Monthly Archives: April 2013
Last week I reviewed the Beast Saga Armadillo and so I hauled out my Battle Beast armadillo to do some comparison pics. Since he was out I figured I may as well take his solo pics as well and get a review posted. This will likely be a short review as I already talked about this figure in that review and I really don’t have much to say in the way of armadillo small-talk to pad this review with. Armored Armadillo, or Battle Armadillo as I called him, was released in the second series of Beasts in the late 80s. He came packaged with Battle Iguana.
I was always excited to get new Battle Beasts back then, and an armadillo was especially cool because they’re one of my favorite animals. You’d think this guy would’ve had the potential to dethrone wave 1’s Battle Fox as my favorite Beast but that was not the case. There’s nothing wrong with this figure but it lacking the “it” factor. He’s basically the same color skin as Battle Fox though this guy has a much more textured look with a full armor plated back. The checkerboard style skin looks great. I don’t love the color of this guy’s metal armor though. It’s okay but it’s a bit too flashy. I think a darker purple would have served him better. Battle Fox, meanwhile, had some sweet white armor which really stood out amongst the other figures who all wore blues, reds, and purples.
The main advantage Fox had over Armadillo was in the head sculpt. Fox had a great face with a sly little smirk that gave him lots of personality. Battle Armadillo doesn’t even have a mouth, and instead of soft blue eyes he’s got creepy yellow eyes. The lack of personality in this figure’s face keeps him from being overly cool or overly cute, he’s just kind of in the middle. But even a middle-of–the-pack Battle Beast like this still ranks pretty highly for me in the grand scheme of things as I just really liked this toy line. There were only a couple of Beasts that I really didn’t like, such as the Platypus, but even he isn’t so bad. Battle Armadillo came with a pretty cool double bladed weapon which I sadly seem to have misplaced. Truth be told I probably never had it, I’m pretty good at holding onto even the smallest of accessories and I acquired many of my Battle Beasts through trades with friends and they came weaponless. If you’ve got a friend with one of these I suggest you go make a trade for him yourself. 7 out of 10.
The other day I reviewed Iron Grenadier version 10 which was included in the 2012 Joe Con convention set, Operation: Bear Trap. Today I’m going to talk a little bit more about that set and review Iron Grenadier version 9 which was also included. I love getting toys in the mail. It’s always a pleasant surprise to come home to a new box of goodies. But when that toy is “special” in some way it’s even more exciting. This is one of the reasons that I recommend that any Joe fan who can afford to should sign up for next year’s Figure Subscription Service. Receiving limited edition Joes in the mail each month makes me feel like a kid at Christmas, especially if the identities of the figures hasn’t been spoiled beforehand. Collectors Club figures almost always increase in value and while I don’t really care about the value of my toys the club figures seem to have a prestige about them. It’s a safe bet that you’ll likely never find them in a dollar bin at the flea market so their rarity adds value. I gotta say though that the thrill of opening those FSS figures was eclipsed by the excitement I felt when the 2012 convention set arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago. This was my first convention set and even though I’ve seen the sets online plenty of times, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. As soon as I opened the exterior box and rescued the set from its cardboard prison I realized I was handling a quality item.
The convention set box had a nice weight to it. The solid black back half of the case has a textured alligator skin feel to it. The front is thick and sturdy with a glossy finish. The exterior art isn’t anything to call home about but it looks like worn metal and seems appropriately Russian somehow. Inside is custom cut foam which holds the 15 figures snuggly in place, as well as a collectors pin in the center. The good guys are all on one side and the bad guys on the other. Beneath the foam lies all of the individually wrapped weapons and file cards. The whole thing just looks very impressive. I feel even my mom, who tends to shake her head at each new toy I purchase, would be impressed by the presentation of this set (just don’t tell her what it cost me).
The set also includes a specially made convention Joe comic that fleshes out the story presented by the set. I almost forgot to mention it but it’s actually a very important component. Sometimes all it takes is one good comic to make me fall in love with a character. The comic tells the tale of an attempted train hijacking by the Iron Grenadiers, led by Darklon , in a remote part of Russia. Luckily Russia’s special ops teams the Oktober Guard, led by their new commander General Iron Bear, are there to stop them. The comic panels I showcased in my Darklon review come from that very comic. The Darklon and Annihilator figures that Vanessa bought me for my birthday this year were also convention exclusive figures in 2012, intended to be companion pieces to this set.
It was established long ago that Destro was not an actual member of Cobra, but rather an arms dealer who found hanging out with Cobra Commander to be a mutually beneficially situation. Destro has his own forces consisting of Iron Grenadiers, Nullifiers, Annihilators, various other types of troopers, as well as individual characters like Darklon, Metal Head and Voltar. They act in the interest of Destro’s M.A.R.S. industries, not Cobra. I owned the first Iron Grenadier figure that was released back in 1988 alongside the ceremonially dressed Destro version 2. Those two figures looked great together. They established the M.A.R.S. look to be much more regal than that of Cobra. Their costumes were black and red with gold trim and they carried sabres alongside their pistols. They were very cool. I don’t have much use for pointless sub-teams like Tiger Force or Night Force but I’m all for injecting new threats into the Joe mythos. The red ninjas, the Iron Grenadiers, the Dreadnoks, the Coil, and the Red Shadows all serve as foils for G.I. Joe outside of Cobra.
When the first modern style Grenadier were released in 2008 I was immediately impressed. They were largely made up of reused parts but they were repurposed well and I thought the overall look was a very nice update to the ’88 original. I especially liked the new helmet. It had been refined just enough to add some bulk and detail which far surpassed the 1988 Grenadier helmet.
The convention set included 3 new variations of the Iron Grenadiers. In my last review I covered the heavy weapons specialist and today I’ll be covering the standard infantry trooper. There were 4 identical infantry troopers in the 15 figure set. They’re made up of parts from the 2008 Grenadier as well as parts from a variety of previously released Cobra Commander figures. The commander parts leave these guys less armored than the standard Grenadiers. This look serves as a nice middle man between the standard armored Grenadier and the long coat-wearing heavy weapons Grenadier. The infantry Grenadier also has a long coat but it’s open and flowing which allows for more movement. He has a front skirt piece as well which, when combined with the coat, make this guy look a little too well dressed to be running around on a battlefield as general infantry. I really like his thigh high jack boots. They look like they’d be a bitch to get in and out of but maybe I’m over-thinking things.
The most interesting aspect of this figure is his color. He’s quite different from other Grenadiers we’ve seen with a base of light gray and brown. However there’s enough red and gold highlights to tie him to the rest of the team. I think these colors work really well together. The red trim on the coat, gloves, and helmet looks great.
Weapons wise this guy/these guys came with a gold pistol, a machine gun and a sword which can he sheathed in the scabbard on the figure’s waist. These guys are actually a bit shorter than many Joe figures and they look even smaller when displayed next to the extra tall heavy weapons specialists. I really like that modern Joes come in a variety of sizes like this, it adds to the realism. 9 out of 10.
Every year, for more than a decade now, the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club has been releasing an exclusive box set of figures available only on the annual Joe Con and for a limited time on their web site. The club doesn’t have the resources that Hasbro does so the sets have traditionally consisted of straight repaints. The first 15 figure set released in 2002 was called The Crimson Strike Team and consisted of the original Baroness and Crimson Twin figures repainted in new red uniforms. They were accompanied by 12 identical red vipers. This was a pretty cool idea and had I been at the con I might have shelled out the big bucks required to own one of those limited edition sets. But in 2002 I was just getting back into the revived toy line and traveling to conventions wasn’t an option. I couldn’t afford to purchase it on the secondary market so I was forced to admire it from afar via reviews on GeneralsJoes.com. As nice as it would have been to own that set, it really was just red versions of characters that I already owned so I wasn’t to heartbroken about not owning it.
I felt the same way about the next couple of sets but by 2005 the Club was really putting out some nice sets. We were now getting a few unique characters and 2 different types of troopers instead of 12 identical figures. The 2005 set was the Iron Grenadier themed M.A.R.S. Invades. 2006 and 2007 also brought us great sets giving us the first ever female Cobra troopers and soldiers from Serpentor’s splinter group The Coil. Oh how I wanted those sets. But they were a couple of hundred bucks and I just couldn’t warrant spending that much money on sets containing multiple identical figures.
One of the things I liked most about the Joe brand transitioning from the vintage O-Ring style figures to the modern style was that it almost immediately made me lose interest in any old school style figure that I had previously been pining for. I was 100% behind the taller more detailed modern figures so I no longer cared that I didn’t have any female Cobra troopers or Coil soldiers. In 2009, 2 years after the change, the Club caught up to the fans modern style preference and gave us a new version of the Crimson Strike Team in the new format. This was a pretty cool set and a nice nod to the club’s origins but again it was just a bunch of red repaints of figures I already owned so not worth my hard earned cash.
But by 2011 I could no longer sit idly by and watch the ever improving convention sets roll out without me getting a piece of them. 2011’s Mission Brazil set really upped the ante. It contained 6 unique Joes, including two characters never before released in the modern format, 6 python Cobra troopers, 2 python Tele-vipers and the first ever American release of Cobra De Aco. De Aco shot to the top of my want list and Vanessa ended up getting me him for my birthday. The complete 15 figure sets cost close to $400 which works out to about $27 a figure, not unreasonable but a lot to spend in one toy purchase. However De Aco cost Vanessa over $100 for the one figure on the secondary market. It was then that I vowed to purchase the complete sets in the future if they contained at least 1 must-have figure.
When the 2012 Con set was revealed I was torn. It had a bunch of great figures but none that I couldn’t live without. It went up for sale on the Club’s site one night and I placed it in my cart but I hesitated on pulling the trigger. $400 was a lot of cash and I had recently committed to the Club’s $400 Figure Subscription Service. I decided to sleep on it. I woke up to find that the set had sold out in minutes and that I was lucky to have even got it in my cart the night before. There was fan outcry about the limited number of sets. Now that I couldn’t have it, I had to have it.
Because of the outcry the club sent out an email to it’s members asking if there was enough interest to warrant them putting the set back into production for a second run. I committed to buy one if they chose to do it and so did many other Joe fans because the Club soon charged my credit card and told me to watch my mailbox. It took a long time but my 2012 Convention set finally arrived a couple of weeks ago, just a few mere weeks before my 2013 set is scheduled to ship.
The 2012 set is called Operation: Bear Trap and it stars Russia’s version of the G.I. Joe team, the Oktober Guard vs Destro’s Iron Grenadiers. I’ll talk about all of the figures in detail in upcoming reviews but I’ve rambled so much already here today that I think I’d better cut to the chase and start reviewing a toy. On the bad guy side of things, there was Destro’s General, Voltar, who was the most important figure to me from this set and there was also 3 different variations of the Iron Grenadier trooper. There were 4 standard troopers, 2 elite guards and 2 heavy weapons specialists.
Today I’m covering the heavy weapons specialists. These 2 identical figures are totally badass and undeniably awesome. All 3 variations of the Grenadier are nice but these are my favorite. The body is made up of the Resolute style Destro figure. I don’t own that figure so this body is unique to these guys in my collection. It’s quite tall with an extended torso which makes these guys tower over the standard Grenadiers and other Joes. The long coat is a dark solid gray which looks really nice. The Nazi influence is obvious and as horrible as those guys were they did wear some cool stuff. The gold trim and detailed crest makes the coat look that much better. They have the same decorative shoulder armor that we’ve seen on the standard Grenadier trooper and they have the same head as well. The helmet has some new gold highlights added which seem to signify a higher rank than the troopers in the solid black helmets. The first run of these figures had brown gloves and boots which has been changed to gray for these second run sets. I think the gray looks much better.
For accessories each one includes a large rifle, a bazooka and 2 pistols which can be holstered on their waists. They each have a display base and file card as well. This set was worth the cash I shelled out, I absolutely love this figure. 10 out of 10.
Neca’s been putting out Gremlins figures for a while now, based on the classic 1984 black comedy and its 1990 sequel. I’ve seen these figures around on a couple of occasions and while I was tempted to pick them up I’ve always managed to resist the temptation. I spend enough of my cash on G.I. Joes, Transformers and He-Men, that I really should avoid picking up oddball things if I can. But occasionally I see something like a Spy vs Spy 2-pack or a president Obama doll and I can’t help myself.
Last week I decided to thin out my comic collection a little bit by selling off some graphic novels that I knew I would never revisit. Things I had picked up with high expectations but which ended up sucking balls (I’m looking at you Matt Fraction’s Defenders). Selling off old books means I have to go off the beaten path to visit one of the “other” local comic shops. I do most of my business with Strange Adventures but every now and again it’s nice to pop into the other shops to see what treasures they might have. Giant Robot is a great shop and so is Monster’s Comic Lounge and Monster’s happen to be the guys who buy up old books. As the owner Mike (no relation) flicked through the stack I brought in, I browsed around the shop to see if there was anything that might warrant a straight trade. I’m not sure what it was about the Gremlin figures that made them more appealing this time around but I found myself drawn to them. Perhaps it was because I wouldn’t be spending actual cash on them or maybe it was Vanessa egging me on telling me how cool they were but ultimately I decided to swap my crappy Defenders books for some Gremlins. I got this guy, Brown Gremlin, as well as Phantom Gremlin and lastly an Ultimate Spider-Man trade paperback. A series I told myself I was done with after they killed off Peter but since I wasn’t spending real cash it seemed like an okay time to give it another shot.
I got my Gremlins home and tore into them. It was as if I opened up a new air freshener; these guys reeked of new plastic smell. I don’t get that with most toys I buy, must be something about Neca’s process, but the smell dissipated quickly. Once I got them pulled from their plastic prisons I knew I had made a good trade. These figures are awesome. They’re a little stiff despite multiple points of articulation but they look fantastic. Every inch of them is covered in sculpted and painted detail.
I assume that everyone out there has seen the Gremlins movies but in case you haven’t heres a quick recap. It’s Christmas time and Billy’s dad wants to buy him something cool and unique. He wanders into some weird little shop run by an old asian guy and he purchases a cute and cuddly creature called a Mogwai. He’s told that there are three rules he must follow: Don’t get him wet, don’t expose him to sunlight, and never feed him after midnight. We soon find out what getting him wet does, it causes him to multiply. After a classic Corey Feldman foul-up Billy finds himself caring for a whole little of Mogwais. The new ones aren’t as well behaved as the original whom Billy has named Gizmo. The newbies, led by the mohawked Stripe, trick Billy into feeding them after midnight and guess what happens…they turn into nasty ol’ gremlins. Soon the whole town is overrun with the vile little things. The Gremlins begin killing off neighbors but the Gremlins themselves are the ones who get the worst of it, death by microwave and blender for example. In the end (SPOILER) Gizmo blasts them all with sunlight and they melt, end of story. I loved that movie when I was a kid and I still do.
The second one came out 6 years later and did not leave the same impression on me. The second one is just plain silly. Much more of a kid-friendly farce than a dark horror-comedy. But it still has it’s charm I suppose, including a Hulk Hogan cameo. The plot is basically the same only this time it’s in the big city instead of a small town. The sequel gave us a much wider array of Gremlins. Stripe was really the only unique one in the first film. The second one had a scientist Gremlin, an electric Gremlin, a winged Gremlin, a female Gremlin and many more, including the brown gremlin that this figure is based on.
It’s been years since I’ve seen Gremlins 2: The New Batch so I don’t recall the scenes that featured this guy. I tried to find a picture oh him online but all I found was a brown tattoo artist Gremlin. Maybe that’s who this is supposed to be because the likeness is pretty spot on but then I don’t know why he didn’t come with a tattoo gun and a hat. This guy came packaged with a cigarette and some sunglasses.
This is the kind of figure that doesn’t need any accessories though as it’s such a neat piece on it’s own. Just look at the face of this figure. His eyes are even creepier than the Snake Face figure I reviewed yesterday. He’s got that great bony brow and chin and a crooked grin open just enough to get the cigarette in there. The paint job is absolutely stellar. It looks like a real creature that could exist in nature. I’m sure the patterns must be based on a type of lizard or snake but the thing it most reminds me of is the skin of a Predator alien.
There’s so much detail in these Gremlin figures that when I see them on my desk they almost look like real creatures ready to chew through my wires, topple my other action figures or get into some other such mischief. I gotta comment on this guy’s feet too. He’s got three long toes on each foot which are spread wide to give him a nice solid base. They’re articulated at the ankles and have a ton of sculpting detail and multiple paint applications. Even the soles of his feet have detail. I like this figure more than I expected to. I’m gonna go watch Gremlins 2 then go buy some more of these guys. 9 out of 10.
In my last review I mentioned how I like to spend money while on vacation. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t like to spend it when I’m close to home as well. Yesterday I picked up 4 new action figures, 5 new blurays, a graphic novel and I topped off the evening with some KFC. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was to find that the boneless original recipe chicken that I see advertised on TV everyday has not yet made it to Canada. Damn those American commercials for misleading me. Anyway, a couple of the new toys I bought yesterday I purchased the old fashioned way, from a store, while the other ones were online purchases that I had to pick up from the post office. My April 15th mattycollector order had arrived on Friday but I missed the drop off since I was away in Cape Breton. It is nice to be able to hold my new figures a day or two after purchasing them but I really wish Mattel would stop forcing expedited shipping on me. I owed the courier $30 in fees on top of the $30 I spent on shipping at the time of the order. I tell you this because it may have a direct impact on how I rate this figure. Paying $60 to ship $60 worth of toys to my apartment does not sit well with me and I have nobody to take it out on except for poor Snake Face here.
Snake Face is my fifth member of the Snake Men forces from the Masters of the Universe Classics line. They have released 6 members to date but I have yet to get myself a Kobra Khan. A couple of key members of the group are still awaiting updates, Tongue Lasher and Squeeze. I was pretty excited to get Snake Face as I’m a fan of the Snake Men but have never owned too many of them over the years. From the vintage line all I had growing up was their leader King Hiss (though I recently acquired a vintage Tongue Lasher as well) and from the 2002 line I only had Kobra Khan.
The vintage Snake Face was a pretty ugly figure; the colors were a strange blend of green and gray, he had the usual frumpy MOTU body shape, and lastly he had a really messed up face. His unique play feature was that when a button was pushed on his back, a bunch of snakes would burst forth from his eyes, mouth, shoulders, and chest. When retracted the snakes remained poking out ever so slightly meaning his face was always this vacant snake nest. It was creepy looking but the fact that the snakes could always be seen reduced the impact of the “surprise” feature.
Snake Face was given a new look for the 2002 series. He didn’t make it into the action figure line before it was cancelled but a “staction figure” (action figure sized statue) was released which showcased the Four Horsemen’s radical redesign. The 2002 version upped Snake Face’s cool factor substantially. His look was refined, doing away with the snake eyes but retaining a long snake tongue. I really liked the new look. Snake Face was still hella creepy but in a different sort of way.
This latest version does away with the 2002 upgrades and is mostly an update of the original 1987 look. He’s not an exact update but I like the changes that have been made and Snake Face continues to be the creepiest character in the MOTU line-up. The colors are similar to the original but they look better here having been blended more naturally. Snake Face is a nice mix of blacks, grays and greens. He’s more subdued than some of the other Classics figures but I like that he’s a little darker; it suits the character. He reuses the scaly chest and arms that we’ve seen previously on Whiplash and his lower half shares many of the same parts that we’ve seen on lots of the bad guys like Mer-Man and Skeletor. Examination of this figure for the review did leave me curious as to what exactly Snake Face is wearing. He’s got some of those chain-mail booty shorts which are all the rage on Eternia but then it appears that he’s wearing leggings underneath. Why else would his legs be gray and scale free? Then he seems to be wearing black toed boots but he clearly has toenails showing so I’m not exactly sure what’s going on there. It makes for a somewhat odd design but that’s part of the line’s charm.
For accessories Snake Face has the standard snake staff, in bright green, which doesn’t sit in his hand as well as it should. He also has a silly looking snake shield which is modelled after an accessory that came with the original. The design doesn’t really hold up and the shield does not seem proportionate to the figure. He has some nice solid black chest armor which can be removed if you like your Snake Men bare chested. And then there’s the alternate head.
The head is where this figure really shines. From the neck down the figure is just alright, but the head saves it and really makes this a must have figure for any MOTUC collection. There’s no play feature on this version so to replicate the protruding face snakes of the original his regular head can be swapped out for an extra snakey one. The standard face features scaly green skin and bright yellow and red eyes. The eyes are really pretty freaky looking. He has a sculpted sneer and open mouth and the overall look is just plain creepy.
Seeing as Snake Face has always had the ability to turn his enemies to stone when they look at him in “snake mode”, I would say that the character’s design was clearly inspired by the gorgons of Greek mythology. Never before has that been more evident. This face is a dead ringer for Medusa from the original Clash of the Titans. The secondary head is the same as the first in most aspects but it features the protruding red snakes coming from Snake Face’s eyes, mouth, and from the back of his neck. It is very cool looking. So much so that I’m stumped as to which head I want to display him with. 7 out of 10.
So I just got back from a vacation of sorts. For two days I was in Cape Breton, which is a whopping 4 hours from Halifax, where I live. I know that doesn’t seem like much of a vacation but I’ve nothing grander planned for the foreseeable future so it was a vacation as far as I’m concerned. And when I’m on vacation I like to spend money. I like to spend money anyway but while on vacation I tend to be extra frivolous. Vanessa and I headed to Cape Breton, which is the peninsula at the northern tip of Nova Scotia where she grew up, to attend the wedding of her uncle. It was good time filled with lots of booze (a little too much for Vanessa) and it gave me an opportunity to meet her extended family. They had a buffet style candy bar at the reception and at 11:00 they had 30 pizzas delivered so it was basically the best wedding I’ve ever been too.
The wedding was on Saturday and we arrived around lunch time on Friday. When we pulled into Sydney (the bustling metropolis of Cape Breton) my first order of business was checking out the recently opened comic book store that her parents kept telling me about. Vanessa’s family lives in a relatively rural area. Her brothers hunt and fish and drive 4 wheelers to fill their time (shout out to RJ and Adrian!) where as I collect She-Ra dolls. You can understand how her parents might have a hard time wrapping their heads around that. And yet they do their best to show interest in my hobbies and so they were quite excited to inform me of the new hobby shop that opened up in their town a while back. One of my favorite things about visiting new places is checking out the local comic shops and finding hidden treasures. I’ve told you before about how when I was in Europe I tried to find a comic shop in each city I visited. I scored some Daleks in England and some gladiator figurines in Rome. Sydney isn’t quite as fascinating as Rome and perhaps doesn’t warrant a souvenir per say but try telling that to a toy collector with a wad of cash burning a hole in his pocket. The Sydney comic shop, whose name escapes me at the moment, looked promising from the outside with some nice window displays but the interior was sadly underwhelming. They had the latest comics and a small selection of trade paperbacks but the majority of the shop was dedicated to role-playing games. There were virtually no action figures. They did however have a nice selection of pop, chocolate bars and chips which impressed me as none of my local shops sell confection.
I left disappointed but right across the street was a store full of educational toys where Vanessa’s mother once worked. I remembered visiting the store on my last trip to CB and I recalled that they had some sweet plastic dinosaurs akin to my Spinosaurus figure. So across the street we went. They had a nice selection of Play Mobil and Lego sets, plush Fraggles, and other odds and ends but my I was on a mission to get me a dinosaur. Once I found their selection of plastic figurines a couple of large T-Rex’s immediately caught my eye. But then I saw the dragons, which were also very tempting. Amongst the various dragons I found a Chimera, and while it wasn’t the best representation of the mythical creature (only one head, say what?) I found myself needing to own it. I love dinosaurs but you can get them anywhere. I had never seen a Chimera figure before and I thought it would make for a more interesting addition to my collection.
But he was only $20 and I was feeling compelled to spend more. Why take home one completely redundant souvenir when you can take home two? I thought it might be fun to buy one of the bow-legged knight figures who could then ride on the back of my Chimera. As I rooted through the pile of silver helmeted warriors I stumbled upon this glorious creation: Fire Dragon Man.
This guy is just plain ridiculous looking and yet he’s totally awesome at the same time. He’s got a pretty standard knight body, painted in red and gold with black highlights and wielding twin swords, one of which looks a lot like He-Man’s power sword; but then he has a comically oversized dragon head. The dragon head has lots of great details like the sculpted scales, horns and teeth. The paint job is quite nice as well with multiple applications and a black wash. It would make for a very menacing looking dragon figure if it were sitting atop a dragon body. But because it rests on the shoulders of some waddling armored dwarf all of the ferocity is lost.
I just can’t take this guy seriously as a threatening villain. I guess that’s why when it came time to find him a steed I decided against the Chimera and the various armored horses available to me and went with an ass. Seeing this guy sitting atop a donkey just seems appropriate somehow.
This figure is made by a company called papo, the same company that made the gladiators I bought in Rome. They make fun stuff and I’m sure I will continue to buy their products when I’m on vacation and can’t find anything better to spend my money on.
6 out of 10.
This little fella arrived in my last shipment from BigBadToyStore which contained my Wave 2 Retaliation figures and what I hope isn’t my final wave of Beast Saga figures. It’s been months now since I’ve heard anything regarding the future of this toy line. Collecting a toy line which is only available in Japan can be a frustrating venture. Information that I can actually read is very hard to come by. When this toy line launched last fall it seemed as though Takara was backing it in a big way. There was a comic and cartoon announced as well as multiple waves of figures. Well I haven’t heard any news on the anime or the manga in ages and the pre-orders of the figures dried up months ago. I ordered all of the figures in advance from BBTS and they were slowly doled out over the course of 8 months or so. But this armadillo was in the final batch of announced figures. I even inquired with one of the guys from BBTS whether they had the inside scoop on any upcoming figures and they told me that they hadn’t heard anything.
I really hope this isn’t my final Beast Saga purchase but I’m all for a hiatus. My wallet has taken a beating these past few months from all of the various toy lines I’ve been collecting. I just wish I knew whether the line was over or slowing down or maybe gearing up to flood my collection with another 30 figures.
But enough about that, let’s get to the review shall we. This here is an armadillo who I’ve dubbed Saga-Dillo. I’ve always been fascinated by armadillos. As a kid I often cited them as my favorite animal. Which might seem weird considering we don’t have armadillos in Canada and that I’ve probably only ever seen one or two of them in real life. But I guess it’s no different than a kid saying he likes giraffes or zebras. I just always thought armadillos were the perfect blend of cute and cool looking. They look like they would make adorable house pets and yet they can roll into an armored ball. It’s like a house cat crossed with a turtle, which is awesome. I don’t know if I’d feel the same about them if I lived in an area where they actually lived. Maybe they’re pests, I don’t really know. Texans seem to have no issue running over them. In movies armadillos always seem to be the go-to road kill animal. In my neck of the woods it’s all raccoons and porcupines who litter the sides of the highways. I don’t actually drive so I’ve never run over anything but if I were a normal adult with a driver’s license and I ran over something I think I would be extra mortified if I ran over an armadillo. I’ve actually considered purchasing a stuffed armadillo before but I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the whole taxidermy thing.
Now you’d think that the original Battle Beast armadillo, released in the second wave of BB figures in the late 80s, might have been one of my favorites considering my fondness of these little creatures but he wasn’t. I liked the figure just fine but he seemed to lack personality. His solid yellow eyes and lack of any sort of facial expression left him seeming blank. The purple armor looked good against his brown hide but I think a darker purple might have been better. Armored Armadillo ( or Battle Armadillo as I called him ) fought on the good side during my childhood beast wars but he was one of the guys who flew under the radar at playtime, rarely doing anything of note.
When it comes to this new Beast Saga figure I think the designers took the old version into consideration. The fact that this guy is also wearing purple may be a coincidence but anytime I see similarities like that between the new and vintage lines I assume they must have been intentional. This guy is fair amount lighter in color than his predecessor, both in his armor and his hide. Like the original I think this figure would have benefitted from some darker colors. This guy’s washed out palette gives him a rather drab overall appearance. The orange highlights are the only thing that save this figure from being completely lost amongst the other brighter figures.
The color choices are about the only thing similar between the old figure and the new. This guy has a far more unique sculpt and I think it’s great. He has a hunched posture with his head sitting low. The plated armor on his neck and back looks awesome. His skinny arms have a ribbed tube look about them which is quite different than any of the other BS figures. The coolest part of the sculpt is the massive round shield-like armor on his outer arms. It gives the impression that this guy can easily fold up into a steel ball like a Baku-gon or whatever those things are that my nephews are always playing with. I can imagine this guy surrounded by enemies on a battlefield somewhere, realizing he’s out numbered, and simply rolling himself up into an impenetrable metal ball and rolling himself out of there, deflecting bullets and breaking toes along the way.
The face sculpt has far more personality than the Battle Beast version had. This guy is a little cuter than I’d like him to be but that seems like a tough thing to call a fault. He’s got little solid-black eyes, a playful smirk, and an adorable little snout. As for weapons he comes with a pretty standard looking sword and shield combo. All-in-all this is a great figure, one of the better ones in the line in my opinion. With some better paint choices I think this guy might have been a contender for my top 10 list for 2013. 8 out of 10.
I scored the clear version of this figure in one of the blind packs I ordered. It looks okay but the translucency doesn’t really add anything to the figure. The colors are still bland, just even more so on this version.
So last week I threw together my initial thoughts on the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club upcoming 2013 Figure Subscription Service. I thought it was an alright line-up but that it could have been better. Most of the readers that responded to the post seemed quite happy with the figure choices so I guess that’s a good thing. I wasn’t unhappy with the Club’s selections necessarily, it’s just that I was really hoping to see a couple old favorites of mine.
1990 was the last year that my brother Doug and I bought any Joe figures from the vintage line. Not only were we growing up, I was 12 and he was 14, but the line seemed to be getting stale. Repeat characters were appearing more often and new characters were popping up seemingly as replacements for some of our beloved 80s characters, sharing military specialties. But looking back I’m actually kind of surprised that 1990 was the year that we jumped ship because 1990 had a pretty solid selection of figures, most of which were new characters. It was the next few years afterwards that were littered with sub-teams like DEF, Ninja-Force and the ECO-WARRIORS that brought about the rampant character re-use. My last Joe figure purchase was 1990s Rampart, a character I really liked and who became a key player in my little Joe universe. Rampart is the type of character who isn’t old enough to get much love from vintage collectors and therefore he’s never been remade. He’s one of the characters that I was really hoping to see in the 2013 FSS line-up.
I had high hopes of seeing Rampart because Top Side, another new character introduced in 1990 who has gotten little attention since, made it into the 2012 Figure Subscription Service. Oh well, I’ll keep my fingers crossed that I get a rampart update in the 2014 FSS or maybe one of the convention sets as I’m sure he’s low on Hasbro’s list of characters to revisit. So while I never owned the 1990 version of Top Side and have little attachment to the character I take comfort in knowing that somewhere out there he’s somebody’s Rampart and that collector is super stoked to see him updated.
So let’s take a look at Top Side version 2. From the neck down Top Side is made up entirely of the 25th anniversary Shipwreck’s body. Sure it would be great if every Joe could be made up of totally unique pieces but that would be very expensive. Therefor Hasbro and the Collector’s Club often have to work with what they’ve already got. I don’t mind that at all in situations like this. While this may not be an exact representation of the original Top Side it’s close enough and the pieces work well. Cutter was also made up of Shipwreck’s body and I kind of like that the re-use of parts gives all of the NAVY boys a consistent look. They’re all colored differently at least to give them each a unique feel. Top Side has gray pants and a blue shirt to match the vintage figure. Like Cutter he’s got a life jacket slapped on which helps to hide the similarities to Shipwreck even further. I think the fact that this body fails to capture the look of the original in some areas is a good thing. The 1990 figure had boots up to his knees, rolled up short sleeves, and a life jacket that appeared to be tucked into his pants. None of these would have bothered me before but when I compare them side by side I think this new one has the better body design.
The head is a newly sculpted piece and it’s a great one. This face has a ton of personality. Top Side looks like a seasoned soldier who doesn’t take any guff. He looks mean and tough and he’s got a wicked flat top. Probably the biggest improvement in this figure over the original is the face. The original had a nice head sculpt too but for some bizarre reason Hasbro decided to paint his eyes the same color yellow as his hair and eyebrows. The 1990 Topside is the only figure I know of to receive such a paint job. He just looked creepy and weird. The cold, steely, black eyed stare of this 2013 version is much better.
For accessories Top Side has a white helmet that hits on his head just right, a display base, a pistol that can be holstered on his leg, a machine gun, a billy club, and a hook on a rope. Cutter came with the same hook on a rope. I’m not sure what they’re supposed to do with those things but they look kinda cool.
Because I had no previous attachment to the character Top Side was not one of the 2012 FSS figures that I was excited about. I thought he’d be a decent addition to the collection but characters like Jinx, Iron Klaw and Big Boa were the big draws for me. Top Side, much like other underdogs Sure Fire and Quarrel, has surprised me. I find myself really liking this figure. Considering how much I’ve enjoyed each of the 2012 FSS figures thus far, even the ones I didn’t expect to, I have high hopes for the upcoming 2013 line-up despite my initial misgivings about a few of the choices. I look forward to being proven wrong again. 8 out of 10.
Sometimes I‘ll glance at a figure and think “I’ve got something to say about that toy”, or I’ll purchase a brand new figure that I’ll want to share with you; that is how I usually select the toys that I review. But sometimes I just come up blank and can’t decide on what I want to write about. Today is one of those days. I want to review something for you guys but I’m not feeling particularly excited about any one thing at the moment. I expressed this to Vanessa and she asked if she could pick a figure and I said go for it. To my surprise, in a room filled with hundreds of displayed action figures, she went with Sinestro. I didn’t ask why, I just said okay and set about writing this review. But now that I’m typing it up I find myself quite curious. First off she didn’t even know his name, she called him that purple guy from the Green Lantern. She’s seen the Green Lantern movie once and wasn’t overly impressed (which is good, because that movie was horrible) and she’s never read a comic book. Sinestro isn’t exactly “cool” looking, he’s far from handsome, and nowhere near cute. I would’ve expected Vanessa to pick my recently acquired Golden Retriever Beast Saga figure as she’s an absolute fanatic when it comes to dogs. Or maybe a female figure like Teela or Scarlett, though she tends to get jealous when I wax poetic about the lovely plastic ladies in my collection.
So let’s talk about Sinestro. To be honest I don’t have a ton of history with this character. I never once read a Green Lantern book growing up. I knew GL from his appearances on the Super Friends and things like that but didn’t really know much about the character beyond the basic set-up: guy with a ring that can make green objects appear with the strength of will power. For quite a while the Green Lantern I was familiar with, Hal Jordan the cocky test-pilot, was dead. DC comics had a new kid, Kyle Rayner in the role. I never paid much attention to it. I wasn’t reading any DC comics during my youth, not even Batman and Superman so B-listers like some second rate Green Lantern held basically no appeal to me.
But a few years back, up-and-coming writer Geoff Johns took over the writing chores of the Green Lantern book and his first order of business was reviving Hal Jordan and restoring him to greatness. A lot of hype came with the storyline but I didn’t pay much attention. But after months of hearing about how good the book was I decided to jump on board. I got myself all caught up on Johns’ run and even back filled the entire series of Green Lantern Corps, the sister-book to the main title. It’s been years now and I still collect both titles along with Red Lanterns, and Green Lanterns: New Guardians. So basically Geoff not only restored the franchise but he brought it to whole new heights with multiple spin-off series.
It was Johns who took one of the lamest looking villains I had ever seen and turned him into a wicked cool, multi-dimensional character. I was familiar with Sinestro back in the day, at least to identify him but that’s about it. He had pink skin, an extra tall forehead and he wore a black uni-tard with a star shaped collar. I’m pretty sure that it had been previously established that Sinestro was once a Green Lantern, but I don’t think the story had been fleshed out in any great detail. Johns delved into the characters history, giving him a purpose and believable motivations. He had Sinestro forge his own ring, a yellow one, and even form his own Corps to take on the Lanterns. Sinestro was given a new costume, basically a yellow variation of a GL uniform and as the storyline went on, his forehead even seemed to shrink. Sinestro was now cool! His relationship with Hal was further explored in the bad live-action movie and the excellent animated movie, First Flight.
More recently, after the “War of the Green Lanterns” storyline Sinestro was actually re-inducted into the GL Corps and Hal Jordan was ousted. This storyline gave readers even more insight into what makes this character tick. As a kid I never would have imagined that the pink skinned loser who battled the Green Lantern would one day become one of my all-time favorite comic book villains but such is the case.
This figure is obviously based on Sinestro’s time as a Green Lantern. When it came time to purchase a Sinestro figure I’ll admit it wasn’t easy to decide which one to get. It was easy to pass on his old black uni-tard, but the Yellow Sinestro Corps version seemed like the obvious choice. There are some decent figures out there of him wearing the yellow. But of all the Sinestro figures I think that this one is the best sculpt of the bunch. The muscles look good, the hands look good and the face is perfect. Plus I think the character is most interesting when wearing green. He looks pretty cool displayed next to my other Green Lantern figures. This is a DC Direct figure so the articulation is lacking but I really don’t mind. It’s not like it’s McFarlane-level stiff. The lack of joints helps to give the DC Direct figures a smoother look and they stand up easier. I love the metallic green paint used on the costume here, it looks so much better than the flat green used on some other Lantern figures. Sinestro came with a lantern and a display base. The base is a translucent green disc with the GL symbol on it. Light can be reflected through it which looks kind of cool. I think this is an excellent figure that anyone with a DC collection should track down. Good choice Vanessa. 9 out of 10.
G. I. JOE
So today I’m going to do something a little bit different. Regular readers of this blog know that I am a huge Joe fan and that I subscribed to the G.I. JOE Collector’s Club inaugural Figure Subscription Service (FSS). The club has been releasing exclusive figures at their conventions for years but 2012 was the first year that they offered a subscription service that members could sign up for. The service meant that subscribers would receive 13 exclusive figures over the course of the year. For 6 straight months they would receive 2 figures a month and then a mystery 13th figure would be sent. The FSS met with some delays and the 2012 figures didn’t start arriving to mailboxes until 2013 but better late than never. Currently we subscribers have received 8 of our 13 figures. Thus far I’ve reviewed Dice, Nano-Bat, Quarrel, Big Boa, Iron Klaw and Sure Fire and will soon get around to Jinx and Topside. In some of those reviews I’d expressed my excitement and curiosity as to which characters would appear in the 2013 FSS. Well at last weekends Joe Con the Club released the names of the characters we’d be getting this year and I thought I’d share my thoughts. It’s not a bad selection but I’d say it’s inferior to the 2012 line-up.
First up is Skullbuster. Skullbuster has only ever received 1 figure in the vintage line. He is the leader of Cobra’s Range Vipers. I’m always happy to get “named” Cobra characters and Skullbuster is a pretty cool one. He should be easy enough to pull off as a straight repaint of the 25th anniversary Range Viper figure. Hopefully they differentiate this guy by giving him a unique face under the removable mask.
The next two are probably the ones I’m least excited about. Tiger Force versions of Airtight and Shipwreck. I know Tiger Force is a popular Joe sub-team and that these two characters only received TF paint jobs in Brazil during the vintage line, making those figures quite desirable by collectors, but I just don’t really think we need updated versions of these figures. I’ll like them more if they’re billed as new characters instead of just Joes I already own in striped shirts.
Night Force Lt. Falcon is another one that I’m not too thrilled about. If the 25th anniversary Falcon was the only one we got in the modern line then this figure would be needed badly as that figure sucked. But Falcon got a nice update in the Slaughters Marauders 7-pack making this upgrade redundant to me. Even more so then the Tiger Force guys.
Next is Cesspool who was only released once back in the vintage line and it was after I had stopped collecting. Joe had gone neon by then and they had a sub-team of Eco-Warriors that battled Cesspool and his polluting Toxo-Zombies. I’m actually excited to get this character as he has a lot of potential and a recent appearance in IDWs Cobra comic endeared him to me a little more.
Like Cesspool and Skullbuster Desert Scorpion is another “name” Cobra from late in the vintage line getting his second ever appearance here. I have no attachment to this character but he looks pretty cool so I say bring him on.
Then we’ve got Widescope. A Joe that was first released in the new sculpt era who was clearly intended to be Shockwave’s replacement. I like Widescope because of his similarities to my favorite Joe but I hope the club manages to differentiate his from the Joe’s premiere SWAT trooper. I like this choice. I hope we get his dog, Lamont, as well.
Then Toll Booth. It’s hard to get excited about Toll Booth but he’s probably the oldest joe figure yet to receive a modern update so he’s a welcome choice. Plus he’ll help me to complete my Village People diorama.
Keel Haul I never had as a kid because you could only get him if you bought the 6 foot aircraft carrier. It will be nice to finally own him but he never struck me as a really cool “must-have” character.
The next couple, Dragonsky and Big Bear are memebers of Russia’s Oktober Guard and were sorely missed by many in the the Club’s Oktober Guard convention set last year. I’ve never been a big fan of the Oktober Guard so I don’t really care, but I have no problem with them being included. I know some fans will be very happy to see them here.
Lastly we have Bombardier, a grey and blonde repaint of original 13’er Flash. I’m actually looking forward to this one but I hope they make a new head for him. The 25th anniversary Flash head was pretty weak and a few blonde locks won’t salvage it. There’s an interesting story about the original Bombardier figure pictured here. A prominent Joe collector found him but couldn’t identify him. A reward was offered to anyone with information on it’s origins but it went unidentified for years. I’ll talk more about this when I have the new version in my hands and am doing up my review.
So all in all it’s not too bad. I would’ve liked to have seen some new versions of characters that I owned and loved as a kid who have yet to be updated like Fast Draw, Sneak Peek, A classic Ice-Viper or WORMS. An updated Royal Guard or Golobulus would’ve been a nice surprise too or maybe never before released characters like Pythona or Billy. Well there’s still a mystery figure to be revealed with this year’s FSS so who knows, maybe I’ll get one of them sooner than I think.