MEGATRON: ANIMATED (2008)

tf-megatron-08-fullTRANSFORMERS: ANIMATED

If you’re not up to date on your Transformers comics be warned: Spoilers ahead.

I know I’ve mentioned this multiple times before but allow me to say it again, Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye (MTMTE) is one of the best comic books around. I’ve been reading comics consistently since I was 8 years old, over 20 books a month at some points, and MTMTE is one of the best series I’ve ever read. I’ve always enjoyed Transformers comics; the original Marvel run in the 80s, the Dreamwave books of the early 2000s, the Fun Publications convention exclusives, and the various titles published by IDW beginning in 2005. Since 2012 IDW has been publishing two on-going Transformers comics simultaneously, MTMTE and Robots in Disguise (RID). RID has had its ups and downs but for the most part it’s been quite good. Quality-wise it’s what I’ve come to expect from a Transformers book which is to say that it’s an entertaining read with solid art. MTMTE, on the other hand, is in a league of its own transcending Transformers as a property. If you hate the Transformers you probably wouldn’t pick up RID no matter how good I told you it was but as long as you like good storytelling you should be reading MTMTE. Writer James Roberts has crafted an epic, hilarious, and heartbreaking tale that I cannot recommend enough. It would help you enjoy the story if you’re a Transformers fan well-versed in the lore but I really don’t think it’s necessary. Many of the characters featured in the book are not those who starred in the IDW books previously so MTMTE serves to introduce them whether you’re brand new to the franchise or an old-school fan like myself.tf-megatron-08-cover

For example, in the 80s Swerve and Tailgate were repaints of two of my favorite toys, Gears and Windcharger. They weren’t developed at all in the comics or cartoon so I always saw them as unmemorable second stringers. In MTMTE Roberts has infused Swerve and Tailgate with such personality that they’ve become two of my absolute favorite Transformers eclipsing Gears and Windcharger. Any character Roberts spends even a page on immediately becomes 10X more interesting. Despite this ability, I was skeptical about his decision to add Megatron to the cast in issue 28. As I’m sure you know, Megatron is the leader of the Decepticons. He’s always been the big-bad of the Transformers mythology responsible for the deaths of countless beings across the universe. I’ve always found him to be a fine villain. He was sufficiently menacing in the 80s cartoon (largely due to the memorable voice work of Frank Welker) but he never struck me as a very deep character. He was simply a bad guy because the property needed a bad guy. His origins and motivations have been explored in comics before, and those stories have helped to add some depth, but overall he’s an archetype. The same is true of Optimus Prime at the opposite end of the spectrum.tf-megatron-08-back

 

A few years ago the Cybertronian war finally came to an end in the IDW universe. The Autobots and Decepticons set their differences aside (for the most part) and everybody settled into relative peace back on Cybertron. The new status quo is explored politically in RID. In MTMTE Hot Rod decides to devote his time to searching for the legendary Knights of Cybertron on his ship, the Lost Light. He leads a ragtag crew of lovable ex-Autobots (and one or two ex-Decepticons) into deep space where they stumble into a number of entertaining adventures. Issues 1 to 25 are regarded as season one.

When season two begins in issue 26 the Lost Light crew return to Cyberton for the trial of Megatron. However, due some slick legal maneuvering and some wonky loopholes in Cybertronian law Megatron was able to talk himself off of death-row and into the position of co-captain of the Lost Light. I was leery of this plot development because I’d grown attached to the Autobots on the Lost Light and they’d now be bunking with their murderous sworn enemy and I didn’t want to lose anyone. Also I was worried that a bot as popular as Megatron would steal the spotlight from the lesser known characters like Swerve and Tailgate. In that regard I was absolutely correct because that’s exactly what happened…but I was wrong to worry because in Roberts’s hands Megatron is truly compelling. On the surface it seemed as though Megatron was really changing his ways and looking for redemption but I simply couldn’t believe it to be true. I just knew it was all a ruse and that he would eventually take over the ship and kill a bunch of characters I care about…but he didn’t. Every time Megatron showed remorse or compassion I was shocked and fascinated to watch this previously one-dimensional character actually grow. I never would have guessed it but now Megatron is one of my favorite Transformers.tf-megatron-08-art

I never owned the original 1984 Megatron figure when I was a kid. You’d think that might have bothered me but I always found the toy to be really wonky looking and not very representative of the character as he appeared on TV. I had the Shockwave figure though and he served me well as the leader of my Decepticon toys. Dozens of versions of Megatron followed the original and I never had any of them. When I got into collecting Transformers again as an adult with the launch of the “Classics” line in 2006 (starting with Bumblebee) Megatron was a character I was looking forward to owning for the first time. The Classics line was all about well-made toys based on the characters iconic 80s looks. Unfortunately, when a Classics Megatron came out later that year it totally sucked and was not faithful to the original. I decided to wait for the next release but sadly it was based on his Generation 2 green tank look so I passed on that too.  Years went by and my modern Transformers collection grew rapidly but Hasbro never released a Megatron that lived up to my expectations.tf-megatron-08-head

A couple years ago, on a trip to Giant Robot Comics, I came across this version of Megatron for sale in their loose figure case. It’s based on his look from the stylized 2007 Transformers: Animated cartoon. The exaggerated proportions of “Animated” didn’t look too bad on this figure, I needed a Megatron, and the price was right so I went for it.  I didn’t love the toy but I didn’t love the character at that time either so it was good enough; I just wanted a half-decent Megatron for my display. Now that Megatron has earned my love I will be seeking out a better version.

Things I don’t like about this toy include his cartoony appearance, the pink “battle damage” paint apps, his weird alt mode, and the struggle required to keep him standing. His joints are loose and he’s top heavy so he wants to constantly topple over. None of those issues are deal breakers for me though. His cartoony appearance is pretty close to his Generation 1 look with maybe a slight bit of live-action influence. The pink paint is dumb but at last it adds some color. I wish he transformed into a gun like he’s supposed to instead of a spaceship but I never transform my toys anyway. The thing I like least about this figure is its size. I’ve always felt that Megatron and Optimus Prime need to be bigger than their soldiers because thats how the original toys were and thats how they were portrayed on the show. Having a 5″ Megatron that stands shoulder to shoulder with an Insecticon just doesn’t seem right. When I do upgrade my Megatron I will be sure to get a taller one.tf-megatron-08-animated

 

Despite its flaws this is a decent Megatron which is why I got it in the first place. He’s got a pissed off look on his face that suits him well. I actually dig the exaggerated proportions that result in really large feet and Popeye forearms. The greys and reds look good together and the light-piping effects on the eyes and arms are cool too. My favorite feature is the massive arm cannon. This is Megatron’s defining feature and never has it looked so badass. I know they can do better but I still think this is one of the best Megatron toys Hasbro has produced. 7 out of 10.tf-megatron-08-fight

 

SUPERMAN: JIM LEE BLUELINE EDITION (2016)

dc-superman-blueline-fullDC COLLECTIBLES

I have way too many Spider-Man and Iron Man toys. I know this. As a loyal Marvel reader for the past 30 years I have seen those characters wear a multitude of costumes and for some reason I feel compelled to own an action figure of each new look. It’s a problem. Conversely, I have never been a diehard DC fan. I really like some DC characters but I buy their books much more selectively. I tend to stick to critically acclaimed stories. There are exceptions to this rule but generally good stories do not feature alternate costumes. For that reason I’ve had very little exposure to short-lived, one-off DC costumes. Electric Blue Superman? Never read it. Bearded hook-hand Aquaman? Never read it. Knightfall Batman? Never read it. I suppose that’s why I’ve managed to avoid buying multiple action figures of DC characters. I’ve only ever felt the need to collect one iconic version of each. One Superman, one Batman, etc. Unfortunately that plan has been unravelling lately because of DC Collectibles’ designer action figures based on the specific artistic styles of various pencilers.

Ed McGuinness, Jim Lee, Jae Lee

Ed McGuinness, Jim Lee, Jae Lee

For a long time my Ed McGuinness inspired Superman figure was all I needed. Then last year DC Collectibles released a Jae Lee inspired figure which I couldn’t pass up. Next year they’ll probably put out a John Romita Jr. Superman that I’ll be powerless against but this year the Superman I got roped into buying was based on the artwork of Jim Lee.dc-superman-blueline-art

Jim Lee is one of those superstar artists that made a big splash in the comic book industry in the early 90s with his dynamic drawings. He was best known for his work on X-Men before he left Marvel and co-founded Image comics where he focused his creative energies for the next 10 years.

It was a pretty big deal when, after a decade primarily working on his creator-owned material, Jim Lee came back to mainstream comics in 2003. Rather than return to Marvel Jim opted for DC where he drew the 12–issue Batman run titled “Hush”. Hush has plenty of flaws but its undeniably a fun book. Writer Jeph Loeb crammed every Batman character he could think of into those 12 issues and it was a real treat seeing Lee put his unique stamp on each one of them. A series of Hush action figures released in 2004 is one of the earliest examples of DCs artist inspired toylines. Hush was a huge sales success for DC and it got me buying Batman comics on the regular for the first time ever.

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Lee followed up Hush with a Superman story written by Brian Azzarello called “For Tomorrow” in 2004. Lee’s art corralled me into collecting Superman comics for the first time as well. However, the story lacked the event feel of Hush and it was pretty forgettable. Story aside, it looked really nice and Jim Lee proved he could draw one hell of a Superman.

Lee returned to drawing the last son of Krypton on a monthly basis for the relaunch of the Justice League comic in 2011 as part of DC’s New 52 initiative. The New 52 Superman was younger than the Superman Lee drew in “For Tomorrow” and he had a different costume (lots of pointless lines and no more undies). An action figure featuring the New 52 look was released in 2012 but it didn’t interest me because I like my Superman old school. The figure was most likely based on Jim Lee’s artwork to a degree but it wasn’t specifically marketed as such and I don’t think great pains were made to capture his style.dc-superman-blueline-color

A couple of months ago DC Collectibles released this “Jim Lee Blueline Edition”  Superman figure similar to the Blueline Batman they released as a San Diego Comic Con exclusive in 2015.  The concept is that these figures capture the look of a Jim Lee pencil sketch before it’s inked and colored. I think it’s a pretty neat idea so I promptly purchased this Superman from BigBadToyStore when it went up for pre-order. A Blueline Wonder Woman is planned for later this year which I also considered pre-ordering but I’ve decided not to because I like how unique this Superman looks in my collection.

This figure features the exact same build as the previously released New 52 Superman except its molded in solid white plastic.  The only paint apps are the grey lines that represent Jim Lee’s pencils. I think this makes for a far more visually striking figure than the colour version. The pencil lines make the sculpt look more detailed than it really is. The colored version was mostly just sold blue without any sort of muscle definition.  This version’s muscles are very well defined courtesy of Lee’s etchings. I initially thought this figure shared the same head as the color version as well but after closer inspection I believe this is a newly sculpted head.  I don’t think the folks at DC Collectibles could get this figure to look so different using paint apps alone.  This version looks like the pre-New 52 Superman featured in stories like Hush and For Tomorrow rather than the 2011 Justice League Superman which is A-OK in my book. This version appeares to have a squarer jaw and a more recognizable Superman swirl in his hair.dc-superman-blueline-face

The articulation leaves a little something to be desired, especially when compared to Marvel Legends, but it’s pretty standard for DC figures. He moves at the knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, and neck. It’s a rather rigid figure but I’m fine with that as this is clearly a display piece for collectors; I don’t think too many kids would choose this version to play with over the full color version.

This is a great looking toy that does Jim Lee justice. I think it totally nails the concept of a sketch brought to life in 3 dimensions. I don’t usually talk a lot about packaging in my reviews but it should be noted that this toy came in an amazing box with a magnetic seal, a unique shape, and a bunch of Jim Lee artwork. The box itself is worthy of being displayed. Good work DC Collectibles. 9 out of 10.

 

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MARKO (2016)

saga-marko-fullSAGA

A couple of posts ago I reviewed the Nico Minoru Marvel Legends figure from Hasbro. Nico was co-created by Brian K. Vaughan, the writer of the series she starred in called Runaways.  That was the title that introduced me to Mr. Vaughan. I really liked that series and I really enjoyed his run on Ultimate X-Men that followed. That prompted me to check out some of his original books such as Y: The Last Man and Pride of Baghdad. It’s fair to say that I’d become a fan but not enough of one to buy just anything with his name on it.  In 2012 he launched a new creator-owned series called Saga through Image Comics. The cover of the first issue featured a dude with goat horns with his arm around a chick with butterfly wings breastfeeding a baby. My first impression was that it didn’t look like something I needed to read. But because I was a fan of his previous work I kept my ears open for positive buzz thinking that if I heard good things I would check it out.

Well, it didn’t take long before the word was out that Saga was a hit. It quickly garnered a ton of critical acclaim and began racking up awards.saga-marko-cover

Upon its release I bought the first trade paperback which collected issues one to six.  A few pages in I was hooked. I’ve been collecting the series ever since and now have all six TPBs presently available containing the first 36 issues. It can be frustrating waiting 6 + months between collections but each one is such a satisfying read when I finally get it. I go through each new one in a single sitting. The characters are just so well written and believable despite the fact that the universe they inhabit is completely nuts. Saga can be quite graphic at times, sexually and violently, which was a surprise but that’s part of the appeal; it’s a grown up book and you have no idea what’s going to happen from one page to the next. Vaughan makes you fall in love with characters only to abruptly kill them off later. Sometimes narrative years pass between issues and background characters get thrust into the spotlight. A fellow named “The Will” was an early favorite of mine. He was a bad ass bounty hunter; part Han Solo part Boba Fett. Then he went through a transformation that you don’t often see in comics during one of the time jomps; he got really fat. Plumping up a main character might not seem like a big deal but could you imagine picking up the new issue of Batman and being told three years had passed and now Batman is obese? Bold choices like that keep Saga interesting. Never once have I felt like the book was getting stale.

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The subject of this review, Marko, is one of the main characters in Saga. He’s a “moonie” from the satellite called Wreath that orbits the planet Landfall. The moon and the planet are at war with one another and the two sides loathe one another. Marko is a captive when the series starts. One of the Landfallians tasked with guarding him is Alana. The two fall in love,  she helps him escape, they go on the lam together, adventure ensues. I really can’t say enough good things about this book. I just think you should check it out because its a super fun read.

I should also mention that it looks amazing. Artist Fiona Staples absolutely kills it every issue. I wasn’t familiar with her before reading this book but now I’d follow her anywhere. Last year she got me to start reading Archie comics for the first time since I was a little kid.

Saga features so many unique and colorful characters that it would make for an incredible action figure line. Unfortunately, seeing as it’s an independent title for mature readers, chances of anyone producing Saga action figures seemed awfully slim.saga-marko-face

 

 

So imagine my surprise when I heard that there was going to be a Marko and Alana 2-pack available exclusively at 2016 San Diego Comic Con. When I learned the toys were being produced by McFarlane Toys it made more sense. McFarlane are the guys that make action figures based on the Walking Dead, the most successful independent comic for mature readers of all time. I’ve avoided collecting Walking Dead figures for the most part but Marko fits in perfectly with the few I do have.  The scale and the level of detail are a perfect match.saga-marko-attack

 

 

Marko features his trademark outfit consisting of jeans, a t-shirt, a hoodie, and a jacket. The outfit is very comic book accurate with the exception of his hoodie which seems to vanish on the figure. The green hood can be seen on his back and the sleeves poke out from his jacket cuffs but there’s no sign of it on his torso. It’s kind of a weird omission but not a big deal. overall, the sculpting and the paintwork both look great. The black paint wash really brings out all the wrinkly details. Marko’s got quite a bit of articulation and the joints are well hidden but his posability is still rather limited. It’s hard to display him in any pose beyond just standing still which is pretty standard for a McFarlane figure. The head sculpt is awesome but I wish there were alternate smiling or bearded versions. This Marko looks a little sour. For accessories he comes with a sword and sheath that can be plugged into  his leg. I really dig this figure and I’m very happy to add Marko and Alana to my collection. I hope McFarlane doesn’t produce too many more Saga figures as I’m trying to cut back on my toy purchases but I’d love to add a few more characters to my shelf: The Will, Lying Cat, the Stalk, Upsher, Doff, Prince Robot IV… 8 out of 10.

FREEFALL v.2 (2016)

joe-freefall-v2-fullG. I. JOE

Every year there is a G.I. Joe Convention held somewhere in the United States. As a Canadian I have never attended and I likely never will. I’d totally attend if one was held in my backyard but conventions simply don’t thrill me enough to warrant travelling great distances. However, this year my buddy Sean did attend the 2016 Joe Con in Loveland, Colorado. Sean’s alter ego, the Wordburglar, is a bit of a Joe-lebrity so I’m sure many Joe fans were just as thrilled by his attendance as he was to be there. If you’re not familiar with Burgie I suggest you check out some of his music videos on youtube. “Rap Viper” is just one of the many gems you’ll find on his G.I. Joe-themed concept album, Welcome to Cobra Island. I would especially recommend you check out his latest video, Channel Halifax, which is a love letter to our home town.joe-freefall-v2-wordbuglar

Having an inside man at the con this year was handy because Sean was able to nab me one of the elusive attendee-only figures. The Collector’s Club, which organizes the Con every year, always produces a 15-figure Convention set that they sell at the show. Fortunately, for those of us who can’t attend, the Club also takes pre-orders for the set online. I have ordered the non-antendee sets for the last several years. The theme of this year’s box set was Air Patrol. I have slowly been working my way through reviews of those figures (i.e.Black Vulture, Air Devil, Airborne, Static Line). But in addition to the box set the Club also produces a handful of figures only available to con attendees. I have acquired some of those figures on the secondary market over the years (like this year’s Heli-Viper) but they don’t come cheap. The Club limits what attendees can buy, and Sean bought one of everything for himself, but he also somehow managed to get me the attendee figure I most wanted, Freefall.

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Freefall is not a character I have any particular attachment to. The original figure was released in 1990 which is the year I quit collecting Joes as a kid. I never owned the ’91 Freefall until the epic haul of June 2014 (Thanks again Eric if you’re still out there). Freefall was a pretty basic figure but that was part of his appeal. For a toyline that was skewing weirder each year the 1990 assortment consisted of quite a few realistic looking military figures. Freefall was simply a paratrooper dressed in camo and carrying a rifle. He was made of all new parts and none of them flashy. He had a lot in common with Rip Cord, an equally basic but fan-favorite paratrooper released in 1984. I didn’t pay much attention to him at the time but Freefall is a character I’ve come to appreciate over the years.

The original Freefall was not branded as a member of the Sky Patrol sub-team which is rather odd since they also debuted in 1990. Yet it makes perfect sense that the Collector’s Club would piggy back their updated version of him into their Sky Patrol set. He was the perfect choice for the Club to select as their 2016 para-drop figure (every year they toss an army of exclusive figures on parachutes from the roof of the convention).joe-freefall-v2-compare

Unlike the 1990 figure, none of the pieces used to create Freefall 2016 are original.  He’s got a Snow Job torso, Snake Eyes legs, and Joe Trooper arms. His head is another Airborne repaint, the same one I talked about being over used in my recent Sneak Peak review, but I think this is the first time we’ve seen it blonde which differentiates it enough I suppose. Besides, it looks close enough to the 1990 figure to keep me from complaining.

Freefall’s accessories are all recycled too but they’re nice pieces. I like that his knife has a silver painted blade and his green machine gun is pretty snazzy. It’s a much tougher looking weapon than the rinky-dinky hose gun that came with the 1990 figure. The mask and helmet are the same as the ones that came with 25th anniversary Blowtorch. I wish Freefall had more unique headgear but this combo was also reused for Rip Cord so at least there’s consistency amongst the Joe paratroopers. Freefall also comes with a parachute which seems like a no-brainer but most paratrooper figures don’t. The parachute is appreciated but I honestly don’t have much use for it as it can’t really be displayed.

I think this is a great update of an obscure character. He’s nothing to call home about but he’s a solid soldier that looks great on display and has some solid play value for the kiddies. 8 out of 10.joe-freefall-v2-masks

K-2SO (2016)

swb-k2so-fullSTAR WARS BLACK SERIES: ROGUE ONE

It’s hard to believe that we’re two months away from a new Star Wars film. I’ve become so accustomed to waiting years or even decades for new Star Wars movies that it’s hard to process the idea that they’ll be coming out on an annual basis for the foreseeable future. I’m really looking forward to the upcoming Rogue One. I feel it has the potential to be just as thrilling as the Force Awakens but with a little more wiggle room for originallity. I’ve watched the first trailer but beyond that I’ve avoided articles and videos as I’d like to enter the theatre on December 16 as spoiler-free as possible.

On Friday September 30th the Rogue One merchandise hit sales floors across the country. I was moderately excited but it definitely didn’t feel like an “event” the way the release of the Phantom Menace toys did back in ‘99. Maybe it did for some people but my love of Star Wars toys has cooled significantly since the prequel hype. I completely stopped buying Star Wars toys for more than 10 years afterwards. It’s only been over the past two years that denizens of a galaxy far, far away have started trickling back into my collection.swb-k2so-face

So I didn’t line-up at midnight outside Toys R Us the Thursday before “Rogue Friday” but I did venture out the next afternoon hopeful that I could find the new 6” Black Series figures. That’s the line that roped me back into the brand after so many years away. The larger Black Series format allows for more detail and articulation which makes familiar old Star Wars characters feel fresh and contemporary. To my surprise the shelves weren’t stripped completely bare when I arrived at Walmart. In fact, the regular Star Wars section, and a bonus endcap, were both flush with new product.

I was awfully tempted by some of the neat looking new 3 ¾” figures I saw. Is that a frig’n Wampa in a gas mask?!! (it isn’t) I vowed to stop buying small Star Wars figures after Episode II but I caved and bought a few Force Awakens figures last year because I let the dark side get the better of me.swb-k2so-movie

This year I was stronger; I had to be because my disposable income isn’t what it used to be. Wampa in a gas mask remained on the pegs and I focused my attention on the larger format figures.  There were only six new Black Series figures to choose from. One was a re-release of Rey from Force Awakens with a slightly tweaked paint job. Another was Kylo Ren without his mask. I easily passed on those two since I already have those characters. Another was a new character, Cassian Andor who is played by Diego Luna. I have no doubt that I’ll pick up a Cassian figure eventually but this snow suited version didn’t appeal to me so I passed on him too. However I did buy the other three figures: a Death Trooper (a twist on a black storm trooper), Jyn Erso (the female lead portrayed by Felicity Jones), and a brand new droid by the name of K-2SO.

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All I know about K-2SO (Kaytoo Esso) is that he is an imperial droid that has been reprogrammed by Cassian Andor to fight for the rebels.  I’m guessing he’ll be featured prominently in the film but he may only be on screen for 5 seconds for all I know. I hope he’s featured prominently because he’s really cool looking.  He’s very Star Wars in design and yet he’s something completely new.  I love his tall and lanky design. He looks like a mechanized Jack Skellington. His nearly featureless face makes for quite a creepy design. He’s vastly more visually appealing than the duck-faced Battle Droids of old.swb-k2so-back

 

 

The sleek design translates beautifully into action figure form. This toy is super fun just to hold. He’s got a bulky torso which gives some weight to the figure and then he’s got his long slender spider-like appendages. They’re strong and durable so he stands up quite well on his own;  the weight is well distributed.  He’s got loads of articulation (foot, ankle, knee, hip, chest, shoulder, elbow, wrist, neck, head) and for some reason I really dig the clear joints. I’m not sure if they’re supposed to represent open spaces but they look really cool.

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The paint job on this figure is also very nice. He’s sculpted in a metallic black plastic and he has lots of silver scuffs and highlights added to give him that lived-in Star Wars look. Plus there are white, orange, blue, and red details speckled throughout. Hasbro could have copped out on the paint apps for a character that’s almost entirely black but they didn’t. It looks like a lot of care went into this toy at every stage.

If this character ends up being Jar-Jar level annoying I may have to adjust my score but based on this figure alone K-2SO gets a solid 10 out of 10.swb-k2so-group

NICO MINORU (2016)

marvl-nico-fullMARVEL LEGENDS

In publishing, an imprint is a trade name under which work is published. A single publishing company may have multiple imprints for material that appeals to different demographics. In comics, Vertigo is one of the most well-known imprints; it’s where DC publishes its mature reader content. In 2003 Marvel launched a new imprint called Tsunami that was supposed to appeal to fans of Japanese Manga comics which were growing in popularity at the time. The Tsunami line of books mostly featured established Marvel characters, like Venom, presented with an anime inspired twist. The only one that caught my attention initially was Human Torch. I’ve never been a huge Torch fan (the Thing is my Fantastic Four member of choice) but I was intrigued by the concept of a Johnny Storm solo book and the stylized artwork really appealed to me (though it struck me as more graffiti than Manga). The artist, Scottie Young, has since become a huge name in comics. I liked the series but it only lasted 12 issues.marvl-nico-torch

Because I enjoyed the Tsunami take on the Human Torch I figured I should reconsider some of the other books in the line. I read up on them and the one that piqued my interest was a title called Sentinel. It was about a kid named Juston that finds a crashed Sentinel, one of the mutant-hunting giant robots from the X-Men comics, and befriends him. It was essentially a new take on the Iron Giant which is one of my all-time favorite movies. It was a concept with potential but I was still reluctant to buy it because I found the artwork too cutesy. I went to my go-to comic shop Strange Adventures I asked my pal Cal if he’d heard good things. He told me that I could find out for myself and he gave me a reprint that collected the first two issues in a single book. I liked it and continued to collect the book until it was cancelled (none of the Tsunami books lasted very long). Even better than Sentinel though was a series called Runaways, the first two issues of which were also included in that reprint Cal gave me. I likely never would have picked up Runaways on my own because it didn’t look like anything special but it really was a unique and captivating story. The writer/co-creator, Brian K Vaughan, has also become a comic book superstar in the years since Runaways by way of original works like Y-The Last Man and Saga.marvl-nico-team-art

Runaways was about a group of teens that didn’t have a whole lot in common with each other than the fact that their parents got together every year and dragged them along. In issue one the kids snoop around while their parents are meeting and they discover that their parents are actually an evil criminal organization called The Pride. The kids freak out and runaway together, hence the title. In time they discover that each of them has inherited their parents supervillain abilities.marvl-nico-back

 

My favorite character was the Japanese-American Nico Minoru who inherited magical powers from her wizard parents. Using the “Staff of One” Nico is able to cast spells akin to Harry Potter. However,  an interesting twist on Nico’s abilities is that she can cast each spell only once.

After 3 different on-going volumes and a couple of limited series together the Runaways went their separate ways. Nico next appeared in Avengers Arena, a series where various young heroes were abducted by Arcade and forced to fight each other to the death a la The Hunger Games. After that she appeared in Avengers Undercover and nowadays she can be found in the girl power book, A-Force. I have followed Nico through the various titles and I’m pretty stoked to now be getting her in action figure form.

The Runaways all seemed like unlikely candidates to ever be made into toys. They’re super heroes but they don’t have code names or costumes. They just look like normal kids.marvl-nico-art

 

Nico’s Gothic attire kind of passes for a costume I suppose which is probably why she’s the first one to make the plunge into plastic. I’m sure Chase Stein and Molly Hayes have just as many loyal fans as Nico but Hasbro probably has doubts that an action figure of a shaggy haired stoner in a t-shirt or a little girl in a bunny hat would fly off the shelves. The rest of the Runaways may work better as a comic-con exclusive set aimed at hard-core comic fans (though I hope that isn’t the case because that would be hella expensive).marvl-nico-arm

 

I don’t recall Nico having any ties to Doctor Strange so I’m guessing she got thrown into the good Doctor’s Marvel Legends assortment simply because of her magic-based powers. I’m totally fine with that but some Doctor Strange fans may gripe that she’s stealing a slot that should go to a character more relevant to the Doc, like his disciple and  girlfriend, Clea.

I expected this figure to borrow a lot of parts from other recently released female teens such as Silk and Spider Gwen but there appears to be mostly new parts.  Her legs are probably reused but she has these fantastic multiple buckle boots that are original. Both parts of her torso feature sculpted bits of her corset so I think those are new too. Her arms don’t feature any noteworthy sculpting but the paint job is very intricate on her lace sleeves. Her skirt is a separate piece that sits nicely and does not hinder articulation.  Lastly there’s her head which is amazing. The paint job is spot on with black lipstick and  eerie reflective pink eyes. It’s a very pretty face and the hair, which is a separate rubbery piece also looks great. I’m impressed by how well the sculptors were able to translate Nico’s spikey ‘do from the printed page into three dimensions.marvl-nico-side

For accessories Nico come with the Staff of One.  It’s rather plain looking with no paint apps and it seems shorter than it should be.  However there’s a cool translucent purple smoke effect that wraps around the staff and adds some pizzazz.   She also comes with with a an alternative left arm that features a translucent effect below the elbow to recreate how she appears in the comics when casting spells.

I have zero complaints. Not only is this a great figure in its own right but it’s also a breath of fresh air after a number of repetitive Marvel Legends waves. Nico look like no one else on your shelf and I think she is a must-have. 10 out of 10.marvl-nico-coven

 

PINK SKELETON (2016)

bfs-pink-skelly-fullVITRUVIAN H.A.C.K.S.

Hey gang. It’s been ages since I reviewed anything so I thought I’d throw up a quickie while I wait around for the Trump/Clinton debate to start. I haven’t been feeling very motivated to blog lately so I’ve selected a figure which should make for a short and sweet write-up.

I’ve told you before about Boss Fight Studio’s Vitruvian HACKS toyline, a project they funded via kickstarter and that I supported. Series One consists of figures based in Greek mythology, primarily Greek warriors and gorgons. There are also a number of customizable blank figures available which allow you to create wholly original characters. The fourth and final category of figures included in series one is skeletons. You can use the skeletons as set dressing or as undead warriors a la “Jason and the Argonauts”.  bfs-pink-skelly-movie

Since I bought the all-in kickstarter package I received  skeletons in a variety of colors: white, black, yellow, translucent purple, and hot pink. I believe the pink one was a kickstarter exclusive so if you like this one you’re out of luck unless you buy one on the secondary market. The others are currently available to purchase on BFS’s website along with a new grey version. It’s neat to have an exclusive but honestly the pink is my least favorite of the bunch.bfs-pink-skelly-back

The sculpt is the same on all the skeletons regardless of the color and it’s fantastic.  It is truly impressive that the ladies and gentlemen over at BFS were able to capture this much detail in such a small figure and still load it up  with articulation. No corners were cut in designing this figure. There are spaces between all the ribs in the ribcage and there are gaps between the fibula and tibia and the ulna and radius.  He’s articulated at the ankles, hips, waist, ribs,  shoulders, elbows, wrists, neck, jaw and he has double jointed knees. The movable jaw is super cool and  really makes a skeleton go from docile to manic.

This is a skinny figure as you would expect but thankfully BFS provides display bases with each figure to help them stand up. They also provide clear plastic foot braces that offer additional support for skeletons specifically. There are also 4 more clear braces for the legs and arms which make it easy for you to strap armor to the skinny frame. All of the accessories from other V-Hacks figures are compatible with the skeletons. Even some of the body parts can be swapped out which can make for some eerie customsbfs-pink-skelly-girl

 

These skeleton figures are awesome and they can be used to enhance any 3 3/4″ action figure display. Up the stakes on a G.I. Joe battlefield or recreate Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru’s demise on Tatooine.

bfs-pink-skelly-dance

 

If I have one negative thing to point out about these figures it’s the lack of paint. I was so excited to receive these skeletons when they first arrived in the mail a few months ago that I didn’t give a second thought to the fact that they had no paint apps; bones are white anyway so who needs paint. But then my Mythic Legions Skeletons from Four Horsemen Studios arrived. The paint work on those 6″ figures was so rad that it made the Hacks skeletons seem a little boring by comparison.  That’s not entirely fair though as BFS’s skeletons are smaller, much more affordable, and intended for customizing.

A Vitruvian Hacks skeleton in another color would easily rate a 9 or a 10 but in pink I give this guy a 7 out of 10.bfs-pink-skelly-fight

SNEAK PEEK v.3 (2016)

Joe-Sneak v3 fullG. I. JOE FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE 4.0

I’m really trying to finish posting all my reviews of the figures from this year’s Joe Con set but I’m going to take a brief interlude because there’s a non-convention Joe that I really want to talk about. The final package from the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club FSS 4.0 arrived the other day and it contained the final two known figures, Tiger Force Sneak Peek and Outback, plus the mystery 13th figure.  I’m pretty happy with the mystery figure but that’s not who I’m going to review today. Tonight I want to talk about Sneak Peek.

Joe-Sneak v3 back

The original Sneak Peek figure was released in 1987. He was the Joe team’s advanced recon and radio telecommunications expert. His file card described him as a legend with patience, endurance and guts, which made him sound pretty  cool.  However, the actual figure was not all that cool and the original artwork depicting him on the blister card was even less cool. Most Joes were drawn with intense scowls but Sneak Peek had a confused man-baby face. The figure itself didn’t look overly young but his face was rounder than most. His uniform was rather bland in color and kind of frumpy with all the padding. He had knee-high laceless boots which didn’t exactly look combat ready and then of course there were his accessories. He had a pretty decent looking rifle but beyond that he had a walking talkie, binoculars, and a giant periscope. They were all relevant to his military specialties but not as badass as a knife or a pistol might have been. Having said all that, you might expect that I wasn’t a fan of ’87 Sneak Peek but that’s not the case.  For some reason I loved this guy.Joe-Sneak v3 carded

I paired Sneak Peek up with fellow Class of ’87 recruit, Crazylegs. The two of them were best buddies and they worked very well together.  I’m not sure why I decided they belonged together, perhaps because they both had red and grey uniforms, but they made for one of the most effective Joe duos on my roster.  I didn’t make them ridiculously strong like I did Shockwave or complete hams like I did BattleForce 2000, they were just good soldiers. When the modern-era of Joe figures kicked off in 2007 both of them were high on my want list, in part because they were completely absent from the new-sculpt years of the early 2000s. In fact neither had been redone since their 1988 Night Force repaints (which were Toys R Us exclusives back in the day that I never even knew about). It took a while but Hasbro eventually produced a modern-era Crazylegs in 2011 as part of their “Pursuit of Cobra” series.  After that I waited anxiously for a modern-era Sneak Peek that never came…until now!Joe-Sneak v3 crazy

Hasbro never delivered but thankfully the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club put together their own version to close out their 4th annual FSS. Only they didn’t use the ’87 original for inspiration as I had been hoping for nor did they recreate the 1988 Night Force version 2. So what did that leave them with? The 1991 Tiger Force version released exclusively in the United Kingdom. It wasn’t exactly a surprise given that the Club likes to recreate foreign exclusives plus they seem to love Tiger Force; which was the theme of their 2015 Con Set.

Euro Sneak Peak

Euro Sneak Peak

I would’ve much preferred a red and grey Sneak Peak but the Club has already announced that an 87-inspired version will appear in next year’s FSS 5.0.  While it’s nice to know that I won’t have to wait long to get a classically attired Sneak Peek the downside of that announcement is that it almost immediately negates this figure. At least I thought it would. When the v.1 remake arrives next year it will no doubt become my default Sneak Peek but I like this figure more than I thought I would; far too much to simply box it up or relegate it to the back of the shelf.

I’ve seen lukewarm reviews of this figure on a few other sites so perhaps I’m letting my love of the character cloud my judgement but I really like it. I didn’t think I’d be pleased with a Sneak Peek made up completely of reused parts but  gosh darn it this really works for me. He’s got the same Cobra Shock Trooper legs as the Airborne I reviewed the other day, a Pursuit of Cobra Snake Eyes v.54 torso, Shock Trooper arms, and a 2008 Airborne head. The padded look of the original uniform is recreated using a Scrap-Iron vest and the collar of Beachhead v.17.  It doesn’t make for a perfect recreation of the classic uniform but it’s close enough and I actually think it’s an improvement. The combat boots look much better than the knee-high slip-ons.

Joe-Sneak v3 scope

I’d always prefer a unique head sculpt to a recycled one but the Airborne head and helmet combo work very well to recreate the look of the original.  As a result, Sneak Peek finally looks fit; no more big round head. He’s got a removable helmet for the first time and he looks good under there. This head’s been used a few times before but it usually looks different (it was green when it was Hit & Run and moustached when it was Footloose) so I don’t immediately associate it with any one character.

The paint job on this figure is nice and relatively faithful to the 1991 deco. I must say that I’m quite pleased to see, after thirty years of buying Tiger Force figures, somebody finally painted one in tiger colors.  How is it the Hasbro designers never painted a single Tiger Force figure orange?

For accessories S.P. has a dispaly base, a rifle, a radio, binoculars, and a newly sculpted periscope.  I never understood the periscope. Do soldiers actually use these things in the battlefield? If they did at one point I’m sure they don’t anymore.  Even in 1987 this thing look antiquated.  However, he wouldn’t be Sneak Peek without it so I’m glad it’s here plus it’s much better than the vintage one was. This one has handles so he can carry it and it even has some silver paint deco. Some might say I’m easy to please but I think this is a home run from the Club. 9 out of 10.Joe-Sneak v3 headsJoe-Sneak v3 compare

 

HELI-VIPER v.2 (2016)

Joe-Heliviper v2 fullG. I. JOE

It’s time to review yet another 2016 Joe Con exclusive figure. However, this one was not included in the 15-figure box set like all the others I’ve been reviewing lately.  This first-ever modern-era Heli-Viper was sold in 3-packs exclusively to Con attendees.  Unlike the box set, the Heli-Vipers and other individual con exclusives could not be pre-ordered online in advance by non-attendees.  Every year the Club produces a handful of figures and vehicles that are not revealed to anyone until the Convention actually begins.  The sales floor mystery items would make attending in person pretty exciting I imagine but they’re a real bummer to non-attendees like myself. Even though I spend hundreds of dollars every year to sign up for the Club’s figure subscription service and to purchase their Con Set there’s still a half dozen figures that I can’t get my hands on unless I’m willing to pay crazy secondary market prices. 2014’s Freestyle is a much desired Con figure that I’ll likely never own (she sells for over $200 now) and last year’s Tiger Force Frostbite is also too rich for my blood at $80.Joe-Heliviper v2 v1

Fortunately the prices tend to be a little more reasonable when it comes to the army builder packs. Since they come in groups of 3 there’s more supply to meet demand. People tend to sell the trios for between $100 and $150 and the individuals for $40 to $50. I bought this Heli-Viper from a dude online for $40 and I’m comfortable with that.

The original Heli-Viper was released in 1992. I never had one and wasn’t even aware of him. He’s one of those late era Joes I only became familiar with after I got back into collecting Joes as a young adult with the help of the internet. The Heli-Viper was made up of Night-Viper’s torso and legs, Techno-Viper’s arms, and Snow Serpent’s head. I’m fine with the build from the neck down but the Snow Serpent head is too recognizable to reuse. Cobra’s first Arctic Trooper was released in 1985 and it has long been a fan favorite. All I see when I look at Heli-Viper is a purple Snow Serpent with a helicopter. Hasbro really should have sculpted a new head or reused something more generic. And about that purple, the paint job on the ’92 Heli-Viper was ungodly. There was way too much red and purple and those hues did not compliment each other at all.

Joe-Heliviper v2 back

The Club’s recreation of the Heli-Viper stays quite true to the original, which I usually appreciate, but it’s to the detriment of this figure.  Heli-Viper v.2 is burdened with the same issues that sullied version 1. He’s too red, too purple, and too Snow Serpent. The other problem this guy has is his unwieldy helicopter pack. Instead of using the more compact helicopter gear we got with Annihilator and Matt Tracker we get the humongous pack that originally came with Cobra Commander v.53.  It’s way too big so I just know I’m going to be standing this guy up on my shelf over and over again. Top heavy toys can be the bane of a collector’s existence.Joe-Heliviper side

His other accessories are a display base, a pistol that can be holstered on his webgear, a machine gun, and two useless grenades.

This is a relatively weak figure but it’s not horrible.  The modern-era Snow Serpent head is such a cool piece that it elevates this otherwise ugly figure. I’d rather he had a unique head but since he doesn’t I do like how this paint job exposes the details of the sculpt better than the all black face of the Snow Serpent.  I’m glad I managed to add one of these guys to my collection but I definitely didn’t need 3 of them. 6 out of 10.Joe-Heliviper v2 heads

 

ELECTRO (2016)

MarvL-Electro fullMARVEL LEGENDS

The last few months have brought a steady stream of new Marvel Legends releases.  I just purchased Rogue and Havok from the latest X-Men wave when a week later another Spider-Man wave hits.  I still haven’t come across the recent Captain America wave and the Dr. Strange series is right around the corner. Hasbro is relentless with these things and they’ve clearly got their hooks in me because, yet again, I purchased an entire wave in a single outing.  Doing so saves me from hunting down individual figures for months but man does it ever hurt the wallet.

The newest Spider-Man wave consists of Ultimate Spider-Man, Miles Morales: Spider-Man, Silk, Hobgoblin, another Spider-Girl, and Electro. Plus they all came with parts to build a Space Knight Venom. It’s a solid wave but I find myself asking “Didn’t I just buy a Spider-Man/Spider-Girl/Hobgoblin/Venom?”  Yes.  Yes I did. Multiple times.MarvL-Electro face

Since the other characters in the wave are all a little over-exposed I’ve decided to take a look at Electro first.

Electro is a classic Spidey villain who first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man issue issue 9 published in 1964 and he’s been a thorn in Web-Head’s side ever since. Originally he wore a green costume with yellow lighting bolts running up and down the arms and legs and a crazy mask I can only describe as a lightening star. It was the kind of over-the-top design that could only work in comic books. Electro has made some alterations and ditched the mask in recent years but elements of the original costume remain. Electro first shed the mask in a 2009 storyline called “The Gauntlet” in which many of Spidey’s classic villains received power upgrades to make them feel like real threats again since many had been relegated to punchlines for years. Electro’s increased electrical powers came with a newly scarred face; a burn mark with the same star pattern as his mask.

MarvL-Electro back

This action figure is the first time that Electro’s modern look has been translated into action figure form. I was dead set against the change at first but the gritty artwork of Paul Azaceta eased me into it. Over the years the bald look has grown on me.  As much as I like the original, I must admit that it was hard to take Electro seriously in that mask. The shaved head and scarred face provides a more street-level, less theatrical look that makes Electro more menacing.

I already have Classic Electro figures from the  3 3/4″ Marvel Universe and 5″ 90s Spider-Man toy lines so it’s refreshing to get a new take on the character for this 6″ figure. The head sculpt is very well done and perfectly adapts the comic book look without directly homaging any artist in particular. He’s got a furrowed brow and gritted teeth. He looks pissed off and scary. He has solid metallic blue eyes that reflect light to give the look of beady white pupils. It’s a very effective paint job that make his eyes seem to follow you around the room.MarvL-Electro hand

The body is the same one we’ve seen a few times already for characters like Spider-Man.  It’s lean and muscular. At first I thought it was a little too lean for Electro but he’s never really been a bulky bad guy so I concluded that it actually works quite well. It’s got loads of articulation that allows for many poses. The paint job is relatively simple but looks crisp and vibrant. The black pants is not something we’re used to seeing but as with the head I’m glad to get something a little more contemporary.

MarvL-Electro mask

My only gripe about this figure is the hands.  He has powered-up blue electric hands which would be fine if he had swappable regular gloved hands but he doesn’t.   Many poses look odd with the blue tendril fingers.  Some Legends figures get up to three pairs of alternate hands so I can’t imagine why Hasbro didn’t provide one extra pair with Electro.  Complaints aside the translucent hands are kind of neat looking.

Thankfully he does come with one accessory (besides the build-a-figure Venom piece), an alternative head sporting the star mask.  If you want a classic Electro this head gets you pretty close.  It’s features a beautiful sculpt and I think it’s sized just right. The smirk looks more mischievous then it does angry and I like that. Ditko-era Electro shouldn’t be too scary.  It’s awesome to have the masked option but I’m going to display mine with the modern look. The hands knock this figure down a peg but its still a solid 7 out of 10.MarvL-Electro zap