JACK-O-LANTERN (2016)

MarvL-Jacko fullMARVEL LEGENDS

In my last post I reviewed the first ever Jack-O-Lantern figure which was released by Toy Biz in 1998. Today I’m going to review the brand new 2016 Jack-O-Lantern figure produced by Hasbro.

Before I start talking about the actual figure allow me to continue my history lesson on the character. In the last post we left off after Jason Macendale had ceased being Jack-O-Lantern in order to assume the guise of the Hobgoblin after he’d had the Goblin murdered.  Things only got more complicated from there.

Macendale sold his soul to a demon in order to gain enhanched powers.  As a side effect Macendale began to turn into a demon and go insane. He was later separated from the demon entity which went on to become a Spider-Man villain in it’s own right named Demogoblin. Macendale went back to being a mercenary and he was later cybernetically enhanced by the mad scientist named Gaunt.  Despite the enhancements he found himself in prison where he was killed in his cell by the original Hobgoblin who apparently hadn’t been as murdered as Macendale originally thought. End of the line for the original Jack-O-Lantern😦MarvL-Jacko back

His pumpkin headed alter-ego lived on though through a number of confusing resurrections. A second Jack-O-Lantern who looked the exact same as the original first showed up in Captain America issue 396 in 1992. That guy made a handful of appearances before getting his head blown off by the Punisher during the Civil War storyline in 2006. This Jack later returned as a super natural character in the vein of the Headless Horseman but Ghost Rider re-killed him. End of the line for the second Jack-O-Lantern.

In the Spider-Man comics another Jack-O-Lantern showed up in 1996. This version went by the name Mad Jack and used a lot of Mysterio’s illusions because he/she/they had ties to the original Mysterio.  I don’t feel like explaining their whole stupid backstory but supposedly they were both killed off panel so we don’t have to worry about them anymore.

MarvL-Jacko art

Most recently, a brand new Jack-O-Lantern was introduced in the Agent Venom series written by Rick Remender.  This guy was a sadistic kid raised by the new Crime Master (another updated version of a classic Spidey villain).  The new Jack wore a costume that was significantly different than those worn by his predecessors.  He traded in the green spandex for a black costume covered in belts and buckles.  He also swapped out the classic bouncing disc for a rocket powered broomstick like the one the Green Goblin flew around on in his early appearances.  The new Jack-O-Lantern’s appearance had a creepy Halloween vibe to it that I quite liked.  Remender wrote him with personality and it was the first time in a long time that a Jack-O-Lantern received some character development so I actually like him as an individual character and not just as a Macendale knock-off. During an battle in their feud, Venom tossed a grenade into Jack’s pumpkin helmet horribly disfiguring him so that he had a sort-of pumpkiny face even without his mask on.  It was a neat idea that further distinguished this version from the others.  I hope this version sticks around for a while.MarvL-Jacko head

This brand new Jack-O-Lantern figure was included in the latest wave of Marvel Legends; a Spider-Man focused line with an Absorbing Man build-a-figure. As I mentioned in my Spider-Gwen review a couple weeks ago, I scored the entire wave of seven figures from Strange Adventures thanks to my pal, Dave Howlett who manages the place (Sidebar: Dave does a lot of cool stuff online and in print. Check out his comic, Slam-A-Rama, or his podcast, Living Between Wednesdays).

I would’ve preferred a classic 1980s Jason Macendale Jack-O-Lantern Marvel Legends figure but getting this version is pretty great too. The head on this figure is exactly what I wished my 1998 figure looked like. It’s got the small triangle eyes, the big grin with the 4 pointed teeth, and no nose. It looks awesome. The flame effect is really well done too with some translucent plastic on the back of the head as well as flames coming out of the eyes.

MarvL-Jacko broom

For the body Hasbro has reused the body of Ghost from their Thunderbolts boxset which was a San Diego Comic Con exclusive a couple of years ago. Surprisingly this body works just as well, if not better, for Jack than it did for Ghost. When I compare this figure to the Jack-O-Lantern drawings in the Venom comic I’d swear this figure was designed specifically to match the art. The body is lean and lanky with lots of belts and buckles and long creepy fingers. The addition of a new belt seals the deal. I have zero complaints about the reused body.

For accessories Jack comes with a piece of the Absorbing Man, a pumpkin bomb, a gnarly scythe weapon, and his rocket broomstick. Finally, Jack-O-Lantern has his conveyance. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a Marvel Legends version of the original Jack-O-Lantern (complete with his hover disc) but in the meantime this figure fills my Jack-O-Lantern figure needs. 10 out of 10.MarvL-Jacko venom

JACK-O-LANTERN (1998)

Marv-Jacko fullTOY BIZ: SPIDER-MAN

This is part 1 of a 2-part review. Originally I had planned to review my new Marvel Legends Jack-O-Lantern figure today but since I was hauling out my 90s figure for a comparison shot I decided I might as well review him too.

I know I say lots of characters are favourites of mine but Jack-O-Lantern truly is one of my favourite comic book characters. I started collecting comics at 8 years old.  The very first comic I bought was Amazing Spider-Man 281. It featured Spidey and Silver Sable facing off against the Sinister Syndicate; a group comprised of Beetle, Hydro-Man, Boomerang, Rhino, and Speed Demon.  You’d think that would be enough to make for an action packed issue but the B-story was even better…

The Hobgoblin was Spider-Man’s arch nemesis at the time and he had just framed Spider-Man’s friend Flash Thompson for his crimes.Marv-Jack art

So Flash was awaiting trial while the real Goblin was at large and scheming with the Kingpin. Jack-O-Lantern was a bad guy on the rise trying to establish himself in New York’s underworld. After first appearing in Machine Man’s book in ’81, Jack tangled with Spider-Man a couple of times but he had never been a major player in Spidey’s rogues gallery. In this issue he determined that breaking the Hobgoblin out of prison was a way to make a name for himself and get into the Goblin’s good graces. He liberates Flash not realizing that he’s actually screwing up the real Hobgoblin’s plan. Gobby goes after him and the two villains end up in a glider dog fight over the streets of New York.  Jack takes a beating but actually gets the better of Hobgoblin and makes his escape.  I was hooked.

Marv-Jacko 284

I absolutely loved Jack-O-Lantern’s design. He had dark green tights with a lime green chainmail leotard over top, buccaneer boots, a flaming pumpkin on his head and he bounced around on a hovering yellow disc.  I know it sounds ridiculous but it looked super cool I swear. Just glance over at the cover to issue 284 when a gang war erupted stemming from Jack-O-Lantern’s criminal ambitions. How can you not love this guy?

Jack-O-Lantern, whose real name was Jason Macendale, cemented his place as one of Spidey’s main villains when he had the Hobgoblin assassinated in issue 289 and then took over his identity.  It was a total baller move pulled off by what was considered a low level villain.  I hated to see Jack’s flaming pumpkin disappear from the comic pages mere months after discovering him but I loved seeing the character grow into a real threat as the new Hobgoblin.Marv-Jacko back

This figure was released by Toy Biz in 1998 as part of it’s Spider-Man toy line based on the 90s cartoon.  Macendale never actually appeared in the show as Jack-O-Lantern so I was surprised, but delighted, that this figure was even made.  I’d wanted a Jack-O-Lantern figure desperately as a kid so it was cool to finally be getting one even if it was a couple of years after I graduated high school.

This figure is still pretty cool looking even 18 years after its release.  There’s some really nice sculpting in the face and plenty of detail in the chainmail torso yet the figure manages to retain a look inline with the other animation-based toys.  The colors are vibrant and the translucent flame on the back of the head effectively captures the comic-book look.  It’s fair to say that I was happy with this figure. However it wasn’t without it’s problems…Marv-Jacko carded

This figure has really over-sized weirdly sculpted arms and I can’t for the life of me figure out why.  They either hang at his side like a couple of salamis or you have to pose him like he’s constantly scratching at his crotch.  A swivel joint at the wrists or forearms would have helped this figure dramatically.

Why doesn’t the paint on his boots and gloves match the chainmail bathing suit?  They’re supposed to.  I appreciate that Toy Biz put a brown paint wash on the torso to show off the sculpted detail but it makes for a dark and weathered chest piece that looks odd with the clean and neon-bright limbs.Marv-Jacko face

Jack came packaged with a big pink bug that spit pumpkins.  Lots of Toy Biz figures came with big useless accessories that I immediately tossed into a spare parts bin never to be seen again. If you want to pack big useless missile-launching bugs with characters like Spider-Man, Swarm, and Tarantula in order to appeal to little kids I’m fine with that; those characters wouldn’t need accessories anyway. But don’t give a bug to Jack-O-Lantern if it means robbing him of his trademark pogo ball.  Stupid decision.

Marv-Jack madLastly, as nice as this face sculpt is, it does not look like Jack-O-Lantern…at least not the original version. Macendale usually had two triangle eyes and a smile with 4-pointy teeth.  It was a very simple design which I have replicated on plenty of real pumpkins over the years.  This face is too detailed.  It’s got too many teeth, too many wrinkles, its eyes are too emotive, and worst of all it has a nose.  This is not the Macendale Jack that I love.  This is the face of the imposter who ripped off his gimmick many years later and went by the name Mad Jack.  I’d be fine with getting a Mad jack figure but not at the expense of an original Jack-O-Lantern figure.

As you can see, I have mixed feelings about this figure but at the time I was sure it was the only Jack-O-Lantern figure I’d ever get so I made peace with its problems and rejoiced that I had it at all. 7 out of 10.

 

 

PATHFINDER v.3 (2016)

Joe-Pathfinder v3 fullG. I. JOE: FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE (FSS) 4.0

The first Pathfinder figure was released in 1990, the year I quit collecting G.I. Joes as a kid.  The only figure I owned from that year’s assortment was Rampart. For that reason I have little attachment to the characters released that year and the final 4 years of the brand that followed.  But that’s not to say that Pathfinder was a bad figure.  The original featured a completely new sculpt and some pretty unique accessories. Like Recondo, he was a a jungle trooper but Pathfinder’s specific area of expertise was making trails where there were none,  hence his code name and his weed whacker with spinning blade. The card art made it look as though he was wearing a fisherman’s bucket hat but the actual figure sported a safari style hat with one side pinned up just like his jungle buddy Recondo. Pathfinder also had sunglasses sculpted onto his face and a vest sculpted onto his torso.  There is nothing overly exciting about the design but I appreciate the real-world look at a time when Joe figures were getting more and more fantastical. I did eventually acquire that original Pathfinder figure in the Epic Haul I received 2 years ago courtesy of Eric (are you still reading, man?).

Pathfinder had only been re-released once (a bland solid-gray repaint in 2001) before this new version hit mail boxes a couple of weeks ago. Pathfinder version 3 is the first ever modern-era version of the character and it was included in the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club FSS 4.0. He shipped out with Jammer, the subject of my previous review, in the third of six mail outs.

2016 vs 1990

2016 vs 1990

Completely opposite of the 1990 original, the 2016 Pathfinder is constructed entirely of reused parts. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though as parts reuse is an inevitability in this day and age; the key is using good parts and that’s what the Club has done here.  Pathfinder’s got the baggy pants legs of the G.I. Joe Retaliation Trooper and the torso and arms of 2013’s Kwinn.  The parts work together nicely and give him some bulk which he would need to lug that weed whacker through the jungle. Obviously I would’ve preferred a unique head sculpt but the Club went with Lifeline’s head and it makes for a pretty good stand-in.  Between the sculpted shades and the inclusion of Recondo’s removable hat this head looks like it was intended to be Pathfinder all along.  I do find the head a wee bit small for the Kwinn torso but it’s not too bad. The hat fits pretty good as long as you flip it the opposite way of the original. Pathfinder’s vest is also removable on this version.  The vest seems a tad oversized but the Club was limited in its vest selection so i don’t fault them for that.  All in all it’s a nicely put together figure.

head thief

head thief

The paint job perfectly replicates the original and it’s what allows me to forgive some of the proportion issues. The colours look really great especially the crazy camouflage pattern on the pants. The brown and green paint used on the pants matches up very well with the brown and green plastics used for the vest, hat, and belt.

For accessories Pathfinder includes a machete, a pistol that can be holstered on his hip, a backpack which fits nicely despite the vest, a flashlight that can be stored inside the backpack, an axe, a machine gun, and of course the weed whacker.  It’s a good lot of stuff that is all appropriate for the character. Some fans may be sad to see that the twin hip-mounted guns of the original are not present here but I’m not bothered by it.Joe-Pathfinder v3 back

 

This is a decent Joe figure and I feel the Club did the best it could with the existing parts library.  It may not be perfect but I’m always happy to add unique characters to my shelves. 7 out of 10.

JAMMER v.2 (2016)

Joe-Jammer v2 fullG. I. JOE: FSS 4.0

Two more Figure Subscription Service Joes arrived in the mail last week. The third shipment contained the first ever modern-era versions of Pathfinder and Calvin “Jammer” Mondale. Today I’m gonna take a look at the latter.

One of the 13 original Real American Hero (RAH) Joe figures released in 1982 was Stalker, the Joe team’s Ranger. All of the OG13 shared body parts and some of them even shared the same head but Stalker was unique because he had a wholly original head with a sculpted beret (the other guys had removable helmets). Also noteworthy is the fact that Stalker was the only African-American on the team.  When that original Stalker figure was released internationally he underwent a few changes. In Mexico a figure practically identical to Stalker was renamed Cheetah, in Argentina he was released with a blue uniform and white skin and renamed Manleh. In Brazil he was called Triton and in Europe he was renamed Jammer and he was available in three paint variations; a solid green uniform, green camo, and black camo. All three versions featured a red beret instead of Stalker’s standard green one and they all had a red Z-Force logo on their chest. The various Jammer figures are highly sought after by many collectors.

UK Jammer

UK Jammer

Jammer got his first official American G.I. Joe figure in 2010 when he was included in a Z-Force themed 3-pack released by the Collector’s Club at that year’s Joe Con. I believe the 2010 file card is the first time he was given the name Calvin Mondale and a backstory.  According to the file card he grew up in New York and California before moving to the United Kingdom to join the Z-Force unit of their Special Action Force (SAF). In the spirit of the original UK figure, the 2010 Jammer was made by repainting a Stalker head with a red beret and adding the Z-Force logo to the chest of the figure.  The camo pattern the Club used on his uniform was similar to Stalker’s blotchy pattern but darker and more marbleized.

2010 Jammer v.1

2010 Jammer v.1

For this 2016 version of Jammer released as part of FSS 4.0, the Club homaged their own 2010 version. This figure’s camouflage is clearly based on the 2010 look more so than any of the UK Jammer figures.  I’m glad they went that route because I think this paint job looks really bold and its visually appealing.  This is my first Jammer figure and I didn’t expect to be excited about it.  I was anticipating an unimaginative Stalker repaint with a red hat and a Z on his chest but this figure has surprised me.  Yes, the uniform is a green camo pattern from head to toe which has always been Stalker’s thing but this pattern is different enough to stand on its own.  Call me crazy but i can look at this figure and not see Stalker staring back at me. Little details like the Union Jack on his right sleeve and the SAF patch on his left individualize this figure even further.Joe-Jammer v2 back

From the neck down Jammer is made up of generic pieces we’ve seen plenty of times before but its a good solid build .  His hands are a little gimpy so he can’t hold all of his accessories but otherwise the body is fine. The head is naturally a Stalker repaint.  This was a brand new head sculpted by Boss Fight Studios for last year’s Tiger Force Stalker and it’s a beautifully detailed piece that features a removable beret.  It makes sense that the Club would want to get more use out of this piece so I think it was a good choice to use for this figure.  I like that his skin is a light mocha colour which continues to differentiate him from Stalker who has a darker complexion.

Joe-Jammer v2 face

The last thing to mention would be his accessories. Jammer has a machine gun, a pistol that can be holstered on his boot, and a green cell phone that can be stored on his belt.  I love his little phone but unfortunately neither of his hands can grip it.Since Jammer’s speciality is jamming insurgent communication systems he also comes with Dial-Tone’s  funky communications backpack.  Lastly, he comes with a silver display base just like his fellow SAF members T.N.T. and Quarrel. This figure doesn’t really bring anything new to the table but I find myself really liking it anyway.  8 out of 10.Joe-Jammer v2 compare

 

SPIDER-GWEN (2016)

MarvL-Gwen fullMARVEL LEGENDS

Last year there was a storyline that spanned many Spider-Man related comic books called “Spider-Verse”. The premise was that a group of vampire-like dudes called the Inheritors were traveling to various dimensions and sucking the life force out of each dimension’s version of Spider-Man. Once the “real” Spider-Man got wind of this he teamed up with all the other spider-pwered men and women from across the multi-verse to defeat the Inheritors. I didn’t think it was great, largely because the inheritors are rather bland villains, but there was a fair amount of fun to be mined from the premise. Spider-Verse featured appearances by every Spider-Man you can think of including the 60s animated Spider-Man, Star Comics’ Peter Porker: Spider-Ham, and the black & white newspaper strip Spider-Man. It also brought back all of the transformed and mutated versions of Spidey we’ve seen over the years such as Cosmic Spider-Man and Spider-Hulk. There was no shortage of Spider-Men to pick from and yet the writers and artists went ahead and created a bunch of new variations anyway like Spider-Punk and Lady-Spider. One of the new spider people was from an alternate reality where it was Peter Parker’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, that got bit by the radioactive spider instead of him. The result was Spider-Gwen. She didn’t actually call herself that in the comic because that would make her secret identity obsolete but that was the title of the book that introduced her. In Gwen’s world she goes by the name Spider-Woman (yes, another one).MarvL-Gwen back

 

Spider-Gwen’s costume design was really cool and quite different from any spider costume we’d seen before. She caught on with fans immediately and within weeks of her introduction you could find pictures of multiple Spider-Gwen cosplay outfits online. She was given a fairly large part to play in the Spider-Verse saga and as soon as it wrapped up Marvel gave Gwen her own on-going series. She’s also a member of the ensemble cast featured in the new team book Web Warriors which features a bunch of the other fan favorite spider heroes from Spider-Verse. It’s fair to say that Spider-Gwen is a bit of a phenomenon. I think she looks cool but I haven’t bothered to read her solo series. I picked up her introduction story and the first issue of her on-going but they failed to reel me in. At this point I feel I’ve read a few too many variations of a teenaged spider-hero coming of age. Even alternate reality versions of established Spidey villains used to be fun but now they feel played out. That said, I’m glad Spider-Gwen has found an audience and I’m sure it’s exciting for younger fans who haven’t seen these storylines a hundred times before.

MarvL-Gwen face

 

 

Spider-Gwen’s popularity is further evidenced by how quickly Hasbro produced an action figure of her. She was included in their latest Spider-Man themed wave of Marvel Legends which features an Absorbing Man build-a-figure. I’ve been eagerly anticipating this wave so I was pretty excited last week when my pal Dave over at Strange Adventures Comic Shop texted me to say they had them in stock and he was giving me the first crack at them. I said I wanted them all and he gave me a good deal which was awesome (you rule, Dave). That text saved me from hunting these figures down one-by-one all over the city and it enabled me to build a complete Absorbing Man. Dave also hooked me up with the final pieces I needed to complete my Rhino and Hulkbuster build-a-figures so my Marvel Legends shelf just got a whole lot more crowded.MarvL-Gwen art

I’m very pleased with how Spider-Gwen turned out. The body is the same one we’ve seen on fellow teenaged spider-powered females like Spider-Girl, Black Widow, and Arana. The eye-catching paint job distinguishes this figure from the others though. The stark contrast of black and white always looks good and the powder blue webs on the purple areas looks really sharp. The removable hood is sculpted very nicely and it sits proportionately on her shoulders.

As an added bonus Spider-Gwen has a couple of awesome accessories. She has an alternate unmasked head which is something I wish all figures included. Why don’t I have a Peter Parker or a Mayday head? My new clone Spider-Man figure would be so much cooler if it had an alternate Ben Reilly head. I hope the inclusion of Gwen’s unmasked head is a trend we see continued. I would’ve preferred a long haired John Romita style Gwen but the head provided is a pretty good representation of the Emma Stone Gwen which isn’t a bad substitute. Another neat little extra detail is that Gwen includes a downed hood that can be put around her neck with the unmasked head. Lastly, she came with Absorbing Man’s ball and chain which is a must-have for any respectable Absorbing Man figure. This Spider-Gwen is a home run which I’m sure will please her legions of new fans. 9 out of 10.MarvL-Gwen group

SUPERMAN (2015)

DC-Superman Lee fullDC COLLECTIBLES DESIGNER SERIES: JAE LEE

Vanessa got me a bunch of cool stuff for Christmas this year including five action figures but I haven’t gotten around to reviewing any of them until now. Four of them were Star Wars Black Series figures and the odd man out was this Superman figure by DC Collectibles.

I’m a DC fan but the figures are generally a low priority in my toy collection. I grew up a hard-core Marvel kid so I’ll happily waste a ton of money collecting of all the random D-list Marvel figures but with DC I tend to stick mostly to mainstream characters. I also try to avoid multiple versions of the same character. I don’t mind owning dozens of Spider-Man and Iron Man variations but when it comes to DC heroes like Flash or Green Lantern I try to find the single most iconic and cool figure available and leave it at that. For the past 10 years the one Superman figure in my modern toy collection has been the DC Direct 2005 version based on Ed McGuinness’s artwork from the Public Enemies (PE) storyline. I love McGuinness’s exaggerated cartoony style and I thought the DC Direct sculptors captured it beautifully in their PE line. Many great Superman figures have been released since then but none of them could dethrone the beefy squinty-eyed McGuinness version.DC-Superman lee face

However, my one version rule went out the window when DC Collectibles unveiled this beauty based on the artwork of Jae Lee. I wouldn’t say it dethrones the McGuinness version because they’re so different but it was definitely a must have for me. I can’t recall the first time I saw Jae Lee’s artwork, he’s done a smattering of work for both Marvel and DC since the 90s, but I know when I became a fan. In 2004 he illustrated a Transformers/G.I. Joe crossover for Dreamwave, a Canadian company that published Transformers books for a few years in the early 2000s. The story was set in WWII which was an interesting concept but it was Lee’s pencils that really left an impression on me. Everything was so dark and mysterious and the period-accurate character redesigns were amazing.DC-Superman lee compare

In 2013 DC launched a new Superman/Batman team-up book with Lee as the primary artist. That series is what inspired DC Collectibles to release a wave of figures based on Lee’s unique take on four DC icons; Batman, Catwoman, Wonder Woman, and Superman.

This figure may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I love it. It looks like Lee’s pencils have leapt off the page and I’d have thought that would’ve been near impossible to pull off given his unconventional style. I think the New-52 era costume looks great as rendered by Lee. There’s a lot more line work for him to play with than there would have been on the classic tights. The head sculpt is very well done too and the paint job highlights all of the sculpting work. I think the red eyes give him a very alien look that we haven’t seen before. This is kind of a dark and scary Superman which is the polar opposite of the bright and polished McGuinness version.

DC-Superman Lee art
One thing I particularly love about this figure is the cape. It’s a just a rubbery mass of folds but it looks surprisingly realistic. It’s one of the best action figure capes I’ve ever seen. My McGuinness figure has an embarrassingly small hand towel on his back so this figure definitely trumps him in the cape department.DC-Superman Lee back

This is an awesome figure that I’ve been looking forward to reviewing for months but the real reason I selected it today is because I wanted to talk about Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. I saw it on opening day but I wanted to give everyone time to see it before I blogged about it. The thing is, after some thought, I realized that I don’t have much to say about it. I didn’t like it but I didn’t hate it either. I think Man of Steel lowered my expectations to such a point that it would have been impossible for me to be disappointed by its sequel. I think you have to be passionate about something to get worked up over it and this movie didn’t make me feel much of anything. I could rant and rave about what I dislike about DC’s burgeoning cinematic universe but I feel it’s already been said to death in every corner of the internet. I will say that I saw flourishes of potential for future movies, Affleck showed promise as Batman and Wonder Woman looked pretty hot and tough, but sadly it was Superman who got shortchanged yet again (not to mention Jimmy Olsen). I still think Henry Cavill could make a great Superman with the right material but BvS didn’t do him any favours.

I would give the film a 4 out of 10 but this figure is worthy of a solid 9 out of 10DC-Superman Lee fly

NIGHT CREEPER V.13 (2016)

Joe-Night Creeper v13 fullG.I. JOE FSS 4.0

In my last review I lambasted The G.I. Joe Club’s Figure Subscription Service (FSS) Barricade. It committed two cardinal sins; being a crappy character and being a crappy toy. Today I’m going to take a look at the other figure that shipped out with him, Night Creeper Ice Ninja.

The Ice Ninja is not a crappy character nor is it a crappy toy. The only issue I have with with this figure is its redundancy. Don’t get me wrong, I like trooper variations. Having Cobra soldiers in various colors is generally A-OK with me. It allows me to bolster my Cobra forces without buying duplicates of the exact same figure. However, ninjas are some of my least favorite troop builders and arctic ninjas seem especially impractical. To be fair, I wouldn’t think twice about buying this figure at retail for 10 or 12 bucks but at premium club prices it becomes glaringly obvious that ice ninjas are not integral to the Cobra organization. Having said all that, I do still like this figure.Joe-Night Creeper v13 back

Cobra’s contracted squad of high-tech ninjas first appeared in action figure form in 1990. The original wore purple and gray and it was pretty cool. The second version of the Night Creeper released in 1993 was a stupid pink Cylon look-a-like and it was complete garbage. That figure was re-released in 1994 with a new color-changing gimmick and it sucked even worse than the last one. The superior original mold made a return in 1998 for Night Creeper version 4. It was included in an arctic themed 3-pack along with Firefly and a Snow Serpent. The trio all had matching white and icy blue paint jobs. I never owned that pack but I’ve always thought they were a nice looking squad. In fact, I wouldn’t mind seeing a modern-era update of that Firefly to display with this remake of Night Creeper v.4.

Night Creeper v.4 (1998)

Night Creeper v.4 (1998)

I haven’t loved the previous 2 modern-era versions of the Night Creeper but they’ve been adequate. The first 2009 version was a remake of the purple and gray original and the Rise of Cobra version released later that same year with some tweaked arms and a new blue and black color scheme was essentially an update of 2004’s version 6. This new arctic version features a different set of legs and arms and it may very well be my favorite of the modern-era Night Creepers. The legs come from Storm Shadow v.43 which give this Creeper a more traditional sock footed ninja look as opposed to the booted legs of the previous two. Storm Shadow v.43 is my favorite Storm Shadow figure to date so I’m all for borrowing pieces from him. However, the ankle joints combined with shallow peg holes on his heels make it very difficult to get him to stand firmly on his display base. At a glance I’m not sure where the arms came from but they match up nicely with the rest of the figure.Joe-Night Creeper v13 compare

The head is the same as the previous versions.  I’ve always thought this head was decent but while I was taking him out of the package his headband and cowl fell off and I was surprised by how much I liked the look of him without it. I don’t think I’ve ever taken the headgear off of my other Night Creepers before but perhaps I should.  Without it he kind of looks like an Ice Viper, my all-time favourite Cobra Trooper.

For accessories Night Creeper includes his standard backpack, curved blade sword, and multi-arrow crossbow. New to his trimmings is a shoulder scarf/cape which I guess he uses to keep warm while running around in the snow in his socks. It looks kinda cool and it differentiates him from his brethren but it does hinder a few things. His backpack doesn’t fit properly with the cape on and his right arm is completely useless under there.Joe-Night Creeper v13 face

The last thing I need to mention is the paint job. I thought it looked great in ’98 and it looks great now. The crisp whites and the silver and blue highlights look really sharp together. This figure may not be essential to your collection but if you signed up for the FSS 4.0 and you’re getting it anyway it’s not a bad addition. 7 out of 10.Joe-Night Creeper v13 fight

BARRICADE v.4 (2016)

Joe-Barricade v4 fullG. I. JOE: FSS 4.0

This past Friday my second shipment from the G.I. Joe Club’s 4th Figure Subscription Service (FSS) arrived in the mail. It contained the  Night Creeper Ice Ninja and Barricade. First up I’m going to take a look at Barricade.

When the FSS line-up is announced each year there are always some figures that I’m really excited about and others that I’m lukewarm on. My lack of excitement for a particular figure may stem from me having no personal attachment to the character, or because I don’t like the way the toy looks, or because it just feels redundant; like a Cobra Bat in yet another color variation. Barricade was one of those lukewarm figures for me this year. Fortunately, for the past three years, I have always found myself pleasantly surprised once I got those lukewarm FSS figures in my hands. Previous figures that I expected to dislike, like Alpine or Airtight, won me over in the end. Go back through my FSS figure reviews and I don’t think you’ll find a negative one.

Well that’s about to change because Barricade is a turd of a figure.

1992 Barricade v.1

1992 Barricade v.1

The original Barricade figure was released in 1992 which was after I had quit collecting Joes as a kid. He had a science-fictiony, Robo-Cop-esque look to him courtesy of his gold plated body armor and helmet with a red Visor akin to Cyclops of the X-Men. Underneath the helmet was a rather nerdy face with a side part in the hair. He was the Joe team’s “Bunker Buster” and it was the 90s (the era of over-sized spring-loaded weapons) so he came packaged with a massive missile launcher that no real person would ever be able to carry. Repaints of the original figure were released in 1993 and 2004. I have never owned any of those three Barricade figures so I have zero attachment to the character.

Joe-Barricade v4 back

That is partly why Barricade was one of the characters I was least excited about when the FSS 4.0 line-up was announced at last year’s Joe Con. However, he was a character who hadn’t yet received a modern-era figure and I’m always happy to add unique characters to my collection even those I didn’t grow up with.  I was hopeful that the Club would surprise me with an impressive figure.

 

Unfortunately, my lukewarm thoughts only got warmer (cooler? luker?) when the first mock-up images of the figure were shown a few weeks after the initial announcement. I did not care for the parts chosen to construct him. He was a blend of armored Cobra Commander arms on an Accelerator suit body from the Rise of Cobra toyline. The parts didn’t appear to come together very well and the helmet seemed to sit awkwardly on whatever head they used. Poor construction was strike number two against Barricade yet I tried to remain hopeful that the final product would be better than the photoshopped mock-up.Joe-Barricade v4 compare

Well now I have him in hand and I can tell you that Barricade is even worse than I feared. The accelerator suit body (which I don’t love anyway) looks really weird with the Cobra Commander arms. The arms are just short enough to make it look like he’s got some sort of growth defect, like he’s a dwarf or a T-Rex or something. The helmet sits just as awkwardly as it appeared to in the promotional image and now I know why. The head they used is too damn big. Up until I opened this figure I had no idea what the head would look like. The Club hadn’t given us any hints as to what was under the helmet. It could have been a brand new head for all I knew which would have been a nice surprise. Even though the original Barricade head was pretty dorky looking I would’ve loved to discover a newly sculpted version of it, side-part and all, hidden underneath the ill-fitting accelerator suit helmet. Instead we got a repainted Chuckles head. I’ve previously ranted about how much I dislike this head in my reviews of Chuckles v.3 and Chuckles v.5. It’s an ugly misshapen head with big hair and a pervy expression it needs to remain covered up.

Joe-Barricade v4 face

The other major thing that really drags this figure down is the paint job. I actually liked the shimmery metallic gold shown in the mock-up image but sadly the actual figure is completely devoid of shimmer. The armor is a flat rust color with a faint marbleization effect. It’s ugly and there is a lot of it. There isn’t enough blue to break it up. The original Barricade armor was simple and blocky and didn’t allow for much painted detail. This modern paint job may echo the original but the accelerator suit is so much more intricate than the original armor and its begging for additional paint apps. Some red or black highlights would’ve helped this figure immensely.

Joe-Barricade v4 helmet

 

Barricade’s accessories are okay. He has a machine gun, a shotgun, a pistol that can be holstered on his leg, an axe, and a spring-loaded cannon with a tripod.  The Cyclops/Robo-Cop helmet should’ve been Barricade’s signature piece and I really wish the Club had splurged to craft a new one.  The accelerator suit helmet is a weak substitution.  The lopsided red visor is especially ugly.  It probably would’ve looked better had they used translucent plastic.

There’s no debating it. This is a fugly figure in both build and color. It is the worst figure the Club has produced since their horrible Iceberg of 2013. A massive disappointment. 3 out 10.

Barricade's  T-Rex impression

Barricade’s T-Rex impression

SWINDLE (2015)

TF-Swindle fullTRANSFORMERS: COMBINER WARS

For the past year or so Hasbro has focused their G1 Transformers toyline on the ”Combiner Wars” theme. Combiners, for those of you who may not know, are the big Transformers that are created when you combine a bunch of smaller ones. There were many combiners in the vintage toyline but for some reason Hasbro had shied away from including them in their modern Transformers toylines until now. Since launching the Combiner Wars concept last year they’re released updated versions of the Aerialbots who form Superion, the Stunticons who form Menasor, the Constructicons who form Devestator, and the Protectobots who form Defensor. In addition to all of those remakes of vintage combiner teams Hasbro has also created brand new combiners made up of fan favorite characters who hadn’t previously been combiner components like Optimus Prime and Hound. It’s a good time but an expensive time to be a Transformers collector.TF-Swindle CW back

 

I haven’t bothered collecting any of the newly created teams, because I already have modern-era, but pre-Combiner Wars versions of Optimus, Hound and the others, but I have purchased the new CW versions of Superion, Menasor, Devestator, and Defensor.

The latest vintage combiner team to get a Combiner Wars makeover is the Combaticons who form Bruticus. Bruticus is one of the coolest combiners (with a name like that how could he not be?) but I honestly didn’t know if I would bother buying the CW versions of those characters. The reason being that Bruticus was the rare exception to the no combiners rule seemingly instituted by Hasbro for the past 10 years. A modern Bruticus figure was released as part of 2012’s “Fall of Cybertron” toyline which was based on the Ps3/XBox 360 game of the same name. Vanessa got me all 5 Combaticons for Christmas that year and Bruticus has been looming over the rest of my puny Transformers ever since. I really didn’t need two Bruticuses (Brutici?) on my shelf where space is already an issue.

TF-Swindle CW face

However, the thing about Combiners is that while the fully combined giants are really cool the smaller robots that make them up are sometimes really cool too. For example, First Aid is one of my favorite Transformers characters. I couldn’t bear to display him as simply Defensor’s leg so I swapped him out for one of the Stunticons so I could display him on his own. Swindle is another awesome character who is so much more than just a limb. I actually considered buying two of the 2012 Swindle so I could display one as an individual while still having a complete Bruticus on display. I didn’t end up doing that so my collection has essentially been Swindle-less since I opted to display my lone 2012 Swindle in leg mode.TF-Swindle CW cartoon

The release of the Combiner Wars Combaticons presented me with the opportunity to buy a new Swindle figure that could finally be displayed as an individual character. He likely would’ve been the only CW Combaticon I bought had I found them at regular price but Toys R Us had them on for half price over Christmas so I bought all four of the limb characters; Swindle, Brawn, Blast Off, and Vortex.

This Swindle figure is a re-tooled and re-painted version of the Protectobot, Rook that was released a few months earlier. Obviously I’d prefer it if all Transformers had their own unique sculpts but this body works quite well for Swindle and it’s different enough from Rook, especially in vehicle mode, that it doesn’t look like a complete clone.  In fact I think this is probably the best Swindle figure to date despite the fact that it’s modified version of another character.  The 1986 original was a boxy turd of a figure and the 2012 version was too flimsy and too science fiction in design.  This figure is sturdy, it’s relatively cartoon accurate, and it’s got plenty of articulation.

Rook

Rook

My favourite thing about this figure is the newly designed head.  It looks exactly as it should.  The shape is right and it has those big purple sunglass lense-like eyes that are his trademark.  This is a cool figure and I’m glad to finally see this conniving, double-crossing, greedy con man get his due. 9 out of 10.

1986 Swindle

1986 Swindle

TF-Swindle CW jeep

NUNCHUK v.5 (2016)

Joe-Nunchuk v5 fullG. I. JOE: FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE 4.0

 

Last week I reviewed Law & Order, one of the first two figures to ship out as part of the G.I. Joe Collector Club’s FSS 4.0. Today I’m going to take a look at the other one, Nunchuk.

The original Nunchuk figure was released in 1992 which was two years after I had quit collecting G.I. Joes as a kid. I lost interest in the brand for a number of reasons and the influx of ninjas didn’t help matters. Now I liked ninjas as much as the next guy, I was into TMNT and I watched the American Ninja movies, but I didn’t like them overtaking G.I. Joe. Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow were cool; one ninja on each team of soldiers was fine. But then they added Jinx and the Night Creepers and then Firefly and Zartan were ninjas all of the sudden and then came Ninja Force.

1992 Nunchuk v.1

1992 Nunchuk v.1

Ninja Force was a sub-team of Joes and Cobras consisting of Nunchuk, Bushido, T’Jbang and Dojo on the good side and Slice, Dice, and Banzai on the evil side. My little brother Brain was into Ninja Force but they didn’t do anything for me. In my mind they just watered down G.I. Joe’s military theme. I’m pretty sure Brian owned the original Nunchuk figure but I inherited Brian’s Joes and I don’t have Nunchuk now so god knows where he ended up.

For some reason my dislike of 90s G.I. Joes has tapered off as I’ve gotten older. I don’t have nostalgic ties to them like I do with the 80s figures but there were some cool character designs during the final years of the Real American Hero line that I didn’t appreciate at the time. Nowadays I’m actually excited to add updated versions of those neon 90s Joes to my modern collection. For example, I’m super stoked about this year’s Joe Con box set which is made up completely of 90s “Air Patrol” Joes.

Joe-Nunchuk v5 face

The 90s figures have been mostly ignored by Hasbro when it comes to their modern-era releases but the Collector’s Club has slowing been getting the job done via their box sets and subscription services. This year’s Air Patrol and 2014s Eco-Force box sets are prime examples. As for Ninja Force, Slice and Dice were both included in prior subscriptions and T’Jbang was shoehorned into the 2014 set. For that reason it wasn’t exactly a surprise to see Nunchuk included in this year’s FSS. He wasn’t a figure I was chomping at the bit to get but I’m always happy to add unique characters to my shelves.

This figure is made up entirely of reused parts. He’s got a Storm Shadow torso and arms which gives him an appropriate ninja looking top half but then he has Barbecue legs which provide him with battle-ready combat boots. I like the combination; it’s a lot like what the Club did when they mixed Jinx and Scarlett parts to give us Vypra last year.Joe-Nunchuk v5 back

The head was also originally used for a Storm Shadow figure and it makes for a fine generic masked face. The removable helmet does an okay job of recreating the original figure’s hooded headgear but it’s not as good as it could be. I would’ve preferred to see the Club just glue some cloth to the head like on the original Nunchuk. At least the helmet is unique to my collection. It original came with Snake Eyes version 55 which I don’t have.

Nunchuk has lots of accessories we’ve seen before that range from really cool to completely useless. I love the nunchuks with the string connecting the two batons. It makes for a functional weapon that suits him perfectly given his name. The backpack, swords, and sais are good too but the teeny little darts are just asking to be lost in the carpet.

The color palette is a bit dull but it matches the original quite well. For me personally, I expect this will be one of my least favourite figures from this year’s FSS and that’s a good thing because it’s not at all a bad figure. It’s a decent remake of the original with plenty of appropriate accessories and good articulation. What more could you ask for? My lukewarm reception is only due to the fact that I have no real connection to the character. 7 out of 10.Joe-Nunchuk v5 fight

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 82 other followers