Monthly Archives: September 2013

MYSTERIO

Marv-Mysterio fullMARVEL UNIVERSE

It was announced a couple of months ago that Hasbro would be cancelling their Marvel Universe and Marvel Legends lines.  Marvel fans aren’t completely out of luck though because compatible figures will continue to be released under the banners of the various upcoming Marvel movies.  I had mixed feeling about this news.  I’m an avid collector of the 3 3/4 inch Marvel Universe line.  I was reluctant to embrace them at first because I already had a large collection of Marvel figures in the 5 inch scale.  It took a few waves of MU figures to come out before I finally decided to pick some up.  Ultimately it was the excellent sculpting on their Red Hulk figure that won me over.  Since then I’ve bought nearly every figure they’ve released and tracked down most of the early figures that I missed.  I must have nearly 170 of the little buggers now.  It’s become a sizable faction of my overall toy collection and is the one most impressively displayed.  I purchased some really nice custom plexi-glass showcases on ebay which houses them, 6 cases in all that take up a lot of prime wall real estate in my man cave. Marv-Mysterio first

I was sad to hear about the line coming to an end because I’ve invested so much money into the line already.  And while 170 figures may sound like a lot to some people, it’s just a fraction of the vast Marvel Universe cast of characters.  There are so many other characters I was still hoping to get.  On the flipside, I find many of the figures to be of substandard quality and I sometimes get pissed off about spending fifteen bucks on crappy figures simply to populate my Marvel Universe.  I’m hoping that the move to movie based figures will potentially mean a higher quality product.

I wouldn’t count on that being the case though.  If anything the trend seems to be the complete opposite.  The past few waves of 3 3/4” figures released as movie tie-ins have been complete junk.  The Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, Dark Knight Rises, and the latest wave of Avengers figures look and feel more like Happy Meal toys.  I don’t have a problem with Hasbro producing cheap toys with limited articulation and paint applications if it means parents on a tight budget can treat their kids once and a while, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the higher quality figures. Marv-Mysterio helmet

I went off on a bit of a tangent there but it is somewhat relevant to this review.  This Mysterio that I recently picked up at Target (They just came to Canada) may possibly be the last Marvel Universe figure I buy.  Hasbro had previously announced a bunch of figures I was looking forward to  like Abomination, Cloak & Dagger, and Death’s Head (Death’s Head!) but I fear those figures may never see the light of day since Hasbro later announced the line’s cancellation.

Marv-Mysterio Mcfarlane

One of my first Mysterio comics

The long delayed wave of figures containing Mysterio, Elektra, and Rhino has finally hit retail and I was beginning to doubt that I’d ever even see them seeing as they were originally scheduled to come out in 2012 and here it is 3 months shy of 2014.

I wish I could tell you that the line went out with a bang but the most recent wave suffers from the same quality issues that have plagued the line since day 1.  I’d place Mysterio around the middle of the pack quality wise.  His body is thin and kind of gimpy.  He doesn’t stand up well on his own and his poses seem awkward and unnatural.  That aside, I was stoked to find this figure the other day. Marv-Mysterio unmasked

Mysterio has always been one of my favorite Spider-Man villains.  I understand that his fishbowl head, green unitard and purple cape isn’t exactly what the kids would consider cool these days but there’s no denying that he’s a unique looking character.  Marvel has attempted to update his costume on numerous occasions but they always come back to the classic fishbowl eventually.  Mysterio’s design isn’t one that lends itself to loads of detailed sculpting but what little detail there is on this figure is well done.  I wish that they had gone the extra mile and either sculpted or painted the checkered pattern into his body suit but his cape is nicely sculpted in malleable plastic and his large blocky gauntlets look great. Marv-Mysterio face

My favorite aspect of this figure is the head.  The fishbowl helmet is made out of a frosted, slightly translucent, plastic that allows you to see the shape of his head inside.  It captures the look from the comics quite well; better than most previously released Mysterio figures.  I was surprised to find that his helmet actually pops off and that he has a sculpted face underneath.  I was hoping to see Mysterio’s actual face but the master of illusions isn’t so easily unmasked.  The face is solid green with no paint detail; not even on the eyes.  And I would say that the head clearly looks like a completely different Spidey villain, the Chameleon.  Perhaps this figure is actually Chameleon in disguise.  Though the last thing we need is more confusion over Mysterio’s identity.  When he first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man issue 13 back in 1964 he was Quentin Beck, a failed Hollywood special-effects artist.  In recent years he’s been killed off and replaced more times than I can count.  But as of Mysterio’s most recent appearance I believe that it’s Quentin Beck back in the bowl.

As far as Marvel Universe figures go I think this one is pretty decent, but I say that mostly because I’m a big Mysterio fan.  Hopefully that face sculpt results in a Chameleon figure being released at some point in the near future .  My Sinister Six is still a work in progress. 7 out of 10.Marv-Mysterio six

Since writing this the other day I’ve ordered Cloak of “Cloak & Dagger” from an online retailer so it would seem that we are getting at least one more wave of Marvel Universe figures.  Mysterio won’t be my last after all.

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LANCE the DOLPHIN

CI-Lance sideCOSTELLO ISLAND

I’m sure you can tell at first glance that Lance the Dolphin was not produced by either Hasbro or Mattel.  Nope, this is one of my home made creations.  Humor me and allow me to tell you a little bit about him…

I’ve created my own comic books for as long as I can remember.  I’ve talked about it at length in other homemade toy reviews like Ollie and Tiger.  One of my favorite creations was a humor strip I began in high school called Costello Island.  Costello Island was about a bunch of demented animals living together on a tropical island.  The book was named after my friend Robbie Costello who sat next to me in English.  I originally started doodling short comic strips to entertain him.  A few of the characters were even based off of his horrible designs.  The comics would get passed around class and people seemed to like them so I kept making them and eventually began to take them somewhat seriously.  I began writing full length stories and I upped the quality; using plain white paper and sharpie markers instead of blue pen on loose leaf.  I started making photocopies of the issues and then sold them to friends for a buck.  It was during my high school years that I was looking for a new regular comic shop after the shop in my hometown of Sackville closed down.  There were multiple shops in the city to choose from.  I went with Strange Adventures, I shop I still visit on a weekly basis.  One of the things that won me over about Strange Adventures was that they let local comic book artists sell their books there.  Strange didn’t even ask anything in return.  They let you price them however you wanted and they gave you 100% of your profits.  I only sold my books for a dollar and never made any profit but still, it was pretty cool.CI-Lance front

Calling Costello Island “popular” is a bit of a stretch but all 20 copies I placed at the comic shop always sold.  Every now and again I’d meet someone who actually knew of me because they had read the comic which was pretty cool. I kept creating new characters and after a while there were too many characters to put into one book.  I decided to do a spin-off series titled Hyland Island (My last name is Hyland if you weren’t aware).  I only ever completed 1 issue of Hyland Island because I realized that most of the characters were one-note jokes.  The few Hyland characters I did like migrated over to Costello Island after that.

One of the one-note characters I created for Hyland Island was Lance the Dolphin who spoke in rhyme.  That’s about it.  I think I also gave him some weird disorder like he thought he could fly or something but really there wasn’t much to work with beyond that; and writing in rhyme was annoying.  However I still like the look of Lance.  All of my Costello characters were pretty simple cartoons.  Most of them always appeared in the same pose so I got quite adept at whipping up drawings of them in a couple of seconds.  If only it had blown up and become a pop culture phenomenon; I could’ve made a mint touring the country selling 30 second sketches.CI-Lance side 2

Back when I was a teenager I attempted to make Costello Island figurines out of Fimo, which is basically plasticine that you bake until it hardens.  Many of my favorite characters were too difficult to construct. Charlie the Camel for example, who was basically the star of the book, was too tall and he would have collapsed in the oven.  For that reason I stuck to making small, close-to-the-ground characters.  Lance lucked into getting immortalized in Fimo because of his simple body construction.  I basically rolled his body out of a solid hunk of blue, slapped some balled up white eyes on him and presto! instant Lance the Dolphin figure.  I like this figure because it turned out better than most of the others and it actually looks pretty close to my drawings of the character.  Another one that turned out okay was the previously reviewed Chiliwac the ant.

I wanted to include a drawing of Lance with this review but didn’t have any handy so I whipped one up to see if I could still do it.  I think it turned out okay.  3 out of 10CI-Lance art

ZARTAN v.2 (1993)

Joe-Zartan v2 fullG. I. JOE

Last week an envelop full of loose figures arrived in the mail.  I had ordered them from an online retailer a few weeks earlier.  This particular site had a whole bunch of figures on sale at very reasonable prices due to their lack of accessories.  I don’t ordinarily buy vintage Joes but for $1.99 how could I resist?  After all, I’ve told you before about how my brother Doug and I collected Joes together when we were kids. We would do “picksies” every time a new wave of figures would come out and together we would get the whole wave.  That worked out fine back then but once we grew up and moved apart my vintage Joe collection was lacking 50% of the important characters.  I always thought that one day I would fill in the holes of my vintage collection but it hasn’t really been a priority because I’ve been so focused on collecting modern Joe figures.  Well this online sale gave me an opportunity to fill a couple of those vintage holes.  I ended up buying 33 figures in total, 27 Joes and 6 Marvel Universe.  Of those 27 Joes 4 of them were figures that Doug owned back in the day during our prime Joe collecting years: Hit & Run v.1, Dusty v.1, Hydro-Viper v.1, and Rock & Roll v.2WB haul

Two of the Joes were actually from the 2002-2006 “new-sculpt” years: Flash in his astronaut gear (2005) and the G.I. Joe reservist trooper who was a mail-in exclusive (2002).

 

The remaining 21 Joes I ordered were all from the few years (1990-1994) that the original Joe line continued on after I had lost interest.  A few of them were brand new characters like Ambush and Freefall but most of them are new versions of popular characters originally released during my collecting years.  My haul contained many version 2 and 3 releases of such classic characters as Gung-Ho, Duke, Bazooka, Stalker, Flint, and Firefly.  One of the version 2s I picked up was this ninja force Zartan which was released back in 1993.

Joe-Zartan v2 back

The original Zartan figure was released way back in 1984.  By way of the cartoons and comics he quickly became a key character in the G.I. Joe mythology.  Zartan was Cobra’s master-of-disguise and he also led a gang of bikers known as the Dreadnoks.  He had a martial arts background and he played an integral part in pitting Storm Shadow against Snake Eyes by framing Stormy for the murder of their sensei.Joe-Zartan v2 art

Zartan was an oddity from the get-go.  His original look consisted of a hood draped over his head, a half-shirt made of glass, and black eye make-up.  It really didn’t make a whole lot of sense but I liked the design anyway.  In 1986 Zartan’s twin siblings were released: Zarana and Zandar.  The twins clearly had similar tastes in fashion but they in no way resembled their brooding older brother. Both of them had red hair and punk rock inspired outfits full of loud colors.  I guess their look made an impact on Zartan because when Zartan version 2 was released in 1993 it looked as though he had raided their closet.  He was dressed like a punk-rock biker, complete with orange mohawk and neon green pants.  Even his black eye make-up had been replaced with a gaudy orange.Joe-Zartan v2 carded

I remember when this figure first came out even though I was no longer collecting Joes at the time.  I hated it.  I almost never preferred a version 2 figure over a version 1.  Hawk, Snake Eyes, and Storm Shadow all had very nice version 2s.  Beyond that most of the rereleases of established characters were fails as far as I was concerned and Zartan was one of the biggest.  The original dark hooded Zartan look was so iconic that it seemed blasphemous to change him into a neon ninja with a mohawk.Joe-Zartan v2 head

Well now that I actually have this figure in hand, 19 years after it was originally released, I actually don’t mind it so much.  Seeing as Zartan is a master-of-disguise I guess I shouldn’t have been so bent out of shape about him changing his look in the first place.  The mohawked head is actually pretty cool and unique.  Nothing else about the figure’s mold is outstanding but it’s serviceable.  He’s got a sleeveless black leather jacket with an orange chain draped over one shoulder. The weapons that would have been packaged with this figure were sculpted in a matching orange plastic.  The legs are kind of neat in that the left leg has two sheaths for knives on the front of the upper thigh which is something I’ve never seen before.  Because this figure is a “ninja force” toy it has a built in action feature.  He can be twisted at the waist and he’ll spin back into place, delivering what is supposed to be a nasty punch in the process.  It’s the same feature found in most vintage He-Man figures.  Because of the spin feature this Zartan doesn’t have an O-ring in his waist like most vintage Joes but his posability isn’t hindered very much as a result.  The more I look at this figure the more it grows on me.  I don’t necessarily like it as a Zartan but if I had this toy as a kid I think I would’ve used it as a unique new member of the Dreadnoks.  I expected to give this figure a score of 2 or 3 when I sat down to write this review but I think I’m gonna give him a 6 out of 10.

Now I’m off to watch the second last episode of Breaking Bad…see ya.

IMPACTOR (2013)

TF-Impactor fullTRANSFORMERS

You know what I hate?  I hate it when a cool character is introduced into a comic or cartoon series, the whole point of which is to market a corresponding toy line, and then that character doesn’t get made into a toy.  It’s a silly thing for a 35 year-old man to be complaining about, I know, but it bothered me even more so when I was a kid. Kwinn the Eskimo and Dr. Venom are prime examples. Both of them were created by Larry Hama specifically for the G.I. Joe comic in the 80s.  They played a pretty significant role in those early stories before the book was flooded with Hasbro-mandated new characters.  I wanted to play out the stories I was reading in the comics but I couldn’t because those key characters never had toys.  Arcee, the female Transformer, is another good example.  Luckily toy companies nowadays realize that nostalgic toy collectors make up a large part of their consumer base and so they, every now and again, give us toys we’ve been waiting decades for.  Kwinn, Dr. Venom, and Arcee all have action figures now.  Mattel has been doing a great job with their Masters of the Universe Classics line giving fans figures of characters who may have only appeared once in the old cartoons but left lasting impressions;  Icer is a good example. TF-Impactor carded

But it’s a slow process and I doubt I’ll ever own all of the characters I want.  Cobra Commander’s son Billy remains elusive, and in a recent issue of IDWs Real American Hero book the Red Shadows appeared which left me wanting them in action figure form too.  On the flip side, sometimes toy companies are right on the ball with releasing figures of characters created for other media.  Wraith from the Devil’s Due G.I. Joe book and Agent Helix from the movie-based Joe video game are good examples.  And Hasbro was pretty quick about getting a Drift figure out once he was introduced in the IDW Transformers comic. TF-Impactor art

The figure that I’m reviewing today is an Autobot who was created by writer Simon Furman for the UK version of the Transformers comic book way back in 1986.  I had already stopped reading the American Transformers book by that time so I was most certainly out of the loop with European Transformers.  I’m sure some British Transformers fans have been clamouring for an Impactor figure since the 80s but I wasn’t introduced to the character until I read IDWs “Last Stand of the Wreckers” mini-series which came out in 2010.  I know I praise the Transformers comic books a lot but it was this particular mini-series that solidified for me that IDW was making the best Transformers comic books ever.  It told the epic story of (as the title clearly states) the last stand of the Autobot’s elite task force known as the Wreckers.  Impactor was the leader of the Wreckers.  He was big, strong, loaded with weapons, and just had a very cool overall appearance.  His head was designed in such a way that it looked like he was wearing the helmet of a roman gladiator. TF-Impactor face

At the time, I thought he was a newly created character, as I wasn’t aware of his 1980s UK appearances, so he seemed an unlikely candidate to be made into a toy.  And yet Hasbro threw fans of the Wreckers a bone recently by releasing the “Fall of Cybertron” Combaticon figures repainted to look like the legendary Autobot team.  Between the new heads and new the color schemes you can barely notice that the Wreckers are practically identical to your Combaticons.  Hasbro even came up with a new combiner (Ruination) for the Wreckers to merge into, something they never did in the comics.

The leader of the Combaticons, Onslaught, was the base figure used to create Impactor.  The entire figure sculpt is identical to Onslaught except for the new heads.  Impactor has a newly tooled head which captures the helmeted gladiator look perfectly.  He’s got a nice little sneer too which seems appropriate since he’s such a hardass.  Because he forms the torso of Ruination he also has a larger additional head “hidden” on his back which can be flipped up to replace the standard head when in combined mode.  The Ruination head is also a brand new piece, not just a rehashing of Bruticus’s head.TF-Impactor comic

Impactor comes with two large guns, a double barreled cannon and a projectile firing launcher.  He can hold them while in robot mode or they can be attached to his vehicle mode as well.  In the comics Impactor was shown to transform into some sort of drilling vehicle but since this toy is a repaint of Onslaught he transforms into a Cybertronian truck identical to the alt mode of his Decepticon counterpart.  I really don’t care that his alt mode isn’t comic book accurate because I never transform my toys into vehicles anyway.TF-Impactor alt mode

I’m very glad to get an action figure of Impactor but there is a quality issue here.  I was quite disappointed with the Combaticons when I opened them up this past Christmas.  Vortex and Blast Off were decent but Swindle, Brawl and Onslaught felt really cheap and fragile.  All 3 of those toys looked like total crap from behind, like no thought went into it at all; and unfortunately Impactor has inherited all of Onslaught’s design problems.  His back is really hollow, the Ruination head is clearly visible, and his arms have really wonky articulation.  Another odd choice that Hasbro made was flipping his colors.  He’s orange and purple like he’s supposed to be but the colors are the reverse of his comic book appearance. All those problems aside, I really like this character so I’m going to give this figure a 7 out of 10.TF-Impactor-Ruination headTF-Impactor back

RIPPER 12″ (2005)

Joe-Ripper doll fullG. I.  JOE

As most of you probably know G.I. Joe began in the 1960s as a series of 12″ dolls.  I am happy to say that was before my time.  I was born in ’78 and discovered G.I. Joe when the brand was relaunched, after a several year hiatus, as a series of  3  3/4 ” action figures.  Throughout the 1980s G.I. Joe consisted solely of those smaller figures and their vehicles.  When the 90s rolled in the Joe brand was in peril.  Popularity waned as kids like me grew up.  Hasbro tried all kinds of things to keep kids interested, such as color change ninjas and space aliens, but ultimately none of the gimmicks worked and the brand went into hiatus for another 10 years or so.  One of the things Hasbro tried in the early 90s was reviving the 12″ figures.  I found the bigger figures kind of neat but never collected any myself.  All of the goofiness of the 90s  pushed me away from Joe completely and I moved onto other things.   My little brother Brian kept on collecting Joes for a short while after Doug and I got out of it though and every now and again he’d get some pretty cool figures.  Most of the Joes he acquired were crappy ninjas and street fighter wankers but a few he owned that impressed me were Beachead version 2 and the Icecream Soldier (lame name, I know, but a cool figure).  Another pair of his I liked were a 12″ Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes that were released in ’93/94.  The 90s 12 inch figures were a combination of Real American Hero (RAH) characters and standard nameless military men.  I didn’t have much interest in the more realistic stuff but the RAH figures were cool and if they had come out a few years earlier I probably would have collected a bunch of them.Joe-Ripper doll glasses

When the small Joe figures came back to store shelves in 2002 new 12″ figures accompanied them.  Again Hasbro went with a mix of RAH characters and nameless troops of varying ranks and specialties.  My wallet was overcome by the tidal wave of new 3″ figures at that time so I had little income to put towards the larger figures but I did pick up four of them.  I got my own 12″ versions of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, along with Roadblock and Ripper.  Why those four?  I don’t really know.  The ninjas were an obvious choice but neither Roadblock or Ripper were ever huge favorites of mine.  Cobra Commander, Destro, or even a Cobra Trooper would have been more appealing but I think Ripper and Roadblock just happened to be on the shelves on a particular day when I wanted to buy something and there was nothing else at the store catching my attention.Joe-Ripper doll face

The 12″ RAH Joe figures are pretty cool and, from what I remember, quite affordable.  However they weren’t as of high a quality as the Star Wars dolls being released around that time.  The Star Wars dolls made excellent display pieces where as the Joe figures seemed geared more towards play.  They were bright and colorful with big missile firing weapons.  So while my 12″ Joes never made it onto the display shelf, they were fun to goof around with.Joe-Ripper doll back

A few years ago, right before moving into this apartment, I had a fairly major toy purge.  I regret it now mostly because I could have written about those mostly oddball toys for this blog.  I got rid of a bunch of Marvel Toy Biz stuff, McFarlane stuff, and a few other odds and ends.  I kept Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow but my Ripper and Roadblock dolls got purged.  I regretted selling them shortly afterwards as they were a fun piece of Joe history that I really should of held onto.

Well about a month ago I hauled out my multiple toy containers during another attempted purge.  All I managed to part with this time around were a few stuffed animals (who, by the way, haven’t actually left the apartment yet).  To my surprise I found Ripper and Roadblock safe and sound in my Joe vehicle container.  Apparently I hadn’t gotten rid of them after all.  What a nice little surprise that was.

Ripper is a member of the Dreadnoks, a motorcycle gang led by Cobra’s master-of-disguise, Zartan.  The original 3″ Ripper figure was released in 1985 along with fellow ‘noks Torch and Buzzer.  The three of them always appeared in the comics and cartoons together.  More Dreadnoks were added to the gang over time but those 3 remained the core of the group.  Why Hasbro decided to release a 12″ Ripper but not a Buzzer or Torch I do not know.  Having all 3 of them in this scale would have been pretty cool.  However, by releasing Ripper alone it elevates him in my mind; makes him seem less like one of the three stooges and more like an individual threat.  When playing with my Joes as a kid I never would have paired Ripper against Roadblock as he would’ve gotten his ass kicked but by only having those 2 characters in this scale Ripper is forced to up his game.Joe-Ripper naked

I quite like this figure, in part because of how much it strays from Ripper’s iconic look.  Ripper traditionally appears in blue jeans, a ripped green tank top, a full beard and a mohawk.  This figure is wearing red camo pants, a grey tank top, a handlebar mustache, and a ballcap.  It’s recognizable as Ripper but looks quite different from his smaller figure.  He’s got removable rubber boots and the pants which stay on nicely thanks to an elastic waistband are removable as well.  His shirt and gloves are painted directly onto the figure but he also has removable webgear.  The webgear is cool because both his pistol and machete can be stored on it to free up his hands for fisticuffs.  His sunglasses and hat are removable and he has a sculpted red bandanna on underneath.  The face sculpt is great with lots of personality.

As I said earlier this doesn’t make for a great display piece but he’s big, durable, posable, and fun so if you see one I’d recommend you pick him up.  6 out of 10.

STORM SHADOW v.49 (2013)

Joe-Storm shadow 49 fullG. I. JOE

They call this figure Ultimate Storm Shadow and I would say that it’s a fair description.  Ultimate basically means “greatest” or “definitive” and I would agree that this is probably the definitive version of 1984 Storm Shadow.  That first Storm Shadow figure was awesome.  It defined for me what a true ninja should look like.  The other Joe ninjas like Snake Eyes, Night Creeper, and Dice, were cool looking but Storm Shadow, in his solid-white sleeveless outfit with bow and arrow accessories, was the “ultimate” ninja in my mind.

My brother Doug owned both the ’84 and ’88 Storm Shadows when we were kids.  I never actually owned my own Storm Shadow until 2002 when the G.I. Joe brand was reborn in the “new-sculpt” era. Over the next 4 years I accumulated more Storm Shadows then I knew what to do with.  He almost always retained white as his base color choice but the early 2000s saw him adopt a lot of red as well.  Sometimes it was just small red highlights, and other times big red dragons glammed up his pajamas from head to toe. Some of those new-sculpt figures I really liked, some not so much. Joe-Storm shadow 49 face

It wasn’t until the brand was reborn again in 2007 under the 25th anniversary banner that I finally got an updated version of Storm Shadow in his classic all-white, hoodless, outfit. The whole idea behind the 25th anniversary series was to give us new and improved versions of iconic Joe characters in their original looks.  Some of them were a little disappointing but others totally won me over, Storm Shadow being one of them.  I thought that the 2007 anniversary Storm Shadow was amazing.  You could have called that figure Ultimate Storm Shadow and I’d have agreed with you then.Joe-Storm shadow 49 back

But even the modern style of Joe figure has improved a lot since it was introduced in 2007 and what was ultimate then doesn’t seem so ultimate now.  Dozens of Storm Shadows have been released since 2007 and, just like with the flood of Storm Shadows that came in the new sculpt era, some of them have been great and some of them have sucked.

Many Joe fans would argue that the best modern era Storm Shadow released to date is version 48 , which came out in 2011 as part of the 30th anniversary line. That figure had great sculpting, interchangeable belts and sashes, a multitude of weapons, and superb articulation.  I understand why everyone loved it so much, but to me it just never felt like Storm Shadow.  It was a great ninja figure but the tight hood and tired eyes didn’t look like they belonged to Tommy Arashikage.  That figure has since been repainted and released as the Red Ninjas for which it works great.  Storm Shadow was released with a new look as part of the first wave of Retaliation figures and while it arrived with little fanfare I much preferred it to the 30th anniversary figure. It placed third on my top figures of 2012 listJoe-Storm Shadow 49 kick

And now that brings us up to speed and the release of Ultimate Storm Shadow.  As I said in my opening paragraph, I think this figure is the definitive version of the 1984 Storm Shadow.  However I do not believe it to be the best ever Storm Shadow.  The Retaliation figure remains my favorite version of the character but this Ultimate figure is great too and substantially better than the 2007 version of the 1984 original design.

This figure has loads of articulation combined with nice stiff joints which means you can pose him all kinds of ways.  The white costume looks crisper than usual because a nice dark flesh tone was used on his skin.  The sculpt is relatively simple but has enough folds and straps to keep it interesting.  Many of the pieces are actually borrowed from the 30th anniversary version.  The hands are sculpted with separated fingers which means he can actually hold his sais and throwing stars fairly realistically.  He came with a ton of accessories (swords, knives, backpack, the usual) as well as a big clunky thing that snaps onto his back and spins him around (went straight into the junk bucket) and an alternate head with actor Lee Byung-hun’s likeness.  Nothing else about this figure is movie accurate so I’m  not sure why they included an unmasked movie head but it’s cool to have the option to display him that way regardless.  Even if you already own one or all of the excellent Storm Shadow figures I previously mentioned I would still recommend you track this one down.  I would probably give this figure a 10 if I didn’t already have so many great Storm Shadow figures in my collection, but since I do, this figure becomes less essential.  9 out of 10.

30th anniversary, Ultimate, New-sculpt homage, Retaliation, 25th anniversary

30th anniversary, Ultimate, New-sculpt homage, Retaliation, 25th anniversary

 

 

THUNDERCRACKER (Loyal Subjects)

TF-LS Thunder fullTRANSFORMERS

A short while ago I reviewed a cutesy little Duke figure produced by the Loyal Subjects.  I assume their G.I. Joe line must have been a success because they quickly followed it up with a Transformers line.  Just like the Joes, the Transformers figures come in small blind packed boxes so you never know what figure you’re getting inside.  That’s all well and good for Kinder Surprises but let me reiterate how ludicrous I think that is for figures priced at 15 bucks.  That’s a lot of cash to spend blindly only to potentially get a double of a figure you already have.  For that reason I don’t plan on collecting these Loyal Subject lines.  Drop the price down to $5 and then we’ll talk.  Because truthfully that’s all I feel these toys are worth anyway.  Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re super cool but unique sculpting is minimal, accessories are few, articulation is nominal and paint apps are limited.  I’m sure these things can’t be too expensive to produce, at least in comparison to much more elaborate toys which sell for the same price point. TF-LS Thunder back

Complaints aside, I do like the look of these toys.  When the Transformers line was released I decided to purchase one.  Any more than that and I risked pissing my money away on a double.  My regular shop, Strange Adventures, has them available and I figured I would eventually buy one on a cheap comic week.  However I was in Giant Robot Comics the other day, the cool little shop across the bridge, and they had them opened and labelled.  I was glad to have this option of choosing my character so I picked one up there.  You may recall from my Quick Kick review that GRC had labelled their blind packed Kre-O figures as well which was appreciated. (I should mention it was actually my pal Glenn who labelled the Kre-Os before selling then to the shop.  He pointed this out after I praised the staff of GRC staff for going the extra mile in my previous review)  While The labelling is great because it allows you to avoid getting doubles, there is a negative side to it as well…people buy up all the good characters. TF-LS Thunder side

Giant Robot was all out of Optimus Prime and Bumblebee as you might expect but I didn’t mind.  I was hoping for Grimlock or Shockwave but they were both sold out as well.  My options were few.  Luckily I have an appreciation for just about every G1 Transformer so I was content to buy Thundercracker.

Thundercracker is one of the seeker jets lead by Starscream.  There was Ramjet, Dirge, Thundercracker, Skywarp, and my favorite Thrust.  All of them looked the exact same but had different color schemes, personalities, and abilities.  Thrust was the only Seeker I owned as a kid; I liked his black and maroon color scheme the best.  However Thrust is probably the least developed of the bunch.  A couple of the other seekers have really shined in the comic books published by IDW.  In the Marvel comics of the 80s there were all pretty interchangeable.  In the IDW books Thundercracker has broken away from the Decepticons and is hiding out alone on Earth where he has actually served as an ally to Bumblebee.   He’s become a multi-faceted character instead of just a Starscream repaint.  I cannot recommend the IDW Transformers comic books enough, great stuff. TF-LS Thunder together

This figure serves as a nice cutesy version of the sonic boom inducing Decepticon.  The head is great and would actually make for excellent custom fodder were you to attempt building a 12” Thundercracker.  It’s not as cartoony and stylized as the Loyal Subjects G.I. Joe heads.  The body is simple and much more angular than the rounded Joe bodies.  The paint job replicates the look of G1 Thundercracker quite well.  He’s got snap on wings and a laser pistol for accessories.  One of the pegs on his right wing didn’t line up with the pre-drilled holes on his back and I had to snap it off in order to get the other peg in.  Kind of a piss off but it stays in place pretty firmly even with only 1 peg. I am a fan of this figure which will soon find a home on my desk at work with Duke and Snake Eyes.  When they eventually repaint this guy into all of the other seekers I might seek them out myself, at least Thrust.  7 out of 10.

IRON MAN (SHIELD BREAKER ARMOUR)

Marv-Iron man shield fullMARVEL UNIVERSE : IRON MAN 2

I think I’ve talked about my nephews on here before but just to remind you, I have 6 awesome nephews.  No nieces.  It seems that my clan is only able to produce males.  My youngest sister just got married in August though (congrats Katie) so perhaps she’ll be the first to bring some young ladies into the family.  Until that time all I have are little dudes to hang out with at family get togethers and that’s cool with me.  I love answering their questions about the Marvel Universe and educating them in the merits of G.I. Joe.  I got them hooked on the Godzilla video game on Gamecube and that’s all they want to play when they come to my apartment (which is good…keeps them out of the man cave).  It’s pretty cool listening to a room full of kids debate whether Rodan can defeat Megalon in combat. I recently took Carter, who’s 6, to see Pacific Rim in the theater and I very much enjoyed watching his reaction to the giant monster fights.   It was like the Godzilla game come to life and he was loving it.  I can’t wait to take him to see the actual Godzilla film when it comes out next year.Marv-Iron man shield carded

Carter’s little brother, Ty, was born with 4 holes in his heart and had a really rough go of things when he first came into this world.  He had to undergo some pretty serious surgery which was stressful for everybody.  Luckily it went well and Ty came out of it in fantastic shape.  He’s been a charming bundle of energy ever since. You’d never know that he ever had any problems except for the large scar on his chest that serves as a reminder.  Anyway, my sister celebrates Ty’s successful surgery every year with what she calls a “heart party” which is almost like a second birthday for the kid. This past weekend was Ty’s heart party and on our way out to my sister’s place, Vanessa and I stopped at the mall to find him a present.  The problem is, I have a hard time buying a present for just 1 nephew when I know there will be a 3 other envious kids looking on. (Two of my nephews live a province over and I don’t see them quite as much.  The other four, two belonging to my brother Doug and 2 belonging to my sister Angie are always around).  So I had to find relatively inexpensive presents for all four of them.  My first stop in the mall was at Winners, a discount department store, and I lucked out right away.  They had Iron Man 2 figures for $5 apiece.

Me with my sister's kids, Ty and Carter.

Me with my sister’s kids, Ty and Carter.

My nephews all love Iron Man so getting each of them a variation of his armour seemed like a sure fire way to please everyone.  I picked up one that closely resembled Ultimate Iron Man with Carter in mind.  He’d previously told me how cool he thought my Marvel Select Ultimate Iron Man figure was so this was perfect.  I picked up a translucent red one for Alex as that seemed like something he’d be into because I know he’s a fan of unique play features (Doug has turned him into quite a vintage MOTU fan).  I grabbed a purple and black armored Iron man for Ty mostly because it was really cool looking.  Luke is only one year old so a 3 inch Iron Man with a firing missile didn’t seem like a good idea for him.  I opted to get him a Despicable Me figure that wouldn’t be so easy for him to swallow.  I did however pick up a fourth Iron Man figure because Uncle Mike needs something to play with too, right?Marv-Iron man shield back

I’m not proud to admit it but while gazing over my Iron Man figures while waiting in the checkout line I began thinking that it would be cool to have them all in my plexi-glass Marvel Universe wall display.  It would be like my own little Hall of Armour.  Maybe I could keep them all for myself and grab different presents for the boys elsewhere.  Vanessa convinced me to give them to my nephews as planned and I’m glad I did because they were a huge success at the party.  The boys were flying their new Iron Mans all over the house and missiles were launching everywhere.  I had to crawl under a bush in the front yard and take Carter’s bunk bed apart in order to retrieve lost missiles before I left. Marv-Iron man shield full2

This silver and gold Iron Man is the one that I kept for myself.  I can’t say what it is exactly that appealed to me about it but as soon as I looked at this figure I knew I wanted to add it to my collection.  I usually don’t care for  figures of super heroes in silly or redundant costumes; those days are largely behind me.  What do I need a Deep-Sea Spider-Man for? Or an Arctic Attack Batman?  I understand that the toy companies need to find new and creative ways to keep rehashing the hero of any given toy line but I certainly don’t need to buy them.  But every now and again I take a liking to a weird costume I see on a toy, even if it’s something that the character has never worn in the comics or movies.  Desert Captain America is a good example.  That’s what happened with this Iron Man.  There’s nothing really special about it; it’s just something I haven’t seen before.

Marv-Iron man shieldsI’m pretty sure that this figure is a straight repaint of the standard red and gold Iron Man movie figure but I actually didn’t own a movie accurate Iron Man toy before so that makes this figure seem more unique amongst my many comic accurate Iron Man figures.  The sculpt is very nice with plenty of little details and the articulation is great.  It’s far superior to the crappy 3 inch figures that were released in conjunction with Iron Man 3.  Plus this toy feels solid and durable unlike many of the figures in the compatible Marvel Universe line.  This is a great toy and I’m surprised at how much i like it.  It’s actually got me thinking that maybe I really should work on building up my Iron Man Hall of Armour.  8 out of 10.

DARTH MAUL (12″)

SW-Darth doll frontSTAR WARS

SW-Darth doll fullI was at Toys R Us recently and they had absolutely nothing of interest to me.  They’re still stocking wave one of the Retaliation G.I.Joes which are more than a year old, they’ve got nothing but Beast Hunters Transformers, their Marvel section is clogged up with crappy Iron Man 3 toys, and even their TMNT section has nothing but turtles in coveralls. It was a sad state of affairs.  But there was one aisle that was stocked with new and exciting items and it’s an aisle that I don’t usually pay much attention to…the Star Wars aisle.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love Star Wars as much as the next guy but I burnt myself out on it in the late 90s.  I had myself so psyched about the prequels that when they came out and weren’t as fantastic as I hoped they were gonna be I just lost my passion for the brand.  The clone wars cartoon seems cool and everything but I just can’t get into it.  The new comic by Darkhorse set within the original trilogy seems promising too but I passed on that as well.  Even the mounds of Star Wars toys I see on the store shelves usually fail to intrigue me.  Who knows, maybe if the new movies are stellar I’ll get my Star Wars groove back, but for now the brand is pretty much off my radar. SW-Darth doll face

That said, some of the Star Wars stuff I saw at Toys R us was pretty cool.  I’m not sure if it’s because there was nothing else to buy but I was very close to purchasing some Star Wars stuff last night and it would have been my first SW purchases in a long time.  There was a 2 foot tall Darth Vader with a cloth cape that was pretty rad looking and the small figures had some nice new packaging. The standard figures have improved a lot as far as sculpting and articulation goes since I was actively collecting Star Wars figures in the 90s and early 2000s.  Picking up improved versions of some of my favorite characters was somewhat tempting.  But what really caught my eye was the new line of  5 inch figures called “The Black Series” which were amazingly detailed.  The Black Series Darth Maul really impressed me.  I was SO close to purchasing it but then I told myself “No. You cannot start buying Star Wars stuff.  You already have a ton of this stuff in a bucket back home.  Go home and play with that.” And so I left him at Toys R Us but I felt inspired to review a Dart Maul figure so here we go… SW-black series1

Darth Maul is, in my mind, the best thing to come out of the prequel trilogy.  He’s just so damn cool looking.  When the Phantom Menace trailer first came out and it showed Maul firing up his double-sided lightsaber, that was probably one of the biggest geek out moments of excitement that I’ve ever had.  An evil Jedi with horns and a double lightsaber that knows kung-fu?  Holy crap!!  Count me in!  Obviously I was disappointed when (spoiler alert!) he gets cut in half and falls to his death at the end of the film.  Regardless it has never taken much screen time to endear a Star Wars character to me, let me remind you that my favorite all-time character is walrus manSW-Darth doll side

I have 3 or 4 small Maul figures but my favorite Darth Maul in my collection would be the 12” doll.  Or 12” action figure if you’d rather.  I know some people get bent out of shape about calling any toy geared towards boys a doll but I have no issue with it.  If an action figure is Barbie sized and has removable clothes well then that’s a doll in my eyes.

So let’s talk about this toy.  This is the kind of 12” figure that I like.  Companies like Hot Toys and Sideshow have been producing some amazing 12” figures lately but each one is like $200.  Who can afford to collect those things?  There are lots of 12” figures available at retail these days but they are often of the uber-cheap variety with limited articulation and no cloth clothing.  When this figure was released in 1999 it was widely available at retail for around thirty bucks and it still felt like a premium format figure.  I picked up a number of Star Wars dolls around that time including my beloved Walrus Man who’s even uglier at 12” tall. SW-Darth doll pose

Darth Maul has rubber boots and a cloth cape which is made up of multiple layers of fabric of different textures.  The outer layer has a nice silky ribbed texture to it. Multiple layers could potentially stifle a figure’s articulation but this guy retains plenty of movement and posability.  The cloak has a hood which can be displayed up or down.  The figure looks good either way.  For accessories he has his double sided red light saber which can be separated into two single sabers ( I think).  I actually can’t recall if he came with anything else since it’s been so long since i purchased him but he probably didn’t. SW-darth doll hood face

One issue I do have with this figure is the face sculpt.  It’s by no means bad, in fact it’s quite good, but Maul looks very bored here.  This is the most indifferent face I’ve ever seen on so menacing a character.  My brother Doug bought a different 12” version of Maul around the same time I got this one.  His was all plastic and had lights and sounds and junk.  I much prefer mine over his but Doug’s had a really good scowl on his face that I was always jealous of.  Another small gripe I have about this figure is what he looks like under all those layers.  He’s got a standard Ken body cast in black plastic.  It’s not that big a deal but if I wanted to display this guy shirtless to show off all of the crazy tattoos he has on his torso (as we’ve seen in other media since the movie came out) it would be nice to have that option.  Overall, pretty damn cool and for a good value.

8 out of 10.SW-Darth doll back

SAGA PIRANHA (PIRAZON)

BS-Piranha fullBEAST SAGA

Way back in November I reviewed Saga Shark and not too long ago I reviewed Saga Fish.  Well today I’m gonna take a look at the third and final figure that was included in the Kingdom of Sea 3-pack.  I’m trusting other websites that this guy’s name is Pirazon but I’m gonna stick to calling him Saga Piranha for the time being.

When I was a kid I had a Battle Beast figure that was a white fish with pink armor whom I named Battle Piranha.  He was one of Battle Ram’s most vicious enforcers with a real sadistic streak.  I later acquired two more of that same figure.  I believe they came in a mixed bag of loose Battle Beasts that I bought at my childhood comic shop, The Cardboard Jungle.  I usually had no use for doubles of figure but in the case of Battle Beasts I integrated them into my ongoing storyline as best I could.  The other two Piranha figures became Battle Piranha’s nameless goons that he lead separately from his association with Battle Ram, kinda like how Zartan lead his own team of Dreadnoks separate from his ties to Cobra. The Piranha gang was a group best avoided by by good buys beasts as they were a nasty bunch. BS-Piranha card

As it turns out Battle Piranha and his thugs weren’t even piranhas.  When I discovered the Battle Beasts actual names in my teens with the help of a new invention called the internet I learned that the character’s official name was Killer Carp.  I gotta say that I was a little disappointed by this revelation.  I don’t know much about Carp but the mention of them hardly instills fear in me.  He might as well have been a trout.BS-Piranha back

Well with this Beast Saga figure there’s little doubt as to his species.  The name “pirazon” aside, he just looks like a piranha.  The sculpting on this figure is awesome and downright creepy.  The Battle Beast carp figure always looked pretty evil to me with his jagged toothy grin but he’s got nothing on this guy.  This Beast Saga figure is much scarier looking than it’s predecessor.  I know it might seem silly to refer to a 2 inch figure as scary but imagine stumbling across a full-sized version of this fish-man in some murky waters somewhere; yikes. BS-Piranha duo

Saga Piranha is sculpted with an open mouth which I believe is a first in the Battle Beast/Beast Saga line.  He’s got beady little red eyes on each side of his head and some nice scales on his skin.  One of the most impressive aspects of this figure is the number of paint applications.  There’s green, yellow, purple, gray, orange, red, and even a gradient effect painted onto the fins of his armor. The varied colored palette adds to the realistic look of the figure though I do wish they colored the inside of his mouth either black or pink.

The armor is pretty cool in that it isn’t overly complicated but has some nice fin details.   He has fins on his shoulders, forearms,  tail, and even on the back of his feet.BS-Piranha side

I see this guy being an absolute psychopath; a soldier that Battle Shark can barely keep in line.  Saga Piranha would rarely speak, mostly just in garbled growls.  I imagine that he would take over the leadership role of the piranha gang.  This guy would be so vicious and unstable that even Battle Piranha wouldn’t dare challenge him for the leadership role.  Instead, Battle Piranha would humbly fall in line and become one of Saga Piranha’s interchangeable henchmen.

This is a very cool little figure and one of the reasons why I was so excited about this new toy line when it came out last year.  The entire aquatic 3-pack was a win. 8 out of 10.BS-Piranha group