Doctor Who: “The Impossible Set” by Character Options

For a line that’s been canceled, Character Options’ 5-inch Doctor Who figures keep limping along thanks to a handful of special releases like the one I’m looking at today. CO seems to be empathizing enough with the fans to be releasing some of the staple characters for our 5-inch scale collections and in this case, they are delivering on filling that one big hole… Oswin “Clara” Oswald. Sure there are still a lot of 11th Doctor Era figures we’d like to see in this scale (Series 7 Cyberman, please!), but since the line went the 3 3/4” route during the 11th Doctor’s tenure, it seemed like Clara was that one character missing from an otherwise clean break. And that brings me to this “Impossible Set” which gives us The 11th Doctor from the story, “The Snowmen” and Oswin Oswald from Jenna Coleman’s first appearance in “Asylum of the Daleks”

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Character Options put together a really nice bit of presentation for this set, making me think it might have been originally intended as a special SDCC release. It’s a double sided window box with a hexagonal cross-section. You get The Doctor on one side and Oswin on the other. Each side of the package is decked out to represent each respective story. The Doctor’s side has some Victorian shutters and one of the Great Intelligence’s evil snowmen. Toss in some nice shiny foil and damn it looks great!

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The flipside, however, is even better as it’s made up to look like the head of a Dalek with the eyestalk forming the portal to view the figure through. The presentation here is obviously a spoiler as it was eventually revealed that Oswin had been converted into a Dalek a long time ago and her appearance throughout the episode was just a projection of herself within her own insane Dalek mind. So cool! Anyway, the box here is very creative and it may just get me to save the packaging on this set because it is so unique and striking. Let’s start things off by looking at The Doctor!

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And here we have the 11th Doctor in all his sulky, brooding Victorian garb. It’s a fun figure, particularly since this was a one off look for him. There is some nice detail work on his vest, particularly the pocket watch and chain, which looks fabulous. Unfortunately, the rest of the figure doesn’t showcase some of CO’s best work. The coat and top hat both look a bit off to me. It’s like they’re made out of putty. I’d say it’s the soft plastic used for the coat, but the finish looks the same on the sleeves. I’m not sure what material that coat was supposed to be made out of, but it doesn’t look natural on the figure.

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If the coat looks like it’s made out of putty, the hat looks like it’s made out of chocolate. I’m also a bit bummed that it’s not removable, but I can’t say as I didn’t expect it to be one piece with the head. The portrait here is passable, but it’s certainly not up to par with the previous Matt Smith likenesses in this scale. The paint on the face is a lot simpler and more cartoony looking too.

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One nice surprise is that The Doctor actually features rotating hinges in the shoulders, a feature that has been hit and miss in the line. On the downside, most of the joints on my figure were stuck and while I didn’t have to bust out the blow dryer, I did have to do quite a bit of finessing. And even after the fact, some of the joints feel rather loose and wobbly, particularly those bicep swivels.

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The Doctor comes with his trusty Sonic Screwdriver, which may sound like a given, but there have been more than a few sets where CO declined to toss one in.

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And that brings us to what is for most the real star of this set… Oswin Oswald, or if you prefer, “Souffle Girl.” Now, I’m sure there are collectors out there who would have preferred a proper Clara. This version never actually met The Doctor until she was turned into a Dalek and it does seem odd that CO didn’t go all out for “The Snowmen” but I’m glad they went this route if for no reason other than that red dress kicked all sorts of ass. Plus, now that they got the portrait sculpted, I highly doubt this is the last we’ll see of Clara in the 5-inch scale. So, let’s go ahead and start with that portrait.

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It’s garnered some criticisms early on, and I’ll concede it isn’t up there with some of CO’s finest work. It is, however, one of those sculpts that looks passable until you get up too close and then it starts to fall apart. The neck seems way too chunky and the sculpted hair defeats the neck articulation. Also, like The Doctor, the paintwork on the face here is rather simple and cartoony. Let’s be fair, Jenna Coleman is a shockingly attractive young lady and I think getting it perfect in this scale was never going to happen. We’ve certainly seen better, but at this point I’ll take what I can get.

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The dress is soft plastic and layered onto the figure, which allows for a surpisingly functional waist swivel. I also like the work they did on her tool belt. All the little bits and bobs are nicely sculpted and painted and the belt itself just hangs loose around her waist. The paint and detail on Oswin’s sneakers are also well done.

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Like The Doctor, Clara features the coveted rotating hinges in the shoulders. She is missing swivels in the waist, but the rest of the articulation is what we’re used to seeing in this line. She even has a surprisingly good amount of hip articulation, thanks to the rubbery material used for the dress.

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Of course, they don’t call her “Souffle Girl” for nothing and Oswin does indeed come with her very own burnt souffle. Where does she get the eggs??? If this isn’t the first time an action figure came with a souffle as an accessory, I’d like to know what that first figure was. Maybe The Swedish Chef from Palisade’s Muppets line?

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I nabbed The Impossible Set for $35 from my regular Who Merchandise Provider and tossed in some DVDs I was missing to help offset the shipping. It’s a damn good price for two niche figures, particularly considering that any 5-inch figures from this point on are special releases and I would have expected an accompanying price hike. I should be more disappointed that the overall production quality on these figures isn’t quite up to par, but the truth is that I’m just so happy that they were released I’m willing to be more forgiving. As a collector, that’s not a great position to be in, but it’s the truth nonetheless. I’m also happy to say that Character Options has another 5-inch scale set due to turn up soon. It’s based off the episode “Time of the Doctor” and it will give us our first look at the 12th Doctor in this scale!

 

Marvel Universe Infinite: Grim Reaper by Hasbro

I’m continuing to push through my sizable backlog of Hasbro’s 3 3/4” Marvel figures. Today I’m popping back to the initial wave of the Infinite Series to check out Eric Williams, aka Grim Reaper! I was thrilled when Hasbro revealed they were finally adding this character to the action figure line. The history of Grim Reaper and his brother Wonder Man is a compelling one and I really like the way the story arc was handled on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. They also did a pretty good job portraying Grim Reaper as a semi-regular bad ass.

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I’m going to try to tone down my repeated criticisms of the Infinite Series packaging, mainly because it’s just getting tiresome. Instead I’ll just take this time to point out that while Grim Reaper has been kicking around the comics for a long time, his character design has remained fairly consistent. Sure, they took a lot of liberties for his animated design in EMH, but the character design on display here is versatile enough to work for a number of different periods throughout the Marvel comics timeline.

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Grim Reaper uses a fairly lean buck and relies mostly on paintwork for his costume. The color scheme uses a subtle mix of black and dark blue to give him that great old school comic book style deco. The white skull and crossbones painted on his chest is a bit uneven in the shading, but overall not too bad. The purple cape is sculpted to sweep away from the figure’s legs and it doesn’t reach down to the ground. Both features help to not to inhibit the leg articulation.

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The head sculpt here is quite good for the scale. Besides his distinctive mask with the double “horns” protruding from each side, Eric is sporting a pretty crazy expression that gives the figure personality in spades. I’d have to go back to Marvel Universe Constrictor or Bullseye to find a figure of a villain with a portrait as good as this one. The paintwork around the mask is a little sloppy, but you have to get in pretty close to notice it.

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Obviously, Grim Reaper’s most notable feature is the scythe grafted onto his right arm by The Tinkerer. The appendage looks good and doesn’t warp too badly despite being cast from very soft plastic. I will take issue with the articulation here, because there doesn’t appear to be a swivel at the post where it is inserted into the arm. It’s a crazy oversight and it really limits some of the attack poses you can get out of him. This restriction is rather disappointing.

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The rest of the articulation is both fine and predictable for the line. The arms feature rotating hinges in the shoulders, hinges in the elbows, and swivels in the biceps. There’s also a swivel in Grim Reaper’s left wrist. The legs are ball jointed at the hips and double-hinged at the knees. There are swivels in both the thighs and lower legs, and the ankles have both hinges and lateral rockers. The torso has a swivel in the waist, a ball joint in the chest, and the neck features both a hinge and a ball joint.

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And so with the addition of Grim Reaper to my Marvel ranks, I can tick another important villain off my Marvel action figure want list. Overall, I think Hasbro did a nice job with this guy, particularly with that wonderful portrait. The one sticking point for me (no pun intended) remains the lack of a swivel in his scythe. It seems like it had to be pegged in there anyway, and I’m guessing they opted to glue it in, which is a real shame. Besides the ability to rotate it for greater posing, it would have been cool to have it detach as well. It’s not a big deal when he’s standing on the shelf, but it sure puts a damper on the fun when posing and playing around with him.

Masters of the Universe Classics: New Adventures Skeletor by Mattel

Alrighty, I’m back to wrap up this slightly truncated week with a double dip into the world of Masters of the Universe Classics. I’m still not feeling 100% but I’m propped up on various cold meds, so please bear with me. On Tuesday we looked at Faker, this time we’re looking at one of the two August Club Eternia figures and it is none other than New Adventures Skeletor. I hear tell that some of the purist fans out there are rather perturbed that the NA characters have wormed their way into this line, but I’ve found these NA figures to be a delight and I’ll tell you right now that this new version of Skeletor is no different.

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There’s the packaging. About the only thing new and noteworthy here is that Skeletor does indeed sport the “Space Mutants” sticker on the front of the bubble. He fills out the package rather nicely and his huge staff is packed in behind him. Also concealed behind the bubble insert is the bonus Faker head which we’ll get to at the end. The bubble insert simply identifies him as Skeletor, rather than “New Adventures” Skeletor, but it does feature the tag line, “Intergalactic Overlord of Evil.” I like to picture a scenerio where Skeletor gets his ass beaten down by He-Man and he just tosses down his Havoc Staff and shouts, “F’ck this place! I’m going to go conquer the Universe!” and then jumps in a rocket and flies off. Well, that’s how it should have happened.

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Out of the package and I’m really digging the look of this version of old Boney. From what little I remember about theNA characters, I recall them being a lot leaner, so this is the first time for me seeing this Skeletor all bulked out in the old fashioned MOTU style and I think it works beautifully. It also feels like Matty took some liberties with the coloring over the animated look. The deco here is fairly close to the Skeletor we all know and love, but his armor is now detailed with a cool technology and bone motif. That’s the one thing that sets this figure apart so much for me. A lot of the MOTUC figures get by with a fairly sparse amount of detailing, but there’s some extremely intricate and fine detailing on Skeletor’s armor pieces and even on the figure buck itself. Check out all those hoses  hoses and cables that appear to be grafted directly into his skin! Cool!

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The portrait is equally impressive. The skull is really gnarly and features some fine detailing in the teeth. You can take off the helmet (which was a pleasant surprise!) to reveal even more detail, including cracks in the skull and tiny mechanical details like metal hydraulics in the jaw. And let’s not forget the eyes. Thankfully, Matty didn’t go for the bug-eyed animated look and instead just gave him a pair of red eyes set deep into the sockets. I think the only complaint some might have here is that Skeletor’s head looks a bit like it’s made out of clay. I’m not sure it that’s from the paint or the way it’s sculpted, but I’m getting a definite sculpty vibe from him. I think it’s rather distinctive, but some may disagree.

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Articulation consists of the usual MOTUC fare. The arms are ball jointed at the shoulders, hinged at the elbows, and have swivels in the biceps and wrists. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, have swivels in the thighs, and hinged at the knees and ankles. The torso can swivel at the waist and there is an ab-crunch, but it’s a bit hampered by the fact that Skeletor is wearing a soft plastic vest. Lastly the neck is ball jointed.

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Skeletor comes with a large staff with a skull motif on the head and what I assume are two beam emitters. The butt of the staff ends in a hooked blade. It’s quite a departure from his iconic Havoc Staff, but I do rather like it a lot and he looks great holding it. And then there’s the other accessory…

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The other accessory is the extra Faker head and holy shit do I love this thing! Obviously, it has nothing to do with the Skeletor figure, but Mattel said they would be trying to get extras into the hands of collectors by packing them in with random figures and this is one of those instances. This extra head is obviously a Terminator inspired portrait with half of Faker’s face blown away to reveal the metal endoskeleton underneath. It’s an absolutely beautiful sculpt with a fantastic paint job to back it up. The silver skull contrasts nicely against the blue skin of the face and I love the way the sculpted hair hangs down over the skull portion. The eyes line up perfectly and I’d dare say the paint is very near perfect.

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I’m definitely going to be using this piece for my Faker’s regular display head.

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New Adventures Skeletor is another one of those figures that I wasn’t all that excited about getting, but still wound up winning me over in the end. The intricate sculpting sets him apart from the regular MOTUC figures and it’s clear that Matty went above and beyond when designing and executing him. The removable helmet was a great surprise and the extra head for Faker made a great package all the better. Now I’ve got to start hunting down some of the Space Mutants that I missed to get this Skeletor a more suitable army of assholes, not to mention a New Adventures He-Man to fight them!

 

Transformers Universe 2.0: Sideswipe by Hasbro

Until some new Generations start showing up in my area I’m going to continue to spend Thursdays looking backward through the Classics/Universe 2.0 line. Today’s random grab off of my shelf is none other than that sexy red Lamborghini Sideswipe. I haven’t really looked at this figure since Sideswipe got the Masterpiece treatment so it should be interesting to see if this toy still holds up. As is often the case with these older figures, I’ve got no in-package shot, so let’s jump straight to his alt mode.

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After being revamped for the Bay movies as a silver Corvette it’s nice to see him in his original red Lamborghini mode again. I can’t remember whether or not Hasbro actually got the license and my knowledge of Lamborghini models isn’t intimate enough to tell whether or not this is the real deal, but it sure looks close enough for me. Not only does Sideswipe’s alt mode look great, it’s impressive how few seam lines it has. Apart from what you would normally find on the doors, there’s just a single seam running down the back. Not too shabby at all!

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The alt mode does not feature a whole lot of paintwork, but the economy of colors works fine. The bulk of the car is molded in a pleasing red with just a few areas where you can see some swirly patterns in the plastic. You get some red stripes on the sides, a few yellow paint hits near the front and painted black windows. The rear of the car is painted black and you get a customized license plat that reads, “SWIPE!” The entire package is rounded out by some nice looking silver wheels, clear plastic headlamps, and a removable engine pegged into the top. All in all, this car mode looks great and locks together beautifully. I’d say it holds up wonderfully. The only thing I think he’s missing is a nice big Autobot insignia centered on the hood.

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And just for the hell of it, here’s a peek at the undercarriage. Look at that! That is one well-packed Transformer. It also gives plenty of clearance for rolling the car and it even includes storage for the gun!

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In his robot mode, Sideswipe represents the same mix of original design influenced by the character’s G1 roots that characterizes the rest of the Classics/Universe 2.0 line. I gotta say, I’m still digging it as much as when I first got him. You get the same folded down hood as a chest as his original toy and the Autobot insignia finally makes its appearance. The biggest departure on this design comes in his lower legs where the rear bumper splits apart to become his knees. It’s not as streamlined as his original design, but I still think it works pretty well. My only complaint here is that I wish those two bumper pieces actually tabbed into place somehow. All in all, I get a strong Alternators vibe from this robot mode, and that ain’t a bad thing at all!

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The engine piece reattaches to his back to form a sort of jetpack, which is certainly a nice touch although it’s also completely optional if you want to leave it off.

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The deco here is gorgeous. Sideswipe retains a lot of his red and black motif, but you also get the addition of white for his arms, upper legs, an upper chest. The design also adds to brilliant pieces of transparent blue plastic to his thighs which goes a long way to make the figure’s colors pop.

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The Classics and Universe 2.0 lines rarely disappoints when it comes to the G1 inspired head sculpts and Sideswipe here is no exception. The portrait here is absolutely brillaint from his horned helmet to his neatly painted silver face. The blue light piping effect in the eyes is also highly effective and absolutely gorgeous.

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Sadly, Sideswipe does not come with his shoulder mounted missile launcher, despite the fact that there are clearly peg holes to accommodate such a weapon. He does, however, come with a very nice pistol that doubles as his exhaust pipes when in auto mode.

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I absolutely loved this figure when it first came out and even after Sideswipe’s Masterpiece treatment, I still love this figure today. Hasbro delivered with a beautiful auto mode and a kick-ass robot mode. The engineering at work here is inspired and he’s an extremely fun figure to play around with. The other really cool thing about this figure is that it’s one of the first instances that I can remember where Hasbro designed a mold that would accommodate independent engineering and work as a separate character. In this case, that character is the other half of the Lambor brothers, Sunstreaker, and we’ll go ahead and check out that figure next Thursday!

Masters of the Universe Classics: Faker by Mattel

Today’s feature posted late because I’m sick as a dog, but the show must go on… so here I am. The delay was actually rather fortuitous because now I can post it with the news that Club Eternia’s 2015 (and final) Subscription Year has been funded and is going forward. Matty claims they hit 100.9% funding on the final day after the window was extended an extra week. Is it true? Does that number seem a little too convenient? Honestly, who the hell cares? I’m typing through a cloud of Nyquill induced funk. Just give me the final year of figures so I can be done with all of this…

August turned out to be a rather heavy month for me with Matty Collector, with no less than four figures showing up on my doorstep last week. Club Eternia doubled up with two releases, Club Etheria offered up one and I picked up today’s figure through the Early Access Sale and yes, it’s Faker! There were a couple motivations in play that got me to buy Faker this tie around. First, his price on the second hand market has been creeping up quite a bit. Second, one of this month’s Club Eternia figures comes with a second head for him. Well played, Matty, you toss in a free head and get me to buy a figure! Anyway, I decided to look at Faker first so that I’ll already have had him featured by the time I get to opening New Adventures Skeletor and can try out his new noggin.

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There’s the packaging and there’s really nothing new here. You’ll note the “The Original” explosion on the bubble insert, which in Matty-speak means the exact opposite. This is not from the original release stock but rather one of the reissues. In fact I’m pretty sure Matty has trotted Faker out on Sale Day a couple of times so this is a technically a re-reissue. I think it’s cool that Matty changes up the package so if you are a mint-on-card collector and you did get him the first time around you have some bragging rights. I don’t often comment on the bios, but in this case I really like Faker’s. It proclaims that he was originally invented by Man-At-Arms and tossed onto the “royal junkyard” so that Tri-Klops could fish him out and reprogram him. First of all, I think it’s funny that Tri-Klops spends his downtime going through junkyards. Secondly, why the hell is Tri-Klops allowed to run wild picking through the royal junkyard? Anyway, let’s rip open this blue bastard and check him out.

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So, in case you didn’t already know, Faker is basically a blue repaint of He-Man, just like he was in the vintage line. Yup, even in a line of action figures designed around reusing the same body parts as many times as possible, Mattel still couldn’t resist just taking a He-Man, painting him blue, and selling him to kids that don’t know any better. Or in my case, a middle-aged toy collecting functional alcoholic, who really does know better but just doesn’t care. But don’t think I’m knocking him. In both concept and execution, Faker is so batshit stupid that the needle swings all the way around and comes back to land on awesome again. I’d pass on making the jokes about how a blue He-Man is supposed to fool anyone into thinking he’s the real He-Man, but I’m sure it’s already been done to death. I will, however, point out that thanks to his Classics bio, apparently both Man-At-Arms and Skeletor were both stupid enough to think a blue He-Man would do the job. Maybe as a species Eternians are all color blind.

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If it sounds like I’m padding this feature out with nonsense, well you got me, because there’s not a hell of a lot to be said about Faker that isn’t abundantly obvious. Plus, I’m loopy from the illness and meds. The repaint of Skeletor’s armor looks quite nice, although the left shoulder guard is left a little warped because he was pre-posed in the package. I’m so glad Matty stopped doing that. The coloring on this figure is extremely well done. The shade of blue if rich and looks great accompanied by the purple boots and furry barbarian diaper. The grey and silver paint used for the belt and bracers is quite striking and the paintwork on my figure is immaculate. And if you remove Faker’s armor you’re treated to a tampo on his chest showing some of his exposed android parts. I always thought that was cool.

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Faker comes with two accessories and both of them are copies of He-Man’s Power Sword. One is just the regular sword cast in orange plastic with a metallic orange finish to the blade. The other is an orange cast of half of the Power Sword.

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Even for someone like me, who isn’t a hardcore fan of the Masters fiction, Faker is something of an iconic figure in the line and it’s nice to finally put him in my collection. This figure was not something I was going to be willing to pay a premium for, so I’m certainly glad Matty offered him up for sale again. I’m sure a lot of collectors availed themselves of the opportunity, particularly with the extra Faker head coming with New Adventures Skeletor. And speaking of which, I’ll swing back to check out that figure at the end of the week so we can gawk at Faker’s alternate noggin.

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And with that, I’m crawling back into bed. I’m also going to be taking tomorrow off to try to carpet bomb the sick out of me with over-the-counter meds and Jameson, but I will be back the following day for Transformers Thursday!

Star Wars Black: Toryn Farr (3 3/4” Scale) by Hasbro

I can’t believe I’m back to doing a Star Wars feature a week, but for good or for ill it certainly seems like something I’m collecting again. Last week I checked out the excellent Snowtrooper Commander and today I’m going to keep the Hoth snowball rolling with a look at Toryn Farr, th communications officer at Echo Base. It’s unbelievable but true, Toryn is proof that there are still characters out there that have yet to get the action figure treatment. It’s nice to see Toryn finally honored with a figure, but at this point if you’re a Star Wars character and your first figure is being released after Bespin Ice Cream Maker Guy, you should probably take it as a slap in the face.

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There’s the packaging. I still think it’s crap. I think the next wave is the one scheduled for a redesign in which we get a diecut card in the form of a Tie Fighter Pilot. I’ve got some things to say about that, but I’ll wait until the packaging comes across my desk first. Anyway, Toryn looks a bit lost in that big bubble and since her two accessories are black, I can barely make them out. But, screw this whole package design, let’s get her out of there…

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I expected Toryn to be a quick and dirty recycle of the Hoth Princess Leia that we got a little while ago in the Vintage Collection line and I was partially right. The body is lifted directly from that Leia and given a slightly darker wash. Oddly enough the hands are both new and the jacket, while very similar in the pattern has a higher collar and a different rank insignia thingy on the left of the chest. I’m not going to pop in the movie and check to see how similar the two outfits were on screen, so just off the cuff let me say that I don’t have a problem with the reuse here. It makes sense that they would both be wearing some kind of standard issue fatigues and the fact that Hasbro bothered to make her a new vest is good enough for me. The new head sculpt is pretty good, especially considering Hasbro’s track record with the ladies. Toryn is sporting some rather intense cheekbones but all in all I think it’s a pretty attractive portrait and a fairly good likeness.

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Since the body is shared with VC Hoth Leia, Toryn features the same mixed bag of old and new articulation. You get ball joints in the shoulders, elbows, knees, and neck. That’s all good, but then we scale back with a simple swivel waist and the old T-crotch for the hips. The complete lack of any articulation in the ankles is curious, but considering the character, I don’t know that it’s a critical omission.

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Toryn comes with two accessories, a rebel blaster and a set of headphones. I lost the blaster that came with my Hoth Leia so chances are Toryn’s weapon is going to her. I’m cool with Toryn just sitting around taking calls on her headset. “Hi, you’ve reached Echo Base. We’re under Imperial attack right now and cannot take your call. Please leave a message after the beep.” Not to belittle her job, she did give the firing order to disable a Command Star Destroyer. That’s pretty badass!

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I like this figure a lot and I think it’s plenty cool that Hasbro is still finding characters to produce. I can’t say as I’ve sat around pining for the day that Toryn Farr joined my collection, but then every additional Hoth figure I pick up gets me just a little more motivated to go out to Michaels, get a crap ton of styrofoam, and build an Echo Base playset. I’m also always happy to see another female character get the action figure treatment, particularly when they’re just in a supporting role.

GI JOE: Destro (Enemy Weapons Supplier) Sixth-Scale Figure by Sideshow, Part 2

Alrighty, I’m back to wrap up this long overdue look at Sideshow’s Destro figure. I went really long yesterday and it’s Saturday so I’m already in overtime for the week. With those things in mind I’m going to try to be brief today while still giving all of Destro’s cool stuff their proper due. Let’s start with the weapons!

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Destro comes with his trusty chrome finish automatic pistol which fits nicely into the holster on his right hip and I’m not surprised to find that the sculpting on the weapon is every bit as good as what I’m used to seeing in Sideshow’s sixth-scale arsenals. Really, these guys do a great job on the firearms!

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The slide on the gun is articulated and pulls back to reveal a painted bullet in the chamber. The magazine is removable, again showing a painted bullet at the top. You also get two more mags, which can be stored in the ammo pouches on Destro’s left hip. It sounds like a little throwaway thing, but the ability to store extra mags on their person is one of my favorite little things about many of these Sideshow Cobras. I’m also really pleased to see that Sideshow is sticking with magnets to secure the straps on the ammo pouches and holster, rather than working snaps, which tend to tear the fragile leather. These are easy to get in and out of and I’m not afraid to use them. This is a key reason as to why I almost never take the pistol out of my Hot Toys Captain America figure. Stupid fragile snaps!

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Destro’s other weapon is his laser pistol and man do I love this thing. Some may remember that I was a little put out by the fact that Cobra Commander didn’t come with his iconic hair-dryer pistol. It’s nice to see that wasn’t the case with Destro as his primary weapon is a gorgeous sixth-scale interpretation of the laser pistol that came with the vintage figure. It’s a highly detailed and very realistic looking design or a fictional gun and it includes a scope and a detachable magazine. Everything on this weapon is beautiful right down to the coloring. Since it’s a laser gun, I’m assuming that in this case the magazine is some kind of replaceable battery. Either way Destro looks great brandishing this beauty.

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The next big item on the agenda is his MARS briefcase and this thing is just full of surprises. It’s got a matte green finish, a hinged handle and has two strong hinged catches on one side to open it up. It opens to reveal…

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A satellite guidance computer! The LCD screen graphics look really nice, but we’re not done yet, because the bottom plate lifts out to reveal…

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Yeah! A hidden compartment for his laser pistol. The gun breaks down into four pieces and each piece fits snugly into the plastic cutouts that are made to look like foam. I love this little extra as it gives Destro an option for when those sketchy arms deals go south and he needs to blast his way out.

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One of the simplest and yet coolest extras in the set is this tiny manila folder full of one-sheet blueprints for some of Cobra’s most iconic weapon systems. You get one for the HISS, one for the ASP, and one for the FANG. All three fit into the folder and the folder can be placed into the briefcase. Brilliant! I don’t know who had the idea to include something like this with the figure, but I’d sure like to shake his hand!

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To go along with the Satellite Guidance Computer, Destro comes with a PDA-style satellite tracking device. This simple piece clips onto his belt and features a graphic to simulate the LCD screen. I don’t have much else to say about this piece, but it does look nice clipped to his belt.

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The last thing I have to mention is the key. I have absolutely no idea what this is, but I’m guessing that, like the ruby medallion, this is some kind of McCullen family heirloom. It can be worn around Destro’s neck, but I have no use for it, so it’ll stay in the box.

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I mentioned yesterday that Destro is sadly the last of the sixth-scale Cobra figures that Sideshow has planned as the line is going on hiatus. As sad as that might be, I’d prefer to focus on the awesome figures that we got in this line, rather than what’s been left behind on the table. Sure, it’s always possible that Sideshow may come back and give us some more figures, but with the sad state of the GI JOE franchise right now, that sort of thing seems unlikely to happen. I would have loved a Serpentor, Scrap Iron and even a Tele-Viper to go with this collection, but as things stand, I’m sure glad that we got what we did. Sideshow did a beautiful job with these figures and I think more than anything else, they show how much the company has evolved in their craft. One things for sure, these figures will always have a place of honor secured on my display shelves. COBRA!!!!!!

 

GI JOE: Destro (Enemy Weapons Supplier) Sixth-Scale Figure by Sideshow, Part 1

I’ve been chomping at the bit to get to Destro here for a long time, so let me start out by chronicling the hold up. Destro sat on my pile of “To Open” stuff for a few weeks and then when I finally did open him I found he was missing some pieces. His vest wasn’t in the box and instead of getting his right “gun holding” hand, I got two of his right “suitcase holding” hands. I was worried because I didn’t want to have to return the whole figure just to get one with the missing parts. Also, since I waited so long to open him, Sideshow would have been within their rights to refuse me any kind of resolution. Thankfully, Sideshow’s customer service has always been impeccable and no less so in this case. After a few emails clarifying the problem they had replacement parts on their way to me in a couple of days and the box arrived just a few business days after that. This is exactly why I love doing business with them and the only time I ever order a Sideshow or Hot Toys figure from another e-tailer is when it’s the only way to go. And with that preamble out of the way, let’s get to the review!

Destro arrives in the wake of the bitter news that Sideshow has decided to put their GI JOE line on hiatus, and while that decision disappoints me greatly (I was hoping against hope we might see a Sixth-Scale Scrap Iron! I LOVE SCRAP IRON!!!), I’m mighty glad they got Destro out before pulling the plug. As usual with these guys, I’m going to do this feature in two parts. Today we’ll check out the outfit and the portraits and tomorrow I’ll wrap it up with a look at his accessories. Let’s start things off with a look at this glorious packaging…

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The box consists of the same brilliant design and deco that we saw with Cobra Commander and Baroness. It mimics the vintage Real American Hero card art beautifully right down to the animated explosive backgrounds on the side panels and the “COBRA ENEMY” stamp on the front panel. The rear panel also has a file card, again just like the old cardbacks. I love it! There’s also an excellent piece of character art inside the cardboard tray.

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The box has an opening front flap that’s held snugly down by a magnet. Open it up and you reveal a window showing off the figure inside with a blurb about Cobra on the reverse of the front flap. I do prefer the older style boxes, used for Crimson Guard and Zartan, where the box opened up to reveal two windows, one with the figure and one with the gear and had a detailed inventory of the figure’s accessories. I’m guessing they switched over to this style to cut costs, and it still looks fantastic, but it doesn’t offer quite the same premium level of presentation. In this case, the figure’s accessories are held in nesting clear plastic trays behind the figure. On the plus side, these boxes are a lot thinner than the older ones and make use of a better economy of space. Let’s get this bastard set up…

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Destro comes out of the box wearing his more Sunbow-styled head and his trench coat, so let’s start there. To set him up all you need to do is put on his arm bracers and his bling necklace. At least theoretically. My figure actually came out of the box with stuck elbow joints. I had to take his coat off, then remove his shirt so that I could find and finesse those elbow hinges without fear of breaking them. I’m still not sure why they were stuck, because the arms are molded in bare black plastic with no paint. It didn’t take much effort to get them working and then I had to put everything back on again. The bracers were a little tough to get on because the combination of the t-shirt sleeves and the coat cuffs don’t give you a lot of room to work with. On the other hand, once they’re on, they stay nice and snug. This is as good a time as any to point out that Destro’s torso is molded in black plastic as well as his arms, which is a tad disappointing. Had they done it in flesh, we would have had the option for the bare-chested look. Not a big deal, but it’s nice to have options.

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So, let’s talk outfit first. My initial reaction to the reveal of this figure’s outfit left me a bit tepid, but now that it’s in hand I’m totally in love with it. Most of my trepidation rested in the trench coat, which is made of a thick felt material. I think the big problem here is that it looks so much better in person than in photos. It’s got a rugged, almost oily texture that looks like it would work for back ally meetings as well keep Destro toasty warm during a secret arctic rendezvous. It’s pleated in the back and has a red liner and some red piping across his chest and across the back of the shoulders. The coolest thing about it is the collar, which can be folded down or worn up. I do think the faux pockets look a tad puffy, but then Sideshow isn’t quite up to Hot Toys standards with their outfit tailoring, but they’re getting better all the time. Under the coat, Destro sports high boots, a pair of standard black trousers and a grey long sleeved t-shirt. I wish the shirt were a tad longer because I have to hike his pants up a little higher than I would prefer in order to keep the shirt tucked when I articulate his arms. He has a standard belt and an integral pistol holster with two thigh straps. There are also a couple of ammo pouches to hold his extra magazines, but more on that later.

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Destro’s bracers are quite well done. The one on his left arm features three grenades and the right bracer has three rocket darts. The bracers themselves are sculpted to look like they fold closed when in fact they really just slip onto him. The grenades are highly detailed and nicely weathered. The rockets look as if they could be removable, but they are in fact glued into place.

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Before we get into the other outfit option, let’s talk portraits. The Sunbow-styled head gives Destro that more organic aesthetic to his mask. The Sunbow Destro had that weird thing going on where his mask was expressive as if it was painted onto his head. There are some black panel lines and some slightly exaggerated contours in his face to suggest that it is indeed a mask of some sort. Destro is wearing a grim expression with green eyes squinting, mouth downturned, and one eyebrow jutting up. He definitely looks pissed off, as if he showed up to buy a warehouse full of weapons and the seller just asked for more money. Don’t ya just hate that! I’ve seen some complaints about his “giraffe neck” but I’m not seeing a big problem with it. It does look rather elongated from the sides, but looking straight on its fine to me. This portrait is by far my favorite of the two, which is why you’ll see it on the figure for the bulk of this review.

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The alternate portrait is more angular and looks like an actual metal mask. If you look carefully into the eye sockets you can actually see his eyes sculpted and painted inside. I really like that effect, and I’m not totally hating on this head, but in the end I think it just looks too large and clunky on the figure to make it work for me.

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If you’re going for a more “realistic” Destro look, this head might be the ticket since the articulated organic metal one doesn’t make much sense in the real world. Honestly, if I were designing a live action movie Destro, this is exactly the kind of likeness I would go with. So, yes, I guess in a sense I do like what Sideshow tried to do here, but it’s just not the one that I’ll be using for display.

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And that brings us too his alternate outfit which removes the trench coat and gives him a vest. The vest is just puffy enough to make it look like it might have some bullet proofing in it, but ultimately it has a pretty trim fit. The zipper on the front is faked out and the vest actually goes over the head like a poncho and then the straps on the front secure it snugly with velcro. It’s a good effect and I think the tailoring on the vest is overall better than the trenchcoat. The only downside here is that it really shows off the rather lean body build that Sideshow used here. I think Destro should be bulkier than than the body used here and the trenchcoat adds a bit of that bulk to him. That having been said, deciding which look to go for is going to be really tough for me. They each have their merits. His trenchcoat is definitely great for conducting those blackmarket arms deals, whereas if he’s going to be sitting in the turret of a HISS Tank in battle, the vest is the way to go.

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Ok, I’m running ridiculously long today so I’m going to break here and when I come back tomorrow we’ll wrap up with a look at Destro’s weapons and accessories.

Transformers Universe 2.0: Autobot Hound by Hasbro

Holy crap, it’s Thursday again and that means I have to come up with another Transformer to review. Well, today I’m keeping the Classics train rolling along with a look at one of my favorite Autobot characters, Hound, as he appeared in the Classics/Universe line. As a kid, I loved Hound because he was such a cool dude, he had a neat Hologram gun, and he’d rather be admiring how beautiful the Earth was than fight Decepticons. That, of course is G1 Hound, not to be confused with Age of Extinction Hound who murdered a helpless creature in a cage because he was… and I’m quoting here… “Too ugly to live.” He was also voiced by John Goodman and when Optimus Prime said, “Autobots Roll Out!” I expected Hound to say, “I don’t roll on Shabbas!!” ZING! Anywaaaay… the Universe 2.0 version of Hound also came with Ravage and I’m guessing it’s because at one point the Hound helped to capture him. Obviously, the packaging for this figure is long gone, so let’s jump right in and look at Hound’s alt mode.

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The original G1 Hound was a green army Jeep. This new incarnation is also a green army Jeep… sort of. I think Hasbro tried to go with something more modern looking, but to me the end result makes him look less realistic and more toyish. In fact, only the government issue green and the white stars on the front fenders suggest he’s a military vehicle. That having been said, I like the big off-road wheels and the huge ramming bar on the front. There’s even a sculpted winch on the front bumper. Considering how absolutely gorgeous G1 Hound’s alt mode is, and I think it still holds up beautifully, this new incarnation misses the mark a bit, but I guess it still works for me.

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The interior is pretty well done, complete with bucket seats and a fairly detailed dashboard. I have a soft spot in my heart for open top vehicle modes that manage to reproduce a somewhat convincing driving area and Hound certainly does that. Some stickers or paintwork would have gone a long way to pick out the details in the dash, but it’s still pretty good.

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The rear machine gun from Hound’s G1 days is gone and in its place is an area where you can store Ravage. There’s two flip up tabs that fit the holes in the cassette mode. But more on the Decepti-kitty in a bit…

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Hound does come with one weapon, his missile launcher, and it’s damn frustrating. It can be tabbed into either of the seats, and I can’t say as I like the way it looks there. Meh!

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Hound’s robot mode is pure love to me, even though it does feature some departures from his original design. The ramming bar on his chest changes up his aesthetics quite a bit, and yet I still like it because it makes him look more rugged. Two of his wheels land on his shoulders, and again as far as original tweaks to the design go, I like the way it looks a lot. I also really dig the way his feet are proportioned. It really nails the Sunbow aesthetic quite well. From the back, Hound isn’t quite as refined. His lower legs are completely hollowed out and so is the area behind his head. I try not to judge Transformers too harshly from the back view so I’m going to let it pass.

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While the body may take some liberties with design, Hound’s portrait is pure G1 goodness. The blocky helmet looks great as does the sculpt in his face. And, oh my god, the blue light piping in his eyes. So beautiful!

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Hound’s missile launcher is just as frustrating in his robot mode. It’s designed so that it can clip on behind either shoulder, but not very well. It looks awkward and it falls off really easy. This is the one aspect of this figure’s design that really wasn’t well thought out.

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Luckily it can double as his handgun, but it’s a poor substitute for his iconic hologram gun. I know that Third Party companies have fixed these problems, but I never took advantage of those releases. Maybe someday, providing I can still track them down.

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And then there’s Ravage and as already mentioned he is indeed a cassette. Sadly there’s no tampo with cassette tape details, instead what you get is basically a plastic rectangle with a couple holes in it. I guess it’s totally possible that some kids buying this figure would have no idea what Ravage’s alt mode is supposed to be. God, I’m old! Ravage’s Jaguar mode is very cool thanks to a rather clever bit of engineering that adds a lot of depth to him. His legs are fully articulated and in lieu of the proper Masterpiece Ravage, I have this guy sitting at the feet of my MP-10 Soundwave. And if you miss his side mounted guns, once again there are Third Party companies out there that have you covered.

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It may sound like I have a lot of issues with Classics/Universe Hound, but the truth is I like this figure a lot. Like many figures in this line, he’s definitely a reimagining of the character but at the same time he doesn’t completely forget his roots. Yes, I would have preferred a more realistic Jeep mode and yes I wish they had designed his missile launcher better and included his hologram gun, but I’m still very satisfied having him on my Classics shelf and I’ll even go so far as say he’s one of my favorite figures in the display. But I still wish I had kept my Alternators Hound.

Marvel Universe Infinite: Omega Red by Hasbro

It’s that time of the week where I open another Marvel Infinite Series from my pile and today’s random grab into the stack turned up Omega Red! This figure was originally released in the final wave of the Marvel Universe line, and as is often the case when lines end, he was ridiculously tough to find. I remember hitting the Targets around here a bunch of times trying to find him on the pegs and never with any luck. I even came close to paying a scalper prices for him online. But my laziness and procrastination paid off because Hasbro got him back into the hands of collectors by repacking him in the Infinite Series. And I’m mighty grateful to them for it!

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Damn, this guy knows how to fill out that bubble, and considering how big the bubbles are on these Infinite Series cards, that’s really saying something. I guess there’s also something to be said for the minimalist crap design of the package here, because when I look at it all I see is the Marvel tag up top and an awesome looking figure below it. Everything else just seems to melt away into the background. I’d like to think that the strategy here is “Let the figure sell itself!” rather than, “Let’s be cheap and not pay for good artwork!” Yeah…

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And there’s Omega Red out of the package and looking like every bit the vicious piece of shit that he is. Seriously, going by some of the darker aspects of his backstory, I’m kind of surprised that someone like this got a mainstream action figure, let alone a re-issue. But don’t get me wrong, I’m mighty glad he did. Arkady is a great character and I’m not just saying that because I love just about everything that ever flowed from John Byrne’s prolific noggin. Villains are there to be hated and that’s never been a problem for Omega Red because I’ve always found him to be a bastard through and through. But, I digress…

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Everything about Omega Red makes him a stand out figure. Hasbro built him on a larger sized buck. He’s obviously not Juggernaut or Thanos big, but he’s big enough to hulk over most of the other characters. The base body is a nice combo of red and white with a tasteful wash over the red to bring out the detail in his muscles and a blue wash over the white in his upper arms and face, which I’d like to think is meant to depict his Carbonadium poisoning. The body is rounded out with some newly sculpted pearlescent white boots and a separately sculpted harness and shoulder pads. The overall coloring on this figure is magnificently striking, I particularly love the Omegas on his gauntlets, and even on a shelf of colorful characters Omega Red stands out.

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what a great job Hasbro did on Arkady’s head sculpt. The portrait here is one of pure rage and his face is nicely framed by his cyborg parts. The hair sculpt is also particularly great and the Omega on his headband ties the whole thing together.

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The articulation here is quite good, and pretty much in line with most of the modern MU/MIS figures we’ve seen. His arms have rotating pins at the shoulders, hinges at the elbows, and both the wrists and biceps have swivels. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, double hinged at the knees, with swivels in both the thighs and lower legs, and hinges in the ankles. He’s got a ball joint in the torso and another in the neck. He is definitely a fun figure to pose, although I wish he had swivels in his lower arms, because sometimes the tentacles won’t do what I’d like.

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Speaking of the tentacles, Omega Red’s carbonadium tendrils are sculpted in soft plastic, but they’re definitely pre-posed. You can bend them, but they tend to go right back to where they were. It seems like they’re socketed into his lower arms, but I haven’t had any luck removing them, so I’m guessing they aren’t made to come out. Seems like making them detachable would have been a nice substitute for them actually retracting, which of course wouldn’t work in this scale.

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And so, a figure that I was almost ready to pay $40 landed in my collection for a mere $10. Needless to say he was a very sweet deal and I can’t recommend him enough. He was definitely the showpiece of Marvel Universe’s last wave and while he’s got some heavier competition in Wave 3 of the Infinite Series, he definitely shines as one of the better figures in this assortment.