CITRINA (2016) orange blank

BFS-Citrina fullVITRUVIAN H.A.C.K.S.

I’ve reviewed a handful of Vitruvian Hacks figures now but I’ve only just scratched the surface of their awesomeness. I still have so many cool Spartans and Gorgons to share with you but today I’m going to take a look at a a completely clean slate. One of the main ideas behind the Vitruvian Hacks line is customization. H.A.C.K.S. is an acronym for Highly Articulated Character Kit System. Boss Fight Studio, the creators of the line, want you to swap out pieces and mix and match weapons to create your own original characters. To help customizers do just that, BFS has produced blank male and female figures in a variety of colors. The blanks have no painted details and no accessories. Each one comes in a baggie with four alternate heads (bald, short hair, long hair, masked), three pairs of feet (bare, sandals, boots), and two sets of hands. These options allows for all kinds of build possibilities. The blanks feature the same beautiful sculpting and the same amount of articulation as the standard V-Hacks figures. If you think you might be interested in doing some customizing of your own the blanks are available at BFS’s web store at a very reasonable price and they’re constantly adding new colour variations.BFS-Citrina parts

Since I backed BFS’s kickstarter campaign with an “all-in” contribution I received one blank in every color they had available at the time which was 16 (8 male and 8 female). I also received a bunch of extra accessory packs that contained tunics, helmets, and weapons so I was able to dress/arm all my blanks in some manner of outfit. So, rather than just review a completely blank figure, I’ve decided to review one of my original creations.BFS-Citrina back

My mom has told me on more than one occasion that I remind her of the 40-year old virgin but for the record I am not in the habit of sitting at home painting my action figures (plus I’m only 38 and I have a girlfriend). True customizers might scoff at my so-called creation because I built her with minimal effort and no paint but she is a Mike’s Collection original none-the-less. All I’ve done is taken the orange female blank, given her some white and black accessories, and named her. She’s actually one of my least accessorized blanks but for some reason she’s become my favorite. I suppose the orange skin is the main reason for that.  The pink and purple skins are too girly and the “walnut brown” and “champaign beige” skin are too close to actual flesh tones that they look strange with unpainted eyes. The unpainted facial features on the orange head don’t bother me because I see her more as a mythic elemental rather than an actual person.BFS-Citrina sword

I’ve named my elemental Citrina because of her citrusy skin tone. I’m thinking she was created by Zeus or some other conniving god for a reason not yet known. I see her as an ally to the Spartans in their war agains the gorgons. She wears mummified snakes around her neck, wrist and ankle as a means to protect her from Medusa’s cursed stare and she wields a sword carved from the tooth of the Kraken which repels all manner of beast. I’m literally making this up as I type it so forgive me if it’s silly.BFS-Citrina hair

 

I think these blanks are great and even though I have no customizing skills I find myself wanting to purchase each new color variation. It’s hard to know how to score these figures but between the quality, the concept, and my added bit of flair I’ll give Citrina an 8 out of 10.BFS-Citrina group

KNIGHTMARE BATMAN (2016)

POP-Batman Knightmare fullFUNKO POP!

I try to stick to toy reviews on this site but every now and again I’ll sneak a movie review in disguised as a toy review. I don’t think I ever shared my thoughts on 2013’s Man of Steel so allow me to now… Hated it.

I love me some Superman and I was excited to see it initially but what a boring piece of crap that was. I could go on and on about the things I didn’t like about it (it was grim, it was long, Superman let his dad die, Ma and Pa Kent were kinda dicks, Superman killed Zod and destroyed a city in the process, Amy Adams sucked, etc. etc.) but I won’t bother.

When it was announced that a sequel was being made called “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” I was concerned for many reasons (they were trying to build a shared universe on a super weak foundation, they were adapting a comic about Superman and Batman’s final meeting into a movie about their first meeting thus diminishing the conflict and starting the DC cinematic universe off with an aged Batman, they were planning on cramming in multiple {thus underdeveloped} characters, etc. etc.) and yet I went and saw it anyway like a chump.POP-Batman Knightmare back

I enjoyed BvS more than Man of Steel but just barely. I still thought it was riddled with problems but it wasn’t a pile of  garbage like MOS was. As I feared, BvS was too long and too dark. They introduced too many characters in an effort to rush the Justice League together and it felt forced, character motivations were largely absent, Doomsday was completely generic, and {SPOILER ALERT} they tagged the Death of Superman storyline onto the end and it didn’t have nearly the impact it should have because in the DC cinematic universe most of the world thinks Superman is a jerk. Plus there was the killing of Jimmy Olsen, the overly goofy Lex Luthor, Batman killing everybody, etc. etc.

I really hope DC get’s its s**t together before the Justice League movies come out but I’m not optimistic.  The first teaser trailer was released this weekend and it did nothing to make me think things are heading in the right direction.

POP-Batman Knightmare side

 

Even though I didn’t love the movie I do love this figure based on it. This “Knightmare” version of Batman appeared in a dream sequence that foreshadowed the coming of Darkseid. It was one of the most out of place scenes in the movie that I’m sure left casual movie goers completely confused. Even I, a seasoned comic nerd, was left scratching my head. I’m not interested in collecting any of the DC Direct/Mattel figures from this dour movie but I couldn’t resist picking up this adorable little version of Batman in his trenchcoat and goggles from Funko.

I seem to have started a sub-collection of Batmen figures within my larger POP! collection. This is now the fourth Batman I’ve acquired and I’m still hoping to pick up the BvS armoured version as well.  As much as I love the trench coat, the neckerchief, the goggles, and the dirt spatter, it’s the 5 o’clock shadow that really won me over. Who doesn’t love a stubbly Batman. I’m quite certain that this figure is the best thing to come out of Batman v Superman. I would score the movie a 5 (Man of Steel gets a 2) but this figure gets an 8 out of 10.POP-Batman Knightmare Batmen

AIR DEVIL v.2 (2016)

Joe-Air Devil v2 fullG. I. JOE

I really need to get back into the habit of blogging because I have been acquiring a ton of cool toys lately. Earlier this week I picked up two Funko Pop! figures and two Marvel Legends and then a couple of days ago my 2016 G.I. Joe Convention box set arrived in the mail. I pre-ordered this set back in March and it was made available for pick-up to Con attendees the weekend of June 16-19.  As a non-attendee I had to wait for the Collector’s Club to ship my set out after the Con. I’m pretty stoked to have this year’s set in hand a mere month after the convention because last year I think two or three months passed before I finally got my set.  Last years set was so late that I kind of lost my enthusiasm for it by the time it arrived; as evidenced by the fact that I’ve only reviewed 3 of the 11 figures so far (Wreckage, Lifeline, & Stalker). This year I’m going to try to get all the figures reviewed in a timely manner.

For my first 2016 Joe Con review I’ve selected Air Devil, Cobra’s front line aerial assault combatants. This figure was one of the set’s two army builders so there were 3 identical Air Devils included in the set.

1992 Air Devil

1992 Air Devil

I’ve told you many times before that I stopped collecting Joes in 1990. It’s probably more accurate to say I quit collecting in ’89 since I only acquired a single 1990 figure. For that reason I have little to no nostalgic attachment to the figures released between 1990 and 1994 (when the line ended). The original Air Devil was released in 1992 as part of the “Air Commandos” sub-set which was a continuation of the “Sky Patrol” sub-set launched in 1990. I didn’t own any of the Air Commandos or Sky Patrol figures myself but my little brother Brian had a couple and one of them was Air Devil. I liked Air Devil. He had a unique design with a strikingly colourful uniform. It was odd to have the face exposed on a Cobra Trooper but that was part of the figure’s appeal.

When the Club announced that Sky Patrol would be the theme of their 2016 convention set I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy. I was hoping for Battle Force 2000 vs Cobra La even though I knew it was a long shot. However, I wouldn’t say I was disappointed by the Sky Patrol decision. The Club has managed to create some great sets out of concepts I wasn’t thrilled about before (Eco Warriors, Tiger Force) so I trusted they’d pull off another desirable set. The revamped Sky Patrol figure I was most looking forward to was Air Devil.Joe-Air Devil v2 back

Now that I have the set in hand I think I was right to be excited about Air Devil because he’s my favourite figure in the set. No new parts were used to create this figure so there’s nothing we haven’t seen before but it looks fantastic and its free of the issues that plague other figures in the set such as ill-fitting accessories.

Air Devil is constructed with the torso and legs of Jungle Viper, the arms of Alley Viper, and a head that was first used for Night Fox in 2012 and most recently for Sightline in 2015. The pieces come together relatively well and do a decent job of recreating the look of the ’92 Air Devil figure. The most glaring difference is the head. The modern AD doesn’t have the exposed mouth and nose that made the original so unique. I kind of wish his face was exposed for consistency’s sake  but this is a great head sculpt and it feels more “Cobra Trooper” than the original did. This guy fits into Cobra’s established rank and file seamlessly.Joe-Air Devil v2 side

For accessories Air Devil comes with a display base, a pistol that can be holstered on his ankle, a knife that can be sheathed on his wrist (awesome), a rifle,  a glider backpack, and a face shield. The weapons are all fine but nothing to call home about. We’ve seen the  backpack a few times before so it’s nothing revolutionary but its fold up/pop-out wing design is neat, it has a cool new Cobra logo with a Devil’s tail, and serves as an adequate replacement to the large Cobra glider the original AD came with. The face shield is an odd thing. Apparently the ’92 figure had one but Brian never had it with his (he got it secon-hand) so I was never aware of it. I’m guessing Air Devils wore them to keep bugs out of their mouths or something which made sense when their faces was exposed but makes less sense now that they’re fully covered. I find the shield too large and clunky and it detracts from the look of the figure so I’ve opted to display only 1 of my Air Devil’s with his shield on.Joe-Air Devil v2 shield

 

In conclusion this is a very nice figure that starts the 2016 Convention Set off on the right foot. He’s not the home run 2014’s Toxo-Vipers were but he’s close. 9 out of 10.Joe-Air Devil v2 squad

MALLEUS (2016)

Myth-Mallus full MYTHIC LEGIONS

My reviews have been few and far between these days. There are various reasons for that but a lack of cool action figures is not one of them. I still have a boat load of Vitruvian Hacks figures to review, new Marvel Legends, new Star Wars Black Series, new Transformers, and new Pop! vinyls; not to mention the thousands of older toys in my collection I’ve yet to review. However, what brings me to the blog today is a brand new line of action figures from Four Horsemen Studios.

Myth-Malleus head

The Horsemen are a group of sculptors who started out making action figures for companies like McFarlane Toys and Mattel but who later branched out on their own. Through their own company the’ve produced some excellent licensed properties like the Outer Space Men and wholly original lines like Gothitropolis.  Their newest line is the fantasy-based Mythic Legions.

The Horsemen launched a kickstarter campaign to fund the project on February 9, 2015. They were offering 22 different figures at a price of $45 each. As the funding increased they added new figures and accessories until they ended up with an assortment of 34 different characters. I would’ve loved to get them all, or at least a dozen or so, but money doesn’t grow on trees. I’d went all-in on 3 prior action figure kickstarter campaigns (Marauder Task Force, Vitruvian Hacks, and Marauder Valkyries) and my wallet was starting to feel the crunch.  I selected 4 figures and called it a day. Overall, 1,166 backers pledged $452,528 to make the campaign a huge success.Myth-Malleus all-in

I’ve become accustomed to long delays on kickstarter produced figures. So much so that when my Mythic Legion figures arrived last week (only 3 months behind schedule) it seemed like a very quick turn around.

I expected no less from the Four Horsemen but all four of my Mythic Legion selections are spectacular. Now I’m kicking myself for not buying at least a couple more. I chose 3 skeleton warriors and a yellow demon dude for some variety.  Some of the orcs and knights would’ve been cool but I’m mostly regretting not buying the other 3 skeletons.  A whole army of these undead warriors would’ve be sweet.

Myth-Malleus back

All the Legions figures come on resealable blister cards with original artwork on both sides and a brief history of the ML world on the back. On the side of the packaging is a character specific bio. Malleus is described as underworld royalty, the son of Necronominus. He’s a devout follower of his father’s scripture and he quickly dispatches those you stray from the path. Pretty cool.

The figure is a real beauty in both sculpting and paint applications. He’s covered in jagged armor that truly looks like weathered metal. Every single rivet has been painted; the Horsemen didn’t cut any corners. Many pieces of his armor such as the removable shoulder pads, neck guard, and loin cloth are sculpted in rubbery plastic so they don’t hinder his movement. The two shades of green mixed in amongst the blacks and greys really make this figure pop. The paint work on his bones is pretty great too making him appear grubby and aged.

Proud Papa

Proud Papa

The head sculpt is beyond cool. Of the three skeletons Malleus is the only one with an articulated jaw which I love. He’s cracked and missing teeth and with his mouth open he looks nuts. I totally buy into him being a religious zealot.

Then there’s the weapons. Malleus comes with two insane looking battle axes. These things are pure badassery. They have multiple paint apps and are completely customizable. You can make them double or single bladed and you can change the fixtures at both ends.  I think he came with a sword or two as well but I’ve already decided he’ll be displayed with the two double bladed axes.

Myth-Malleus boot

 

Malleus has loads of articulation and he’s a good solid figure. He has the coolest boots I’ve ever seen and I love him. A few of these Mythic Legions figures are currently available at BigBadToyStore. I’d highly recommend you grab as many as you can. 10 out of 10.Myth-Malleus armyMyth-Malleus Skeletor

 

 

JUMPSTREAM (2016)

TF-Jumpstream fullTRANSFORMERS: COMBINER WARS

For the past year or so Hasbro has focused their Transformers toyline around the Combiners Wars concept. Over a relatively short period of time they have given us modern updates of classic Cominers like Bruticus, Defensor, Devastator, Menasor, and Superion and they’ve even created a couple new ones, like Optimus Maximus and Sky Reign, using classic characters who weren’t traditionally combiner bots. It’s been a fun but expensive year to be a Transformers collector which is why I have to draw the line somewhere. When Hasbro revealed their latest combiner a few months back, a brand new gestalt named Victorion, I decided to pass.

Victorion was the result of the 2015 “Fan Built Bot” poll.  Hasbro let fans vote to determine their latest combiners’ gender, name, vehicle build,  color scheme,  special power, origin, nemesis, and attitude. The result was a cyan/red/white female combiner made up of a firetruck, a motorcycle, and a couple of helicopters and race cars, that has gravity control powers, hails from the Sea of Rust, has a beef with Galvitronus and acts independently. I didn’t participate in the poll but I’m pretty happy with what those who did came up with. A female combiner was a neat idea but I determined that I didn’t have the shelf space or the funds to devote to a large expensive character I had no attachment to. Fortunately she was only available as an online boxset, rather than being sold as individual components in retail stores like the other combiners were, so that made it easier to pass on her. Out of sight, out of mind.TF-Jumpstream back

But then a couple of weeks ago I picked up the latest Transformers comic book from IDW. I collect the comics in collected trade paperback format so I’m a few months behind the standard releases. The latest TPB was called Distant Stars and it collected The Transformers: Windblade issues #4-#7, as well as the Combiner Hunters one-shot. The collection features the first appearances of Victorion and the Rust Renegades that combine to form her.  After reading the story arc I knew I had to buy the damn toy. IDW’s comics are so good that I cannot help but want a toy of any character that appears in them. I was taking a few days to mull over ordering the set from BigBadToyStore when my buddy Darryl who owns Giant Robot Comics posted on facebook that he had a few in stock. I went over the next day and picked one up.TF-Jumpstream art

I admit that there’s a part of me cursing my lack of self-control for paying $175 for 6 repaints of figures I already have but for the most part I’m pleased with my purchase. Repaints and retools is the name of the game when it come to all toy lines these days so I can’t knock Victorion for a lack of new tooling. One thing I really like about the set is the unified colour scheme. Devastator is really the only other combiner to be so cohesive. The colours used are unique and don’t bring to mind any other Transformer.TF-Jumpstream face

It’s tough to pick a favourite Rust Renegade but I think mine might be Jumpstream. Her alt mode is that of a Lamborghini Diablo so she shares the same build as last year’s Stunticon, Breakdown. Their car modes are  identical but there was some retooling done to differentiate the two in robot mode. Jumpstream has a new chest piece, new lower arms, and most notably a new head. I feel she has the most feminine head of all the Renegades which is why she’s probably my favourite. The face sculpt is reminiscent of Arcee with a paint deco akin to Windblade.

TF-Jumpstream car

Jumpstream is a sturdy figure with good articulation and sculpting. Her only weapon is a shield which leaves her lacking in the offensive department but it’s a nice-looking piece that joins with the other Renegades’ weapons to form a larger sword for Victorion. I’m really pleased to add so many new females to my Transformers shelf. Fans went decades with none and now we have about ten. Girl Power. 8 out of 10.TF-Jumpstream Breakdown

 

SAGA PIGEON/ BUNDOT

BS-Pigeon fullBEAST SAGA

It’s been a while since I reviewed a Beast Saga figure so let’s take a look at one, shall we? Here’s a quick refresher: In the 80s, Japanese toy company Takara produced a line of small animal warrior action figures called Battle Beasts. They were nowhere near as popular as other 80s properties like G.I. Joe and Transformers but I loved them just the same. The short-lived line fizzled out after 3.5 waves of figures. It vanished for over 20 years until , in 2012, Takara revived the line as Beast Saga. The name may have changed and the BS figures were bigger and more detailed but there was no mistaking Beast Saga’s origins. Both lines consisted of warrior animals wearing armor and brandishing weapons, and both were marketed more so as a game than a line of action figures. Many of the BS figure designs were clearly inspired by their old BB counterparts but there were a few wholly original characters in the mix as well; such as Bundot the pigeon.BS-Pigeon back

The Battle Beasts line had a number of birds but it didn’t have a pigeon. Bundot here, or Saga Pigeon as I prefer to call him, was included in a 3-pack along with two other birds, an eagle and a falcon. You see, Battle Beasts were divided into teams by their chest emblems (wood, fire, or water) but Beast Saga critters were grouped by their preferred habitat: land, sea, or air. When I was a kid I didn’t pay any mind to the supposed emblem loyalties. I had two teams of Battle Beasts, good guys and bad guys, and I played with them just as I would any other toy line. If Beast Saga figures had come out when I was a kid I wonder whether I would’ve done the same or stuck to the land, sea, and air theme. Having multiple warring factions can be fun.

BS-Pigeon card

I like every single one of the Beast Saga figures so it’s a real shame that the line got cancelled so quickly. I never really expected it to catch on in North America but I hoped that Japanese interest would keep it afloat for a few more waves. I wouldn’t say that Bundot is one of my favorites but I still like him a lot. The fact that he’s a species of warrior animal I didn’t have as a kid makes him feel fresh and new but it also prevents any nostalgic connection; I can’t pretend he’s the son of any of my beloved Battle Beast figures as I do with characters like Saga Lion and Saga Deer.

If I’d had Beast Saga figures when I was a kid I think I would have relegated this character to a comic relief role. It’s good to have some light hearted characters and I just cannot imagine Saga Pigeon as a name-taking ass-kicker. I see pigeons every day and nothing about them says tough. I feed them on my lunch breaks and even when I throw food directly at them they almost always lose out to the smarter, faster birds and they just end up waddling around in circles cooing like clueless assholes. I wouldn’t make Bundot an idiot but I can see him being a little clumsy and oblivious.BS-Pigeon side

The sculpting on this figure is top-notch. The armour, the feet, and the wings are all loaded with detail. The face sculpt really captures the blank stare of a pigeon. The paint job is also quite nice. The aqua blue armor with gold accents looks good against his gray feathers. It’s a shame that more of the sculpted details didn’t get painted.

One interesting thing about Bundot is that he’s the only Beast Saga figure to come with a gun. All of the other figures came with bladed weapons. I’m curious as to the reasoning for that. Besides the gun he also came with a shield, a gaming card, and a couple of dice for his chest launcher.

This is a silly but great little toy. 7 out of 10.

INTERROGATOR v.5 (2016)

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

The first Interrogator figure was released in 1991. I had essentially stopped paying attention to G.I. Joe by then. I only bought one figure the year before (Rampart: my last childhood Joe) because my interests were shifting to other things.  My little brother Brian had just started collecting Joes though so I still had a general idea of what was going on with the brand; such as the introduction of the Eco-Warrior and Sonic Fighter sub-teams. One ’91 character that managed to fly under my radar (or perhaps over it) was Interrogator.  He came included with the Cobra Battle Copter and because vehicle drivers weren’t featured on the card backs I wasn’t aware of him. Before the internet card backs and department store catalogues were essentially the only way you knew what figures were released in a given year. A second version of Interrogator with a new paint job was made available as an exclusive mail-away figure in ’93 but I wasn’t aware of that one either.  I didn’t discover the character until 2006 with the release of his third figure.

Interrogator v.3 was featured in a 6-pack called Viper Lockdown that also contained Joe Colton, G.I. Jane and 3 Vipers. That pack was a “must-have” for me back in the day. The first Joe and Jane figures, a “name” Cobra character, plus 3 awesome army builders made it a no-brainer.  Interrogator quickly became a favourite of mine. I loved his Cobra Commander-esque helmet and formal dress uniform jacket. Plus the colour palette was very striking. His file card described him as follows:Joe-Interrogator v5 carded

He can usually break prisoners by simply talking to them. With a soothing voice that lulls captors into a trance, the careful application of logic and reason, and just a hint of sympathy, he soon as the information he needs. “Of course I could simply hurt them until they talk. But it’s so much more amusing to twist their minds until all they want to do is tell me every single secret they know.”

Sounds pretty badass. Interrogator was calculating and patient which made him a good counterpart to the impulsive Commander. That 2006 figure remains one of my favourites from the new-sculpt era.

A 4th O-ring version was released in 2010 as part of that year’s Con set. Version 4 had a removable helmet for the first time plus he looked more prepared for the battle field in a tactical vest instead of a dress jacket. I never got that version partly because of the price but mostly because I was fully invested in the modern-style of figures by then and a set of O-ring figures seemed immediately dated. Well thanks to the Collector’s Club I now have a modern-era Interrogator to add to my collection.

Joe-Interrogator v5 face

I’ve read some lukewarm reviews of this figure on other sites but I’m really digging it. It’s not 100% faithful to any past incarnations of the character but the design and colour palette are all familiar enough so that there’s no mistaking this figure for anyone else. His body is made up of Cobra Commander and Destro parts. Some have said that the legs are too long for the torso and they might be right but as long as he’s wearing his removable flak vest I don’t notice any proportion issues. I like the combination of the jacket with the vest. It’s like version 3 and 4 merged together. The removable knife and sheath on his shoulder is kind of oddly placed but it doesn’t look bad. There are some nice sculpting elements throughout such as the weird  metal pieces attached to his boots.  They look cool but I don’t know what purpose they serve. On Arctic Destro I assume they were there to help him walk in the snow but Interrogator has no need for snow grips. I imagine he uses them as some weird torture device, maybe poison tipped boots or hydaulics that allow him to crush bones.Joe-Interrogator v5 back

His head is the face first used on Flash (2009) from the Rise of Cobra line. It’s a fairly generic masked head and it’s covered by the removable helmet from Interrogator v.4. I had planned to take a pic of him with his helmet off but it’s on there so tight I didn’t bother. I do like the fact that the helmet is removable though and I think the 2010 helmet holds up quite well. It’s a bit plain but closer to the character’s original appearance than the more elaborate 2006 version was.

For accessories Interrogator comes with a small knife and sheath, a display base, a blue pistol, blue handcuffs, blue nunchucks and a larger knife with a red cobra-shaped hilt. The blue accessories aren’t very realistic but it’s a pretty shade of blue that matches his equally sharp pants and I like them.  The promotional pics of this figure didn’t really excite me but in hand I think its great.  9 out of 10Joe-Interrogator v5 compare

 

BILLY KESSLER/ARBOC v.1

Joe-Billy v1 fullG.I. JOE: FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE 4.0

The latest FSS shipment from the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club arrived a couple of weeks ago and it was a doozy. The two figures were Interrogator, who turned out much better than I was expecting, and the other was Billy Arboc.

Billy first appeared in G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (RAH) issue 10 published by Marvel Comics in 1983.  He was part of a small group of rebels trying to overthrow Cobra, a terrorist group who hadn’t taken over his hometown of Springfield. It wasn’t a major role and he wasn’t even given a name in that issue.  However, two years later, in issue 33, he returned posing as a member of Cobra Youth (think Hitler Youth) as part of a ploy to assassinate Cobra Commander. The plot was foiled by Destro and in the end it was revealed that Billy is actually the son of Cobra Commander. The Commander spares Billy’s life but their family ties don’t stop CC from torturing the poor kid over the betrayal. These events result in Storm Shadow, Cobra’s resident ninja, defecting from the team, rescuing Billy, and training him as his apprentice.

Joe-Billy v1 carded

Things seemed to be looking up for young Billy. That is until Scrap Iron, a Cobra mercenary, blew him up in issue 43 along with the Soft Master and Candy Apple.  I wasn’t a big fan of Billy at that point so I wasn’t heartbroken about his demise but I was sad to see Ripcord’s girlfriend Candy bite the dust.

In issue 55 we found out that Billy survived the explosion. He was in a coma and missing both an eye and a leg but he was alive.  Billy awakens and, after a short bout of amnesia, carries on with his ninja training with the aid of an artificial leg and an eyepatch.  This is when Billy started getting cool.  He had become an effective member of the Arashikage ninja clan and he was participating in Joe missions. Unfortunately, that momentum came screeching to a halt when Cobra Commander buried him alive with a bunch of other traitors in issue 98. Once again, Billy is seemingly killed.

Joe-Billy v1 face

In issue 114 it was revealed that Billy and Zartan managed to dig their way to safety from the buried bunker but fan favorite characters like Dr. Mindbender and Croc Master weren’t so lucky. Billy appeared a couple more times after that before the series came to a rather abrupt end with issue 155.

Billy really came into his own when Devil’s Due picked up the rights to publish Joe comics and continued the story nearly 10 years later.  It was during the Devil’s Due series that Billy adopted the look used for this figure.  Billy had a good run at Devils Due but during their final storyline “World War III”, published just before they lost the license to IDW, Billy was killed by his father and left hanging from a pole as an example to others plotting against Cobra.Joe-Billy v1 back

Once IDW took over they started their own brand-new Joe universe but they also decided to continue Marvel’s RAH storyline in a separate book, picking up after issue 155 and ignoring everything Devil’s Due had done.  That meant  WWIII never happened and thus Billy had a new lease on life.  He was featured prominently for a while but then IDW killed him off in issue 172. This dude just can’t catch a break.

So as you can see, Billy has been an important part of Joe lore for over 30 years and yet there has never been an action figure of him until now. He may not be the most interesting character visually but I think it’s about damn he appeared in plastic form. Billy now joins the ranks of Dr. Venom and Kwinn; integral characters created by Larry Hama for the Marvel series that didn’t get made into an action figure until decades after their introduction.

Joe-Billy v1 art

I’ve waited a long time for this figure so my expectations were high and I’m happy to report that I’m quite pleased with the final product. Some fans may have preferred a Billy figure wearing his ninja outfit and others may have preferred him as a young kid but this is the Billy I wanted.  I’m actually kind of surprised the Club went with the Devil’s Due look since those stories have been wiped from the RAH continuity but I’m glad they did. The body is made up of Snake Eyes and Flint parts which work fine.  The arms seem a little long and the shirt is insanely tight but those aren’t major issues.  I personally dislike the wide neck style of his t-shirt (I would never wear it) but it is comic accurate so I don’t mind it here.  The colors are pretty basic leaving the figure at risk of being drab but the bright red Arashikage tattoo on his forearm saves the day.

The head is a newly sculpted piece. It perhaps reads a little feminine (both Vanessa and my pal Ryan thought this figure was female) but I don’t really see it. I’m really glad the Club splurged for a new head because Billy deserves better than a lousy repaint after all these years.  The eyepatch seems a little small and low to cover up his missing eye but other than that I think it’s pretty great.Joe-Billy v1 art 2

For accessories, Billy has a sword that can be sheathed rather flimsily in his bandolier, a machine gun, a grappling hook, and a display base.  It’s not a ton of stuff but a sword and a gun is all he really needed weapon-wise anyway. I’m not a fan of the card art and I don’t know why they gave him the alias of Billy Arboc (an anagram of Cobra) but those don’t detract from the thrill of finally owning a Billy figure. I’m thankful the Club listened to fans and finally produced this long in demand figure. 9 out of 10.Joe-Billy v1 pose

STONEFIST (2016)

BFS-Stonefist fullVITRUVIAN H.A.C.K.S.

I hope you don’t mind but I’m going to review yet another Vitruvian Hacks figure today. I usually try to keep my posts relatively diverse but the novelty of these figures hasn’t worn off yet and I just want to keep talking about them. Today I’m going to take a look at Stonefist.

This is easily one of the coolest figures in the line. I’ve already praised the Undead Warrior and the Underworld Warrior so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I love this figure too.  The build of this figure is identical to those two and his outfit is the same as that of the Undead Warrior.  What makes this figure stand out from the pack is the paintwork. The other warrior figures were great but lacking in the paint department, which was fine given their story lines, but Stonefist ups the ante big time when it comes to paint applications.  Finally I can show you the full extent of Boss Fight Studio’s (BFS) brilliance.BFS-Stonefist back

If you’re not up to date on your Greek mythology, or if you haven’t seen Clash of the Titans, here’s a little recap on Medusa. She’s a cursed Gorgon and anyone who looks her in the eyes is turned to stone. I was always under the impression that those stone warriors were dead but, according to the bios provided by BFS on the card backs, those stone warriors remain alive. They’re cursed to remain completely conscious of the world around them with senses heightened to god-like levels so they can see and hear for miles around them. BFS gives a ray of hope to the cursed though by adding that they can revert back to their human forms if the gorgon who turned them is slain. I don’t know if any of that comes from Greek myth or is BFS just made it up but it’s all pretty cool regardless.

According to Stonefist’s bio he was an Athenian Warrior who, in the midst of being turned to stone, blinded himself in hopes that it would put a halt to the curse. The end result was a blind dude with enhanced senses and an unbreakable stone fist. How cool is that? I don’t know if blinding yourself to stop the curse makes much sense but it’s a neat idea and this is all fantasy so who really cares.BFS-Stonefist carded

One of the other figures in the V-Hacks line is a generic Athenian Warrior. As was the case with the other warrior figures, Stonefist and the Athenian are the exact same figure construction wise; they share all of the same parts. They even have the same tunic but there are a few paint variations to differentiate the two. Stonefist has blue trim on his skirt whereas the Warrior has tan.  Also, Stonefist has blue chainmail on his sides and black button adornments while the Warrior has gold. The multiple paint apps on the crisp white tunics of these Athenian soldiers make them the most regal looking V-Hacks in the line. The biggest paint variation between the two is Stonefist’s left arm is painted grey to resemble stone.  The stone arm looks pretty believable. I like the way the speckled paint softly fades into his flesh shoulder. Another cool difference between the two Athenian figures is their skin tones.  The warrior is cast in a healthy bronzed flesh tone while Stonefist shares my pasty sickly complexion.

BFS-Stonefist pose

At first I thought Stonefist had a unique head sculpt. Upon closer inspection I realized it’s the standard bald head seen on multiple V-Hack figures. It seems like a different head though because, again, the paint job is fantastic. Stonefist’s pupils are painted a foggy blue and there’s a pink scar across them to show where he blinded himself to stave off the transformation. BFS could have went gory with this effect but I’m glad they didn’t. The subtle paint job tells the story just fine.BFS-Stonefist helmet

 

 

 

 

 

The last thing we have to talk about are Stonefist’s accessories. He comes with a bunch of the same stuff we’ve seen with the other figures: 3 swords, a spear, an over the shoulder sheath, leg armour, a tunic, spare hands, a helmet, a display base, and a shield. They’re all great little pieces but there isn’t much to be said about them that hasn’t been said already as far as the sculpting goes. But once again some simple paint apps manage to impress. His helmet has a toothy sneer painted on each side which looks really cool and tells you that this guys is a total badass. Also, he has the same face deco on his shield as the Athenian Warrior but the eyes on Stonefist’s shield are X’ed out to symbolize his own blinding. It’s a small detail but it tells a story and I love it. The scratches even look authentic.

If you’re going to buy just one Vitruvian Hacks figure I think it should be Stonefist. 10 out of 10.BFS-Stonefist faceBFS-Stonefist compare

AFTERLIFE GORGON (2016)

BFS-AL gorgon fullVITRUVIAN H.A.C.K.S.

Thus far I’ve reviewed 3 of my 46 Vitruvian Hacks figures and I’ve rated all of them 10 out of 10. I expect most of the other figures will garner similar ratings because these things are awesome. However, just to prove that I’m not a completely biased, gushing fanboy I have decided to review my least favorite figure of the bunch, the Afterlife Gorgon.  The packaging describes her as follows:

The battle between the gorgons and mankind was brutal and, in some cases, eternal.  Some mighty warriors on both sides refused to pass on to the underworld and remained trapped in ghostly form. Their sworn oaths keep them locked in an eternal battle until victory is achieved.

This figure was included in a 2-pack titled “Ghosts of the Battlefield” along with an Afterlife Spartan.BFS-AL gorgon back

Both figures glow in the dark. Since they’re supposed to be ghosts it’s a neat gimmick that makes sense for the characters. If I were a kid I’d probably appreciate the glow in the dark feature a lot more. I’d orchestrate situations to make use of it when playing, like building a cave out of pillows or just flicking the lights off to turn day into night. But as an adult collector I have little use for it. I don’t spend much time in my mancave gazing at my toy collection in the dark. Glow in the dark plastic has a very artificial look to it so it doesn’t easily pass for other materials like metal of cloth. I don’t mind it in small doses, like glow in the dark weapons or maybe glow in the dark armor, but this figure is glow in the dark from head to toe and it’s a bit much. It does look cool when glowing but in the light of day it doesn’t make for a very visually appealing figure. Her skin is the color of a used glow stick and her translucent blue armor is dull and muted. Some paint apps on the armor would have really helped to make this figure more interesting but the only apps are few dabs of black for her eyes and mouth and a pair of white fangs.BFS-AL Gorgon glow

In the case of the Afterlife Spartan, the bland glow in the dark plastic is the only problem; otherwise it’s a quality figure. The same cannot be said for the Afterlife Gorgon. This is the only V-Hacks figure I received where quality control is an issue. I don’t know if others will have the same issue with this figure as I do, maybe it’s just mine, but her upper and lower torso don’t lock into place. I’m wondering if it has anything to do with the glow in the dark plastic they used, maybe it’s softer or something. The result is limited playability and posability. I have to display her in a rigid upright stance otherwise she crumbles in half.  I have no doubt that Boss Fight Studios would send me a replacement if i asked them to but since it’s my least favorite figure of the bunch I’m not too concerned about it.BFS-AL Gorgon face

Another thing I don’t really like about this figure is the construction. There are both human and gorgon females in the line and they both look great. This figure is the only hybrid of the two. Afterlife Gorgon has a snakey upper half complete with a hissing gorgon face but her lower half is human with legs instead of a tail. The combo is a little bizarre. I think a glow in the dark gorgon with a full tail would’ve been much cooler and I’m curious as to why Boss Fight Studio didn’t go that route. This figure is the odd man out when displayed with the gorgon horde so I’m not sure where to put her in my V-Hacks display.

The last thing that bothers me about this figure is her outfit. She has the same belt piece as the eldest gorgon sister, Stheno, which has a full skirt in the back but nothing in the front. It looks fine on Stheno because she has shorts painted onto the figure. This figure doesn’t have painted shorts so it looks like she’s Donald Ducking it which is kinda disturbing. A ghost snake woman should have the decency to cover up her lady parts when locked in eternal battle.

BFS-AL gorgon helmet

 

For accessories Afterlife Gorgon comes with the skirt belt, chest armor, shin guards, wrist guards, a sword, a spear, and a shield. It’s a good selection though I don’t love the translucent blue plastic the weapons were cast in.  They’re more vibrant than the armor pieces but they remind me of the Day-Glo G.I. Joe weapons of the 90s and they add to the overall synthetic look of this figure.

Multiple issues drag this figure down but it is an anomaly of the toyline. I would say all the other V-Hacks figures are a 9 or a 10 but I’m afraid I must give Afterlife Gorgon a lousy 5 out of 10.BFS-AL Gorgon fight

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