Category Archives: Star Wars

HOVER TANK PILOT

swb-hover-fullSTAR WARS BLACK SERIES

Back on October 15 I reviewed the 6” Star Wars Black Series K-2SO figure from Hasbro. At that point “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” hadn’t been released yet. I bought the figure only because it looked cool because back then I had no idea what the character would actually be like on screen. Had he ended up being completely obnoxious it’s very unlikely that I would have placed him on my best of 2016 list but fortunately Rogue One was fantastic and K-2SO was awesome. There were plenty of cool new characters introduced in Rogue One and I’m looking forward to getting action figures of most of them. When I bought K-2SO I also picked up Jyn Erso and a Death Trooper. I passed on Cassian Andor but I will definitely get one eventually as Deigo Luna was an excellent addition to the Star Wars cast. The Jyn figure features a decent likeness to actress Felicity Jones and it’s a fine toy as far as paint applications and articulation go but ultimately it’s just a regular human figure (I’m more of an aliens and robots guy). I expected to love the Death Trooper, it was the figure I was most looking forward to getting leading up to the film’s release, but once in hand it failed to wow me. I found the Death Trooper to be a tad too lanky to be menacing; he looks like K-2SO dressed as a Stormtrooper. The Scarif Stormtrooper (or Shore Trooper) which I have yet to find looks to be another interesting trooper variation but, again, it’s not one I’m super excited about. The armor appears to be more yellow than white and there are too many other random colors thrown in which results in a costume design that looks muddled to me. Rogue One was a great flick but it didn’t seem as though it would be providing me with any Imperial figures worth calling home about.swb-hover-back

The other day I was in Toys R Us hoping to find the new Megatron figure that I didn’t get for Christmas (Doug got me Astrotrain instead so I’m not complaining). I didn’t manage to find Megs but I did come across this Toys R Us exclusive Rogue One Hover Tank Pilot. At first glance I thought this was the Shore Trooper because they share some colour and design elements. I didn’t even know this pilot figure was being released so it wasn’t on my radar but I snatched it up on impulse. I’m a sucker for any Imperial trooper even the mediocre ones.  I don’t recall seeing these pilots in the movie but apparently they were driving the patrol tanks in the scenes set on Jedah. I’ll be sure to watch for them on my second viewing. I didn’t examine this figure closely until I got him home and unboxed. I expected just another moderately cool new twist on the classic Stormtrooper akin to the First Order Flametrooper or Death Trooper. Imagine my surprise when I was completely smitten with the Hover Tank Pilot once I had him in hand. I don’t know why exactly but this figure is just super cool. He’s similar to many other Imperial troopers but he’s just unique enough to stand out from the pack.swb-hover-pose

 

I love the armor, especially the helmet (which reminds me of the First Order Flametrooper and Snowtrooper but better), but what I think I like most about the design is the lack of armor on his lower half. The fact that he’s just wearing brown pants is a refreshing change. It makes sense that a dude squeezed into the cockpit of a hot tank would choose something a little more comfortable than full body armor. Where the classic Stormtroopers and the Death Troopers are sleek and clean this guy is wrinkly and dirty with some neat details sculpted into his armor. A brown paint wash adds age and weathering to the armor and gives him that “lived in” look that Star Wars prides itself on.

The Hover Tank Pilot is rather diminutive when compared to other Imperial Trooper figures which is a little odd because Leia made it clear in A New Hope that Storm Troopers are usually men of  greater stature. However, I’ve theorized that the Empire probably assigns it’s shorter recruits to pilot the cramped vehicles.  I actually like that he’s short because it gives him a little more personality.  I imagine he’s feistier than most other troopers.swb-hover-gun

For accessories the Hover Tank Pilot includes only a standard issue blaster which is all he really needs. I don’t like that he costs $5 more than the other Black Series figures only because he’s a store exclusive but otherwise I have zero complaints about this great figure. 10 out of 10.swb-hover-group

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TOP 16 ACTION FIGURES OF 2016

It’s time once again for my annual “best of” list; a tradition I began in 2012. I posted fewer toy reviews this year than I ever have before but that does not mean I purchased fewer action figures. My collection continued to grow by leaps and bounds in 2016 and as always it was very difficult for me to pick my favourites but pick them I did. The only criteria I had for toys to be named on this list was that they must have been released in 2016 and I must have acquired them personally. So without further ado let’s get started…

2016-sneak-peek16. TIGER FORCE SNEAK PEEK-I only have two G.I. Joe figures on my list this year so Sneak Peek may seem like an odd choice in the eyes of many Joe fans. We got a lot of excellent G.I. Joes this year between the 50th anniversary series, the Figure Subscription Service, and the Collector’s Club box set and I’d bet that most people would place Sneak Peek near the bottom of their “best of” lists. Not only is he completely made up of rehashed pieces, including one of the most over used heads in the biz, but this figure doesn’t even recreate the classic 1987 Sneak Peek we all owned as kids.  Instead the Club gave us an updated version of the lesser known European exclusive Tiger Force repaint. So why is this figure on my list?  Well, I simply love Sneak Peek.  The character was a favourite from my youth and one I’ve been clamouring to see updated since the beginning of the modern era 9 years ago. The reused parts work well together in my opinion and I quite like the face regardless of its familiarity. If the Collector’s Club had sculpted a new head for this figure I probably wouldn’t like it as much because they’d likely make it pudgy and round to match the vintage figure. I didn’t expect to like this Tiger Force paint job as much as I do but I think it’s a great mix of colours so I find myself really enjoying this more obscure deco.

2016-vultak15. VULTAK-The Masters of the Universe Classics line has been killing it since 2008 providing fans with awesome new versions of the property’s numerous iconic characters. But after so many years it was inevitable that the line would lose steam and fizzle out. In past years I bought Mattel’s latest MOTU offering on the 15th of every month as soon as it went up for sale exclusively on their website. I couldn’t afford to wait because new toys sold out almost immediately. Nowadays toys of obscure characters remain on sale for months so there’s no sense of urgency.  I didn’t purchase a single MOTU figure this year until they were discounted during Mattel’s Black Friday sale. Even though my excitement for the toyline has waned a bit there’s nothing more exciting than opening up a new box of He-Man figures from Mattel. My Black Friday shipment contained 6 figures (none of them well known characters) and they were all awesome.  Vultak is like a slap in the face reminding me why I loved MOTU in the first place. He’s like a mix of Marvel’s Vulture, Thundercats’ Panthro, and MOTU’s Hordak.  He’s bright, he’s big, he’s fun, and he’s awesome.

2016-rod-drill14. ROD DRILL-Hasbro’s Transformers were my jam growing up but I also enjoyed Tonka’s line of transforming robots called Go-Bots. I had a handful of the toys and while they weren’t as complex as Transformers their simplicity and their silly names made them charming. The line has been officially dead since 1987 but in the past couple of years some third-party companies have produced unofficial homages of Go-Bot characters. You may recall that DX9’s remake of Cy-Kill (named Salmoore) nabbed the number two slot of my best of 2014 list. I love seeing old Go-Bots characters revived after so many years. My fingers are crossed for new versions of my childhood favourites Cop-tur, Loco, and Water Walk. If those characters are ever to be reproduced it will likely be by way of a company called Action Toys. They’ve been doing a great job of  releasing spiffy new updates of classic Go-Bots. Vanessa got me Rod Drill for Christmas. He’s Action Toy’s version of Screwhead who transforms into a drill tank. This figure is immediately recognizable as Screwhead as they share of the same physical characteristics but Rod Drill is a far superior figure. He’s a bit larger and far more posable. He’s not as nice as update as Salmoore was but Rod Drill’s price point is a little easier to swallow.

2016-snowtrooper13. SNOWTROOPER-Everybody loves the generic Stormtroopers from Star Wars but as a kid I held the Snowtroopers from the Empire Strikes Back in much higher regard. My brother Doug and I both owned a Stromtrooper but he also owned the AT-AT Driver and the Biker Scout. I suppose that’s why the Snowtrooper was the only Stormtrooper variation that felt like mine because it was the only one he didn’t have. My original 1980s Snowtrooper was one of three vintage Star Wars figures I held onto when I got rid of my collection in my teens. There’s something about that long featureless mask that always appealed to me; I thought it looked more like a ghost than a soldier. I already have a very cool 12″ version of the Snowtrooper plus multiple 3 3/4″ figures but it was still at the top of my want list when I started collecting the 6″ Black Series figures. I just got this figure a week ago and he did not disappoint.  It’s not exactly what I was expecting because it’s far more “dirty” than previous versions.  The base uniform is more beige than white and his boots and skirt are speckled with grime. It looks really cool though so I don’t have any complaints.

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12. MARAUDER VALKYRIESLast year I named the Marauder Task Force in my number six spot. I didn’t name a specific figure as I used the slot as more of a catch all for the whole wave of interchangable soldier figures produced by Marauder Gun Runners via a Kickstarter campaign. MGR put out variations of those same figures with new parts added this year so they could have easily made my list again. I’m a big fan of the yellow “Shock-Ops” and orange “Hazard Ops” they released this year. However they overshadowed those releases with the launch of their all-female Valkyries line this year via another Kickstarter. Thus far I have four complete figures in hand with another shipment on the way. These figures look excellent. MTF has given us a multitude of hair styles and colours, gear, and accessories so you can make unlimited figure variations. I wish Hasbro put this much care into their G.I. Joes. Hasbro has given us some pretty fugly ladies over the years but MTF has given us a squad of attractive ladies with realistic proportions. I can’t recommend these figures enough.  The only reason they’re not higher is that their tiny accessories don’t stay in place unless glued which is a pain in the ass and I have no childhood connection or elaborate backstory to latch onto.

2016-namor11. NAMOR-What a year for Marvel Legends. Hasbro pumped out 7 waves of figures this year. It was just a couple of years ago that I was writing on this blog that I had no interest in collecting 6″ Legends because I was committed to collecting the 3 3/4″ Marvel Universe figures. I found Legends to be gangly and awkward looking.  Well Hasbro has upped their game big time and now I’m buying Legends figures every other week. I bought over 50 Marvel Legends figures this year and I’m continually impressed. I could have made a top 16 list of Marvel Legends figures alone and I still would have had to exclude a bunch of stellar toys. To pick only a choice few for this multi-line list truly was difficult. After a great deal of thought the first Legend I’ve chosen to spotlight is Marvel’s King of Atlantis, Namor the Sub-Mariner.  When I first started collecting comics as a kid I didn’t like Namor. He struck me as an arrogant Mr. Spock flying around in his underwear. I’m not sure when that changed but somewhere along the way I really fell in love with Namor. His arrogance actually makes him a lot of fun to read.  The fact that he started wearing pants probably helped too. Truthfully, I don’t even mind the green speedo in the comics but it just doesn’t make for a very interesting action figure.  My 3 3/4″ Namor is a testament to how boring that design can be.  This Walgreens exclusive Namor is sporting a much cooler black and blue costume with a nice metallic sheen.  The elbows are a little weird and the trident looks dumb but those issues are out weighed by the phenomenal head sculpt. Depending on the angle you look at him he can appear regal, smarmy, pissed, or playful. This is the finest Namor ever produced.2016-k-2so

 

10. K-2SO– When I reviewed this figure a couple of weeks ago I hadn’t yet seen Star Wars Rogue One. Now that I have I like this figure even more. K-2S0 was a real scene stealer in the movie.  He was tough, sarcastic and funny and i was really bummed when things weren’t going his way.  I’m glad I picked this figure up when I did as I imagine it will be in high demand now that everyone has seen the movie. This figure just looks and feels cool.  As soon as I opened him up I wanted to pose him and fiddle around with him. He’s built nice and sturdy for such a lean figure. This sculpt, paint apps, and articulation are all great. No complaints.2016-batman

 

 

9. BATMAN-Putting Batman on a “best of” list seems like such a no-brainer that it’s almost a waste of a slot. He has such a cool and iconic design that you’d think it would be a snap to design an amazing Batman figure, right? So why are there so many terrible Batman figures? Have you walked down the action figure aisle lately? It’s full of Batmen and most of them look like crap. I feel bad for kids that think those are the only Batman figures available. If only they’d venture into a comic book shop like Strange Adventures they’d discover a whole new world of awesome action figures geared towards adult collectors. For example, DC Collectibles line of designer action figures based on the artwork of Darwyn Cooke. I bought the Supergirl, Catwoman, and Harley Quinn from this line and any one of them could be on this list but I think Batman edges the others out. This figure depicts Darwyn’s contemporary version of the dark knight as seen in stories like EGO. I think this figure is a wonderful tribute to a brilliant artist who we sadly lost this year. It makes me emotional every time I look at it.

2016-pythona8. PYTHONA- I wanted a Pythona figure SO BAD in 1987. She was one of the new characters introduced, and heavily featured, in the animated G.I. Joe movie released that year yet she got completely snubbed by Hasbro. Her absence from the ’87 line-up seemed like a huge oversight to me. Big Lob was similarly snubbed but I didn’t like him as much. He’s finally getting a figure courtesy of the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club in 2017 but 2016 was Pythona’s year…finally. She was the free membership figure you got this year when you signed up as a member of the Club. It’s been a 30 year wait so thankfully the Club delivered a stellar figure to make the wait all seem worth it. Pythona’s got a very nice newly sculpted head with a removable ponytail which allows her to  don the hood of her cloak. The intricate facial paint is well done too.  The Club has been doing a great job making figures of characters long desired by fans, like Dr. Venom and Billy, but Pythona is the one I’ve wanted the most so I’m very glad the Club didn’t cut any corners. Awesome figure.

2016-gorgon7. RINGNECK GORGON-I backed a Kickstarter campaign by Boss Fight Studios back in 2014 to help them launch their own line of figures called Vitruvian HACKS. Those figures finally arrived in 2016.  I received over 30 figures and honestly I could have put each and every one of them on this list. BFS has constructed some of the nicest action figures I’ve ever seen in their Mythology themed HACKS line. Series one primarily consists of ancient warriors and gorgons. The construction of the gorgons alone is a thing of beauty to say nothing of the sculpting, painting, and accessories. The way their multi-jointed tails allow for them to be posed  in an upright position without the aid of a display base is amazing. I have seven gorgons including Medusa.  She seemed like the obvious choice for this list if I were to showcase just one gorgon but I just so happen to prefer the purple and orange colour scheme of the ringneck. I also prefer her closed mouth. This figure is perfect and I can’t wait to see what BFS does next.

2016-cap-britain6. CAPTAIN BRITAIN-Picking Marvel Legends for this list was really tough. I thought that Nico would make my list for sure. Silk, Black Panther, and Deadpool all seemed like shoe-ins as well. I wasn’t even sure I would buy this Captain Britain and I certainly didn’t expect I’d like him more than those other figures but here he is. CB was included in the most recent Captain America wave. The only figure I planned to buy from the wave was Eel. I really like Captain Britain as a character but this figure doesn’t feature my preferred costume so I planned to skip it. While in Chicago the other week I found the Cap wave in a comic shop (I haven’t found them here at home yet) and there was Eel. I picked him up and looked over his scrawny physique. Then I saw Captain Britain out of the corner of my eye practically bulging out of his packaging. I picked him up and was immediately won over.  See ya later, Eel. This Cap looks tough as nails. The standard “bulky” body is perfectly sized for him and the unique Captain Britain parts really look great.  The buckled boots, the wrapped forearms, the sunken eyes in the helmet, I love it all. Throw in an excellent and eye-grabbing paint job and you have yourself a winning action figure.

2016-venom5. VENOM– Next up is another Marvel Legends figure, Venom. I’m not even a big Venom fan yet this is the second time he’s made my “best of” list in just three years. 2014 saw the release of an awesome Agent Venom. This year we got two other versions of the character.  There was the large build-a-figure Space Knight Venom which looks neat but whom I have no affinity for because I didn’t read any of the short-lived Space Knight comics. The second 2016 release was this classic Venom. This toy looks like it leapt from the page of the character’s first appearance as drawn by Todd McFarlane.  It makes me very nostalgic for that late 80s era of Spider-Man. The body is the exact same one that was used for Captain Britain and it works wonderfully for Venom too. He has standard “sock” feet and open clawed hands. I’m not sure if those parts are reused or not.  The one piece that is definitely unique is the head and thats the piece that really elevates this figure.  The head sculpt looks so good that I can’t imagine anyone ever making a better Venom figure than this.

2016-talos4. TALOS-This is another figure from Boss Fight Studio’s Vitruvian HACKS line. It was exclusive to Kickstarter supporters so I don’t think you’ll ever be able to buy it from their online store. That’s a real shame because this is one of the nicer looking figures from the assortment. Most of the warrior figures share the same parts, they’re just painted differently. I don’t think there are any parts on this figure that can’t be found elsewhere. For example, Talos has the same bearded head as Leonidas and the same armor as the Myrmidon Warrior but what makes them unique to Talos is the bronze paint job. The figure is painted entirely in bronze with a green patina to add realism. It looks amazing; like a little metal statue. Whether you want to display this guy as a statue or some sort of living bronze warrior he really should be a part of your collection.

2016-malleus

 

3. MALLEUS 2016 saw the release of the Four Horsemen’s newest toy line called Mythic Legions.  It’s a fantasy-based line full or Orcs, Trolls, and Knights. I couldn’t afford to go all-in on their 2015 kickstarter but I did pitch in by pre-ordering 4 of the 34 available figures. My quartet arrived in June 2016 and all of them are awesome but Malleus is my favourite. This figure is amazing in every category. The sculpting, the painting, and the accessories are all incredible (the dual axes are sick!). He’s very well articulated right down to a movable jaw. The 6″ scale really allows the Horsemen to show off.  Originally I thought I might display Malleus as a minion of Skeletor but the level of detail on the Legions figures far surpasses that of MOTU figures so there isn’t much consistency there. If I had the space and the money I’d love to own all the Mythic Legions figures but if my collection never grows beyond the four I have  I’m confident that I have the best one right here. 

2016-tailgate2. TAILGATE/REAREND-Many times on this blog I’ve told you how great James Roberts’ “Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye” comics are. I think its the best comic on the stands. He has a way of making you fall in love with characters you never thought you’d care about. One of the stars of the book is a little Transformer named Tailgate. I never owned the Tailgate toy as a kid because he was just a crappy repaint of Wheelcharger, a Transformer who I really liked. Well Roberts has made Tailgate a far more interesting character than Wheelcharger ever was and so I desperately wanted an action figure that reflected his comic book appearance. Hasbro obliged me with this turd in 2014. Thankfully, a third party company called Make Toys answered my prayers this year. Because this is an unofficial release they can’t call him Tailgate so Make Toys has dubbed him Rearend. It’s a silly name but who cares, everyone knows this is Tailgate. This figure is quite small so it may be hard to justify the large price tag but thankfully Vanessa got him for me for X-mas so I didn’t have to. I’m actually glad he’s the size that he is because its true to the character. The likeness to the comic book art is perhaps the best I’ve seen yet.  This toy truly look like an Alex Milne drawing some to life. I love it.2016-underworld

 

1. UNDERWORLD WARRIOR-You shouldn’t be surprised that one of Boss Fight Studio’s Vitruvian HACKS figures tops my list. Almost every figure in this line is a showstopper. The paint work, sculpting, accessories, articulation, and customization possibilities launched HACKS straight to the top of the heap of quality action figure lines. Every toyline should strive to be this good.  As soon as my box of HACKS arrived it was almost a certainty that one of them would top my list this year. The trouble was in deciding which one.  I thought it would be harder to choose but I actually arrived at my answer quite easily. The Underworld Warrior was the figure that appealed to me the most when the concept art was first revealed at the launch of the kickstarter and once I had the figure in my hands I felt it lived up to and surpassed my expectations. It’s not the most detailed or innovative figure of the bunch but it sure does look damn cool.2016-group

 

 

 

K-2SO (2016)

swb-k2so-fullSTAR WARS BLACK SERIES: ROGUE ONE

It’s hard to believe that we’re two months away from a new Star Wars film. I’ve become so accustomed to waiting years or even decades for new Star Wars movies that it’s hard to process the idea that they’ll be coming out on an annual basis for the foreseeable future. I’m really looking forward to the upcoming Rogue One. I feel it has the potential to be just as thrilling as the Force Awakens but with a little more wiggle room for originallity. I’ve watched the first trailer but beyond that I’ve avoided articles and videos as I’d like to enter the theatre on December 16 as spoiler-free as possible.

On Friday September 30th the Rogue One merchandise hit sales floors across the country. I was moderately excited but it definitely didn’t feel like an “event” the way the release of the Phantom Menace toys did back in ‘99. Maybe it did for some people but my love of Star Wars toys has cooled significantly since the prequel hype. I completely stopped buying Star Wars toys for more than 10 years afterwards. It’s only been over the past two years that denizens of a galaxy far, far away have started trickling back into my collection.swb-k2so-face

So I didn’t line-up at midnight outside Toys R Us the Thursday before “Rogue Friday” but I did venture out the next afternoon hopeful that I could find the new 6” Black Series figures. That’s the line that roped me back into the brand after so many years away. The larger Black Series format allows for more detail and articulation which makes familiar old Star Wars characters feel fresh and contemporary. To my surprise the shelves weren’t stripped completely bare when I arrived at Walmart. In fact, the regular Star Wars section, and a bonus endcap, were both flush with new product.

I was awfully tempted by some of the neat looking new 3 ¾” figures I saw. Is that a frig’n Wampa in a gas mask?!! (it isn’t) I vowed to stop buying small Star Wars figures after Episode II but I caved and bought a few Force Awakens figures last year because I let the dark side get the better of me.swb-k2so-movie

This year I was stronger; I had to be because my disposable income isn’t what it used to be. Wampa in a gas mask remained on the pegs and I focused my attention on the larger format figures.  There were only six new Black Series figures to choose from. One was a re-release of Rey from Force Awakens with a slightly tweaked paint job. Another was Kylo Ren without his mask. I easily passed on those two since I already have those characters. Another was a new character, Cassian Andor who is played by Diego Luna. I have no doubt that I’ll pick up a Cassian figure eventually but this snow suited version didn’t appeal to me so I passed on him too. However I did buy the other three figures: a Death Trooper (a twist on a black storm trooper), Jyn Erso (the female lead portrayed by Felicity Jones), and a brand new droid by the name of K-2SO.

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All I know about K-2SO (Kaytoo Esso) is that he is an imperial droid that has been reprogrammed by Cassian Andor to fight for the rebels.  I’m guessing he’ll be featured prominently in the film but he may only be on screen for 5 seconds for all I know. I hope he’s featured prominently because he’s really cool looking.  He’s very Star Wars in design and yet he’s something completely new.  I love his tall and lanky design. He looks like a mechanized Jack Skellington. His nearly featureless face makes for quite a creepy design. He’s vastly more visually appealing than the duck-faced Battle Droids of old.swb-k2so-back

 

 

The sleek design translates beautifully into action figure form. This toy is super fun just to hold. He’s got a bulky torso which gives some weight to the figure and then he’s got his long slender spider-like appendages. They’re strong and durable so he stands up quite well on his own;  the weight is well distributed.  He’s got loads of articulation (foot, ankle, knee, hip, chest, shoulder, elbow, wrist, neck, head) and for some reason I really dig the clear joints. I’m not sure if they’re supposed to represent open spaces but they look really cool.

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The paint job on this figure is also very nice. He’s sculpted in a metallic black plastic and he has lots of silver scuffs and highlights added to give him that lived-in Star Wars look. Plus there are white, orange, blue, and red details speckled throughout. Hasbro could have copped out on the paint apps for a character that’s almost entirely black but they didn’t. It looks like a lot of care went into this toy at every stage.

If this character ends up being Jar-Jar level annoying I may have to adjust my score but based on this figure alone K-2SO gets a solid 10 out of 10.swb-k2so-group

TOP 15 ACTION FIGURES OF 2015

As 2015 comes to an end it’s time for my annual “best of” list.  It’s hard to believe that this is my fourth year-end list and even harder to believe that since I started this blog I’ve reviewed over 800 action figures (and I’ve still barely scratched the surface of my collection!).  Thanks to all of you who have been loyal readers and thanks to those of you checking it out for the first time, I hope you come back.  Now, Before I begin the list let me clearly state that this list features the 15 BEST ACTION FIGURES I COLLECTED IN 2015.  I am not saying these are the best 15 action figures released this year, just the best ones I managed to get my hands on.  In order to qualify for my list the figure must have been released in 2015.  I’ve gotten some great action figures this year that don’t qualify because they were originally released prior to 2015.  Now that the criteria has been clearly stated hopefully any nerd rage will be quelled.  I don’t need anyone calling me an idiot because I didn’t name the Hot Toys Hulkbuster Iron Man the best toy of the year (I know it’s awesome but its also $800 and I don’t have one).  So let’s get started…

2015-Cardinus15. Cardinus– This is a figure from the Gothitropolis line by Four Horsemen Toy Design Studios.  It’s a completely original toyline by the sculptors extraordinaire made famous for their work on Spawn, DC, and Masters of the Universe.  At present I don’t have a link to a review of Cardinus but you can check out my review of another figure from the line, Eagalus. All the Gothitropolis figures share the exact same body and they come with the same staff as an accessory.  The only differences between them are a uniquely sculpted head and a paint job specific to each bird species.  I raved on about the intricacies of the sculpting in my Eagalus review so I won’t dwell on it again here but the armour is spectacular.  Both Eagalus and Cardinus have amazing head sculpts that look very life-like.  Either could have made the list but Cardinus edges Eagalus out due to the beautifully regal paint job. Cardinus features a black and gold paint scheme which looks fantastic against his crimson red feathers.  I could totally display Cardinus with my Masters of the Universe collection or any other fantasy figures.  Eagalus’s obnoxious American paint job makes him seem more like a novelty item than a fantasy figure.  This is an amazing figure and I wish I could afford to collect the entire line .

 

2015-First Aid14. First Aid– This figure makes the list primarily because I happen to love the character but it’s also a great toy.  The original First Aid figure from 1986 was one of my favourite vintage Transformers and I’ve always regretted getting rid of it. First Aid’s portrayal in IDW’s Transformers comics in recent years have only made me like him even more.  For years I’ve been hoping that Hasbro would release a new version of him and this year they finally did.  There’s nothing particularly spectacular about the actual figure. The sculpting, paint, accessories, and articulation are on par with just about every other Transformer that came out this year under the “Combiner Wars” banner but that’s not a bad thing because those things were done well on all the figures.  Almost any one of the combiner-bots could have made this list (i.e. Breakdown, Alpha Bravo) but due to my personal affection for First Aid he gets the shout out.

 

 

2015-Jaws13. Jaws–  I love the movie Jaws.  Love it.  When I was a kid that shark scared the crap out of me and fascinated me at the same time, it still does.  I have yet to see a movie shark even come close to being as terrifying as the original Jaws.  I was so stoked to get a Jaws action figure this year courtesy of Funko’s ReAction line.  The retro style of the line was perfectly suited for the task of giving fans the first ever Jaws action figure line.  The 3 human characters are awesome but its the shark that steals the show.  I could’ve easily named this my number one action figure of the year but due to its lack of articulation it didn’t seem fair.  This toy belongs in every bathtub around the world.

2015-He-Man

 

12. Snake-Armor He-Man-This is another figure that I haven’t yet reviewed so there’s no link available yet.  I had every intention of reviewing all my list candidates by years end but I got busy/lazy.  When I was a kid I had a bunch of Masters of the Universe figures including the main hero, He-Man.  He was always my least favourite of the bunch. He was so uninteresting when compared to guys like Buzz-Off and Mer-Man.  It wasn’t until the 2002 MOTU reboot that I actually liked He-Man.  The ’02 cartoon and toy line featured anime inspired designs which I thought did wonders to up He-Man’s cool factor. When the Classics line kicked off in 2008/2009 He-Man reverted back to his boring old bowl-cut self. Multiple re-releases (Thunder Punch, Battle Armour) didn’t help. Finally, in 2015 Mattel has given us this Classics He-Man in the 2002 style, and that didn’t simply mean a new head sculpt, they decked him out in his snake armour which was heavily featured in season 2 of the animated series.  The armour features great sculpting and paint work but it’s the shaggy hair that really wins me over.

2015-Wonder Woman11. Wonder Woman-No link here either folks but thats because I just got this figure the other day.  I didn’t buy many DC figures this year.  The only one I requested for Christmas was Superman from the designer series based on Jae Lee’s artwork.  I’m a big fan of Jae Lee’s work but of the 4 figures in his designer series Superman was the only one that appealed to me based on the images I saw online.  The Batman kinda sucked and the Catwoman was too similar to the Greg Capullo Catwoman that made my list last year. The Wonder Woman looked good but I already have what I feel is the best Wonder Woman figure ever made (DC Direct-2007) so why buy a lesser one?  Well I was checking out Giant Robot Comics’ boxing day sale the other day and saw the Jae Lee Wonder Woman figure “in-person” for the first time.  The sculpting and paint work were so good that I couldn’t resist buying it. I don’t think it’s better than the 2007 figure but this toy is a work of art and had I passed it up I know I’d be kicking myself for years to come.

 

10. Otachi– I just reviewed this figure the other day so I don’t have much to add at the moment.  This figure is big, has great sculpting, great paint apps, and good articulation.  Most important of all it’s a big monster.  I love big monsters. I have a lot of big monster toys in my collection but few of them are designed as well as this figure.  I’m still pissed about the price and the lack of wings but I didn’t buy anything else even remotely like Otachi this year.  He’s a unique looking piece in my collection and he’s a joy to look at.2015-Otachi

 

 

2015-Kylo Ren29. Kylo Ren– I just reviewed this figure the other day as well.  This was a tough call because I got quite a few excellent 6″ Star Wars Black Series figures this year and I wasn’t sure who was going to make the cut.  Captain Phasma is pretty rad looking and the First Order Storm Trooper is awesome too.  For Christmas Vanessa got me a 4-pack of figures which included a red classic Storm Trooper that I absolutely love and he very nearly dethroned Kylo from this list (as I write this I realize he probably should have. Sorry, Honey). Kylo held his spot though because he was such a compelling character in the movie and because this figure is made up of all new parts including plastic and cloth blended together wonderfully. The standard white Storm Trooper ranked number six on my list last year and it would have seemed a bit lazy to award essentially the same figure again this year.2015-Calix

8. Calix-This is a great figure that I’ve been meaning to review for months.  It’s one of the six figures included in Mattel’s MOTU Classics mini-subscription based on the 2002 cartoon I mentioned above in my He-Man write up.  Over the past 7 years a handful of 2002-inspired characters have found their way into the main Classics line but they’re few and far between. A whole subscription devoted to them is something fans of that era (like myself) have been clamouring for. I have three of the mini-sub figures in hand at present and they’re all great.  I expect to have the last three this week or next and they all look great too; there isn’t a dud in the bunch.  Any or all of them could have made this list but I narrowed it down to one and I went with Calix.  This guy is a member of the Evil Horde and he appeared ever so briefly in one episode before getting destroyed.  It’s a shame this guy was created as a throwaway character because he is awesome.  I hope he gets a second chance at greatness in the comics or maybe even a future animated series.  He’s a dude made of rock, which is nothing new for MOTU, but this guy is WAY cooler than those geeks Stondar and Rokkon.  The newly sculpted pieces are fantastic and they do a great job of hiding the fact that this figure is primarily made up of the standard Classics body.  The paint work is subtle but really brings out the details of the sculpt.  I love the stone beard.  I love the axe/crossbow. I love this figure.2015-Frostbite

 

7. Frostbite– A lot of people online like to hate on the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club.  I get that they’ve screwed up a few things (like losing members’ credit card information) but how anyone can stay mad at them when they produce figures like this is beyond me.  They gave us so much gold this year from the Figure Subscription Service (Spearhead was a contender) and the Convention set (Wreckage was a contender) to the Free Membership figure (Dr. Mindbender was a contender) and the online store exclusives (Old Snake was a contender).  Frostbite was the mystery 13th figure that shipped with the final FSS 3.0 shipment this year.  It wasn’t much of a surprise but it was a figure everyone was happy to receive.  Frostbite is a classic character that desperately needed a modern-era makeover and the Club did not disappoint here. The Frankensteined body looks good but what really elevates this figure to another level is the new head and collar by Boss Fight Studios. Frostbite has never looked so good.

 

 

 

2015-Marauder6. Marauder Task Force– Speaking of Boss Fight Studios, I was really hoping to have their first ever original toyline, Vitruvian Hacks, in hand by the end of the year.  I bought into their kickstarter campaign in June 2014 and the figures were expected to be delivered in February 2015.  No such luck. The figures are going to be more than a year late but they look spectacular and I’m sure you’ll see some on next year’s list.  One of the reasons for the delay is because the production factory in China got held up making these figures, the Marauder Task Force (MTF).  This is another original toyline funded by a kickstarter campaign courtesy of Marauder Gun Runners who actually hired Boss Fight Studios to do the sculpting.  The concept behind the line is completely customizable military action figures. The base figures are all the same but you can buy a variety of guns and accessories from Marauder’s website.  I ordered the base figure in all 8 color varieties: red, blue, green, black, arctic, desert, urban and jungle camo. You can mix and match all the parts right down to the pouches on their sleeves and the logos on their helemts.  There are literally hundreds (probably thousands) of parts combinations.  No one figure is better than another so this slot belongs to the whole line in general.  Do yourself a favour and order some of these guys.  Four new color variations were just stocked (mine are in the mail).2015-Hobgoblin

5.  Hobgoblin– Here we go, top five.  The fifth spot on my list belongs to the Hobgoblin.  This is a Marvel Legends build-a-figure meaning you had to buy six different Marvel Legends figures to get all the parts to build this guy. I didn’t mind the concept back when the build-a-figures were giant figures but it kind of pisses me off now that build-a-figures are no bigger than the standard releases.  Despite the hoops I had to jump through to get this guy I am very happy to have him completed.  This is my favourite Marvel Legends figure to date.  Not only is Hobby one of Spidey’s all-time great villains, this is a version of him we’ve never seen in action figure form before (Phil Urich) and it’s faithful to Humberto Ramos’s artwork which I love.  The sculpt is perfect, he’s got great accessories, he’s well articulated, and he’s just fun to look at.  He’s bright and bold and I would think any kid would love to have him.

2015-Gung Ho4. Gung Ho– This guy was never one of my favourite Joes.  Partly because Doug owned both the 1983 and ’87 versions when we were kids.  Despite my lack of personal attachment to Gung Ho he is one of the most recognizable faces on the team.  His importance was evidenced by his inclusion in the Joe 5-pack that launched the modern-era in 2007 along with key characters Duke, Snake Eyes, Scarlet, and Roadblock. In the 8 years since that pack came out 27 more Dukes have been released, 40 more Snake Eyes’, 6 more Scarlets, and 8 more Roadblocks.  This is only Gung Ho’s third and he didn’t get any new parts in last two.  The 2007 Gung Ho and it’s two subsequent repaints are extremely dated and they did not do justice to the Joe team’s original Marine.  In 2015 we finally got a Gung Ho we can be proud off. This figure was released as part of Hasbro’s 50th anniversary line and it is both a beauty and a beast.  It’s beastly in its size and manliness and it’s beautifully rendered.  This figure looks more like Gung Ho than any figure ever before released including the original Gung Ho.  The stache is epic, the chest tat is massive, the arms are thick, and the uniform is seafoam.  To top it off he has a gigantic SAW heavy machine gun with matching seafoam bullets.2015-Machine Man

 

3. Machine Man-If Hobgoblin is my favourite Marvel Legends figure how is this guy higher than him on the list?  I don’t know.  It must be the power of Jack Kirby.  This figure isn’t necessarily based on his creator’s artwork but it sure looks as though the sculptor was referencing some Kirby drawings when creating this head sculpt.  I love everything about this figure from the sculpting to the shimmery purple paint job to the telescoping Inspector Gadget arms.  It’s perfect in its simplicity.

2. Devestator– In a year where every Transformer released is a member of a combiner team I had to put a combiner on the list.  Defensor and Superion would have been contenders had Hasbro not released this behemoth this past fall.  Devestator towers over the other combiners.  They seemed so impressive at first but they look like children in Devestator’s shadow.  I have some issues with the individual Constructicons that make up Devestator but for the most part I’m even impressed with them.  As a whole Devestator is near perfect.  He’s still a bit wobbly but he’s much better than the original.  This toy has everything you’d want in a Devestator; he ‘s big, he’s green and purple,  and he’s cartoon/comic book accurate.  I’ve been wishing for this figure for decades but never did I expect to receive something as impressive as this.  This toy is boss.2015-Devestator

2015-Bombstrike1.Bombstrike– I tried to curb any nerd rage in my opening paragraph but I’m aware this may illicit some.  In a year filled with stellar Transformers and Star Wars figures, a year where Marvel Legends are at the top of their game and a year where Funko further established itself with a wealth of Pop!, ReAction and Legacy figures, you might be wondering how could some chick you’ve never heard of top this list?  To be honest I didn’t know Bombstrike was going to top the list until I started ranking the figures I had selected earlier today.  I always knew Bomstrike would make my year-end list but even I didn’t know I liked her this much.  I laid the figures out in front of me and, after painfully eliminating great toys like POP Godzilla and Shanna the She-Devil, I began ranking the final 15. As I went, Bombstrike kept getting shoved up the ranks and this is where she ended up.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because I’ve been a big fan of this character ever since version 1 was released in 2005.  The sibling rivalry storyline hinted at in the file cards of her and her brothers (Barrel Roll and Black Out) made for some interesting play scenarios that I would’ve loved as a kid.  As much as I cherish the classic Joe characters I think the brand needs some fresh blood every once and a while to stay interesting and relevant.  The Stall siblings were exactly what the brand needed and I was really disappointed to see them swept under the rug when the new-sculpt era came to a close in 2006.  When The brothers were resurrected in the Collector Club’s first Figure Subscription Service I knew Bombstrike was likely to follow in FSS 2.0.  It took a year longer than expected but in 2015 she arrived and she totally lived up to my expectations even after 10 years of anticipation.  This figure is feminine, petite and cute but she’s ready for combat. She’s camouflaged, she’s armoured, and she’s packing multiple firearms, a computer, and a drone.  I love the character, I love the toy.  What’s not to like?

2015 group

 

KYLO REN (2015) 6″

SWB-Kylo fullSTAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

SPOILER FREE.

As I’m sure you know, since you’re visiting a blog about action figures, Star Wars Episode VII came out last Thursday. As much as it pained me to do so I waited until Saturday afternoon to see it.  My little brother Brian was flying home for the holidays from NYC and wasn’t arriving until Friday and we wanted to see it together.  Brian and I, along with my girlfriend Vanessa and my dad, went and saw it in 3D Imax.  We all had different levels of excitement going in but in the end we all enjoyed it.  I had very high expectations and I would say the film lived up to them for the most part.

One area where the film surpassed my expectations was in the casting of the young new stars. I didn’t expect to like them as much as I did.  I’ve being seeing figures of Rey and Finn on the pegs at Walmart for months now and I had no desire to pick them up but after seeing the movie I totally have to buy those two.SWB-Kylo back

Kylo Ren was one of the few TFA figures I had planned to pick up regardless of how the movie turned out.  He’s the new sith character and he looked cool enough to add to my collection even if he ended up being a one-film villain like Darth Maul.  I bought this 6″ Black Series Kylo Ren figure a few weeks ago when I was lucky enough to find one amongst the sea of Finns.  I thought Kylo was neat looking but not as cool as his predecessors.  Since I knew nothing about the character and wasn’t wowed by his appearance he was placed on my shelf and I didn’t give him much thought afterwards.

To my surprise Kylo Ren was my favourite thing about TFA.  He was introduced to us as a total badass and he did some pretty impressive things seemingly without much effort, but he was far from just another cool-looking villain in black.  As the film progressed Ren was given lots of great character developing scenes.  He had a nasty temper as you would expect from someone who has given into the dark side and I loved watching him lash out like a petulant child when things didn’t go his way. It was akin to Anakin’s temperament in Episodes II and III but delivered in a much less wooden and far more entertaining way.SWB-Kylo face

Seeing his outfit on the big screen really won me over also.  When I first got this toy I found the bandaged arms and plain tunic to be rather uninspired but now I really like it.  His outfit feels like it was thrown together with whatever was laying around rather than being a polished piece of equipment like Vader’s.   It’s kinda punk rock.  I had mixed feelings about the mask before too but not anymore.  I doubt it will ever become as iconic as Vader’s but it’s pretty darn cool in its own right. I assume we’ll get a Kylo Ren with a removable helmet at some point but for this initial figure I’m glad they didn’t go that route.  It would have likely made the head appear oversized and this one is perfectly proportioned.

This figure has an interesting mix of cloth and plastic layers.  His lower tunic is plastic with cloth overlays and his torso is clothed with a plastic scarf and then he has a cloth hood.  It actually works really well and looks much better than the all plastic robes seen on the Darth Maul figure.  Cloth hoods rarely work out but I think this one sits perfectly.  It can be pulled back to reveal the full helmet but I’m reluctant to mess with it too much for fear it might loose it’s shape.SWB-Kylo fight

Kylo is well articulated with double jointed knees, rocker ankles, and ball joints throughout.  I thought the robes might hinder his movement but they don’t really.  You may not be able to sit him in a vehicle but you can get him in lots of different poses.

Paint apps are minimal as you would expect on a sith.  Other that some silver on his mask and belt buckle he’s solid black.  However, he features multiple shades of black so the figure is not dull to look at.  The arms and helmet are a matte black, the boots are glossy, and the robes have a shimmery textured look. For accessories he comes with his unique red lightsaber which has a removable translucent blade.

I’m a big fan of this character and this figure does him justice.  10 out of 10.SWB-Kylo pose

 

SNOW TROOPER (2015)

SW-FO Snow fullSTAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

When the first wave of Star Wars “The Force Awakens” figures hit stores a couple of weeks ago I went looking for the 6” Black Series figures. Those are the only Star Wars figures I’ve been interested in collecting for the last couple of years and I’m even selective with those. I didn’t plan on buying any of the smaller figures even though I have been known to occasionally pick one up from time to time (i.e. Darth Malgus  and Savage Opress). All of the Black Series figures were sold out so rather than come home empty handed I caved and bought the 3 ¾” First Order Flame Trooper. The figure was severely lacking in articulation but I liked the design.  The uniform  was sort of an amalgamation of the original Storm Trooper and the original Snow Trooper. The Snow Troopers from Empire Strikes Back were my favorite type of Imperial soldier when I was a kid. I liked their elongated masks which I thought made them look like ghosts.

I went to Walmart again the other day and my timing must have been good because it looked as though they had freshly stocked their toy shelves. Not only did they have all of the 6″ Black Series figures (I bought Kilo Ren) but they also had a bunch of small figures I hadn’t seen before. Since I had already broken the seal with the Flame Trooper I found myself tempted to buy a bunch of them.  It took some willpower but I eventually settled on two, the First Order Storm Trooper and the First Order Snow Trooper.SW-FO Snow back

I have done my best to avoid spoilers for this movie. I’ve watched the trailers but that’s it. I haven’t even bothered to look at pictures of the upcoming toys. I knew there were new Storm Troopers in the movie because of the trailer but discovering the Flame Trooper in the toy aisle a few weeks back was a cool surprise. Seeing an updated Snow Trooper on my most recent shopping trip was an even cooler surprise. After getting the Flame Trooper and seeing how its design was inspired by the original Snow Trooper I assumed that alone was enough of a nod to the Empire’s cold weather specialists. I did not expect that the Snow Troopers themselves would also get a “First Order” make-over.

I must say that I really like all of these new trooper designs. They aren’t too far removed from the original iconic designs and they’re all similar enough to each other to make for a cohesive looking team. I don’t like this new Snow Trooper design as much as the original but it seems like a logical evolution of the outfit and it’s still pretty cool.SW-FO Snow walk

The uniform is quite similar to that of the Flame Trooper except this guy has a lid (for lack of a better word) on his helmet.  It looks like it could perhaps be a 2-piece helmet akin to Darth Vaders. Another unique element of the Snow Trooper uniform is the long skirt. I don’t know what purpose it serves but I guess I’m glad they kept it for consistency since the original Snow Trooper also had a skirt. I wish the skirt was a separate piece rather than being sculpted to his legs because it looks fine when he’s standing but it looks pretty goofy when you move his legs.  On the plus side at least the skirt can’t get misplaced.  My 80s Snow Trooper lost his skirt quite quickly.SW-FO Snow compare

 

 

As with the Flame Trooper and pretty much every other Star Wars figure this guy has a lousy 5-points of articulation, his legs, arms, and head move.  At least the head is ball-jointed to allow for plenty of head movement. For accessories the Snow Trooper comes with a pretty cool rifle and some other piece of garbage which is going directly into my spare parts bin.

There’s not much to talk about paint-wise but what few apps there are were done well. The overall sculpt is quite nice and I think it will look even better when a 6” version of this guy comes out.  I’ll definitely pick up the larger version when I get a chance but I’m still happy I snagged this guy in the meantime. Spending ten bucks  on a toy is like a breath of fresh air after paying twenty to thirty dollars for all my Transformers and Marvel figures; and don’t even get me started on the Masters of the Universe and G.I. Joe figures that I can only buy online.

In summation, I dig this little figure. It was ten dollars well spent. Absolutely zero buyer’s remorse which is rare these days. 8 out of 10.

SW-FO Snow group

FLAME TROOPER

SW-Flame fullSTAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

It’s been about a month now since I’ve posted a toy review. That’s the longest break I’ve taken since I started this blog back in 2011. For that I apologize to my loyal readers. I’ve been neglecting the site for two main reasons.

1. I’m a little burnt out on writing about action figures. I’ve gotten so many great toys this summer but blogging about them was starting to feel more like a chore than a hobby.

2. I want to focus my creative energy elsewhere for a while. I used to write books and comics and screenplays but now whenever I sit down to write I end up blogging and its becoming a distraction. I’ve decided to tackle comics again. I’m working on reviving a book I used to make in high school, Costello Island. I’ve actually reviewed a couple home-made Costello Island toys on this blog over the years (Lance, Chiliwac, Philipae).

So you’ll see fewer reviews from me for the foreseeable future but I haven’t given up on blogging completely. I’m sure I’ll get the urge to ramble on about toys every now and again…like today for example.SW-Flame walk

Last Thursday stores all over America (and probably beyond) held midnight events to celebrate the release of the new Star Wars merchandise based on the upcoming film, Episode VII:The Force Awakens. I didn’t bother to attend but I went to a similar event when the Phantom Menace toys came out in ’99. I haven’t been an avid Star Wars figure collector for years and I really don’t want to get caught up in the hype again. I figured I’d probably buy a few of the 6” Black Series figures eventually but I wasn’t in any big rush to acquire them. As for the smaller 3 ¾” figures, I planned to ignore them completely. I already have way too many Star Wars figures in that scale sitting in bins in my closet.SW-Flame back

I finally ventured into a local toy department yesterday; nearly a week after the “Force Friday” event. I could see the Star Wars display from across the store as there was a bunch of new signage to draw the eye. A fairly large section of the toy aisle had been devoted to the stuff and I couldn’t help but wonder, “How come G.I. Joe never gets this type of marketing support? Ho-hum”. There were lots of glowing lightsabres and a variety of other merchandise available but very little in the way of action figures which is the only thing I was interested in. There were a few pegs of 3 ¾” figures but I was disappointed to see the Black Series pegs were completely barren. The Star Wars fanboys and scalpers (and maybe even a few kids) had cleaned the place out.

I thumbed through the pegs of the small figures out of curiosity. Nothing caught my eye until I came across a lone Storm Trooper. At least I thought it was a Storm Trooper until I lifted him from the back of the peg and examined him. It turns out he’s a “First Order Flame Trooper”. Neat.  As much as I loved the standard Storm Troopers from the original Star Wars I preferred the variations seen in the next two movies. The Snow Trooper from Empire is one of my absolute favorite Star Wars character designs. It’s one of only 3 figures that I kept from my vintage childhood collection (Walrus Man and Ree-Yees being the other two). My brother Doug had an affinity for the Speeder Bike Troopers from Jedi and we were both fans of the AT-AT Drivers. This Flame Trooper reminded me of my beloved Snow Trooper and I had to have it. My plan to ignore the 3 ¾” figures went out the window pretty fast.SW-Flame Snow

I’ll start with the negatives.  Articulation.  This figure only has 5-points of articulation; the bottom of the barrel for action figures.  He has swivel joints at his hips and shoulders and a ball-jointed neck.  Star Wars figures have traditionally only had 5-points, from the originals of the 80s right up to the modern figures of the 2000s so I shouldn’t be surprised.  It’s just disappointing because in recent years Hasbro increased the posability of their Star Wars figures by adding joints at the elbows and knees. It’s a shame to see them take a step backwards in quality but that seems to be the trend these days to cut costs.  That said, I complained about the articulation to Doug and he replied with “Yeah, but don’t you rave about ReAction figures?” Touche.  My only other gripe is that this figure doesn’t stand on his own and he doesn’t come with a display base.SW-Flame Storm

Now for the good stuff.  I love this design and the sculpt.  This figure looks really cool.  It fresh yet familiar.  The body is very reminiscent of the classic Storm Trooper look except the chest plate covers more area.  The head is the piece that makes this figure stand out.  He’s got a sliver of a visor but otherwise it’s a featureless helmet. He doesn’t have the “mouth” of the original which is probably why he reminds me of the Snow Troopers.  For accessories he has a backpack with a hose that attaches to his flame thrower.  Both accessories are two-toned and they attach to him firmly.  He also came with a stupid round hunk of plastic which apparently joins with the stupid pieces packaged with other figures to form a crappy robot or something.  My piece ended up in the spare parts bin almost immediately.SW-Flame carded

 

 

 

Lastly I’ll mention the package is quite nice with some original artwork unique to the character.  I’m glad I picked this little guy up and I’ll definitely buy him in the larger scale too if Hasbro makes one.  9 out of 10.

DARTH MALGUS (2015)

SW-Malgus fullSTAR WARS

I preface almost all of my Star Wars reviews the same way and I’m gonna say it again: I don’t usually collect Star Wars figures.  I love the Star Wars universe but I got burnt out on collecting the figures sometime after the release of Episode II.  I have a ton of late 90s/early 2000s figures but none of them are currently on display.  My passion was slightly reignited when Hasbro launched their 6″ Black Series line a couple years ago but that line has plodded along so slowly that the momentum seems to have been lost.  It’s extremely rare for me to purchase a 3 3/4″ Star Wars figure these days but it does happen.  Most new Star Wars figures are just updated versions of characters I already have in my collection a dozen times over but every now an again I see a new character that’s just to cool to pass up.  The last time this happened was when I found Savage Opress at Winners a few years ago.  Well it happened again the other day.SW-Malgus side

I was at Wal-Mart looking for Transformers: Combiner Wars wave 2. They didn’t have them but I did find a couple of Marvel Universe figures I needed.  As I was walking down the action figure aisle I noticed this guy hanging on the pegs of the Star Wars section.  At first glance I thought it was an unmasked Darth Vader figure.  I picked it up and discovered that it was actually a completely different character named Darth Malgus.  I knew absolutely nothing about him but he was just to cool looking to leave behind.

When I got home I looked him up on the Star Wars encyclopedia site, Wookiepedia.  Apparently Darth Malgus first appeared in the online role playing game, Star Wars: The Old Republic.  He has since appeared as a major character in the novel, The Old Republic: Deceived.  The site describes a lengthy origin story that I didn’t have the patience to read in full.

SW-Malgus art

To sum it up, Malgus was originally a kid named Veradun who worked at his dad’s zoo.  He showed a sensitivity to the force and, after he established himself as a dickhead by killing a girl, he was sent to Sith School.  At some point in his Sith career he got f***ed up by a Jedi and had to wear a respirator to survive; similar to Darth Vader.  Honestly I don’t really care about all that “expanded universe” stuff.  All I know is that this is a cool figure and I wanted it in my collection even if it is going to go directly into a bin in the closet.SW-Malgus face

Star Wars figures, even these small scale ones, have improved a lot since I collected them.  Most of the figures of the early 200os still only had 5 points of articulations just like the 80s figures.  This figure is articulated at the ankles, the knees, the hips, the waist, the shoulders, the elbow, the wrists, and the neck.  It only took 30+ years but Star Wars figures are almost as articulated as G.I. Joes now.

The detailed sculpt of this figure is also very impressive.  He’s covered in padding and panels with buttons and lights.  The outfit is very Darth Vader-esque but still unique. The large shoulder pads and chest plate are a separately molded but non-removable piece which adds to Malgus’ imposing figure.  A cloth cape is attached to the shoulder pads.  I find that cloth capes usually look better than sculpted plastic ones and that’s the case here.

SW-Malgus capeThe head sculpt is great and made even more impressive looking due to the stellar paint job.  I love the dark circles around his eyes and the veins on his forehead.

For accessories Darth Malgus comes with 2 lightsabers and a hooded cloak.  One saber is bladed (Sith red) and the other is sheathed (if those are the correct terms..I dunno).  The sheathed one has a peg on the handle so it can be plugged into his belt for storage.  The cloth hooded cape is a neat idea and it has a bendable wire around the neck so I thought it would attach nicely but I can’t get mine to look right.

Overall, this is a great looking new baddie for the Rebellion.  8 out of 10.

14 points of articulation vs 5

14 points of articulation vs 5 points of articulation

LANDO CALRISSIAN (1997)

SW-Lando fullSTAR WARS: POWER OF THE FORCE

When it first dawned on me that I should do a Black History Month theme this month the first figure I thought to review was Lando Calrissian.  I put it off for a few days because I didn’t feeling like dragging out my bin of Star Wars toys but today is the day.

Lando is definitely one my favorite black characters in pop culture.  He first appeared in the second Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back, in 1980 and returned for the final instalment of the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi, in 1983.  I saw all 3 Star Wars movies in the theatre somehow.  I’m not sure if this was commonplace but I believe my local theatre re-released the original in the lead up to Empire’s release.  I don’t remember the trips to the theatre because I was like 2 or 3 years old at the time but I know it happened because my brother Doug and I spoke of it often.  He’s 2 years older than me so his memories from those days are a bit better than my own.   My point is that I’ve been a fan of Lando Calrissian for longer than I can even remember.SW-Lando empire

The actor who portrayed Lando was Billy Dee Williams.  He was fantastic in that role and I bet he’d have been stellar in most any role but I have seen him do little else.  I can recall small roles in the first Batman movie and the Ladies’ Man and more recently I saw him play himself in an episode of Modern Family but thats about it.  For that reason it’s very hard for me to look at Billy Dee and not see Lando Calrissian.  Mr. Williams came to my little town of Halifax a while back as a guest panellist at our local sci-fi/comic convention, Hal-Con.  I talked a bit about the convention in my review of  Snake Mountain which I picked up on the sales floor that year.  I wish I could tell you that Billy Dee was as smooth a talker as Lando with a bunch of great behind the scenes stories from the set but Billy seemed a little slow.  If you happened to catch him on Dancing With the Stars then you know what I’m talking about.  The moderator really had to pull answers out of him. Mind you, he was about 75 years old at the time so we have to cut him some slack.  Though at one point he did allude to hooking up with Princess Leia which was kind of funny.SW-Lando halcon

When I planned to write about a Lando figure I thought I would either review him in his iconic blue shirt and cape  from Empire or his Skiff Guard disguise from Jedi.  But as I was digging through my Star Wars bin trying to find those two I came across this figure.  I forgot all about this one.  This is Lando in an outfit he wore while hanging out at the rebel base and then attacking the Deathstar in Return of the Jedi.SW-Lando jedi

 

It’s not as instantly recognizable as the other outfits but it’s pretty cool.  This is Lando after he was made a General in the Rebel Alliance so the whole outfit is just classier than his Empire garb.  He still has a spiffy cape but its less “pimpy” than the blue one.

SW-Lando back

 

As for the figure itself, it’s fine for what it is.  I’m not a big fan of the “Power of the Force” figures of the late 90s in general.  They were more screen accurate than the vintage 80s toys but they still didn’t look great and in retrospect they don’t even have the fun “camp” factor of the originals.  This figure has 6 points of articulation (hips, shoulders, waist, and head) which is one more than the vintage figures (they didn’t swivel at the waist).  I really wish that Hasbro had given these guys some knee and elbow joints seeing as they had pulled it off with G.I. Joes 2 decades earlier.  Maybe the limited articulation was meant as an homage to the originals but to me it just seemed cheap and lazy.  His torso is too thick and his legs are a bit short but not horribly so.

SW-Lando faceThe thing I like least about this figure is the wide stance.  I’m not a fan of pre-posed figures.  I’d prefer the figure have enough articulation for me to pose him however I choose but if you’re gonna make him rigid than at least put him in a neutral position.  Hasbro really got carried away with the action poses when they were making figures for the prequels and that’s a big reason I  lost interest in collecting them.

On the plus side  the sculpt is pretty good (proportion issues aside).  I like that they sculpted so many wrinkles into his pants and jacket and the face sculpt is quite a good likeness to Billy Dee.  I also like the paint job.  The colors look good together and there are some nice painted details such as the badge on his chest and the bracelet on his wrist.

For accessories Lando has a flexible rubber cape and a blaster which I did not feel like hunting for.  This figure is totally fine as a child’s plaything but as a collector I’d like something more.  6 out of 10

 

 

STORM TROOPER (2014) black series

SWB-Storm fullSTAR WARS BLACK SERIES

The 3 ¾” Star Wars figures are my largest collection not currently on display. I have a ton of vintage G.I. Joes not on display too but at least most of those characters are represented in my modern G.I. Joe display. When it comes to Star Wars I have loads of late 90s/early 2000s era figures sitting in a bin in my closet and those characters have no visual representation in my collection. If I wanted to display Storm Troopers all over my desk I could do that because I have a bunch of them but Star Wars just hasn’t been a priority to me for many years.

Even though my Star Wars fervour dwindled with the release of the prequels I still very much enjoy the original trilogy. I’d like to have all of my Star Wars figures displayed but there simply isn’t enough room in my mancave. I could choose to display a few of my favorites but I’m an all or nothing type of guy. If I don’t have room to display all of them, including lame senator figures, then great looking characters like Hammerhead and Lak Sivrak suffer the consequences and remain in storage too.SWB-Storm face

I was intrigued by Hasbro’s 6” Star Wars Black Series figures when I first saw them but I promised myself that I wouldn’t go crazy collecting them. The characters look really nice in the larger scale but the last thing me and my wallet need is to start collecting another toyline with the potential to be massive. I told myself I would be very selective about which figures I collect.

SWB-Storm backThus far I have Greedo, Darth Maul, Boba Fett, and Jabba the Hutt. With such a small collection I’m able to find room to display them all. I’ve been tempted to pick up a Luke or a Han since they’re the main characters but I’ve avoided that slippery slope so far. My older brother Doug isn’t  nearly as choosy as I am when it comes to these and is buying most of the Black Series figures. For Christmas he suggested I get him either Dath Vader or a Storm Trooper. Both are nice looking figures but I had opted to skip them for myself. I bought Doug the Storm Trooper online and told him “that he probably shouldn’t buy one for himself.” I guess I didn’t make myself clear because he bought one the next day when he saw it at Toys R Us. He hadn’t seen one at retail anywhere before and he said he couldn’t take the chance of leaving it behind on the off chance that I hadn’t actually gotten him one. So I ended up buying him something else for Christmas and accepted that the Storm Trooper would be joining my collection once it arrived in the mail.SWB-Storm gang

The Storm Trooper showed up just before the holidays. I tossed him under the tree as a gift to myself and opened him on Christmas morning. I was immediately impressed by this toy. The sculpting and proportions are perfect, there’s decent articulation (could be better), he has a laser rifle and a laser pistol that can be holstered on his hip, and the white armor is as crisp as new fallen snow.  It just looks fantastic.SWB-Storm sit

 

This figure is superior to my smaller Storm Troopers by a long shot and it’s even better than my 12” doll. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what is so great about this figure but it is exceedingly cool. This figure has opened up a can of Storm Trooper worms for me because I now want to collect all of the variations: Biker Scouts, Sand Troopers, Clone Troopers, etc.

I think this is the best looking Storm Trooper figure ever released. Only the articulation limits keep it from being a perfect 10.  9 out of 10.SWB-Storm Trooper rifle