Monthly Archives: December 2013

SKULL BUSTER v.2 (2013)

Joe-Skullbuster v2 fullG. I. JOE FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE

The first Cobra Range Viper was released in 1990.  That was the year that Doug and I stopped collecting G.I. Joes.  Each of us only got 1 figure from the 1990 assortment  before throwing in the towel; I got Rampart and Doug got Undertow.   In hindsight I’m not sure why we stopped collecting that year because there were still quite a few cool characters being released at the time.  The brand hadn’t yet been bogged down with the neon ninja crap that was so prevalent a couple of years later.  I always enjoyed collecting the various Cobra troopers so I’m not sure why, at 12 years old, I let cool new troopers like the Laser Viper, Rock Viper and Range Viper slip through my fingers.  The Range Viper was especially cool and unique looking.  He had a bizarre skeletal face with big eyes, gritted teeth, and an exposed brain.  It wasn’t clear whether he was supposed to be some sort of mutated monster soldier or if he was just wearing a freaky helmet.  Range Vipers were Cobra’s Wilderness Troopers so their strange appearance and blue and yellow color scheme didn’t seem to make much sense at all but there was no denying that they were cool looking.Joe-Skullbuster v2 carded

A couple of years before the new-sculpt era relaunch of 2002 there were a handful of G.I. Joe two-packs released in 2000.  I remember seeing the packs in Toys R Us and thinking they were kind of neat.  I was a 22 year old toy collector by that time who hadn’t bought a new G.I. Joe since Rampart 10 years earlier.  Had the two-packs consisted of brand new figures I probably would have bought them all but they were simply repaints of 80s figures and that didn’t interest me too much.  I did however buy 1 pack consisting of Major Bludd and a Rock Viper.  I opted for that pack because Bludd had always been a favorite of mine and my childhood Major Bludd was the only vintage Joe figure that I’d ever lost.  This was my chance to replace that lost toy.  While I ended up with the Rock Viper simply because of his pack mate I found myself really liking the figure.  I’m not sure why he was named Rock Viper because he was a straight re-paint of the 1990 Range Viper with the weird skull and brain design.  Only I liked the new gray, white, and red paint scheme much more than the original blue and yellow.  Major Bludd ended up in the figure bucket with little fanfare  but I found myself unable to stop fiddling with Rock/Range Viper.

2000 Rock Viper

2000 Rock Viper

In 2005 a new-sculpt version of Range Viper was released.  That figure finally cleared up the mystery of the Range Viper’s creepy visage.  The figure had a removable skull faced helmet with a standard ski masked face underneath.  I was glad to see they were intended to be people and not monsters.  I was a big fan of that 2005 figure and bought it multiple times over so I could build a small squad of Range Vipers for the diorama I had set up in my apartment at the time.  During those new sculpt years Hasbro also released a new purple version of the original Range Viper mold.  But that figure wasn’t intended to be just another Range Viper, he was Skull Buster, the commander of the Range Vipers.  According to his file card it was a position he earned by being meaner and nastier than any of his other skull-faced brethren.  I never got the actual Skull Buster figure but I used my gray and red Rock Viper as a Skull Buster stand-in for my diorama.Joe-Skullbuster v2 face

The Range Viper has been released twice in the modern era.  The first was included in the 2009 Defense of Cobra island 7-pack and featured the blue and yellow color scheme of the 1990 original.  The second had a green paint job and was sold exclusively at Target under the “Rise of Cobra” banner.  Both of those figures were pretty cool but I was hoping to eventually see the mold re-painted in the grey and red Rock Viper color scheme.  If that figure ever came I intended to display him as Skull Buster.

Well Hasbro never got around to releasing an updated grey and red Range/Rock Viper for me to use as an updated Skull Buster  but the Collector’s Club has done one better and released an updated version of the actual Skull Buster in all of his purple glory.  Skull Buster was an excellent and obvious choice for the Club to tackle for their subscription service.  Since the original Skull Buster was nothing more than a repainted vintage Range Viper the Club could do the same with a modern Range Viper.  This meant no additional tooling was necessary and the figure would be low cost to produce.  Plus Skull Buster is a name character that I’m sure many fans were excited for.Joe-Skullbuster v2 card

So my Skull Buster arrived in the mail earlier this month, one of two figures (the second being Widescope) included in my second FSS 2.0 shipment.  The first 2 figures were Tiger Force versions of Airtight and Shipwreck.  I’m not a big fan of Tiger Force and while those first two figures impressed me more than I expected them to I was still much more excited to receive these next two figures.  Both Widescope and Skull Buster first appeared during the new sculpt years of the early 2000s, a period  doesn’t get much love from Joe fans.  Not many of the characters created during that time have made the transition into the modern era so getting two of them together was pretty awesome.Joe-Skullbuster weapons

 

 

I’ll talk about Widescope in a later review.  Today I’m just gonna look at the updated Skull Buster.  For the most part this figure is pretty great.  The head, torso, legs and upper arms are all repainted pieces from the previously released Range Viper which is exactly what you would expect.  The mold has been repainted purple with blue and gray highlights just like the original version.  He’s got a backpack, pistol, machine gun, grenade launcher, bolo-spear, and a bullet belt.  He also has a removable skull helmet with the ski-mask face underneath.

I do however have one issue with this figure and it’s a big one.  For some reason the Club decided not to use the Range Viper’s lower arms.  They used every other piece of the Range Viper but opted to use Shadow Tracker’s lower arms instead.  Shadow Tracker was a tall and bulky figure.  His arms look really out of place on the Range Viper mold.  It gives Skull Buster goofy looking gorilla arms that hang to his knees when resting at his side.  Plus the hands on these lower arms were sculpted to hold Shadow Tracker’s bow so Skull Buster can barely hold his guns due to the weirdly arranged fingers.  I cannot imagine why on earth the club chose to do this when the Range Viper arms would have worked just fine as they were.  Joe-Skullbuster v2 unmasked

Gorilla arms aside I’m happy to get an updated Skull Buster.  The colors look great and even the arm issues can be hidden depending on how you pose him.  It’s a real shame that one bad parts choice really drags this figure down.  6 out of 10Joe-Skullbuster v2 range group

 

SNAKE EYES (Hot Toys) (2013)

Joe-Hot Toys SE full2G. I. JOE : RETALIATION

Well Christmas has come and gone.  I’ve already begun packing up the decorations and putting gifts in their place.  After a solid week of frantic shopping and hanging out with family I’m finally able to kick back, relax, and review some action figures.  Did I get any new action figures for Christmas?  Yes I did, some awesome ones at that.  I’ll be honest and tell you that the majority of toys that were waiting for me under the tree were purchased by myself for myself.  All of my December purchases went under the tree including my latest shipment of Joe Club FSS figures and the latest offerings from Matty collector.  Even though I knew what was in those boxes it was still pretty exciting to tear into them on Christmas morning.  However, nothing can beat the thrill of opening up a present (that you just know is gonna be something cool) when you don’t know specifically what it is.  When it comes to my girlfriend Vanessa and my brother Doug I always know I’m gonna get something cool for Christmas and both of them outdid themselves this year.  Doug got me 3 great figures which I will review in the coming days.  Vanessa only got me one figure (along with some socks and chocolates and whatnot) but what an action figure it is.Joe-Hot Toys SE sword

This is Snake Eyes by Hot Toys, a Hong Kong based toy company founded in  2000.  They started off making realistic 12″ military figures akin to the G.I. Joes of the 1960s.  I’m not a big collector of either 12″ figures or generic military figures so I didn’t pay much attention to Hot Toys’ output until a few years later when they started making figures from licensed properties such as Iron Man and Predator. High quality 12″ collectibles are nothing new; the Rocketeer produced by Medicom, for example, is one of the highlights of my toy collection.  Sideshow has even produced some really nice 12″ Real American Hero era Joe figures.  But when images of the Hot Toys’ figures began showing up online I was blown away by their level of detail.  The artistry is most apparent in the actor likenesses.  Their Robert Downey Jr. from Iron Man  and their Jack Nicholson from Batman are so lifelike that it’s eerie.  Unfortunately that level of detail comes at a cost.  Hot Toys are damn expensive, starting at $200. Now I could see someone spending that much on a single, stand-alone figure but I know myself, and once I had one of these collectables I know I’d need more.  So no matter how cool they looked I vowed to admire Hot Toys’ figures from afar.  But then in 2013 they picked up the license to create figures based on the second live-action G.I. Joe movie: Retaliation.  Dammit.Joe-Hot Toys SE full

When the first Retaliation figure, Snake Eyes, went up for pre-sale on BigBadToyStore it took all of my willpower not to order it.  It was nearly impossible to identify Snake Eyes as an action figure from the promotional images released; they looked like screen shots from the film.  It was so unbelievably cool.  As tempted as I was to buy it I knew that I was better off not opening a can of very expensive worms and so I watched with sadness as the pre-orders sold out thus cementing the fact that I would never own on.  Sure, I could always buy one later on the secondary market but the price would likely double by then.

Well Vanessa braved the secondary market and the result was me finding this wicked cool Snake Eyes under the tree on Christmas morning (technically it was the 26th because I had to wait for her to return home from her parent’s house before we could exchange presents).  When I  tore the paper off my present I was initially greeted by a plain cardboard box with the Hot Toys logo.Joe-Hot toys SE outer box  Perhaps the greatest plain cardboard box ever.

Inside that was a wicked cool white box with a reflective G.I. Joe logo and an image of Snake Eyes from the movie.  Inside that was a clear window box which gave me my first glance at the actual figure.  Inside of the window box was a custom fitted tray which housed the figure under a clear plastic lid.  Once I got the lid off I was finally able to hold this awesome figure in my hands.Joe-Hot Toys SE box

I wish these figures were more affordable but I would say that Snake Eyes is absolutely worth the hefty price tag.  It’s hard to describe just how cool this figure is.  There is so much fine detail that it looks like it could be displayed in a museum.  The boots have worn treads on the bottom, sculpted laces and even sculpted wrinkles in the toes. They look as though Snake Eyes has actually been running around in them for a while.  The canvas pants have multiple pouches with buckles and working zippers.  The belt has a holster for his pistol and a sheath for his knife.  The torso is truly impressive with multiple materials used to replicate the movie look.  There’s silver “kevlar” on the underarms, mesh sides, and layered armor.  For a figure that’s “all black” it’s astounding how many various shades of black they squeezed into this figure which really adds to the realism.  The sword sheath on Snake Eyes’ back is very impressive with it’s alligator skin like texture and real string wrap.  There is so much going on here that you really need to see it to appreciate it all.Joe-Hot Toys SE back

The head sculpt is also amazing.  There are 3 different materials used and each of them is a different shade of black. The bulk of it is a matte black, the visor has a reflective sheen, and the mouth area has a screen under which you can see even more sculpted detail.  This mask looks much more believable than the Snake Eyes mask from the first movie; it actually looks like a guy could believably breathe through this thing. Joe-Hot Toys SE box inner

For accessories This figure includes 8 alternate hands, 2 swords, 2 knives, a pistol, a machine gun, and a display stand.  The detail on the accessories is top-notch as well.  The machine gun has moving parts but it’s the swords that really shine (literally).  They are both made with real metal.  One has a reflective silver blade and the other is black.  Both feature the Arashikage symbol on the blade and the hilts have some really nice sculpted detail.

I am blown away by this action figure.  This will forever be one of the coolest things I own.  I’ve already begun planning my future Hot Toys purchases: Storm Shadow, the Crow, Sweeney Todd, Tonto, etc.  11 out of 10Joe-Hot Toys SE gunJoe-Hot Toys SE swords

DEVASTATOR (Kre-O) (2013)

kreo-devestator full TRANSFORMERS : KRE-O

Hey everyone.  I hope you all had a Merry Christmas/Happy Holiday.  I got lots of cool new toys to tell you about but before I get around to reviewing them I want to post this review that I wrote earlier this week but didn’t have a chance to post.

In my last post I reviewed the Kre-O Battle Android Trooper (B.A.T.).  I wrote that at least one Kre-O block figure was bound to make my year-end “best of” list and that the BAT was a top contender for that slot.  All Kre-Os basically have the same body construction (standard Lego-man) so the only thing that really gave the BAT a leg up on the other figures was his paint job.

But after posting that I review I remembered that, in fact, not all Kre-O figures do have the same body type.  Somehow the Transformer combiners (or Micro-Changers as they’re called in the Kre-O world) completely slipped my mind at the time.  And so, if only one Kre-O is gonna make my “best of” list I’d be remiss  not to give that slot to Devastator.kreo-devestator side

If you’re a Transformer fan than I’m sure you’re familiar with the combiner concept.  You take a bunch of small robots and stick them together to make one big robot.  The Transformers universe is littered with them.  The all airplane team of Aerialbots merge to create Superion, the race car team of Stunticons merge to create Menasor, and the military team of Combaticons merge to create Bruticus (who made my best of list last year).

However, before there were Stunticons, or Predacons, or Technobots, there were the Constructicons.  The Constructicons were first released in 1985 and they formed the original combiner: Devastator.kreo-devestator face

Being the first, the Devastator toy had a few issues that later Combiners didn’t have because Hasbro had worked out the kinks by then.  The biggest change in the construction was that there were 6 Constructicons instead of the teams of 5 that made up all of the later combiners.  There was Scrapper, Scavenger, Mix Master, and Bone Crusher who served as limbs, Long Haul as the lower torso and Hook as the upper body and head.  I owned them all as a kid and while I preferred some of them over others I really liked the whole team.  All 6 had unique looks, transformed into real world construction vehicles, and were given distinct personalities.  The problem with there being 6 figures and having two of them combine to make the torso was that it made the figure very unstable.  The Devestator toy of old could not take a hit to the chest otherwise he’d crumble apart.  The whole thing was very delicate.  Later combiner sets always consisted of one larger figure who formed the whole torso and 4 smaller figures which formed the limbs.  Hasbro also improved the mechanism that locked the  components together making combiners like Defensor and Computron much more stable and fun to play with.

1980 original

1980 original

One aspect of the Constructicons that I really liked was their unified color scheme.  They were all bright green and purple which maybe wasn’t the most realistic color choice but it looked cool. Later combiners all had mismatched colors and looked much more cobbled together.  The Constructicons could clearly be identified as a team even when they weren’t merged together.

When it comes to these Kre-O Combiners/Micro-Changers Hasbro has simplified things further.  Instead of 5 robots, each Combiner is made up of only 4.  I’m not sure why they did this.  Even if it is possible to make a decent combiner with only 4 figures (which apparently it is) it means that at least 1 key character is being omitted from each package and in Devestator’s case, 2.  I really wish Hasbro had worked it out so that all 5 figures were included in each of their combiner packs.  I would have been okay with them whittling down the Constucticons to a group of 5 but 4 is just two drastic.

On the plus side, Hasbro has been good about releasing the missing characters from these sets in individual blind packs.  Therefore, if you choose to display your Combiner teams as separate bots you won’t be missing anybody.  This Devastator combiner set included Mix Master, Scavenger, Scrapper, and Bonecrusher.  I bought Hook separately in a blind pack but I still need a Long Haul to have the whole gang.kreo-devestator shoot

Now let’s talk about this figure because it is awesome.  I have a few of these Micro-Changer sets and Devastator is by far my favorite.  He looks the most faithful to his original Generation 1 design.  I’m really impressed by how well  this figure is put together.  As I was building it I kept thinking “oh wow, that’s so cool.”  The old Devestator toy had hooks and cranes and smokestacks poking off of him in weird places because there was nowhere to hide them.  It would have been easy to make a tall green and purple block figure with minimal detail that still looked like Devastator but the designers have recreated so many of those little details like smokestacks and lights which really add to the authenticity of this figure.  This figure is also very well articulated and can be posed several different ways.

If there’s one element I don’t love it’s his hands.  Each hand consists of a mini figures legs so it looks as though Devastator  has claws or just two giant figures. It’s a small gripe and overall this is a really impressive little toy.  9 out of 10.kreo-devestator with bat

B.A.T. (Kre-O) 2013

Kreo-BAT fullG. I. JOE: KRE-O

The end of the year is quickly approaching which means my top 13 action figures of 2013 list will be posted soon.  I already have a multitude of contenders picked out which I need to whittle down over the next few days.  Of course I must leave a few slots open until the last minute just in case I get some epic action figures for Christmas (fingers crossed).  When the list gets posted I want to be able to provide links to reviews for each specific toy.  In order for that to work I must have reviews posted for all of the potential nominees.

It’s a no-brainer that at least one Kre-O figure will make my year end list.  Kre-O was probably my fastest growing collection in 2013.  I went from having none of them to having dozens of figures as well as a wide array of vehicles and play sets.  The Transformer figures are pretty neat but I absolutely love the G.I. Joe Kre-Os.  I’m a big fan of modern Joes figures but many collectors are not.  Modern figures are often criticized for being poorly constructed, poorly articulated, and hard to find.  Some people long for the glory days of the 80s when Joe figures were everywhere and when they were clearly toys meant to be played with as opposed to display pieces for collectors.  Well if you’re one of those people then you have got to pick up some Kre-Os. Kreo-BAT parts

The G.I. Joe Kre-Os harken back to the 80s toys in a way that the modern style Joe figures don’t.  As an adult collector I’m fine with the new figures being primarily display pieces but there’s no denying that there’s a “fun” factor missing.  That’s not the case with Kre-Os; they ooze fun.

Not only are they super cute but the buildable nature of them force an old collectors like me to actually play with their toys, at least long enough to assemble the damn things.  A figure like the BAT I’m reviewing here today only takes a matter of seconds to build but some of the larger sets can take hours.

The B.A.T., or Battle Android Trooper, was available in wave 2 of the blind pack singles. I’m not a huge fan of this blind packaging trend.  Thankfully there are identifying numbers hidden on the Kre-O blind packs so those of us in the know are able to track down the specific figures we want without wasting a bunch of money on doubles.  However many of the characters available in the blind packs are army builder type troopers like the BAT so ending up with a few doubles wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Given the interchangeability of these toys I suppose getting doubles of even name characters could be seen as an opportunity for some easy customizing. Kreo-BAT flame

This past year has given us a diverse selection of Kre-O Joe characters from many different eras of the toy line.  Most of the toys were inspired by the 80s Real American Hero era but there were also new-sculpt characters, members of the 1960s Adventure Team, and even foreign characters such as the 2013 Joe Con exclusive Cobra Mortal.

It won’t be easy for me to pick a favorite Kre-O for my “best of” list but the BAT is a definite contender so I thought I’d better throw up a review of him in case he makes the final list. I’ve been a big fan of the BAT since the character was first released in 1986.  I’ve liked all of the various incarnations of the BAT over the years (there have been many) but there’s no beating the original.  The loose fitting black outfit, blank metal faceplate, yellow boots, interchangeable hands, and exposed inner-workings chest just made for a great looking figure.  I have previously sung the praises of the modern BAT figure which captured the classic look so well.  The Kre-O BAT isn’t as detailed as the modern figure but what it lacks in detail it makes up for in charm. Kreo-BAT compare

Like all Kre-O figures the BAT has a standard Lego-man style body.  All of the figures are pretty much identical except for their paint job and accessories.  The designers have been doing a stellar job of replicating the original figures using nothing but paint apps.  This little guy retains all of the elements that made the original BAT so cool without any sculpted detail.  The black, silver, and yellow still look great together.  The colors in the chest add some extra flair.  BAT has a backpack where his extra hands can be stored. He has a chainsaw and a flamethrower hand plus a translucent flame accessory.  I would’ve taken some pictures of him with his alternate weapon hands attached but I had a hell of a time trying to pop his regular hands out of their sockets.

I highly recommend this figure.  I recommend this whole Kre-O line for that matter.  I had a ton of fun building my play sets and it’s nice to have these additional figures to populate them.  The price is right and they don’t take up much room to display.  8 out of 10.

BLIND MASTER v.1 (2013)

Joe-Blind master v1 fullG. I. JOE: RETALIATION

Today is a big day here at Mike’s Collection; it’s our 2 year anniversary.  I started this blog 2 years ago as a way to share my love of collecting action figures with the world.  My collecting has ramped up the past few years and it seemed a real shame to be buying so many awesome new figures only to open them up, stick them on a shelf and be done with it.  Most of my friends aren’t into toy collecting so I had no one to share my joy with.  I was also suffering from writer’s block at the time and my screenplay had come to a standstill.  I thought starting a daily blog reviewing action figures would get my creative juices flowing and provide me with an opportunity to show off my collection to other people who were passionate about these little plastic men.  I would say that’s it’s been a rousing success.  I’ve since completed 2 screenplays, started a novel and have reviewed more than 500 action figures.  The first year I managed to maintain my pace of a review a day but things have slowed this second year.  At times I admit this blog can feel like a chore but I force myself to get back to it every few days if I catch myself slacking.  I’ve only scratched the surface of my collection so you can count on many more reviews from me in the future so please keep visiting the site.  I appreciate all the comments and I encourage you to keep leaving them.Joe-Blind master v1 face

I had planned on reviewing something special for this “event” but unfortunately I don’t really have time to pick out something and snap the necessary pictures.  Anchor Man 2 debuts tonight and Vanessa and I are heading out shortly to see it and grab dinner.  I fear that if I wait until after the movie to write a review  it might not get posted until after midnight and it’s important to me to post something today on the actual anniversary.  So I’ve opted to review the Blind Master as he was slated to be reviewed in the next few days anyway.  I already have the pictures taken so it’s a review that I should be able to get posted fairly quickly before heading out for the evening.  Besides, all of my toys are special in their own way.  This figure may not have flashing lights or electronic sounds but it’s s till a damn cool figure.  The first figure I ever reviewed on this site was nothing special either; Kobra Khan from the 2002 Master’s of the Universe line.  I just randomly picked him from my shelf and started writing. Joe-Blind master v1 cane

Those early reviews consisted of only one picture that I would swipe from the internet.  I didn’t even have my own camera at the time.  Vanessa bought me one for my birthday about a month after I started this blog and I’ve been subjecting you to my horrible photography ever since.

So let’s talk about the Blind Master.  He is one of several members of the fictional Arashikage ninja clan from the G.I. Joe mythology.  Readers of Marvel’s 1980s Joe comic first learned of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow’s shared origin in issue 26.  It was hinted at in the famous silent issue (issue 21) when it was revealed that they both had the same forearm tattoo.  Issue 26 introduced the Hard Master and the Soft Master who ran the dojo where Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow got their ninja training.  We learned that Zartan killed the Hard Master and that Storm Shadow actually joined Cobra not because he was a bad guy but to find his master’s killer. Joe-Blind master v1 hat

The Blind Master wasn’t introduced until issue 59.  He was running his own dojo in America where he was training Storm Shadow’s cousin Jinx.  He too was later murdered by Zartan.

The various masters all served a purpose in the comic books but they weren’t featured in the cartoon series and ultimately didn’t have major roles to play in the 80s mythology.  However the Arashikage clan has been given the spotlight once again in both the comics published by IDW and the G.I. Joe movies.

The first G.I. Joe movie, Rise of Cobra, altered Snake Eyes and Storm Shadows origin slightly from the comic book version.  The pair met and trained at the dojo as children as opposed to young men, they were portrayed as straight up rivals instead of friends, and they made it seem that Storm Shadow clearly murdered the Hard Master himself in a fit of jealousy.  The makers of the second film tried their best to clean up the inconsistencies and streamline the movie origin with the comic origin.  I’m sure the revelation that it was actually Zartan who killed the Hard Master was slightly confusing to film goers who weren’t familiar with the comic story as it seemed kind of shoe horned into the film. The theatrical cut of Retaliation suffered a fair bit from trying to squeeze too much story into a short amount of time.Joe-Blind master v1 mask

The extended cut expanded on the ninja story line quite a bit giving both Jinx and the Blind Master more to do.  If you’ve only seen the theatrical cut I would understand if you thought Rza sucked and seemed miscast but I encourage you to watch the extended version.  Rza is still cheesy but his dialogue is at least spoken by him on screen instead of  being used as voiceover only.  I actually really liked Rza’s choice to go over the top.  Clearly he was emulating those old Kung-Fu movies that he and the other members of the Wu-Tang Clan are known to be so fond of.  I kind of loved his portrayal of the Blind Master and enjoy it more with each subsequent viewing. Joe-Blind master back

This figure is the first ever Blind Master figure and it is awesome.  The likeness is astounding. I think it looks absolutely great.  I love the grayed out pupils, the scar across the face, and the thick beard.  The figure’s articulation is limited by his jacket but he isn’t the kind of character that needs to do much moving around; he remained rather rigid in the film.  The body is made up of existing parts but it looks great and makes for a cohesive new figure.

The toy really shines in the accessory department.  He’s got a bow staff with a secret blade inside, a mask, a bladed circle thing on a string, a sword, and a really cool hat.  The hat has multiple hidden blades that can be extended and it can be used as a throwing weapon or a shield.  These accessories were not seen in the film but they’re straight out of a 70s kung-fu flick.  I wish I could say more but I gotta go check out some Anchor Man 2.  Thanks for reading.  9 out of 10.Joe-Blind master v1 shield

NIGHT VIPER v.4 (2013)

Joe-Night Viper v4 fullG. I. JOE

The 4th and final wave of G.I. Joe Retaliation toys consists of a mere 3 figures, possibly the smallest wave ever.  It was pretty disappointing to see the Joe toy line fizzle out out retail despite the movie doing quite well at the box office.  My hope is that Hasbro has something big up it’s sleeve for 2014.  Seeing as a third movie has already been green lit (green lighted?) it seems silly to not capitalize on the brand’s current high profile with the general public.  The 2014 New York Toy Fair is coming up soon so fingers crossed for some big announcements then.  In the meantime let’s enjoy the last few figures that 2013 has to offer.  In my last post I reviewed wave 4’s Jinx.  For this post we’ll be looking at wave 4’s updated Night Viper.Joe-Night viper v4 visor

The original Night Viper was released in 1989.  That was the first year since the the brand began in ’82 that my brother Doug and I did not seek out all of the carded figures.  We had  been completists up to that point meaning we collected every Joe figure that was released.  Even if a figure sucked (Hardball comes to mind) one of us was obligated to buy him and add the character to our roster even if he was destined to never be more than cannon fodder.  In ’89 I was 11 and Doug was 13 and we were developing interests beyond toys.  Owning every single figure no longer seemed essential so we never added ’89 figures like Frag Viper and Recoil to our ranks. Not to say we had completely outgrown G.I. Joe by then; some of the 1989 figures even became favorites of ours.  Heat Viper was the front runner for me that year and for Doug it was Night Viper.Joe-Night viper v4 unmasked

In 1987 Doug and I both acquired awesome new Cobra vehicle drivers.  For me it was Ice Viper and for Doug it was Worms.  Even though both were intended to be nameless troopers Doug and I latched onto them and made them individual “name” characters in our Cobra hierarchy.  They were a two-man wrecking crew.  Ice Viper and Worms were the biggest bad asses in our Cobra army.  Each of them was able to defeat entire battalions of Joes on their own.  When we got Heat Viper and Night Viper in 1989 we utilized them in a similar fashion.  They were individual characters instead of troopers but instead of being total bad asses they were slacker wanna-bes.  They usually hung back during battles while guys like Ice Viper and Worms did the heavy lifting.  I never really saw them as bad guys per se, just opportunists.  Sadly Heat Viper has yet to get a modern-style figure but at least Night Viper is finally getting his due.Joe-Night viper v4 rifle

There was only ever the one version of Night Viper released during the vintage Real American Hero years.  He was revisited twice during the new sculpt era but neither of those versions were easily attainable.  Version 2 was a Collector’s Club exclusive available solely through their website in 2006 and version 3 was another website exclusive released in 2008.

This 4th version should be a little easier to track down than the last two because it’s a retail release, at least it’s supposed to be.  As I mentioned in my Jinx review Retaliation figures beyond wave 1 have been near impossible to find in my area so I’ve had to make all of my purchases online.

Hasbro took their sweet time getting around to releasing a modern era Night Viper but this figure was worth the wait, it’s awesome.  I’m sure he’s constructed almost entirely of pre-existing parts but the designers have done a very good of replicating the look of the original 1989 figure.  First off the colors look great.  That rich forrest green with black highlights has never looked better, but the few flashes of gold and yellow help to break up the mostly dark figure.Joe-Night Viper v4 face

Secondly I want to talk about the sculpt and the removable webgear.  The original Night Viper had a lot going on from the padded legs to the sheathed knives and the shoulder pads.  This version is even busier with knives, and pistols, and satchels, and padding, and flashlights and more, yet it looks great and doesn’t overload the figure.  I wish the pants were more reminiscent of the original’s trademark padded legs but the lower legs Hasbro used here does a pretty good job of replicating the look.  The head is the same one we saw previously on 2010’s Jungle Viper but you can’t even tell after you put on Night Viper’s brand new helmet piece. The helmet is what really makes this figure.  It has the same angular design as the original and has the same adjustable visor.  He looks great with his Visor up but he looks absolutely sick with his visor down.  The ridiculously long telescope thing is so weird and alien looking that it’s just awesome.  I think it looks even better than the original’s because this one has a two-toned paint job.Joe-Night Viper v4 back

For accessories Night Viper comes with a pistol, a knife, a flashlight, a backpack, and a satchel all of which can be stored on his person.  He also has the 3 part helmet, a display stand and 3 assault rifles.  One of his guns is even painted black and green which is extremely rare for a Joe to have painted accessories.  This figure kicks so much ass.  However I do have a couple of gripes. All of the wave 4 figures have really crappy shallow hands and they don’t hold onto anything very well which is frustrating considering how many cool accessories they have.  The other issue is that my Night Viper has extremely shallow peg holes in his feet; it’s like they forgot to punch them at the factory.  This is probably an isolated incident but it’s annoying because his stand barely holds him in place. Those issues aside, great figure. 9 out of 10Joe-Night Viper v4 machine gun

JINX v.7 (2013)

Joe_jinx v7 fullG. I. JOE : RETALIATION

For a year in which a live-action G.I. Joe movie was released (an excellent one at that) Hasbro’s Joe figure output has been pretty abysmal. The movie is based on a toy line for god sake and Hasbro didn’t seem to think they needed to put out any toys based on the film.  Sure, there were a few but good luck finding them at retail.  I understand that things got a little screwed up when the film’s release date got pushed back nearly a year but if anything you’d think that would’ve given Hasbro more time to tool up more figures.  In my area the only Joe toys that can be found at retail is Retaliation wave 1 ; the same figures that have been available for a year and a half.  I had to buy waves 2, 3, and 4 online.  It’s a real shame too because there have been some excellent figures included in those later waves which I’m sure would’ve garnered attention from kids and adult collector’s alike.  Wave 4 is the final wave of Retaliation based toys and it consists of only 3 figures.  Hasbro could have easily opted to cancel this final wave completely given the lack of support from retailers but thankfully they didn’t because all 3 figures are fantastic.  I ordered wave 4 from BigBadToyStore quite some time ago but it’s been sitting in my “pile of loot” waiting to be shipped.  BBTS offers the pile of loot service in case you choose to stock up multiple purchases and have them shipped out together to save on shipping charges.  I’ve been anxiously awaiting BBTS to stock something else of interest to me so that I could bundle it with wave 4 for shipping. Their Black Friday sale finally gave me an opportunity to scoop up a few things so that my pile of loot was large enough that the shipping charges leveled out to a price I was comfortable with.  The package arrived on Friday.  Some of the stuff went directly under the tree but I couldn’t resist opening the Joes as I’ve been waiting patiently for them for months. Joe-Jinx v7 face

I was pretty torn when it came to deciding which figure to review first.  All 3 are great for unique reasons.  I ultimately decided to review Jinx but you can expect Night Viper and Blind Master reviews very soon.

Growing up I was a huge fan of Jinx.  I tended to like all of the female characters but Zarana and Jinx most of all.  The original Jinx figure was released in 1987. She was the cousin of Storm Shadow and she was decked out from head to toe in red, including a full face mask . When her face was revealed in the G.I. Joe animated movie I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed.  The short spiky black hair isn’t how I imagined her to look under that mask.  However, I loved her attitude in the movie which solidified her as a strong character in my mind. This was no damsel in distress. Jinx was one of those Joes who never got killed when I played.  She was always one of the last soldiers standing.Joe-Jinx v7 kick

When the G.I. Joe brand was revived in 2002 Jinx was one of the characters I was most looking forward to getting a new version of. It took a couple of years but a “new sculpt” Jinx was released in 2004.  I had mixed feelings about that figure.  Her look and been completely revamped.  She had a long black ponytail, a red blindfold, and a skirted black and red outfit with white bandages on her shins and forearms.  It wasn’t a bad look but it was too far removed from the Jinx I grew up with for my liking.

With the dawn of the modern era in 2007 I had my fingers crossed for a new version of Jinx in her classic outfit.  However the years came and went and no Jinx figure was ever released. Luckily the Collector’s Club finally came through where Hasbro had failed me and announced that there would be a Jinx figure included in their first ever Figure Subscription Service (FSS) in 2012.  The FSS Jinx was pretty cool but her design was based on the new-sculpt look as opposed to the classic red ninja outfit I had been hoping for.  Regardless of her outfit, that Jinx figure was the main reason I signed up for the FSS.  The Club ran into some issues launching the FSS and the shipments were delayed for several months.  During that time it was announced that Jinx would appear in the upcoming live-action Joe sequel and that a classic red pajama version ( and a white pajama unmasked variant) would be released as 2012 San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) exclusives.  Suddenly everything was coming up Jinx.Joe-Jinx v7 back

That SDCC Jinx was everything I’d been hoping for.  Classic outfit, great sculpt, great paint, and great accessories.  The only problem I had with her was that she was an SDCC exclusive and I’ve kept my SDCC exclusives from the past few years sealed in the packages.  I was very tempted to open Jinx as my Joe shelf badly needed her but the FSS version arrived in the mail around the same time and that was the one I ultimately decided to open for display; that way my SDCC exclusive collection could remain carded. Still, it was kind of a shame to leave that excellent masked Jinx figure on her card.

Luckily it wasn’t long before Hasbro revealed that they would be releasing a repainted version of the SDCC Jinx in their Retaliation line; and here she is.  Jinx didn’t get to do a whole lot in the theatrical cut of Retaliation but if check out the extended cut her story line is probably the one that benefits the most from the added footage.  I though Elodie Yung was a fine Jinx and I hope we get to see more of her in the 3rd film. Elodie wore multiple outfits in Retaliation but probably her most memorable was the yellow outfit from the mountain kidnap scene so understandably that was the outfit Hasbro went with.  I assume they put her in yellow during that scene so that she wouldn’t be confused for one of the many other red ninjas zipping around. I liked the yellow.  It was a drastic change from her classic red outfit but it had a cool Kill Bill/Bruce Lee vibe to it and besides, Jinx had a chance to wear red during the training scenes. Joe-Jinx v7 movie

This figure retains all of the elements I loved about it the first time around.  It’s cool and feminine.  The only thing that’s changed about the actual figure is the paint job.  Hasbro has done an excellent job at recreating the look of her mountain climbing outfit.  It’s not 100% screen accurate but it’s certainly a close enough approximation.  If you scrutinize this figure closely you can tell that the paint job doesn’t match up to the sculpt.  There are some unpainted seams and her belt is crooked which are carry-overs from the mold original’s purpose to recreate Jinx’s loose fitting ninja pajamas from the 80s.  I find that to be a minor issue though.  Overall I think the paint looks great and it hides the seams well.  My only complaint about the figure is that he hands don’t grip her weapons very well.

Speaking of weapons Jinx has a lot of them.  She has a backpack which holds her two swords,  2 sais, 2 axes, her classic staff, some brass knuckle thingies,  nunchuks , and a rope sliding contraption that allows you to recreate the mountain scene.  It’s a ton of stuff that really add a lot of play value to this figure if you’re lucky enough to find one.  This is an awesome figure and best of all it gives fans who couldn’t afford the SDCC version a chance to own a convention exclusive at a reasonable price.  9 out of 10.Joe-Jinx v7 weapons

 

RHINO (2013)

Marv-MU Rhino fullMARVEL UNIVERSE

Spider-Man’s been my favorite super hero for as long as I can remember.  Even before I starting collecting comic books at eight years old I thought Spider-Man was the best.  A big part of Spidey’s appeal is his rogues gallery.  Batman is the only other super hero that even comes close to having as many cool villains as Spider-Man.  Most of Spidey’s core villains were created by Stan Lee back in the 60s and have stood the test of time. But I have a confession to make.  I never cared much for some of the most classic Spider-Man villains.  Green Goblin was always my favorite.  Shocker, Mysterio, Lizard, Scorpion, Electro…all great.  Doctor Octopus, Sandman, Vulture…never really did it for me.  I didn’t mind reading stories featuring those villains but I didn’t exactly think they were cool characters.  The Rhino fell into the latter category for me as well.  He was a big dumb brute in a fairly ridiculous Rhinoceros outfit that looked like a onesie made out of animal hide. He would charge at Spidey, Spidey would leap out of the way, and that was about it; he was a one trick rhino.Marv-MU Rhino flex

A few years ago there was a story written where Rhino became super smart and a lot of people loved it.  It was a decent read but it didn’t necessarily make me care for the Rhino any more than I had before.  In a more recent story the Rhino, Russian thug Aleksei  Sytsevich, gave up his life of crime for a woman and the tale actually did tug at my heart strings a little.  Especially when some new guy in a rhino outfit shows up and kills Alexsei’s woman.  Alexsei is so enraged that he puts his Rhino costume back on and kills the new poseur. Alexsei’s rehabilitation was short lived as after that he became a member of Doctor Octopus’s Sinister Six.Marv-MU Rhino clash

I was intrigued when I found out that the Rhino would be featured in the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man 2.  Maybe this would be the story that finally turned me into a big Rhino fan.  Unfortunately everything I’ve seen about the film thus far has been discouraging.  Paul Giamatti? Really?  He’s an excellent actor (have you seen American Splendor?) but he hardly seems like a good choice to play the Rhino.  And just recently images of Paul “in costume” have been released.  He looks like some weird 4-legged robot and I’m just not feeling it.rhino-marvel-comics

This isn’t a movie-Rhino figure though, this is a comic Rhino in his classic onesie.  It was released in the same wave of Marvel Universe figures that gave us Mysterio and Elektra earlier this year.  When I found the wave in stores I grabbed Mysterio but intended to leave Rhino behind. Vanessa picked him up and said “Oh he’s cool.  Why don’t you get him?”  I told her that I’m not a big Rhino fan and that I already had a Rhino figure in the 3 3/4″ scale at home.  The figure I was referring to was released a couple years ago in the MU compatible Spider-Man toy line.  That figure featured Rhino in his “ultimate” outfit. The Ultimate version of Rhino had a few extra mechanical enhancements and some additional armor, such as shoulder pads and wrist guards, and I thought it was more interesting to look at than this classic version (which is rare for me as I amost always prefer the original).  As far as I was concerned one Rhino was plenty.  But Vanessa insisted that I should get him and I figured what the hell, it’s ten bucks.Marv-MU Rhino compare

I’m glad I picked this figure up.  Not only is it a great looking classic Rhino but it’s also way better than the Ultimate Rhino I had already.  I didn’t realize how much better until I got this one home and compared them.  This guy is bigger, better sculpted, more articulated, and he just plain looks more like the Rhino I grew up with.  He reeks of 60s Spider-Man comics and that’s a good thing.  I’m almost always disappointed with skinny MU figures but the bulky ones almost always impress and Rhino follows that trend.  7 out of 10.

 

COBRA C.L.A.W.S. v.6 (2004)

Joe-CLAWS v6 fullG. I. JOE

The new sculpt years of G.I. Joe from 2002- 2006 either get hated on or completely ignored by a lot of Joe collectors.  I understand why as there were multiple things wrong with many of the figures released during that time but I personally have a big soft spot that era of Joe toys, especially the very first wave.  In my review of Neo-Viper v.1 I talked about how excited I was when Toyfare magazine first previewed the figures from upcoming relaunch of G.I. Joe.  I had lost interest in the brand in the early 90s when it was bogged down with neon ninjas but I never stopped loving the characters I grew up with; if anything I grew to love them more as I got older and nostalgia kicked in.  I was collecting mostly Marvel figures in the 90s because the 80s properties I was nostalgic for were dead in the water.  There were no G.I. Joes, G1 Transformers or He-Man figures for me to waste my money on back then.  Dark times indeed.

That issue of Toyfare  had me giddy with their announcement that G.I. Joe was coming back to toy store shelves.  The article featured unpainted prototypes of the upcoming figures.  There were many familiar faces such as Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Duke, and Cobra Commander but there were also new characters when it came to Cobra’s rank and file troopers.  Cobra’s new army consisted of Neo-Vipers for infantry instead of blue shirts, Morays for frogmen instead of EELS, and a brand new heavy weapons trooper called C.L.A.W.S. (Combat Light Armored Weapons Specialist).

I loved the designs of all of the new troopers.  None of them have been revisited in the modern era yet but I have my fingers crossed that we’ll see new versions of all 3 of them at some point in the future.  The original 2002 Cobra CLAWS had a great design.  I loved the evil looking mask  which recalls Darth Vader and Bane.  And I like all of the sculpted details like the multiple straps and collar.  Unfortunately it was poorly executed.  First off all of the figures from that first wave had the much maligned T-crotch.  Hasbro had decided to do away with the rubber O-ring that held 80s Joe figures together and gave them their unique flexibility. The O-ring was an often copied feature of G.I. Joe which elevated the brand above other toy lines of the time like the uber-stiff Star Wars figures. I’m not sure why Hasbro decided to replace the O-ring with the Star Wars-esque T-crotch in 2002 but I suspect figures were cheaper to produce without it.  Also, the O-rings deteriorated over time which is why I have so many half-figures in my vintage Joe bin.  Most fans hated the T-crotch and Hasbro rectified the situation quickly.  This version of CLAWS, the sixth, has the same upper half as the 2002 original but he has the improved O-ring style construction.Joe-CLAWS v6 with neo

I didn’t like the T-crotch because it limited articulation but that wasn’t my biggest problem with the original CLAWS.  I hated how buff he looked from the waist up and how scrawny he was from the waist down.  He was one of the biggest offenders of proportion issues from the new sculpt era of which there were many.  It’s as though the CLAWS troopers were recruited from the circus; like you had to be a midget/strong man to qualify.  This O-ring version doesn’t look quite as freakishly proportioned as the original but it still looks off to me.  His arms are just so beefy and his legs are too skinny.

One thing I loved about the original was the color scheme.  It was maroon with black and gold highlights.  It had an air of formal dress.  CLAWS would have fit right in with Destro’s Iron Grenadiers.  He was repainted black, blue, purple, then red before we finally arrived at this version.  I think version 6 is supposed to be dressed in an urban camo but I suppose you could also argue that he’s dressed for snow conditions.  I don’t like it.  I didn’t like this color scheme on Neo-Viper version 7 either.  All the formal elegance of the original is gone.  It’s not a horrible figure but it’s not great.  Most of the CLAWS repaints were pretty disappointing actually. This particular one is lacking in the accessory department as well. He has a pretty cool submachine gun that you can see in the pics but other than that all he came with was a rifle.  I would recommend you either pick up the original maroon one or the black version 2 figure and that you steer clear of all the others.  4 out of 10.

SKY SHADOW (2011)

Tf-Sky shadow fullTRANSFORMERS : GENERATIONS

Every now and again I’ll buy a Transformer toy based on a character I didn’t grow up with, like Hardshell, and once and a while I’ll buy a dramatically re-imagined Transformer toy baring the same name as a classic character from my youth, such as this Soundwave.  But about 90% of my Transformers collection is comprised of Generation 1 characters who debuted during the first few years of the brand in the mid 80s.  I had already started losing interest in Transformers, and all the new characters being introduced, around about the time that the animated Transformers movie came out in 1986.  Therefore even late Generation 1 toys, which carried on into the 90s, don’t interest me much.  1984-1986 were the golden years of Transformers.  The comics, cartoon, and toys all went downhill after that in my opinion.

When Hasbro started their Classics/Generations toyline in the mid 2000s I was on board from the get go because they were finally focusing on those early 80s characters again.  My shelves were soon full of new versions of Bumblebee, Sunstreaker, Starscream, and more.  Occasionally I’d come across a “Classics” branded figure of a character that I’d never heard of before.  I usually left those on the shelf.  I remember passing up a green repaint of Starscream named Acid Storm because I had no use for yet another seeker jet.  But the problem with leaving figures like that behind is that sure enough, months down the road, the character will appear in an issue of IDWs Transformer comic and then I’ll suddenly want the figure but by then it’s nowhere to be found.  I should’ve bought that Acid Storm back in 2008.TF-Sky shadow face

I almost passed on Darkmount when I first saw him on the pegs at Giant Robot Comics because I didn’t recognize the name.  I figured he was some new character being shoehorned into the Classics line.  Only upon closer inspection did I realize that he was intended to be Straxus from the Transformers comic book published by Marvel in the 80s.  Suddenly he was a must-have and I scooped him up.

I think it was during that same visit to GRC that I saw this Sky Shadow figure.  I didn’t recognize that name from my childhood either so I overlooked him at first; but after the Straxus revelation I took a second look at all the toys I had initially flipped past on the pegs.  On my second look Sky Shadow had an air of familiarity about him so I asked the shop owner Darryl ( a Transformers expert) about the character’s history and where I might know him from.  It turns out Sky Shadow is not a character I would have recognized from anywhere.  The original figure was only released in Japan.  But Darryl informed me that Sky Shadow was featured in the latest issue of IDWs comic.  That sold me.TF-Sky shadow toon

I love IDWs Transformers comics but I only collect them in softcover format so I’m always a few months behind in my reading.  I didn’t want to risk not buying Sky Shadow now only to read the aforementioned comic book months later and then wish I had bought it based on his awesome characterization in the book.  Besides, Sky Shadow reeked of generation 1 coolness.  He looked like he’d fit right in amongst classics G1 figures on my Transformers shelf.

By the time I actually read the story that Darryl had told me about I found out that Sky Shadow was only on the first couple of pages before being murdered by the Decepticon Justice Division who hunt down wayward Decepticons.  Hardly enough story for the character to wow me and make this figure a must-buy but I don’t regret purchasing him at all, it’s a really nice figure.TF-Sky shadow jet

This figure is mostly made up of the previously released Thunderwing figure but I never bought Thunderwing ( another regret) so this toy is all new to me.  It’s a nice change to get a Decepticon jet who isn’t just another repainted Starscream.  The design is quite unique so he really stands out from the other figures on the shelf.  I especially like his horned head sculpt.  He looks awesome when light pipes in through the back of his head giving his eyes that light-up effect.

Another great thing about this toy is the colors.  Surprisingly black Transformers are few and far between.  The black, red, and grey looks great together.  This figure’s got plenty of articulation points and can be posed in many ways and he has no trouble standing.  His jet mode is pretty cool too.  This is a very cool figure and it’s  a shame that the character is toast in the comics as I’d like to get to know him better. 8 out of 10.