Transformers Combiner Wars: Legends Class Powerglide by Hasbro

On the last Transformers Thursday I made a much deserved detour to take a look at MP-22 Ultra Magnus, but now I’m back on track to checking out the first Wave of Legends Class Combiner Wars figures. The line had a strong start with Bombshell and today I’m opening what is actually my most anticipated figure in this assortment: Powerglide. And away we go!

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Here’s the new Legends Class packaging. I can’t say I love it, but I don’t hate it. It’s just different. You do get some very nice character art, which is also included inside as a trading card. Hasbro has taken a few stabs at doing Powerglide in recent years, but never quite with lasting results. The Universe Ultra Class release was an interesting figure with a good sculpt, but the size was all wrong and it always baffled me as to why Hasbro decided to color it white. Back in 2011 we got a Cyberverse version, which at the time I was rather smitten with, but I can’t say as that figure has aged all that well. So, here we go again, but there’s something about just looking at the packaged toy that tells me that Hasbro might have done it right this time. Powerglide is packaged in his robot mode, but we’re going to start with his alt mode.

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Ah, the A-10 Warthog! It’s design inspired both the Cobra Rattler and the alt mode of good old Powerglide here. This version hits all the right points, but it does suffer from a few issues. The profile is there and the deep red plastic drives the G1 homage home. On the other hand, there is a lot of ugly jointing on the top and the gray plastic in the middle of the body looks rather out of place. The hinged rear stabilizers don’t lock in so they have a habit of getting knocked out of alignment, and you can clearly see his hands peeking out under the fronts of the wings. Jets with hands seems like a recurring theme in the Combiner Wars. I realize I just nitpicked a lot of stuff on this little jet, but this is a Legends Class figure, so I’m willing to cut it a lot more slack than I would a Deluxe or Voyager. Especially when the robot mode looks like…

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THIS! Awww, yeah! Slap a dress on me and call me the girl who loved Powerglide, because this is one awesome homage! The transformation is quick and easy, and yet if still features some clever moves and the robot mode’s proportions are fantastic. He’s got a nice broad, barrel chest and I really dig how well the wings peg into his shoulders so securely. The arms look really close to the Sunbow animated design as does the magnificent head sculpt. There’s not a lot of paint work on this figure, and that usually bugs me, but in this case the red and gray plastic is really all it needs, plus the blue eyes and the little bit of black here and there. Also, that huge Autobot emblem on his chest is gorgeous. I have to imagine that this is about as close as we’re going to get to the Sunbow design in action figure form, unless Hasbro actually learns how to do mass-shifting and get rid of those big engines on his legs.

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Speaking of the engines, the official robot mode has the engine pods shifted upward so the stabilizers can swing back behind his feet. I like it, but I think I like leaving them down even better. It adds a little more bulk to his lower legs and a cleaner profile above the knee.

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Even the articulation on this guy makes for a really fun action figure. You get ball joints in the shoulders, hips, and knees, and hinges in the elbows and ankles. The head can also turn as part of the transformation.

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It sounds crazy to say it, but this little Powerglide figure is possibly one of the best G1 updates Hasbro has done in a long time. Yes, the jet mode lacks some of the polish that the robot mode has, but when the robot mode looks this good, I would have it no other way. The only stumbling point here is that he doesn’t scale all that well with other lines. As one of the original Mini-bots, I can make Powerglide with some of my Classics figures, but not so much with the other G1 Mini-bots, like Bumblebee or Warpath, that got proper Deluxe Class upgrades. It’s a tad frustrating, since I think this figure could have been up-scaled to work as a Deluxe with very little tweaking. Nonetheless, as a stand-alone figure, this little guy simply can’t be beat and Hasbro seems to be channeling some of their best work into this Legends Class sub-line. Had I featured him last year, he probably would have found his way onto my Favorites of 2014 list.

Doctor Who: K9 Mark II Quarter-Scale RC figure by Character Options

I don’t like to throw around the term “Grail Piece” all that often, especially with something that was first released as early as seven or eight years ago, but today’s feature brings me mighty close to it. I’ve reviewed at least a few K9 figures on FFZ before, but they were mere trifles compared to this one. Originally released in 2007, I didn’t even know this toy existed until several years later when I was viewing a picture gallery of someone’s Doctor Who toy collection and saw the robotic dog standing majestically on a display shelf towering over the regular figures. I quickly inquired as to what it was and I was told it was Character Options’ Quarter-Scale version of the metal mutt based on his NuWho appearance in “School Reunion.” WHA-WHA-WHAAAAAT??? I’m pretty sure that was my reaction. I instantly became obsessed with tracking one down, but I quickly learned that there were few available on the secondary market and the ones that I did find were prohibitively expensive and would also require shipping from Great Britain. For a while I let the dream die, but in 2014 CO tweaked the toy and re-released it as a proper Classic Who version. and in doing so, made me very happy dude.

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And there he is in his gloriously large window box. The package features the current style deco that CO has been using for the Classic Who releases. I honestly still can’t believe I’m the proud owner of this toy! To understand my pure joy, first you must understand my childhood adoration of The Fourth Doctor’s best friend, K9. The precocious dog first appeared in the episode “The Invisible Enemy” in 1977, the very same year that Star Wars was released. Of course, I probably didn’t first see the episode until four or five years later, sometime around the age of 12 or 13, but I do remember that K9 almost instantly replaced R2-D2 as my number one childhood robot crush. Ever since then I dreamed of owning a really good K9 toy. Fast forward almost 30 years later and I’ve got a few decent K9’s on my shelf, including a couple of the 5-inch Scale versions from CO and an Eighth-Scale figure from Biff Bang Pow! They’re perfectly fine figures, but I was yearning for something that would bring me closer to the neigh impossible dream of owning an actual full-sized electronic K9, and while he’s not full-sized, this bad boy certainly scratches that itch!

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Sorry, I got a little side tracked there! Getting back to the box, it’s pretty standard stuff for this toy line only a lot bigger than what we’re used to seeing. K9 is secured inside with his access panel off and a “Try Me” button that lets you sample just a few of his voice clips. I will take this opportunity to squeee at the fact that John Leeson’s name actually appears on a toy box. SQUEEE! There, I did it. Leeson, of course, was the original voice talent behind K9, and although he was briefly replaced by the late David Brierly, Leeson eventually came back to the role and even reprises it several times for K9’s apperances in NuWho as well as K9’s own (terrible) Australian spin-off series. Leeson’s K9 voice is as iconic to me as anything in all of sci-fi-dom so it’s just nice to see him get credit.

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Just look at the size of this box! I snapped a picture of it beside the 5-inch Scale K9 figure for comparison. I’ll also note here that getting K9 out of his box was a royal pain in the ass. He was screwed into four plastic retaining straps from the bottom and one of the screws was quick to strip. It probably took me a full 20 minutes to finally free him, but once I did everything was most satisfactory! Speaking of screws, it’s worth noting that while K9 includes the AA batteries to make his “Try Me” mode work, he does require a 9-volt for the remote control unit, so you’ll need to keep that screwdriver handy. Also worth noting, this US release features an FDC sticker on one of the compartments. It came off fairly easy, but I still need to clean some of the sticker gunk off of him. But before we get to the electronic features, let’s look at the toy itself.

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With a few exceptions, the attention to detail and screen accuracy of K9 is quite well done. Some particular points of note include his antenna tail, the black bumpers around his base, the multicolored collar and accompanying dog tag, and the pull handle under his neck. He has his keypad positioned appropriately on his back, his name is on his right side panel, complete with sculpted faux screws and he has his computer monitor on his left side. The proportions here look great and while the coloring may be a little darker than what I’m used to seeing on screen, it could just be from the studio lights. On the downside, the left side of K9 exhibits gray circular plugs to cover the screws. It’s a little unsightly and obviously not screen accurate, but then I tell myself if Hasbro had done a toy like this, they probably would have just left the screws exposed, so I’m willing to live with it.

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K9’s head features a few other minor points of contention when it comes to accuracy. The antenna dishes used for the ears are solid plates, where they should be mesh, but I can certainly understand why that change had to be made. Secondly, K9’s blaster is positioned slightly lower than it should be. I believe the show prop had the blaster coming directly out of his nose. I’m guessing the change was made to make the mechanics easier to work with. Lastly, there’s no “mouth” slot for K9’s tape printer. It may sound like I’m nitpicking a lot, but honestly none of this concerns me or dampens my love for this toy. It’s just fun and worthwhile to point out the differences.

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K9’s removable panel lets you see his inner workings, although it’s really just a sculpted wall of components. It’s also clearly not been changed from the previous NuWho release and varies quite a bit from when we saw inside K9 in the days of Classic Who, which was usually just a mess of circuit boards, wire, and ticker tape. Anyway, taking off the side panel leads us into the electronics. When you first get him out of the package, you have to turn him from “Try Me” mode to the On position and doing so causes K9 to light up and go through his boot up routine. In addition to the lights inside the access hatch, the keypad on his back lights up and the red panel on his face lights up too. I’m going to break tradition, bust out my shitty phone camera, and get all video up in your faces…

Aw, yeah. That’s some good Leeson! The quality of the voice is absolutely fantastic. Once you’ve played around with the “Try Me” function and booted him up, it’s time to get serious and get out the remote control.

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It seems to be more or less the same remote that came with the 2007 release only it no longer has a huge antenna coming off of it. You get two control sticks to drive K9. Pushing both forward moves him forward, pulling both back moves him back, and combinations make him turn. He controls really well and I’m amused by the fact that the super loud electric motors in the toy sound about as obnoxious as the prop did in the show. The buttons activate different voice clips on K9 and some of them will say different things when pressed multiple times. I’ll bust out a video clip again as I run through his voice clips, but I don’t have enough surface on my studio desk to really drive him anywhere.

I like how the ears move when he says scanning now and I should point out that they also move whenever he’s in motion. It’s a shame they couldn’t get his eye to extend, but I guess that would have required a lot more engineering. You also have to be careful, because if you activate each button going up or down the controller you will unlock a secret little sequence where K9 goes absolutely berserk, rolls all over the place and babbles about detecting Time Lords and recognizing you as his Master. It’s a cool little easter egg.

Last, but not least, you have the blaster…

Like I mentioned before, the blaster is positioned lower than it should be, but I’m impressed at how far out it deploys and the sounds of it extending, firing and retracting are all spot on from the Classic show. Oddly enough, K9 will not move when his blaster is extended.

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Well, I’ve prattled on about my new robot pup long enough and all that’s left to say is he was expensive, but not unreasonably so. At $100, he’s a bit more than what I paid for either my 12-inch RC Dalek or Davros, but he does a bit more than those toys do. Is a hundred bucks a reasonable price for what you get here? Hell if I know. You see, even though now I have a huge display case overflowing with Doctor Who toys, I still remember that feeling as a kid when there was nothing at all. Without the Internet I didn’t even know those shitty Dapol figures existed. The best thing I had as a kid was an unpainted pewter K9 miniature intended for use with the Roll Playing Game and I thought that little piece of junk was pure gold. And so I still kind of have that mentality which could totally spawn conversations like this…

“How much would you pay for a Quarter-Scale Electronic K9 figure that’s remote controlled and talks.

Me: “A BILLION DOLLARS!!”

“It’s only $100″

Me: “SOLD!!!”

Yeah. So, when a measily three of them dropped onto the website over at Who North America, I jumped on it faster than you can say “Jelly Baby.” Considering how much the original 2007 toy went for on the secondary market, I’ve got no complaints. Indeed, I’m actually glad I never broke down and spent it, because I’m much happier with this Classic Who version. He’s not a perfect replica, but then he’s not meant to be. He is, however, a really solid and impressive toy, and I have a feeling that K9 will be residing on my desk for a long while before I finally find a place for him on my Doctor Who display shelves. That is, when he’s not chasing around the cat!

Marvel Universe Infinite: Valkyrie by Hasbro

I wasn’t planning on looking at Valkyrie this week, but two things brought me around. First, I’m on a big kick to get through a lot of unfinished business from 2014 and Valkyrie is the last Infinite Series figure that I have still waiting to be opened. Second, we’ve seen a lot of stuff from Hasbro of late suggesting that the 4-inch line of Marvel figures is going to be around for at least a little longer and that’s got me rather excited. It’s worth noting that Ares, a related figure in this Wave, was one of my favorite 4-inch figures from the entire year, so I have high hopes for Valykrie too.

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Here’s the packaging. BLAH! Hasbro, please change the packaging in 2015. Actually, don’t even worry about it. Just keep making the figures. I toss the packages anyway so I don’t even know why I care. I count myself as a fairly prolific reader of all things Marvel, but I have so few experiences meeting Valkyrie in my travels through my funnybooks. I must just not be reading the right books. The most lasting impression this character has made on me goes all the way back to her self-titled one-shot that was published in 1990-something. And honestly, the only reason I probably picked up that book was because it had a hot, scantily-clad blonde chick by Pablo Raimondi on the cover. Needless to say I’ll mostly be judging this figure on her own merits and not making a lot of comparison’s to the character.

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Here she is out of the package and the part of me that leans toward being a sexist pig kind of digs her revealing 90’s outfit a lot more. Fortunately, that’s only a little part of me so I can still find a lot to love about this more traditional Asgardian style of armor. Valkyrie’s buck gets by with very little sculpted detail, as the costume is entirely achieved by paintwork alone. That’s OK, though, as the paintwork here is particularly clean and crisp, especially on the circular points of her torso armor and her wrist bracers. The only other aspect of her costume is the belt that hangs loose on her hips.

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The head sculpt here is good, but the paint doesn’t back it up. Hasbro put in a lot of effort on her hair, including the two long braids, with one falling down her front and one down her back when her head is faced forward. The face is also clean and pretty. On the downside, the eyes are a far cry from what’s seen on the package. It almost looks like she’s looking up. It’s not a deal breaker for me, but it does represent a major stumble on what could have been another homerun figure in this Wave.

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While Valkyrie does suffer from some slightly mushy knee hinges, the articulation here is otherwise solid and stable and there’s a lot of useful points. The arms have rotating hinges at the shoulders, double hinges in the elbows and swivels in the biceps and wrists. The legs are ball jointed at the hips and double hinged at the knees. There are swivels in both the thighs and again just below the knees. The ankles are hinged and also feature lateral rockers. There’s no waist articulation, but she does have a ball joint just under her chest and both a ball joint and hinge in her neck.

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Valkyrie includes one accessory, her enchanted blade, Dragonfang. While it doesn’t quite live up to the amazing detail Hasbro put into Ares’ axe it’s not at all a bad looking sword. You can even make out the tiny dragonhead sculpted into the pommel. The sword features a two-handed blade and, thanks to Val’s excellent articulation, she can easily wield it in one or both hands. There’s no specific way to secure it to her person, although you can pass it through her belt if you want her to wear it.

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Valkyrie is every bit a solid figure, although she doesn’t pack the “wow factor” that I got from Ares. And speaking of other figures from this Wave, if you lost track, it included Ares, Ant-Man, Deathlok, and Omega Red, all of which I would count as exceptional figures, and one dud: Cyclops. Leave it to Scott Summers to douche everything up, eh? That’s still a pretty good record and it made the subsequent Wave of mostly repacks pretty disappointing. Fortunately, we’ve seen some excellent looking figures teased for the line in 2015, which gives me some much needed hope after seeing the shitty looking toys Hasbro has planned for the Age of Ultron film.

Masters of the Universe Classics: Spinnerella by Mattel

Once again I find myself receiving the current month’s Matty figures before I’ve gotten around to looking at all that last month had to offer. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. After today’s feature I’ll only be one figure and one beast behind and then I can look at the first figure of 2015. Hopefully I can do all of that before the February figures ship. Anyway, today I’m here to check out what I believe was the last figure in the Club Etheria Mini-Subscription, but I’m so confused as to which figures go with which subs, I could be totally wrong about that. Let’s just say that Spinnerella is one of She-Ra’s BFFs and that puts her firmly in the Princess of Power camp. Holy crap, Spinnerella? Really? I’m a 42 year old man and I’ve chosen to go down this path, huh? I suppose once I’ve delved into the depths of Sweet Bee and Flutterina there was no turning back. Alright, let’s do it…

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Spinnerella’s real name is Cynthia. I’m going to call her that because every time I type Spinnerella it comes out Spinerella, which is probably the name of Brent Spiner’s sister and not germane to this feature. Cindy’s tag line is “Dizzying Defender” and man I gotta think at this point the creators of the She-Ra line were really phoning stuff in. Cynthia is basically Etheria’s hot chick equivalent of the Tasmanian Devil. She literally travels by spinning like a whirlwind and the members of The Rebellion give her mail to deliver to their distant friends. Not making it up… it’s in the bio. I got nothing, so let’s move on to the figures on the back of the package. Hey… clean sweep! All are present and accounted for, although it’s worth noting that I still have not opened my Star Sisters 3-pack. One of these days, I’ll get to those gals.

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Cynthia’s outfit is designed in line with her gimmick by having a skirt made of lots of strands that are supposed to fly up around her when she spins and hitting the likes of Grizzlor in the eye when he tries to attack her. Doesn’t have to be Grizzlor it could be anyone. Spinning and whipping people with her skirt strands is literally her method of attack and defense. All kidding aside, her outfit exhibits some really nice work, including beautiful scrollwork carved into her arm bracers and belt as well as the sculpted ornamentation on her booberz. The blue, lavender, and purple deco is fairly reminiscent with what we saw with Glimmer. The colors all look great and with the exception of a little stray silver paint on her right arm streamers, the paintwork is clean and sharp.

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It seems like T4H are getting a little more diverse with their female portraits lately. I used to complain about most of the Princess of Power figures having a certain sameness about their face structures. The last couple have been pleasant changes and Spinnerella follows that trend. There’s something about this portrait that I like a lot. The paint is clean and she’s certainly pretty. She does have an absolutely huge purple mound of hair going on, though. It seems as if spinning around really fast would cause that mop to fan out just like her dress. I guess she has it pinned down pretty well. Or maybe not, as you can remove the top two layers if you think it’s too much and even stylize it with the top layer off and the pony tail reattached. I think I actually prefer her without the extra lump of hair on top.

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Spinny’s articulation is right in line with what I’ve come to expect from the PoP figures. The arms feature rotating hinges in the shoulders, hinges in the elbows, and swivels in the biceps and wrists. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, hinged at the knees and ankles, and feature swivels at the hips and lateral rockers in the ankles. She’s ball jointed at the neck and can swivel at the waist. Her rather large hair does inhibit some of her shoulder articulation and restricts her neck movement, but otherwise it’s all good.

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Cynthia comes with two accessories: Her spear and shield. The shield is a pinkish-lavender repaint of the same old PoP shield, this time with a matching pink crystal in the center. It’s worth noting that the streamers on her arm bracers prevent the shield from clipping on in the natural fashion, so she has to wear it clipped on to the top of her forearm, rather than the side. The spear isn’t much to write home about either. It has a blue shaft and a metallic pink tip.

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Long ago, Mattel promised no actual gimmicks in these Classics figures and yet they have managed to translate most of the vintage figures’ gimmicks in one way or another. That’s not really the case with Spinnerella here. There’s no spinning to be had and even if there were, the design of the dress wouldn’t allow all those strands to fly up and whip around. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been much for such gimmicks and aesthetically, she’s a great modern update to the vintage figure. Indeed, I like her a lot and get a really cool Grecco-Roman Goddess vibe off of her, which may or may not be justified. She’ll make a fine addition to my PoP shelf and I suspect she’ll be hanging around with Glimmer because they both seem to like purple an awful lot!

Legends of Cthulhu by Warpo Toys, Part 2

As many fools before me have learned, communing with The Elder Gods was a trap. Their immense power immediately overtook me and I became possessed by their will to do eeeeeeevil. As if in a trance, I found myself a good, sharp blade, testing it against my soft flesh. Ouch… crap, that really hurt! Um, I mean… Excellent! The implement would serve me well in performing the unspeakable deed. Without so much as a twinge of regret or sorrow, I set about the unholy business at hand. I inflicted the slices with ghastly precision and soon my act of desecration was complete. Yeah, I opened the toys… so let’s check them out and we’ll start with the hero of the piece… The Professor!

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Let’s face it, a big part of Lovecraft’s appeal rests firmly in his strange, nightmare creatures, and between his writing and the art designs it has inspired, there’s enough material to produce waves of action figures. As a result, some might say, “with only four figures, why waste a slot on a regular old human?” Some might say that, but not me! You can’t have Lovecraft without the hapless protagonist who wanders into those dark corners best left unexplored, and you can’t have a great selection of figures without someone to fight the baddies. He may be terribly outnumbered here, but the gang at Warpo so wisely gave us an amalgamation of all of Lovecraft’s unhappy wanderers with The Professor.

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The Prof is a turn-of-the-century scholar-adventurer with jacket, tie, high boots, hat, and dashing mustache. “I mustache you not to summon Cthulhu, my good sirs!” His accessories include a black revolver and a green Cthulhu idol. He may be retro, but there’s still some great detail in this mold, including the stitching and rumples of his jacket and a stiletto dagger strapped to his right boot! The paintwork is also quite good, with the only flaw on my figure being a bit of black spray on the left side of his face. I choose to believe that’s a powder burn sustained from his many battles with evil’s minions! Standard five-points of articulation apply and he can comfortably hold his revolver in his right hand and carry the Cthulhu idol in the crook of his left elbow. Very nice!

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Next, we have one of The Deep Ones, minion of Dagon and ghastly dweller from the shores of Innsmouth. These things creeped me out as a kid because they were said to snatch people and uh… copulate with them to create unspeakable halfbreeds. Yikes! Everything about this figure came out splendidly. The design, including the fins, bloated neck, and hideous fish face is instantly iconic to me and the sculpt helps to carry the day. Despite the retro appearance, there’s plenty of great work to be seen here, like the muscles in the arms, the terrible claws, and the texture to the skin, and I love those blank soul-less eyes. The paintwork here is quite exceptional. The blueish tone used for the skin is great, but it’s the shading around the eyes and the light striping on the back that really drives it home.

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Of course, you again get the standard five-points of articulation, although the way The Deep One’s head is shaped the neck cut basically just allows him tilting his head from side to side in a sort of adorable way. There’s a bit of pre-posing to the mold, which has one foot trailing behind the other and this stance nicely accentuates the odd structure of his legs and all without compromising on his ability to stand on his own. Deep One comes with a spear, that’s cast in green plastic, which he can comfortably hold in his right hand. At one point Warpo was offering a troop-building pack of these guys as an Add On to the kickstarter and right now I’m stabbing myself with the Sacred Dagger of Bokrug for not buying more Deep Ones when I had the chance. Yeah, money was too tight at the time, but that doesn’t help make me any less heartbroken that I don’t have a little army of these magnificent figures on my desk right now.

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For the third figure (I’m not going in any particular order) we look to The Spawn of Cthulhu! This nasty piece of business is no doubt intended to be the star of the line and it shows. As one of Cthulhu’s lesser minions in humanoid form, this spawn is a bulky green monstrosity with a mass of tentacles for a mouth, the bulbous head of a squid, and a pair of black eyes with piercing red pupils. This minion of The Great One comes equipped with wings and a vestigial tail, all of which is sculpted in slightly softer plastic and pegged onto his back. If you prefer your Cthulhu Spawn wingless, you can just pluck them off, but why would you want to do that? I love the texture on this figure’s skin, including the bumpy warts all over his body and the veins running across his head. You get some really nice paintwork on this guy too, particularly where the green desolves into the yellow of his chest.

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It goes without saying that the usual five-points of articulation apply and with the way The Spawn of Cthulhu’s arms are sculpted it makes them perfect for reaching out to grab his hapless victim. This fellow includes one accessory, which is an ancient looking leather bound book with sculpted tentacles running across it. Could it be The Necronomicon itself? I’d sure like to think so!

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The last of the regular carded figures in this collection is The Cultist, and boy is this guy cool! He features sculpted robes with some somber decorations, including a heavy sculpted black chain holding on his robes. The figure features a hooded head with an eerie zombie-like face and blank white staring eyes. Easily my favorite thing about this figure is the way the sculpted robes remind me of the original Kenner Obi-Wan Kenobi figure, especially in the way that the legs are still given independent articulation. And speaking of Kenner Obi-Wan, The Cultist features the same style vinyl cape, which really hits on all of my nostalgia buttons. It’s such an obvious and wonderful callback and yet blended seemlessly into the design of the character. I don’t want to take anything away from any of the great figures in this line, but The Cultist is the single shining example of how this line is retro done right.

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The Cultist also steals the show by having the most accessories. He comes with a staff and a dagger, both molded in green plastic, that instantly had me thinking of my Kelek figure from LJN’s old AD&D line. The dagger features a wavy kris-style blade and the staff is a gnarled piece with a Cthulhu themed head on it. You also get a Cthulhu mask, which fits perfectly into the hood and over the figure’s face. As with The Deep One, The Cultist was available as a multi-pack Add On and once again I hate myself for not finding the money to get more of these at the time, because they look absolutely great gathered together.

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Having looked at the four main figures, all that’s left is to take a quick look at the two special stretch goal variants. The High Priest is a sensible repaint of The Cultist. He sports an extra-sinister set of black robes with the chain now painted silver. He comes with the same accessories as The Cultist only now cast in a brilliant green translucent plastic. This guy is going to look amazing leading my horde of Cultists. Oooooh, riiiiiight. I didn’t get any extra Cultists. I really hate myself right now.

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And finally, we have The Spawn of Cthulhu recast in that same lovely green translucent plastic to create the very ominous Conjured Cthulhu. I’m not usually one of those collectors that goes crazy over clear plastic figures, but I have to admit that the mold works beautifully in this form and even comes with a spectral version of his book.

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I know, for six little figures, I’ve droned on quite a bit, but it was necessary for me to truly express how excited I was about this Kickstarter and how impressed I am with how the folks at Warpo followed through with the finished product. The figures that I now hold in my hands totally live up to what I was expecting, and keep in mind that I pledged $120, so my expectations were fairly high. Indeed, the fact that I now wish I had thrown some more money into multiples of The Cultist and Deep Ones should say it all. This was a finely honed project from start to finish and I am so happy to have helped support it. It’s worth noting that these were available to purchase at Big Bad Toy Store as a set for $79.99 but that pre-order has already sold out, so I’m very happy to see that not only was the Kickstarter a roaring success, but the figures have performed well at retail too.

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I’m still kind of hoping that these figures will somehow, someday get a wider release where I can pick up some more, but either way I’ll be anxiously looking forward to and putting aside some money for Warpo’s next project. Keep it coming!

Legends of Cthulhu by Warpo Toys, Part 1

The Summer of 2014 was a big one for toy-related kickstarters. I backed three of them, and while two are facing delays in production and distribution (these things happen), the folks at Warpo were able to get their offerings out in a pretty timely manner. The Legends of Cthulhu is a line of retro-style action figures based on the enduring writings of H.P. Lovecraft. I started reading Lovecraft about the time I was in Junior High. I couldn’t tell you the first story I read, but I’m positive it was one of the Dream Cycle stories and I was instantly hooked by his fleeting descriptions of other worldly dimensions, alien landscapes, forbidden cities, and ancient and bizarre gods. To this day I keep a couple of well-worn paperback copies of his short stories in my nightstand for when I’m up for a little easy reading before bedtime. But why have there never been any proper Lovecraftian action figures? Where were the likes of Kenner, Mattel or LJN? One might as well try to gleen the true shape of Ycnàgnnisssz than understand why the toy companies of the 80’s had no such offerings. The closest we probably ever came were The Inhumanoids.  Well, nearly 30 years later I can rejoice for they have arrived as if plucked straight out of the early 80’s and delivered to my doorstep through the shades of time itself. Today I’m going to look at the packaging and some of the other backer incentives and tomorrow I’m going to… <gulp> open these up and check out the figures. Probably. I mean, I really shouldn’t. They look so nice in the packages. But I really want to…

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The wave includes four carded figures and what beautiful cards they are! You get Spawn of Cthulhu, the Professor, a Deep One, and a Cultist. It’s a well rounded slice of the important players with the Professor serving as a fine stand in for Lovecraft himself. As early 80’s packaging mock-ups, these cards are totally credible and absolutely delightful. Everything from the chosen font for the series title to the foil Fan Club stickers looks the part. The figures are each secured in a simple coffin-style bubble with the name of the figure printed on the card above it. The artwork consists of some twisted crag on which a handful of Cultists are no doubt paying homage to the Elder Gods and summoning up a Spawn or Deep One to do their bidding. While original, the art looks as if it could have been pulled straight from the cover of a 70’s or 80’s printing of one of Lovecraft’s collections. Fabulous!

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The back of each card features photos of each of the figures (Collect all Four!) and more totally bitchin artwork, this time showing all four characters in all their action-packed glory. Will the Professor survive? You decide!!! I love it!!! The only nitpick I have for the packaging is the fact that it isn’t collector friendly. I get that anything other than a sealed blister pack would not have properly conveyed the retro feel for these figures and I totally respect that, but it also means not being able to have your cake and eat it too. I am the last person to be considered a “mint-on-card” collector, but these figures look so great in the packaging I assured myself that I was, under no circumstances, going to open them. But I might. I mean, maybe… “oooooopen theeeeeem!” Wait, who the hell said that?

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The other benefit of being a supporter of the kickstarter was getting in on the stretch goal figures. Warpo hit two of those and that meant production of the Conjured Cthulhu and Cultist High Priest. Both of these are variants of two of the main figures, but cool nonetheless. The stretch goal figures didn’t get the full carded treatment, and that’s understandable. Instead they got baggied with a snazzy printed, folded, and stapled card. The card topper matches the deco from the fully carded figures and even retains the hole to let it hang on a peg. The next stretch goal was a large scale figure of Cthulhu himself. We didn’t quite get there, but I’m still holding out hope that the large Cthulhu figure may one day see the light.

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Lastly, at my level of support I received a Legends of Cthulhu Coloring & Activity book. The fact that this even exists makes me a happy person, let alone that I now have it on my shelf. The full color cover features a reprint of the artwork from the cardback. But I’m not going to color it. Nope. Not going to do it. But… I may buy some Crayons just to have on hand. Never know when you’re going to need Crayons! Not for coloring this book, though. No sir. Warpo did offer a plethora of other Legends of Cthulhu merchandise for higher bracket supporters and believe you me if funds weren’t stretched out between two other kickstarters, I would have gone all in.

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When it comes to presentation, Warpo absolutely nailed it with this series. Let’s face it, we’ve seen a lot of retro-style figures hitting the market last year, mostly coming from the endless parade of Funko’s ReAction licenses. This new niche market has become bloated and tiresome practically overnight. Not to mention a lot of those releases have been hit and miss. What Warpo has done here is so cool that it totally transcends all that other retro nonsense. They took a popular fictional license that has been begging for a proper action figure treatment since… well, since action figures were born, and they flawlessly melded it with a genuine degree of retro charm both in the presentation and in the actual toys. I can easily point to this set and proclaim that Warpo has succeeded at what ReAction is only trying to do. Indeed, it’s impossible for me to look at these carded figures and not see a labor of love. And that’s why I really don’t have to open these figures to enjoy them. They come alive in my hand while still in the package. But… they look so cool. And toys are made to be opened and played with. Maybe I should open them? I shall have to seek council on this. I will journey to the Crimson Desert to Irem, The City of Pillars. I shall light a votive candle in the subterranean shrines of Nug and Yeb. I will pose my query to Shub-Niggurath herself and stand vigil until the skies burn and the seas boil and I finally receive my sacred answer. I’ll be back tomorrow.

Transformers: Masterpiece Ultra Magnus (MP-22) by Takara

Ultra Magnus… The Big Guy… Muchacho Ultramissio… Even his name oozes gravitas. He was voiced by the great Robert Stack in the 1986 movie and he deals with things on his own timetable. I can still remember seeing Transformers: The Movie in the theater. I was 14 years old and when The Matrix chose Hot Rod over Ultra Magnus I stood up, threw my large cola at the screen and screamed: “This is f’cking bullshit!” and stormed out. I may be misremembering that day. It might not have really went down like that, but either way, I’m certain that emotions ran high. Even at 14, I couldn’t comprehend why the gestalt of Autobot Wisdom would make Hot Rod the leader of the Autobots over Magnus. Magnus was bigger, more mature, clearly smarter, he didn’t whine. He didn’t go fishing with little boys either. Maybe it was a message to kids about how being a douchebag will get you ahead in life. Maybe not. Either way, I was convinced Magnus was “the man” and he got cheated. Of course, all this waxing nostalgic over Magnus is just a prelude for a look at a figure that hardly needs any introduction. We’ve all been wowed by pictures of MP-22 for a long while now and he’s finally out. I’ve had a couple of weeks to get to know him, so let’s give this bad boy his due. I’m going to do this all in one shot, so it’s going to be a long one!

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The box is big and crazy heavy. I think there’s diecast in there… I can smell it! Well, maybe not, but I can certainly feel it. The box is exactly the same size as the one used for MP Soundwave, but don’t let that fool you about Magnus’ size. The presentation here should hold no surprises for collectors of the line as the deco is the same as we’ve been getting all along. There are lots of great pictures of the toy and the text is most definitely not friendly to us Western dopes who can only read one language. Inside the box Magnus comes packaged in his robot form and secured between two clear plastic trays. You also get an extra pair of fists, an alternate faceplate, his gun, and the teeny tiny Spike and Daniel figures. The only change to the presentation here is the instruction booklet. Yup, you get an actual booklet and not a folded sheet. Takara gave it a redesign with some lovely art on the cover. Let’s kick things off with Magnus’s alt mode.

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Yessiree, that sure is Magnus in his alt mode! His car carrier mode has always been one that stressed fuction over form. It’s certainly more utilitarian than sexy, and that hasn’t changed for the Masterpiece version. You basically get a cab pulling a red, white, and blue framework with two platforms for carrying his Autobot chums into battle. The frame contains some beautifully sculpted detail work, but it’s a bit at odds with the hollow portions on the beams and some exposed screw holes. There are sculpted Autobot insignia on the sides and his two missile launchers rest comfortably at the front “shoulders” of the trailer and can each rotate 360-degrees. This mode is satisfyingly large and faithful to the original, but to me it isn’t all that impressive to look at unless it’s loaded with cars. That’s not a slight against this toy, but just my general feeling about Magnus’ alt mode by its very nature. That having been said, Takara certainly did a fine job with what they had to work with and I’m particularly thrilled with the way the coloring on the figure turned out.

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Speaking of being loaded with cars… Magnus’ trailer can fit four of the MP cars. I refrain from using the term “comfortably fit” because they are definitely bumper to bumper, but it works and I’m cool with that. The rear tailgate drops down to form a ramp and you can even angle down the top platform so they can drive up there. All you have to do is untab both sides at the top to fold it down and it’ll even angle downward with a car in the front. This kind of thing goes a long way to make this a fun and worthwhile alt mode.

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Having stayed away from all reviews and previews, I was surprised to find that Magnus’ cab is indeed detachable. Turn him over and you find a button which releases the cab from its hitching post. Can I also say how damn impressive it is to see such intricately sculpted detailing in a plate underneath the cab that will hardly ever be visible? Of course, you can also see Magnus’ head staring right back at you. Hi, there! Thankfully, there’s enough clearance so Magnus doesn’t scrape his face on the pavement while driving.

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Magnus’ cab is a spot-on recreation of the MP-10 cab, minus a lot of the seams from Prime’s transformation and a differently configured back half. All the sculpted rivets and panel lines are there and the chrome grill and headlamps are dang near identical. The only major difference is the coloring, which includes Magnus’ red, animation accurate front bumper. Yeah… it’s red! suck it haterz!!! Ahem, suffice it to say Magnus’ cab is a winner and the two look great when parked side by side. And while MP-22’s cab is detachable, you do not have to detach it for the transformation.

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Why “Roll Out” When You Can Ride?

So, speaking of transformations, let’s check out Magnus’ robot mode. While I’m going from alt mode to robot mode in this feature, the first time Magnus’ transformation is experienced is while going the other way around. I didn’t try to intuit the process, but rather went step-by-step with the instructions. If you don’t know already, MP-22 is not built around a core MP-10 figure and I know at least a few people who find that blasphemous. I can see their point, but I’m rather pleased with the creativity and freshness at work in this figure’s new engineering. The transformation is fairly clean and simple with excellent tolerances, although there are a few hinged plates that definitely require caution. Getting the gist of the way the change works was pretty easy for me, but actually squaring off the car carrier and locking everything into place at the end took me a few tries. You really need to have Magnus’ hips and knees perfectly positioned to make it all go together and there really aren’t any guides to do it. I did, however find that it was much easier to feel my way through the trailer’s final steps with subsequent transformations. In the end there were at least a few of those lovely “gee whiz” moments when I saw how certain things worked.

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In robot mode, Ultra Magnus lives up to his name and big time. He’s taller than MP-10 and he absolutely towers over the MP Autobot cars. He also needs to watch where he steps when he’s around Bumblebee. As someone who has had to do some adjusting to the MP scale between Optimus and the other Autobots, I’m actually pretty fine with MP-22’s giant frame. I’ll throw it out there that Magnus’s robot mode is not as streamlined or clean as MP-10’s, but then there’s a lot more going on here as he absorbs his trailer into his robot mode, and all without a bit of parts-forming or even having to separate from the cab. With that being the case, I’m perfectly fine with some visible hinges on the figure. In fact, the only other negative thing I have to say about Magnus (I come to praise Magnus, not bury him!) is that there’s some mold flashing on the front of his forearms and in a few less conspicuous places. It’s not terrible, but on a $190 toy, I could have done without it.

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With minor quibbles out of the way, I can get to the good stuff, and the fact is that I love this figure so much it’s hard to know where to begin, so let me just meander in my adulation. The proportions are absolutely epic. I love the giant, powerful legs and the lateral rockers in the feet. He’s as solid and stable a figure as they come, mostly thanks to the clever placement of the diecast and the satisfyingly strong ratcheting joints. The powerful arms feature the same contoured forearms seen in the Sunbow animated Magnus and the shoulder-mounted rocket launchers can be angled forward (my preference) or up or down. I’m also very happy with the length of the extended shoulder pylons. Despite being rather iconic to the character’s designs, the height of these varied a lot in the cartoon, but they look absolutely perfect on the figure. He also features a crisp, sculpted Autobot insignia on his right shoulder. And the colors! I mentioned how much I love the coloring on this figure while discussing the alt mode, but it bears repeating here. The red, blue, and white plastics are all so vibrant and fresh looking.

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Even from the back, Magnus looks good. Yeah, he’s got an open gap behind his head, but this is me not caring about that. There’s also a fold down hatch to store the extra faceplate on the figure, which is a wonderful little touch and a spot to store a second faceplate, which I presume was included with an exclusive. The cab forms a pretty solid backpack that isn’t too bulky. Some have complained about Magnus’ butt-flap, but I can’t deal with that right now.

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The head sculpt? Pure love! I had a little shock when I took my figure out of the box and saw a huge blemish on the crest of his helmet, but it turned out to be just fluff that wiped right off. I think the eyes are just right and I like the stoic expression of his stock face. Swapping in the screaming face is super easy. You just lift the front of the head off, unpeg the face plate and peg in the new one. The white Prime face hidden behind the face was a cool surprise and also kind of creepy because it’s missing the bottom part of the mouth plate. The extra face is pretty good, particularly with action poses, but I will likely stick with the stock expression for display.

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Magnus’ chest opens up by hinging up the blue bar and swinging out the doors. Inside it reveals a beautifully detailed Matrix Chamber, which comfortably fits the Matrix included with MP-10. The extra pair of hands are designed specifically for Magnus to hold the Matrix. I dunno, maybe it’s just me, but at $190, you couldn’t toss in another Matrix, Takara? I mean, I realize that most people investing in this figure probably have MP-10 also, but c’mon guys. You’re including accessories designed to work with an accessory not included in the box. Give us a little something-something.

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Yeah, you also get the Spike and Daniel figures, but Daniel looks weird and I really don’t care about them as accessories. The paintwork on their future outfits looks good, but Takara still couldn’t spring for some paint to detail the faces. I would have happily traded this pair for a second Matrix packed in, if only because it would have saved me the hassle of opening up my MP-10 box to fetch his out of his trailer to include in the photos.

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Lastly, Magnus comes with his trusty rifle. It’s got a tab on the handle to help him hold it in his articulated fingers. Pretty standard Masterpiece Transformer stuff. I have absolutely no memory of Magnus’ weapon in the G1 cartoon, so this isn’t really an iconic accessory to me, but a nice looking gun, nonetheless.

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If you can’t tell, MP-22 turned out to be everything I could have hoped and dreamed for. He’s an absolutely superb figure and well worthy of the name “Masterpiece.” Just looking at him up there on my rapidly growing MP shelves, he is certainly vying for my favorite spot in this line so far. And yet, I almost didn’t get him. He retails for $189.99. That seemed really steep to me at first, although a lot of that gut reaction may have come from timing. This guy was due to ship right around the time I was beginning to make Flex Pays on about $1,000 worth of Hot Toys figures as well as expecting some rather pricey pre-orders to come due. As always, I was trying to be fiscally responsible and not go the credit card route. Remember, kids, don’t use plastic to buy plastic… that road leads to ruin! Anyway, the price tag was high enough that I decided to cancel my pre-order and gamble on the likelihood that he would be around long enough to pick him up later. As it happened, I got some Christmas monies and decided to use it to make Magnus a Christmas present. In hindsight, the price is probably not as bad as the initial sticker shock. Afterall, MP Soundwave originally retailed at $159 and there are still e-tailers asking $199 for MP Grimlock. But 200 bucks is still 200 bucks… know what I’m saying? My point is, yes it’s a lot of money, but for how big and hefty and beautifully done this figure is, I can’t complain about the price, at least not when you put it into the proper context of other Masterpiece figures. He’s still readily available at most retailers, so had I waited I probably wouldn’t have missed out, but I’m just mighty happy to have him on my shelf right now.

Avengers: Thor ArtFX+ Statue by Kotobukiya

It was way back in October when I looked at my last acquisition in Koto’s Avengers ArtFX+ Statues. I’m digging this series a lot, but I managed to let the last two releases fall under my radar. Now that the Holiday craziness is past, I took the time to pick up my next two figures in the series… today we’ll be checking out The Mighty Thor!

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I was a little surprised by the size of Thor’s box, but it makes sense that it should be a little bigger than Black Widow’s or Cap’s, both because of his bulkier size and the nature of his pose. I’ll go ahead and mention once again that I like these more conventional boxes a lot better than the fragile clear plastic boxes that Koto used for their DC ArtFX+ line. They may not be as flashy or artsy-fartsy, but they’re durable, colorful, and I’ll certainly be keeping them in case I ever need to put the statues in storage or for the next time I move. Inside the box, Thor comes between two plastic trays and in five parts (legs, torso with cape, two arms, and head) with an additional two parts that make up Mjolnir. Yes, as with The Avengers, there is some assembly required. Luckily, Thor is pretty much plug-and-play. Each part features a tab that is shaped to fit in specific socket and while some of the fits are rather tight, everything went together without a hitch.

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Cards on the table, Thor’s Marvel NOW! design is not one of my favorite looks for the character, although now that I mention it, Thor is currently a woman, so this version is actually already out of date. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike it at all, I just think the black tunic is a little bland compared to other treatments of the character, especially when everyone else’s costume seems to be getting panel lined up the ass. Also, does The Odinson really need a “T” on his belt buckle? That’s just tacky. But hey, I’m not here to pick apart the character design, but rather take a look at what Koto did with it, and it will probably be no surprise to anyone reading, that I think they did a splendid job.

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Some of the high points of the costume sculpt include the chiseled muscles showing through the tunic, as well as the checkered pattern making up the texture on his arm and leg armor. The circular points of armor on his chest look sharp and there’s some truly impressive scrollwork carved into his his belt. The flares at the tops of his boots look great and I really dig the sweeping motion of his cape, which adds just the right amount of energy to what is a powerful, yet static pose. And how about that pose? He’s got Mjolnir held out in front of him and his off-hand balled into a fist. The composition works well when viewed from several angles and I always take that as the sign of a well thought out piece.

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The portrait on this statue is possibly a bit narrow, but it’s nicely counterbalanced by the beautiful job they did on his helmet. I love the rivets and panel lines as well as the majestic placement of the side fins. I could have gone for a little more ferocity in his expression, but what’s here works fine for me.

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The paintwork on this statue is mostly solid. I’ll nitpick a little that the matte black used for the tunic shows a little inconsistency to the finish. Maybe that conforms to the fact that it’s supposed to be cloth or leather. There are also a few stray black marks on the leg armor. Otherwise the what’s here is pretty great. The metallic silver they used looks spectacular, particularly on the helmet and armor circlets and it all contrasts quite nicely with the matte black of the tunic and red of the cape. The fleshtone is clean and the paintwork on the face is immaculate.

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As always, the statue comes with a metallic black square base that works in conjunction with the magnets embedded in Thor’s boots to hold him upright. Although, honestly, Thor is stable enough to stand just fine on his own.

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I picked up Thor for right around $40 and that sure is a fantastic price for what you get. If you’re a statue collector on a budget or don’t have the expansive space necessary for the Sixth-Scale or Quarter-Scale pieces this Tenth-Scale line simply can’t be beat. Thor continues the expectation of quality and workmanship in Koto’s Avenger’s ArtFX+ line and I’m as excited as ever to complete this collection. My next look at this line will be Hawkeye, and he’s already in my collection and waiting for his chance at the spotlight. The final release, Iron Man should be following along sometime next month!

Star Wars Black: Tie Fighter Pilot by Hasbro

The 6-inch line of Star Wars Black has been with us now for about a year and a half and it’s been a pretty bumpy ride. I think it started really strong and while we continue to get some really solid figures out of the line, there are a number of releases that haven’t been all they could (or should) have been. Case in point, the most recent Wave of four figures has put me off enough that I was willing to pay a premium for the one figure I really wanted and take a pass on the other two (one of them is another repack from a previous Wave). So, let’s check out the Imperial Tie Fighter Pilot.

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There he is in what’s become the new standard box for the line. It’s black, it’s minimalist, it shows off the figure pretty well, and I have no regrets about shredding it to get to the goods inside. And if you read the back, they actually attributed a quote to this guy, “Look Out!” I’m not sure if it was intended, but it got a chuckle out of me nonetheless. I remember way back in 2013 a lot of people questioning the point of an X-Wing Pilot Luke in this line when there will likely never be an X-Wing for him to pilot (ironic, since I think that is one of the best figures in the line so far). Funny enough, I haven’t heard the same grousing about the release of a Tie Fighter Pilot. People just seem to love their Imperials, and I don’t blame them.

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I’ve always loved the designs of these guys because they look so sinister. The Tie Pilot features a sculpted black flight suit with all the appropriate stitching and rumples. The breathing apparatus mounted to the front of his vest includes two flexible tubes that run into his mask, which resembles a Stormtrooper wearing a flight helmet. I think Hasbro did a great job on the helmet sculpt. It looks spot-on perfect to me. The tubes are removable from the helmet, but thankfully don’t pop out too easily when I’m posing him. The detailing on the life support panel is well done and features some very clean paintwork.

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Speaking of paintwork, there isn’t much more of it to be found on this guy, which is understandable. He’s black on black on black. You do get the silver Imperial emblems tampo’d on his helmet and shoulders and a silver belt buckle. There’s also a keypad on his left forearm. I can detect a bit of difference in the black plastic with the boots and gauntlets and helmet being a bit more glossy than the suit itself, but it’s a very subtle difference.

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Tie Pilot features a functional holster on his left hip to hold his only accessory: An E-11 Blaster. It seems to be the same weapon that was bundled with the Stormtroopers. The blaster fits nicely in the holster and he can also wield it in either hand.

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For a guy who spends most of his time sitting in a cockpit, this figure sports some mighty fine articulation. The arms feature rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, double hinged at the knees, and have swivels in the thighs. The ankles feature both hinges and lateral rockers. There’s a ball joint in the neck and a swivel in the waist. It feels like he’s got some torso articulation, possibly being blocked by the vest.

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Besides being a genuinely solid figure, the release of the Tie Pilot makes it all but certain we’ll be seeing a 6-inch AT-AT Driver at some point down the road. You know, to go with that 6-inch scale AT-AT we’ll be getting. I jest, but I’m actually looking forward to the inevitable repaint and remold of this guy because like a lot of people, I just love my Imperials! Alas, I had to plunk down $25 for this guy, which is pretty steep, but when I consider the alternative of paying for a mediocre Yoda and Clone Trooper and suck down a second Prequel Obi-Wan, it’s a price I can live with.