Marvel Legends Wave 2: Piledriver by Hasbro

My last trip to Wally World to stock up on beers and frozen dinners netted me a nice surprise in the toy aisle. Not only did they finally restock Marvel Legends, but they restocked it with a case containing all the variants that I was missing from Wave 2. I only grabbed the ones that were new characters, namely Piledriver (variant of Thunderball) and Madam Viper (variant of Madam Masque). Today we’re going to check out Piledriver and we’ll take a look at Viper in the not too distant future.

Ah, the packaging… I still love this packaging. The local Walmart hasn’t had any Legends figures for a couple of months, but once they restocked, my eyes were immediately drawn to the pegs where these big bad babies were hanging. The top of the card features both Thunderball and Piledriver, allowing the card to work with either of the variant figures. The sticker on the bubble reads “Marvel’s Wrecking Crew” but oddly enough neither character’s name actually appears on the package anywhere. Did I notice that when I looked at Thunderball? Feel free to nip back and have a look. Anyway, I’ve gone on and on about the ML packages enough in the past, so I’ll save any further gushing for when Wave 3 finally comes out. For now, let’s just move on and look at the figure.

 

As mentioned, PIledriver is a variant of Thunderball, and that means he’s absolutely huge. He uses the exact same body as his fellow teammate, with nothing re-sculpted or changed aside from the paint. His pants are painted reddish brown, his shirt is white with a blue wash, and his gloves and boots and belt are blue. I wasn’t a big fan of the blue wash when it was used on Madam Masque, but here it doesn’t offend me quite as much. All in all, it works quite well, but I honestly do wish that Hasbro had retooled his hands, or at least one of them, into fists, but I’ll get back to that when we talk accessories.

Naturally, the head sculpt is entirely new and, while it seems like I’m saying throwing this compliment out there a lot where Marvel Legends are concerned, it’s absolutely fantastic. He wears the same style hood as Thunderball, exposing his tuft of blonde hair, but it’s his facial expression that really wins it over for me. Hasbro really has a knack for deranged looking faces in this line, and Piledriver just looks like he’s inviting you in for a beat down and that he’s going to thoroughly enjoy it. He’s just dripping with character.

As expected, articulation is identical to Thunderball. The head is ball jointed and features the additional hinge. The arms have ball joints in the shoulders, swivels in the biceps and gloves, and hinged elbows. The legs are ball jointed in the hips, swivels in the thighs, double hinges in the knees, hinged ankles, and hinges in his feet. He can swivel at the waist and he has the usual ab crunch hinge in the torso.

Ok, so accessories. You get two very small parts for the Arnim Zola Build-A-Figure: His remote control and his ESP box. If you’ve already picked up all the regular versions of these figures, you have little need of these items, although I think it’s nice to have a spare remote because my Zola likes to plunge off the shelf and sooner or later my cat is going to make off with the remote and hide in the network of tunnels that he has hollowed out under my apartment. You also get the exact same ball and chain that came with Thunderball. Granted, this doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I’m not going to quarrel with getting a second one of these, as it’s an awesome accessory and Thunderball can wield one in each hand. On the downside, including this accessory gave Hasbro an excuse not to give Piledriver fists.

As far as variants go, Piledriver isn’t a terribly ambitious figure. He’s just a repaint with a head swap. If you’ve followed any of Hasbro’s SDCC coverage, you may have seen that they have a lot more extreme makeovers for future releases to become two different characters. With all that being said, I do really dig this figure. Once I get past the lack of changes in the hands, it works fine the way it is and Hasbro certainly didn’t cheap out when sculpting the new head. If this is the only cost effective way to get these kinds of figures, I’m all for it. Now I just want me a ML Wrecker. Come on, Hasbro, don’t leave us hanging.

Star Trek: Classic Crew Bridge Set by Playmates

It’s Saturday… It’s Star Trek… It’s Star Trek Saturday! Playmates started out with only the license to do figures based on The Next Generation. Obviously that eventually expanded to epic proportions. As memory serves, today’s featured item was Playmates’ first foray into the “expanded universe” of Star Trek by going back to its classic roots with figures based on the crew from the original series. Instead of making collectors buy up an entire wave of single carded figures, Playmates issued this attractive seven figure boxed gift set.

Playmates is not exactly known for their tasteful and attractive packaging, but they really stepped up to the plate with this one. The set comes in a window box with a folded 3D cardboard tray illustrated to look like the bridge of the original series Enterprise. In retrospect, it’s a little off, and that big empty cardboard Captain’s chair in the middle of the package is kind of strange, but nonetheless, it did a nice job showing off the seven figures. The box deco was a simple space theme with “Classic Star Trek” in the old TV show’s font and an illustration of the old Constitution Class Enterprise. I had to borrow a stock photo for this set, as mine was opened a long time ago and let’s just say the packaging didn’t survive the process. Nonetheless, if there was ever a set of Playmates figures I wouldn’t mind buying again to have MISB, this one would be it.

Included in the package is Captain Kirk, Lt Commander Spock, Lt Commander Scott, Lt Sulu, Lt Uhura, Dr McCoy, and Ensign Chekhov. The figures reuse a lot of parts between them, but because they’re all wearing the same basic uniform with just a recolored shirt, it doesn’t feel so obvious. The sculpts are all actually quite well done for a Playmates 4-inch line. The badges are actually part of the sculpt, and not just painted on, as are the deco around their shirt cuffs. I was happy to see that Playmates went with a more prone and poseable style to the sculpts, rather than some of the pre-posed and awkward stuff they did with the early Next Generation stuff. The head sculpts on this classic set are all decent likenesses too, and there is the occasional flare for detail, like having Spock’s right hand in the form of the Vulcan salute.

Articulation is another thing Playmates did right with this set. All the figures have the same points. The heads turn, the arms rotate at the shoulders, swivel at the biceps, and are hinged at the elbows. The legs rotate at the hips and are hinged at the knees. All the figures can swivel at the waist. Again, unlike some of the early Next Generation figures that felt like they were designed to be poseable statues, these guys felt more like action figures meant to be played with.

The set came with the same accessories for every figure: Each one got a phaser and a communicator. While they were a tad oversized, these accessories were actually painted, and were loads better than the usual monochrome, day-glow crap that Playmates stuffs in with their other Star Trek figures. All the accessories came together in a single baggie, and you also got personalized stands based on the classic series badges, each with the correct department symbol for Command, Engineering, or Sciences. Cool! A couple of tricorders would have been nice, though.

Nowadays, this set is pretty easy to find on the second hand market and like most of Playmates figures, it hasn’t really gone up in value, so you can still pick up a set new in the box without blowing a lot of latinum. In fact, I’ve seen them listed on Ebay and go unsold in the $20 -30 range, and keep in mind we’re talking about seven figures! It’s a great deal, considering these remain some of my favorite Star Trek figures that Playmates ever put out. If they had produced a similar set with the Wrath of Khan theme, I would have probably died of pure joy.

Vintage Vault: Bionic Six Mechanic by LJN

We’re jumping back to Bionic Six this week. I know it was just two weeks ago, but I have a lot of B6 figures to check out, so you’ll just have to indulge me. We’ll keep the ball rolling with Dr. Scarab’s bad guys and take a look at Mechanic, that loveable dullard with a nail gun and soft spot for cartoons and small animals. He was basically the Lenny to Dr. Scarab’s George and while he was usually quick to try to pound any one of the Bennett family into goo, deep down he had a good heart that sometimes got in the way of Scarab’s evil plans.

Ugh, I’m still not digging on this packaging. Mechanic comes in the same coffin bubble on cardback that we saw with Glove, with his accessory in a little compartment above the figure. That black and white pattern on the card is just awful. I’m not real fond of the character art either. Sure, it’s recognizable as Mechanic, but it still looks more like mediocre fan art rather than a licensed work. At least the Bionic Six logo looks good. The back panel has a blurb about the cartoon and pictures of all the available figures, and for some reason Mother-1 is giving the Nazi salute and FLUFFI looks like he’s playing with himself. Hmm…

Before getting into anything else, let me point out that again, the gimmick with these figures was the use of die-cast metal and in some cases clear plastic. The idea sort of makes sense where the bionic Bennetts are concerned, but not so much with characters like Mechanic, who have no bionic parts. Nonetheless, Mechanic’s torso and lower legs are made of die-cast, while the rest is molded in plastic. It gives the figure a nice, satisfying heft, but does little else of any merit.

Overall, I think LJN did a good job with Mechanic’s sculpt vis-à-vis his animated counterpart. He’s the second biggest figure in the line, next only to the Bennett’s ape robot FLUFFI, or possibly JD if you count him wearing his hat. First and foremost, the head sculpt is pretty close. I’m not sure what all the pox marks on his face are all about, but his goofy mouth, eyes, and the way his little hat is perched precariously on his tufts of hair are all spot-on. The rest of the figure is equally accurate and I think Mechanic comes off as particularly good because his simple design, just a fat dude in overalls, is better suited to the die-cast parts. Although, I find the addition of his little die-cast nipples particularly creepy, the body sculpt captures the character design perfectly. The use of the translucent green for his Scarab emblem is just icing on the cake.

The coloring on this figure is also well executed. You basically get a combination of flesh tones, blue in the overalls and the orange in the gloves and hat. There isn’t a lot of slop or bleeding, but you do have that pesky chipping problem that plagues the die-cast parts of all of the Bionic Six figures. Even fresh in an unopened package, Mechanic had some paint chipping on his feet and on his backside. If you’ve shopped around for a loose example of this figure, than you know it’s almost impossible to find one with some seriously chipped up and dirty paint.

Mechanic features the standard points of articulation for this line. The neck turns, the arms have ball jointed shoulders and hinged elbows, and the legs have ball jointed hips and hinged knees. He can also swivel at the waist. Considering when these figures were released, it’s a respectable amount of poseability, although the exposed metal joints and screws definitely detract from the figure’s aesthetics.

A lot of the accessories that come with the Bionic Six figures are less than spectacular, but Mechanic’s actually fits the bill. You get a simple removable tool belt that hooks around his waist.

I’m going to rank Mechanic alongside Glove as being one of the better figures in this line. Sure, the die-cast is completely unnecessary and ultimately detracts from the figure, but LJN still managed to capture the character pretty damn well, given the context. I was always kind of disappointed that he didn’t come with his nail gun, and the paint chipping on the feet, straight out of the package is obviously a bummer, but overall, Mechanic is a solid effort in the line. I’ll give Bionic Six a rest next Friday to look at something different, and when I come back to it in two weeks, we’ll check out one of the Bennetts.

Marvel Spider-Man: “Power Charge” Rhino

With the pegs full of figures based on the new Amazing Spider-Man film, you might be surprised to see me dredging up this odd line that’s been pegwarming toy aisles for what seems like ages now. Sure, you’ve seen it, it’s the line with a thousand different versions of Spidey in all those mission armors that you’ve never seen him wear… ever! Amazingly, I actually covered a figure in this line before, it was“Toxic Blast” Venom, which I picked up because I desperately wanted a Venom figure for my Marvel Universe shelf and it fit the bill. The same is sort of the case here. I actually got this figure off of Ebay because it was bundled with my Avengers Black Widow at a pretty low price. And just like Venom, this Rhino figure fills a hole in my Spider-Man Marvel Universe rogue gallery. Let’s see what he’s all about…

The packaging is pretty solid. The red and blue deco matches Spidey’s color theme and there’s a nice illustration of him in the upper left hand corner of the card shooting web right at your face. The card also makes a big deal about the trading card game cards included in the package. The bubble inserts have some passable illustrations of Rhino. The “Power Charge” moniker may have you envisioning some horrible gimmicky abomination that is destined to ruin the figure. Let me guess, I pull him back and he zips forward? He shoots out of some launcher? Nope. Truth is apart from the trading card game, this figure is completely free of any kind of gimmicky weapons or other nonsense. There isn’t even a stupid, oversized missile launcher in here!

And it’s a good thing too, because if there were, there’d be no room for the figure. While he’s still scaled for the 3 ¾” line, Rhino is one big mamma-jamma. He’s on par with the larger MU figures like Apocalypse and Thanos. He’s also a downright fantastic sculpt. The texturing and little details on this guy are great. His skin looks like bonafide leathery rhino hide, and his armor is worn and pitted. The head sculpt is no slouch either, as this guy has one of the most maniacal looking mugs in the Marvel line up since Constrictor or Bullseye. Overall, this sculpt is better than most figures we’ve seen in the MU line, which makes me wonder why it was wasted in this goofy kid-orientated side show.

Rhino has six pieces of armor that fit over his shoulders, fists, and legs. They’re held on in the package by those tiny invisible rubber bands, and you may be better leaving them on because the armor doesn’t stay on all too well. I wound up blue-tacking mine, and I may eventually just glue them in place. I do like the armor, particularly the spiked shoulder pieces. On the other hand, the figure looks just fine without the added armor too, so it’s no big deal if you choose to leave it off.

On the downside, Rhino is missing a few points of articulation that sets him apart from the MU figures. His arms feature ball joints in his shoulders and elbows, and swivels in the biceps, no worries there. His legs are ball jointed in the hips, but there’s no knee or ankle articulation. His head can turn side to side, but there’s no articulation in the torso at all. The lack of knee articulation hurts the figure the most, but you can still get some decent poses out of him, so I’m not complaining too much.

I’ve never seen this guy in the stores, but that’s probably because I just never bother to look at these Spider-Man figures. Had I known it existed, I surely would have grabbed him up. As it happened, he was tossed in with my Black Widow for what turned out to be about $12 each shipped. Considering the price Black Widow goes for, I basically considered this figure to be a freebie, but even at twelve bucks, I feel vindicated. With rumors that Marvel Universe is ending next year, I’m getting more and more worried about which characters may never make it onto my display shelf, so if I need to rob from some other lines, I’m more than happy to do so.

Avengers: “Grapple Blast” Black Widow by Hasbro

If you’re on the hunt for Avengers figures, than chances are you know just how impossible this one is to find. Then again, considering there are none in my area, maybe they’re turning up everywhere else. Indeed, you may live in that Shangri-La where the pegs are crammed with Black Widows and Hawkeyes and dogs shit ice cream cones made out of solid gold. Nonetheless, the Avengers pegs here are still packed full of the initial wave of non-Avengers versions of Iron Man, Thor, and Cap, one of the dumbest moves I’ve seen Hasbro make, and believe me the list is a long one. I soon decided I would go the Ebay route, but quickly discovered that this little Scar-Jo is going for a shitload of money. Finally, I was lucky enough to get her bundled with another Marvel figure for what broke down to about twelve bucks each. So, let’s take a look…

It’s been a little while since we saw the Avengers packaging here, but that’s not my fault. Again, Hasbro, I want to buy your figures, but you fucked up the assortments and padded them out with lesser articulated versions of figures that I already have, so you’re not making it easy. Anyway, the figure comes in a big bubble mostly dominated by Black Widow’s ridiculous weapon. She’s holding one of her pistols and the other is mounted beside her head. The card art is pretty nice, and overall this is a serviceable and fairly attractive presentation, even if she and Hawkeye are excluded from the card art.

Out of the package and I am instantly impressed with the work Hasbro did on this figure. We could probably go back and forth on whether or not this is a great likeness of Scarlett Johansson, I happen to think it’s a very solid effort for a 3 ¾” figure. Either way, it’s hard to deny that his is one attractive lady. The face and hair are both sculpted beautifully and the paintwork is precise and truly impressive for this line. Hasbro, your Marvel Universe ladies in this scale have been a mixed bag when it comes to their faces, but guys, you hit this one right out of the ballpark!

In keeping with her on screen appearance, Black Widow’s costume is pretty low key. She’s nearly all black with just some blue-grey piping to break up the monochrome look. She still has her comic-style wrist bangles, only in black instead of yellow or grey, but the ankle bangles were nixed for the screen costume in place of slightly bulkier boots. She sports a plunging neckline, fingerless gloves, and a belt with two functional holsters that hangs loose on her hips. My only gripe with this sculpt is that her left hand isn’t really configured to hold her pistol, so I tend to keep that one in the holster. Apart from that, this is a great looking figure, which would probably even find a good home in any GI Joe collection.

Black Widow’s articulation is a nice surprise considering how many cut backs there are in the other figures. You get a ball jointed neck, ball jointed shoulders and elbows, and swivels in the wrists. Her legs are ball jointed at the hips, have swivel cuts in the thighs, double hinged knees, and hinges in the ankles. The biggest stumbling point here is the lack of articulation in the waist or torso. Bottom line, not perfect, but she has a heck of a lot more articulation than the MU version of Black Widow and that figure was from before Hasbro started making these cuts.

Of course, this figure is called “Grapple Blast” Black Widow, which gives some insight into the horribly shitty giant weapon that comes with her. I generally have little patience for any of Hasbro’s oversized weapons, but this one is so particularly vile and useless that I can’t even see the point. Bits fell off of it when I tried to load it and I happily pitched it into the garbage the moment I was finished photographing it. No, Grapple Blast, you don’t even get to go into the forgotten tub of useless oversized Hasbro weapons. It’s right in the trash for you! Considering there’s probably almost as much plastic in that useless weapon than the figure itself, I really need to question Hasbro’s priorities when it comes to cutting costs on these figures. Oh yeah, she also comes with a pair of tiny automatic pistols.

I had pretty high hopes for this Black Widow, and I’m happy to say that the figure mostly surpasses my expectations. The sculpt is excellent and the articulation is better than most of the other Avengers figures in this scale. If only she were able to properly hold her pistol in her left hand, I’d say she was nearly perfect. Sure, I had to pay a bit of a premium for her, but given most of the Buy It Now prices on Ebay, I could have been beaten up a lot worse. Truth is, I wasn’t prepared to drop thirty bucks on her, and so I was really worried I was never going to get her into my collection. And with my pre-order for Hot Toys’ Black Widow secured, I can finally rest easy knowing I’m covered. I still need to track down the 3 3/4” Hawkeye, but he seems to be dropping in price on the secondary market, so if I can’t find him on the pegs, I’ll bite the bullet and get him online.

Star Trek Enterprise: Captain Jonathan Archer and Charles Tucker in EVA Suits by Art Asylum

Just so y’all know Star Trek Saturday isn’t going to be all Playmates all the time, today we’re going to alter course to check out an anomaly. Enterprise was, of course, the final Star Trek series to date, and while I don’t think it was received well by many, I enjoyed it quite a lot, except for all that third season Xindi nonsense. Art Asylum, a talented and upstart toy company, which has since been absorbed into Diamond Select, did a very impressive line of 6-inch action figures based on the series. Today we’re going to check out Captain Archer and Engineer “Trip” Tucker in their EVA suits.

No package shot, but we’ll get to some packaged examples of Enterprise figures eventually. These figures came in beefy carded bubbles that looked more like window boxes, thanks to all the illustrated inserts in the bubble. Each of these figures was carded separately, but we’re looking at them together because they basically share the same EVA suit body. Well, almost anyway. My Archer figure is slightly larger and his legs are at a bit of a wider stance. I don’t want to take away the fact that AA actually did two separate sculpts for two such similar figures, but for the purposes of this feature, we’re going to treat the bodies as one. Either way, the EVA suits were prominent garb in the first three seasons of Enterprise since the Transporter was still considered to be experimental and the crew had to suit up frequently whenever they went on Away Missions.

The first thing you may notice about these figures when you get them in hand is how hefty they are. The EVA suits aren’t particularly bulky, and yet they feel so satisfyingly heavy. The bulk of the suits are sculpted as part of the figure in a rubbery plastic that feels like the suit probably would in real life. The chest pieces, on the other hand are molded in harder plastic and fit on over the figures’ neck and around the arms. It is removable, but it’s a bear to get back on, so I’m going to bow out of including any photos of the figures with the chest piece removed.

The sculpting on the suits is absolutely fantastic, with every tiny detail of the EVA suits recreated. You get the little stitching, the tubes, the belts, the patches of silver material, and it’s all sculpted to look as if it’s a separate garment. Even the straps that run under the figures’ groins are cast in rubbery plastic over the suit so they can bend with the figure. The front of the chest pieces have a small control panel and feature the character’s name and the Enterprise logo tampo’ed onto them in fine detail. The back of the chest piece has a removable set of cartridges, which I always presumed to be the oxygen tank or O2 scrubbers. The helmets fit over the head and secure to the neck ring with three tabs. There are two main hoses and a wire that all plug into the top of the backpack. It fits together pretty well for display purposes, but because the hoses are so soft and bendy, it can be hard to get them into their holes, and it all tends to pop out pretty easily if you’re fiddling about with the figures.

It’s awesome that the helmets are removable because the head sculpts on these figures are fantastic. The likeness to Scott Bakula and Connor Trinneer is absolutely spot-on and really show off just how talented the guys at Art Asylum were. The paintwork on the faces is pretty solid. With this somewhat larger scale of figure, you get into that area where the usual mass market paint quality sometimes isn’t good enough, but what’s here is certainly looks great. The hairlines are well defined and I’ve always been a fan of the skin being painted on rather than left bare plastic.

Both figures feature the same articulation. The heads are ball jointed, the arms feature ball joints in the shoulders and elbows, and swivels in the wrists. The legs have a simple “T” joint at the hips, hinges in the knees, and ball joints in the ankles. The figures can also rotate at the waist. What’s here is pretty good and I think the only thing I’m really missing is lateral movement at the hips. Mattel’s DCUC joint would have been most welcome here.

Accessories… ah, well, here’s where I’m a bit foggy because mine seem to be scattered throughout different totes. Each figure has a phase pistol and I’m pretty sure each one came with a communicator as well. It’s possible there may have been some tricorders in there too. Lastly, each one came with a little sculpted Enterprise coin-disc thingy, which serves no real purpose. I find the absence of stands to be a shame. These figures are such outstanding work, they really deserve their own stands.

It’s kind of ironic that the one Star Trek series with the most precarious fan base got some of the best figures, but that was certainly the case here. These guys are absolutely amazing from the heft to the sculpt to the design to the paintwork, I can’t say enough good things about them. They certainly don’t feel like your typical mass market retail figures and yet there they were hanging on the pegs in Target and Toys R Us with the rest of the lines. I rarely have a lot of my Star Trek figures on display, but I always find room for Art Asylum’s Enterprise figures just because they’re so damn impressive. AA did a number of other cool things with this line, so I’m sure we’ll spend quite a few Saturdays checking out the rest of the Enterprise line.

Vintage Vault: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Hook Horror by LJN

Ok, I think it’s been long enough that we can stand to come back to revisit LJN’s AD&D line on Vintage Vault. Today we’re checking out another one of the poseable monster figures. LJN only did two of these (I’m not counting Tiamat, because he’s in a class all by himself!) and we’ve already looked at the Dragonne, so today we’ll take a look at the Hook Horror! THE HORROR!!! Today’s going to be a bit of a quickie, as I have some drinking social obligations later on and since there isn’t a hell of a lot to him, Hook Horror is a figure that I can do justice in a pretty short amount of time.

No packaged shot, but like the Dragonne, this fellow came in a window box. It’s nothing spectacular, but it does show off the toy pretty well and has lots of fun AD&D information on the back panel. Since I don’t have the package, I had to resort to one of my dog eared Monster Manuals for this one. Apparently Hook Horror is a neutrally aligned aberration that tends to live in caves and possesses its own language to communicate with other Hook Horrors.

The figure is a pretty good representation of official TSR illustrations. He’s a hulking black and gray creature, which despite having an overall humanoid appearance, features birdlike feet and beaked head similar to a vulture. He’s got little upturned ears and, of course, his powerful arms terminate into giant hooks. LJN did a nice job sculpting this beastie, as there’s a lot of texturing, particularly on his back, and the muscles on his chest are nicely defined. The coloring is pretty simple, as most of the figure is molded in black plastic, with the hooks and ears molded in a softer, yellow plastic. There’s some grey paintwork at the ends of his arms and legs, and his beak and eyes are painted yellow.

Despite being one of the poseable monsters of the line, Hook Horror still doesn’t have a lot of articulation. His head turns from side to side and his arms rotate at the shoulders. The rest of him is just a statue. Some cuts in the hips would have been welcome.

And that’s all I’ve got on the Hook Horror. Told ya this would be a quickie. He’s not a bad figure when placed in the context of the line, but he doesn’t come close to the amazing work LJN did on the Dragonne. Still, he’s relatively cheap to buy, I replaced my broken original for about $12, so if you want, you can put together a whole herd of these things to fight your heroes and not have to empty the treasure chest to do it. They tend to turn up in good condition, with the two biggest problems being loose arms that won’t stay up and chipping on the yellow paint around the beak. As I mentioned when looking at the Dragonne, I’ve always been surprised LJN went with Hook Horror as being one of the only two poseable monsters in the line, rather than one of the more higher profile monsters, but then I’m reminded that many more were planned before the line was cancelled. And that was a real shame.

Lord of the Rings: Shelob Attacks (#9460) by LEGO

LEGO is doing their best to make up for discontinuing my beloved Pharaoh’s Quest line with these new Lord of the Rings sets. This time we’re checking out the next size down from the Uruk-hai Army set that we looked at last time. Shelob Attacks recreates the battle between Frodo and Sam and the giant spider, Shelob, while on their way to Mordor.

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The set comes in a typical box that does its best to show you all that you’re getting inside. I’m still digging the Lord of the Rings deco across the top. Tearing open the box, you spill out four baggies of pieces and an instruction manual. The baggies aren’t numbered, so you have to spill everything out into one big pile. You also get a little box with the capes for the minifigs and a little box with the string for Shelob’s webbing. The piece count on this one is 227, which is only 30 pieces less than the last set, and there are a lot of tiny pieces in here. When all is done, you get three minifigs, a little cave, and the showpiece of the set, Shelob. Let’s start with the minifigs…

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The set comes with Frodo, Samwise Gamgee, and Gollum. You’ll have other opportunities to get Frodo and Sam, but right now it seems like Gollum is exclusive to this set. The Hobbits are both smaller than your average Lego minifig, which is cool, although some may take issue by the fact that they’re wearing shoes, rather than have hairy feet like Hobbitses should. Seriously, LEGO? How did you drop the ball on that one? They also have less articulation than normal minifigs, as their legs are not hinged at all. The printing on their outfits is very nice and each one has a double-printed face. Their hair pieces are repaints of the same piece, but it works well, and they each come with the same cloth cape. Gollum is even smaller than the Hobbits and he’s actually molded almost entirely from one piece. His arms attach and can move, but that’s it. He’s also got one seriously deranged face printed onto him making him the most disturbing LEGO minifig I have ever seen.

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Each minifig comes with some accessories. Frodo comes with his Elven sword, Sting and the ring (actually I got two Stings and three rings!), and the ring is a very nice vac-metal gold, albeit obviously oversized for the figures. Sam comes with a sword and what I first thought was a diamond, but it’s actually meant to be a flask of Elvish potion. Gollum comes with a fish!

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The cave is nothing to write home about. It’s just a little archway for Gollum to hide in and it does have a little see-saw like catapult that you can put Gollum on and flick him toward Frodo so he can try to reclaim his Precious. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect to get in an impulse set and it makes a decent little piece of scenery for the main event…

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Yes, Shelob is the big attraction here. I’ll confess I wasn’t terribly excited about building her since I’ve built my share of LEGO arachnids before and they tend to get a little repetitive what with the same build for each of the eight legs and all. That having been said, I really did enjoy building this one, mainly because of the very clever gear system used for her working web. Ok, it’s more like a grappling hook, but you can pull the string out pretty far and then use the gear on the bottom of the figure to crank it back in. It’s a very cool gimmick. The figure itself looks great and even has one of its printed eyes poked out! The legs are each articulated in four places and the back of the body can raise and lower, as can the head. Shelob can also stand perfectly fine on her legs. She’s a satisfyingly large figure and looks even more impressive when displayed against the tiny Hobbits.

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This set goes for about twenty bucks at Target and Walmart and when you consider the piece count and the fact that it took me a solid hour to build, I’m pretty happy. In fact, as much as I love the Uruk-hai Army set, I’d say this one feels like a better value. It feels more complete and it was a more satisfying build, and it also comes with three of the most central minifigs in the series. On the downside, I may not be able to sleep knowing that LEGO Gollum is in my house. He scares the shit out of me.

Transformers Prime: Knock Out by Hasbro

Yeah, yeah… so here’s the real reason I was staying away from TF:Prime figures, because I knew I couldn’t just buy a couple to check them out. The floodgates are opened and I couldn’t escape my last visit to the toy aisle without picking up another one. It didn’t help that there was yet another Decepticon car on the pegs and ya’ll know by now that I can’t resist Decepticon cars. This time we’re going to look at Knock Out. I thought he was the Decepticon doctor in the show, but based on the cardback, he seems to be more of the weapons outfitter. I guess I need to watch the show more.

Yay, I have an in-package shot! I’m still really digging on this presentation. The luxuriously oversized card features an awesome deco and really sweet character art. This is packaging that makes me want to buy a toy. Knock Out comes mounted under the bubble in his vehicle mode, and as always, we’ll start there.

 

Ok, I’m not a big fan of the colors here. It seems to be show accurate, so I’m not faulting it there, but I’m just not crazy about how they look on the toy. The two-tone matte purple and bare red plastic just don’t work at all for me, and the extra splash of silver on the sides isn’t helping. It’s hard to lay that aside, but once I do, I can certainly appreciate the sculpt of the car mode. It’s a sleek sportscar with clear windows and clear headlights and in general it just has a nice shape and feel to it, color notwithstanding. Knock Out has a weapons socket on each side just above and in front of his rear wheels, so you can mount his spear onto either side.

Transforming Knock Out was an overly fidgety affair my first time out and his crotch piece popped off the figure and had to be recovered from my cat’s lair under the desk. Besides the personal peril of having to venture into my cat’s treasure larder to retrieve the piece, I just hate when bits pop off my Transformers. It wasn’t broken and easily replaced, but it’s the principle of the matter that just upsets me. Anyway, let’s check out Knock Out’s robot mode.

Ok, not bad. Unfortunately the colors really don’t change, but they look a bit more forgivable on a robot than on a sportscar. Despite the fidgety transformation, there are some clever things going on here. I like the way the bumper wraps around and locks into place to become his waist. It’s actually mis-transformed on the back of the package. The arm designs are also pretty clever, although the windows interfere with the articulation a bit. The upper torso configuration is what’s tricky. You really have to get it just right or the whole thing doesn’t work. The head sculpt is really well done. I like his douchebag smirk that for some reason makes me associate this character with a reinvention of G1 Swindle.

I’m not a fan of Knock Out’s battle spear. It’s hinged and can also split apart to form two smaller “battle spikes” but he can’t hold it very well, which makes it a bit of a waste. He has a pair of sockets on his back so you can store it there, but I don’t think it looks very good on his back. All in all, I would have preferred a nice gun.

If I seem to be coming away from this figure with a “meh” attitude, it’s probably only because Ratchet and The Vehicon set some incredibly high standards and I really don’t dig the coloring on him. Knock Out is a perfectly solid figure, and this is a case where I’m really excited to see Hasbro do a repaint of this one. I think a better paint job can do wonders to smooth over the few rough points about this figure. All in all, he’s still a solid pick up and I’d still come away recommending him. And besides, he’s a Decepticon car, and that almost always gets a pass in my book.