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SALVO v.3 (2017)

G. I. JOE FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE 5.0

Shortly before I moved out of my apartment I received a package from the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club containing the two latest subscription figures. Since I was already in the process of boxing up all my belongings the new Joes just got tossed into a box. I didn’t get a chance to open them until I was settled into the new house. So now, nearly a month later, I finally get to enjoy my new Darklon and Salvo.

The original Salvo was released in 1990, the year I quit collecting Joes as a kid. Rampart was the only figure I bought that year. I did think Salvo was neat looking with his bizarre helmet and massive weapons but even as a kid I thought his “The Right of Might” t-shirt was pretty cheesy.  Since I never owned the original I have no real attachment to the character. I didn’t even get version 2 when it was released in 2005 despite the fact that I was back into collecting Joes big time by then. Salvo simply wasn’t on my radar as an essential member of the team.

version 1 (1990) pic from YoJoe.com

Regardless, I was excited to hear that Salvo was slated to be included in the Club’s 5th figure subscription service. I’m happy any time I can add a unique character to my modern-era collection.  My initial excitement quickly dissipated though once the Club revealed their photoshop prototype. Salvo looked like a scrawny little wiener. I wasn’t the only one underwhelmed by the reveal. Joe fans decried the horrible figure on every G.I. Joe site on the internet.  The Club quickly responded to the backlash by promising to go back to the drawing board.  What they came back with was a huge improvement and resulted in the figure you see here today.

Improvements aside, this figure is still far from perfect.   The arms, torso, and upper legs are all reused from a Dwayne Johnson Roadblock figure which makes perfect sense given that Salvo was always drawn as a muscly tough guy in the comics and cartoon. But I wish the Club had reused the entire Roadblock body. Instead they swapped out the lower legs for those of a Channing Tatum Duke.

The lower leg swap results in Salvo having wonky knees that can’t be fully straightened and poorly angled  ankles which make it nearly impossible to keep him standing on his own. The original lower legs would have worked out just fine and made for a much more solid figure. The Club’s poor decision means I have to keep Salvo hunched and backwards on his stand to keep him standing up.Reusing the Hit & Run head from the Club’s 2013 Night Force set was an inspired choice that no one expected. There aren’t many bald heads for the Club to choose from so I think most fans were expecting to see Serpentor’s head (which probably would’ve worked out okay too). The Hit & Run head had painted hair before but there’s no sculpted hairline so it works out perfectly for a bald dude and the variation keeps Salvo from looking like a clone of Hit & Run.

 

As for Salvo’s accessories, I’m okay with the fact that the Club didn’t replicate the original’s ridiculous shoulder-mounted 5 missile rocket launcher or massive mine launcher but I know others were disappointed. The Club still managed to arm him with an oversized shoulder cannon (as seen in the prototype pic above) but it only has one spring loaded missile.  It’s an ugly weapon but Salvo can’t support the thing due to his knee and ankle problems anyway so I chucked it into the extra parts bins never to be seen again. At least he comes with a pistol that he can carry or holster on his leg so he isn’t completely defenceless. Salvo also has a briefcase as the original did, a display stand, and his iconic helmet. I really thought the Club would have to sculpt a new piece in order to recreate this distinctive feature of the original but instead they just reused Sci-Fi’s helmet and it works surprisingly well.

 

The colors on this figure are true to the original and thankfully they’re toned down from the overly bright photoshop mock-up.  The Club even made the right choice of using the 1990 font on his silly t-shirt instead of the stiff text they showed on the mock up.

I wish this figure could stand up straight and hold his weapon but as long as he’s leaning I think he’s pretty cool. I really appreciate the fact that the Club responded to fan feedback and improved this figure before going into production. Had we gotten their first attempt I’d probably give Salvo a 3 or 4 but as is I give this a figure a 7 out of 10.  

HARLEY QUINN (SPACESUIT) 2017

DC DESIGNER SERIES: AMANDA CONNER

I’ve been settled into my new house for a month now. If you saw my last post you know that most of my toys are unpacked and the man-cave is looking great. I don’t know if I’ll start posting reviews on the regular again but I’ve got a little time to kill this evening and I got a cool new figure today so I thought I’d write my first review in the new house.

Harley Quinn first appeared on Batman: The Animated Series in the early 90s. I was a fan of the show, and though I didn’t watch it religiously, I liked Harley Quinn right away. She had a fun, court jester style costume which worked really well for her role as a love interest/henchman of the joker. True, she was a little annoying but her outlandish enthusiasm suited her since she was supposed to be absolutely nuts.

Harley was brought into the main DC comics universe in 1999 by way of an original graphic novel. I found the comic book version even better than the animated version.  She wasn’t as goofy and you could read her dialogue free of the annoying animated series voice. Bruce Timm’s animated jester design translated perfectly to the more detailed comic book medium courtesy of top-tier artists like Jim Lee and Terry Dodson. I had wanted to add a Harley Quinn action figure to my collection for many years but the cartoon based ones didn’t fit in with my existing DC crew and I missed out on the comic figure based on Jim Lee’s popular “Hush” storyline. She was a little too pricey for me on the secondary market and for years that Hush figure was the only 6″ Harley Quinn option.  Oh how times have changed.

I finally got my first Harley Quinn figure in 2014. It was based on her “edgy” New 52 redesign. I was happy with the figure at the time and gave it an 8 out of 10. If I were to review that figure today I’d likely give it a 4.  There are far superior options out there now, it constantly falls over, and I just don’t care much for that costume choice. A year later I got a new Harley based on her 2013 roller derby redesign. It was a much better costume which was designed by artist Amanda Conner. I was very pleased with that figure at the time and gave it a 9 out of 10. Nowadays I’d probably bump it down to a 7. The figure had a lot of good attributes, such as removable roller skates, but the weird face and stumpy neck were not among them.

In my review of Derby Harley I mentioned that I’d been hoping for figures based on Amanda Conner’s art for years and it seemed as though that was as close as I was gonna get. Well here we are just a couple of years later and DC Collectibles has offered up a whole series Harley figures based on Conner’s distinctive artwork (I’m still waiting on Power Girl though). I’m so happy to see Conner get her due. I’ve been a big fan of hers since 2002’s “The Pro”. I wish she still drew comics on the regular but it seems like she’s content just doing covers and writing these days.

I eagerly pre-ordered all 4 Conner Harley Quinns when they were offered on BigBadToyStore about a year ago. However, once the initial excitement wore off I calmed down and questioned whether I really needed 4 more Harley Quinns…because I don’t think I even like this character anymore.

 

I have tried on several occasions to read Harley Quinn comics and I just can’t get into them.  They’re stupid. Too stupid for me. I really wanted to like them because of my past affection for the character but I just can’t.  On top of that, the character’s popularity seems to have reached a critical mass and she has completely saturated the market. She’s everywhere.  But the straw that finally broke the Harley camel’s back was that goddamn turd of a Suicide Squad movie. After that I was done.  I cancelled my figure pre-orders.

Harley hate aside, I still love Amanda Conner so I told myself I’d let myself pick up 1 of the 4 figures once I saw them in store and decided on a favourite. They recently hit stores in my area and the winner was spacesuit Harley. This figure is based on a specific storyline (as are the other figures in this series) which I did not read. The entire body design is faithful to Conner’s artwork but the Conner-ness is most evident in the face. She draws such beautiful and expressive faces so this is where the sculptors really needed to nail it and I think they were successful. This type of facial sculpting is what was sorely lacking on the derby figure. The wide eyes, exuberant smile, and flowing hair all do Conner justice and the delicate paint apps seal the deal.

This figure has a vibrant paint job, plenty of articulation, and fun accessories. She comes with a display base, removable space helmet, a cork space rife with a stretchy phone-cord like rope, and some sort of evil space pizza. The pizza doesn’t mean much to me but I’m sure somebody out there will appreciate it. This figure has mended enough of the damage done by Warner Bros’ Suicide Squad that I may even allow myself to buy one more from this series. I may not feel this way forever but, as of right now, this is the Harley Quinn figure I’ve been waiting for. 10 out of 10.

COBRA VIPER v.29 (2017)

joe-viper-v29-fullG.I. JOE: FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE (FSS) 5.0

When the 3 3/4″ G.I. Joe toyline launched in 1982 there were 2 bad guys available in stores, the standard Cobra Trooper and the Cobra Officer. Those guys served as Cobra’s basic infantry.  All of the troopers that followed the next few years were specialized soldiers like frogmen and arctic troopers. In 1986 Cobra’s basic infantry got an upgrade with the release of the Cobra Viper. The original Viper design was awesome and iconic. Repainted versions of the figure were released in 1989 and 1990. In 1994, the final year of the original toyline, a 4th version of the Viper was released. V.4 featured a complete redesign made up of entirely new parts. It lacked the Viper’s trademark faceplate but overall the new mold wasn’t bad. The problem with the figure was the paint job. Cobra’s signature blue and reds were replaced with an over abundance of purple and rosy orange highlights. yuck.

1994 Viper

1994 Viper

When Joe figures returned to store shelves in the late 90s/early 2000s the Viper reappeared again but Hasbro wisely went back to the original ’86 mold. Since 1997 more than 20 variations of the original Viper design have been released but Hasbro has never revisited the 1994 design.

However, the Collector’s Club saw the potential in the mold and released the ’94 figure with a slick black, red, and gold paint job in 2005 as part of their exclusive convention set. The Club named their new creation Iron Anvil, a trooper in Destro’s Iron Grenadier army. 10 years later the Club updated the Iron Anvil in the modern figure style for their 2015 box set. The Club invested cash to sculpt a modern era head featuring Iron Anvil’s recognizable breather mask. Fans speculated that it wouldn’t be long before the Club reused the head to create a modern era Viper v.4 to get the most bang for their buck.  Sure enough the Club announced that the ’94 Viper would be updated in their next FSS.

joe-viper-v29-back

My first FSS 5.0 shipment arrived last Friday. It contained Charbroil and this Viper. I didn’t think I would like this figure but to my surprise I actually think it’s pretty cool. His body, with the exception of the arms, originally belonged to 2010’s Jungle Viper. The Club already used it to great effect for their box-set Air-Devil last year and it works well here too. It’s not completely faithful to the 1994 design but I think it’s an improvement. The ’94 boots were too high and the shoulder pads are pretty dated. I’m not sure where these arms came from off the top of my head but they work really well with the body. I loved this updated head design on 2015’s Iron Anvils and it still looks very sharp even in purple. This Viper sports the same garish colors as the 1994 figure but they don’t look as bad as I expected. I think the purple is a little duller which helps.joe-viper-v29-face

For accessories Viper comes with a display base, a shotgun, a rifle, a pistol that can be holstered on his ankle, and a knife/sword that can be stored on his back. I don’t love any of the weapons but they’re not bad. Once again the Club has changed my mind about a figure I wasn’t excited about. 8 out of 10.joe-viper-v29-compare

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention, this figure has the worst G.I. Joe card art I’ve ever seen. WTF is going on with this dude?joe-viper-v29-carded

SPIDER UK (2017)

marvl-spider-uk-fullMARVEL LEGENDS

For my birthday last week my brother Doug bought me Ms. Marvel and Spider UK from the latest wave of Marvel Legends. Each of them came with a piece of a build-a-figure Sandman so, between them and the Shocker, Green Goblin and Spider-Man 2099 I recently purchased for myself, I’m only one leg away from a completed Flint Marko. That means I’ll be on the lookout for the Jackal, which is not a figure I would have bought otherwise but, since I need it to complete Sandman Hasbro is gonna get another thirty bucks out of me. Damn them and their clever ploys.

After acquiring 2099 and Shocker I was tempted to skip the rest of this wave. I love the Green Goblin as a character but I don’t like the new Legends figure, I know nothing of Ms. Marvel and I’m not interested in learning, I never liked the Jackal because he looks idiotic, Symbiote Spider-Man is rather bland and I’ve bought multiple variations of it in the past, and Spider UK is arguably  just another Spider-Man figure.marvl-spider-uk-back

However, when it comes to action figures my resolve is weak. I caved on Goblin right away because it’s likely the only Goblin we’ll get for the foreseeable future. It’s really only the face I don’t like and it may grow on me in time. When Doug asked what I wanted for my b-day I informed him that Ms. Marvel would be  suitable choice. It saved me from spending my own money on her and prevented me from missing out on her entirely. She seems to be a popular character these days so I was worried if I didn’t get her now she may be hard to find later. It was less about her and more about the crucial Sandman piece she came with (the torso). I also told him Spider UK would make a decent gift. He’s a good dude so he got me both of them.

If Spider Uk was just Peter Parker in a fancy outfit for adventures abroad I would not have wanted it. But Spider UK is actually a completely different character.  He comes from an alternate universe much like Spider-Gwen or Spider-Man 2099. His name is Billy Braddock and he’s a member of the multi-verse spanning Captain Britain Corps. Really he’s as much Captain Britain as he is Spider-Man. He supposedly has the powers of both men (minus Peter’s spider sense) which would mean he has superhuman strength, speed, stamina, durability, reflexes, and the ability to fly at supersonic speeds.

marvl-spider-uk-art

In 2014 there was a storyline published by Marvel Comics called Spider-Verse which saw the Spider-Men (and women) from every alternate reality team-up to battle against a group of vampire-like villains called the Inheritors. That was the storyline that introduced a bunch of new Spider-Man variations including Billy here. He was the leader of the group of misfit spider people until the one-true Spider-Man took charge. The group proved popular enough to get their own series called Web Warriors after Spider-Verse ended.  Sadly the book sucked so it was cancelled after only one year.

To the untrained eye this might look like just another Spider-Man figure but there a few key difference which set him apart.  When compared to the default Peter Parker: Spider-Man Marvel Legends action figure you’ll notice that UK is quite a bit buffer.  I believe this is a brand new body sculpt and it’s a great base for future tough guys.  Clearly Billy hits the gym more than Peter does. Also of note, the blue and red are darker shades, the web pattern is different, UK has smaller eyes, lacks red gloves and boots, has no spider emblem on his chest, and features a Union Jack pattern in his costume akin to Captain Britain. I wish he had a more CB like helmet as opposed to a standard Spidey mask to further differentiate him but there are enough differences regardless that I don’t feel like I’ve been duped into buying the same toy over again.marvl-spider-uk-britain

I probably shouldn’t like this figure as much as I do because it is so similar to the dozens of other Spider-Man toys I have but knowing there’s a unique character under the mask makes him much cooler than he would be if this were just an alternate costume.  If I were a kid I would want to play out the Spider-Verse storyline and this figure would be essential. This is a solid figure with crisp paint apps and plenty of articulation. 8 out of 10.

p.s. I apologize for the extra crappy photos today. My camera refused to agree with me.

Spider-Man size comparison

Spider-Man size comparison

SIXSHOT (2017)

tf-sixshot-fullTRANSFORMERS: TITANS RETURN

Last week I turned 39. I’ve gotten old and some days it really feels that way. But that doesn’t mean I can’t still get excited about opening new toys on my birthday. My brother Doug got me a couple of Marvel Legends and Vanessa got me Sixshot (along with a bunch of other stuff…I’m spoiled).

The original Sixshot toy was released in 1987. I never had it because I was already losing interest in Transformers by that time. I grew very attached to the characters that starred in the first couple years of the comics and cartoons like Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. After many of those characters were unceremoniously killed off in the 1986 animated Transformers movie I had a hard time getting excited about their replacements. Doug and I quit collecting the Marvel comic and we stopped watching the cartoon. We got a few toys of the new characters introduced in the movie but we didn’t get any toys of characters introduced in the two subsequent seasons of the show that followed the movie.  Sixshot appeared briefly in the cartoon after we stopped watching.  Apparently he was heavily featured in the Japanese cartoon that carried on the Transformers’ story after the show was cancelled in America. I bought those Japanese cartoons on DVD a couple years ago but never got around to watching them (with the exception of the episode that featured the Battle Beasts) because they were subtitled. Maybe I’ll attempt to watch one after posting this…tf-sixshot-back

Sixshot was unique because he was the first six-changer with six distinct modes: robot, tank, spaceship, laser gun, off-road vehicle, and wolf. Prior to him the most complex bots were triple-changers like Blitzwing and Astrotrain.

Sixshot made appearances in the Marvel and Dreawwave Transformers comics but he never did anything that left an impression on me. That isn’t surprising because characterization wasn’t Marvel’s strong suit (as far as Transformers were concerned) and Dreamwave didn’t hold the license very long. Since 2005 the Transformers comic license has been held by IDW and they have produced some amazing comic books. They’ve been able to infuse so much character into these robots that many have gone from obscure toys nobody remembered to beloved fan favourite characters.

Sixshot has appeared in a number of IDW comics, including his own spotlight issue published in 2006, but I don’t feel that he’s truly received the “IDW treatment”.tf-sixshot-comic

IDW’s comics have improved so much since those first few years so I’d like to see Sixshot return for a more character-driven story. He’s a badass that turns into six things but other than that he’s still basically a blank slate. Since I didn’t grow up playing with him, and because he hasn’t been properly IDW’ed, I don’t have any attachment to this character. That’s why I was willing to leave this toy behind when I saw it at Walmart a couple of weeks ago. I had been looking high and low for the new Titans Return branded Megatron when I stumbled across Sixshot. He looked really cool but I couldn’t justify spending $60 on him. Maybe if he was a character I loved (I’ve paid much more than $60 for certain Transformers) or if there was something amazing about him I could have justified it. The fact that he transformers into six things doesn’t qualify as amazing in my book because I never transform my toys out of their robot modes anyway.  If anything, six modes is a detriment to the toy because it means the designers have to cram a bunch of stuff into it that will likely hurt the aesthetic or hinder the articulation. I hated to leave him behind though because I know all it would take is one excellent issue of the comic to make Sixshot a must-have toy. Thankfully Vanessa saved me from my conundrum by throwing him in the cart and declaring him a birthday present. She gave him to me on my actual birthday a few days later.

pics borrowed from TFwiki.net

pics borrowed from TFwiki.net

Sixshot is a “LeaderClass” toy so that means he stands about 10 inches tall; taller than most Transformers on my shelf. He’s bulky and has a good weight to him.  He’s got wide feet and his weight is evenly distributed so he stands firm and solid. Design-wise he looks great. He’s got a blocky form that is very faithful to the original toy and animated appearance. He has a faceplate so it should be hard to convey emotion but Sixshot looks suitably pissed off with his angular red eyes (see pic below). I’ve never held the original toy but apparently the only articulation it had in robot mode was at its shoulders. In that regard this figure is a marked improvement as it has articulation at the neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and feet. However I do find that if I mess around with his legs too much he tends to get wobbly so mine will be displayed quite statically.

tf-sixshot-head

This Sixshot was released as a “Titans Return” figure which means he’s a Titan Master. When I was a kid they were called Headmasters.  The concept is that their heads transform into even smaller robots. I thought it was a dumb idea then and I still do. Targetmasters were okay, their guns turned into robots and that felt like added value because you’re getting two characters for the price of one, but in the case of headmasters what am I supposed to do with this guy’s body once I take his head off? (I know, turn it into a car but I don’t care about vehicle modes). Sixshot’s head turns into a character named Revolver which has no articulation or paint apps and is completely pointless. Sixshot’s other accessories are two wimpy looking pipes that are supposed to be “hypersonic concussion blasters”. Meh.

Overall this is a good figure with a cool design and an attractive color scheme that separates him from the pack. But silly gimmicks, bad accessories, a high price tag, and poor quality control (the left wrist on mine doesn’t stay in place and hangs limply) drag it down a couple notches.  7 out of 10.tf-sixshot-pose

 

SPIDER-MAN 2099 (2017)

marvl-2099-fullMARVEL LEGENDS

Way back in 1992 Marvel decided to launch a comic book series about a future Spider-Man set in the year 2099. They also launched 2099 books focusing on the Punisher, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and others. Spider-Man 2099 was the only one I was interested in so I never read any of the other titles. Though years later, long after it was cancelled, I was drawn into collecting Ghost Rider 2099.  I may have given the other 2099 books a chance back in the day had I actually liked Spidey 2099 but unfortunatley I didn’t. I really liked the concept of a future Spider-Man facing off against future versions of his greatest villains, there was lots of potential there, but I found it poorly executed. Peter David co-created the character with artist Rick Leonardi and he wrote 44 of the 46 issues. I appreciate that Spider-Man 2099 was David’s creation but I feel another writer could have made the stories more interesting so I wish someone else had gotten the opportunity to take a stab at it. I don’t say that lightly as Peter David has written some amazing comics, including the first Spider-Man comic I ever bought (Spectacular Spider-Man 119) that featured Black Cat vs Sabertooth which I still love to this very day.marvl-2099-back

 

The Spider-Man of 2099 is Miguel O’Hara, a latino fella who works for a shady mega-corporation called Alchemax. When he tries to quit his job (upon discovering the shadiness) his boss doses him with something which leads to a series of unfortunate events; the end result being Miguel gets spider powers. It’s been 25 years since I read those comics but as I recall Miguel spent the next bunch of issues battling against Alchemax, a robot cowboy, some lame Thor worshipping cult, and crappy future Vulture. The stories never wowed me and Leonardi’s art didn’t help matters (though I’ve really enjoyed some of his other work too). It takes a lot for me to quit collecting a comic (I just quit Spawn after collecting 267 consecutive issues…it also launched in 1992) but I dropped Spider-Man 2099 after only 12 issues. Even though the book didn’t live up to my expectations I always had a fondness for Miguel O’Hara and hoped to see him back someday.

marvl-2099-art

 

 

He’s had a few scattered appearances over the years but Spidey 2099 finally got a second shot at his own on-going series in 2014. I added it to my pull-list at Strange Adventures but unfortunately it was still written by Peter David and it was still hella-boring. Regardless, I stuck it out until the series was cancelled a year later. I  got back on board when a third series was launched shortly afterwards under Marvel’s “All-New, All-Different!” campaign. The third series featured Miguel wearing a brand new costume but that was about the only new thing about the series.  It was still written by David and it continued on with the same boring storylines from volume 2.  I bought it for a while but quit a couple of months ago. However, I just recently learned that Mr. David is the writer of a new Scarlet Spider book launching this spring. I haven’t seen anything official but that probably means that a new writer is getting a shot at 2099 or, more likely, 2099 has been cancelled again.  In either case I may jump back on board to see how things pan out.

 

marvl-2099-pose

Even though the books have never been very good in my opinion the character has always looked really cool. He wore the same costume from 1992 right up until the All-New, All-Different relaunch in 2015. It consisted of a metallic blue bodysuit with a red skull design and a web cape. Miguel supposedly had the costume in his closet because he wore it to a day of the dead festival once. It wasn’t a particularly spidery outfit but it looked great. I especially loved the mask with the open eye design. I have purchased several Spider-Man 2099 figures over the years in various sizes (12″, 6″, 5″, 3 3/4″) and they’re all sporting that same costume.

I don’t usually like costume changes for the sake of costume changes, it’s almost always a marketing gimmick to get fans to buy more comics and merchandise, but when I saw the All-New, All-Different redesign of Spider-Man 2099 I was sold.  I guess I was ready for a change after all these years and I loved the bold contrast of the red, white, and black design. It retains all the best elements of the original, such as the open eyes, the abstract skull logo, and the Batman-esque arm spikes, but it just feels so…new and different. As soon as I saw the promotional art I thought this costume would make a great action figure but I didn’t imagine the book would last long enough to warrent Hasbro actually making it into a toy. As it turns out the book probably is doomed but thank goodness we got this action figure beforehand.marvl-2099-compare

Hasbro has been absolutely killing it with their Marvel Legends figures for the past few years. I went from only owning a handful of them to buying a new bookshelf just to house them in a matter of months. I named 3 of them on my best of list for 2016 but honestly I could’ve filled the whole list with them. I feel that this Spidey I acquired a few days ago is an early shoe-in for my 2017 list.

This figure feature an excellent sculpt. It’s not as slim as the previous Spider-Man 2099 Marvel Legend which is a good thing. The extra bulk makes him look much tougher and I feel Miguel should look more dangerous than Peter Parker: Spider-Man. The articulation is spot on  with rocker ankles, double jointed knees and elbows, ball jointed hips, shoulders, and neck, swivel joints at the boots, thighs, wrists, and forearms…what more could you want? The paint apps are beautiful with crisp white paint on the torso, metallic red on the logo, and a few bright blue highlights all on greyish-black base. Everything about this figure is awesome. Some extra hands or an unmasked head might’ve been nice (the only accessory he came with was a build-a-figure Sandman arm) but who needs accessories with a figure this good. 10 out of 10.

P.S. It’s my birthday in an hour so I should have new toys to tell you about soon. 🙂

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

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.

2016-valkyries

 

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

 

 

 

MEGATRON: ANIMATED (2008)

tf-megatron-08-fullTRANSFORMERS: ANIMATED

If you’re not up to date on your Transformers comics be warned: Spoilers ahead.

I know I’ve mentioned this multiple times before but allow me to say it again, Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye (MTMTE) is one of the best comic books around. I’ve been reading comics consistently since I was 8 years old, over 20 books a month at some points, and MTMTE is one of the best series I’ve ever read. I’ve always enjoyed Transformers comics; the original Marvel run in the 80s, the Dreamwave books of the early 2000s, the Fun Publications convention exclusives, and the various titles published by IDW beginning in 2005. Since 2012 IDW has been publishing two on-going Transformers comics simultaneously, MTMTE and Robots in Disguise (RID). RID has had its ups and downs but for the most part it’s been quite good. Quality-wise it’s what I’ve come to expect from a Transformers book which is to say that it’s an entertaining read with solid art. MTMTE, on the other hand, is in a league of its own transcending Transformers as a property. If you hate the Transformers you probably wouldn’t pick up RID no matter how good I told you it was but as long as you like good storytelling you should be reading MTMTE. Writer James Roberts has crafted an epic, hilarious, and heartbreaking tale that I cannot recommend enough. It would help you enjoy the story if you’re a Transformers fan well-versed in the lore but I really don’t think it’s necessary. Many of the characters featured in the book are not those who starred in the IDW books previously so MTMTE serves to introduce them whether you’re brand new to the franchise or an old-school fan like myself.tf-megatron-08-cover

For example, in the 80s Swerve and Tailgate were repaints of two of my favorite toys, Gears and Windcharger. They weren’t developed at all in the comics or cartoon so I always saw them as unmemorable second stringers. In MTMTE Roberts has infused Swerve and Tailgate with such personality that they’ve become two of my absolute favorite Transformers eclipsing Gears and Windcharger. Any character Roberts spends even a page on immediately becomes 10X more interesting. Despite this ability, I was skeptical about his decision to add Megatron to the cast in issue 28. As I’m sure you know, Megatron is the leader of the Decepticons. He’s always been the big-bad of the Transformers mythology responsible for the deaths of countless beings across the universe. I’ve always found him to be a fine villain. He was sufficiently menacing in the 80s cartoon (largely due to the memorable voice work of Frank Welker) but he never struck me as a very deep character. He was simply a bad guy because the property needed a bad guy. His origins and motivations have been explored in comics before, and those stories have helped to add some depth, but overall he’s an archetype. The same is true of Optimus Prime at the opposite end of the spectrum.tf-megatron-08-back

 

A few years ago the Cybertronian war finally came to an end in the IDW universe. The Autobots and Decepticons set their differences aside (for the most part) and everybody settled into relative peace back on Cybertron. The new status quo is explored politically in RID. In MTMTE Hot Rod decides to devote his time to searching for the legendary Knights of Cybertron on his ship, the Lost Light. He leads a ragtag crew of lovable ex-Autobots (and one or two ex-Decepticons) into deep space where they stumble into a number of entertaining adventures. Issues 1 to 25 are regarded as season one.

When season two begins in issue 26 the Lost Light crew return to Cyberton for the trial of Megatron. However, due some slick legal maneuvering and some wonky loopholes in Cybertronian law Megatron was able to talk himself off of death-row and into the position of co-captain of the Lost Light. I was leery of this plot development because I’d grown attached to the Autobots on the Lost Light and they’d now be bunking with their murderous sworn enemy and I didn’t want to lose anyone. Also I was worried that a bot as popular as Megatron would steal the spotlight from the lesser known characters like Swerve and Tailgate. In that regard I was absolutely correct because that’s exactly what happened…but I was wrong to worry because in Roberts’s hands Megatron is truly compelling. On the surface it seemed as though Megatron was really changing his ways and looking for redemption but I simply couldn’t believe it to be true. I just knew it was all a ruse and that he would eventually take over the ship and kill a bunch of characters I care about…but he didn’t. Every time Megatron showed remorse or compassion I was shocked and fascinated to watch this previously one-dimensional character actually grow. I never would have guessed it but now Megatron is one of my favorite Transformers.tf-megatron-08-art

I never owned the original 1984 Megatron figure when I was a kid. You’d think that might have bothered me but I always found the toy to be really wonky looking and not very representative of the character as he appeared on TV. I had the Shockwave figure though and he served me well as the leader of my Decepticon toys. Dozens of versions of Megatron followed the original and I never had any of them. When I got into collecting Transformers again as an adult with the launch of the “Classics” line in 2006 (starting with Bumblebee) Megatron was a character I was looking forward to owning for the first time. The Classics line was all about well-made toys based on the characters iconic 80s looks. Unfortunately, when a Classics Megatron came out later that year it totally sucked and was not faithful to the original. I decided to wait for the next release but sadly it was based on his Generation 2 green tank look so I passed on that too.  Years went by and my modern Transformers collection grew rapidly but Hasbro never released a Megatron that lived up to my expectations.tf-megatron-08-head

A couple years ago, on a trip to Giant Robot Comics, I came across this version of Megatron for sale in their loose figure case. It’s based on his look from the stylized 2007 Transformers: Animated cartoon. The exaggerated proportions of “Animated” didn’t look too bad on this figure, I needed a Megatron, and the price was right so I went for it.  I didn’t love the toy but I didn’t love the character at that time either so it was good enough; I just wanted a half-decent Megatron for my display. Now that Megatron has earned my love I will be seeking out a better version.

Things I don’t like about this toy include his cartoony appearance, the pink “battle damage” paint apps, his weird alt mode, and the struggle required to keep him standing. His joints are loose and he’s top heavy so he wants to constantly topple over. None of those issues are deal breakers for me though. His cartoony appearance is pretty close to his Generation 1 look with maybe a slight bit of live-action influence. The pink paint is dumb but at last it adds some color. I wish he transformed into a gun like he’s supposed to instead of a spaceship but I never transform my toys anyway. The thing I like least about this figure is its size. I’ve always felt that Megatron and Optimus Prime need to be bigger than their soldiers because thats how the original toys were and thats how they were portrayed on the show. Having a 5″ Megatron that stands shoulder to shoulder with an Insecticon just doesn’t seem right. When I do upgrade my Megatron I will be sure to get a taller one.tf-megatron-08-animated

 

Despite its flaws this is a decent Megatron which is why I got it in the first place. He’s got a pissed off look on his face that suits him well. I actually dig the exaggerated proportions that result in really large feet and Popeye forearms. The greys and reds look good together and the light-piping effects on the eyes and arms are cool too. My favorite feature is the massive arm cannon. This is Megatron’s defining feature and never has it looked so badass. I know they can do better but I still think this is one of the best Megatron toys Hasbro has produced. 7 out of 10.tf-megatron-08-fight

 

SUPERMAN: JIM LEE BLUELINE EDITION (2016)

dc-superman-blueline-fullDC COLLECTIBLES

I have way too many Spider-Man and Iron Man toys. I know this. As a loyal Marvel reader for the past 30 years I have seen those characters wear a multitude of costumes and for some reason I feel compelled to own an action figure of each new look. It’s a problem. Conversely, I have never been a diehard DC fan. I really like some DC characters but I buy their books much more selectively. I tend to stick to critically acclaimed stories. There are exceptions to this rule but generally good stories do not feature alternate costumes. For that reason I’ve had very little exposure to short-lived, one-off DC costumes. Electric Blue Superman? Never read it. Bearded hook-hand Aquaman? Never read it. Knightfall Batman? Never read it. I suppose that’s why I’ve managed to avoid buying multiple action figures of DC characters. I’ve only ever felt the need to collect one iconic version of each. One Superman, one Batman, etc. Unfortunately that plan has been unravelling lately because of DC Collectibles’ designer action figures based on the specific artistic styles of various pencilers.

Ed McGuinness, Jim Lee, Jae Lee

Ed McGuinness, Jim Lee, Jae Lee

For a long time my Ed McGuinness inspired Superman figure was all I needed. Then last year DC Collectibles released a Jae Lee inspired figure which I couldn’t pass up. Next year they’ll probably put out a John Romita Jr. Superman that I’ll be powerless against but this year the Superman I got roped into buying was based on the artwork of Jim Lee.dc-superman-blueline-art

Jim Lee is one of those superstar artists that made a big splash in the comic book industry in the early 90s with his dynamic drawings. He was best known for his work on X-Men before he left Marvel and co-founded Image comics where he focused his creative energies for the next 10 years.

It was a pretty big deal when, after a decade primarily working on his creator-owned material, Jim Lee came back to mainstream comics in 2003. Rather than return to Marvel Jim opted for DC where he drew the 12–issue Batman run titled “Hush”. Hush has plenty of flaws but its undeniably a fun book. Writer Jeph Loeb crammed every Batman character he could think of into those 12 issues and it was a real treat seeing Lee put his unique stamp on each one of them. A series of Hush action figures released in 2004 is one of the earliest examples of DCs artist inspired toylines. Hush was a huge sales success for DC and it got me buying Batman comics on the regular for the first time ever.

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Lee followed up Hush with a Superman story written by Brian Azzarello called “For Tomorrow” in 2004. Lee’s art corralled me into collecting Superman comics for the first time as well. However, the story lacked the event feel of Hush and it was pretty forgettable. Story aside, it looked really nice and Jim Lee proved he could draw one hell of a Superman.

Lee returned to drawing the last son of Krypton on a monthly basis for the relaunch of the Justice League comic in 2011 as part of DC’s New 52 initiative. The New 52 Superman was younger than the Superman Lee drew in “For Tomorrow” and he had a different costume (lots of pointless lines and no more undies). An action figure featuring the New 52 look was released in 2012 but it didn’t interest me because I like my Superman old school. The figure was most likely based on Jim Lee’s artwork to a degree but it wasn’t specifically marketed as such and I don’t think great pains were made to capture his style.dc-superman-blueline-color

A couple of months ago DC Collectibles released this “Jim Lee Blueline Edition”  Superman figure similar to the Blueline Batman they released as a San Diego Comic Con exclusive in 2015.  The concept is that these figures capture the look of a Jim Lee pencil sketch before it’s inked and colored. I think it’s a pretty neat idea so I promptly purchased this Superman from BigBadToyStore when it went up for pre-order. A Blueline Wonder Woman is planned for later this year which I also considered pre-ordering but I’ve decided not to because I like how unique this Superman looks in my collection.

This figure features the exact same build as the previously released New 52 Superman except its molded in solid white plastic.  The only paint apps are the grey lines that represent Jim Lee’s pencils. I think this makes for a far more visually striking figure than the colour version. The pencil lines make the sculpt look more detailed than it really is. The colored version was mostly just sold blue without any sort of muscle definition.  This version’s muscles are very well defined courtesy of Lee’s etchings. I initially thought this figure shared the same head as the color version as well but after closer inspection I believe this is a newly sculpted head.  I don’t think the folks at DC Collectibles could get this figure to look so different using paint apps alone.  This version looks like the pre-New 52 Superman featured in stories like Hush and For Tomorrow rather than the 2011 Justice League Superman which is A-OK in my book. This version appeares to have a squarer jaw and a more recognizable Superman swirl in his hair.dc-superman-blueline-face

The articulation leaves a little something to be desired, especially when compared to Marvel Legends, but it’s pretty standard for DC figures. He moves at the knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, and neck. It’s a rather rigid figure but I’m fine with that as this is clearly a display piece for collectors; I don’t think too many kids would choose this version to play with over the full color version.

This is a great looking toy that does Jim Lee justice. I think it totally nails the concept of a sketch brought to life in 3 dimensions. I don’t usually talk a lot about packaging in my reviews but it should be noted that this toy came in an amazing box with a magnetic seal, a unique shape, and a bunch of Jim Lee artwork. The box itself is worthy of being displayed. Good work DC Collectibles. 9 out of 10.

 

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