FarScape Series 1: Chiana (Armed and Dangerous) by Toy Vault

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[I’ve got to start today with a bit of self-serving bullocks because today marks the Third Anniversary of FigureFan. I’m not doing anything special today, at least not in front of the camera, but I have embarked on some behind the scenes stuff to start pushing FigureFan Zero to the next phase of development. This blog started evolving all the way back around 1997 with TechnoCothica, a site that dabbled in video games and related action figures and collectibles and it was eventually rebooted on Feb 18th 2010 into what it is today. Three years and 860+ features later and it’s still chugging along.

Thanks to everyone who has shot me emails with feedback, praise and criticism. I try to take it all to heart and I’ve met a lot of cool people along the way who I’m now proud to call Cyber-Friends. I do this first and foremost as an outlet for my passion, but it’s always nice to know some other people get enjoyment out of it somewhere along the way.

Ok, enough of that… on with the today’s feature…]

Last Monday I kicked off my look at Toy Vault’s Farscape figures with Zhaan, and I promised I’d be back this week to look at Chiana. She’s still a new character to me, as I’m just now finishing Season 1. I’m still deciding whether I dig her or not as part of the show. She’s portrayed by the lovely Gigi Edgley, who despite looking like she’s engaged in Blade Runner cosplay, delivers quite an intriguing performance. Let’s take a gander at how she fares in action figure form!

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The packaging is the same presentation we saw with Zhaan. The design really captures the feel of the show and the architecture of Moya, their living spaceship. The bubble displays the figure well and features a printed insert with the character’s name and a list of her accessories. The back of the panel has some stills of the characters from the show, but no photos of the actual figures. There’s also a small assortment of stats on the character. I’m not sure if she actually sold for $17 when she was released about 10 years ago, but I picked her up for a deal at a local comic shop. I must have seen her and Zhaan hanging on the pegs a dozen times, but never took notice until I started watching the show.

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Zhaan’s sculpt was competent enough work, but I really think the folks at Toy Vault totally nailed this one. The figure’s portrait is a great likeness for her on screen persona. The dark eyes, wild hair, and open mouth all make her instantly recognizable, and the paintwork on her face is clean and sharp. Chiana’s outfit is also sculpted with a lot of detail to bring out the crazy web like pattern in her pants and top. She’s showing off a little cleavage and midriff and her muscles are subtly sculpted into place as is her little belly button. To keep the mixed media gimmick coming, Chiana has two little spots of fluff glued onto her shoulders to simulate the furry pieces on the character’s costume. About the only thing here that’s a tad off is the painted shadowing effect on her cleavage. It looks a little heavy handed and cheesy, but not too bad.

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Chiana sports about the same seven points of articulation as Zhaan. You get a swivel in the neck, rotating shoulders, swivels in the wrists and in the hips. But while Zhaan was sculpted in a fairly neutral stance, Chiana is a lot more pre-posed. Her legs are permanently bent at the knees, one elbow is bent a bit and her other arm is drawn up completely to hold the weapon at the ready. Her hip articulation is really only practical for tweaking her to stand better. Otherwise we’re looking at a figure that comes from the DC Direct school of articulation, where you can make a few adjustments to her pose but nothing too radical.

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Chiana comes with three accessories. You get her punishment collar, a pair of working handcuffs, and a gun. The gun is a nicely detailed piece with some paint wash to give it some realism and wear and she can hold it quite well in her left hand. The collar can fit around her neck and has some tiny paint apps to simulate the lights. The handcuffs… well, it’s just cool to have a working pair of 7-inch scale handcuffs. I prefer to pose her with them hanging off her right wrist. The odd thing here is that it seems like something is missing as Chiana’s right hand is posed as if it was designed to take a circular object. It’s useless with any of her accessories. I’m guessing either something was left out or they had planned to re-release her later with an additional accessory.

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Did I mention last time that these figures scale perfectly with Diamond’s Trek figures? Yes, I did… because I love that crossover potential. All in all, Chiana is definitely a nice piece of work on Toy Vault’s part. The sculpting and paint work are all top notch and the accessories are well thought out. Sure, I would have preferred a fully articulated action figure to a semi-poseable statue, but I can’t deny that she displays really well on the shelf. I bought these ladies just to feel out the line and see what it was all about, but I’m pleased enough with the pair of them to keep pressing on. We’ll keep the Farscape Monday tradition rolling along next week with a look at the loveable Luxan Warrior, D’argo.

Transformers Fall of Cybertron: Bruticus by Hasbro

It’s Saturday and I actually have the weekend off! I’ve got a lot of doing nothing ahead of me and I want to get started, so today’s entry will be a quickie. With all five Combaticons in my possession, I’m finally able to merge them into Bruticus. I should forewarn that based on Hasbro’s own photos of the gestalt mode, I was in no hurry to complete him. I bought the Combaticons strictly for their individual modes and to beef up my Decepticon forces. In short, I wasn’t expecting much at all. The end result was a bit of a pleasant surprise for my low expectations.

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I’ll start out by saying that Bruticus is a solid figure that holds together fairly well. He runs into some issues if you try to pose him a lot, but his limbs form a strong lock and his torso is able to carry the weight and stand tall doing it. A gestalt that crumbles when you look at it funny is no fun at all, and Bruticus definitely avoids that issue. Another big plus is that he’s one of the most self-contained combiners that Hasbro has ever produced. If you disregard his gun, he doesn’t require any extra parts to make him work. Each robot transforms into his own component and they lock together. And his gun is rubbish anyway, and I just use that piece to fill out his hollow back. It may seem like a minor thing, but I really respect the engineering required to make him work without a pile of add-on parts. Sure, the Power Core Combiners did it, but their limbs didn’t turn into robots, so they don’t really count.

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The shame of Bruticus is that he’s a three out of five. Onslaught, Brawl, and Swindle all hold up their end of the bargain and look great doing it. Onslaught is beautifully proportioned as the torso and the legs are satisfyingly chunky and solid. The problem is with Blast Off and Vortex. Blast Off is more of a solid arm, but he’s too long and too hollow in the forearm. Vortex, on the other hand (har har), well he’s just a mess. And the two of them are terribly mismatched. Blast Off’s arm mode is longer than Vortex and the hands look like they belong on two different robots.

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The color scheme isn’t as terrible as I envisioned it. Yes, I would have liked it if Brawl was more military green than neon green, but I can live with it. I think Swindle would have been better if he were more mustard colored rather than bright yellow. The theme here, Hasbro, is just tune down the colors because it isn’t 1993 anymore. Onslaught and Blast Off’s colors are just fine. It’s Vortex that wrecks it for me. Vortex wrecks everything… except for the game… he kicked ass in that. The mix of that red and purple are just as bad in his limb mode as they are in his other modes. Screw you, Vortex! You suck!!!

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Let’s face it, Hasbro has not been batting a thousand with their combiners. The Energon line’s attempts were well intentioned but ultimately a mess, saved only by Fanproject’s expensive additional figures and add-on parts. The Power Core Combiners were an interesting experiment, but their use of drones for limbs was a little beyond what we TF fans look for in a true combiner, and most of them were not all that good anyway. With all that being said, Bruticus is definitely one of their better attempts. I’d go so far as to say the torso and legs are quite good, and that ultimately the figure is marred by its unfortunately awkward and mismatched arms. With a little better engineering in Vortex and Blast Off, I think this figure could have been excellent. As it stands, I think it’s just a decent attempt and possibly an instance of lessons learned and a springboard for a better attempt later on down the road.

And that will finish me for the week. I have a lot more Transformers to look at, but in the interest of preventing the tragic condition known as Transformer Fatigue, I’m going to place a one week moratorium on TF features and just to make sure I stick to it, I’m going to make next week a theme and an unconventional one at that. I’ve already promised Monday to another Farscape feature, but after that it’ll be Jabba’s Palace week. That’s right, only Star Wars figures, and only ones connected to Jabba’s Palace. Not only will it keep me off the Transformers features for a week, but it’ll force me to finally open some of the figures I’ve been assembling for my new Jabba display. Catch ya all on Monday.

Transformers Fall of Cybertron: Brawl by Hasbro

Yeah, I bought Vortex last, but I didn’t want to end my look at the Combaticons with such a downer, so I saved Brawl here for the final feature. Not that Brawl is one of the better figures of the team, but he isn’t as terrible as Vortex. He’s solidly average. I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s dive in.

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Transformers. Generations. Fall of Cybertron. Packaging. Seen it. Love it. BUILD GIANT ROBOT!!! Brawl is packaged in robot mode, but as usual we’ll start with his alt mode.

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Ah, the Cybertronian tank. Make a box and put a turret on the top. It doesn’t even need real treads! It hovers!!! It’s the wet dream of any lazy Transformer designer. Back in the day Cybertronian tanks looked a lot more interesting and bad ass. Just look at Beast Machines Tankor. He’s got style. Brawl, on the other hand, just gets by as being a lime green gun platform. It’s a design so average that it makes War for Cybertron Megatron’s tank mode look like a freaking masterpiece. But at least his alt mode isn’t a ROFLCOPTER like poor Vortex. Brawl’s turret turns and the guns can elevate, which is cool. He also stores his handgun in his turret as a little extra firepower. I’m being hard on Brawl, but truth is his alt mode is Ok for what it is. I guess we’ll cut him some slack because he’s technically a triple changer. Not you, Vortex… you get no slack.

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Transforming Brawl into robot mode is easy. If you pick him up and turn him over you can see everything that’s going on. Transforming him into his tank mode looks easy on paper, but in reality it’s kind of a pain in the ass. It’s all about adjusting his arms so that the tabs lock in just right. Like most Transformers, it gets easier the more you do it, but the first couple of times frustrated me, mainly because the payoff isn’t that great.

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Brawl’s robot mode redeems him a bit. Again, he’s not spectacular, but he’s a solid enough looking robot. He has a fairly clean, well-proportioned form and some pretty some cool sculpted detail, like the pistons under his chest. He also has a really cool head sculpt, complete with a faceplate. On the downside, his combiner hinge and the back of the tank just hang down past his legs and are a bit of an eyesore. He’s extremely back heavy and his legs are all loosey goosey so he’s tough to stand up. The situation is made worse because his feet don’t lock into place, so there’s no support there either and they’re prone to just folding back up. Try to stand him and he usually just folds like a house of cards. His coloring comes mostly from his green and black plastic with a little grey here and there. I honestly don’t mind his green as much as I thought I would and at least Hasbro remembered to stamp his Decepticon emblem on his chest, unlike Vortex.

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Brawl certainly has some issues, but I just find him to be a fun figure to play around with. He has good poseability, and I like to think that in robot mode, he can just hunch forward and lob artillery shells from the cannons on his back. You’ve got to like anyone who can do that! He’s still not a lot of toy for $15 as his engineering is overly simple and he has hardly any heft to him at all. I get it. Oil is expensive, plastic is expensive. But I can’t help but wonder why our Deluxes are getting smaller and simpler at the same time Hasbro is bringing Star Wars to 6-inch scale and introducing a new 2-foot tall Titan Class of Transformer.

Well, that wraps up my look at all of the individual Combaticons. Tomorrow we’ll put this week to bed with a look at Bruticus and see if the toy can be as delightfully badass as the character in the game.

Transformers Fall of Cybertron: Vortex by Hasbro

There were a lot of enjoyable levels in Fall of Cybertron, but surprisingly, Vortex’s were among my favorites. The big open area and the ability to strafe Autobots, transform into robot, beat the hell out of them, and then transform back into helicopter and fly off was really damn cool. I replayed his parts more than any others and all the time I had a big smile on my face while thinking, “Damn, it’s good to be a Decepticon!” It’s pretty sad and ironic that such a fun character in the game wound up with the worst of all the Combaticon figures. There’s no way to sugar coat this, so let me take a couple of belts of Jameson and then we’ll dive right in.

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There’s the Generations packaging. Amazingly, it still looks good while holding such a shitty figure. Vortex is probably the best use of the BUILD GIANT ROBOT sticker, because when I saw him hanging on the peg, I wanted to leave him there, but then I realized that if I didn’t buy him, I couldn’t BUILD GIANT ROBOT! I’ve come this far, what’s another fifteen bucks to see what Bruticus is all about, right? Combiners are the C&Cs and BAFs of the Transformers Universe. It makes you buy figures you don’t really want. I don’t have a lot more to say about the package, other than it looks like Hasbro tried to tone down his awful colors for the character art, but that’s like toning down an exploding sun and it doesn’t help when the actual figure can be seen right below it. Let’s start with his helicopter mode.

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Vortex is a helicopter in the most abstract of senses. He’s a big angular mess with rotor blades on top and some landing skids. He kind of looks like a crude polygon model of a helicopter from an early PlayStation game. If helicopters had mothers, this helicopter’s mom would have drowned it in the tub. It’s possible that the concept of a Cybertronian helicopter just doesn’t work that well, but it doesn’t change how awful this mode is in execution. And then there are the colors. What the hell were you thinking here, Hasbro? Vortex looks like he’s made to represent the worst, most obnoxious deco that Generation 2 had to offer. Which is crazy, because there is an actual Generation 2 version of this figure and it looks subdued and rational by comparison. The horrible combination of that purple and red coupled with the piercing yellow on his swords makes my eyes bleed hot tears of burning agony. Maybe Vortex’s robot mode can save this figure…

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Ah, nope. While not nearly the atrocity that his alt mode is, Vortex’s robot mode is decidedly average. The proportions are ok but his arm articulation is awkward and I don’t like the way his head just hovers a bit above his chest. He also feels unbelievable cheap and hollow and nothing like a $15 toy should feel. Seriously, there’s just something about his complete lack of heft that sets him apart from the other Combaticons and makes him feel like a knock off. It probably doesn’t help that he’s missing his Decepticon emblem on his chest. There’s a space in the mold where it was supposed to go and it’s pictured on photos of the toy on the cardback, but either my Vortex missed out or Hasbro decided it wasn’t cost effective to stamp a tiny emblem on a $15 toy that feels cheap and small to begin with. Sheesh! The colors in robot mode are a tiny bit more palatable, but only because he shows more purple and a little less of that terrible and obnoxious red.

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Vortex comes with a pair of swords that are every bit as obnoxiously colored as he is. Someone at Hasbro clearly said, “the colors… not obnoxious enough… make the swords blinding, neon yellow!” The swords can clip onto Vortex’s skids in his helicopter mode or he can wield them in his hands.

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It seriously pains me to hate on any Transformer, but I can’t help it here. Vortex is poop. Just about every aspect of this figure offers me something to dislike. If you’re a fan of the trippy neon colors of the G2 era, than maybe you’ll find the deco to your liking, but even if that’s the case the rest of the figure is still garbage. And as much as I dislike the engineering and the deco, it’s the fact that this figure feels so cheap that I’d expect to find it hanging in a Family Dollar store on a generic card that said SUPER CHANGING ROBOT HELICOPTER or some other nonsense. The Fall of Cybertron toys have been fairly solid thus far, but when Hasbro releases crap like this figure and charges $15 for it, they are further sullying their reputation. At this point, Hasbro, you’re driving collectors into the arms of the Fansprojects, Perfect Effects, and TFC’s out there. I’d much rather spend $60 on a better looking, better quality, better engineered, deluxe sized figure from one of them, than $15 a piece of crap like this.

Marvel Super Heroes: Spider-Man’s Bugle Showdown (#76005) by Lego

Yes, I had planned on doing two days of Toy Closet Finds this week, but this weekend a box showed up at my door containing Marvel Lego goodness. I didn’t think I’d find the time to put this thing together until the end of the week, but Saturday proved to be a great morning to sit at my desk, sip my coffee, follow Toy Fair coverage and build me a big honkin Lego set. As such, I’ll be pre-empting today’s TCF feature in favor of this wonderful acquisition. Because new Lego beats old shit that I found in my closet.

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Holding the box of a giant, unbuilt Lego set usually puts a huge smile on my face, but that smile was even bigger as I held this beauty. I mean look at this thing. It’s got Doctor Doom attacking the Daily Bugle building with an f’ing gunship! And while you digest the awesomeness of that sentence, I’ll toss out there that I haven’t even mentioned the real reason I couldn’t resist this set, but we’ll get to that in a minute. I should note that the set appears to be based on the current Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon. I’ve never seen it, so I’m just taking this on as a straight Spidey set.

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I’ve had big Lego boxes like this with a lot of air in them, but this one is stuffed with content. You get three instruction booklets, a sticker sheet, a loose base piece and a loose piece of spider webbing, and five large numbered baggies containing 476 pieces. I haven’t built a 400+ set in a long time! When all is said and done, you get to build The Daily Bugle building, Dr. Doom’s gunship, and five minifigs. My spider senses tell me that we’re going to start with the minifigs!

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First off, there’s Spidey and Doctor Doom. Spidey’s a colorful figure with attractive printing, but there aren’t any other real surprises here. I like the printed webbing on the back of his head. Doctor Doom features a cape and hood and looks every bit the character. He should have come with a gun, but I’m sure I have one I can loan him.

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Next up, you’ve got Nova and Beetle. I can’t say as I’ve ever been jonesing for a Nova minifig, I’d much rather have him in Legends or Marvel Universe,  but he’s still plenty cool. Having the character in the cartoon is will hopefully make that happen someday. The dark blue contrasts nicely with the bright red and yellow. He has a helmet and two printed faces. Beetle is a cool enough figure too. His printing is simple, but he does have a pair of translucent wings and a gun. Both of these guys are solid efforts and good additions to the set, I’m just not the right target audience for the characters.

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Yep, these are some cool minifigs, but I’m sure I’m forgetting something… Oh yeah, HOLY SHIT, I OWN A LEGO MINIFIG OF J. JONAH MOTHER F’ING JAMESON!!! I’m pretty sure that Lego could have just dropped him alone into this huge box, sealed it up and charged me $50 and I would have bought it. Look at him! He’s so adorable and angry and while he does have two printed faces, in my mind he’s constantly screaming, so I’ll always be displaying him with the super angry face. He comes with a little camera and he can also hold the photo or newspaper that comes with the set.

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The bulk of this set is the Daily Bugle building, which has evolved with the times to become the Daily Bugle Media Conglomerate. This thing was a lot of fun to build, and threw me for a couple loops in terms of which windows got stickers, but I only had to go back a couple of steps to fix it. The front of the building is epic. It’s got a huge cluster of digital screens making up a massive picture of Jameson’s angry face shaking a rolled up newspaper at the city. There are double doors on the front, a fire escape running up one side. The top of the building is adorned with satellite dish and two antenna all used to spew Jameson’s glorious filth at the world. You also get a street light and a dumpster.

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Turn the building around and you get four levels to play in. The lobby doesn’t have much going on, just a potted plant. The second storey has a safe a graphic arts desk and a chair. The third storey is Jameson’s office with a desk, computer and desk light. The roof just offers some extra space for perilous battles to ensue.

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The set is also crammed with well-designed play gimmicks. The dumpster can flip a figure into the air. There’s a button that blows one of the windows out to expose the safe. There’s another one that opens a trap door on the roof. A third lever can be used to launch Spidey off the roof and have him swing on his web. Ok, that last one doesn’t work all that well, but it’s still fun.

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But wait! You also get Doctor Doom’s gunship, which is no doubt the slickest piece of military hardware Latverian tax dollars could buy. It’s a single-seater, fixed wing VTOL aircraft with two flick fire missiles, pivoting engines, and a winch with a claw on it for grabbing the safe, other minifigs, or just ripping the damn building apart.

This set was $50, which seems like a solid value considering how long it took me to build and the potential for fun here. The Bugle building really makes me wish I had more Lego City buildings so that I could have it dominating all of them. In the past year or so of Lego building I’ve built everything from star fighters to attack subs, and this building is still one of my favorite pieces in my collection. Go figure! Sure, everything that comes in this set is awesome, but just the ability to have my Daily Bugle Media Empire building and a Jameson figure is plenty for me. I can see myself treating this thing like a doll house and just playing with Jameson in it as he goes about his daily routines. I’m going to have to get some generic Lego office workers for him to constantly scream at, and I need to steal a coffee pot from one of my Lego City police sets, because Jonah needs plenty of caffeine to fuel his endless rage until he has a heart attack and a Lego City ambulance comes to get him. But Lego Jameson will survive to have a ton of adventures, not least of which will be covering the Lego Alien Conquest Wars, which will unfold outside his building. He’ll also hire Lego Deadpool as a bodyguard so he will be a permanent resident. Shenanigans will ensue. This is one of the best Lego sets EVER!

Ultima Online: Lord Blackthorne and Adranath by McFarlane

I know there’s a little thing called Toy Fair going on and I’m burning a lot of my spare time pouring over the reports from on the scene. I don’t do news here, so I won’t be doing any regular updates about it, but at some point this week I will post some random thoughts about what we’re seeing. As for today… like duct tape holding together the middle of the week… this is more Toy Closet Finds! It’s frightening just how many loose McFarlane figures I have rattling around in the bottoms of totes. It’s even more frightening considering I unloaded dozens of these things at a yard sale once. How do I still have so many? Are they breeding? Since this isn’t the first time I’ve featured one of the Ultima Online figures here, I’ll skip the long prelude about the adoration I had for the Ultima game series growing up and the bitter soul-crushing betrayal I felt when the franchise turned into an MMORPG. Good thing I never have to feel that kind of disappointment again, right? I mean, a single-player game that I love turning on its roots and becoming exclusively online. I don’t have to worry about that happening again…

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Oh… Right. Anyway, when I stumbled upon a nearly full set of these figures at KB Toys’ liquidator store many years ago I bought them based on the novelty of actually owning some Ultima figures. It didn’t matter that the characters were unfamiliar to me. There weren’t any Shamino or Iolo figures hanging on the pegs, so these would have to do. It also didn’t hurt that they were $4.88 each. The packages are long gone, but suffice it to say they came in your typical McFarlane clamshells. Let’s start with Lord Blackthorne first.

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Lord Blackthorne was one of the coolest twists of the original Ultima games. He was basically a guy who took over the kingdom of Lord British and warped the Virtues to serve his autocracy. He turned The Avatar from a hero to an outlaw and boy did I learn to hate that bastard. There are times when I think, “maybe I didn’t give Ultima Online a chance. Maybe I missed out on something that respected and enriched my beloved franchise.” And then I see this figure and banish all such thoughts from my head. Yes… apparently somewhere along the way in Ultima Online he turned into some kind of f’ing steampunk cyborg. Sigh.

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I’m going to do this guy a favor and completely detach it from Ultima. Once I stop thinking about this guy as Lord Blackthorne I can really get behind this figure because everything about him is awesome. He’s only about three-quarters of a torso as his entire lower half has been replaced by a giant spike and his left arm has been replaced by a massive robotic claw. His hard plastic cape is sculpted to serve as a base and make him appear to be hovering. It’s a clever design and it supports the figure really well. He has some kind of giant tank strapped to his back, shoulder armor, and hoses and wires running all over the place.

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The sculpted detail and paintwork on Blackthorne is beyond impressive. The metal parts have all their sculpted rivets, screws, and panel lines. There are welding marks along the seams of the tank on his back and all the artificial bits have rough, hammered surfaces. Even the organic bits are beautifully recreated. He has veins in his arms, staples along a gash on his head and a grim expression. If you’re into nasty looking steampunk cyborg dudes, this is a guy that belongs in your collection.

Blackthorne’s articulation features a head that rotates, rotating shoulders, and a waist swivel. His robotic arm has an elbow hinge and one of the claws is hinged as well. There’s also a hinge on his left shoulder armor to allow for greater movement in that arm. Unfortunately, a couple of points of articulation are better left unused. Rotating Blackthorne’s head will cause the cable running into his head to tear and rotating him at the waist will cause part of his cape to come away from its socket. Like most McFarlane figures, he’s best left to stand on the shelf and look cool.

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And then there’s Adranath. I had to look this guy up because after hundreds upon hundreds of hours spent in the Ultima universe, I had no idea who this asshole was and that’s because he was a new character introduced in the online game. I still couldn’t find a lot of info on him, so it makes me wonder if all the characters in UO are so shallow that this guy deserved an action figure over the others. Apparently he’s some kind of necromancer and he dresses well.

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Either way, the character means nothing to me, but I really dig this figure. Unlike Blackthorne with all his steampunkery, Adranath looks like he’d be right at home in any fantasy setting. His face is wrinkled and puckered, like he’s been chilling out at the bottom of a lake for a couple of hundred years, but the rest of the figure is characterized by a magnificently sculpted lordly outfit. The detail work on his finery really blows my mind and it’s stuff like this that reminds me why I bought so many McFarlane figures back then in the first place. Just looking at all the sculpted detail on the back of his cape, right down to the tiny crosshatch texturing, impresses the hell out of me. He comes with a gnarled twisted wood staff, with gold string hanging some beads from it.

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Adranath has six points of articulation. His head will turn, his arms rotate at the shoulders, his left elbow has a swivel cut and his hands swivel at the wrists.

And that’s all I’m going to have to say about McFarlane’s UO figures. I should hate these figures because they’re tied to the fact that Lord Betrayal British sold out and raped my childhood, but these are amazing figures and I still have to respect that. In spite of what they represent, I usually find a place to display them somewhere, and that says a lot about how good they are.

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Besides these two and the previously featured Juggernaut, there were three more in the series, two of which I owned, but I have no idea what happened to them. There was also a big dragon or wyvern or something, which looked very cool, but he never showed up at the KB Toys closeout store, so I never got him. I guess I like these guys enough that they managed to survive a lot of toy purges, and that’s saying a lot because when I purge, McFarlane figures are usually my first target to go.

FarScape Series 1: Zhaan (Delvian Priest) by Toy Vault

I don’t watch a lot of TV. With me a show will either click almost instantly or I’m done with it. So I’ve got to hand it to FarScape for being the exception to the rule. I made a go of it with this show on at least four separate occasions before I finally got far enough and knew that I would be sticking with it. It still takes some work to make it through some episodes, but in the end, it won me over with its ambitious effects, original alien designs, and interesting characters. And hey… there are action figures! Yes, someone consigned a pair of these figures, Zhaan and Chiana, to my local comic shop where they’ve been collecting dust for a long time now. With my new found commitment to the show, I decided to take them off his hands. He got less than he had hoped out of me, but he seemed relieved to be rid of them. Today I’m going to check out Zhaan and I’ll put off Chiana until next week, since I’m still a few episodes away from meeting her.

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This line of figures is my first encounter with Toy Vault. According to the back of the cards, their stable of licenses includes some Lord of the Rings and EverQuest figures. A little research revealed that they are still in operation, although they seem to be more into peddling novelties, plush dolls, and games, rather than any kind of cohesive action figure lines. Zhaan comes on a large, somewhat egg shaped card, which looks like a cross section of Moya’s corridors. The card also features an organic deco that nicely conveys the patterns on the Leviathan’s hull. The bubble displays the goods nicely and there is a printed insert inside that has Zhaan’s name and a list of her accessories. While the front of the card is generic, the back features a few stats about the character and some screencaps showing other characters with figures available. Oddly enough there aren’t any pictures of the figures themselves. While the back of the card could use some cleaning up, the presentation here is overall quite good and really matches the feel of the show. Zhaan is scaled just slightly larger than your average DC Universe Classics figure, which to my delight puts her right about in line with Diamond/Art Asylum’s Star Trek figures. Yes, I am actually giddy about the potential of a FarScape-Star Trek crossover on my display shelf! For some reason, I think Zhaan and Spock would like to hang together.

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All nerdgasms aside, with the figure out of the package  the first thing I notice… holy crap, softgoods! Ok, I noticed that before I opened the package, but I’m going for some dramatic license here. I was both surprised and impressed when I first realized it, mainly because you don’t usually see this sort of thing on figures in this scale.  Nonetheless, Zhaan is indeed wearing an actual cloth outfit. The outfit is comprised of two layers: A long grey stitched robe and then a semi-transparent mesh covering. The under robe is belted with braided rope and the top garment is held in the back with a strip of Velcro. The softgoods work well to create the wispy and shimmering effect of Zhaan’s on screen clothing, which also wrecked havoc on my poor camera. Seriously, between focus and light balance, my camera had no idea what to make of this figure.

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Because of her cloth outfit, Zhaan doesn’t rely on a whole lot of detailed sculpting. Her head is a pretty good likeness to the Amazonian actress Virginia Hey. Her facial deco is simplified to basically a pattern of dots, but it works well enough. Trying to accurately reproduce the amazingly complex makeup they did on her face for the show must have been a frustrating task. Each of her individual rings are sculpted and painted onto her fingers and she has a very bland pair of shoes. Zhaan’s posture is fairly neutral. She’s standing straight with one arm cocked a bit at the elbow, and her hands are both relaxed, which is fine since her accessories aren’t meant to be held. Unfortunately, her feet are rather uneven and getting her to stand can be a chore.

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Speaking of accessories… Zhaan comes with two. First off, you get a trelkez, permanently attached to his perch. For the uninitiated, this is an adorable two-headed bird from the episode “That Old Black Magic,” which Zhaan is made to torture with her mind powers in order to prepare her to do battle with a space-vampire-warlock. I’ll let you digest that sentence for a moment. Ok… The other is a blue ceremonial mask that fits into a silver pillow thingy. I seem to recall this being an artifact that Crichton kept breaking as he looped through time in “Back and Back and Back to the Future.” The trelkez is a nice display bonus, but the mask is kind of meh.

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With a whopping seven points of useful articulation, Zhaan isn’t exactly super poseable. I say “useful” because I’m not a hundred percent sure what else is under that robe and I’m not going to futz with it to find out. Her head can rotate, her arms can rotate at the shoulders, her wrists have swivel cuts, and her legs can rotate at the hips. The leg movement is severely hampered by the tight robe, but it helps to tweak her legs so she can stand.

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All in all, I think Toy Vault did a pretty good job on this figure. The use of softgoods is a bold and interesting move, but they pulled it off and it certainly suits Zhaan well. It also allowed Toy Vault to do a number of quick and dirty episode-specific variants by just swapping a new outfit onto the figure. The sculpt and paintwork are certainly competent and I do like the inclusion of the trelkez. I would have preferred more articulation, but as we delve further into the FarScape line, we’ll see that Toy Vault takes the McFarlane approach and each figure is designed for a couple specific poses and not much else.

I’m going to swing back and to some more filler Toy Closet Finds for tomorrow and Wednesday and then we can end the week with some more Fall of Cybertron shenanigans.

Transformers Fall of Cybertron: Starscream by Hasbro

It’s more Fall of Cybertron love from Hasbro and this time we’re taking a look at everyone’s favorite traitorous Air Commander… Starscream. Unlike yesterday’s entry, Starscream actually played a pretty major part in the game. While he didn’t quite rise to the levels of hip-thrusting outrageousness as he has in TF: Prime, he did ham it up pretty good with some memorable moments. I was super disappointed that we didn’t get a figure of him out of War for Cybertron, so I was particularly excited to get this release into my collection. Let’s see how he turned out.

Yep, there’s the Generations packaging… again. The card has some pretty good character art and while his bio is a little bland, I do like that Hasbro make the connection between Starscream isolating himself on his orbital platform and him becoming a total nutter. While G1 purists may scoff, I think Fall of Cybertron came up with some clever retconned explanations for some of the characters we all know and love. I also dig the fact that one of the game’s achievements was destroying all of Starscream’s self-aggrandizing idols and statues. Fun!


Starscream’s jet mode may not be the sexiest aircraft out there, but the design does seem to feature a little something for everyone. There’s a tiny bit of the old tetra-jet design in him, but most of what’s here looks like a cross between Energon Starscream and a dash of War Within. The sculpt itself is kind of plain with more than a few smooth, featureless surfaces. I guess the guy that does the panel lining was off this day.  It locks together very well, although he’s so simple, you only have to look at him for a moment to deconstruct all there is about how he will transform. In theory, the deco is good and I like the use of the G1 colors, but I don’t find the grey plastic and matte red and blue paint all that appealing. The toy just looks unintentionally dark and bland. I think Hasbro would have done well to use a plastic more similar to WFC Megatron and used some glossy paint to make the figure pop more. Still, when all is said and done he’s a pretty good representation of the in-game jet.


As I’ve already hinted, transforming Starscream is frightfully simple, but that seems to be par for the course with the Fall of Cybertron figures. I can think of any number of jets that Hasbro put out over the last 10 years in the Basic/Scout assortment that are more complicated than this Deluxe. On the plus side, he avoids a lot of the fiddly nonsense that came with Jazz and Sideswipe. Sometimes simple isn’t a bad thing, especially if you’re a kid playing with him and want to be able to get him from mode to mode with relative ease.


Overall, I dig the configuration of Starscream’s robot mode. It’s pretty close to the in-game model, and while The Seekers were probably my least favorite of the High Moon Studio designs, I still like them well enough. I think it may be the underdeveloped feet that bug me the most. Still, I consider it a plus that he retains a lot more of his traditional G1 design than many of the other characters. The angled wings look cool, as does the re-imagining of his shoulder intakes. The hollow torso is a bit of a turn off when viewed from certain angles, but his silhouette from the front is pretty solid. I’m extremely pleased with the way the head sculpt turned out and the light piping is the eyes is exceptionally effective.  The deco is also very G1 inspired, although as with the jet mode, I’m still rather unhappy about the bare grey plastic and the drab, matte paint.

While Starscream still suffers from the slightly diminished size of the other Fall of Cybertron Deluxes, I’m glad to see he does scale quite well alongside WFC Megatron and the other Decepticons. Just don’t stand him next to Bumblebee or Cliffjumper.


Starscream comes with a large double minigun that can split apart into two weapons. They look rather reminiscent of the missile launchers used by the Bayformer Starscream toys. He can hold the combined weapon in either hand, or you can split it and have him dual wield it, or you could mount them on his arms in traditional null-ray fashion. Options are good.


Starscream is a fairly solid effort, but he’s very simple for a Deluxe Transformer and that’s likely to bother a lot of collectors. While you could certainly argue that fifteen bucks should net you more complex engineering, Starscream’s simplicity isn’t really a sticking point for me. The deco on the other hand is. So much so that this may be the first time I seriously consider importing the Takara version. The grey plastic looks about the same, but the glossy paint used on the import makes a big difference. Either way, after finally having this figure in hand, I can’t help but wonder about the Starscream we might have got if he were released in conjunction with the previous game, when Hasbro’s standards were a little higher.

And that’s another week in the bag. I’ve got more Fall of Cybertron stuff for next week, but in the interest of variety, I’ll save those for the end of the week and we’ll start out on Monday by taking a look at an action figure line that I haven’t featured around these parts before. Virgin territory! How exciting!!!

Transformers Fall of Cybertron: Sideswipe by Hasbro

It took me a while, but my Xbox is up and running again and I was finally able to play through Fall of Cybertron. And play through it again, and one more time. Needless to say I enjoyed the hell out of it, and it’s given me a new motivation to track down some of the remaining figures. Yeah, Jazz’s figure left me cold and he made my naughty list for 2012, but the three Combaticons I’ve featured so far more than made up for him. Let’s see if some remolding and fresh paint can make the Jazz mold better the second time around.

There’s the Generations packaging. I love it, but I think I’ve said all there is to say about it. Sideswipe comes packaged in his robot mode and his card sports some very nice character art. I also really dig his bio on the back of the card about him being a contender for racing champion before he joined the Autobots. He didn’t play a very large role in the game, but we won’t hold that against him. As always, let’s start in vehicle mode.


So, obviously Sideswipe is a remold and repaint of Jazz, but Hasbro did some nice reworking and recoloring of the mold to make him look like a new vehicle. The top of the alt mode is completely new, including the configuration of the hood, front bumper and spoiler. Gone are Jazz’s exhaust pipes and in their place is a more conventional looking car canopy. Sideswipe features less sculpted panel lines, but makes up for it with a more dynamic deco. The bulk of the body is red plastic with painted white racing stripes and silver and black accents. All in all, I had no problems with Jazz’s vehicle design and I dig Sideswipe’s too. It comes off as a much sleeker, speed machine, although some may take issue that he looks more like a concept Earth car than some of the other Cybertron alt modes in the game. Me? I’m fine with it.

Despite the changes to the mold, Sideswipe transforms exactly the same as his Autobuddy, Jazz. It’s a frightfully simple transformation on paper, but in practice, it’s oddly finicky. Going into alt mode requires a lot of tabs lining up just right, and going into robot mode requires a ridiculously annoying mechanic involving the torso, which can’t be adequately conveyed in the instructions. I found I just had to fiddle with it, becoming white with rage, until I finally remembered how it works.


In robot mode, the parts shared between the figures are a lot more obvious. The legs and arms are identical molds, but the paint differences distinguish them apart pretty well even when the figures are standing alongside each other. Sideswipe’s deco is really sharp and it shows just how far some nice coloring and good paintwork will make a mold. I’m still a little iffy on how the head just kind of floats inside the torso, but I do really like Sideswipe’s head sculpt. It really suits the character. Sideswipe also still has that extra set of wheels in robot mode, but as with Jazz one set is mostly concealed at the shoulders. Unfortunately, Sideswipe still has Jazz’s size problem. In robot mode he just feels a little too small, especially if he’s standing beside WFC Bumblebee or Cliffjumper.


Sideswipe comes with a huge ass gun with an extending barrel. I can’t decide whether it’s a cool BFG or just awkward and goofy. He can hold it in either hand or it can mount onto his vehicle mode, but it looks terrible mounted on his alt mode. The weapon is a decent enough design and sculpt, but it’s really way too big and I don’t tend to think of giant guns when I think of Sideswipe.


So, yeah, this guy is a cool little figure and I do find myself enjoying the mold a lot more than Jazz. Maybe it’s because Sideswipe’s red plastic and more accomplished paint apps look so much better than Jazz’s bare white plastic. Maybe it’s because I had a better idea of what to expect from the figure having already owned Jazz. Whatever the case, Sideswipe shows that Hasbro can be masters at tweaking a mold and making it work very well for different characters. He’s still not a lot of toy for $15, but maybe I’m getting desensitized to that as well. Sure there are things that irk me about Jazz’s design, which are still present here, but I’m not at all sorry I picked him up.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Sewer Cruiser (Nickelodeon) by Playmates

Yesterday’s pizza playset is going to be a pretty tough act to follow, but today we’re going to see what Playmates can do with a vehicle. No, this isn’t the first vehicle from their Nick Turtle line, but it is the first one that I’ve picked up. I usually talk price at the end of a feature, but in this case I’m going to bring it up now. You see, I was a little skeptical about buying this thing because it was only $11.99 and the box felt really light. I even had to double check to make sure this was scaled for the figures and not something else entirely. But after checking out the box for a bit, I decided, to go for it. Playmates’ new Turtles haven’t done me wrong yet, and I had nothing to lose except twelve bucks. Turns out it was a really good move.


The box is everything you’d expect from the TMNT line. It’s wacky, it’s colorful, and it features amazingly exciting artwork. This is every bit a package that you’d expect to find in the toy aisles 20 years ago and I mean that in every way as a compliment. Like most of the second wave of TMNT toys, this vehicle is part of the Mutagen Ooze line, meaning it has a gimmick that is meant to interact with the ooze. I haven’t decided whether I’m actually going to buy any ooze yet, but even if I do, I doubt I’ll be willing to gunk up my toys with it. The box is a really weird shape and it seems way too small to contain the zany awesomeness of a worthwhile TMNT vehicle.

But that’s because this thing is in pieces. Oh yeah, it’s toy building time! The Cruiser comes in a cardboard tray with two baggies full of parts, a small sticker sheet, and an instruction sheet. It’s pretty easy to put together and you can easily take it apart again to store it back in the box. Once together, the Sewer Cruiser is actually a really nice sized toy that fits the figures perfectly. Most of the pieces are hollow, but it doesn’t feel cheap or flimsy. In fact, I suspect it’s mostly hollow so that it can float, and while I haven’t tested out its ability to tread water, the package does indeed promise that it can.


The Cruiser is clearly one of Don’s wacky, cobbled together inventions. It’s made from a motorcycle chassis attached to a surfboard, with two ooze barrel pontoons, and a tailgating cooler on the back. It’s quite the imaginative piece and it’s positively (dare I say it?) oozing with great detail. If you look closely at the barrels, you can see a sculpted weld line where the Turtles welded together the two barrels in order to make the pontoons. That’s awesome! The motorcycle engine is detailed as are the rivets holding it together. Even the crosshatch seat has some broken straps to show wear and tear. I love how the cooler even has four cup holders on the top and a couple of fish sculpted into the bottom. This kind of detail in a toy is love, folks… pure love. Playmates loves you.

The coloring on the toy is straight out of the neon 90’s. It may have sucked for some toy lines (*cough* GI Joe *cough*) but it worked just fine for the Turtles and it still does. Most of the colors are the actual plastic and not paintwork. The motorcycle is grey, the barrels are bright neon green with black supports, the board is orange and turquoise and the cooler is red and white.

Any one of the turtle figures will fit just fine on the Cruiser, even with their weapons still stowed on their backs. However, there are two clips on the handlebars so you can store their weapons more conveniently. Indeed, even some of the lesser articulated non-Turtles can ride it pretty well.


The Sewer Cruiser isn’t exactly loaded with play gimmicks. In fact the only one is the ability to fill the cooler with ooze and tip it over in order to slime pursuers. If you don’t have any ooze, the toy comes with three little plastic splotches of grey ooze, which look more like tiny metal shavings or possibly ravioli. Chances are I’ll just use the cooler to hold shuriken.

In the end, the Cruiser is a solid and fun toy at an amazing price. I’ve often remarked how the Nick Turtles are the best value in action figures hanging on the pegs, so it should follow that the vehicles are too. I mean, seriously… twelve bucks for a fun vehicle for your Turtles to ride? I think I paid more than that for my last 3 ¾” Marvel Universe figure and he had minimal new sculpting and didn’t come with any accessories. Like I said before, folks, Playmates loves you!