Star Trek Classic Series: Commander Kruge by Playmates

Welcome to a new limited series of features I like to call Star Trek Saturday. How long will it last? Long enough for me to get through some of the dreaded “Totes of Trek” that are stacked in the corner of my hall closet. A fair amount of this stuff comes from the 90’s and I was really torn on whether I should include it as part of Vintage Vault or not. In the end, I compromised and decided to just give it its own day, and tack it on at the end of the week. I may not do this every Saturday, but I will try to toss it in whenever I have time, because I have a lot of Star Trek figures and toys to go through. So, enough preambles… let’s get to it…

Playmates and Star Trek figures are certainly no stranger to FigureFan. I’ve been collecting the Playmates’ Star Trek toys since they were first introduced and while I regrettably sold off most of the ships over the years, I still have all of the figures. I have a strange love-hate relationship with these things, as the line certainly had its share of issues and questionable design choices. Not to mention some of the worst accessories ever. And yet every time I pull out my collection, I can’t help but love these things, right down to the cheesy “individually numbered” gimmick that laughably suggest these figures are some kind of limited edition collectibles. Anyway, I’ve looked at figures from the spin-off TV series and from the original series, but I haven’t looked at any from the Classic Movie Series, and I aim to fix that today.

Yes, it’s Commander Kruge from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. We have here an action figure of Christopher Lloyd playing a Klingon. It’s been almost two decades since this figure was produced and that still blows my mind. While the movie was no Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III was still a pretty solid and enjoyable film and a lot of that credit needs to go to Lloyd’s fun, scenery chewing portrayal of the Klingon bastard who killed Kirk’s son. Once the Star Trek license really got pumping for Playmates, no corner of the Trek universe was safe, and they started reaching out even to the classic movies as subject matter for their figures.

The card used for Kruge is a lot more subdued than the ones used for the Next Gen or Voyager figures. It feels less like a Vegas style billboard and more appropriate to the subject matter at hand, even if it does have artwork of the wrong ship on the top. You get a nice starfield deco and the classic series style lettering. The back of the card, however, is pretty busy. You get head shots of a bunch of other Classic Movie Series figures. You get a pictures and descriptions of the accessories, and you get a nice blurb explaining who Kruge is. All in all, it’s a nice looking package that displays the figure well.

And there’s Commander Kruge. Look familiar? Long time collectors of Playmates’ Star Trek line will no doubt recognize that the body is a straight reuse of the one used for Klingon Warrior Worf. I suppose it’s a fair move on Playmates part, since the costumes were practically identical. It also helps that the Worf figure came with his ritual robes, so you can still display these two figures next to each other and the reuse isn’t overtly noticeable. It’s also nice to be able to swap the robes between the two figures. Besides, as long as they didn’t go with a reuse of the vastly inferior sculpt for the Gowron body, I’m happy.

Yes, this is pretty fine sculpt for what it is. Sure, you need to get past the stylized look and wonky proportions that Playmates loves to do with these figures. The head and hands are just a tad too large and it takes a little while to get past the caricature style. But the detail on the Klingon armor is just gorgeous. Let’s face it, most of the Star Trek line gets by with minimal sculpting of the simple Starfleet uniforms, so it’s nice to see when they get an opportunity like this, they really knock it out of the ballpark. Every little detail and texture is lovingly reproduced here. And the head sculpt? Oh yeah, this has got to be one of, if not one of, the best head sculpts of the entire line. It’s totally Christopher Lloyd in Klingon makeup, and that’s just fantastic!

It’s also worth mentioning that the paint work on this figure is pretty impressive too, especially when I compare the paint with the work on my Klingon Warrior Worf and again, the shitty job they did on Gowron. Kruge’s armor is vibrant and shiny and has some really nice gold and silver that contrasts beautifully with the black and grey.
Kruge’s articulation is identical to the Worf figure. His head rotates, his arms rotate at the shoulders, have swivel cuts in the biceps, and hinges in the elbows. His legs rotate at the hips and have hinged knees, and he can rotate at the waist. It’s barely passable articulation because you really can’t do much with his legs.

Accessories! Here’s the point where I usually go ballistic all over Playmates, but that won’t be the case here. You get a tricorder, a communicator, a disruptor, and a stock attachment for the disruptor. Sure, Kruge’s accessories are all molded in the same monochrome color, but at least they’re cast in a brownish orange color that is fairly similar to the props used on the screen, as opposed to hot pink or neon purple like some other figures. The sculpts on all the accessories are well done and they match the on screen devices pretty well. The stock attachment for the disruptor is a really cool addition, and not something I would have expected from this line. You also get a collector card and a really nice personalized figure stand designed especially for the Classic Movie figures.

I’ve wanted to get Commander Kruge in my collection for a long time and I finally jumped at the opportunity when I found him for nine bucks shipped on the Ebays. While he may not stack up to modern action figures, when you put him in his proper 1995 Playmates context, he’s actually a pretty solid effort. Again, that may be a loaded compliment, but either way, I really like this one. Playmates’ Star Trek is not a line that often impresses, and that’s what makes a figure like this worth owning. It features solid sculpting and paintwork, good accessories, and overall it just really does the character justice.

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Vintage Vault: Bionic Six Glove by LJN

Another Friday, another Vintage Vault… and another toyline that I haven’t looked at here before! Bionic Six was probably one of the last cartoons of the 80’s that I watched religiously and I just recently took a spin through the series again, which is no small feat as there are a ton of episodes. The premise was a simple weekly battle between the evil genius, Dr. Scarab with his rag-tag band of terrorist freaks and the Bennetts, a family that moonlighted as the bionic superheroes, The Bionic Six. There’s a lot I love about this cartoon: The spectacular intro sequence, the animation, the characters, the voice work, the clever self-deprecating writing. Sure, most of the stories are crap and there are times when it gets just over the top ridiculous, even for a cartoon, but I was pleased to find that it wasn’t just nostalgia that had me going, I still genuinely like it.

Naturally Bionic Six had a toy tie-in, or was that the other way around? LJN produced a short-lived line of 3 ¾” scale action figures. Included were all the Bennett family and all of Dr. Scarab’s evil minions. Sure, there were a few major omissions (What? No Dr. Sharpe???), but for the most part everyone was represented and there were even a few vehicles and a playset. The figures were rather unusual for the time as they featured the use of both plastic and die-cast metal, and some translucent parts to emphasize the Bennett’s cybernetic nature. Today we’re going to start with one of my favorite bad guys of the series… Glove! He was Dr. Scarab’s second in command and basically the Starscream of the Bionic Six universe. Every week he’d try to overthrow Scarab and become the leader, and every week it somehow backfired on him.

And there’s the packaging. The figures came under a coffin-shaped bubble on a standard cardback. Their accessories rattle around in a little compartment above the figure, and as you can see often drop down into the figure compartment. Honestly, I was never fond of the packaging LJN went with here. The crazy black psychedelic pattern on the white card just looks cheap, and not very relevant to the cartoon. On the other hand, I like the use of the Bionic Six logo and Glove’s character art is quite good. The back of the card shows photos of all the figures that were available. It’s a serviceable package, but nothing that makes me feel bad about tearing open this 27 year old figure. Mwahahahaha!

Out of the package, Glove is sort of like a mix between a vintage GI Joe and a Micronaut. He’s a pretty heavy figure for his size, due to the die cast metal used in his torso and legs. He’s not a bad representation of his animated counterpart. The head sculpt isn’t quite there, it looks more like his fellow bad guy, Chopper, to me. Still, overall this sculpt and deco hits all the main points of Glove’s animated design. His green military-style helmet, crisscrossing bandolier straps, and belt of grenades are all spot on, as is his one torn pants leg. I also really dig the translucent scarab emblem on his chest. The legs do feature some unfortunately ugly seams down the fronts, another recurring issue with some of this line’s figures due to the use of die-cast.

One of the problems with LJN’s Bionic Six figures can be the paintwork. Sure, part of the problem is that these figures suffer a lot of paint chipping when played with, but some had issues right out of the package. In this case, however, Glove is actually quite neatly painted. He’s a colorful fellow and I really like the two-tone purple used for his shirt and skin and the way the red and yellow contrasts with his black pants. There’s some slop around they yellow on his grenades, but nothing too bad. Detailed paintwork and die-cast metal don’t usually mix well, so I’m not going to nitpick Glove’s paint too much.

Glove’s articulation includes a rotating head, ball jointed shoulders, hinged elbows, ball jointed hips, and hinged knees. He can also swivel at the waist. He isn’t exactly super-articulated, but he sure beats the standard five points that some figures of the time utilized. Some bicep swivels would have helped a lot.

You get two accessories with Glove, one of which is… well… his glove. It clips on over his left hand and holds on pretty well. It’s a fairly detailed little piece, although I would have been perfectly fine if it were permanently attached to the figure. The other accessory is a black wrist gun that clips onto his other arm. Again, there’s some nice sculpting here for such a little accessory.

All in all, I think LJN’s figure does Glove proud. The personality of the character is well represented here and he’s definitely a colorful and attractive looking figure. Did he really need the die cast parts? Nope. While it sort of makes sense for the members of the Bionic Six, Glove’s character doesn’t have any bionics so the use of metal is just a continuation of that gimmick that does little to benefit the figure other than giving him a nice heft. Still, this is one of my favorite figures in the Bionic Six lineup and I’m happy to have a fresh, straight out of the package example for my display shelf to replace the loose-jointed and paint chipped version from my childhood.

Hail, Scarab!!!

Voltron: Green Lion by Mattel

Alrighty then, time to wrap up this four-day run of Matty Collector madness with a look at the third lion from the Club Lion Force subscription, Green Lion! This guy is an interesting release, since he pairs up with the Red Lion in forming Voltron’s arms. I was very curious to see how similar the two toys would be, and in the end I’m very pleased by how unique Matty managed to make this guy, while still conforming to the Voltron component. Let’s check him out…

Green Lion comes in the same half window, half box as the other lions. I loved this package the first time around, but the charm is starting to wear off on me. Don’t get me wrong, it looks great when the toy is MISB, but getting him out without damaging the package is a pain in the arse, and it’s virtually impossible to get him back in the proper way without him just knocking about in there. I’ve taken care to save all three lion packages, but I’m pretty sure once Voltron is complete, I’m going to wind up pitching them. Maybe I’ll just hang onto the white mailer boxes in case I ever want to put the Lion’s into storage.

Out of the box, The Green Lion is the same size as Red Lion, but these guys are certainly not identical twins. I’ve been avoiding pictures of these toys before their release so I was honestly expecting a lot of heavy parts sharing between Red and Green with just a little re-sculpting for good measure. I was pleasantly surprised to see that apart from the legs and tail, the bulk of this figure is either significantly re-worked or brand new. Green Lion has a sleeker, more rounded style than his boxy red brother, which is pronounced enough to make him distinctive but shouldn’t be distracting when he’s paired with Red to serve as Voltron’s arms.

The cockpit in the Lion’s back does open the same way as the Red Lion’s. It splits in half and separates in the middle. The hatch on this one, however, doesn’t lock as well as the Red Lion’s and you really don’t even need to push the button to open it. It does however stay closed and latched pretty well, so I’m not sure if this is a minor QC control issue or just a variation in the strength of the mechanism from the Red to the Green.

Articulation? The Green Lion shares all the good and the bad with the Red Lion. The legs are jointed at the top, middle and foot, but they are each only designed to bend one way and that means you can’t get all the great poses you can get out of some other Voltron sets (*cough* Toynami *cough*). On the other hand, the ratcheting joints are nice and strong and the auto transform feature from Voltron limb back to Lion is still present, like it or not. Limited leg movement aside, my biggest gripe with the articulation is the head. I would have liked a lot more neck movement. All that being said, I think I’ve said before that these lions feel more like 80’s vintage toys than highly poseable collector figures, and I’m perfectly fine with that.

Green Lion also comes with his little three-pointed blade weapon. I’m not a big fan of these things, but I’ll give credit for Matty including them. It has two little dimples in the handle to match up with Green’s teeth and he can hold it in his jaw pretty well.

And that’s Green Lion for ya. As with the pilot figures, there are things Matty could have done better here, but overall I’m pretty pleased with him. By now we know what to expect and apart from being a little surprised with the amount of new sculpting, there’s no big differences here between Green and Red. The end the result is kind of a “been there, done that” attitude when I got him out of the package. I suspect the same will be true for the next release, as Blue Lion will have a similar feel to Yellow. Of course, Black Lion will be brand new and have a lot of wow factor because of his sheer bulk, not to mention being the final piece needed to assemble Voltron!

Voltron: Pidge (Green Lion Pilot) by Mattel

Alrighty, folks, we’re pushing on with Matty Madness week. The DC stuff is out of the way and now we can check out June’s Club Lion Force offerings. This month, we got the Green Lion and Pidge. If you’re keeping score, this release officially gets us over the hump and more than half way to completing the BFV*. I’m getting seriously excited now! We’re going to take a look at the Green Lion tomorrow, but today we’re just going to focus on its pilot. Yes, it’s the annoying know-it-all kid of the Lion Force… Pidge.

We’ve seen this packaging before, but let’s go through it anyway so I can pad out this feature a bit and pander to the people who weren’t here for the last two pilot figures. Pidge comes in a snazzy little box with a window that shows the figure. Each of the boxes are color coded to each pilot’s lion, so this one is green. The character artwork is pretty solid and the back shows off photos of the figure, the key stand, the C&C Blazing Sword piece, as well as an illustration of how the figure fits into his lion.

The package opens at the top or bottom and allows you to slide out the tray and get at all the goodies. No surprises here. You get the figure with his extra helmeted head mounted beside him. You get the C&C sword piece, in this case it’s part of the blade, and you get the key stand. The package is delightfully collector friendly, which is a big bonus, as I will likely be keeping the figures in these boxes even after I’ve completed assembling the Voltron.

Pidge is tiny! Yes, I expected him to be small, but man he’s small. That’s not a knock against the figure, mind you. Something I love about the way Matty is doing these figures is the way they’re all differently proportioned. Part of me was expecting the same body on all of them, including Pidge. Ok, not really, but the point is that while there are a few things I would do differently with these guys, the relative scaling is not one of them. It’s quite perfect. The head sculpts are very well executed and oozing with personality right down to his huge dorky glasses. If you want a great example of why Matty didn’t go with removable helmets on these figures, Pidge is it. There’s no way all that hair would have fit under one!

Matty managed to get the same level of articulation into Pidge’s tiny body. That means you get a ball jointed head, ball jointed shoulders and elbows, universal movement in the hips, and ball jointed knees. The joints don’t quite have the range of motion as the bigger pilots, but for a figure this size, I’m pleased.

Of course, there are a few things I’m not so pleased about, and these are mostly the same gripes I have with the Lance and Hunk figures. The fact that the gun is sculpted onto the belt and not removable still pisses me off. And yes, I’m going to mention it every time I look at one of these guys. The fact that the key stand doesn’t have a sticker on the reverse side really irks me a lot too. At $15 a figure, these things are not a lot to ask for, but obviously, Matty isn’t going to make any running changes halfway through the subscription.

And there you go. I think we all know what to expect from the pilot figures now. If anything, Pidge surprised me a little because of his excellent scale and the way the articulation wasn’t sacrificed too much for it. I like these figures well enough, but when you consider their cost, Matty should have put a little more into them. Collectors may find this sentiment to be especially the case with Pidge because he is indeed so small for a figure with a fifteen dollar pricetag. Either way, I’m happy to have the third member of Lion Force in my collection. Tomorrow, we’ll check out Pidge’s ride.

*Big Fucking Voltron!

DC Universe Signature Collection: Atrocitus by Mattel

Yes, it was a busy month for Club Infinite Earth subscribers. Not only did we get our sub exclusive figure, Metron, but also our second monthly figure, Atrocitus. While I wouldn’t rank Atrocitus here as high on my list as Jay Garrick or Metron, he is a figure that I was pretty excited to add to my collection. The Sinestro Corps has been greatly outnumbering the Red Lanterns on my Green Lantern shelf, so any chance to beef up the Ranks of Rage make me a happy collector.

By now we know what to expect from the Signature Collection packaging, as Atrocitus comes in the same style window box as Jay Garrick. I gushed a lot over the deco yesterday when looking at Metron, so suffice it to say I’m really digging this one too. I think these boxes feature some of the best character art I’ve seen in an action figure package in a long time, so please keep it up, Matty. The package is completely collector friendly, so you can display your Atrocitus loose and return him to the box with no worries.

I was certainly expecting a fair amount of reuse from the previous Red Lantern Corps figure, Skallox and Nite-Lik, and I certainly wasn’t wrong. After all, I do want a certain degree of uniformity in my Red Lantern Corps figures. Nonetheless, a combination of retooling and paintwork certainly makes Atrocitus his own figure. The arms are reused, but with brand new hands, and the body and upper legs are a straight reuse, but with a slightly different paint deco. Curiously, the lower legs are different and instead of having the sculpted line at the top of his boots, Atrocitus just has it painted. It’s a slight step down and I’m wondering why Mattel just didn’t go with the other lower legs. Ah well.

What is new is quite excellent. The head sculpt is absolutely fantastic. It’s intricately detailed with the mouth open to display his amazing set of choppers. The tiny deep set beady yellow eyes are great, and the whole head is framed by a new combined cowl and shoulder armor piece, which is soft plastic so as not to impede Atrocitus’ head articulation.

Articulation? You should know the drill by now. The head is ball jointed. The arms feature ball joints in the shoulders, swivels in the biceps and wrists, and hinged elbows. The legs have universal movement in the hips, swivels in the thighs, and hinges in the knees and ankles. He can also swivel at the waist and has an ab crunch in the torso.

You do get one accessory with Atrocitus and, you guessed it, it’s his Red Lantern. It’s the same piece we’ve seen before only with a snazzy glittery red paint job. I’d be tempted to complain that neither of Atrocitus’ hands are sculpted to hold it, but honestly, I never display these figures holding their Lanterns anyway.

After the Green Lantern overload that punctuated the ending waves of DC Universe Classics, I should be a bit more critical about Mattel including this figure so early on in the subscription line. Green Lantern fatigue was a running theme for me in 2012. So, I should be more critical, but I’m not. The Red Lanterns are woefully under-represented and Atrocitus is a very cool figure. He also serves to remind us that while the Signature Collection may have a new name and snazzy new packaging, it’s still just an extension of DC Universe Classics, and I’m perfectly fine with that.

DC Universe Signature Collection: Metron & The Mobius Chair by Mattel

Way back when Matty first floated the idea of Club Infinite Earths, they had a poll to see who the Sub Exclusive figure would be. There was always a pretty good chance that I was going to join out of the sheer desire to keep my DC Universe Classics collection going, but when Metron won out as the Exclusive, and me being the huge New Gods whore that I am, I was totally sold at that point. Naturally, I’m glad to finally get this guy and his cosmic furniture into my collection. This is also the first time I’ve got one of Matty’s Subscription Exclusive figures. Does he live up to expectations? Let’s see…

Metron comes in a standard Matty Collector white mailer box. Inside you get a satisfyingly large window box with the snazzy “DC Universe Signature Collection” printed across the top and “Signature” in shiny foil lettering. One side panel features artwork of the character and the back panel features a larger piece of character art and a little bio. As with the Jay Garrick figure, Matty has gone above and beyond with the artwork here. It’s colorful, vibrant, and absolutely fantastic.

The Metron figure is packaged standing beside the Mobius chair and with the chair’s base mounted separately behind the tray. Here’s where my only issues with the packaging come into play. If I were a MISB collector, I would definitely have preferred Metron to be sitting in his chair. I’m an opener, so I’m not going to nitpick about that. On the other hand, while the package is totally collector friendly, the chair is designed so that once you snap it together, you risk damaging it if you’re going to try to pull it apart. Of course, you have to pull it apart to return the figure to the package, and that’s my only complaint. I really want to save this package, but knowing I can never return the chair inside, it seems pointless to do so. In the end, I’ll probably just wind up clipping off the back panel, because I just can’t bring myself to throw out that gorgeous character art.

Metron is one of those DC Universe figures that gets by with very little original sculpting and mainly some original paintwork to make up his costume. The head sculpt is the only thing that’s really new here and I’m actually delighted to see how much of it is sculpted and not just paintwork. The face is excellent, with a bold, piercing gaze. I expected the piping on his brow and helmet to just be paint, but all the detail work on his hood is fully sculpted. The hands appear to be new sculpts, but someone may correct me on this point. They’re configured so that they can rest convincingly on the control panels arms of the chair, but when out of the chair they look as if they are about to unleash some form of cosmic power.

The cosmic deco on his chest is tampo’ed on with crisp precision. The bulk of the figure is cast in a nice, deep blue plastic and the lighter portions on his pelvis, hands, and chest are painted on as is his belt. There’s a little bit of smudge on the left side of my Metron’s belt as a reminder that while this may be an exclusive figure in a subscription collector line, Matty is still sticking to the regular mass market standards of quality control. It’s easily fixed with a little black pen work, but nonetheless a little disappointing.

Metron features standard DCUC levels of articulation. You get a ball jointed head; The arms feature ball jointed shoulders, swivels in the biceps and wrists, and hinged elbows. His legs feature universal movement at the hips, swivels in the thighs, and hinges in the knees and ankles. He can also rotate at the waist and has the standard DCUC ab crunch hinge in his torso.

The Mobius chair, as mentioned, comes in two separate pieces. The base snaps onto the rest of the chair and it does it more or less permanently. It’s a sturdy piece, but the plastic is light enough that I wouldn’t risk disconnecting the base once it’s attached. At the very least it feels like it would produce some nasty stress marks.

As a display piece, the chair looks fantastic. It’s perfectly sized and fits the figure very nicely. The back disc spins and Mattel put a lot of love into the sculpt, giving it a lot of fine detail even under the base and behind the seat where it isn’t going to be readily noticed when on display. The chair is cast in green plastic with metallic gold paint to fill in the deco. Most importantly, Metron looks outstanding seated in it.

No doubt in my mind, Metron is a very cool figure, especially for a subscription exclusive. Granted, you’re mileage may vary. DC Universe Classics was always a line that tested the true limits of fans and collectors with some really obscure characters, and while I certainly wouldn’t call Metron obscure, he’s probably not on the forefront of a lot of want lists. I’ve already labeled myself a New Gods whore, as some of the first DC comics that I read as a kid on a regular basis were Mister Miracle and Orion, so this set is targeted squarely at me. It’s true that Matty didn’t go above and beyond with the figure itself. Metron is a typical DCUC figure through and through, but when you bundle him with the chair he makes for a nice exclusive piece. Either way, he’s definitely going to be a showpiece in my DCUC collection.

Matty Madness Week

I’m coming off of my three-updates-per-week rotation this week in order to get through all the Matty Collector stuff that was dumped on my stoop this weekend. Later today I’ll be posting a look at the Club Infinite Earths Metron figure, tomorrow it’ll be Atrocitus, and then Wednesday and Thursday we’ll look at the Club Lion Force Green Lion and Pidge. Friday I’ll return to normalcy with Vintage Vault.

 

I’m a strong proponent of giving credit where it is due, especially when I spill so much electric ink here bashing Matty Collector’s poor performance. This past Matty Sale Day, they did everything right, so here I am applauding it. It was a big Sale Day for me as I have both Voltron and DC Infinite Earth subscriptions and they both synched up, which meant I was getting Green Lion and Pidge, plus the monthly DC figure, Atrocitus, plus the DC Sub Exclusive figure, Metron. A lot could go wrong, and nothing did. Not only did I get billed the correct amount on the Monday before the Sale Day, but everything shipped out two days before the Sale Day as well. The shipping is still pretty slow, but certainly not nearly as bad as previous months. Plus, considering how much they were shipping to me, I’ll even say the shipping charges were pretty reasonable.

So, bravo, Matty, for a job well done this time.

Vintage Vault: Wheeled Warriors Armed Force by Mattel

It’s long past time that I introduce a fresh toy line to Vintage Vault, so here we go. Today we’re checking out the Wheeled Warriors. Introduced by Mattel back in 1985, the Wheeled Warriors were a somewhat short lived line of vehicles with a load of customization and play value, summed up by the tagline, “quick changing fighting machines!” The battle raged between the good guys, called the Lightning League, and the bad guys, The Monster Minds. Like all good toy lines of the 80’s the Wheeled Warriors featured a cartoon tie-in, called “Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors.” Unlike a lot of the 80’s cartoons, this one was ret-conned from a toy line that didn’t really have any characters or story and it shows. It was well animated enough and sometimes entertaining, but despite the fact that it featured Mattel’s vehicle designs it just didn’t mesh well with the toys. The bizarre mix of magic and fantasy elements and the ungoing story involving space exploration and the quest to find the lead character’s father seemed obviously tacked on.

Anywho, today we’re going to look at the lead vehicle from the good guys, Armed Force. Each of the vehicles had a signature weapon and Armed Force’s is a giant claw. I don’t have a package shot, but these vehicles came in slightly elongated window boxes with the core vehicle on one side and the various parts mounted to the right. The packages displayed the toys well enough, but the deco wasn’t terribly attractive or exciting. Someday I may get to feature a packaged Wheeled Warriors toy here, but I won’t be going out of my way to get one.

And there’s Armed Force in all its stripped down glory. The set includes the vehicle’s chassis, hinged cockpit, driver figure, drive frame, the claw arm, a missile, and three guns. You also got six wheels, but mine is missing the two extras. The missing wheels are basically the same as the smaller ones, but have a swirly pattern instead of the gears. Remember, the gimmick here is complete customization, so each of the vehicles had sockets to plug the weapons into and even the drive systems and wheels could be pulled out and interchanged. Armed Force has enough sockets to get everything onto the vehicle, minus the two extra wheels, and still have three sockets left over.  There are plenty of custom options for each individual toy, but ideally the more toys you had the more you could play around with, plus each side had an Attack Pack available with extra parts. You can even link up multiple vehicles. It works better in theory than practice, but you can still do it!

The Armed Force toy itself is a very nice piece. The body is cast in white plastic and paired with some gorgeous gold vac-metal to give it a snazzy look. There are sculpted panel lines, vents, hoses and various other thingamajigs all over and even some colorful decals on the top with the Lightning League logos. The canopy opens up to reveal the cockpit for the driver figure. The drivers aren’t much to rave about. They’re smaller and less detailed than Kenner’s MASK figures, and only feature four points of articulation (shoulders and hips) but having a removable driver is still a cool bonus. The use of gold vac-metal carried over to some of the parts as well and the claw arm has a simple chomping gimmick that can be worked with the lever on the back.

I absolutely loved the concept of these toys as a kid, but between Transformers, GI Joe, and Star Wars my allowance and Christmas wish lists were always already spoken for so I never owned any. When I finally tracked down this decent and almost complete Armed Force, I was a little apprehensive about what it would be like in person, particularly since these things aren’t cheap. When it finally arrived I was happy to see that it lived up to, and possibly exceeded, my expectations. These are really fun and well- designed toys that hold up extremely well. If Mattel wanted to they could easily re-launch this line under the Hot Wheels brand and probably be pretty successful with it. I know I would buy the hell out of them. But for now, I’ll have to be content with hunting down the vintage versions. Oh yes, we’ll be looking at more Wheeled Warriors in the future!

Lord of the Rings: Uruk-Hai Army by Lego

It’s been a while since we looked at any actual Lego sets here on FigureFan. I guess I’m still bitter over them dropping my beloved Pharaoh’s Quest line. Either way, Lego launched two brand new lines last week so it was time to sit up and take notice. There’s the Monster Hunter line, which doesn’t really grab my interest right now, and then there’s a little known license called… Lord of the F’ing Rings. Obviously, the Lord of the Rings sets are right up my alley. I grew up reading the books and my favorite Lego sets have been the Kingdoms, Castle, and even some of those Prince of Persia sets. The LotR stuff seems to mesh pretty well with that whole medieval theme and so Lego had my monies from day one on this series. I was oh so tempted to jump right in and pick up one of the biggest of the sets, but cooler heads prevailed and I went with one of the middle of the road sets. Good thing too, since my computer died the very next day, hence blowing my budget for the week.

The packaging is pretty standard Lego fare. It’s a box with a cool LotR-inspired deco on it that shows you exactly what you’re going to get inside. Keep that in mind, as it’s important later. Inside the box you get two good sized baggies containing a total of 257 pieces, and a fairly hefty instruction book. The first baggie contains the Uruk-hai forces, made up of four minifigs and a siege crossbow. The second baggie contains a section of wall and two Rohan minifigs. Normally, I cover all the minifigs first, but this time we’ll look at each bag in order, so let’s check out the Uruk-hai. Keep in mind, the content of these sets seem to draw strongly on the movie, rather than Lego going with their own interpretations from the books. That’s probably a good thing, since most casual fans will relate to the movies and with The Hobbit coming out (eventually) these sets will help keep the property in circulation. Ok, onto the toys…

Yes, as the name of the set suggests, you get an instant squad of Uruk-hai soldiers. Really, it’s the same minifig four times over, but you get different pieces to customize them and make them each a little different if you want. The pieces include three helmets, one hair piece, two poleaxes, two swords, two shields, and two breast plates. The printing on the figures is excellent and each one has a double-printed face to help you mix things up even more. The equipment consists of the vicious killing tools from the movie shrunk down to adorable minifig form. I’m particularly fond of the swords, as they look just like the mass-produced, utilitarian choppers seen on the big screen. I really wouldn’t change a thing about these guys. Well done, Lego!

You also get the big siege crossbow, which is a very cool piece. It rolls along on four big wheels and flick fires two huge battering missiles. It uses some cool new pieces that have printed wood patterns on them and really go a long way to give it a natural look to the construction. I’ve got quite the growing number of siege weapons from my Kingdoms and Prince of Persia sets, and I’m happy to add this fine piece to my ranks.

And then there’s the second baggie with the Rohan stuff. You get two minifigs, Eomer and a Rohan Solider, you get a horse, and you get a section of wall to defend. The minifigs are both excellent. Eomer features some beautiful printing to make up his outfit, a double-printed face to mix up his expressions, and one of those cloth capes that I love so much. He also comes with a gilded helmet, a sword, a shield and a spear. The soldier has some equally fine printing and the same helmet as Eomer only not gilded since he’s just cannon fodder. He also comes with a quiver that slips over his neck and a bow and arrow. The horse features a saddle with clips to hold two pieces of equipment and it’s also articulated in the neck and in the back legs so it can rear up on its haunches. Is this new? I don’t remember my other Lego horses being articulated at all, but maybe I’m thinking of the Playmobil horsies. The horse also comes with the bricks to fill up his mid-section in case you just want him chilling out in the background.

Ok, so let’s talk about that wall. It has two levels, so you can stand figures behind it or up on the top of the battlements. You get a mounted catapult just like the ones we’ve seen in Kingdoms and Prince of Persia. There’s a staircase leading up to the battlements, and a torch and a flag. It’s certainly serviceable to give the Uruk-hai something to attack and the Rohan people something to defend, but it feels incomplete, and that’s because it is. You see, it’s actually designed to link up with the Battle of Helms Deep set, so by itself, you’re just getting a piece of a larger wall. I would have much preferred a tower or something that could both stand alone and link up with Helm’s Deep, rather than an incomplete structure.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, the box shows you exactly what you get, so Lego isn’t pulling a fast one. They even show you how the wall links up to Helm’s Deep. They even have the audacity to suggest you buy two Helm’s Deep sets and link them together. That’s awesome, Lego, but the Helm’s Deep set costs $130. I’m not made out of money, damn you!

Maybe I’m making too big a deal about the wall piece. The truth is, this is still a great set and it gives you everything you need to have a little battle right out of the box. What’s more, this set is absolutely perfect for army builders. You can buy multiples of this set and if you’re willing to count Eomer as a Captain and not a specific character, then every piece goes toward building a bigger army. And that’s a big part of what LotR is all about, huge battles. It’s cool to see that Lego recognizes and embraces it. At $30 you’re getting a lot of absolutely fantastic minifigs and two set pieces to have a battle. The fact that this set will mesh so well with Helm’s Deep when I finally pick it up is just icing on the Lego Cake.

Transformers Prime: Ratchet by Hasbro

It’s time for more Prime! This time, we’re taking a look at one of the Autobots and also my favorite character from the show. Or at least the episodes that I’ve actually watched. Yep, it’s Ratchet. Not only do I love the way he’s portrayed (he’s crotchety and acts like everything is an imposition and a bother), but you can’t deny the greatness of Jeffrey Combs who provides his voice and personality. It also doesn’t hurt that G1 Ratchet always had a special place in my heart after he became the last Autobot standing back in the original Marvel comic. Suffice it to say, I was pretty happy to get this figure and to see if it does his TV counterpart justice.                 

What? No package shot. Here’s what happened. My computer died last week and while I’m up and running with a brand new setup, I haven’t had time to recover the files off the old computer’s hard drive. That means not only am I having to re-write this feature (and about three others), but the in-package shot of Ratchet is currently inaccessible. You can reference the general package design by looking back at the Vehicon feature from last week. Ratchet’s character art is fantastic and the bio blurb is downright disturbing, as it generally suggests that his intimate knowledge of anatomy makes him great at killing and dispensing pain. Wow! Pretty dark stuff for the back of a toy packet.

In his vehicle mode Ratchet is an ambulance. What? Crazy, I know. His general configuration is a bit more like a utility truck from the Bayformer movie-verse than most Ratchets from the past. The sculpt is pretty solid and there’s a lot of little panel lines and details. Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of jigsaw puzzle seaming on the sides. Remember Classics Ratchet? Well, it’s not quite that bad, but it is close. The deco also feels somewhat unfinished. Ratchet is molded in white plastic, with some red paintwork on his front end and the roof of his cabin. There’s also some red striping. It’s pretty basic ambulance colors, but its missing the lettering you usually find on an EMT vehicle. Like I said, the deco just feels unfinished.

Ratchet’s ambulance mode has two sets of ports for his blade weapons. You can plug them into his front bumper for some pretty vicious ramming action, or you can plug them into his roof. Not real sure what purpose that serves.

Transforming Ratchet felt a little involved the first time, but once I saw where everything goes it’s actually pretty easy. He is a bit of a shell former, but most of the ambulance kibble forms the backs of his legs and a backpack that isn’t too prominent or intrusive. No, Ratchet has one outstanding looking robot mode. He’s not only very faithful to his onscreen counterpart, but he’s also just a generally clean, balanced and proportional design. What’s more most everything clips or tabs in very nicely to make a figure that is every bit as solid as he is great looking. It doesn’t hurt that Ratchet’s deco fares much better in his robot mode than ambulance. He’s still primarily white, but there’s a better use of the red paint. Oh yeah, in robot mode, Ratchet can wield those blades like crazy little daggers, one in each hand.

No doubt, Ratchet is an amazing figure. Yes, his ambulance mode is somewhat lackluster. It is by no means terrible, but the seaming on the sides can be an eyesore and I really wish Hasbro had tampo’ed some lettering onto him to make him more polished and convincing. This guy really feels like some of the coloring was nixed to keep costs down. On the other hand, once you get him into robot mode, he makes up for every one of his shortcomings as an ambulance. Of course, I may be a little biased because I tend to display my Transformers in bot form.