ReAction Series: Big Trouble in Little China by Funko!

If you grew up in the 80s, you probably loved Big Trouble in Little China as much as I did. You probably watched it over and over again like I did. You probably drew your own comics chronicling the further adventures of The Pork Chop Express, just like I did. Actually, scratch that last part. I may have said too much. It’s classic John Carpenter goodness and it’s still one of my favorite WTF movies. So much of it makes no sense, and yet it’s so highly watchable and re-watchable and re-re-watchable. I love movies that are batshit crazy and don’t take themselves too seriously, and this one fits that bill perfectly. So far I’ve passed on the overwhelming majority of Funko’s ReAction figures on the grounds that a lot of them just miss the point. Making Kenner style figures of properties from 1990 and beyond, like Pulp Fiction and Firefly, just doesn’t make much sense to me, but I’m not judging anyone who digs them. Big Trouble on the other hand was a great license for them to score. Yeah, technically it missses the true “Vintage Kenner” Era by a couple of years, but it’s not that much of a stretch. It’s also a license that I desparately wanted figures from when I was a kid. Had they been made, it probably would have been the last line I collected before getting out of toys.

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There are a total of six figures in this series, which is a lot more than I thought the film would warrant, but upon review of the character selection, I think they were all good choices. You get Jack Burton, Gracie Law, David Lo Pan, and the three Elements: Thunder, Rain, and Lightning. Some fans may ask, where are Wang and Egg, but I don’t think either of them were distinctive enough to get their own figures and I believe Funko went the right route as to not water down this line too much.

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The figures all come on the same card, which draws its art directly from the movie poster. The only thing unique is the characters’ names printed above the bubble. On the one hand, it’s a bit of a lazier approach than actually giving each character their own card. On the other hand, I totally dig this artwork and it looks fantastic printed on an action figure card. To me the ReAction series should largely be about things we never got, and this is exactly what I would have loved to have back in 1986. I also don’t feel nearly as conflicted over whether or not to open them. If I ever want a carded example from this line later on down the road, I can just pick up one figure to get the full effect of the line, but I doubt it’ll ever come to that. Anyway, I’ve got a lot of figures to get through and you know what Jack Burton always says in a situation like this. Who? Jack Burton… ME!

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I’ve seen this figure get a pretty lukewarm reception when it was first revealed, but I actually dig it a lot. Yes, the head is oversized, but I actually think they did a pretty good job with the portrait. These are retro style 3 3/4″ figures, so the fact that I can see even a little of Kurt Russell in there is good enough for me. If nothing else, they certainly got the hair right. The other thing they got right is his wife-beater shirt with the artwork printed on it. It’s easily the high point of this figure and goes a long way to identify him with the character. Other points of interest include the watch on his left wrist and the defined muscles in his exposed arms. You also get a pair of accessories, which include his combat knife and machine pistol.

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For Gracie Law, they went with her in her ceremonial garb, which was a good choice, because it makes for a far more interesting figure than her street clothes. Again, for the style we’re going for here, the likness to Kim Cattrall ain’t bad. I like that she’s got a paler face to simulate the makeup and they even included her mole. The outfit is well done right down to the classic “robe legs” with the split down the middle just like old Kenner Obi-Wan used to have. She comes with a fairly intricate head dress that just clips right on the front of her head.

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David Lo Pan is quite recognizable, mostly because he’s wearing a rather distinctive outfit. Again, you get those “robe legs” split down the middle and some respectable detail, like the extended finger nails on his pinky fingers! The hat is nicely sculpted and painted, and and the dragon decorations on his robes are actually both sculpted and painted on. Lo Pan comes with the little Beholder monster, which is just a lump of sculpted fleshy plastic.

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And that brings us to the Elements, which to me turned out to be the real stars of this series. I kind of expected these to be quick and dirty remolds of the same figure, but as far as I can tell the straw hats (permanently sculpted to the head) are the only parts that are reused and I have to give Funko props for that. Each figure includes a removable cape and their own signature weapon from the movie. Rain has his claw weapons, Thunder has his knives, and Lightning has his propellers. OK, the propellers are the weakest of the three, they just look like wrenches. But, points for trying!

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As always, these retro-style figures all feature the simple five points of articulation. The plastic used here feels really good and I’m happy to see that Funko is starting to paint the faces rather than leave them bare plastic, because they look so much better this way.

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Funko’s Big Trouble line gives me everything I’m looking for out of the ReAction series. It’s an 80’s property that should have gotten action figures (but didn’t) and I truly believe the figures and card art were executed with some love of the property. In short, they did good here and these figures definitely scratch a nagging itch that goes back about 30 years. I also dig the whole “one and done” mentaility of these. I get one wave of figures to represent the movie on my shelf and I can move on. Of course, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be glad to see these characters turn up in the Legacy line. Even a one-off of Jack Burton would be most welcome, but honestly, I love this move enough that I’d be on board for a full wave.

Transformers Combiner Wars: Menasor by Hasbro

Over the course of the last month or so I’ve been checking out the Combiner Wars Stunticons and that has inevitably started me on the path to today’s Feature wherein I take five really good figures and combine them together a questionable gestalt. But before we get to that I want to point out how much I appreciate what Hasbro is trying with these. I’ll also point out that Superion is by most collectors’ opinions infinitely better and the only reason I haven’t looked at him yet is because I’m waiting for the Takara release later this Summer. And so with all that having been said…

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“Stunticons…

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Transform…

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And Merge…

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Into…

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Menasor!!!”

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And here he is in all his, um… glory. In true Scramble City fashion, there is a great deal of customization available here. Not only can you arrange the limbs in any manner you want, but you can throw other combiner limbs on there too. I’m going for the standard G1 configuration that puts Dragstrip and Dead End as the arms and Breakdown and Wildrider Offroad as the legs. I’ll also point out that I don’t have Blackjack yet to fill out his chest, I’ll revisit that option in a few weeks when I get around to looking at that figure. Yes, without him the chest is an unsightly empty cavity, but I’m not going to pick on that just because I’m missing that figure. It can be closed up, but I’m not sure it’s much an improvement. Also, keep in mind, I’m not overly concerned with which foot/hand part goes with which figure at this point, so pardon me if I’ve mixed them up.

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Proportionally speaking, Menasor is a mess. He’s got such a tiny torso and he’s all legs and arms, which is an issue of Hasbro repeating the same design mistake from Fall of Cybertron Bruticus. On the plus side, the bulkier arms and legs help out a lot and the more I look at him the more I’m willing to admit that he’s a big improvement over that horrid Bruticus figure. Sure, that’s a loaded compliment, but Menasor should take what he can get.

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The head sculpt has grown on me quite a bit and I couldn’t tell you why. I’m still not a fan of the huge horns, but the face itself is pretty solid. I actually find his expression to be appropriate because he looks like he’s in agony and probably wants to be put down. Either that or he suddenly realized that he just pooped himself.

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While I said I don’t want to get into a lot of the customization options, I will say that I prefer to build his legs in the old G1 fashion with the undercarriages of the cars showing to the front. This does, admittedly hamper the normal knee articulation by not allowing the lower legs to bend backwards, but I think it looks better if I’m just going to have him stand there. And that leads me to my next point.

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While Menasor isn’t the prettiest thing around, it’s actually not his aesthetics that I find most irksome, but rather his stability and playability. Just looking at him, I would guess that Hasbro made a lot of sacrifices in order to build a solid toy and in fairness he does have a satisfying chunky look to him. Unfortunately, playing around with him, or just trying to pose him is an exercise in utter frustration, which all starts in the hip design. Ugh, those hips! Just getting the legs even is a pain in the ass, but unless I have the legs on mine straight up and down, the hips are going to give way and he’s going to do the splits. There’s also not a lot of subtelty to those ratchet joints, so tweaking his stance is all but futile and more often than not when he’s standing I find that his torso is lopsided.

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The shoulders are another problem. Moving the arms forward and backward usually cause the shoulder assembly in the torso to give way and come apart. I find that the only way to pose the arms is to hold the figure by this area to keep it together. Again, playing with toys and posing them should be fun, but everything about handling this guy is a chore.

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Menasor has one weapon in his arsenal (unless you count collapsing and falling on top of an Autobot) and that’s his sword. The sword is formed from Motormaster’s gun and sword and overall looks pretty good. Unfortunately, he can’t really hold it. Instead it pegs into a socket that’s closer to the wrist and looks rather awkward.

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I feel bad picking on this figure. I like what Hasbro tried to do here and I really like the Stunticons as a team of individual figures. I will even go so far as to say that Menasor probably doesn’t look as bad in person as I thought he would based on the terrible “official” pics from Hasbro. But the apologists will tell you that this is a toy and if it doesn’t look as good as your $350 Fansproject Menasor that’s because it’s for kids and it’s meant to be played with. Well, I can’t imagine that playing with this guy could be any fun. Fortunately, it looks like Menasor will likely be the black sheep of the Combiner Wars gestalts, because I’m really anxious to get my hands on Unite Warriors Superion and Defensor is looking mighty damn nice too!

Star Wars Hot Wheels: Millennium Falcon, Y-Wing, and Snowspeeder by Mattel

My love of miniature spaceships is probably rooted in growing up with FASA’s old tabletop Star Trek game. While I could only find a handful of people willing to play it I was able to keep myself more than entertained by pouring over all those great books full of ship statistics and collecting the tiny pewter ships from The Complete Strategist, a destination store in the local mall that specialized in RPG supplies. God, what I wouldn’t give to be able to go back to that now long defunct store with my adult monies and clean the place out. Anyway, I’m not here today to talk about FASA or Star Trek, but rather Mattel’s new line of little Star Wars ships branded under their Hot Wheels line.

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And here they are in the package! It’s so weird seeing the Star Wars license on a Mattel package, but this isn’t an isolated incident. Mattel is also releasing a number of Star Wars themed Hot Wheels cars onto the pegs right now. The card deco keeps the spirit of the Hot Wheels brand, advertises the use of die-cast metal, and I’m rather impressed that the cards feature artwork specific to eachs hip, rather than a generic card and bubble insert.

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I found these hanging not amongst the 10,000 pegs of proper Hot Wheels cars, but along with the rather dead pegs of the Star Wars action figure aisle. The Episode 7 stuff can’t come soon enough, because the only things hanging on the figure pegs now are are a bunch of 6-inch Han Solos and Obi-Wans and the shelves are creammed with that Deluxe Jabba that no one seems to want. Anywho… the initial case assortment of these vehicles includes The Millenium Falcon, Snowspeeder, Y-Wing, Slave-1, and The Ghost from the Rebels series. I left The Ghost and Slave-1 but one of these days I may pick them up. Let’s start off with The Millenium Falcon!

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There’s some really impressive detail sculpted into this little ship. All the little bits and texturing on the hull is present, both top and bottom. It looks like the top half is the die-cast with the bottom half plastic. There’s definitely more detail sculpted into the die-cast, but that might just be because it’s what’s going to be most visible when the ship is on display. The top cannon is just molded in as part of the ship and as such isn’t terribly well defined, but the radar dish is, and while it is a tad oversized it does indeed rotate 360-degrees.

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The paintwork on this little ship is rather sparing, but what’s here includes applications on the five black discs on the top as well as black paint on the cockpit windows. There are some maroon hull markings, and the thrusters are painted blue. I wish I still had my Hasbro Titanium Falcon to do a comparison, but just going from memory, I think I rather prefer this one.

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Moving on, next up we have the Gold Leader Y-Wing. I’ve been playing a lot of the Enhanced Edition of the X-Wing PC game on Steam and thus spending a fair amount inside the cockpit of one of these babies. This has always been one of my favorite smaller ships of the Star Wars universe and oddly enough one that I never owned as a 3 3/4″ scale toy. In fact, this may be my very first toy version of the Y-Wing ever. Crazy! At this point, i should also point out the obvious that these ships are not in scale with one another. The Y-Wing is a much simpler sculpt than the Falcon. It does feature a lot of great detail molded into the hull, but it doesn’t look as detailed as the Falcon. I suppose that could be an issue of size, where the Falcon is in much smaller scale so the detail is packed in a lot tighter. Either way, it’s not to say this isn’t a great little recreation of the Koensayr wishbone bomber. I particularly like the use of clear plastic for the skeletal engine pylons and the pronounced front guns.

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The paint on this one is again sparse, but well placed. The cockpit is painted a light grey with black painted windows and there are yellow hull markings denoting this as the Gold Leader Y-Wing. No doubt Mattel has plans to double dip on these molds via the wonderful world of repaints and I’m just the scruffy-looking nerfherder that will probably be first to open my wallet when I see them.

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Last, but not least, we have the Snowspeeder and this one is perhaps my favorite of this trio. I’m a little biased because I love the design of these things so much, but I really think that while all three ships are solid, the Snowspeeder is just particularly spot on. This ship just looks fantastic and is such a huge improvement over Hasbro’s Titanium version. The guns are really well defined as are the panel lines and the rear grill complete with the little area where the harpoon detatches.

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Following the trend of the other two ships, the Snowspeeder gets by with minimal paint hits, and yet it has all that it needs. The rear grill is painted dark gray, the cockpit windows are black, and you get some maroon hull markings, including the “ZZ” on the rear of the cockpit. While the paint is solid on all three ships, the Snowspeeder just seems a bit sharper and more impressively done. I love this little guy!

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All three of these ships include a rather clever clear plastic stand that plugs securely into the bottom of the ship. The stands are embossed with the Hot Wheels and Star Wars logos. These plastic bases support the ships very well and also have a ring so you can put it on your finger and fly your ships around the room. How cool is that!!!

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It’s the sad truth that I don’t have all that many cheap toy lines to collect any more. Part of that is probably due to the nature of the industry and a lot is due to my changing tastes. But that makes it all the more refreshing when I can pull a $5 toy off the peg and be genuinely impressed with it. Sure, I’ll concede that the first wave of five ships only got me to pony up for three of them, but I am still genuinely excited to collect this line and I can think of so many ships that I want to see from the obvious X-Wing and Tie Fighter, to admitted long shots like the Ebon Hawk or the Moldy Crow maybe???

Ame-Comi Heroine-Series: Mera by DC Direct

I’m a Bishoujo guy. I say that in the way someone might say, I’m a Coca-Cola guy as opposed to Pepsi, because deep down inside I’d like to think that the same style of Coke vs. Pepsi rivalry is being fought among the comic book statue collecting market between the rabid and diametrically opposed supporters of Koto’s Bishoujo and DC Direct’s Ame-Comi. One day, I’d like to sit my grandson on me knee and tell him all about those glorious days when Kotobukiya and DC Direct slugged it out and scorched the Earth over dominating the statue market of overly-sexualized anime-style female comic book characters. Yeah, that’s probably not going to happen, but my point here is that I’ve rarely ever given DCD’s Ame-Comi line a second glance. Somehow it seemed suspicious. Koto’s Bishoujo statues are the real thing because they’re from Japan and designed from art by Shunya Yamashita, whereas Ame-Comi is like a Western imposter line. Then again, Ame-Comi is the one that actually has a comic book to justify its existence and DCD pulled in the big guns for some of these pieces, like the one I’m looking at today, which was sculpted by the great John St. John. And so, here I go, jumping in to see how the other half lives. Let’s check out Ame-Comi Mera! Also, apologies in advance to all you non-Bishoujo collectors because I’m going to probably be doing a lot of comparisons where they aren’t necessarily warrented. What can I say, I’m coming at this piece as a Bish collector and that’s the filter in which I’m seeing it.

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The box is pretty typical of what we’ve been seeing in the later years of DC Direct and the current DC Collectibles branding. There isn’t a date on this one, but I’m sure it’s one of the most recent releases, probably from right before DCD changed over to DCC. You get a big window box that shows off the statue quite well, mainly because there isn’t any plastic wrap to obscure it like you get with the Bishoujo pieces. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a good thing, as that plastic is there to prevent paint rubbing, but in this case, its absense doesn’t seem to have hurt the statue. The box is collector friendly and the only thing holding the three pieces into the tray re some twisty-ties.

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The back of the box extends to form a card with a J-cutout to hang this on a peg if need be, but it’s a pretty big and heavy box for that sort of thing. You get a mix of artwork and shots of the statue and a little blurb about Mera on the back. So why was it that Mera got me to break down and go to the Dark Side of Ame-Comi? Mainly because I saw this gal in the comic shop and she called out to me and because Koto hasn’t given Mera the Bishoujo treatment yet. Although with the way they’ve been cranking them out lady, I have to imagine she may not be far behind.

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Straightaway, let me say that I adore this statue. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw her in the box on the comic shop counter, apparently waiting to be put away. I’m not sure whether it’s the composition or the coloring or just the style that I love the most, but maybe it’s just all three. The pose has her supported on a mermaid tail, or what actually looks like is the husk of a mermaid tail with her bare legs breaking out of it. Is it a real tail or just a wildly impractical costume? Who knows? I’m not trying to read too much into the logistics of what’s happening here, and that’s probably for the better. The tail on the base gives her a levitating effect with her legs off the ground and one kicking up more behind her, as if she’s bounding through water across the ocean floor. She’s got her trident in her right hand held down at her side and her left hand trailing behind her. It’s a superb pose, which straddles the line between action and just mugging for the camera, and it’s all the better because it works when displayed from multiple angles.

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The outfit is really something special too, even taking into account for the possible body horror aspect that’s going on between her fish tail and real legs. The fish scales are intricately textured and the shimmery green paint is damn pleasing on the eyes. I really dig how elaborate her headdress is, along with the matching choker collar, and the way the transparent shell pieces rise up from her shoulders. The paint is overall excellent, particulalry on her eyes, lips, and even the green nail polish on her fingers and toes.

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Mera shows a fair amount of skin, but I don’t get the same feeling of intentional and overt sexuality here as I do with the Bishoujo statues. Yeah, she’s got some killer legs and she’s showing off her midriff and a little cleavage, but what’s here feels slightly more innocent and natural. Maybe that’s just me. I think it may have a little something to do with the proportions, which strike me as more ‘toon than anime. I think a lot of that also comes off in the portrait. It’s more rounded and the eyes again, strike me as conveying more Disney Princess rather than anime tentacle bait.

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In addition to the figure itself, you also get the trident and the base. The trident is a nicely sculpted piece that simply goes right into her hand. I was a little nervous getting it in there, since you have to pull the fingers apart a bit, but it went in with out any problems and she holds it quite well. You can even tweak it a little depending on where you want her to grasp it.

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The stand is a simple black oval base with the tail portion pegging into it. It features a nicely engineered system of balance that makes it look like the statue shouldn’t be as stable as it is when standing on the shelf. The base is printed with “Ame-Comi Heroine Series” although the mermaid tail does obscure most of the lettering.

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Based on a little research, the market on these Ame-Comis seem to be a lot more erratic than the Bishoujo pieces. A lot of Koto’s ladies shoot up in price, some hover around their original MSRP, but very few ever sink below that making them a fairly safe investment. While I’ve yet to see an Ame-Comi reach the heights of a Bishoujo Emma Frost or Rogue, some of these seem to have doubled in price, while a few others are available for deep discounts. This one was already sold at the comic shop I saw it at when I went back for her, but she later popped up on a clearance sale at on online retailer for $38, which is certainly not bad. She’s a fantastic piece and I do believe I’m smitten enough with her to pick up another statue and see if my new found admiration of this line can hold.

Marvel Legends (Thanos Wave): Hellcat by Hasbro

It’s another Marvel Monday and that means it’s time to open up another Legends figure. Today I’m going to check out the first of the ladies of this wave, Hellcat. Patsy Walker is an interesting character, or at least she has an interesting print history. She started life in a non-superhero comic and existed that way for almost three decades before being established as the alter ego for superheroine Hellcat sometime in the early 70s. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of her character, although I do really dig her costume, so much so that I came damn close to picking up her Bowen statue from a year or so back before the final production piece showed some unfortunate deviations from the excellent looking prototype. Fortunately, Hasbro stepped in and included her in the Legends line, thus allowing me to put her on my shelf for a lot less money.

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Hellcat shares her slot in this Wave with another, in this case that other figure is Spider-Woman. These used to be running changes and it was often a bitch to find both of them on the pegs. Thankfully, Hasbro has since come to their senses and are now including both variants in the wave’s case assortment. Apart from making it far easier to complete the wave, all it means to the collector is that you’re going to have an extra set of BAF parts, in this case Thanos’ head. It also means that Hellcat’s name doesn’t appear on the front of the package. Instead all you get is “Fierce FIghters” and it’s not even in the usual place, but rather all the way down at the bottom in smaller multi-lingual print. This practice really fascinates me, especially when used with lesser known characters like Walker.

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Hellcat is another one of those highly recycled figures and that’s more an observation than a criticism. At first I thought this was just the Ms. Marvel body, but that figure had bicep swivels and Hellcat doesn’t. Maybe they’re just different arms. Either way, this is a generic female buck with the costume painted on. And in this case, the paint is a bit problematic, because the bulk of the body is cast in yellow plastic, but the lower legs and feet are black with a little under the knee painted yellow. Unfortunately the paint doesn’t match. Also note the rather obvious use of the sash from Carol Danver’s Warbird costume.

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At least the head is new and it’s a pretty good portrait. The mask is great and she has the pupil-less eyes just like I like them. I especially dig the way they did her hair. It spills out of the back of her mask and just kind of erupts down her back in a red fiery explosion. Nice!

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Hellcat is a nimble little kitty and the figure does a nice job of conveying that through her articulation. The arms feature rotating hinges in the shoulders and elbows and wrists. The hinges on the wrists, however are oddly positioned so she can tilt her hands side to side, rather than front and back. Weird! The legs are ball jointed at the hips, swivel at the thighs, double hinged at the knees, and the ankles have hinges and generous lateral rockers. The torso features a ball joint just under her chest and the neck has both a hinge and ball joint.

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Lest you thought I was done with the subject of parts sharing, it appears as if Hellcat stole Daredevil’s batons and painted them black. These are the same two rods that can be pegged together to form a longer fighting stick. I don’t remember ever seeing Patsy use anything like this, but I’m certainly not an expert on the character. I guess they kind of fit her, so I’m willing to give it a pass. Gosh, I’m in a generous mood today!

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Yes, it seems like the subject of parts recycling is coming up more and more, and I’ll keep standing by my mantra. There’s nothing wrong with it so long as its done thoughtfully and it’s used to get us a figure that we otherwise might not have seen. I think those criteria mostly fit Hellcat. She’s a solid, albeit not spectacular figure and honestly, I’m just so surprised and pleased that we got her that I’m willing to overlook issues like poor color matching. Does that make me part of the problem? Maybe, but holy crap, there’s a Hellcat figure hanging on the pegs. Isn’t that worth a little recycling? To me it sure is. Next Monday I’ll check out Spider-Woman, the last figure in the Wave I need to open before building Thanos!

GI JOE: 50th Anniversary “Arctic Ambush” 2-Pack by Hasbro

As promised, I’m back today to once again start spreading a little Joe loving around these parts. In a perfect world the stores would have been crammed full of toys to honor the 50th Anniversary of one of the greatest action figure lines of all time. In this world, the line is all but dead and the 50th was quiety acknowledged by Hasbro and Toys R Us with some exclusive figure packs and a couple of vehicles. Seeing as how I don’t have a TRU within 50 miles of here, these passed largely unnoticed to me until browsing an online retailer and finding some of them up for sale. I grabbed two and the first of those is what we’re looking at today… Behold the Arctic Ambush!

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The packaging here is pretty damn cool. You get a blister card with a large bubble showing off two figures and a shitload of weapons and gear, The top of the bubble is molded to look like part of a star and the insert on the front features the GI JOE logo, the 50th Star and the names of the figures: Snow Job and Arctic BAT. I absolutely had to get this when I saw it because Snow Job was my very first Joe figure when I was a kid. I can still remember going to get pool supplies with my dad in Newark, NJ. There was a huge pool-slash-toy store there and he got me Snow Job and the Poler Battle Bear. There was no coming back from that and ever since then Snow Job has had a special place in my collection. The back of the card has filecards for each character and a little saying about how GI JOE has filled our imaginations with exciting adventures for fifty years and it makes me want to cry. Before I get all weepy, I’m going to open this baby up and start with Snow Job.

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Snow Job comes all bundled up for action in a set of toasty warm arctic combat fatigues, which include a parka with high collar that prevents his neck getting frostbite and his head falling off (Trust me, that joke is going to be a lot more tragic when we get to the end of this Feature). As a result, there isn’t a lot of variety to this figure’s outfit, but it sure looks great, right down to all the sculpted stitching and the painted camo patterns. The head sculpt includes a sculpted cap with a set of goggles permanently down over his eyes and about the only thing you can see that’s actually Harlan under all that is his glorious red beard. I do kind of wish the goggles were removable or maybe have an extra head in there, but it’s hard for me to criticize the lack of a spare head when I see how much stuff comes with this guy. Let me just run through it all…

  • Backpack with Sculpted Bedroll, Antenna, and Removable Equipment Rack.
  • Cloth Bedroll
  • Cookstove and Frying Pan.
  • Skis and Ski Poles
  • Gasoline Can
  • Ice Pick
  • Radio
  • Machine Gun with Bipod.

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God, I love all this gear and I particularly love the fact that just about all of it attaches to his backpack in one way or another. The bedroll is about the only thing I can’t find a way to attach, but you can still tuck it in there somewhere. As a kid, I used to picture Snow Job as a survivalist and a loner who was always out there in the white wilderness maintaining some god-forsaken JOE base camp and waiting to be called on when some strategic piece of satellite happened to soft land up there and Cobra wanted it. This figure really gives me the feeling of the original 12-inch figures from the 70s, because they used to come with all this great stuff. It’s beyond cool that Hasbro is able to make it work with such a small scale action figure.

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Snow Job also features far better articulation than anyone wearing this much cold weather gear should possibly have. His arms have rotating hinges in the shoulders and elbows, and swivels in the wrists. His legs are ball jointed at the hips, have double hinges in the knees, and rotating hinges in the ankles. He can swivel at the waist and he has a ball jointed neck.

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What possible match could Cobra have to go up against Snow Job’s cold weather combat skills? An Arctic BAT of course! Why go bundling up humans to brave the bitter cold climates when you can just send in machines? I always loved the Battle Android Troopers. They were an ingenious way to cash in on the robot craze of the 80s while also giving Cobra a disposable army that GI JOE could smash to bits on the cartoon without censors crying foul about violence. Frankly, Hasbro was missing out on a great opportunity by not repainting the hell out of these things into various different specialties like Desert BATs, Jungle BATs, Stealth BATs, etc. Well, I guess it’s never too late because here we have the Arctic BAT and he is freaking glorious.

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The sculpt and deco on this BAT is absolutely crazy. He’s got the same arctic camo pattern on his fatigues as Snow Job plus a transparent chest unit so you can see all the doo-dads and what-nots of his inner android workings. The BAT includes a total of five different Borg-like attachments for his arms and he can tote two of the extras around in his backpack. He also comes with an automatic pistol in a functional holster, a machine gun with a bipod and a HUGE capacity magazine, an assault rifle that’s all taped up, and a pair of ice picks, which aren’t painted as nice as Harlan’s.

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The BATs articulation is pretty standard stuff for modern JOES. The arms feature rotating hinges in the shoulders and elbows and a swivel in the forearm where the arm pieces detach. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, double hinged at the knees, and have rotating hinges in the ankles. There are ball joints in the torso and neck. If all that gear wasn’t enough, each figure also comes with a personalized display stand. These are the same style of stand that was introduced back in the 25th Anniversary line only with the GI JOE and Cobra emblems painted, which makes them look mighty snazzy.

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Oh, wait! Did I mention that the BAT also comes with a battle damaged head and chest plate? How cool is that? Did I mention that when I swapped the head the second time the entire neck post snapped off my figure? How cool is that??? Nope, that’s not cool at all Hasbro. Here I am making a point to talk up GI JOE and you stick me with poor quality control. This is seriously the first time I’ve ever had this happen, and I’ve been collecting action figures nearly all my life.Oh well, I guess it’s better the BAT broke rather then Snow Job. Crippling QC issues aside, everything about this set feels like it was aimed right at me. It has a great new version of one of my earliest JOE figures, an environmentally specific BAT, you get a ton of gear, and with one good guy and one bad guy, it has that battle pack mentality that I love so much. Just leave me alone with this 2-pack and I’ll be staging battles on my desk all afternoon long… at least until the head snaps off one of them and then the fun stops short. Next week, I’ll circle back and take a look at the other one of these sets I picked up. Hopefully noone will get decapitated.

GI JOE WILL RETURN AFTER THESE MESSAGES…

Folks, I’ve had GI JOE on the brain lately and for a number of seemingly unrelated reasons. At first it was mostly feeling bad about never getting around to the Features that I planned for the 50th Anniversary, most notably looking at my other two 25th Anniversary 5-packs as well as my finally complete set of the 25th Anniversary Dreadnoks. Then the topic of this year’s JoeCon came up on the last episode of 2 Drunk Geeks and Ryan and I was pretty vocal about how sad and pathetic I thought the showing of product was. It was at the end of the show, and the Jameson had me in a proper state by then, but listening to it made me feel like I was being pretty harsh toward a loving fan base who were clearly just happy to be getting anything. Part of it was the booze talking, but part of it was just inner rage.

When almost every single toy line from the 80’s has had (or attempted) a comeback these days, it angers me to no end that the Targets and Walmarts can’t set aside 4ft of space for GI JOE and that Hasbro can’t make this happen. It’s all the more irritating considering how great the modern figures have become. Hell, even with two totally shitty movies to work with, Hasbro still managed to turn up some amazing figures. I doubt I’d ever sit through GI JOE: The Rise of Cobra more than once, but I sure have a lot of the figures, and most of them are excellent. Hell, I even ponied up for the massive PITT playset. OK, it was on clearance, but I still bought it and love it. It was the last truly huge vehicle the line would see and now fans have to be excited about yet another remold of the bloody AWE Striker. It’s a sad state of affairs for the property. And when I still see The Corps figures are still hanging on the pegs at my local Target, that just rubs salt in the wound.

And yeah, I’m sort of part of that fan base. Because I’m not willing to join fan clubs or hunt down many store exclusives, the brand has more or less died out for me. But GI JOE was such a huge thing to me growing up, both the original 12-inch figures that were handed down to me by my uncle and later the 3 3/4″ stuff that replaced Star Wars as the focus of my toy world. I still have a ton of GI JOE stuff and while the figures are all neatly bagged with their accessories and easily accessible in Toy Closet Alpha, and I proudly hang a Skystriker on my wall, the rest of the vehicles are relegated to half a dozen Rubbermaid Totes and stowed far out in Toy Closet Zulu. I don’t have the space to display them so it becomes an “out of sight, out of mind” situation.

But the other thing that brought GI JOE back to the forefront of my alcohol addled brain lately is that I’ve actually bought some Joes for the first time in a while. A few days back I picked up two of the Exclusive 50th Anniversary Two-Packs, one of which I’ll be looking at tomorrow. I’ve also recently replaced a handful of my Sigma 6 figures, which were lost to me in a flood several years back and which I’ll probably start featuring here sometime in a week or two. Yeah, I know most JOE fans see S6 as an abomination, but I loved these figures simply because they were such fun toys. So, as the title says, GI JOE will be returning to FFZ. It’s going to be one of my side projects over the Summer to get the brand represented here with some regularity again and help bolster those three dozen or so Joe Features that appear in my Index of Reviews.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back with a look at the 50th Anniversary Arctic Ambush set. Yeah, I know it’s the weekend, but I’m trying to make up for some of the downtime last week. YO JOE!

Star Wars Black: Han Solo in Stormtrooper Disguise by Hasbro

Last week I checked out Bossk from Hasbro’s most recent wave of 6-inch Star Wars Black. It was one of those annoying half-waves that was bogged down by two repacks from the previous wave, in this case Chewbacca and the Tie Pilot. Both of those were excellent figures, but I’ve already got them, and if I decide I want another Tie Pilot there’s been one languishing on the shelf of the Walgreens around the corner for weeks now. Nope, all that’s left for me here is the Han Solo in Stormtrooper Disguise, and I suspect that’s barely even a new figure. Let’s take a look.

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Han comes packaged with his helmet off, which is no big surprise as it allows you to tell the difference between Han and the real Stormtroopers. This figure was a no brainer for Hasbro as it allowed them to kitbash a release on the cheap and in all honesty, it’s not a bad score for us collectors. Yeah, I was one of those idiots who immediately tried to do a head swap between the Stormy and Han when I first got them only to find Hasbro was too smart for me and that the ball joints weren’t the same size, thus preventing fans from easily making this figure on their own and now having to shell out an extra Andy Jackson.

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And yes, as expected, this is a straight repack of the Stormtrooper body with the head from the Han Solo release. The only modification Hasbro had to do was make the heads fit by adding a longer neck post with a smaller ball joint and putting a “turtleneck” ring around it. I’m not throwing that up as a criticism, there was no reason for any changes as the Stormtrooper body is excellent. It’s easily one of my favorite things to come out of this line. So, yeah, Hasbro… milk that puppy for all its worth! The only differences I can see on my figure come from the paint. The soles of Han’s boots aren’t painted gray like the regular Stormy’s, but they are still painted around the edges. Also, the bottom of Han’s crotch is left white, where it’s painted black on the Stomtrooper. I know, riveting stuff, right?

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While the head is the same sculpt as the regular Han Solo release, this one looks a little better and I mostly attribute that to normal variations in paint. Some people have had issue with the likeness here, but I really don’t. It’s certainly not spot on, but if Hot Toys can’t get Harrison Ford right on their $250 12-inch figure Indiana Jones figure, I think this is pretty solid for a $20 6-incher. As for the helmet, I expected it to be a trainwreck because it’s sculpted out of softer plastic, but it holds its own compared to the regular Stormy head. There are a few issues with the paint, like the black on his chin is a little off to the side, but I would imagine that’s not exemplary of all figures, some may do better and some worse. It fits on the figure beautifully, which is no small feat considering Han’s copious 70’s coif, and it won’t come off unless you pull it off.

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Obviously, the articulation here is identical to the regular Stormtrooper, so rather than go through it all again, I’ll just refer you back to that review.

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In addition to his Stormy helmet, Han comes with the same E-11 Blaster that came with the regular Stormtrooper. It’s still an amazing sculpt, fits into the holster, and this time around Hasbro actually painted the chamber on the receiver. Why is that even there? Is that where you load more lasers into it? Maybe it’s where the battery goes? Or, maybe it’s because the prop was made out of a Sterling machine gun.

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So, some may cry foul at this release being a quick and easy cash grab on Hasbro’s part, but I think it’s a worthwhile addition. The “Stormtrooper Disguise” figure is almost as old as the Star Wars action figure line itself, first appearing in the Power of the Force rebranding that came after Return of the Jedi. Although if my memory is serving me well, I think Luke was the only one that got the figure treatment back then. Besides, if you don’t want the Han, just slap that helmet on him and you’ve got yourself another Stormtrooper! I do think Hasbro did us collectors a diservice by including this one in a wave that was already half full of repacks, but that’s only because I rely on buying the case packs in order to get all the figures at a reasonable price. When I need to buy partial packs or individual releases, I usually get hit for more money and that was certainly the case with Bossk and Han here.

Transformers Combiner Wars: Dead End by Hasbro

Howdy, folks, and welcome to Transformers Thursday! Yeah, last week I ran into some complications with content because my studio was ripped apart, so I’m trying to play a little catch up this week. Today I’m opening up the very last Stunticon, or at least the last one until Wildrider (or whatever they’re calling him) comes along. I saved Dead End for last because next to Motormaster, he was my favorite Stunticon as a kid. What abritrary reason made me choose him over four other relatively personality-less cartoon robot cars? I couldn’t tell you, but I’m sure it was well-reasoned. This being the case, I’m coming into this figure with some high expectations, so you better not disappoint me Hasbro!!! Hang on, while I take a fortifying sip of Jameson. Ahhhh. Good stuff. Let’s look at the package…

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Yes, it’s the same packaging we’ve been seeing all along and it’s growing on me, especially since there’s a free comic book in there. I haven’t mentioned it before, but I really dig the way they do a data sheet on the character on the back cover of the comic. I’ve really got nothing else to add at this point. Dead End is packaged in his robot mode, but we’re going to start with his alt mode, because that’s just how I roll.

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So, straightaway I’ll say that Dead End takes the top spot as my favorite of all these Stunticon alt modes. Yeah, Breakdown was the closest to his original G1 alt mode, but this here is on snazzy looking car. He’s a little more rounded out than his original G1 namesake, but the maroon body, black painted windows, and the off center racing stripe all conspire to warm my GeeWun-loving heart. Sure, he wears his Decepticon emblem on his hood instead of the door, but I’m Ok with that and the grey on the side panels give him a little modern zing. I do, however, wish the hood emblem was straight. It looks like they tampo’d it on an angle to line up with the contours of the hood, but the result is really aggrevating my OCD. Ah, but even that can’t mar what is an otherwise beautiful little evil sports car.

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Dead End features three weapon ports, one on top and one on each side just behind the front wheels. You can use these to weaponize him up by pegging in his… ah, exhaust pipe. Yeah, other than the combiner part, this grey pipe is all you get. I suppose it looks kind of OK pegged into the side, but, no… not really. We’ll circle back to that pipe when we get to the robot mode.

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Transforming Dead End is as simple as these Deluxes tend to get and the engineering doesn’t really hold any surprises. In fact, he actually has a lot in common with Breakdown, particularly in the way he has a chest flap that closes down to partially cover the combiner port. The way the windshield and front of the car folds onto his back is also similar, but Dead End got the better end of this deal. Instead of the ugly inside crater of the car shell showing, Dead End’s backpack shows off the hood of the car. As far as car kibble backpacks go, this is about as stylish as you can get. I also really dig the head sculpt on this guy. It’s a great looking portrait for a ‘Con and I’m glad to see he got the Sunbow style mouthplate.

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The deco in robot mode features a lot of the same maroon and gold, although you do get a good amount of dark gray plastic thrown into the mix. While Dead End is far from traditional Decepticon colors, I think the dark deco works really well for him and I love the tiny little Decepticon emblem on his chest. It looks like it belongs there, whereas the other Stunticon faction emblems look like they were stock on as an afterthought.

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As much as I find this bot mode to be pure love, I still have a few little quibbles. The elbows use that annoying style of hinge that attaches at the end of the two halves of the limb. I call it “hollow elbow” and while there is probably absolutely no reason why a robot couldn’t function like this, I just think it looks weird. You also get a grey socket thing sticking on the inside of his right leg that looks rather conspicuously out of place. It’s there to attach the foot or hand in combiner mode and it does just come off if you don’t want it there. I did think the short lower legs would bother me on this figure, but they really don’t at all.

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Dead End’s choice of weapon is an odd one indeed, because it’s basically just an exhaust pipe. Normally I prefer my Transformers to have guns, swords and axes will do in a pinch, but just giving him a big pipe? I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, I suppose going into battle with nothing but a giant pipe is kind of bad ass and represents a certain degree of thuggery befitting of a ‘Con. On the other hand, it seems like a really stupid thing to do when 95% of the other robots out there are going to have guns and the other 5% probably have swords. Anyway, Dead End can wield it like a club, or there’s a peg on the side so he can wield it like a PR-24 police baton.

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Even with some minor gripes, Dead End is easily my favorite of the Deluxe Stunticons. That’s not to say the others are bad. I’ve actually enjoyed these guys quite a bit. Yeah, I was a little iffy on Dragstrip at first, but he’s grown on me a lot. I expected to hate Breakdown, but he’s actually pretty cool. Really, that just leaves Offroad as the odd bot out, and that’s not because he’s a bad figure, but mainly just because I see him as an imposter. Next Transformers Thursday I will revisit the Stunticons for one last time to take a look at their combined form, Menasor. At the risk of spoilers, I’ll just say this… writing that piece is going to require a lot of Jameson. Meaning I’ll need some booze to get through it. Because Menasor sucks.

Lost Exo-Realm Volar with Velos (LER-03) by Fansproject, Part 2

Welcome back, lovers of legally-suspect third-party convertorobots! Today I’m wrapping up my look at Fansproject’s Volar, a figure who is most certainly not in any way meant to be perceived as a Dinobot named Swoop. Yesterday I checked out the packaging, Volar’s alt mode, and Velos’ robot mode and today we’ll switch it around and look at Volar’s robot mode and Velos’ weapon mode. Let’s get to it!

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Hot damn, do I love this robot mode! I mentioned yesterday, that there aren’t too many surprises when it comes to Volar’s transformation. The beast mode’s legs unfold into the robot’s legs, the arms fold out from the back, the beast head locks into the chest, and the back half swings back to reveal the head. That’s the reader’s digest version of the engineering here, but there’s not a lot more to it. Compared to the sometimes tortured steps of getting Cubrar and Columpio back into their dino modes, this guy is a snap. And hey, complexity isn’t always necessary. What’s here works beautifully and certainly makes for a great looking homage to G1 Swoop. One thing I was particularly happy to see was that Volar’s wings are not connected to his arms, so you can have independent movement of each. You do still have plenty of options as to how you want to position them, but it’s damn nice that they will stay put no matter what you have Volar’s arms doing.

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Those wings are indeed the biggest departure from the old Swoop we all know and love, which is something that was evident in his alt mode. They have a hooked, almost sickle-like design that really drives home the fact that this is more robot thaen beast. It also makes him look rather bad ass. The rest of the design is a lot more familiar, right down to the way the dino head splits in half with the front forming the center of the chest and the back making up the back of his robot head. It’s also worth mentioning that Volar is a lot more svelte than his two bulky brothers. His waist is really thin, but with broad shoulders and the big set of wings to back him up, he still fills out his form pretty well and can certainly hang with Cubrar and Columpio. He also feature some great articulation. The arms have shoulders with rotating lateral hinge, swivels in the biceps and wrists, double hinges in the elbows, and the fingers are together on one hinge. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, swivel at the hips, double hinged in the knees, and ball jointed in the ankles. Volar can swivel at the waist and he has a ball jointed neck.

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Fansproject has a way with robot head sculpts, and Volar is another great example of that. The face is clean and simple with some beautiful blue eyes.
The color pallet remains practically unchanged from the alt mode. You get a lot of grey plastic, with a red torso and pelvis, and that great satin gold and silver. It’s all rounded out with some black trim. As mentioned yesterday, Velor comes with an optional blue torso if you’d rather go that way, but I’m happy keeping his colors matching Columpio and Cubrar.

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When it comes to weapons, Volar has a lot of options. His missile launchers can be left on his wings, front or back, or they can be wielded in hand like guns. I would have liked the option to mount them on his arms too, but I can’t find any way to do that. Like his predecessors, he comes with his own unique translucent red bladed energy sword, which can peg onto his hip for storage. Between keeping his launchers on his wings and his sword on his hip, Volar can easily tote all of his weapons around with him, which is one of the many features I love so much about this line.

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And speaking of weapons, Volar’s little buddy, Velos, can transform into a funky looking crossbow. It’s a tad unwieldly, but since we’ve already seen a couple of axes, I like that they mixed it up with a new kind of weapon. Velos’ transformation isn’t as clever as either Derpan or Tekour but it still works fine for me. The Targetmasters were never a selling point for me and this line, but they’re certainly neat little bonuses and definitely add value.

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I’m now three figures into this line and with each release I’m happier that I went with Fansproject for my Not-Dinobot needs. I’ll confess I really like the more traditional designs of some of the other companies doing these in Masterpiece scale, but I still expect to get those from Hasbro one day. Besides, which, I’m really enjoying Fansproject’s slightly more original take on these characters. These figures strike me as something more unique that we aren’t likely to see again. At just under a hundred bones, Volar is a pretty good value for what you get, at least in the relative world of pricey third-party Transformers. His size makes him just right for my Generations shelf, as I’m of the belief that these guys should be bigger than Optimus and a lot bigger than the regular Autobots. He also fits in great with FP’s own Function Series. And speaking of which, Fansproject, you still owe us a Function-X Skullcruncher. Don’t think I forgot about that!