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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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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

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

TOP 14 ACTION FIGURES OF 2014

2014 is drawing to a close and that mean’s it’s time for another “best of” year-end list. I’ve been blogging about toys for 3 years now so naturally this is my third annual list (check out 2012 and 2013 here). I love lists so I look forward to the slew of them that come out this time each year and I enjoy compiling my own. Let me begin by saying that this is a list of the 14 best action figures released in 2014 that I added to my collection; it is not a “best of” list that considers every toy released in 2014. There were a ton of wicked toys released this year that would likely be on this list had I got them but I can’t afford to collect everything. Regardless, I got a ton of great figures this year and was able to put together a list of top-notch toys. After much consideration, here is my top 14:

Top 2014-BeBop14. Be-Bop (Funko Pop!-TMNT) At first glance this might seem like an odd way to start the list but there’s no denying that this is a great figure. I bought 2 other Be-Bop figures this year, and another one based on the new animated series is due out soon, but none of them are as cool as this big-headed vinyl figurine by Funko. Of all the Pop! figures that adorn my work desk I think he’s probably my favorite. Be-Bop has a lot of distinguishing features and all of them are squeezed into this one little figure. There’s the earring, the nose ring, the bandolier, the mohawk, the shades, the turtle shell shoulder pads, the chains, the necklace, and the sneakers. It’s very detailed while still maintaining the minimalist Pop! aesthetic. If I were a kid I wouldn’t be so impressed with this figure as it lacks playability but as a nostalgia-fueled adult collector who only displays his toys I like things that stand out from the crowd and grab your attention; this guy does that.

Top 2014-Modulok13. Modulok (Mattel-Masters of the Universe Classics) I was pretty torn about this slot. Overall, the MOTU Classics toyline has been awesome but this hasn’t been a strong year for the line. All of the “must-have” characters were produced in the first few years so the 2014 series was mostly populated by second rate She-Ra characters. Regardless, I haven’t necessarily been disappointed by the 2014 figures, most have been quite good, but when I looked them over to see who would make this list I realized none of them felt essential enough to make the cut. The only one even close to list worthy was Modulok. Don’t get me wrong, this is an excellent figure and it’s extremely unique amongst a line full of unique characters, but I just don’t care for the character all that much personally. I never owned the original toy when I was a kid and I don’t believe he’s ever played a significant role in any of the comics or cartoons so I simply never developed an attachment to him. An equally weird multi-legged MOTU character, Mantenna, nearly topped my list last year because not only was the toy awesome but so was the character. In Modulok’s case I only feel the toy is awesome and the character is lacking. I decided to let Modulok keep his spot though because MOTU needed to be represented and he does have a very unique body construction and fun build-able play feature.

Top 2014-Tripwire12. Tripwire (Hasbro-G.I. Joe KRE-O) This was another tough call. I absolutely love this figure but I got a ton of great action figures this year and placing a little brick figure on my “best of” list seemed like a disservice to those other figures. But while those other figures have this guy beat in terms of sculpting, size, detail and accessories it’s hard to match this guy’s fun factor. You build him yourself, you can swap out his parts with other Kre-Os, you can attach him to vehicles, and he’s super cute. The paint work and the innovative accessories turn this simple brick man into the best version of Tripwire ever. He scratches my nostalgic itch for G.I. Joe and Lego at the same time. This is the toy on this list that I would’ve most enjoyed if I were still an actual child and not just a man-child.

Top 2014-Heat Viper11. H.E.A.T. Viper (Hasbro – G.I. Joe: 50th Anniversary) Heat Viper is the first of two Cobra troopers on my list this year and you may be surprised to learn that the 50th anniversary Ice Viper is not the other selection (though he was considered). The original 1987 Ice Viper was my absolute favorite Cobra Trooper when I was a kid but the updated version doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor. I gave the new figure a 10 out of 10 when I reviewed it a couple months back but the overly long neck really does bother me. My second favorite childhood Cobra trooper was the 1989 Heat Viper. There was just something about the asymmetrical half-face plate that made him look so unique and interesting. The bright yellow and purple costume, the missile boots, and the massive cannon all added to his appeal. The 50th anniversary update is more successful in Heat Viper’s case and so he edges Ice Viper off of the list. I thought this figure was so great that I actually army built 2 of them which is not something I usually do these days due to lack of space.

Top 2014-Venom10. Agent Venom (Hasbro-Marvel Legends) I don’t have many Marvel Legends figures because I’ve committed to collecting the smaller 3 ¾” scale Marvel figures. But every now and again I’m forced to buy one because a must-have character comes out in the Legends line that isn’t available in the smaller scale. This year I’ve picked up Legends versions of Boomerang, Black Cat, Carnage, Arana and others and each of them is awesome but the leader of the pack is Agent Venom. This Walgreens exclusive figure is the first collectible I know of to showcase Venom’s current militaristic look. Most people know Venom to be Eddie Brock, the hulking Spider-Man villain who basically looks like a ‘roided out Spidey with a toothy grin. Well times have changed and Venom is now Peter Parker’s good friend/high school bully/war vet, Flash Thompson. I really like the new look and alter ego because I think the character was getting stale. This figure perfectly captures Venom’s new costume which is equal parts soldier and super hero. It features great sculpting, loads of articulation and multiple accessories.

Top 2014-Deaths Head9. Death’s Head (Hasbro-Marvel Universe) Growing up I was a hardcore Marvel kid. You could call me Galactus the way I devoured the Marvel Universe. Between my brother Doug and I we collected most of the comics Marvel published and we read all the character profile books so we knew every nook and cranny of the Marvel U. Some of the obscure characters that live within those nooks are some of my favorites, Death’s Head being one of them. This character hasn’t actually appeared in that many books, his own series only lasted 10 issues, but he left an impression on me. He’s one of the coolest looking Marvel characters out there so he totally deserved to be made into an action figure but I still can’t believe Hasbro actually made one this year. Some of the MU figures are pretty weak but this is the type of figure that keeps me coming back.  He’s bulky, colorful, well detailed, and includes multiple accessories.

Top 2014-Jabba8. Jabba the Hutt (Hasbro-Star Wars Black Series) I’ve always loved Jabba the Hutt. I’m a sucker for big monsters and this figure fits that bill. It blows previous Jabba figures out of the water with it’s massive girth, detailed sculpting, and paint job. This is the most film accurate Jabba toy ever produced and I simply had to have it.  You could argue that this toy was overpriced (approximately $40) given that its basically a big immobile slug with very few moving parts but what little movement it has really works. The fact that his mouth moves realistically when you tug on his arm is what guaranteed Jabba his spot on this list.

 

Top 14 Swerve7. Swerve/Trash Talk (MakeToys- Transformers) I’ve run out of things to say about Swerve and his twin Gears. Between the two of them I’ve written 6 reviews now. Last year third party company iGear’s versions of each of them made my year end list. In retrospect only their version of Gears (named Cogz) should have made the list. iGear’s Swerve (named Veer) was way better than the Hasbro produced version I had in my collection but it was still a far cry from the character I loved from the IDW comics. This year another third party company, MakeToys, took a stab at the pair. Their Gears (named Cogwheel) was very nice and nearly list worthy himself but it was their version of Swerve that really blew me away. THIS is the Swerve I’ve been waiting for. MakeToy’s version is named Trash Talk because of Swerve’s loud and jovial personality in the comics. James Roberts writes him with a ton of personality and you can see it on this toy’s face (Well the smiley one at least, he has an alternate destroyed face). Trash Talk is a great figure, and while Hasbro themselves released a decent version of Swerve  in 2014, this toy is the definitive version of Swerve in my collection.

Top 2014-StormTrooper6. Storm Trooper (Hasbro-Star Wars Black Series)  This figure crept on me which is why there isn’t a link to a full review (though there will be soon).  I like Storm Troopers, who doesn’t?, but I did not plan on adding this figure to my collection.  I already have so many Storm Troopers in my collection, mostly 3 3/4″ figures but also bigger and smaller versions, that I couldn’t justify buying this 6″ version.  I already promised myself I’d be very selective when it came to purchasing Hasbro’s Black Series figures.  I bought this figure for Doug as a Christmas present but then he went and bought himself one just before the holidays.  I had to scramble to find him something else and I kept this figure for myself.  I did not expect to be so impressed with this figure but as soon as I opened it up and had it in my hands I thought it was the best Storm Trooper ever.  Everything about it is great: the sculpting, the articulation, the rifle and pistol accessories, and the crisp white of the uniform. Now I want to go buy 5 more of this figure so I can have a little squad on my shelf.  Damn you, Doug.

Top 2014-Catwoman5. Catwoman (DC Direct-Designer Series: Greg Capullo)  This is another late edition to the list.  I loved it from the moment I saw it online and pre-ordered it a few months back but I didn’t expect to have it in hand before the end of the year because my pre-order at BigBadToyStore still hadn’t been filled by X-Mas.  However, I found this figure on sale at Giant Robot Comics on boxing day and I couldn’t resist grabbing it then and there and subsequently cancelling my pre-order.  I’ve wanted a good Catwoman figure for years but I haven’t been satisfied with any of the previous incarnations. This version is pretty much perfect.  The sculpting is beautiful and the costume choice is exactly what I’ve been waiting for.  I love the all-black catsuit with the over-sized goggles.  You’d think this outfit wouldn’t allow for a ton of detail but everything from the buckles, to the zipper, to the wrinkles look great.  The inclusion of a realistic whip sealed the deal.  DC Direct (now known as DC Collectibles) has been absolutely killing it this year.  Many of their figures could have made this list (Robin was close) but their female figures have been especially impressive.  Case in point…

TOP 2014-Supergirl4. Supergirl (DC Direct – New 52) Supergirl is a character who was long overdue for a decent action figure. She’s been around in the comic books since the 1950s and she even starred in her own live-action movie long before it was the fashionable thing for superheroes to do. Many Supergirl action figures have been released over the years but none were anywhere near as good as this one. This figure beautifully captures her look from DC’s New 52 Universe.  The body is nicely articulated and it features some really cool looking metallic paint.  I’m a big fan of the non-sensical knee-less boots for some reason.  The head sculpt is great with soft features and a nice hair design.  The paint on the face really enhance this figure as well.  The light blue eyes look appropriately alien and the natural lip color was a wise choice as opposed to giving her bright red lipstick (it suits Catwoman but not the more wholesome Kara).

Top 2014-Toxo3. Toxo-Viper (G.I. Joe Collector’s Club – 2014 Convention Set) When I heard that the Club was going to be including 3 Toxo-Vipers in their zombie-themed convention set I was stoked. The original Toxo-Viper figure from 1988 was another one of my favorite Cobra troopers and, like Heat Viper and Ice Viper, that figure had yet to be released in the modern style. I was extremely disappointed when images of this figure first hit the internet and we discovered that the Toxo-Vipers in the set were based on the version 2 design from 1991; a figure I never owned and to which I have no nostalgic attachment. However, I had to admit that this figure, with its newly sculpted head by Boss Fight Studios, was pretty damn cool looking. Once I had the set and the Toxo-Vipers in hand I was blown away by their design and quality. I absolutely love this figure and the fact that there’s 3 of them (6 if you count the zombified versions), which allows me to make a small squad, makes it that much cooler. The new head and the mix of re-used parts look great together and the color choices tie it all together nicely.  This figure was a very pleasant surprise.

Top 2014 Cykill2. Cy-Kill/Salmoore (DX9 –Go-Bots) This third party designed version of Cy-Kill, the evil leader of the Renegades from Tonka’s Challenge of the Go-Bots, is amazing. I’ve been pretty blown away by third party Transformers for a few years now (see Stormbomb from my 2012 list or Cogz from 2013) but for whatever reason I did not expect one of those companies to tackle Go-Bots. It makes perfect sense that they would because these characters aren’t being produced by Tonka, Bandai, Hasbro or any of the other “real” toy companies and there’s a fan base out there that wants them. I’m so glad DX9 produced this update to Cy-Kill and I really hope it leads to more Go-Bots in the future. As soon as I saw this figure online I knew it was a contender for toy of the year. Needless to say, I was not disappointed once I had this figure in hand. I love everything they kept from the original character design and I love everything they changed. The design is great from his stern facial expression right down to his asymmetrical feet. The real rubber tires and the multiple chrome pieces were key elements of the original figure which DX9 has replicated here.  I love it.  Cy-Kill was slated to be crowned the number one action figure of 2014 but his plans were abruptly foiled by Vanessa at the last minute.  Just like last year, Vanessa bought me an epic toy for Christmas which bumped everyone down a spot in a surprise upset.  Destro, Invisible Man, and Scunner were all bumped from the list completely thanks to Catwoman, the Storm Trooper, and…

Top 2014-Crow1. The Crow (Hot Toys)  The Crow is my all-time favorite movie.  I’ve watched it countless times and I can recite all of the dialogue with ease.  For me, the combination of great story, gothic visuals, awesome music, amazing acting, and teenage angst was a recipe for perfection in 1994.  I’m sure it would be my favorite movie regardless but the fact that Brandon Lee died while making it just gives it some added weight.  I have a couple of Crow figures in my collection and they’re pretty cool but nothing anyone else does in the toy industry compares to what Hong Kong-based Hot Toys does when it comes to action figure craftsmanship.  Last Christmas Vanessa bought me their Snake Eyes figure based on his look from G.I. Joe: Retaliation.  She had asked for gift ideas, I mentioned Snake Eyes and she asked about it a couple of times afterwards.  So while it was a great gift it wasn’t a total shock or surprise to receive.  This year Vanessa didn’t ask for suggestions, we set a spending limit of $100, and she specifically told me she had a more practical gift in mind for me this time.  So obviously I had no idea that she was planning on buying me this figure because he is far from practical and also quite far from $100.  I wanted this figure so bad when it became available earlier this year but I simply couldn’t justify the hefty price tag.  I placed it in my online shopping cart many times but always removed it.  Thank goodness for girl friends. I can’t do this figure justice in a mini blurb so I’ll post a full review soon but one glance at the picture to the left tells you pretty much all you need to know.  You can barely tell that its a picture of a toy and not the real Brandon Lee.  The eyes are particularly haunting.  The other toys on this list didn’t stand a chance.

Top 2014

 

 

 

4-LOM (1982)

SW-4lom fullSTAR WARS

Everybody who likes Star Wars loves the Empire Strikes Back bounty hunters. Other than Boba Fett, each of them only had a couple seconds of screen time in a single scene and none of them had any dialogue and yet they managed to steal that scene from Darth Vader anyway. They all just looked so completely badass. Most people’s favorite bounty hunter is Boba Fett for obvious reasons; he looks cool as hell and he’s the only one who actually did anything. My brother Doug owned the vintage Boba Fett action figure when we were kids essentially claiming the character as his own. Ergo, I had to choose another bounty hunter as my favorite. I picked the robot IG-88. He was the only bounty hunter I owned in toy form. We didn’t have Dengar or Zuckuss and Doug owned Bossk and 4-LOM.SW-4lom back

 

 

Like pretty much every other kid in the world Doug and I thought 4-LOM’s name was Zuckuss in the 80s because that’s how the package labelled him. Conversely, the vintage Zuckuss action figure’s package was labelled 4-LOM. Since the characters were never referred to by name on screen we took Hasbro’s word for it that those names were correct. It wasn’t until years later that Hasbro rectified their naming mix-up.

It was hard to know what to make of 4-LOM when this figure first came out in 1982. Is he a robot or a bug? Or some sort of robot bug? His body is pretty much the exact same as C-3PO’s and his head looks like that of a giant housefly with large segmented eyes and a weird little proboscis . I always assumed he was half-robotic and half-biological but according to his wiki biography he’s a straight-up droid.SW-4lom guns

Like most background characters from the movies 4-LOM had all kinds of adventures in the expanded universe of the Star Wars comics and novels. I never got into any of that stuff so all the information gathered from wiki is new to me. Apparently he and Zuckuss were best friends who worked together as a bounty hunter team and for a short time 4-LOM even joined the great rebellion.

Mind you, all of that stuff was recently swept from continuity so who really cares. 4-LOM has a clean slate now going into Star Wars’ new Disney-owned era.SW-4lom zuck movie

I recently acquired this figure, along with fellow bounty hunters Zuckuss and Boba Fett, from my new friend Nate who contacted me through this blog to see if I’d be interested in purchasing some of his childhood toys. You can read more about that haul in my Super Powers Robin review.

Nate’s figures were in great shape and most of them had all of their accessories. The 4-LOM he sold me for five bucks was equipped with 2 large rifles. I think the figure only came with one originally so I guess I scored a bonus one.SW-4lom zuck

This vintage 4-LOM looks just how I remember him from Doug’s collection. He’s sculpted in a shiny metallic gray plastic.  This looks like a 4-LOM fresh off the assembly line since he lacks any of the rust colored weathering detail seen in the movie and on the 1997 figure.  There’s lots of sculpted detail in his creepy face and throughout the body. The wiki page provides that 4-LOM’s body was constructed on set from spare C-3PO parts confirming that he is indeed a protocol droid gone bad. However I saw no mention of the origins of his head. I’m curious if it was originally part of a fly costume lying around the studio that they just slapped on top of the C-3PO body or whether it was specifically designed to look this way. Either way I like it.

4-LOM is cool and creepy and this figure holds up remarkably well. 8 out of 10.

1982 and 1997 4-LOMs

1982 and 1997 4-LOMs