Monthly Archives: March 2015

AXEHEAD (2014)

PR-Axehead fullPACIFIC RIM

There was some doubt for a while but a Pacific Rim sequel is officially happening in 2017 and I’m pretty excited by the prospect of it.  The first film had a lot of potential even if it fell short in a few places.  One area where the film really succeeded was in the creature designs.  The Kaiju featured a good blend of fantasy and believability; they were ugly and alien but inspired by real-world animals which grounded them in reality.  They shared similar characteristics so you could believe they all came from the same world and yet they all looked unique and had their own defining calling card.

My favorite Kaiju from the movie was Knifehead.  Unfortunately the wave 1 action figure of Knifehead is rather disappointing.  Thankfully, Neca improved their figure design significantly by the time they got around to my favorite Pacific Rim toy to date, wave 4’s Scunner.  In between the release of those two figures was wave 3’s Trespasser.PR-Axehead box

Trespasser was the first of Neca’s new and improved Kaiju.  It was bigger, more articulated, and featured a more elaborate paint job than the wave 1 and 2 figures.  I read on another blog that the reason for the change in size and style is because the toyline was originally going to be sold in Walmart stores but that deal fell through and Neca saw that as an opportunity to do the figures how they originally wanted to.  I don’t know if that’s true but I’m happy about the shift in direction whatever the reason may be.  Both Trespasser and Scunner are awesome figures, as is the wave 3 re-release of Knifehead; a figure I haven’t picked up yet.  Neca had really hit their stride with this line and I was  excited to see which Kaiju they would tackle next.

PR-Axehead face

I was rather surprised and disappointed when it was announced that the next Kaiju figure would be a repaint of Trespasser named Axehead.  It seemed like a good way to lose momentum on the hot selling toyline. I planned on skipping the underwhelming Axehead. I was much more excited when Neca announced they’d follow up Axehead with their largest Kaiju figure to date, the 18″ Otachi.

Now I’d love to get the Otachi figure but it retails online for around $70 which is more than double the price of previous figures.  Plus, there is speculation that Neca will release a winged version of Otachi down the road.  I only need 1 Otachi in my collection and if its going to cost me $70 I’d rather it be the winged version so I opted to wait for Neca’s next announcement before splurging.  Since I put the Otachi purchase on the backburner and I was still looking to scratch my Kaiju itch, I decided to give Axehead a second look.  I was  intrigued by the fact that he was being marketed as a brand new character.  Had this figure just been released as Trespasser version 2 I surely wouldn’t have bought it but new characters are always tempting.PR-Axehead compare

After some internal debate I came to the conclusion that the paint job was different enough to warrant picking him up after all.  Where Trespasser and the other Kaiju have been mostly grey with a few colorful highlights Axehead is colorful throughout.  It’s almost hard to tell if he’s black with a green wash or green with a black wash but I’m leaning more towards the former.  I think the figure was molded in the same gray plastic as the others but a green paint wash was liberally applied so that his skin tone is quite a bit different.  His underbelly has an aqua blue hue and instead of stark lines of color as we’ve seen in the past Axehead has yellow dots dabbed on his chest neck and shoulders.  It’s an odd paint deco but all-in-all it works pretty well.

PR-Axehead hands

Paint job aside I was surprised to discover that this wasn’t just a straight repaint of Trespasser.  There are actually several differences in the figure  construction:

1. Axehead has boney spiked protrusions on his knees that Trespasser doesn’t;

2.  Axehead only has 3 fingers on his small secondary arms while Trespasser has 4;

3. Axehead has the same hands as Scunner which look like they’d be useful for digging or swimming while Trespasser’s hands are open claws more equipped for fighting;PR-Axehead heads

4. Axehead has a much smaller shell on his back and one of the spiky protrusions is battle damaged;

5. And the heads are even different.

The heads look the same at a glance but on closer inspection you can see a number of subtle differences such as in the ridges over the eyes and in the structure of the axe.  Axehead is based on this creature’s concept designs where as Trespasser is based on the final product that appeared on screen.  It’s kind of a cool idea and I actually wouldn’t mind getting a few more concept figures.

broken jaw

broken jaw

 

I’m quite happy with Axehead (other than the fact that mine arrived with an unhinged jaw which refuses to snap back into place) and would definitely recommend you snag one if you don’t already have Trespasser.  Axehead isn’t essential if you do already own the Trespasser figure but there are enough differences between the two to distinguish them from one another if you are considering adding an extra monster to your shelf.  8 out of 10.PR-Axehead shells

 

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HIT & RUN v.4 (2015)

Joe-Hit v4 fullG. I. JOE: FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE 3.0

In my last review I looked at Alpine v.6. The Joe team’s primary mountain trooper came in the 4th shipment from the G.I. Joe Collector Club’s third Figure Subscription Service (FSS).  The figures ship out 2 at a time each month and Alpine’s shipping buddy was none other than the joe team’s secondary mountain trooper, Hit & Run.

The first Hit & Run figure was released in 1988 and it was a good one.  He had cool climbing accessories and a really unique paint job that featured green skin with black tiger stripes.  But no, he isn’t a half-man half-tiger character which is what Vanessa asked me when I showed her this figure.  Hit & Run just happens to take camouflage seriously.  I really liked that original figure but I never owned it, my brother Doug did.Joe-Hit v4 carded

I didn’t get my first Hit & Run figure until version 2 was released 21 years later in 2009.  The 2009 figure was included in a 7-pack called “Assault on Cobra Island”  which was the last gasp of the 25th anniversary line before the brand transitioned into the movie-based Rise of Cobra toyline.  I thought that Hit & Run was one of the better figures in the pack despite being made-up completely of re-used parts including Airborne’s head.  I still think that figure holds up pretty well so I saw no need for an updated version but some people did.

Hasbro first whetted Hit & Run fans’ appetite for a new & improved modern-era version of the character when they showed an unproduced prototype in a case of concept figures at the 2012 Joe Convention.  The case was full of cool new characters and much needed updates of existing characters but Hasbro made no promises that any of them would ever see the light of day.

Joe-Hit v4 back

Hasbro did eventually release a few of them, like Heat-Viper, in the tail-end of 2014 as part of their 50th anniversary line.  One of the concept case figures they haven’t produced is Hit & Run.

The Collector’s Club tried to appease fans desperate for an updated Hit & Run by including a Night Force version of him in their 2013 15-figure Convention Set.  It seemed like an odd choice because the other 5 Joes from the set were established as Night Force member in the late 90s but Hit & Run had never previously been associated with the nocturnal sub-team.  The Con Set figure was constructed well enough but the Club opted to not give him his signature face paint which I think was a bad idea.  Why remove a figure’s most iconic characteristic?  Especially when it made so much sense for him to keep it.  Maybe if it was an arctic or aquatic version of the character I would understand but this was a NIGHT OPS version.  Some black and grey camo would’ve been awesome but the Club dropped the ball on that one. I was so underwhelmed by that figure that I haven’t bothered to review it yet.Joe-Hit v4 climb

Not long after the Convention Set came out the Club announced that they’d be including re-decoed versions of those Night Force figures in their upcoming FSS 3.0, this time painted in classic v.1 colors.  When the first images of the upcoming FSS Hit & Run were revealed fans were shocked to see even the Club’s 1988-inspired version, in all it’s green and black striped glory, was still devoid of the iconic face paint.  This was an unforgivable faux pas.  Fans cried foul and surprisingly the Club listened.  The result is this figure.

Hit & Run version 4 is the exact same build as 2013’s version 3 but it has a spiffy vintage paint job. It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do because I think this figure is WAY better than it’s predecessor.  I couldn’t appreciate this figure in the Night Force colors but now I see what a well put together toy this is.  All of the parts used to build it are from 2011 or later and in general those parts are far superior to those used from 2007-2009; when Hasbro was still working out the kinks of the modern construction.  I still like my 2009 Hit & Run but it looks pretty meek when standing next to this figure.  This Hit & Run is bigger, buffer, grittier, and more detailed.  The costume is loaded with pouches, wrinkles and removable weapons.  Even the helmet and goggles are light years better than the ones from 2009.Joe-Hit v4 stubble

Hit & Run got  his very own unique head sculpt in 2013.  It was nice that he was no longer just a green clone of Airborne but I didn’t really like the 2013 head.  The shape seemed off and it reminded me of Josh Brolin.  But I think that same head  looks great now that its been painted green and given some stripes.  The best thing about the green face paint is that it looks like it’s actual green face paint.  The 1988 and 2009 versions of Hit & Run basically had green skin; the head and bare arms were molded in green plastic.  He could’ve been mistaken for a skinny relative of the Hulk.  This new version’s head and arms  was molded in flesh colored plastic and then the green paint was lightly applied so the flesh tone shows through.  It looks much more realistic and pretty damn cool.

Another thing I like about this paint job is the stubble on his face.  He’s got a bunch of black dots peppering the lower half of his face to give the impression that maybe he’s been out in the woods for a few days.  The dots are applied extremely uniformly which does not look very true to life (more like stubble from an old comic book when everything was colored with dots) but I still think it looks neat.  You really only notice the cartoonishness of it when you get up close.

2013 & 2015

2013 & 2015

For accessories Hit & Run has a display base, a helmet with removable goggles, 2 pistols and a knife that can be holstered on his body, a rifle, a pick axe, and a couple of grappling hooks with rope.

The Club surprises me yet again.  This figure rules.  9 out of 10.

2013, 2015, & 2009

2013, 2015, & 2009

ALPINE v.6 (2015)

Joe-Alpine v6 fullG. I. JOE: FIGURE SUBSCRITION SERVICE 3.0

This afternoon my 4th FSS 3.0 shipment arrived.  The Collector’s Club never tells us what order the figures are being shipped out in because they want it to be a surprise at the mailbox.  Most American club members seem to get their shipments within a couple of days of each other but I live in Eastern Canada so it takes about 2 weeks longer for mine to arrive.  Therefore the surprise is always spoiled for me by posts on the various Joe sites I visit regularly.  Approximately 2 weeks ago I found out which 2 figures would be included in the 4th shipment, Alpine and Hit & Run.

Based on the images I’d seen online both looked like they’d be decent figures but this was a duo I wasn’t too excited about.  I prefer to add new characters to my Joe ranks rather than constant reissues of characters I already have.  Of the 12 known figures included in the FSS 3.0 only half of them are new characters who hadn’t yet been released in the modern era, like Vypra and Slice.  The other 6 are updated versions of characters I  already own modern-era style figures of.   At least in the case of Spearhead, Repeater, Muskrat, and Psyche Out they were updated versions that put the characters in their iconic version 1 outfits.Joe-Alpine v6 carded

With Alpine and Hit & Run I already have modern-era figures of them in their iconic version 1 outfits.  The new FSS Alpine presents the character in his less well known new-sculpt era outfit and the new FSS Hit & Run is just an “improved” version of the Hit & Run we got in 2009, a figure which I was content with.  So neither of these 2015 updates were figures that I felt I really needed in my collection.  But as per usual the Club has left me pleasantly surprised.

The Hit & Run is quite nice but I’ll talk about him in a future post.  Today I’m gonna take a look at Alpine version 6.

The first Alpine figure was released in 1985.  He was the Joe team’s mountain trooper and he came with some pretty cool climbing gear.  He was featured heavily in the G.I. Joe cartoon so he quickly felt like an integral member of the team. I imagine he’s a favourite of many Joe fans.  I had the original figure and really enjoyed playing with him as he scaled the mountain that was my bunk bed.

Joe-Alpine v6 back

Alpine got a bit of a make over in 2004 when version 2 was released during the new-sculpt era.  The new-sculpt version traded in his jacket and goggles for shorts and a full beard.  I didn’t love the new look but I didn’t mind it.  It seemed a little too casual an outfit for combat but it wasn’t a bad figure.  My least favourite change was probably the color scheme.  He went from wearing sensible green and brown to garish yellow and red.  Hasbro must’ve agreed that the new colors weren’t working for him because they re-released the figure twice more that same year in variations of green and brown.

When the first modern-era version of Alpine was released in 2008 the figure was based on Mr. Pine’s original 1985 appearance: brown pants, white T-shirt, green jacket, goggles, moustache.  It was a fine update of the original so I would’ve been fine if we never got another Alpine after that.

2015 vs 2004

2015 vs 2004

 

Unfortunately that figure was pretty hard to find and many fans missed out on it.  So there was demand out there for another modern-era Alpine figure.  The Club answered the call and released this figure.

Alpine version 6 is based on Alpine version 3, one of the green and brown repaints of the yellow and red version 2.  However, the Club has made some good choices to make this figure more closely resemble the most iconic version of Alpine.  Instead of a full beard and a ball cap this version has a moustache and a hat with goggles.  I actually think it looks pretty great overall and when I compare it to the 2008 figure I liked so much I think I might prefer this one.

The full body (with the exception of the lower arms and hands) is borrowed from the 2013 Kwinn figure which works exceptionally well here.  It’s well detailed, well articulated and well proportioned.  The head is a brand new sculpted piece from Boss Fight Studios.  I was a little iffy on it at first but the head has grown on me over the past couple of hours.  I like that he’s smiling and there’s a ton of great sculpted detail in the hat.  The colors are classic Alpine and they compliment each other nicely.  Plus there are plenty of little paint apps throughout, such as the socks, watch, and shirt logo, which break-up the earth tones.Joe-Alpine v6 climb

For accessories Alpine v6 includes a display base, a pick axe, a backpack which holds the axe, a grappling hook with rope, and a couple of guns.  They’re all nice pieces and the guns even have painted stocks which is always appreciated.

The Club’s annual 15-figure Convention Set is going on sale soon and I’m not as thrilled with the contents as I have been in past years.  Skipping it has crossed my mind because those sets ain’t cheap.  But figures like this which surpass my expectations are the reason why I’m going to shell out my cash when the time comes.  9 out of 10.

2008 vs 2015

2008 vs 2015

 

MUSKRAT v.5 (2015)

Joe-Muskrat v5 fullG.I. JOE: FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE 3.0

The first modern-era Muskat figure was included in the Collector Club’s 2013 Convention Set. The theme of the set was Night Force so all 6 of the set’s Joe figures were wearing their darker Night Force colors.  I was glad to finally be getting updated versions of Muskrat, Spearhead and the others but I would’ve preferred modern updates of them in their classic outfits as opposed to their nocturnal sub-team attire.  I soon got my wish because it was only a year or so later that the Club announced they’d be including version 1 repaints of those Convention Set Night Force figures as part of their third figure subscription service.  Three of the scheduled six FSS 3.0 shipments have arrived thus far and of those repainted characters I’ve already received and reviewed Repeater, Psyche Out, and Spearhead.  Next up is Muskrat who came with Slice in the second shipment.Joe-Muskrat v5 carded

The first Muskrat was released in 1988 and he was described as the Joe team’s swamp fighter.  It was actually a specialty that made sense given how many of the Joe team’s enemies hang out in the swamps such as the Dreadnoks and Croc Master.  As practical as he may have been I simply wasn’t a big fan of Muskrat.  He fell into that category of indifference for me.  Maybe if I had owned the original figure instead of my brother I would’ve developed more of a fondness for the character.

The version 1 Muskrat was dressed all in green so he could blend into the murk and he carried a machete and a “swamp skimmer” boogie board with him to help him navigate through the swampy terrain.  His most iconic design feature was the floppy brimmed hat sculpted to his head.

In ’89 Muskrat version 1 got repainted in black and blue when he was added to the Night Force sub-team.  The 2013 Convention Set Muskrat was an homage to the ’89 Night Force version.  It was constructed using a Franken-Joed body with a brand new head sculpt and some new accessories.

Joe-Muskrat v5 backI suppose it was a decent update of Muskrat but I only gave the figure a 5 out of 10 in my 2013 review.  My problems with it were that I didn’t like the Night Force deco, the head sculpt didn’t say “Muskrat” to me, and I just don’t care much about the character in general.

This latest version (version 5) is the exact same build as the 2013 figure only it’s painted as an homage to the original 1988 green Muskrat.  It’s an improvement in my eyes because the colors are better but my issues with the head and the character remain.

I still find the character rather dull and that’s unlikely to change unless IDW starts putting a seriously cool spin on him in their comics like they did with Chuckles.  And the head sculpt is fine but it also comes across a little bland. Plus he’s too angry looking; I liked that the ’89 Muskrat looked so friendly.Joe-Muskrat v5 weapons

As for what works, the new paint deco is great.  I love the blueish green hue used on his pants, boots, vest and backpack.  It could almost be too much green but there are enough painted accessories throughout the figure to break the green up sufficiently.

Joe-Muskrat v5 trapped

 

This figure also has a leg up on it’s Night Force predecessor when it come to accessories.  Both versions have a hat, vest, display stand, shotgun, pistol with silencer, knife, and machete but this version also comes with a rifle, the Swamp Skimmer, and a bear trap.  I don’t know if a boogie board would really be of much use in a swamp but I’m glad to see it again.  This is Muskrat’s first time getting a steel trap accessory (I believe it first came with Pursuit of Cobra Recondo)  but it makes a lot of sense for him.  The trap is made using three separate pieces so it’s an impressive little add-on.

This is an okay figure and worth getting if you like Muskrat or are a completist like myself.  However the Night Force version was my least favorite figure of the 2013 Convention Set and this version is my least favorite FSS 3.0 offering so far.  6 out of 10.Joe-Muskrat v5 compare

 

THE SEANCE

UA-Seance fullUMBRELLA ACADEMY

The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite was 6-issue mini-series published by Dark Horse Comics in 2007.  It was followed by another mini-series, The Umbrella Academy: Dallas, in 2008.  Since then things have been pretty quite at the Academy.

I was initially drawn to the series because it was written by the lead singer of My Chemical Romance, Gerard Way (I’m a fan). I really enjoyed his writing on the series so I was disappointed that he didn’t produce any other comic work for a long time.  It wasn’t until 2013’s “The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys” that we got another Way penned series.  More recently he wrote a Spider-Man one-shot for Marvel.

Umbrella Academy was about a group of 7 super powered individuals who were raised together as adopted siblings.  Some went on to becomes heroes, others became villains, and one of them was dead before we even got there.  I remember I enjoyed both series’ and I lent them out to friends a fair bit back when they first came out.  However, its been quite a few years since I’ve read them myself so I confess the details of the stories are a bit fuzzy in my mind;  perhaps I’ll give them another read soon.UA-Seance back

As good as the writing was I think it was primarily Gabriel Ba’s art that made the book feel special.  If a more traditional styled comic book artist had drawn the series I don’t think I would hold it in nearly as high regard.  Gabriel’s art (and Dave Stewarts’s colors) were captured beautifully in a set of 6 PVC figures released by Dark Horse in 2009 (the dead sibling wasn’t included).  The figures came in a clear umbrella-topped dome which was a pretty neat piece on its own.  I have previously reviewed 2 figures from the set; the White Violin, and my favorite UA character, Space Boy.  Today I’m taking a look at The Seance.

The Seance was the most goth emo character in a world full of goth emo characters.  He had his hair swept down over one side of his face, he wore a black trench coat, he chain smoked cigarettes, he had a ghostly white complexion, and he was always moody.  He also had the words “Hello” and “Good-bye” tattooed on the palms of his hands; I can’t recall if there was any significance to that.  His super powers were the ability to levitate and talk to the dead so long as he didn’t have shoes on.

UA-Seance face

 

The Seance was not one of my favorite characters from the series however this figure is a very nice rendition of him.  The sculpting, and even more so the paint work on these UA figures really make them look like they just stepped off of the page.  I’ve seen lots of bad shadowing painted on figures but the shadowing on these toys is brilliant.  My over saturated camera shots don’t do the paint apps justice.UA-Seance package

 

 

I really like the pose chosen for this figure.  He’s standing with his shoulders back, a cigarette in hand, and his jacket flowing behind him.  It shows off all the good design elements of this character.  Unfortunately it also draws attention to what I would consider a major design flaw, that big white diaper he’s wearing.  I know it’s standard practice for super heroes to wear their underwear over their tights but these shorts are too big and too white for the Seance to pull this look off. Superman he is not.

There’s a lot to like here, its one of the nicer figures in the set but since I’m not a big fan of the character, and because he’s wearing a diaper, he loses some serious points.  5 out of 10.UA-Seance art

VYPRA v.4 (2015)

Joe-Vypra v4 fullG. I. JOE: FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE 3.0
Last year I did a pretty good job of reviewing all my Figure Subscription Service (FSS) G.I. Joes as they arrived in the mail. I’m lagging a little behind this year but I’m trying to get back up to speed before the next two figures show up. Thus far I’ve covered Psyche Out and Repeater from the first shipment, Slice from the second shipment, and Spearhead from the third. That just leaves Muskrat and this figure; Vypra.

The first Vypra figure was released in 1998 which was a weird time for G.I. Joe. The 3 ¾” Real American Hero (RAH) toy line that flourished in the 80s and hung in there during the early 90s  finally called it a day in 1994.  From there, the brand essentially stayed dead until the new sculpt revival of 2002. However, there were several blips on the G.I. Joe radar during those “dead” years. In 1995 Hasbro tried rebranding G.I. Joe as Sgt. Savage. One wave of figures was produced but the line quickly fizzled out. Later that year Hasbro released G.I. Joe Extreme which featured figures with a brand new scale and construction. Collectors and children alike ignored it so that line also faded into obscurity (although the Collector’s Club snuck an Extreme character into their inaugural FSS).Joe-Vypra v4 carded

1997/98 saw the release of a handful of Toys R Us exclusive figure 3-packs and vehicle sets to celebrate RAH’s 15th anniversary. All of the figures in those sets were constructed using repainted 80s molds. It was cool seeing vintage style Joes in toy stores again but there wasn’t much to get excited about since the line was nearly 100% repaints of toys I already owned.  I didn’t bother to pick up any of the 15th anniversary figures.Joe-Vypra v4 back

One of the 1998 vehicle sets was a repainted Cobra Stinger Jeep but instead of coming packaged with a Stinger Driver it came packaged with a brand new character named Vypra.  As per her file card, Vypra’s primary military speciality was driving the Jeep and her secondary military specialty was martial arts. It seemed like an odd choice to package a ninja as a vehicle driver but whatever.  One interesting thing to note about her file card is that it revealed her true name, a rarity for Cobra operatives.  Vypra’s real name is Ann A. Conda (groan).

Construction wise, Vypra was a Jinx v.1 figure from head to toe.  She even came packaged with all of Jinx’s accessories, two swords, a backpack to store them in, and a naganita.  Except instead of wearing red pajamas like Jinx,  Vypra was wearing black and blue.Joe-Vypra v4 swords

Second and third versions of Vypra were released in 2004 in a Toys R Us exclusive 6-pack titled Ninja Cobra Strike Team.  Again, the figures were complete repaints of Jinx v.1 but in an odd move both 2004 Vypras were wearing red, making them almost indistinguishable from Jinx.  The one thing that differentiated them from Jinx, and each other, was that each had a unique golden pattern painted on their chest.  The file card described them as twin sisters and members of the Arasikage Clan, the Clan that Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, and Jinx belong to.

With this most recent version of Vypra the Collector’s Club has dropped the red twin sister angle and used the black and blue 1998 Vypra as a reference point.  Vypra v.4 is a repaint of 2012’s Jinx v. 4 which makes sense since the 2012 Jinx is the modern update of the 1987 Jinx on which the original Vypra was based.Joe-Vypra v4 compare

Jinx is one of my favorite Joe characters and I thought Hasbro did a great job of updating her for the modern era with their 2012 San Diego Comic Con exclusive figure.  It pained me to keep that figure sealed on the blister card but I’ve opted to keep all my SDCC Joes carded.  At least the pain was alleviated when Hasbro re-released the figure, repainted in Yellow, as part of their Retaliation toy line the following year.  That figure I opened.

Because that Jinx figure is pretty great, Vypra is pretty great too.  The body is slender and feminine,  well articulated, and there’s some nice sculpting throughout.  One thing I’m happy about is that for the first time Vypra is not entirely a repainted Jinx figure.  The Club has swapped out Jinx’s ninja-sock -footed lower legs for a pair of combat boot wearing gams courtesy of Scarlet.  It’s a small change but it’s a nice nod to the fact that Vypra is not just a ninja but a combat driver as well.

Joe-Vypra v4 caseAccording to this Vypra’s file card she’s actually picked up a third military specialty; she is now the Cobra intelligence courier.  The new file card also says that she “tenaciously defends the secret of her background, using false histories and even deceptive attire to keep both friend and foe alike from discovering her true motives or the extent of her skills”.  That might help to explain away the Ann A. Conda alias, the 2004 red outfit, and the twin sister.  This chick is full of lies.

Vypra came with a display base, a pair of swords, a double sheath backpack to store them in, a gun, and a suitcase which houses a second gun and a computer.

I like this figure but I’m not wowed by it since it’s essentially a figure I have twice already; though it does look nice in black and blue.  What I do like is the character.  I’ve never owned a Vypra before and I’m always happy to add new “name” characters to my Cobra ranks.  I wish Vypra had a more unique look, like a new head, to separate her from Jinx but I can appreciate that the Club needs to save cash where it can and that this figure is true to the original Vypra which was a straight repaint of Jinx.  Besides, if they both came from the Arashikage Clan then it make sense that they’d wear the same outfit.  8 out of 10.Joe-Vypra v4 kick

FIREFLIGHT / FIREFLY (2015)

TF-Fireflight fullTRANSFORMERS: COMBINER WARS

Last week I picked up 3 of the Combiner Wars Aerialbots which merge to form Superion. If any part of that sentence doesn’t make sense to you perhaps you should first read my review of Alpha Bravo. In that review I provided all the exposition you’ll need to understand what I’m talking about in this review.

Since my brother Doug owned the original Aerialbot toys in the 80s I don’t have the same personal attachment to them that I do for the Protectobots or Constructicons which were combiner teams I owned. But if I had to pick a favorite Aerialbot it would probably have been Fireflight. The team consisted of one large Concorde style plane called Silverbolt (who I always thought looked kind of dorky in robot mode) and 4 smaller jets, one red (Fireflight), one black (Air Raid), one gray (Skydive), and one white (Slingshot).

1986 Fireflight

1986 Fireflight

Fireflight was the brightest and boldest of the crew and I suppose that was part of the reason why he was my favorite, but it also had to do with his face. When it comes to Transformers I usually prefer the ones who have more robotic looking faces, with visors and face plates, like Optimus Prime. The ones with more humanoid faces, with noses and mouths, like Megatron I find less appealing. Silverbolt, Slingshot, and Skydive all had humanoid faces so that left only Fireflight and Air Raid to choose from.

TF-Fireflight back

The original Transformers toys have a nostalgic charm about them but some of them were pretty crappy figures. Even as a little kid I knew when Hasbro was being cheap and selling me crap. The 80s Combiner figures left a lot to be desired. They were short and stubby, their legs were often locked together, and they barely had any articulation. Good luck trying to create a dynamic action pose for a figure that can’t bend at the knees or elbows or even turn his head. Sometimes their arms were little more than nubs protruding from their sides. Luckily Hasbro had Marvel Comics and Sunbow Animation helping them make their characters seem cool and thus desirable to children because sometimes the toys themselves just didn’t cut it. The clunky blocky nature of 80s Transformers toys like Fireflight is what prompted me to part ways with my collection as a young teen.

TF-Fireflight face

 

We’ve come a long way since then because now C-list appendage-forming Transfomers like Fireflight are getting made into awesome action figures like this one. This Fireflight, who is now called Firefly for what I assume are legal trademark reasons, is bigger and better than the original in every way. He’s a fully posable, nicely sculpted figure that any kid would be thrilled to have. This guy has ball-jointed limbs and joints so he can be posed in a squat, in a leap, and even break-dancing.TF-Fireflight squat

 

His jet mode looks pretty good too but as I’ve said before I buy these things for the robots not the vehicles. If you want a thorough review of his wing span and the accuracy of the landing gear or whatever you’ll have to look elsewhere.

All of the deluxe sized Aerialbots like Fireflight can be turned into either a leg or an arm when being combined to form Superion. I’ve opted to turn Fireflight and Alpha Bravo into legs for the time being so my Superion can at least stand.TF-Fireflight jet

Superion is shaping up to be super cool once completed but it seems a real crime that figures as great as this are relegated to being displayed as limbs. If I ever find the Aerialbots at a discounted price I will be buying doubles so they can be displayed in their individual glory.

Knowing that I’ll be getting Constructicons and Protectobots of this quality later in the year has me giddy with excitement. 9 out of 10.

TF-Firefly artTF-Fireflight superion

SLICE v.7 (2015)

Joe-Slice v7 fullG. I. JOE: FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE 3.0

Shortly after I stopped collecting G.I. Joe toys and comics as a kid the brand became overrun with ninjas. Ninjas had been a part of “The Real American Hero” almost since the beginning but they were just a small part; mostly focusing on the rivalry between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. I didn’t mind when a couple other ninjas were introduced into the toy line such as Jinx and the Night Creepers but by 1992 there was a whole sub-team of Ninjas on both sides of the Joe vs Cobra conflict. Even the comic book became ninja centric for a while and was even renamed G.I. Joe starring Snake Eyes and Ninja Force. It wasn’t the influx of neon ninjas alone that drove me away from G.I. Joe but they certainly didn’t help.

1992 version 1.  pic borrowed from yojoe.com

1992 version 1. pic borrowed from yojoe.com

Nowadays the ninjas don’t bother me so much and I think it has to do with the size of my collection. It seemed like I had a ton of Joe figures when I was a kid but realistically I probably only had about 50 of them in the shoebox I kept them in. My brother Doug had slightly more and together we had nearly the entire 80s collection. Back then, a sub-team comprised entirely of ninjas would have had a major impact on my soldier-to-ninja ratio and I liked that G.I. Joe was primarily a military toy line. If I wanted a team full of Ninjas I could play with my ninja turtles. Nowadays, as an adult collector, my modern-style G.I. Joe figure collection numbers in the hundreds so a handful of ninjas doesn’t have the same affect. I hope to see every character from the vintage line done in the modern style eventually so I say bring on the ninjas and let’s get them over with.

Joe-Slice v7 Dice

 

The first of the Ninja Force characters to sneak their way into the modern line was one of Cobra’s operatives, Dice. The Collector’s Club included him in their inaugural figure subscription service (FSS) 2 years ago. Dice was not a character I had any childhood attachment to but I was quite impressed with the Club’s take on him. The fact that his mask was removable was pretty sweet too. It seemed obvious to Joe fans that his partner-in-crime Slice would be included in the second FSS but to our surprise he was not. I didn’t mind his omission because Slice wasn’t a character I had any nostalgic ties to either and that freed up a slot for a potentially more desirable figure. Besides, I already had a suitable, though unofficial, modern-era Slice in my collection.

temporary Slice

temporary Slice

If I were to describe Slice I’d say he’s essentially a red ninja (which are abundant in the world of Joe) wearing a fencing mask. In a G.I. Joe: Retaliation branded 3-pack released in 2013 to coincide with the release of the second live-action Joe film, a removable silver fencing mask was included as an accessory to the red ninja in the pack. Clearly this was added so that fans could place it on one of their red ninja figures to create an instant Slice, which is exactly what I did. For the past couple of years my simple custom of Slice has been standing next to Dice on my Cobra Officer shelf and that was good enough for me.

When it was announced that Slice would be included in the third FSS my initial thought was “meh”. I supposed it would be good to have an official Slice to stand next to Dice and at least it would free up the red ninja stand-in who could now be displayed with the others on my henchmen shelf. When it was revealed that Slice would be getting a newly sculpted head by Boss Fight Studios I was actually disappointed. I love the work of BFS but the Club can only afford to hit them up for a couple of newly sculpted pieces for each FSS and it seemed a waste to use one of those slots for Slice when the fencing mask was already available for use.Joe-Slice v7 back

Now that I have Slice in hand I still don’t know if crafting him a new head was the absolute best use of the Club’s resources but it is a damn good head. From the neck down the Club used a red ninja figure just like I had done so the only difference in construction between this official Slice and my unofficial one is the new head.  But that lone new piece makes a world of difference.  The fine detail in the mesh faceplate is fantastic and I love the flowing ties in the back.

The other thing that really brings this figure to life is the new paint job. He’s molded in a vibrant red plastic which looks awesome and sets him apart from all the other red ninjas whose outfits are more crimson. The black star pattern on his outfit (which is straight from the original 1992 Slice figure) looks awesome and goes even further to differentiate Slice from the rest of the nameless ninja horde.

For accessories Slice has a display base, backpack, 4 swords, and a couple of ninja claws.  It’s all stuff we’ve seen before but they look good and they’re all appropriate choices for the character. This is one of those figures I wasn’t really looking forward to but now that I have it I’m totally sold. 9 out of 10.Joe-Slice v7 ninjas

MACHINE MAN (2015)

Marv-Machine fullMARVEL LEGENDS

When it comes to art, sometimes I like something immediately and other times I need time for it to grow on me.  For example, I didn’t care for Nirvana the first time I heard them but after a couple of listens I became a huge fan.  In regards to comic book art some of my favorite artists started out as some of my least favorites. Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy, and Mike Allred, the creator of Madman, are prime examples.  Jack Kirby was one of those artists that I needed some time to absorb.

When I got into collecting comics in the 1980s Stan Lee was still very much a part of Marvel.  He wasn’t necessarily writing any of the famous characters he co-created (Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, etc.) but his editorial column, Stan’s Soapbox, appeared in every comic and he popped up on TV quite a bit.  He was essentially the face and spokesman of Marvel comics.  To this day he’s synonymous with Marvel, making cameo appearances in all of their films.Marv-Machine comic

 

 

I was aware of Jack Kirby back then, the artist who co-created those characters with Stan, but I didn’t truly appreciate his contributions until many years later.  Kirby was basically retired by the time I got into comics and he wasn’t a public figure like Stan was so I didn’t know much about the man or his art.  I only ever came across his drawings in reprints of old comics and his style struck me as old-fashioned.  I appreciated that he had a hand in creating the characters I loved but in my young mind the artists of the 80s and 90s were far better then Kirby.  How naive I was.

 

As I got older I gained more of an appreciation for Kirby’s work and I began to understand why every comic book artist that has come along since his time has cited him as a major influence.

Marv-Machine arms

And then one day a few years back it just hit me like a slap in the face.  It was as though something had awakened inside my brain and suddenly I didn’t just appreciate Kirby’s artwork but I absolutely loved it.  I finally saw what all those great artists who were inspired by him saw.  His style wasn’t old fashioned, it was revolutionary.

I have since made an effort to read classic books drawn and written by Jack Kirby on a regular basis.  My comics library now features a healthy dose of Kirby’s genius as does my wardrobe.

My Kirby shirts

My Kirby shirts

One of Kirby’s lesser known  characters, that he created all on his own, is Machine Man aka Aaron Stack aka X-51.  Machine Man first appeared in the 10-issue  “2001: A Space Odyssey” comic published by Marvel in 1977.  From there he spun-off into his own short-lived series also written and drawn by Kirby.  From then until now Machine Man has been one of those obscure Marvel characters that shows up as a guest star in random books from time to time and occasionally stars in his own mini-series.  He never caught on as a mainstream super hero.

Marv-Machine MU pageI’m not sure what the first Machine Man book I read was but I’m betting my first exposure to him was in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, a reference series which provided bios of all the characters in the Marvel Universe.  I probably thought he was pretty stupid looking back then because when not drawn by Kirby he has the potential to look particularly lame. I remember he was featured in a story in the anthology series “Marvel Comics Presents” but I can’t recall the details of it.  Then he was in Deathlok and the West Coast Avengers and probably a few other things.  More recent stories that I’ve read that featured Machine Man were Next Wave, Marvel Zombies, and Red Hulk.  Somewhere along the way I came to like the character.

Machine Man is a robot whose only notable abilities are his telescoping arms and legs.  He’s strong and fast too and I think he has some hidden weapons like arm cannons and whatnot but that stuff is pretty standard.  He’s essentially Inspector Gadget but the one thing that elevates him above similar characters is his simple and elegant Kirby design.  Machine Man is basically just a dude in a purple unitard with bulging eyes, he looks like the Phantom getting ready to lay in a tanning bed, and yet somehow Kirby makes it look great.

Marv-Machine back

This hot-off-the -presses Marvel Legends figure that I bought last week isn’t necessarily based on Kirby’s artwork but it captures that Kirby vibe.  Pretty much all of that comes through in the face sculpt as the body is a standard one that has been used multiple times in the Legends line.  I wasn’t a big fan of the Legends figures for a long time, which is why I focused on collecting the smaller 3 3/4″ Marvel Universe line, but Hasbro has been putting out some really great Legends figures lately.  The fact that characters like Agent Venom, Scarlet Spider, and Machine Man aren’t even available in the smaller scale makes the Legends versions must-haves.

Machine Man’s body may be one we’ve seen before but it’s a good one.  The muscle details are very well done and the articulation is good.  The new pieces added to the standard body to create Machine Man are few and far between but very effective.  There’s the excellent head sculpt, the thick ribbed belt, and most importantly the telescoping arms.   The metal rods can be attached at the wrists and you can put either open hands or closed fists at the ends of them.

The other thing that needs to be mentioned is the paint job.  The metallic purple used on this figure looks fantastic and gives it a believable metal sheen.  It’s broken up nicely by the flat grey and the bright orange eyes give him just the right amount of flair.  This is a top notch action figure.  10 out of 10.

knocking out a couple of Kirby's creations for the distinguished competition.

knocking out a couple of Kirby’s creations for the distinguished competition.

 

 

ALPHA BRAVO (2015)

TF-Alpha fullTRANSFORMERS: COMBINER WARS

Combiners (or Gestalts) are large Robots that are made up of several smaller Transformers.  The first Combiner was Devestator, released in 1985, who was made up of the 6 individual Constructicons.   The Constructicons were a squad of green and purple construction vehicles.   The individual characters were awesome so a kid could be satisfied owning only a couple of them but I was fortunate enough to own all six meaning I was able to combine them into Devestator.  The original Devestator looked great but he wasn’t all that fun to play with because he fell apart so easily.  He was particularly fragile mid-torso where Hook connected to Long Haul.   Hasbro quickly improved on the Gestalt process by making all future combiners 5 figure sets instead of 6.  There was now a single larger-format figure to form the torso and 4 smaller figures to form the arms and legs.  This prevented the mid-torso break that plagued Devestator.  The first new and improved Combiners out of the gate were the Stunticons which formed Menasor, the Combaticons which formed Bruticus, the Protectobots which formed Defensor, and the Aerialbots which formed Superion.   My brother Doug and I owned them all and they were fantastic but sadly we got rid of all our Transformer toys when we were teenagers.

wicked card art

wicked card art

Ever since I got back into collecting Transformers in the mid 2000s when Hasbro launched their Generation 1 (G1) inspired “Classics” line I’ve wanted updated versions of the Combiners.  Hasbro has released dozens of Transformer toys every year since the rebirth and the brand has even grown in popularity during that time with the help of 4 crappy blockbuster movies and yet the Combiners never came.  We did finally get a Bruticus in 2012 as part of the video-game inspired “Fall of Cybertron” line but that was it.  It blows my mind that Hasbro sat on these great characters for so long.  In the 10 or so years since the Classics line launched Hasbro has held back on fan-favorite  characters and sure-fire money makers like the Combiners and the Dino-bots.  It’s crazy.  That oversight created a whole new market where third-party companies release their own unofficial versions of those characters.  I’ve picked up some brilliantly designed third-party Transformers over the years such as the Insecticons, the Sharkticons, Gears and Sweve, and even Cy-Kill.  Multiple third-party companies have tackled the Combiners but unfortunately the cost (around $100 per figure) has kept me from buying any.  At least I’ve been able to get a small taste of Combiners awesomeness in recent years by way of the Kre-O block figures.

TF-Alpha backBut finally, in 2015, Hasbro has taken their head out of their ass and decided to release updated official versions of the 1980s Combiners and they’re putting a major marketing push behind them.  They’ve rebranded the G1-inspired line “Combiner Wars” and are set to release a crap-load of awesome new figures.  The Aerialbots and Stunticons are hitting stores now and the Constructicons and Protectobots will follow soon afterwards.  On top of that, even characters who weren’t traditionally part of Combiner teams like Optimus Prime and Megatron  are getting new figures that can be used to create brand new giant robots.  Plus the Transformers comics published by IDW will be tying into the Combiners Wars storyline, fleshing things out and building the mythology.  It’s shaping up to be a great year for Transformers fans.

I was at Walmart this past Tuesday and saw that they had the first wave of Combiner Wars figures: 4 of the 5 Aerialbots and Optimus Prime.  I wanted them all but money was tight so I picked up just 2 of the Aerialbots; Firefly (formerly known as Fireflight) and Alpha Bravo.  I left Silverbolt (the larger Voyager class figure that forms Superion’s torso) and Sky Dive behind.TF-Alpha copter

Once I got them home and opened up I was immediately impressed.  Many of the recent Hasbro Transformers have felt kind of cheap but these figures feel good and sturdy.  The sculpts are brand new, the designs are very nice, and there’s plenty of articulation.  I was so impressed that I went right back out and picked up Silverbolt so I could begin combining them.  A great thing about these current combiner toys is that any of the smaller deluxe class figures that form the appendages can be used as either arms or legs.  I’ve opted to make both Alpha Bravo and Firefly legs (at least for now) and let me tell you, my armless Superion looks f**king awesome so far.  I’ll post some pics of him in either my Firefly or Silverbolt review.  I cannot wait to complete Superion and then move on to constructing Menasor.

Slingshot

Slingshot

TF-Alpha face

As an individual piece Alpha Bravo is pretty neat.  The Aerialbots have always traditionally been a team of jets but Alpha Bravo is a helicopter.  He has replaced former team member Slingshot.  Interestingly though he has some design elements that seem to be a nod to the former member.  Slingshot had a unique head design; an orange face flanked by two white panels.  Alpha’s head looks less human than Slingshot’s but is clearly inspired by it.  I recall Slingshot having the most personality out of all the Aerialbots from their appearances in the old cartoon so I’m kind of surprised that he was the one to get the boot.  But don’t lose hope Slingshot fans, in the Japanese Aerialbots box set they kept the original team together so Slingshot is out there if you’re willing to shell out the cash.

This figure looks great as a robot, as a helicopter, and as an arm or a leg.  Hasbro has upped their game.  9 out of 10.TF-Alpha Firefly