Transformers Combiner Wars: G2 Aerialbots Box Set by Hasbro, Part 1: Silverbolt and Powerglide

I was expecting to have the third wave of Titans Return Deluxes to start looking at today, but UPS had other plans and they won’t arrive until tomorrow. Not to worry… I’ve been saving the Combiner Wars Generation 2 Aerialbots box set for just this occasion. Hasbro unloaded a bunch of these sets off their website a little while back for the ridiculously low price of $30 shipped. And seeing as how much I loved the G2 Stunticon set, I simply couldn’t resist. My plan is to cover this set just like I did those G2 Stunticons, in four parts, but I’m not going to do it in a straight shot. I’ll just keep coming back to these when I’m hard up for content, so getting through this set is going to take a while. For today, lets kick it off with a look at the packaging, Silverbolt and Powerglide!

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The six figures come in an enclosed box with some beautiful landscape-oriented artwork on the front and lots of pictures of what’s inside. Primus knows, the Combiner Wars packages haven’t been my favorite, but this elevates it to a new level. You get a bitchin’ shot of G2 Superion shooting off his knuckle cannons with Cybertron in the backdrop. This feels like something special and it’s aces! On the other hand, unlike the Takara sets, there’s no opening flap or window, which makes it feel a little less premium. Open up the box and the goods are laid out on a clear plastic tray in their separate vehicle modes with their weapons and combiner parts around them. Considering I went the Takara route for the original CW Aerialbots, I like the idea of owning this set to represent Hasbro’s take on the packaging.

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Flip the box over and you get this portrait-oriented shot of G2 Superion in all his colorful glory as well as smaller shots of each of the four figures in both robot and alt modes. Fantastic!

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And wow, check out Silverbolt! His Concorde alt mode casts off its mostly white G1 body in favor of this blue deco with red accents. The body of the jet has a truly distinctive light metallic blue finish unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s paired with the high gloss, deeper blue wings and tail fins with red showing up on the tail dorsal fin and in a few other spots. I’m not sure if they actually attempted to match the blue plastic with the blue paint and failed, but I really like the subtle two-tone effect here. Besides the impact of the color change, what strikes me most about this toy is how much work Hasbro put into the repaint. I was expecting something quick and dirty, but what we got shows some true care.

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Extra flourishes include the G2 Autobot symbol on the one wing and “5” on the opposite, both framed with a pair of silver triangles. There are also “5’s” printed on the dorsal fin and a white and blue checkered “V” stamped just behind the cockpit area. Finally, you get some high gloss black paint on the engines. It’s a gorgeous repaint of a very solid alt-mode, which brings out the sculpted panel lines in a way that the original white plastic didn’t. Again, the quality of paint here is just superb!

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Transformed into his robot mode, Silverbolt trades a lot of that blue real estate for more red, in this case bare red plastic that still has a bit of a glittery, metallic finish. Also thrown into the mix is more black and a little silver on his abdomen. It’s a pretty well balanced deco and it’s topped off with a G2 Autobot emblem stamped proudly on his chest. Obviously, I identify more with the G1 colors and those will always have a place in my heart, but I cannot deny that this is one damn attractive figure!

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I particularly love what the colors do for this head sculpt. The face is still silver with a very high quality look to the paint. His “helmet” is now blue, and his eyes are painted a gorgeous shade of red.

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You get the same rifle and “shield” combo, which will combine to form Superion’s gun. The rifle is a little too long for Silverbolt and the shield is pretty worthless, but otherwise, I love still love this toy and it looks fantastic in the new G2 colors. Unfortunately, I can’t say I have quite the same enthusiasm for Powerglide, though. I don’t have a lot to say about him, but let’s start with his alt mode.

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The original release of this Legends Class figure will go down as one of my favorites in recent years, so I have a lot of love for this mold, even if the alt mode is difficult to hold together. The G2 version is almost a palate swap of the original only here the light tan plastic is replaced with gray. It’s that gray swirly stuff, that I’m not all that fond of, but it’s not too bad in small amounts like on this little guy. That having been said, the deco here isn’t my favorite. I just feel like the smaller amount of red overpowers the silver. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either.

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The robot mode is more of the same, although I think I prefer the deco in robot mode a little more than in alt mode. You get an extra little bit of paint on his crotch piece and that glorious G2 Autobot emblem stamped on his chest. Unless my Transformers history is off, I don’t recall Powerglide ever getting an official G2 release and I feel like these colors aren’t quite in the spirit of the rest of the G2 Aerialbots. Still, it’s a decent repaint of a cool figure.

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When it comes to this Powerglide, I can take him or leave him, but Silverbolt is a pretty great looking toy for what could have been a quick and dirty repaint. I’m extremely impressed with what I’ve seen so far out of this set and I’m looking forward at checking out the limbs in the future. But as I said earlier, that won’t be until next year, because next Thursday I’ll start on the third wave of Titans Return Deluxes, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I get a couple more of the bigger ones for Christmas.

Masters of the Universe Classics: Night Stalker by Mattel

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’m doing MOTUC features sparingly these days because I know it’s all coming to an end soon. I’m also starting to get worried about the collapse over there at “The House That Matty Built,” as I just got an email telling me that all four of my November subscription figures (two Masters and two ThunderCats) are now not expected to ship until January. Keep in mind, I got a notice they would be shipping back in early November and I was supposed to have received them about a week ago. In short, there are shenanigans going on over there and telling me I’m going to receive figures that I already paid for some time after your operation is supposed to close down makes me a little queasy, Matty!

So, today I’m going to dial the wheel to a happier time when the toy shipments were more or less running on time, and I didn’t have to worry about whether or not I was ever going to see them. Besides, I’ve been chomping at the bit (Horse Humor! HA!) to open Night Stalker for a while now and after a lot of long hours and hard work over the last couple of weeks, I’ve decided to treat myself by doing just that!

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The packaging is pretty damn big, and should look readily familiar to anyone collecting the line. Matty has been using something similar to this angled window box for previous beasts, steeds, and two-packs all along. You get that wonderful Grayskull-themed stonework on the outside as well as the illustrated cardboard tray inside. There are no longer any bios on the boxes, but you get pictures of a bunch of previous releases on the back. All in all, this box shows off the toy splendidly and is also technically collector friendly, but that later point really depends on how patient and careful you are getting your mecha-horse out of the stable. There’s a torturous combination of transparent rubber bands and black string holding this guy in place. It’s worth mentioning that Night Stalker is most associated with Jitsu, one of the few MOTUC figures I don’t own, but that’s OK, because any of my Eternian baddies are free to ride him into battle. For the purposes of this Feature, I’ll be using Tri-Klops, because… I love Tri-Klops.

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Holy hell, the design here is pure bad ass and just oozes toy perfection. It’s got that wonderful look of retro-tech that tends to flourish on Eternia with just a little hint of steampunk. I’d like to think this thing sounds like a hundred lawnmowers as it stalks the countryside looking for those blasted Masters Do-Gooders. Besides being a great design, there’s so much loving detail packed into this mold! I really dig the bulky and boxy body, complete with sculpted bolts, vents, hoses, plates and all sorts of other bits and bobs. Even the rather low-profile area behind the seat has sculpted hoses and machinery.

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As great as the sculpt is, I think it’s the coloring here that really makes this a prize winning cyber-stag. The bulk of the body features a gorgeous metallic gold finish with black used for the neck, the inner areas where the legs attach, hooves, and the recessed leg panels. This lovely deco is rounded out with some purple for the tail, guns, and the back of the seat and you get some copper paint on a few of the sculpted details. Egads, this is a gorgeous toy!

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The head is the most organic looking thing about this robo-stallion. If it weren’t for the segmented sections on the sides of the head, I’d almost believe the intent here was that some Eternian mad scientist transplanted a real horse head onto this thing and created an unholy abomination. As things are, I’m still inclined to believe the ears came off a real horse. And just look at those soul-less Funko Pop! styled eyes. They’re like black wells of despair… creepy!

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Night Stalker also includes a purple mask that fits perfectly over the head. It gives him a little extra armor, but mostly just makes him look cooler. The sculpt includes scale-type armor plates and cut-outs for the ears, nostrils and eyes. The way the eye holes are cut make Night Stalker look a lot meaner with the mask on. The mask also adds a single horn.

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Articulation includes rotation in the upper legs and hinges in the “knees” and “ankles” for lack of a better term. Sorry, if my horse anatomy is lacking. The tail is ball jointed, but it really seems only designed to rotate and lift up ever so slightly, probably useful for when he is pooping out batteries. The neck is built on a clever string of segmented ball jointed plates, giving it a lot of movement. While I believe the original vintage beasts were mostly static, this modern update is tons of fun to play with. The weapons on this beast are also articulated. The two front guns and raise and lower and the tail gun rotates left and right. Unfortunately, in a mis-guided attempt to secure the toy in the box, the rubber bands have warped the front guns, so they curve inward a bit. Not a big deal, but it was a stupid thing to do when packing him.

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Obviously, Night Stalker is designed to seat a figure. There’s some detailed sculpting inside the compartment and you get a sticker for the dash board, which includes some buttons, gauges, and a video screen showing Night Stalker targeting Castle Grayskull. Yeah, one of the things that really impressed me about the Wind Raider was that all the controls were actually sculpted and here they’re not. I’m not going to hold that against Night Stalker. This late in the game, I’m amazed we even got something as big and cool as this toy.

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I actually had to look up how much Night Stalker cost me, because as a subscriber, they just take my monies and ship me stuff and I don’t tend to think about it a lot. I was surprised to find that he was only $40, which seems like a decent enough value for a toy this big, detailed, and well painted. He’s actually still available on Matty Collector, but the non-subber price is $54. That’s quite a price hike for the purpose of punishing the disloyal. Still, not an outrageous sum for what is a very cool toy.

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As many of you probably know by now, I didn’t have any Masters toys as a kid, but I admired the line through TV commercials and Wish Book pages, and I can remember the endearing appeal of the two robot horses, Stridor and Night Stalker, quite vividly. I got to play with the He-Mans over my best friends house, but he never got either of these steeds so I was looking forward to the possibility of getting both of them in the Classics line. Alas, Matty was only able to make half that wish come true. Stridor didn’t happen, and considering how good this one is that’s a shame. But at least we got this one and he’s quite spectacular! He also throws a little more balance on the side of Skeletor, as the vehicles so far have all been for the heroes.

Star Wars Rebels: Sabine Wren, The Fifth Brother, and Kanan Jarrus in Stormtrooper Disguise by Hasbro

When I looked at the first wave of Rogue One 3 3/4-inch figures, I excluded the ones that were not part of that movie. Well, today I’m going to swing back and take a look at Sabine and Kanan from that wave as well as The Fifth Brother from a previous The Force Awakens wave. This is going to run surprisingly long, so I’m just going to jump right in!

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God, look how gorgeous and colorful these packages are! What? Only two? Yeah… sometime last week I was drunk and impatient (imagine that!) and I opened Kanan without shooting the package first. But as the great Meatloaf once sang, two out of three ain’t bad, so at least I can showcase Sabine and The Fifth Brother carded. The configuration of the cards and bubble are almost identical between TFA and Rogue One. The artwork features Kylo Ren in the older TFA wave and a Death Trooper in the newer Rogue One wave. Both cards have some kick ass character art and every time I see these figures on the pegs, I’m tempted to get doubles to hang on my wall. Fortunately, I’ve resisted so far. Let’s start with the older release and work our way up.

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As a character, I can’t say I’m a big fan of The Fifth Brother in the TV series, but I’ve been going all in on the Rebels figures, so I had to buy him. Besides, I do like the designs of the Imperial Inquisitors and this figure does a good job of bringing that design and animated style to action figure form. His uniform hits a lot of the same points as the original Inquisitor’s, but it’s still a complete re-design. I really dig the shoulder armor with the Imperial insignia, along with the carved deco on his abdomen. The paint here is excellent. It’s sharp, clean, and the silver really makes the figure pop. If I had to nitpick something here, it’s that the head sculpt is a little on the soft side, but it still works for me.

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The Fifth Brother is a fairly bulky figure too, at least compared to most of the other Rebels characters. It’s possible he’s a little undersized, as he’s only a bit taller than the original Inquisitor. But then I’m used to seeing him beside The Seventh Sister, who is notably shorter, so who knows… this scale could be correct. Either way, he’s a great looking figure and I’m glad I bought him.

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I expected the light saber to be a straight repack from the original Inquisitor’s, but I was pleased to find that it’s an entirely new sculpt and has some very nice paint work on the hilt too!

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Since this guy was released back in The Force Awakens series, he includes one of three build-a-weapon pieces. As a stand alone accessory it looks like some kind of claw gun thing. Yup, that’s what a claw gun thing looks like. It’s designed to combine with the pieces that came with Tasu Leech and Admiral Ackbar. I’ll get around to looking at Tasu eventually. I plan on blitzing a bunch of The Force Awakens figures I still haven’t featured here. Akbar, on the other hand, is crazy hard to find and rather expensive now, so I don’t know that I’ll ever get the chance to add him to my collection. Moving on to Kanan…

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This could have been an easy kit-bash of the older Kanan figure’s head on an older Rebels Stormtrooper’s body, but Hasbro went the extra mile and gave us an entirely new sculpt! He’s notably taller than the Stormtrooper Officer that came packed with Hera a while back. The pauldron is also smaller and there are a few minor differences in the armor details.

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The new head sculpt is excellent. I’ve seen a lot of comments about how much better it is than the regular Kanan figure. I think it’s more a matter of taste. I actually like them both well enough. The removable helmet fits over the head really well and thankfully, you can’t see his pony tail sticking out the back, although that would be pretty funny if it did. Also, you can pop the head off and remove the pauldron if you want Kanan disguised as just a regular Stormtrooper. And no, you cannot swap heads with the original Kanan figure.

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Kanan comes with both his lightsaber and an E11 Blaster.

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Oh yeah, he also comes with this abomination. It’s a gun that shoots a giant blue wheel. Yeah, I got nothing. I was no fan of the build-a-weapon nonsense, but I think some of those were actually better than these gimmicky weapons. Moving on, I’ve saved the best for last…

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A new and updated version of Sabine Wren, this figure is absolutely amazing on so many levels. For starters, it represents her most recent look on the show with the brand new stylized armor and a removable helmet. The sculpt and coloring on this figure are both so sharp that she almost feels like she belongs to a whole different series of figures. Even the tiniest painted flourishes on her armor are all so crisp and clear and you get a beautiful gradient to her hair color in the back. Just gorgeous!

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The helmet is a little over-sized, but that can’t really be helped in a figure in this scale. I’d rather they go a little bigger on the helmet than give her a pin head. Besides, I’ll likely be displaying this figure with the helmet off most of the time, because the portrait is fantastic. Her left arm is even pre-posed so she can hold the helmet tucked into her elbow. Sabine also features her twin pistols and working holsters for them.

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Even Sabine’s gimmicky accessory isn’t that bad. It’s basically a zip-line that she can wear on her right. It’s a tad big for her, but it works a lot better with larger figures like Kanan. If I had this accessory when I was a kid, I’d be playing with it all the time! In fact, my GI Joe and Star Wars figures would all be fighting over it.

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Obviously, I’m a big fan of the Rebels 3 3/4-inch figures. I think the 5-POA style works perfectly with the stylized sculpts and collecting these brings me back to the tail end of Kenner Star Wars when we were getting Droids and Ewoks figures. I’d still argue that Hasbro is missing a huge opportunity by not giving the series a committed line of its own and really pumping out the characters, but at least we’re still getting some figures trickling in from the series. I’d say these three are definitely among the best Rebels figures we’ve had and I hope Hasbro continues to slip a few in every couple of waves. In the meantime, I’m still hunting for the Third Sister Vs Darth Maul two-pack, not to mention a few of the older figures.

Marvel Legends (Rhino Wave): Rhino Build-A-Figure by Hasbro

And here I am at the end of another wave of Legends and ready to cobble together my prize for being a good collector and buying up all the figures. And that prize is Rhino! I have to say, I was pretty damn excited about getting this one together because Rhino is just so damn iconic to me.

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The Rhino BAF consists of a total of seven pieces. That’s one body, two legs, two arms, and two heads. Yes, we do have an option of portraits here. Of course, if you bought all the figures in this wave, you’re left with one extra body as both Misty Knight and White Tiger each had the same torso piece. Why not give one of them the extra head? Who knows? Anyway, Rhino is pretty straight forward when it comes to the selection of parts and assembly.

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Rhino is a deceptively simple figure. Based on his design, it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot going on here, but Hasbro still invested plenty of work in the sculpt. Every bit of area on the body is covered with crags and fissures to simulate the rough, almost stony, skin of a rhino. I really had to get this guy in hand and up close to appreciate all the work they did on it, right down to his stout rhino hooves. The buck is suitably muscular and large. He may not be the biggest BAF we’ve seen, nor should he be, but he sure towers over any Spider-Man in my Legends collection.

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Backing up the great detail in the sculpt is a wonderful brown wash over the gray plastic. Not only does it bring out all those little crags and fissures in the sculpt, but it also makes him look like he’s been charging around in the mud like a proper rhino.

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As already mentioned, you get two different heads for this guy. I was a little worried it was going to be tough to swap them, because these BAFs tend to lock together pretty good. but that wasn’t the case here with the head, and changing them out is pretty painless. Unless you push down on that horn, then you’re libel to put it right through your hand. Seriously, don’t do that. Anyway, the first portrait features a half-mask, pupil-less eyes and a very soft lower face sculpt. I’m not crazy about it, and putting it on to take the above picture is probably the only time I’ll ever use it. I mean, why go with that head, when you can go with…

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THIS! Oh my god, it’s glorious! Here you get the fully exposed face, maniacal eyes and a huge open mouth that you can look into and actually see his uvula. The sheer amount of dementia and rage communicated in this sculpt makes it one of my favorite Legends portraits of all time. The hood on both heads is sculpted and painted to match the body, featuring the same great level of detail for the rhino suit.

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Articulation is pretty standard for what we see in these bulky BAF bucks. The arms have rotating hinges in the shoulders and wrists, hinges in the elbows, and swivels in the biceps. The legs have rotating hinges and swivels in the hips, and hinges in the knees. The ankles are hinged and have lateral rockers. The torso features a swivel in the waist and an ab crunch hinge, and the neck is on a rotating hinge. The bulky muscles limit some of the range of motions in these points and the hinges in the knees are particularly stiff.

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The shoulder armor pieces are detachable. They peg into holes in the front and backs of the shoulders. This allows them to hinge up and down a little bit, but not really enough to help offer any more clearance in the shoulders. As a result, Rhino is pretty limited in how high he can raise his arms laterally before those shoulder plates bump up against his body.

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With how many Spider-Man themed waves of modern Legends there have been, it surprises me that it took Hasbro this long to do Rhino as a BAF. This figure doesn’t really hold any surprises. It’s exactly what I was expecting and that’s not a bad thing. The sculpt and paint are excellent, the raging head is amazing, and while some may find themselves wishing for a better range of articulation, I’m still very pleased with how he turned out across the board. My shelf of Spidey’s rogue gallery is really taking shape nicely, especially with Green Gobby coming soon.

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And that’s finally a wrap for this wave of figures, and overall I’d say it was a very solid one. On the next Marvel Monday, I’ll be detouring to check out a statue, and after that I’m going to start tackling the Doctor Strange Wave and eventually swing back and look at the Abomination Wave. Then it’ll be the Space Venom Wave, and oh, yeah… that Sandman Wave is starting to hit. Holy, shit, Hasbro, you guys are totally out of control with this line and I love it!

Marvel Legends (Rhino Wave): Superior Venom by Hasbro

I don’t think I need go on about how much I loved Dan Slott’s Superior Spider-Man, as I’ve already done it here plenty of times. Indeed, it was a comic that I loved so much that it got me back into reading The Amazing Spider-Man again and even backtracking through a lot of what I missed. It’s for that reason that I don’t get the sense of “Venom Fatigue” that I should be getting from this figure. No, there really haven’t been that many Legends Venoms. Nowhere near the number of Caps and Iron Mans, but it still feels like Hasbro has been overdoing it with the symbiots a bit in the last couple years. Still, I’m happy to have this one, even if it has some issues.

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And here we are, the very last packaged figure in the Rhino Build-A-Figure Wave. We’ve seen it before, so let’s move on. I’ve got to get through this pretty quickly if I’m going to come back and do a feature on Rhino later on tonight.

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Superior Venom is mostly a reuse of the modern Spidey buck, which is a fairly reasonable choice. No, it doesn’t quite match the stylistic proportions of the comic art, but I wasn’t expecting an entirely new figure for that purpose. We do get newly sculpted feet, obviously a new head sculpt, and the rest of the symbiot’s detail is mostly achieved through paint. You get some red highlights on his forearms and the white spider emblem on the chest and webbing that runs up to his head. The white paint is mostly nice and bright, without a lot of bleed through from the black plastic. There are a few chips here and there, but nothing terrible.

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On the back, Otto-Venom features a fixture to attach his four tendrils, and here’s where the figure takes a big stumble for me. The tendrils each have uniquely shaped pegs that go into their own specific holes on the back. That helps a lot when figuring out which one is supposed to go where. Unfortunately it also means the tendrils are pre-posed. At the very least, these should have been ball jointed, because these things do tend to get in the way of posing the figure, not to mention are limited themselves as being totally static. They also fall out… a lot. I had similar issues with the Legends Agent Venom, although it didn’t seem to bother me as much there as it does here.

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The head is pretty faithful to the comic art. It’s a little too busy for my taste, but it fits the style of the book quite well and the painted webbing is all very neatly applied. I think the appeal here is going to largely come down to personal preference. This portrait is chaos personified, which I guess fits, but I find the simpler portrait and wide rictus of the more classic Venom a lot creepier.

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Appropriately enough, the articulation here is right in line with the Superior Spider-Man figure we got back in the Ultimate Green Goblin Wave. 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 the thighs, and double hinges in the knees. The ankles are hinged and have lateral rockers. The torso features a waist swivel, ab crunch, and those wonderful lateral rockers in the shoulders. The neck is ball jointed and hinged.

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Superior Venom is basically a tale of two figures. I’m perfectly happy with him when he’s standing on display on my Legends shelf. Unfortunately, when I’ve got him in hand and I’m playing around with him, all I can see is a big missed opportunity in the way those tendrils connect to the body. I’m sure that adding ball joints would have cost a bit more, but then with so much of this figure re-using parts, it’s hard to imagine that Hasbro couldn’t have made it work. I know, that they cost these figures out across the wave and not individually, so maybe they pumped that extra money into Kraven. Either way, I feel that this is a decent figure that with a little tweaking could have been… dare I say it? Superior!

Come on back tonight and I’ll wrap up this wave with a look at the Rhino Build-A-Figure! 

Sword Art Online II: Lisbeth by SEGA

I wanted to start busting into my Kantai Collection Figmas for this weekend’s Anime Saturday, but work and holiday madness just didn’t allow it. As a result, I’m going to dig into my pile of Sword Art Online Prize Figures from SEGA and why not start with a character that doesn’t get a lot of merchandise? How about adorable blacksmith extraordinaire, Lisbeth!

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I’ve looked at some of SEGA’s Super Premium KanColle figures, but this is my first foray into their SAO line. While many of their KanColle pieces are actually fully scaled figures, these fall more into the 6 to 6 1/2-inch scale, which is not too shabby and fits in perfectly with Taito’s SAO offerings. The figure comes in a colorful, fully enclosed box with lots of pictures of what you’re getting. Inside, Lisbeth comes suspended in a plastic bubble and all you have to do is plug her into the base and she’s all ready for display.

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And hot damn, doesn’t she look great? There’s so many things I love about this figure, I’m not sure where to begin. This is, of course, Lisbeth’s ALO Avatar. I certainly wouldn’t have minded a figure of her in her SAO blacksmithing dress, but I’ll happily take her in her ALfheim adventuring gear, particularly since I love the ladies’ costume designs so much. The pose here is cute and she’s obviously mugging for the camera. She’s bent slightly over with one hand on her hip and the other up in the air, almost like she’s flexing.

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The actual armor plates are confined to a chest piece, hip plates, a left shoulder, and grieves. Under that can be seen a slightly poufy blouse, a sort of sideways sash, which just hangs down on the sides and leaves the front and back of her legs open, white ragged cut leggings, and boots. While the details on some of these prize figures can run soft, what’s here the sculpt is sharp and very well developed.

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Still, I think it’s the coloring on this figure that really sells it. The silver edging on the white armor looks fantastic and the red garment with yellow piping makes the whole thing pop beautifully. What’s more, the quality of the paint application is impressive for a figure in this price range. The lines are pretty sharp and the whites are bright. There’s virtually no slop or bleeding to speak of.

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The portrait is just perfect. Lisbeth offers a shy smile. Her gorgeous eyes are perfectly printed and she’s got a hint of freckles. Her short pink hair is kept in place with a little sculpted hairclip. The plastic used for the flesh tone is also quite good and not too waxy. And just check out the paint on her collar ribbon. It’s immaculate!

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The base is a simple white hexagon with Sword Art Online printed on it in both English and Japanese. My only complaint here is the orientation of the statue on the base in relation to the position of the lettering. To display it on my shelf from the ankle I like, I have to have the lettering skewed to one side. It’s probably not a big deal to most, but it aggravates my OCD.

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And, I couldn’t call it a day without an obligatory tushie shot.

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I was originally sticking with Taito for my SAO figures, but I had to go to SEGA to get Lisbeth on my shelf and after experiencing the quality of this piece, I quickly picked up some more. I’d say the quality on this one is on par with Taito’s Aincard Fencer Asuna, but quite a bit better than their ALfheim version of Sinon. Lisbeth set me back about $25, which is more than I’m used to paying for these figures, but I feel it’s still a good value for what you’re getting.

Cover Girls of the DC Universe: Mera by DC Collectibles

I’m just about done going back and picking up all the older Cover Girls that I needed to fill out my collection. In fact, Mera here was one of the last. There are a couple recent releases I still need to grab, Raven and Power Girl, but what the future holds for this line is still uncertain. The only Cover Girls solicit I’ve seen for 2017 so far is Hawkgirl, so it could be that DCC is wrapping this one up. And that would make sense, what with the shakeup from New 52 to ReBirth this year. But I’d best not get ahead of myself, let’s live in the moment and have a look at the lovely Mera!

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After looking at over a dozen of these ladies, there isn’t much new to report about the packaging. Mera comes in a fully enclosed box with some pictures of the statue on the front and side panels. The back panel advertises the Katana statue that I’ve already looked at here, and Starfire, which I’ll be getting around to eventually. As usual, the statue comes wrapped in plastic and encased in a styrofoam brick. The base comes separate from the figure, so you need to do some assembly that is minor, but no less harrowing. I’ll come back to that when I talk about the base.

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Once set up, Mera makes for both a majestic and gorgeous display piece. All of these statues are executed in roughly a 9-inch scale, but Mera’s a bit bigger since she’s elevated. She rises from the waves with her back arched and her right arm reaching out to the unseen object that has captured her gaze. For a line that has gotten by with mostly static and almost museum-style poses, Mera here really breaks tradition with a composition full of grace and energy. Just the engineering of the balance here is impressive as she appears to defy gravity.

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Mera is clad in her fish-scaled green bodysuit that covers from the tips of her toes all the way up to her shoulders, allowing for a deep and revealing plunging chest cut-out and ending with long sleeves. Apart from the individually sculpted scales, the only other detail and paint variation on the bodysuit itself comes from the gold shell patterns on the cuffs of her sleeves. The green paint used for the suit features an appropriate sheen and the flesh tone used for her hands and exposed neck and cleavage is soft, warm and evenly applied. The paint and quality of application here is some of the best I’ve seen in this line.

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Mera’s portrait also ranks up pretty high on my list. Previously, my favorite was the other green costumed redhead, Poison Ivy, but I think Mera is giving her a run for her money. The sculpt is beautiful and the paint applications, from her lips to her eyes, are neat and precise. The subtle green eye shadow is a nice touch as are the gold hoop earrings. She has a gold tiara and her red hair spills out the back, with some stray strands snaking around her neck. Oh yeah… and bewbs! Mera is not too modest to show off her goodies.

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As a rule, I don’t have a lot to say about the bases on these statues, but Mera’s is an exception. She manages to retain the familiar and uniform oval style with her emblem positioned at the four cardinal points. However, this time instead of a mere painted platform, we get a sculpted transparent blue wave of water that cradles her feet and ankles. It’s a similar flourish that we saw with Bleez’s firery base and it looks just as magnificent here.
What’s also magnificent, and a little scary, is the fact that Mera does not have any actual pegs or posts to support her connection to the base. Instead, the waves are sculpted so that they grab her ankles and provide a slot for her right toes. There are no instructions, and it took me a while to get the figure positioned correctly in the base. And all the while, I was worrying about scratching her paint. Fortunately, the plastic waves are soft, and when you do make the connection, it’s secure enough that you can pick her up from the figure and that base isn’t going anywhere. That having been said, if I ever need to re-box this lady, I’m not looking forward to trying to get the two apart again.

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As always, the bottom of the base is hand numbered. Mine is 2,561 of 5,200.

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In a line that seldom disappoints me, Mera shines all the more brighter. One of the things that has impressed me the most about the Cover Girls line is the work that DCC puts into some of the backbench characters. Statues like Mera, Katana, Bleez, and Vixen have all turned out fantastic and certainly rival some of the A-listers in terms of overall sculpt and composition. And maybe I just have a thing for busty red heads in tight green costumes, but Mera and Poison Ivy are among my favorites in this collection. As always, these statues carry an MSRP of about $100, but are easy to find a lot less. Indeed, Mera is currently being clearanced out at a number of online retailers and I was able to pick her up for the sweet price of $65.

Transformers Titans Return: Wheelie by Hasbro

I cheated y’all out of last week’s Transformers Thursday because of holiday madness, so let’s bring it back home this week with a new Titans Return figure. This time I’m going back to the Legends Class to look at a certain Autobot that fans either love to hate, or hate to love… I can’t remember which.

So, what do you say? Let’s look at Wheelie today!

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Of course, Legends is the smallest of the classes, unless you count the tiny Titan Masters and their little vehicles. The package is the same format that we last saw with Rewind, and I like the character art here even if it misleadingly suggests that there might be a slingshot in here somewhere. If you want that, you’ll have to rob it from the last release of Wheelie, a figure that I never bothered to pick up. And I’m glad I didn’t, because that one was a remolded Deluxe and I think this brand new Legends Class suits him better. Let’s bust him out and have a look at his alt mode first!

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Wheelie’s vehicle mode is a little futuristic car, which certainly works for me! At least in theory. In practice, I could not get all the panels to lock together the way they should. The tabs are all there, it’s easy to see what’s supposed to be happening, but the tabs that are supposed to connect the arms to the hips kept popping out. I went in there with a razor and did a little shaving and he’ll hold together pretty well now, but I still get some gaps in those seams.

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Looking past that issue, everything else is great here. The orange and yellow plastic is bright and snappy and it really suits the character. Toss in some of that lovely silver that Hasbro’s been using lately and this vehicle mode pops beautifully. There’s not a ton of sculpted detail here, but that fits because he’s supposed to look smooth and sleek. You do, however, get a few sculpted panel lines and some grills on the front and sides.

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The canopy and the back each hinge upward and open to reveal a compartment for the driver. Wheelie’s head is not a Titan Master, but you can still take one from another figure and put him inside just like the Deluxe Class figures and that impresses the hell out of me. I grabbed Hyperfire here to demonstrate. I believe the Takara version will be coming with a Titan Master, just not one that can function as Wheelie’s head.

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Wheelie has a couple of ports on his sides, but he doesn’t come with any weapons, so you’ll have to borrow that too if you want to weaponize his vehicle mode. Once again, I made use of Blurr to give him a side gun. I like the way Blurr’s rifle matches the silver accents on the car.

Give Wheelie a gun, because killing is fun!

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Wheelie’s transformation is pretty cool, especially the way the driver compartment shrinks down and folds up into the chest. While I had some nits to pick with the vehicle mode and its troublesome gaps, I’ve got nothing but love for this little bot mode. He’s nicely proportioned and just looks fantastic. There’s some wonderful little touches on him too like the sculpted springs inside his hollow thighs. If only the budget had allowed Hasbro to paint those silver to make them stand out more. I may have to take a Gundam marker to them.

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From the back, he looks a tad unfinished, but not bad at all. His arm kibble is a little more apparent here and it can get in the way sometimes, but it’s nothing that really bothers me. I really dig the way the quarter panels and wheels of the car fold in to fill out his lower legs.

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Titans Return has given us some great head sculpts and Wheelie here is no exception. The bucket-style “helmet” is a good match for the characters G1 animated counterpart and the silver paint on the face and blue in the eyes looks great. The strategically placed Autobot emblem on the chest is also appreciated.

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As is often the case with these Legends Class figures, you get a lot of ball joints for articulation. Shoulders, elbows, hips, knees are all ball jointed and the head can rotate. Wheelie is undoubtedly a fun little figure to play with and pretty well balanced too!

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I sure as hell wasn’t screaming for a new Wheelie figure, but now that I have this little fellow in hand, I’m mighty glad Hasbro made him. Despite being the smaller class, he scales perfectly with the Generations and Titans Return Deluxes and he brings me another step closer to filling out my Sunbow Season 3 Autobots. I’d argue that this is one of the best Legends Class figures we’ve had in a while, and that’s saying something, because most of them have been damn good. Now, if only I could find that Legends Kickback for a decent price and complete my Insecticons, I’ll be a happy camper.

Star Wars Hot Wheels: TIE Fighter and Imperial Shuttle by Mattel

Yup! More Star Wars! While it’s true I have a ton of Star Wars stuff I want to get caught up on before Rogue One hits in a few weeks (A FEW WEEKS!!!), the truth is I also needed something quick and easy to look at today because I’m insanely busy with work and probably will be for the rest of the year. I’m trying as hard as I can to not have to reduce the number of Features each week, but realistically, I may be cutting back to three updates a week in the near future. We’ll see. In the meantime, let’s check out a couple more Hot Wheels Starships from Star Wars!

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This pair are new enough to feature the updated figure stands, but not the Rogue One branding, although they are re-issues and do feature shots of some of the Rogue One ships on the back of the cards. These packages are very attractive, show off the ships beautifully, and I’m still impressed that Mattel does individual card art for each ship. Honestly, it’s really tempting to just collect doubles of these, keep them mint on card, and hang them on my wall. Let’s look at the TIE Fighter first…

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There aren’t many surprises here, but this is a beautiful little rendition of the iconic Imperial fighter. It’s also a completely new sculpt from the First Order TIE that I own. The body is die-cast and the panels are plastic, and the quality of sculpt and detail is just all around fantastic.

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They also did a fabulous job painting the cockpit windows and framework, the black striping on the top, and the tiny red dots on the laser cannon. The rest of the coloring consists of the blue-gray hull and the black panels on the “wings.” My only question is, does anyone know if Mattel issued a white version, because I’d love to pick up one of those too.

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Next up is the Imperial Shuttle, one of my favorite ship designs from The Original Trilogy. One of these days I need to get around to reviewing Hasbro’s re-issue of the Kenner 3 3/4-inch version of this ship! This one may be tiny, but it captures the look of the design perfectly in this scale. The body and central fin are all die-cast, with only the wings being plastic, and yes, the wings are articulated so you can display the ship landing or in flight.

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The shuttle does not sport much in the way of paint. Mattel went for a very clean and new look here. You do get some gray panels on the wings and fin, blue paint on the rear thrusters, and black paint on the cockpit screen. There are also plenty of great little details and panel lines sculpted into the hull. I would have liked a bit of gray paint on the wing guns, but it’s still a nice looking ship.

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If you’ve been collecting this line from the beginning, you’ll note the change in stand designs. Gone are the ones designed to go on your finger and in their place are these clear discs with the Imperial insignia sculpted in. I liked the old style well enough. They were fun and innovative, but I think these just look better. Unfortunately, the fact that the stands don’t match on all my little ships is making my OCD flare up.

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While my attention to this line has been spotty at best here on FFZ, I continue to enjoy collecting these a lot. I picked up this pair for under five bucks a pop and I still think these are some of the best values in the toy aisles today. They’re fun, they look great, and I can amass a whole fleet of them without breaking the bank. I kind of think of these as the modern equivalent of those cheap rack toys I used to buy with my allowance at the corner drug store when I was a kid. The only difference being that these are a whole lot better quality.

Star Wars Black (Rogue One): Imperial Hovercraft Pilot by Hasbro

I feel sorry for Christmas this year, because it’s competing with Rogue One and I know which I’m looking forward to more than the other! In fact, going to see that will be the only thing that gets me anywhere near a shopping mall this December. While Hasbro hasn’t exactly flooded the shelves with new merchandise, we have had a couple of 3 3/4-inch and 6-inch waves of figures. One of the more sought after figures in the 6-inch Black Series so far has been this Toys R Us Exclusive Imperial Hovercraft Pilot. It was in short supply on Force Friday, but now it seems to be hitting with a lot more regularity. Hey, if I can get a TRU Exclusive, you know it ain’t that hard to get!

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The figure comes in the typical Black Series window box with no specific branding to the Rogue One film. There’s only a couple things worth pointing out on the package. One is the TRU Exclusive sticker on the lower part of the window. The other is the fact that the figure isn’t numbered on the side panel. So far, Hasbro has been skipping the exclusives when it comes to the numbered series. I really enjoy the way this packaging has evolved with the snappy red background and the larger piece of character art. I don’t generally tend to keep my Black Series packaging, but I will probably make an exception here, just because he’s an exclusive.

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Out of the package, this is one damn cool looking figure. The blurb on the box points out that he has lighter armor than your average Stormtrooper because he drives an armored Repulsor Tank. While technically his armor is lighter, what’s really only missing is the area from his knees to his waist. Maybe that makes it more comfortable for him to sit. I can understand the armor on his top half, if he spends time popping out of the hatch, and I suppose the lower leg armor is akin to just fortified boots. Still, if I’m going into battle, I’d rather my crotch not be the only thing that’s not armored. It’s probably best not to over think these things. Especially with this guy, because I really love this design.

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The armor on his arms, mid-section, and belt are very evocative of your more traditional Imperial troop armor. The chest and back plates are different, with a more deliberate look to the sculpt on the front and a vented integral backpack on the back. I like the sculpted straps that connect his chest piece and back plate. All of the armor plates on this guy are colored off-white with an effective paint wash that makes him look nice and grungy. The exposed under garment between the armor is pretty typical of regular Stomtroopers, but his exposed trousers are brown. He retains that familiar “bed-roll” tube on the back of his belt.

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I really dig the helmet design on this guy. While the Death Trooper helmet looks a little kit-bashy to me, this one stands out as pretty unique and distinctive. The only thing I really find familiar is the slit visor, which reminds me a little bit of the First Order Snowtroopers and Flametroopers. The pronounced plate above his visor looks like it might be designed to articulate downward and shield his face on the costume, but it is sculpted in place on this figure.

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The points of articulation here are very similar to what we got with most of the 6-inch Black Series troopers, although with a little less armor, some of those points feel like they have a greater range of motion. The arms have rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, with swivels in the thighs and double hinges in the knees. The ankles are hinged and have lateral rockers. There’s a swivel in the waist and a ball joint just under the chest. His neck has both a ball joint and a hinge. The joints on this guy feel great and he’s a lot of fun to play around with.

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The Hovertank driver comes with a pretty typical E-11 Blaster. It’s a little soft, but still a nice sculpt. He doesn’t have a holster or clip for it, but I guess he probably just stows it in the driver’s compartment of the vehicle when he’s not using it to shoot rebel scum.

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While I was able to get this guy at regular retail price, I have to say that I would have been perfectly fine with having to pay more if I had to. He really is that good. In fact, If there’s any downside to this figure for me, it’s that he’s a driver for a vehicle we will most certainly never get. He’s such a cool design and so wonderfully executed, I’d love to have him as some kind of specialist infantry so he can hang out with the rest of my Imperial troops and see more action on foot. With that having been said, this figure represents one of my favorite new Imperial designs to come out of Rogue One so far, and likewise, he’s definitely my favorite Rogue One figure in the 6-inch Black Series.