DC Multiverse (Ares Wave): Diana of Themyscira by Mattel

Well, I saw Justice League last week, and to my surprise I actually loved it. Yes, I appear to be in the minority, and I’ll grant you that my emotions were probably grading it on a curve, but I don’t care. This was the first time I came out of a DCEU film happy and it felt great. So great, that I bought up all the Multiverse movie figures. Then I realized I needed to get caught up reviewing some of the ones that I had kicking around and unopened, so I made myself a deal. I’d finally go through the figures from the Wonder Woman movie, before I allowed myself to open up any from Justice League. I can be a real strict asshole sometimes, but fair enough. And since it’s been a little while since I’ve had a proper DC Friday, let’s double up and check out a couple of them today, starting with Diana of Themyscira!

Here’s the DC Multiverse packaging and it’s pretty much the same as we saw when I last attempted to review a wave of these. Remember that? I got through a little more then half of the Doomsday Wave before I gave up in disgust because the figures were so awful. Oh, I’m going to finish that wave some day… I promise! As for Wonder Woman… I came away from seeing it the first time liking it, but not loving it. Or to be more precise, I loved the first half and really didn’t like the second half. Nonetheless, I picked up all the DC Multiverse figures back then and it’s going to feel good to finally open them with a renewed confidence in the direction of the DCEU. The package features some lovely photos of Gal Gadot in costume on the front and side panel, and the back shows the rest of the figures in the wave. Surprisingly there are only four figures needed to collect in order to build Ares, although there are two additional figures not pictured, which I think were exclusives. I’ll check them out in a couple of weeks, after I’ve finished with these.

So, this figure depicts Diana donning her native garb, and overall I think it’s a pretty good effort. The dress has a subtle texture and features a metallic copper color up top and a tan skirt, which gradually gets darker toward the bottom. There’s also some darker copper paint on the straps to give the outfit a little added pop. The bracers feature panel lines and sculpted straps holding them in place. They’re neatly painted silver with gold borders on the edges, and she has sculpted brown wraps around her hands. The knee-high sandals are also sculpted and painted, although my figure has a little splotch of brown paint on her right toe.

The skirt is cast in a separate piece of soft plastic and attached at the waist. It’s rather thick, and it isn’t all that flattering from some angles, like there’s a little too much gear in her saddlebags, if ya know what I mean. Again, not bad, but maybe could have been executed a little better and with thinner plastic. There’s a part in the front of the skirt by her right knee, which helps a little with articulation, but I went ahead and razored it all the way to the top to make it a little less restrictive.

The head sculpt isn’t great, especially when you get in close with a camera, but in hand it doesn’t look terrible either. Alas, it also doesn’t look much like Gal Gadot. I do, however, really like the detail in her hair and the way the ponytail is executed. On the downside, they could have done a better job matching the flesh tone between her torso, which is a shade darker, and her head and arms, which are a shade lighter.

The articulation here is actually much better than what I’ve seen in my past run ins with the DC Multiverse. The arms feature rotating hinges in the shoulders, hinges in the elbows, and swivels in the biceps and wrists. Oh look, Hasbro! 6-inch female figures can have bicep swivels! Her legs have rotating hinges in the hips, swivels in the thighs, and hinges in both the knees and ankles. There’s a swivel in the waist, no articulation in the torso, and a ball joint in the neck. Again, the biggest issue here is that thick skirt, which really hinders the hip articulation, unless you’re willing to do a little modification.

Diana comes with two accessories, the first of which is her sword. I thought it was supposed to be The Godkiller, but the pommel design doesn’t match what we saw on screen, so I think it’s just a regular sword. The sword is a cool little sculpt, with a gold hilt and a silver painted blade. There are sculpted symbols running down the center of each side of the blade, presumably meant to be Greek lettering. Mine came out of the package rather warped, but I was able to get it to straighten out fairly well. Sadly, there’s no loop on her hip or back to store the sword, but then I’m not sure if I remember her wearing it while she was on the island.

The other accessory is her Lasso of Truth. It’s sculpted in a coil and cast in very soft gold plastic. Like the sword, there’s nowhere on the figure to attach this, so she just has to hold both.

Overall, I find myself liking this figure quite a bit, even though there’s certainly room for improvement. Granted, much like the Justice League movie, I set my expectations pretty low here, based on my past experiences with DC Multiverse, so I’m probably being a lot more forgiving than I should be. The head sculpt and paint are a long way from what Hasbro is doing with their MCU figures in Marvel Legends, although I’d say the rest of the figure holds its own pretty well. My original plan was to look at Queen Hippolyta now too, but I went a little long discussing Diana, so I’ll come back later tonight to check her out.

Advertisements

Vitruvian HACKS (Series 2): Aiyana (Autumn Elven Archer) by Boss Fight Studios

With the second wave of Vitruvian HACKS Series 2 upon us soon, I thought I’d better kick it into high gear and have a look at another figure from the initial wave. And with tomorrow being Thanksgiving, it seemed like the optimal time to check out Aiyana, the Autumn Elf Archer!

I won’t go on about the packaging, because it hasn’t changed from Series 1, and we’ve already seen it twice in Series 2. It’s basically a horizontal card with a plastic bubble and covering, which allows it to display like a classic carded figure, but still be collector friendly. You get some nice artwork on the front, some character information on the back, and pictures of the other Series 2 figures that are available to collect.

Aiyana harkens back to the Series 1 figures by offering a standard buck with all of her outfit sculpted in separate pieces and actually worn on the figure. It’s quite an achievement for 4-inch scale figures, and since it’s all removable, it gives you some options to mix and match with other figures if you want. The costume certainly has a strong autumn flavor and includes a separate top and bottom, as well as wrist and ankle bracers. All of the pieces are sculpted with fall colored leaves, cloth, and what looks like vines or twine, giving the outfit a very primitive look. What doesn’t look primitive is the craftsmanship that went into the sculpt and paintwork. The detail on the tiny leaves and wraps is quite extraordinary and the mix or orange, yellows, and browns makes me want to run outside and play in a leaf pile. There’s a hole in Aiyana’s back, which we’ll soon see can equip her quiver, but it can also take a peg from any number of import figure stands for those action poses. I’ve covered the articulation in these female bucks quite a few times in the past, so I’ll forgo it here and refer you back to one of my earlier reviews.

I like the head sculpt well enough, although from certain angles the lips can look a little odd. The hair is sculpted from a separate piece and the way the bangs hang over the forehead gives it a nice sense of depth. The paint on her eyes, eyebrows, and lips is fairly simple, but applied with precision, and her pointed ears are a lot more understated than what we saw on Laguna, her cavern dwelling cousin a few weeks back.

As an archer, Aiyana comes with the tools of her trade, which include a bow, a quiver, and a bunch of arrows. The quiver pegs right into the hole in her back and is painted to look like leather. It has some sculpted lacings holding it together and it can comfortably hold three arrows, but I can get a fourth one in there if I really want to. The figure actually comes with six arrows total. The bow is a pretty simple sculpt, with a painted grip, and there are notches in the ends so that you can string it if you want. I may eventually do that, but for now, I left it the way it is, so we’ll just have to use our imaginations.

Aiyana features breaks in between her fingers where she can hold the arrows very securely and knock them into our imaginary bow string. The articulation works beautifully too, so you can get some nice poses of her withdrawing an arrow from her bow, or preparing to shoot.

 

What happens when an Autumn Elf runs out of arrows? She relies on her twin daggers, and I absolutely love the distinctive designs on these fearsome blades. There are slots on each side of her quiver where you can store these. Or if you prefer, there’s also a loop on the back of her skirt where you can tuck both of these into. I’m not sure if this is the intention, as I have a little fore knowledge about what this is used for on another figure, but I think it works pretty well for the daggers. Either way, it’s possible to get her to carry all her gear on her at once, well… except for some of those surplus arrows.

In addition to the weapons and extra arrows, Aiyala comes with some extra hands and the standard Boss Fight Studio figure stand. The pegs do not go that far into the holes on her feet, but I was still able to get it to work. I should also note that this figure has some incredible balance and even with a quiver full of arrows on her back, she can stand pretty well on those tiny bare feet without the aid of a stand. The mid-air poses and one legged stances? Well, that’s a different story.

So far, Vitruvian HACKS Series 2 is firing on all cylinders. And while I confess to grumbling a little about having to leave the Greek Hoplites and snake monsters of Series 1 behind, it hasn’t taken long for this new Fantasy theme to win over my heart. I really dig the diversity of this first wave, especially the fairies and the elves. And we haven’t even met The Orcs yet. But I’ll remedy that the next time I revisit this series. In the meantime, these figures should still all be available on Boss Fight Studios’ webstore and even at about $25 a piece, I’ve got no complaints!

And just a reminder, I am taking tomorrow off for Thanksgiving, but Transformers Thursday will be back next week, and I am planning on being back the following day with DC Friday. In the meantime, I have plenty of things to be thankful for, but I’m particularly thankful for everyone that reads my toy nonsense, comments, emails or tweets me. I have met so many wonderful people doing this silly blog, and you all make it worthwhile. I count so many of you among my friends, even the ones I’ve never met. Have a happy Thanksgiving, be well and be safe! 

Star Wars Toybox: Rey by Disney

In case you missed it, Disney has introduced a new line of articulated action figures based on the character designs from the now defunct Disney Infinity video game. I loved Infinity, and holy crap, did I blow a lot of time and money on it! Even with the online features shut off, I’m still afraid to fire it up again, or I’ll lose myself in that damn Toybox creating levels or just wandering around as any one of those dozens of damn figures I bought. Well, last week I looked at Thor from the Marvel Toybox and today I’m checking out Rey from Star Wars.

As you can no doubt tell, the packaging goes for utility over flash. The only real artwork is the character portrait on the side panel insert. Otherwise, it’s just a big bubble on a boring card that lets you see the figure you’re buying. Rey is #2. in the Star Wars Toybox series, I think #1 is Kylo Ren, but don’t worry, even though I’m doing them out of order, I’ll get to them all eventually. The packaging is not at all collector friendly, but there’s really no reason I’d want to keep it anyway, so let me shred this thing to pieces and we’ll have a look at Rey.

Like her Infinity counterpart, this figure features Rey in her Jakku outfit from The Force Awakens. I think they did a wonderful job capturing the Infinity style, while also embellishing it a bit for the larger scale and incorporating the articulation. To keep with the animated style, the sculpted detail is kept to a minimum, while still producing a great looking figure. The belt and outer layer of the robes are cast in a separate piece of softer plastic and worn over the figure, which gives her outfit some extra depth. Other sculpted detail includes the arm wraps, the pouch worn on the back of her hip and some simple boots. The coloring is mostly found in the plastic, although there is some paintwork as well. For the most part the paint application is neatly done, although there’s a little bit of slop between the flesh tones of her legs and the brown of her boots.

The head sculpt is also pretty damn close to her Infinity counterpart, a lot closer in this case than Thor was to his. Her hair includes the sculpted triple-buns and the paint applications for her eyes, eyebrows, and lips are all sharp and precise. She looks both adorable and fierce at the same time.

The articulation includes rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, and knees. She has ball jointed hips and hinges in the ankles. There’s a swivel in the waist and a ball joint in the neck. While the points are all the same, the range of motion feels a little bit better here than on Thor, because the sculpt here isn’t as much of a hindrance. Although, the loop that her robes make under the belt on her left hip does get in the way of that leg a bit. Even with some restrictions, she’s a hell of a lot of fun to play with.

Rey comes with Luke’s lightsaber with the blade permanently ignited. Her right hand is designed to hold it, while her left hand is sculpted for Force casting. I like the lightsaber a lot, but I’ll confess to being a bit disappointed that she didn’t come with her staff as well. It doesn’t seem like it would have been that big a deal to sculpt one for her, and since she uses a lot less plastic than Thor, it probably should have costed out at this price point. But then what the hell do i know?

As with Thor, Rey sells for $12.99 and appears to be exclusive to the Disney Store and their website. Thor sold me on the Marvel Toybox line instantly, and now Rey has done the same for this Star Wars Toybox series. I just wish they had more figures to show. The only other figures for the Star Wars Toybox right now are Kylo Ren and a First Order Stormtrooper. It feels like we needed Finn in there to even things out. Nonetheless, I’ll be grabbing more of these, so they’ll all be turning up here eventually.

Marvel Legends (Thor Ragnarok): Thor and Valkyrie by Hasbro

I’m supposed to be pressing on with my jaunt through the Gladiator Hulk Wave today, but before moving on to the comic-based figures in that assortment, I thought I’d make a quick detour to check out this Thor: Ragnarok two-pack that I just picked up. I’ve seen this flick two times now, and I’m glad to see it’s faring so well at the box office and among critics. It’s so damn fun!

This set is a Target Exclusive, although it doesn’t actually state that anywhere on the package, and contains a variant of the Gladiator Thor figure I already looked at and Valkyrie. I’ll get a little grumbling out of the way right now about how this should have been an Executioner and Valkyrie two-pack, because I really wanted a Legends scale version of Skurge GundrothSon, and this would have been a perfect opportunity for Hasbro to do that. Instead, they took the opportunity to wring some more money out of an existing mold. Hey, it’s business. I get it. BUT I STILL WANT MY GODDAMN KARL URBAN EXECUTIONER FIGURE! Let’s start with a quick look at Thor.

So, from the neck down, this figure is identical to the Gladiator Hulk Wave version, including the shoulder strap and removable torn cape, but the right leg armor piece is not included. This was an amazing sculpt then and still is now, not to mention backed up by some fantastic paintwork. I’ll refrain from going on about it again and just refer you back to the original review that I linked above if you missed it and still want all the details and articulation.

The head is all new, depicting Thor without the helmet and with the warpaint cleaned off his face. This is a great likeness, and definitely the high point of this figure, since it depicts his look through most of the movie. I love how they even worked details of the haphazard haircut, which he got from Stan Lee, into the sides of his head.

The other thing that sets this figure apart is its accessories. For starters, Thor also comes with two pairs of hands: One for pair for holding a sword, and one pair for casting lighting. Fortunately he comes with both of those things. The lightning is just a web of translucent blue plastic. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that this was recycled from a Star Wars figure. There isn’t an obvious way to get it onto the hand, so I just wound up interlacing it between his fingers through trial and error, and eventually got something that worked.

The sword is massive and features a really nice sculpt. There’s some intricate scrollwork molded in the hilt and the blade features a rather unique design as well as some nice weathered paint. The grip is long enough for him to equip it in both hands, and his articulation allows it, so you can do some nice poses with him wielding this massive blade. In the end, this figure walks a fine line between being an unnecessary repack and a worthwhile pick up. It feels like Hasbro did enough to make it not feel completely superfluous, but then you are still basically buying a figure that you probably already bought if you’re building the Gladiator Hulk BAF. Let’s move on to Valkyrie!

With so many great performances, it really means something to say that Tess Thompson stood shoulder to shoulder with the best of them in this flick. I loved MCU’s Valkyrie’s backstory, she had a nice little character arc, and I’m not ashamed to say I left the theater rather smitten with Ms. Thompson as well. Now, if I had my choice, I probably would have went with her Asgardian costume (YUM!) instead of her scavenger garb, but considering she wore this look through most of the film, I can understand why Hasbro went with it. Her armor consists of a sleeveless coat, the bottom half of which is attached to the buck to give it some depth and allow the waist articulation to be hidden under it. It’s cast in a soft gunmetal blue plastic with some nice painted silver borders. The rest of the body features more of the same, as well as some black for her trousers, gloves, and arm wraps.

Half capes are apparently all the rage on Sakaar, because Valkyrie is sporting one as well Thor. Hers is cast in soft blue plastic and attaches to her left shoulder armor. She also sports twin daggers sculpted onto her hips. It would have been cool if these were removable, but they sure look good. Her left inner thigh also has what I believe is the remote control to the restraining bolts used on the slaves. Whoops, I’m sorry. I meant to say “prisoners with jobs.” Lastly, Valkyrie has a thin belt, which hangs loose on her hips. All in all, I’d say Hasbro did a nice job on her costume. The color palate doesn’t allow it to be overly flashy, but the silver paint hits and the blue cape do help a little.

The portrait is pretty solid, although I will say this is one of those cases where it looks a lot better in hand than in close up photos. The white paint around her eyes looks like it’s actually made up of chain links, but since it isn’t terribly crisp, it looks like just straight lines. The printing on the eyes themselves could have been a little clearer too. There’s also an unfortunate mold line running right down the middle of her neck. The sculpt, however, is excellent, I love the pony tail, and I think that this is a pretty good likeness, but not one of the Hasbro’s absolute best.

Valkyrie sports pretty female Legends articulation. The arms have rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists, but no bicep swivels. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, have swivels in the thighs, double hinges in the knees, and the ankles have hinges and some very generous lateral rockers. There’s a waist swivel hidden under the armor, and a ball joint just under her chest. The neck has both a ball joint and a hinge. The skirt is designed so that it doesn’t inhibit her hip articulation too badly. I still felt that the figure poses a little stiff, and I think double hinges in the elbows would have helped a lot.

Valkyrie comes up a little light on accessories, although she does come with Dragonfang, the fabled Sword of the Valkyries, and a scabbard. The sword certainly looks the part. It’s a sharp little sculpt with a white hilt, silver pommel, and blue blade, but it’s so damn small and soft that it’s hard to keep it straight and looking all that convincing. It also tends to swim around in her grip because the hilt is so thin. The result is what is supposed to be a majestic and feared sword comes across as a rather frail and impotent looking weapon.

I’m glad I picked up this set, even if I still insist Hasbro should have just packed the extra Thor head in with the single release and gave us Skurge instead. It’s not so much that I mind double dipping a bit to get a figure that Hasbro wouldn’t have put out separately, but rather I don’t see them having any other opportunities to put out characters like Executioner or Heimdall. It’s not like we’re going to get another wave of Ragnarok figures, even if they could have easily padded it out with Banner in Stark’s clothes, The Grandmaster, and Odin in his grandpa clothes, all wrapped up with a Korg BAF. And yes, I would have bought the shit out of that wave! Still, with the way Target works, I’m sure this set will be up on clearance before you know it, so the waiting game might be the way to go on this one. Next Monday, I promise to get back to the Gladiator Hulk Wave and start in on the comic-based figures with a look at Ares!

Marvel Netflix: Daredevil 1:6 Scale Figure by Hot Toys

2017 has been a slow one for me with Hot Toys. I’ve only reviewed a couple this year (Finn from The Force Awakens and Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy), and I’ll probably only get to one or two more before the year turns over. That’s not to say I’m not still interested. I actually have two currently on pre-order now, and I’m still trying to crunch some numbers and see if I can swing a few more I’m eyeing up. It’s a tough line to budget responsibly and they sure aren’t getting any cheaper, but that’s part of what makes it so special when a new one shows up. Today’s figure is especially cool, because it’s Hot Toys’ first crack at a character from one of Marvel’s Netflix series: Matt Murdock as The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen! I just call him Daredevil. It’s coo. We tight like that.

Hot Toys presentation isn’t what it used to be. The days of magnet secured wraparounds and high quality boxes have given way to flimsier pedestrian window boxes in illustrated sleeves. Scaling back the presentation has been going on for a while now, so I’ve learned to temper my expectations. Granted, to me the boxes are mainly just a place to keep the extra bits, but when you’re paying a lot for a figure, it’s nice to get a little something special in the presentation. Now, with that having been said, Daredevil’s box is pretty attractive and they actually put his name in braille on the front, which I thought was a clever touch. Inside, the figure comes on a tray with his extras laid out in compartments around him. There’s also quite a few pieces for the stand, more than usual, but I’ll get to that towards the end of the review.

I was extremely pleased with the design of Murdock’s suit in the series. It pays respect to the comic while still giving it that realistic, tactical feel that these live action comic book adaptations need. And as usual, Hot Toys has done some pretty solid work reproducing the costume here in all its sixth-scale glory. The suit features a mix of red textured material with black and red reinforced plates on the chest and shoulders, as well as black reinforced patches on the elbows. You also get some strategically placed silver rivets. The trousers have hard plastic knee pads, and the boots feature sculpted laces and treads in the soles, and are sculpted in two pieces to allow for articulation in the ankles, which is something that I wish Hot Toys would standardize on all their figures.  The tailoring is spot on with some flawless stitching, but at this point I wouldn’t expect anything less.

The fit of the costume probably has a little more room in the crotch than the on screen counterpart, but that allows for a little more articulation in the hips. If you’ve been reading my Hot Toys reviews, you no doubt are aware that I spend very little time discussing the articulation on these figures. That’s partly because I have a hard time knowing what’s going on under the clothing, and partly because it’s not a crucial element for me. I’ve been collecting Hot Toys long enough to know not to expect a lot of useful articulation and I’m fine with that. In this case, the range of articulation is better than I expected, but still limited in areas like the shoulders and the hips. With all that having been said, when it comes to the costume, I’ve got almost no complaints here, in fact I only have one.

There are two holders for his batons on his left leg. These are cast in rubber, have some nice weathered paint, and are secured by two straps that warp around his leg. The idea is that you can put the two halves of the baton in here like a holster. It was only after a great deal of terrifying effort on my part that I was able to get them in. It was even scarier trying to get them out. So do they work? Yes, technically they do. But there’s no way I’m going to risk putting them in there again. At worst case, I’m afraid of tearing the holster off the suit trying to get them out. At best case, I fear the friction against the tight rubber tubes might rub the paint off of the batons. Now, in fairness, I will probably never display this figure without the batons in his hands, but come on, Hot Toys. This is an expensive figure, and everything on it should work perfectly. Especially when it’s something this simple.

The cowl is without a doubt my favorite thing about the costume in general, and this figure in particular. It’s beautifully sculpted and painted. I love the deep lines between the plates, the panel lines around the eyes, and the perfect shape of the horns. The eyes are also quite stunning and just a bit creepy. They use a transparent red plastic that shines beautifully under the right lighting. The underlying hood is textured and if I didn’t know better, would easily have me convinced that it’s not all one sculpted piece. OK, well technically it isn’t because the cowl does lift off so that you can switch out the two different lower face plates for the two expressions. The first face plate features a neutral expression and I think it offers a great likeness to Charlie Cox, or at least the lower half of his face. The shape of his lips is very distinctive, and the sculpt here captures that perfectly. Additionally, the sculpting and paint for his five-o-clock shadow, as well as the overall skin texturing is amazingly lifelike.

The other face plate features gritting teeth and some bloody battle damage. Before I got this figure, I was pretty sure I was going to instantly default to the neutral expression for my display. Now that I have it in hand, however, I may rethink that. It’s not that the first one isn’t great, but the second one is just so over-the-top amazing. The paintwork on the bloody wounds looks phenomenal, and I’m blown away by the sculpting and paint involved with his gritting teeth. Yup, I think this is the look I’ll wind up going for. I’ll also take this opportunity to say that I’m more than a little disappointed that we didn’t get an unmasked likeness. No, it’s not that common for Hot Toys to issue two separate head sculpts with their figures these days, and yes, I obviously knew going in that it wasn’t coming with one. But I feel like it may have been omitted just so that they could include it with a variant release later on down the road. I guess we’ll see. I just think being able to display him unmasked and with a sculpted cowl in his hand would have been really cool.

As always, Hot Toys includes plenty of hands. In his case, Daredevil includes three sets. You get one set of fists, one set of relaxed hands, and one set of baton-holding hands. The detail on these is all really nice. They feature textured black palms and finger tips with padded red backs, and reinforced black knuckles that look like they can do some serious damage. I found that popping the hands on and off was particularly effortless with this figure, which has not always been the case with my Hot Toys in the past.

In addition to the hands and extra face, Daredevil’s accessories are limited to the three different configurations of his baton. First, you get one with the two pieces fitted together. I find it odd that they included the extra piece, rather than just have the two halves connect, but I guess I shouldn’t complain about an extra accessory when the count in the box is already fairly low. The sculpting and paint on all of the batons are excellent. They’re sculpted in red textured plastic, with metallic silver paint on the ends.

The second version has the batons split into two. These are the ones that are also supposed to fit into the holster and gave me so much trouble. At least they fit perfectly into his hands.

The final version of the baton features a wire connecting them like a pair of nunchuks. All of these are great pieces, but I confess that having the only accessories being variations of essentially the same piece of equipment makes the extras on this figure feel even more wanting. It’s not that I think he needed much more to feel complete, but he definitely needed something more to fill out the price point.

While the figure feels light on accessories, it also feels like Hot Toys tried to make up for it with the stand. The basic stand features the usual crotch-cradle post and a base that’s made to look like a street, including asphalt and puddles of water. It also features the ubiquitous nameplate on the front, this time with not only the character’s name, but also a cityscape etched behind it. All in all, this stand feels like an embellished version of what we’ve been getting with most of the recent releases, and it’s a good one to go with if you’re like me and trying to squeeze him into an already crowded display case.

You also get two additional pieces, a riser and a sidewalk piece to put behind the base to create something a little more elaborate. There’s some really nice detail at work in the sidewalk piece. It includes not only a sewer set into the curb, but part of a crumbling brick wall, some broken pipes, and a bunch of broken glass. It doesn’t actually attach to the regular base, but rather just sits behind it, and the two look great together without needing all that much extra real estate on the shelf. However, if you want to go all out for your Daredevil display, you do get one more option.

This is an illustrated cardboard backdrop that tabs together and stands behind the display base. With dozens of Hot Toys releases under my belt, I never got anything like this before, and while it’s a simple bonus, it’s also a welcome one. I think this looks great, and if I had the shelf space, I’d definitely be using it, but as it is, I’m going to have to have a couple of figures behind Daredevil and this will just block them from view. Maybe someday when I inevitably have to expand my Sixth-Scale shelves, I’ll work out the space to utilize this piece.

I like this figure a lot, and it’s really cool to finally have a Netflix Marvel figure join my MCU shelf. They display wonderfully together and it makes me hope that somehow we might get to see Daredevil team up with some of the MCU characters on the big screen, or even the small screen for that matter. With all that having been said, the super tight baton holster is an annoying design flaw, and even with the elaborate stand options, I feel like this figure comes up a little light when it comes to value for dollar. But that seems to be an ongoing issue with Hot Toys as their prices continue to creep up. Daredevil set me back $230, while he feels like he would have been closer to $200 just a year or two ago. I get it that costs rise, and I have no idea what licensing costs them, but lately I worry about Hot Toys pricing themselves out of business, or more likely, pricing me out of collecting them. And with that having been said, Doctor Strange is due to show up at my door sometime next week, and Netflix’s Punisher won’t be far behind, so hopefully I can squeeze a few more Hot Toys reviews in before the end of the year.

And that’s a wrap for this Marvel Week. I should have things more or less back to normal next week, although I will be taking Thursday off for Thanksgiving. I’d like to say that this week got me caught up on my Marvel backlog, but truth be told it didn’t even make a dent in it, so I may have to do another one of these sooner or later. 

Marvel Toybox: Thor by Disney

It’s Day Four of Marvel Week, and I got rather long winded yesterday, so I’m going to tone things down today with a simpler (and mercifully shorter!) review, but one that I’ve been rather excited to get to. You may remember a little thing called Disney Infinity. It was one of those Toys-To-Life things, which allowed you to collect figures and use them in a video game world. I freaking loved Disney Infinity! Seriously… just look at this shit!

This doesn’t even include the ones I bought at the end that I haven’t even opened yet. I collected a ton of the figures, I’ve spent time playing them all, and I’ve lost countless hours in the Toybox designing bullshit levels, and maybe a couple of good ones. Infinity had a good run with three different releases spanning dozens of figures and incorporating both Marvel and Star Wars before Disney finally pulled the plug. And now in a move that I never in a million years could have seen coming, Disney has introduced a series of articulated action figures based on those Infinity designs. HOLY SHIT, I AM SO ON BOARD FOR THIS!!!! Let’s check out the first figure in the Marvel Toybox lone… The Mighty Thor!

The packaging is about as basic as you can get. The figure comes in a large bubble on an unassuming card. It gives you a great look at what you’re getting, but there isn’t much else in the way of artwork of flashy presentation to tempt you. Seriously, Disney, for a company that is basically based on artwork, you kind of dropped the ball on this package design. But that’s OK. It just makes me not feel guilty about shredding it to get to my figure. The back of the package shows off four other figures in the Marvel Toybox series, including Hulk, Iron Man, and Spider-Man. And yes, there’s also a Star Wars Toybox Series, and I’ll be checking one of those figures out next week!

If you compare Toybox Thor to the original Infinity figure, you can see that Hasbro made some tweaks to Thor’s design, but this is still undoubtedly the same style. He’s lost a helmet, gained a beard, and the piping on his armor has changed from yellow to blue. With all that being said, I love what they did with the design and it’s hard to believe that I’m actually holding an articulated Infinity figure. The sculpted detail is kept to a minimum to preserve the simple animated look, but all the important stuff is still there, like the discs on his armor, the wraps on his boots, and all that chiseled Asgardian muscle. I also really dig the head sculpt. The coif of hair is cast in a separate piece of plastic, crowning his rather perturbed expression. He looks like someone just nicked his tankard of ale. The paint applications on the face are pretty clean too!

The rest of the coloring on the figure appears to be achieved mostly through colored plastic, but there are some paint applications as well. Overall, the paint is clean, but I should note that my figure had two rather unsightly paint drips on the right boot, but I was eventually able to get these off with some water and a Qtip. The cape is made of a fairly soft and pliable plastic and lifts easily away from the figure to allow for those wide stances.

Thor comes with one accessory, and yes it is Mjolnir. The mighty hammer is a solid chunk of plastic with a sculpted wrap grip, which can fit securely in The Thunder God’s right hand.

The articulation here is pretty good, but the stylized sculpt does restrict the range of motion on some of the points. Thor features rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, and knees. The hips are ball jointed, the ankles are hinged, there’s a swivel in the waist, and the neck is ball jointed. The elbow and knees are somewhat limited, which can be a little frustrating. Also, the sculpted hair makes it so the head can only turn side to side a bit. Still, there’s plenty of fun to be had here. He’s just so solid and chunky and fun to play around with!

 

Wow, was this a pleasant surprise! These Toybox figures seemed to come out of nowhere, and I just recently discovered them because someone sent me a link. They appear to be Disney Store Exclusives, at least that’s where I found and ordered mine. They run $12.99 each, which feels about right for what you’re getting. I have no frame of reference for how well Disney’s exclusive toys sell, but I can promise you that I’ll be doing everything I can to support this line and keep it going. And as for now, I can see Thor will probably be residing on my desk for a little while, because I’m having a hard time putting him down.

Marvel Legends: Hydra Soldier and Hydra Enforcer by Hasbro

Welcome to Marvel Week: Day 3, also known as Hydra Humpday! I’m super excited because I just got this Hydra two-pack and can’t wait to dig into it. I’ve got to tell ya’s, I was so damn excited when Hasbro revealed this set, because the Hydra Soldier, previously released as part of the Mandroid Wave, never turned up in my area and went for crazy money online. I never ponied up a premium for him, and part of me always regretted not having him in my collection. Same goes for that AIM bastard! Getting another crack at this Hydra hooligan with a ‘roided out buddy and a bunch of extras was almost too good to be true. But here it is! I have a lot of stuff to cover today, so let’s dive right in… HAIL HYDRA!!!

When it comes to packaging, if you’ve seen one Marvel Legends two-pack you’ve seen them all. This one is characterized by a cool Hydra insignia on the front and a shiny Toys R Us Exclusive sticker. Thanks to a Twitter tip, I ordered this set the moment it dropped onto TRU’s website. They then proceeded to sit on the order for three days and then cancelled it because it was “Out of Stock.” Thanks, guys! Have fun with that bankruptcy… you’ve earned it! I hope it buries you! I subsequently put the set on my Amazon Wish List where it sat for a week or so at $65+ before finally dropping to around $50 and I just sucked it up. There’s surprisingly little in this box that we haven’t seen before, and yet so much to look at! While there is certainly room to share between the figures, for organizational purposes, I’m going to treat them as two separate entities. Let’s start with the Hydra Soldier first!

So, this is pretty much the same figure that we saw released in the Mandroid Wave. Like I said earlier, I don’t own that one, but when I compare it to the tear-stained picture that I carried in my wallet for the past couple years, I can’t see any differences. He features a dark green buck with bright yellow boots and gauntlets. Additional sculpted parts include a belt and a shoulder rig, both of which are cast in bright yellow to match his outfit, and both can be removed fairly easily. The belt and rig each include some sculpted pouches, you get a little silver paint on the belt buckle, and the rig has a shield over the left side of his chest painted black with a silver H. I think I would have preferred a red Hydra emblem there, but the H is fine.

Especially since you get a pair of yellow Hydra emblems printed on his shoulders. And just look at that head sculpt! It looks like Protector’s much angrier brother. This really is the perfect noggin for a comic book henchman. The hood gives him a little bit of stooge anonymity. The red eye globes are a nice touch. He just looks so angry and deranged, and perfectly willing to bring on the pain by charging in to attack Captain America. It’s everything I’m looking for in my Hydra soldiers! But… variety is nice too! And as such, he comes with a couple of other recycled noggins to choose from.

Look familiar? Remember Taskmaster from the Red Onslaught Wave? Well this is indeed his Udon head, and who would have guessed that this would work so well for a Hydra Soldier. Not me, but I sure do dig it. The hood is cast in green plastic to match the uniform and the mask is painted yellow and given some narrow red eyes. Still want more options?

Here’s the masked SHIELD Agent head that came with Nick Fury from the Giant Man Wave. Who says SHIELD and Hydra can’t order their goon helmets from the same catalog? This one gets a fresh coat of black and green paint and a red visor. I think this is my least favorite of the three options, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like it. And if swapping heads doesn’t scratch that customizing itch, how about an entirely new outfit for your Malibu Hydra Ken?

Well, more like a slightly different outfit? OK, dammit, it’s a vest. But it’s a snazzy yellow vest and it can replace the shoulder rig. Holy shit, they dug all the way back to 2013 for this one, as it’s a recolor of Ultimate Cap’s vest from the Hit Monkey Wave! So, I like the way this looks on the figure, I just wish it was branded for Hydra. It does have a little bit of silver paint on the waist buckle, but that’s it. Not bad at all, but unless I get extras of this set, I think I’ll stick with the shoulder rig and the stock head. I will, however, experiment with different looks while showing off his weapons and articulation.

The first weapon is a tactical shotgun. I’m sure we’ve seen this a few times, but the first time I remember seeing it was back in 2012 with The Punisher. Alas, it was painted a lot nicer back then. This one is just cast in gray swirly plastic. Awww, you could have at least painted the shells on the side, Hasbro! Still, it’s a really nice sculpt with plenty of detail and it suits the figure very well. The right hand has a trigger finger, which is perfect for holding it.

The other weapon is this lovely piece of hardware that I first remember seeing with Chameleon from the Rhino Wave. Once again, it’s cast entirely in swirly gray plastic, but it’s a really cool design, with a ton of detail packed into the sculpt. It also has a detachable drum magazine. Hasbro even painted the Hydra emblem on the front of the drum. Aww, you redeemed yourself, Hasbro. I love it!

OK, so our last stop on this guy is articulation, and his holds no real surprises. The arms feature rotating hinges in the shoulders and wrists, swivels in the biceps, and double hinges in the elbows. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, have swivels in both the thighs and tops of the boots, double hinges in the knees, and both hinges and lateral rockers in the ankles. There’s a swivel in the waist, an ab crunch hinge in the torso, and the neck is both hinged and ball jointed. For the most part, the joints feel solid, but the right elbow on mine could be a little tighter. I would have been perfectly happy to pick this guy up as a single-packed re-issue, but the extras make him a real treat. Not to mention, his buddy…

Behold… The Hydra Enforcer! I really love the idea Hasbro was going with here. Not only do the different body types add some variety to the Hydra Forces, but his beefier build makes him feel like a heavy weapons specialist to me. On the downside, from the neck down this guy is a 100% recolor of Nuke from the Giant Man Wave. Sure, it would have been great to get an all new sculpt, but that’s not usually what these multi-packs are about. And besides, I think Nuke was a good choice. He was a fantastic figure and I think one that lends itself pretty well to the concept. His buck is painted green and yellow to match his partner, and he also has the same Hydra emblems printed on his shoulders. The vest, belt, and hip pouches have also all been recolored yellow, and he gets a bit of black paint for the sculpted grenades and some red paint for the shotgun shells. The buckles on his two waist belts are painted silver, but not the ones on his other belt or thigh straps.

The stock head is a repaint of Captain Britain’s noggin from the Abomination Wave. Yeah, that was a weird choice! The helmet has been repainted green to match the buck and he’s been given yellow stripes on the top. I’m still not sure whether this works for me or not. It has such a strong RoboCop vibe, that it’s hard to unsee that, even on the Captain Britain figure. I also think the serene expression on what is a hero portrait feels off here. I guess I don’t need all my Hydra troops to be slobbering maniacs, but it’s still my preference.

The other two heads include one recycled from Nuke and one that I can’t place, but given the propensity for re-purposing here, I’m sure we’ve seen it before. If you know, shout it out in the comments! Using the repainted Nuke head on the repainted Nuke body may be going too far. Then again, it is a killer sculpt and the bloody gash running down the side of the face is genuinely disturbing. I’m not a fan of the other head. He has a butt chin, a lot of mold flashing on the jaw line, and what the hell is up with those lips? Anyway, there aren’t any extra wardrobe options with this guy, so let’s just take a look at his weapons.

First off, he comes with the same combat knife we saw included with Nuke, and yes it can still be stored in the sheath that’s sculpted onto the back of the vest. I loved this knife back then, and I still do. It’s big and beefy and a really cool sculpt. He can also hold it just fine in either hand.

Next, he comes with the bazooka that we first saw included with Drax The Destroyer from the the Titus Wave. This is a really cool sculpt and now it’s cast in gray plastic to match the other weapons in this set. It is a little difficult to get him to rest it on his shoulder properly because of the vest, but I was able to make it work, more or less. This particular weapon really reinforces his role as a heavy weapons expert in my Hydra army.

As if it wasn’t ballsy enough repainting Nuke’s body and his head, Hasbro also tossed in Nuke’s weird-looking sci-fi gun, which is again cast in that same gray plastic. I actually don’t mind this rifle too much. It seems natural that Hydra would be arming themselves with alien tech. Maybe this is a Chitauri weapon or something they nicked from AIM. Either way, it adds a little flavor to the mix and he looks pretty good holding it. It doesn’t look nearly as flashy as it did with the previous paint job, but the plain gray finish makes it a little less obvious that it’s another thing recycled from Nuke.

As expected, The Enforcer’s articulation is identical to Nuke’s. You get rotating hinges in the shoulders and wrists, swivels in the biceps and double hinges in the elbows. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, have swivels in the thighs and tops of the boots, and the knees are double hinged. The ankles are hinged and have lateral rockers. The torso swivels at the waist and has an ab crunch. And finally, you get both a ball joint and hinge in the neck.

I’ve seen some critical reactions to this set among collectors, including objections to some of the heads, and the vest, but personally I couldn’t be happier. This set not only put a highly sought out figure into my hands, but it gave me lots of cool extras. It may be 100% recycled parts, but this is the kind of creative recycling that I can get behind. Hey, I get that not everyone likes the same thing, so if you bought this set and hate it, feel free to send it to me. No Hydra soldiers will be turned away and I’ll definitely be picking up at least one more of these sets. Now, Hasbro, if you would just throw together an AIM 2-pack that would be most welcome too. You don’t even have to go nuts. Just throw two AIM soldiers in there, repack a few extra weapons, and you can have more of my monies.

Marvel Premier Collection: Gamora by Diamond Select

It’s Day Two of Marvel Week and today I thought we’d give the action figures a rest and open up a statue from Diamond Select’s Marvel Premier Collection. These are roughly Sixth-Scale resin statues, mostly based on modern appearances of the characters. I only own one other piece from this line, the Clayburn Moore sculpt of Spider-Gwen, and I was pretty happy with her. Picking up Gamora here seemed like a no-brainer, especially since I was able to get a pretty decent deal on her. Let’s check out the most dangerous woman in the Universe!

Gamora comes in a fully enclosed box with photos of the statue on all four panels and features the “Guardians of the Galaxy” logo and calls out that it was sculpted by the wonderful and prolific Jean St. Jean. The presentation here is very serviceable, but not all that appealing from an artistic standpoint. It feels like the box layout was thrown together pretty quickly. That’s not really a sticking point for me, as I just keep my statue boxes for the possibility of future storage, moving, or god forbid… resale. Inside the box, you get a colorful card showing the limitation as well as the number of the statue in the box. Gamora is wrapped in plastic and encased between two styrofoam bricks, and she comes fully assembled and all ready for display.

Standing about 12-inches tall, Gamora is based on her more recent look in the pages of Marvel Comics and wearing her white space space armor. Some fans refer to this as her “Stormtrooper Armor” and I think the comparison is fairly valid. It’s quite a departure from her more revealing classic outfits, but it still shows off her shapely curves, and I’ll confess to being a fan of this new look the very first time I saw it. The pose here is pretty conservative. Gamora stands on an alien landscape with a rather intimidating rifle cradled in her arms (What? No Sword?), and her long hair blowing in the breeze. The heel of her left foot is raised giving the piece just a little hint of anticipated action. Overall, I like what we got here, but then I tend favor “museum-style” poses in favor of the more dynamic stuff. It’s not that I don’t like action poses, but they tend to have a better chance of going wrong.

Every last detail on this statue is incorporated into the actual sculpt, and this is particularly apparent in the cut panel lines that run throughout the armor. There’s a nice sense of depth between the armor plates and the underlying black suit, and you also get some ribbed sections along the top of her back and underarms. The panel lines are neatly painted in black and you get some pale gray panels, as well as some crimson accents. I have no complaints about the quality of the paint on this piece. The lines are reasonably sharp, and there are no apparent flubs. What’s more, the application is even and there are no visible brush strokes. The whole suit gives me a strong Mass Effect vibe, which isn’t a bad thing as I happen to dig the aesthetics of those games… well three of them, at least.

I love the way the portrait came out. Her face is flawless and beautiful and even the painted patches around her eyes are part of the sculpt. I just adore the shape of her nose and the ridge leading down to her lips. No, I don’t have some creepy nose thing, I just appreciate how good it looks. The pupil-less white eyes are rather mesmerizing and they used a nice, rich red paint for her lips. The hair sculpt is good, albeit a bit on the chunky side. It looks like it was sculpted from a separate piece, which gives her a clean hairline. The downside to the hair blowing off to the side is it limits the options for display angles. She looks great from the front or turned a bit to her right, but it means that the right side of the statue is closed for business. Hey, most statues have an intended “sweet spot” for display, and I’d say this one has at least a few.

Gamora’s  rifle features a rather boxy and utilitarian design that emphasizes function over form. I can dig that as it makes it appear more like a legitimate piece of military hardware. The black and gray deco gives it a convincingly realistic finish, and it’s equipped with what looks like a magazine, but maybe it’s a battery pack, and a scope. Gamora practices poor trigger discipline, but then I’d kind of expect that from her. It’s what makes her so dangerous!

The rocky alien landscape they did for the base looks great. They packed all kinds of little details in the rocks and terrain and the brownish-orange paint gives it a hint of Mars. If you look closely enough, you can see that they sculpted panel lines on the bottoms of her boots. The alien landscape is placed on a raised, circular platform.

The bottom of the base features the declaration of limitation. In this case, mine is 153 of 3,000. I think that’s one of the lowest numbers I’ve ever gotten on one of these things!

The Marvel Premier Statues tend to have an MSRP of around $130, but Gamora is available on Amazon at the time I’m writing this for well under $100. I’m always glad to save money, but I would have been perfectly happy with this piece had I picked it up at full price. The modern costume might not be for everyone, but I can appreciate her new look, and the artistry and craftsmanship on display here are both excellent. Tomorrow, I’ll keep this Marvel Week rolling along and turn my attention back to Hasbro’s Legends line!

Marvel Legends (Gladiator Hulk Wave): Hela by Hasbro

Welcome, my friends, to not just Marvel Monday, but Marvel WEEK! That’s right, I just swept all the other shit off my desk and I’m going full Marvel this week, Monday through Friday. Some Legends, a statue, maybe a Hot Toys figure. Anything goes this week, so long as it’s got the MARVEL brand stamped on it. Their comics may be shite right now, but thank The Watcher that the torch is being carried by the toys, collectibles and movies. And so as not to interrupt the normal flow of Marvel Monday, I’m picking up where I left off last week…

Have you seen Thor: Ragnarok yet? If not, you really should. It’s fantastic! I actually planned on seeing it again last week (with a friend from work!), but it didn’t pan out, but I am headed out to see it again tonight if everything pans out. And as long as the movie is still fairly fresh in theaters, I thought I’d wrap up the MCU side of the Gladiator Hulk Wave with a look at the film’s lead villainess, Hela!

I was a little worried when this figure arrived, because her crazy antlers were all over the place in the package. Turns out that they need to be tabbed into place, so nothing was broken. I’m actually not a huge Cate Blanchett fan, but I think she did a great job in this film. I guess it helped that you’re not really supposed to like her. I’ll still refrain from spoilers, but I will say that Ragnarok felt like a blend of two movies, a wacky comedy and a darker action-drama. Hela was certainly part of the film’s darker half.

Hela comes packaged with her battle helmet, but I’m starting with her sans helmet. The costume sculpt on this figure is rather fantastic. There’s an intricate metallic emerald framework running throughout her suit, with some nice texturing in the black spaces between. The pattern is very Asgardian and reminds me of the type of scrollwork patterns left behind on the ground by the Bifrost beam. The black and emerald coloring is pretty tight, and you also get some painted flesh-tones on her exposed shoulders and her fingers. And even her tiny fingernails are painted!

Oh yeah, she’s also got a hela fine tush. And then there’s the cape! Finally, we have a cape in this assortment that isn’t a pain in the ass. Well, Thor’s wasn’t that bad, but Loki’s really was that bad. There’s nothing too fancy here, as the cape simply pegs into the back, and imagine that… It works perfectly… well, almost. There are two soft plastic arms that are supposed to wrap around her shoulders, but they don’t always stay put, but it’s a minor quibble to me when the rest of the cape actually works like it’s supposed to!

The un-helmeted head sculpt is superb. Not only is it a solid likeness to Blanchett for this scale and price range, but there’s some wonderful paint showing subtle traces of dark veins in her forehead. The eyes use the halftone printing we’ve been seeing and it looks good, as do the lips. The hair is sculpted to look like it’s billowing out in the wind, which not only looks good, but doesn’t hinder the neck articulation either.

The other head is sculpted with her crazy-ass space antlers and it is glorious. I’d like to think that these are patterned after a Bilgesnipe, which Thor mentioned in The Avengers as having “scary, big antlers.” As I mentioned above, you do need to tab two of the horn clusters into the head. One went in fine, the other was a pain, but once these were in, they stay in pretty well. This is one of those times when I really can’t decide which head to display her with, because they’re both so damned good.

The articulation here is pretty standard for Hasbro’s 6-inch females, which means there are no bicep swivels, but everything else is more or less in tact. The arms have rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, with swivels in the thighs, double hinges in the knees, and hinges and lateral rockers in the ankles. There is no waist swivel, but you do get a ball joint under the chest and both a hinge and ball joint in the neck. The hips on my figure are a little loose, so I may have to apply some fix there.

Hela comes with on extra accessory, and that’s her sword. The sculpt is pretty intricate, but it really needed a paint wash to bring some of it out. It’s also very soft and bendy, and not at all impressive. Her right hand is sculpted to hold it, which brings me to mention one little missed opportunity here. Hasbro should have given her an extra left hand, either sculpted to hold Mjolnir, or perhaps sculpted with Mjolnir in it. That would have been rad. As it is, I have to use a little poster putty if I want to recreate that scene.

And so, Hela clocks in easily as the most impressive figure in this wave so far. With the exception of the flimsy sword, Hasbro really poured everything they’ve got into this one. The sculpt and paint are superb, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find another company’s 6-inch figure on the market at this price range executed as well as this one. Just compare this lady to some of those DC Multiverse figures from Mattel and you’re not even in the same ballpark. Next week, I’m going to start in on the comic-based figures of this wave, but before that. Tomorrow, I’ll be looking at something a little different, but I’ll be back to Marvel Legends on Wednesday!

Star Wars Black: 40th Anniversary Legacy Pack with Darth Vader by Hasbro

In case you missed it, 2017 is the 40th Anniversary of A New Hope, and Hasbro did the bulk of its celebrating through the 6-inch Black Series. Not only did we finally the last of Kenner’s “Original Twelve” figures in the 6-inch format, but Hasbro also released all of them on vintage-style cards. The entire thing culminated in the release of a new Darth Vader bundled with a recreation of the Kenner Early Bird Kit display stage. Let’s start off with the packaging and the figure, and then we’ll take a look at the stage.

The set comes in an elongated box with some artwork similar to that old Kenner kit. There’s also a window that shows the carded Darth Vader figure inside. The stage itself is pictured on the front along with a silver foil 40th Anniversary shield, and the Kenner logo in the bottom right hand corner. It’s kind of an oddball presentation that borders on ugly, but it’s all part of recreating the charm of one of the craziest ideas in action figure history. But more on that in a bit. Let’s look at Vader first…

The carded figure is right in line with the rest of the 40th Anniversary releases, so if you are keeping these mint-on-card, he’ll display with the rest of them perfectly. Then again, if you’re doing that, you really don’t need the stage. Hasbro really just wants you to buy two of each of these, only not really, because they did a piss-poor job of distributing them. If you’re area is like mine, you’d be lucky to find one complete set, let alone two. But I’ll settle down now, because I can fell the anger flowing through me.

When I first heard about this figure, I assumed it was going to be a quick-and-dirty apology figure for the Return of the Jedi version we got boxed a little while back. I figured they’d slap on a new head and he’d be done. I was surprised to learn that a lot of new work went into him. Now, I’m not one of those *air quotes* “Vader Experts,” but I do know that there were some significant changes to the suit between ANH and RotJ. The most obvious was the inner robe running over the shoulder armor in the original suit and it does here as well. The rest of the changes include a fully re-sculpted upper torso, with a bigger chest box, and a new belt with bigger and different control boxes there as well. The legs appear to be the same, but the boots on this one are more of a matte finish.  One point where this version takes a step back is in the cape. The RotJ release is an all around nicer tailored garment. This one is is thinner and it came out of the package a little wrinkled. Also, the cape’s chain is gone. So, from the neck down, I wouldn’t say this figure is better, but just different, and appropriately so.

Now, the helmet sculpt is a huge improvement over the previous release, and I’m not talking about changes to the costume. The RotJ version made obvious sacrifices to have a removable helmet, resulting in that giant, sad-eyed Vader look. This new helmet sculpt is pretty damn tight and also features more of a matte finish. I don’t know that I would say it’s perfect, but it’s a good looking sculpt and I’m very happy with the way it turned out.

Another big change is the new left hand, which features Vader doing the force choke throat pinch. It can also be used as a pointing finger. I love it.

The last notable difference that I can see is the inclusion of a belt hook for his light saber. It irked me to no end that the RotJ version didn’t have a way for Vader to wear his saber. This feature also required a brand new saber hilt sculpt with the ring on it. Sadly, this one doesn’t work so well. I can’t really get it to stay in place and even in the above picture he’s really holding it there.

I don’t have much else to say, except this is the Vader figure we should have had first. It’s fantastic, and when you consider how many goddamn Darth Vader figures I’ve had over the years in all different scales and price points, I’m surprised at how much fun I’ve had playing around with this one.  Let’s move on to the stage…

The stage requires assembly, and the parts come in four baggies, and includes a folded cardboard backdrop and a sticker for the top of the frame. Assembly is quick and easy and I was happy to see that the set can easily be broken down again for storage. Before I cobble this thing together, a little explanation of what this thing is may be in order for you younger folk out there. In Christmas of 1977, Kenner was unprepared for the popularity of Star Wars and the demand for the action figures. Their rather creative solution was to offer an Early Bird Kit, which included vouchers, which could be mailed in for four figures, to be delivered when supply could catch up to demand.  The kit also included membership in the Star Wars Fan Club, and a cardboard display stand. This set mimics that general idea, while also making it a little more substantial by adding a plastic frame to the backdrop, and a plastic stage to put the figures on.

There are two backdrop graphics to choose from. One has the vintage-style artwork of each of the characters, suggesting where to place the figures on the stand. The flip-side has some nice vintage-style art of an X-Wing and Tie-Fighter battling it out in orbit of The Death Star. Overall, this is a pretty nice stage, but I wish they had added more pieces to help lock the cardboard into place. As it is, there are just two little swing down pieces in the corners. There are, however, clearly holes in the frame for two more in the sides, and possibly two at the top, but those pieces aren’t in the box. I guess Hasbro cheaped out on those. It also would have been nice if they could have packaged it so the cardboard didn’t need to be folded, although the creases really aren’t that bad. I suppose some of these nitpicks give the piece a certain vintage charm that reflects back to the original Early Bird release, but I’m sure that wasn’t intentional.

Here it is loaded up with the Black Series “Original Twelve,” and using the character art backdrop as a guide. I expected it to be a lot more cramped than it is, but with three figures on each of the four sections, it’s not too bad, so long as you’re going for fairly static 5-POA style poses. I’m not a huge fan of the way the characters are laid out. For example, I would rather have R2 and 3PO together, but I still think that this is the way I’ll go for display purposes. It is worth mentioning that I had mixed results with the foot pegs. Most of them work OK, but 3PO’s would not go in at all and the Tusken Raider’s doesn’t hold him up too well.

If you’re willing to use a little shelf real estate in front of the stand, you can also fit everyone together in more dynamic poses, and I think this looks pretty good too. This set originally retailed for $40, so you figure twenty for Vader and twenty for the stage. The Vader figure is worth it, no question. The stage is worth having, but I’m not sure I can see twenty dollars in there. With that having been said, this set was deeply discounted at some Walmarts, but of course the ones in my area weren’t among them. I picked up my set off Amazon for $25 and it’s price continues to fluctuate. I could definitely see myself picking up one more at the same price to display some more figures. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for Hasbro to release packs of just the base pieces, maybe as an exclusive to their website. Just toss four or five of them in a bag. I’d be all over that.

Just a heads up, Marvel content is taking over FFZ all of next week. So if that’s not your cup of tea, I’ll apologize in advance, but I’ve got some stuff on my pile that I’d like to get to sooner rather than later. Things will return to normal the following week, and I’m trying to get some time to bring back Anime Saturday at least once in November.