind you. Many of them were just slight variations of popular games like Centipede and Space Invaders.

When the first generation of Nintendo and Sega systems hit retail it was a pretty big deal. The console games blew the Commodore games out of the water.  We never owned either of the first-gen system but we rented them regularly from the corner video store (remember when you could do that?). The first system I owned was the 16-bit Sega Genesis. I had a decent library of cartridges but my favorite game was probably Road Rash. If memory serves, Mortal Kombat debuted on the 16-bit systems.  I never owned the original Mortal Kombat (I was more of a Street Fighter fan) but my best friend Greg did and we played it at his house a lot between Mario Kart binges. My favorite characters were the ninjas, Sub-Zero and Scorpion.MK-Noob flex

The first version of Mortal Kombat that I ever purchased for myself was for the Sega Saturn system. It was called Mortal Kombat Trilogy and it contained all of the arenas and characters from the original game and the 2 subsequent sequels. The cast of characters had gotten quite large by then. I still liked the ninjas best but the designers had lazily created a bunch more identical ninjas just in different color costumes, somewhat diluting the coolness of the first too. There was the green ninja Reptile, the gray ninja Smoke, and the all black ninja, Noob Saibot. Even though they all basically looked the same I suppose the appeal of them was that they all had unique moves. I was never able to pull-off any of their special moves before Greg wiped the floor with me so I never really gained an appreciation for the ninja knock-offs based on their “fatalities”. I usually used Baraka anyway.

My Mortal Kombat Saturn disc never really got much use. I bought it second hand because I liked to have a large library of games to choose from when my buddies came over to play but I much preferred the Virtua Fighter 2 game that came packaged with the system. I was pretty over Mortal Kombat after the novelty of the first one wore off; the characters didn’t really “speak to me” and the live-action movies didn’t help much to draw me back in.

MK-Noob compare

So when I saw this figure at Toys R Us last year I don’t know why I bought it. I never cared much about Mortal Kombat in general and this character in particular holds little to no nostalgic value for me. I think I was just in the mood to spend some money that day and they didn’t have anything better. They had 2 different series of MK figures, one was based on the most recent PS3/X360 version of the game while the other was based on the “Klassic” cartridge version. I bought the modern Sub-Zero and the classic Noob Saibot. If memory serves the other 3 Klassic choices were Reptile(identical figure in green), Sub-Zero (blue), and Ermac (red).  So why choose Noob over Reptile or Ermac? No particular reason.

Side note: I did a quick bit of Wikipedia reading on this guy before I started this review and I discovered that he’s actually Sub-Zero back from the dead. So while I thought I was buying 2 unique characters I actually bought the same dude twice.  I also learned that Noob’s stupid name comes from the last names of two of the games designers; Boon and Tobias. Now you know.MK-Noob kick

As far as action figures go, this guy is pretty bland looking. It’s sculpted in black plastic and there’s a dark shade of gray painted on.  There’s also a couple dabs of mauve paint for his eyes. The paint apps are definitely nothing to call home about but it’s pretty faithful to his video game look, where he was essentially just a black silhouette. The sculpt is relatively dull too. There are no fine details to be had; no wrinkles or muscle definition in his costume.  But again, it’s pretty true to the source material.  I actually find his simple design more visually appealing than the more detailed sculpt on the modern Sub-Zero figure. The articulation on this toy is more impressive than you might expect. Where many toy companies are reverting to 4” figures with 5 points of articulation Jazwares opted to load this guy up with 14 points of articulation; enough to rival a modern G.I. Joe. He’s got ball-jointed limbs, a ball-jointed head, swivel joints at his ankles and wrists, and a mid-torso joint too. He actually blends in pretty well with a squad of modern Joes.

Was this guy essential to my collection? No. Is he essential to yours? Maybe. It really is a nicely put together figure. If you’re a big Mortal Kombat fan I would think that you’d like to have this guy on your shelf. I’m glad I picked him up. Besides, he was under $10 which ain’t too shabby these days. 7 out of 10.MK-Noob ninjas

BEAST MAN (2008)

MOTUC-Beast man fullMASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS

Once I decided to review a Masters of the Universe (MOTU) Classics figure today my first impulse was to review one of my most recent purchases. I bought 3 figures in July: Flogg, Karatti, and Clamp Champ.  I looked at the 3 of them and pondered for a while which one I should write about.  Then it dawned on me that I didn’t want to write about any of them. Not to knock any of those toys, they’re all quite nice, but they’re hardly A-listers in the world of MOTU. As I sat there scanning over my MOTU collection I realized that I still have a ton of iconic characters that I haven’t gotten around to reviewing yet.  It’s crazy to think that I’ve written 650 toy reviews and somehow managed to pass over characters like Trap Jaw, Stratos, and Teela. So today I’ve decided to go back and review a truly classic MOTU character: Beast Man.MOTUC-Beast Man backMOTUC-Beast man  face

After He-Man and Skeletor I’d say the most recognizable character from the property is Beast Man. My personal favorite MOTU character, Mer-Man, isn’t far behind him but between the two I have to give the edge to Beast Man. Back in 1982 Beast Man was one of only four toys released in the initial assortment of figures along with He-Man, Skeletor, and Man-at-Arms. My brother Doug and I split that first wave of toys as we did most things. I got He-Man and Man-at-Arms and Doug got Skeletor and Beast Man (and his own Man-at-Arms too).  Each vintage figure came packaged with a mini comic book and I can remember reading the first issue that came with my He-Man, and featured Beast Man, over and over again.  I liked Beast Man from the get go.  He was a different type of villain than Skeletor and Mer-Man, he was a physically imposing brute and in some ways he seemed more capable.  I viewed him as the Destro to Skeletor’s Cobra Commander.  Like most of the Evil Warriors Beast Man was played for laughs in the cartoon but in the mini comics he was a serious threat and that’s how we used him at playtime.MOTUC-Beast Man comic

I still think the 1982 figure holds up pretty well.  It has a very expressive and mean-looking face. It had a furrowed brow and a toothy sneer that showcased some sizable fangs.  His design was very ape-like but not so much so that you would ever mistake him for a red gorilla.  He was as much a man as he was a beast so I suppose “Beast Man” was a very apt name.  He had spiked armor on his arms and a large collared chest piece which contributed to me associating him with Destro. I was never sure if the blue patterns on his face were natural markings or war paint but they looked cool either way.  It was a great toy and I’m pretty sure Doug still has it.MOTUC-beast man toon

I didn’t get my first Beast Man figure until 20 years later when MOTU was relaunched in 2002 with a new cartoon and corresponding toy line.  Beast Man’s 2002 look made him even more imposing and savage.  He towered over other characters in the cartoon and he walked with a hunch.  All of the great design elements of the original were still there only now they were magnified. I loved my 2002 Beast Man figure.motuc-beast-man-1982

In fact I loved all of my 2002 era MOTU figures so much that I was originally quite resistant to the Classics line.  I saw the new line of figures that more closely resembled the 80s toys as a step backwards.  Other than a promotional King Grayskull figure which launched the line, Beast Man was the second Classics figure produced after only He-Man.  Beast Man got made even before Skeletor!  I didn’t purchase Classics Beast Man upon his initial release.  I was sure the Classics line was nothing more than  a nostalgic flash-in-the-pan which would quickly fade away.  But after a year of solid releases passed I realized the line was gonna be around for a while.  The first Classics figure I bought was Hordak which I got second-hand from Monster’s Comic Lounge.   Once I saw the quality of the Classics figures with my own eyes I was hooked.  I made it a mission to hunt down all of the figures I had missed.MOTUC-Beast man compare

Luckily I scored this Beast Man when Mattel made it available again on their website during a Black Friday sale so I didn’t have to pay a crazy amount for him on the secondary market.  These Classics figures are only available for a limited time on Mattel’s collector-driven website (mattycollector.com) and, usually, when they’re gone they’re gone. Once a figure sells out the prices can sky rocket on ebay.

MOTUC-Beast man face off

 

Classics Beast Man is pretty damn great.  I feel that he’s the epitome of what the Classics line is all about.  It takes everything you loved about the old toy, the 2002 toy, the comics, the cartoons, and mashes it together to create the definitive version of the character.  Somehow the Four Horseman (the sculptors who design these toys) are able to take the version of the character you always saw in your head and present it to you in plastic.  The sculpt is absolutely killer, the paint job is top notch, the articulation is good, and the whip accessory is exactly what he needs.  My only complaint is that these older Classics figures tend to have loose ankle joints.  My Beast Man is a little loosey goosey but as long as I don’t bump into the bookshelf he stays standing on his own just fine.  9 out of 10.

MOTUC-Beast Man ride

PREDAKING (2013)

TF-Predaking dragon fullTRANSFORMERS: PRIME

As I’ve stated a dozen times before, I’m generally only interested in Generation 1 (G1) Transformers. G1 Transformers are what I grew up with in the 80s; only back then they weren’t called Generation 1, they were just called Transformers. The G1 title only emerged after Hasbro revived the Transformers brand in the 90s after it had been dormant for a few years. The 90s Transformers were mostly just repaints of the 80s stuff and the packaging labelled them “Generation 2”, thus retroactively dubbing the 80s stuff Generation 1. The term G1 has evolved to mean anything Transformer related that ties into the original 80s story. Comic books published by IDW today take place in the G1 continuity. G1 is a term used by Transformers fans all the time. Oddly enough the term “Generation 2” didn’t amount to much and subsequent generations of Transformers have not followed suit with that naming pattern.TF-Predaking dragon face

I’ve also stated a dozen times that when it comes to Transformers I always preferred the ones that transformed into animals over the ones that transformed into vehicles. The Decepticon sub-team known as the Predacons consisted of 5 bots who not only transformed into beasts but could also merge to create the combiner, Predaking. I loved the Predacons but I only owned two of them as a kid, Razorclaw and Rampage, so I was never able to build Predaking. As an adult collector I considered tracking the 5 of them down (I no longer even have the two I had as a kid) but they’re quite expensive on the secondary market.

Luckily I was able to satisfy my Predaking fix by purchasing a cheap Japanese knock off which I reviewed not too long ago. It’s smaller, less detailed, and of poorer quality than the original but at least I finally had a Predaking to put on my shelf. Ideally, Hasbro would’ve released a whole new set of Predacons based on their 80s designs but that hasn’t happened yet and seems unlikely to happen anytime soon based on Hasbro’s track record.TF-Predaking dragon head-on

The most recent animated incarnation of Transformers to grace the small screen was a series called “Transformers: Prime”. I only ever watched an episode or two of Prime but I’ve heard good things. Stylistically the character designs were an amalgamation of G1 and the live-action movies. The plot also seemed to draw from various generations of Transformers.

Even though they weren’t strictly generation 1 I found myself drawn to a couple of the Prime figures because of the G1 influence. I bought the Prime Soundwave, even though he was very far removed from the original visually, because he was neat looking and had a unique alt mode. I figured I could display him on my shelf as a separate character than my G1 Soundwave. I bought the Prime Cliffjumper for basically the same reason. I bought the Prime Arcee not so much because I liked the look of her but because to date there is no G1 version of her available (which is a crime but there’s finally one coming later this year). I bought the Prime Ratchet because he looked fairly close to the G1 design and I don’t have a proper G1 Ratchet. I bought Hardshell just for the hell of it (I like bugs). So as you can see there’s some wiggle room in my stance on collecting strictly G1 Transformers.TF-Predaking dragon grab

The second season of Prime was given the subtitle “Beast Hunters”. It focused on the Autobots doing battle with a group of Decepticons with monstrous alt modes known as the Predacons. These new dragon-like Predacons were a far cry from the Rhino and Eagle Predacons I grew up with but I can’t fault Hasbro for re-using the name, it’s a good one. The leader of the Prime Predacons also had a moniker lifted from the G1 days, Predaking.TF-Predaking  dragon front

 

 

The new Predaking is big, black, and orange like the original but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. This Predaking is a single bot as opposed to being a combiner made up of multiple smaller Transformers. He transforms from a robot into a large dragon. The original Predaking didn’t transform into anything, he just broke apart; only his component pieces could transform. It would actually be pretty rad is Hasbro could pull off a transforming combiner.

This new Predaking has been released in multiple scales. I’ve seen the various versions in stores a bunch of times and have considered picking one up because of the name association to one of my G1 favorites. But, each time I considered it I managed to conclude that this character was too different from the Predaking of old and that I didn’t need him in my collection. But then I was at Winners earlier this summer with my Dad. It was father’s day and I wanted to buy him something so he suggested we go to Winners so he could check out their selection of golf hats. For those of you not familiar with it, Winners is a large discount department store. I rarely venture into Winners but when I do I often find good toys at really good prices. Dad didn’t find a hat he liked but I found this fella here for a mere $9.99.TF-Predaking dragon toon

At 10 bucks there was no way I could pass him up. Judging by the size of this thing I would’ve guessed that he usually sells for about 40 dollars but I actually spotted him in Wal-Mart  recently for $59.99!! He’s pretty tall in either mode but it’s his 21 inch wingspan that really makes him stand out. I don’t really care for his robot mode and intend to keep him in his dragon mode for display purposes, I believe the dragon mode was Predaking’s primary mode in the Prime cartoon anyway, kind of like how Grimlock was always walking around in his dinosaur mode for no particular reason in the 80s cartoons.

There’s plenty of articulation on this figure so he can be posed all kinds of ways. I actually think he may be too posable as it can be tough to “lock” him into any one position. Evey time I pick him up his legs and wings flop into a new position. I like the dragon mode face on this figure, it’s more alien than it is traditional dragon.  It actually kind of reminds me of the Godzilla villain Destroyah.  There’s an action feature on this toy where if you press down on a lever on his neck his head lunges forward and his “fire breath” lights up. In an odd move for this day and age Hasbro didn’t include a battery so I haven’t actually seen the light up feature in action.

I never even bothered to transform my Predaking into his robot mode so I can’t tell you much about it.  However I swiped a pic of it from another website and posted it below so you can check it out.  It kind of me of Megatron’s look from the live-action movies. I do like how he uses his tail as a sword.  It makes for a pretty grisly blade.

I’m still holding out hope that Hasbro will produce a set of G1 Predacons one of these days. If they do, I think that this Predaking would make an excellent addition to the team. He’s pretty cool. 7 out of 10.TF-Predaking dragon robot

VIPER v.29 (2014)

Joe-Viper v29 fullG. I. JOE : 50th ANNIVERSARY

When the G.I. Joe: Real American Hero (RAH) toy line first launched in 1982 there were 13 members of the team. Those characters are referred to now as “the original 13”. There were only 2 Cobra figures at first, a cobra infantry trooper and a Cobra officer. The code name for both of them was simply “the Enemy”. The Cobra soldiers were very similar in appearance. The both had dark blue uniforms and helmets and they both had a black balaclava covering the lower half of their face (like so). Since these were the only Cobra soldiers that existed in those early days they appeared frequently the in cartoons, comics, and commercials.

As the line expanded new specialized Cobra troops were added such as frogmen, arctic troopers, and pilots. Despite these additions the original blue-shirts remained the backbone of Cobra’s forces. That is until 1986 when a new general infantry trooper was added to Cobra’s ranks; the Viper. The Viper became the new template from which all other troopers emerged. Almost every faceless trooper released after ‘86 was some variation of the Viper: Ice-Viper, Frag Viper, Gyro-Viper, etc.Joe-Viper v29 back

The basic Viper design was much more elaborate than its blue-shirt predecessor. Their uniforms were blue, red, and black and they were loaded with sculpted details like grenades, pouches, buckles, and padding. They had full silver faceplates similar to that of Cobra Commander.  They also had goggles on their foreheads which looked cool but it never occurred to me until just now how silly that was. Were they gonna wear the goggles over their masks? The ’86 Viper’s biggest detraction was that it suffered from melon-head syndrome. That aside, it was a very cool design.

My brother Doug owned the original ’86 Viper. My first Viper was a hand-me-down from my little brother Brian (or is that considered a hand-me-up?). Brian collected Joes for a few years after Doug and I had stopped but he was never as big a fan as Doug and I. When Brian outgrew his figures I gladly welcomed them into my collection. The Viper I inherited from him was the rather ugly version 3 “Sonic Fighter” which had a rusty orange colored uniform.Joe-Viper v29 shoot

During the new sculpt years of the early 2000s I accumulated a nice little army of Vipers in various colors; classic red and blue,  red and purple, and python patrol gray and black. I really liked all those variations and overall I preferred the new-sculpt’s mold to the original.

Joe-Viper v29 sideWhen the new-sculpt figures were replaced by the modern-era figures in 2007 there were some growing pains as Hasbro worked out the bugs of the new design. The first modern-era Viper figure came out in 2008 (version 16) and was victim to some really bad design flaws. A lot of people complain about the dreaded “Duke arms” of 2007, and sure they were bad, but Duke is one guy and he’s been re-done dozens of time since with better arms. The Viper represents one of Cobra’s basic infantry divisions and I’m sure some people out there wanted to buy loads of them to build a small army. But sadly the ’08 Viper had gimpy ankles that meant he was always leaning back and he had very unnatural downward turned wrists that made it difficult to have him hold a weapon. Plus the functionally useless goggles on the helmet were sculpted separately for some reason which made them prone to fall off which made them easy to lose. I was very disappointed with the initial modern-era Viper. Several variations were released afterwards in different color uniforms but the design issues remained.

Hasbro did eventually get the Viper right in 2011 with version 28, which was released as part of the 30th anniversary line. V.28 was leaps and bounds better than v.16.  The ankles were fixed, the wrists were fixed, the goggles were permanently affixed to the helmet, and the faceplate was vac-metal.

But I was kinda burnt out on the Viper by then and couldn’t truly appreciate that figure. I felt I had enough of them in my collection and another blue and red Viper didn’t really excite me no matter how improved it was.Joe-Viper v29 pose

When I first saw pictures of this repainted 30th anniversary Viper online it still didn’t do much for me. Had it been released a couple of years ago I probably would have passed on it altogether to be honest. But the 50th anniversary assortment was just so damn small that I felt compelled to buy the whole lot.

This gray and maroon Viper came in a 3-pack with a Cobra blue-shirt trooper and a Beachhead figure, both of which are virtually (if not completely) identical to previously released figures. Overall, the “Viper Pit” set was the least exciting of the 50th anniversary packs because there was really nothing new to it. At least this Viper’s paint job was a color combination we hadn’t seen before, even if it was rather bland.Joe-Viper v29-pack

But I gotta tell ya, once my 50th anniversary figures arrived and I got them all opened up I really took a liking to this figure.  Other than the new paint job this is the exact same figure as version 28 but for some reason I was really able to appreciate the quality of the sculpt this time around.  I still think the color palette is rather drab but its good drab.  Some of the recent additions to my Cobra forces (Heat-Viper, Toxo-Viper, Repulsor) have been quite “loud” so it’s kind of nice to get a low key, more realistically colored figure. The gold used on his faceplate, goggles and cobra symbol add just enough flair to keep this figure from being boring to look at.

The head sculpt is perfect, the body is well proportioned, the articulation is good, the accessories are adequate (machine gun, pistol, and backpack) and the color is something new.  The only thing I can find to complain about is the unpainted belt.  I wish it was painted black.  It’s always nice to be pleasantly surprised when you have low expectations for something and this figure delivers.  9 out of 10.

Notice the gimpy wrists and wonky goggles on the right.

Notice the gimpy wrists and wonky goggles on the right.

 

GODZILLA (2014)

Godzilla 2014 full 2GODZILLA

I am a huge Godzilla fan (have been since I was a kid) and I was super stoked about the new movie. My expectations were quite high based on the quality of director Gareth Edwards previous film, Monsters. But truthfully, even if it had been total garbage I still would have got some enjoyment out of it simply because it’s Godzilla. I even enjoy elements of the 1998 Matthew Broderick Godzilla film which is blasphemous to say is some Godzilla circles. Fortunately I won’t have to be ashamed for loving the 2014 movie because it was great.Godzilla 2014 face

I figure you’ve all seen it by now but in case you haven’t perhaps you shouldn’t read any further as I may give away some spoilers.

I’ll say again that I really enjoyed Godzilla 2014 but it was by no means the perfect Godzilla film. The most common complaint seems to be that Godzilla wasn’t in the film enough and I agree with that to an extent. However, I can appreciate that Edwards was going with a “JAWS” less-is-more approach. Also, Bryan Cranston’s mourning scientist was the most compelling character to watch and he got snuffed out way too early, to most everyone’s surprise. The film then shifted its focus onto Aaron Taylor-Johnson who play’s Cranston’s son. Johnson was likable enough but I didn’t feel any real connection to him. He just kind of meandered through the movie, encountering monsters where ever he went. There were actually a few too many coincidental monster meetings for my liking. At least following a soldier’s journey instead of a scientists’ was a nice change of pace from the Godzilla norm. Speaking of scientists, Ken Watanabe was another actor who was grossly under used in the film.Godzilla 2014 front

Now it might seem like I have a lot of complaints but I really don’t; I thoroughly enjoyed the film. But don’t take this old Godzilla geek’s word for it. I think a truer testament to the film’s success was how much my little nephews all enjoyed it. They ran out of the movie theater arguing over who was going to be Godzilla and who was going to be Muto.

Godzilla atomic 2014

Bandai’s Atomic Roar Godzilla

On the topic of Muto, the movie’s “bad” monster, why the hell aren’t there any toys of him? There’s a couple of rinky dinky ones but I want a big one. It seems foolish for there to be so many Godzilla toys available but no antagonists for him to fight. Bandai seems to hold the mainstream toy license to the film and to their credit theye produced a bunch of different style toys available at various price points, but they really need to make some other monsters. Even if Muto was off the table for some reason couldn’t they have produced new toys of Mecha-Godzilla or King Ghidora? I know my nephews would want them. I bought my sister’s kid Tyler the Atomic Roar Godzilla for his 5th birthday recently and he absolutely loved it.

But what’s good enough for a 5 year old isn’t necessarily good enough for me. I’m not a fan of the stuff Bandai has put out. The aforementioned Atomic Roar Godzilla is a big clunky toy that roars and when you pull his tail his jaw dislocates so that a large phallic blast of energy can shoot out of his mouth. As much as I wanted a toy of the new Godzilla design to add to my collection I wasn’t about to buy that kiddie Bandai stuff for myself.Godzilla 2014 back

But then I saw that Jakks was slated to release a massive 24” Godzilla figure and I thought that I might get that one if it ever showed up at my local Toys R Us. I could have ordered it online but the shipping charges on a toy that big would’ve been a nightmare. I checked back at Toys R Us frequently but they never did stock Jakk’s Godzilla which may actually be a blessing in disguise. I know myself and I know there is no way that I could resist buying a 2 foot Godzilla figure but in truth the thing would be a pain in the ass to display. My 2 foot Metroplex is awkward enough and I still haven’t found a suitable place to display my 18” Galactus and Sentinel figures.

So since the 24” Godzilla was seemingly out of reach I turned my attention to a 12” version produced by a third toy company, Neca. I figured a 12 inch toy would be much easier to deal with and it would blend in better with my current collection of movie monsters. Plus Neca’s figures are geared more towards the collector’s market so it was likely going to be of superior quality as well. I believe in quality over quality when it comes to Godzilla.Godzilla 2014 face off

I considered ordering Neca’s figure from BigBadToyStore but then my local comic shop, Strange Adventures, got one in stock. BBTS was selling theirs for $50, but when you factor in conversion to Canadian funds, shipping charges and duty fees I was expecting to pay around $80 for this thing. I figured that as long as Strange Adventures priced theirs in that same range it was economical for me to buy it from them; plus I would get to enjoy the figure right away. I asked how much they wanted for it and my pal Cal who owns the store made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Needless to say I got a great deal on this figure. Once I had him in hand I thanked my lucky stars that I hadn’t ordered it online because this thing is heavy as all hell. I’m sure the shipping charges would have been far worse than I initially budgeted for.

This Godzilla is a towering hunk of solid plastic. It may well be the heaviest toy I own. He’s advertised as 12” tall but once you snap his tail into place I would say he’s about 25” from nose to tail. It makes for an impressive collectible.Godzilla 2014 tail

Godzilla is well detailed and surprising well-articulated. Multiple ball joints are hidden in the seams of his scaly skin. He has joints at his head, neck, jaw, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, ankles, and waist. Most impressive is his tail which is made up of a bunch of individual parts and has a whopping 13 points of articulation of it’s own. Yet, despite all these joints he is still fairly limited in how he can be posed. You can make slight adjustments here and there, open his mouth and move his tail from side to side but ultimately you’re gonna end up with a pretty standard Godzilla pose. It’s not like he can be posed in yoga positions or anything.Godzilla 2014 worms eye

 

 

I think Godzilla was mostly gray in the movie which is the base color of this toy as well but he’s also got green highlights all over his body and a brownish belly. It may not be film accurate but it looks nice and most people think green when they think of Godzilla anyway.  he has additional paint apps  for his yellow eyes, white teeth, pink tongue, and black claws.

The overall design looks pretty close to what we saw on screen but thankfully I think the toy is actually better proportioned. I thought his head was too small and his legs were too big in the film but it doesn’t look bad here.  The legs are perhaps still a little thick but overall he’s well proportioned.

I don’t care much for electronic features in my toys but this Godzilla does have a pretty nice roar sound that is activated when you press down on a fin at the base of his tail.

This is a very nice figure . 10 out of 10.Godzilla 2014 compare

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