Sunday Funday: Grimm’s Fairy Tales Omnibus!

Arriving just in time for the waning days of my vacation, Zenescope has finally released their mammoth Omnibus collection of their always twisted and sometimes sexy take on Grimm’s Fairy Tales. It’s actually been available for a little while as an exclusive from their booth at various conventions. Unfortunately, I live toward the tip of a peninsula where such conventions are mostly fairy tales themselves. See what I did there? If you haven’t delved into any of the 80+ issues of GFT and its rapidly expanding universe, here’s the deal: In what usually plays out like an after-hours Twilight Zone episode, characters are beaten over the head with moral lessons played out in Fairy Tales that usually draw to a delightfully gore-filled conclusion. Needless to say I’m spending a lot of time with this book this weekend and my cigar of choice this time is the always faithful, H. Upmann 1844 Special Reserve. Mmm… lovely.

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GFT was the first comic that I started reading digitally on a tablet, and I’ll confess I didn’t take to the book right away. It lacks the pithy dialogue or sweeping stories that I usually go for in my comics. The humor is more subtle and I sometimes wonder how many of the chuckles I get out of this book are intentional. The first story was rather predictable and seemed to go nowhere, but I downloaded the first 10 issues as part of a sale and I pressed on. Before long, things got more interesting, and before I knew it, I was buying more downloads to see what kind of twisted shit they could come up with next. As it turns out, it’s an insidious book that slowly draws you in, making the stories more complex, and eventually pulling back the camera and revealing the two narrators, Sela and Belinda, as characters in a struggle against each other over the souls of their target of the month. If this whole thing was planned out, it’s rather clever, but also a risky move, because I imagine a number of people were tempted to drop the book from their pull lists before it really started to get good. As such, I think it’s one of those comics that may be best experienced in collected editions. On the other hand, if you stick with it through the individual issues, reading GFT is like being in that proverbial pot of slowly boiling water. I was getting hooked (or is that cooked?), but I didn’t realize it was happening until it was too late. Of course, all the Zenescope branded T&A in the art doesn’t hurt either. Yaknowatimean?

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The Omnibus is an ambitious beast of a publication. At 1350 pages(!), it encompasses the first EIGHT collected volumes, meaning it contains the first FIFTY issues of the comic! I was a little concerned about how well a book of this size and weight would turn out, but I knew I wanted these collected in a print edition for my shelf, and getting eight volumes worth of comics in one book seemed like the easier (and less expensive way to go). It turned out to be a worthy gamble. The quality of the print is gorgeous and the binding seems to be of very good quality. Even at the center of the book, reading or enjoying the art near the binding is not a chore, and it doesn’t seem like creasing in the spine or loose pages will be a problem, so long as a modicum of care is taken while reading. Each reprinted volume retains the often heartfelt introductions, although individual variant covers are not included. While this could be a big deal to some, it’s understandable that some sacrifices had to be made. The variant covers alone would have added another 100+ pages to an already gargantuan tome.

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The cover price for the Omnibus is $59.99, but I had my copy pre-ordered at Amazon for the ridiculously low price of $37 and they actually had it to me a few days before its scheduled release. GFT started out as a guilty pleasure, but it’s evolved beyond that for me and this collection makes me glad that I was content with my digital downloads and didn’t start going after the individual trades.  At this point, the only downside is that if I fall asleep reading with this thing on my chest, I’m liable to wake up thinking I’m having a heart attack.

Images used are the copyright of Zenescope and are reproduced here for review purposes only. If you love comic books, support the artists and writers by BUYING them, either digitally or in print. Better yet, buy them in print and support your local comic shop too!

Star Trek The Next Generation: Data & Geordi LaForge (in movie uniforms) by Playmates

Tonight is Pub Night. It’s the one night of the week where I put my excessive drinking on display by taking it public, and I’ve started early by finishing off the last of my Balvanie 18. That means I’m a little strapped for time and I’m looking for a quick something to feature today. I also haven’t done much with the 90’s Star Trek figures by Playmates lately and I have a whole box of these guys sitting in the corner and waiting to be featured so I can find a home for them on the shelves. Today we’ll look at Data and Geordi in their Generations movie uniforms.

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I’m sure I’ve gassed on before about the Starfleet uniform debacle of Star Trek Generations. During that movie, The Enterprise was a come-as-you-are affair. Picard obviously called up Starfleet and said, we’ve saved the universe countless times, we’ll wear whatever the hell we want. I think there’s one scene on the bridge where you’ve got crew wearing the TNG uniforms, the DS9 uniforms, and a couple of 19th British naval uniforms from the Holodeck. The Helm Officer probably could have shown up for duty in his pajamas and nobody would have even blinked. The only uniforms that nobody is wearing are the original designs that were cooked up for the movie and scrapped later on. As a result, if you buy Playmates’ Generations figures, you get a complete set of the bridge crew wearing uniforms that were never actually seen on screen… ever! That all having been said, you can kind of tell that Starfleet was meant to be transitioning into the DS9 style jumpsuits during this time. Fortunately, Playmates made a mends by releasing some of the characters in the proper uniforms later on.

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I bought these figures loose, so I don’t have any packaged shots, but each figure was billed as being in their “movie uniform” and came with their own Skybox trading cards. Actually, they each came with a number of cards. I also got cards for Worf, Ambassador K’Ehleyr, and a couple for Lore. I guess at this point Playmates was just stuffing a bunch into each baggie. Playmates also continues the preposterous practice of stamping “collector numbers” onto the packages and the figures.

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Let’s start with Data. He’s an enormous improvement over the original Data figure. By this point in the line, Playmates was getting much better with the proportions and eschewing the more stylized caricature sculpts. This Data is taller and no longer suffers from those ridiculous monkey arms and huge hands. The head sculpt is updated only slightly, but I never had a problem with the original figure’s likeness, so this one is fine too. They nixed the opening access panels that were featured on the original figure, but that was clearly done so they could reuse the body. You also get sculpted rank pips on the collar and the newly designed communicator badge. I think my only gripe here is that his hands aren’t sculpted to hold any of his accessories.

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But that’s ok, because as usual the accessories suck anyway. The equipment is all stamped out in a blue-green plastic. God, I hate that! You get a tricorder, a PADD and… ah… two other things. This is why it helps to have the cardback… it’s often the only way to tell what the hell some of the accessories are supposed to be. At least the phaser is silver, but it still has the stupid beam coming off the end, which I’ll be snipping off at my earliest convenience. Data also comes with a display stand shaped like the newer comm badge.

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I don’t have nearly as much to say about Geordi, mainly because he uses the exact same body as Data, so it’s all been said already. The head sculpt is very similar to the original figure, although the VISOR is not meant to be removed. Geordi comes with a PADD, something else, and four diagnostic tools, all of which are appropriately stamped in purple plastic… wait, what? He also comes with the comm badge style figure stand.

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As both figures are built on the same body, they each feature the same articulation. The arms rotate at the shoulders, have hinged elbows, and swivels in the biceps. The legs rotate at the hips and have hinged knees. There are also swivel cuts in the neck and waist.

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And there you have it… both of these are decent enough figures and they really show how far Playmates had come since the initial wave of Next Gen figures. I can’t say I like the DS9 style jumpsuits better than the Next Gen tunic, but it’s nice to finally have these characters in the proper uniforms which they wore in the movie. Plus, they look great displayed in my Generations Engine Room playset. There’s also a Captain Picard in this style uniform, which I still need to pick up… To the Ebays!!!

Transformers Generations: Blitzwing by Hasbro.

ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

That sums up my feelings for this figure. Thanks for stopping by. Don’t forget to like me on Facebook. Please contribute to my Kickstarter Project to support my Blitzwing and Springer hardcore Slash Fic Novel, Tanks for the Reach Around. See y’all tomorrow…

Oh… ok, I’ll elaborate. If a figure sucks, it’s not a big deal to me. I can either not buy it or if I did buy it, just toss it into a bin and be done with it. It sucks, why should I bother with it? I move on. But when a figure shows glimmerings of greatness… when a figure teases with potential and yet stumbles because of stupid, easily fixed design flaws, it really cheeses me off. That’s especially the case when it’s a figure based on a character I love and have strong nostalgic feelings for. I love Blitzwing for a lot of reasons. One, he was the only Triple-changer that I owned as a kid and I loved playing with him. Two, “Triple Takeover” is one of my favorite episodes of the Sunbow series. In it, Blitzwing has that one classic line of dialogue where he says to a human, “Tell me what’s on your mind or I’ll splatter it on the wall and see for myself” It’s so bewilderingly and inappropriately brutal for a children’s cartoon that it makes me smile every time I hear it. And finally, Blitzwing is a jet that turns into a tank. He dominates in both land and air. Oh yeah, and his name is Blitzwing… that’s awesome. Hasbro finally gives him a greatly needed update and they stumble on some of the stupidest little things.

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I’ve got a lot to say, so I’m not going to waste time on the packaging. I’ll cover the packaging more when I do my feature on Springer next week. Let’s just dive in. And I’m going to break tradition here and start with Blitzwing’s robot mode…

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…I think it’s fantastic. Look at him. He’s everything I would want in an update to Blitzwing. He’s well-proportioned, the treads look fine on his legs, and the sculpting and painted detail that flanks the cockpit on his chest resembles the stickers on the old toy. You also get some display options, like whether or not to point his shoulder wings out or fold them back (I prefer the later) and you can choose to display him with his tank barrel up or back. I think both look fine, but my old G1 toy was so loose from play that it usually defaulted to the down position. Blitzwing comes with a sword and a gun, both of which can be utilized in his alt modes. I’m not often a fan of swords with my Transformers, but I really like the sculpt on Blitzwing’s sword.

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Yes, Blitzwing has a controversial face change gimmick. I don’t care about the extra faces. It’s an unnecessary fanwank back to the TF: Animated figure in a figure that should be a nod back to the original G1 character. The faces are too difficult to change anyway. I did it once and I thought I was going to scrape the rubbery faces off with my thumb nail. Seriously, I’m not even going to photograph them. Forget about them. Some have groused over the default G1 style face, but I’m fine with it.

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Of course, Blitzwing’s robot mode has one really shitty flaw. The shoulders do not stay pegged in. If I so much as touch his arms, they unpeg and flop around. I’ve tried fiddling with them. I’ve tried Peaugh’s trick, which sadly doesn’t work on my figure. I’ve even tried gumming them up with blue tack. Nothing works. If you squeeze the shoulders while manipulating his arms, they stay in place, but anything else and the entire shoulder assembly just crumbles apart. A simple tab that actually snapped into place would have fixed this whole fatal issue.

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Let’s do Blitzwing’s jet mode next, because next to the problem shoulders, it’s here where I find the figure stumbles the most. For a Triple-changer, I think the jet mode looks pretty good, It was really tough for me to get everything to peg in the way it’s supposed to, but after a couple of times, I finally got it down. If you don’t do it exactly right the arms that make up the back of the aircraft constantly want to pop out and the instructions aren’t a whole lot of help. I’m also not really keen on the way his feet and rear wings just hang off the back on ball joints. You constantly have to adjust them to keep them looking right. I do, however, like the way you can clip his sword to his back to fill up what would otherwise be an unsightly hollow area, and you can even plug his gun on top of that to give him some extra firepower. Like I said, this is not a bad jet mode for a Triple-changer. So what’s the problem?

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The f’cking rubbery nosecone. It simply will not close up over his giant spring-loaded head no matter what I do. It never closes completely and given a little time it will default to the mess you see above. Fortunately, there’s a cheap fix for this…

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Yup, take off Blitzwing’s head. It slides right out. So, yeah… I have to decapitate him in order to transform him, and even then the nosecone doesn’t really lock up all that well. Here’s where I think Hasbro ‘s intrepid band of designers should have reasoned: “It’s very probable that the fans would rather have a robot with a head small enough to transform properly over one with a terribly executed face change gimmick.”  Seriously, I don’t mind the gimmick being there, but obviously if they had omitted it, the head could have been downsized enough to make the transformation work. And why make the entire nosecone out of that shitty rubber and not just the tip like on other Transformer jets? Ok, let’s move on to the tank mode.

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I’ve heard people ragging on Blitzwing’s tank mode, but honestly, I think it works Ok. Again, he’s a Triple-changer and I’m willing to forgive certain design flaws. It pegs together fairly well and since the nosecone is concealed under the tank’s body, it tends to work for me a little better than the jet mode. The turret will turn, although it pivots awkwardly toward the front. You can plug his gun into the top and the barrel will fire a missile if you slide it back. There are peg holes on the side if you want to just plug his sword in there rather than have it loose.

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And so, my beloved Blitzwing… one of my most anticipated Transformers figures in a long while, turned out to be a bitter disappointment. Still, I am not in any way sorry I bought him. He looks AMAZING standing on the shelf in robot mode, and to be honest, that’s what he’ll spend most of his time doing anyway. In robot mode, he looks like everything I wanted in an update of the character. But I hate to look at a toy on my shelf and have to think about how poorly designed it is and what a bother it is to transform and know that if I pick him up and play with him his shoulders will fall apart. I’m tempted to buy another and just glue his shoulders in place. It’ll cripple his transformation, but at least I can play around with him in robot mode. Then again, I really don’t want to reward Hasbro for such shitty engineering. I think the saddest thing about Blitzwing is that there’s nothing wrong with this figure that couldn’t have been easily fixed had he spent a little more time on the drawing board.

Marvel: Mystique Bishoujo Statue by Kotobukiya

I’ve been dropping my bucket into Koto’s Bishoujo well a lot this past month and now that I have some momentum I’m really starting to aggressively fill out the missing pieces in my collection. Today we look at Koto’s sexy anime take on that blue shape-shifting femme fatale of the X-Men… It’s Mystique!

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Hey, we’ve seen the Bishoujo line’s packaging here plenty of times and apart from being the smallest box in my collection, it’s business as usual. The box is mostly white with generous windows to show off the goods, although the statue is wrapped in plastic and snugly nestled between two plastic trays so you can’t get the full effect until you get Mystique out of there. She comes separate from her display base, so you just need to plug her in and you’re good to go. As usual, the artwork is gorgeous. The first thing I always enjoy doing with these statues is scrutinize the statue and the source art. It’s fun to do and it rarely disappoints. And just to show you that I always read all the copy on the back of the box, I actually learned something here. Mystique first appeared in Ms. Marvel in 1978. I like to assume I know a thing or two about the Marvel Universe, but that little nugget of knowledge was new to me.

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I usually discuss the pose first, but in this case let me start by saying how happy I am that Koto went with the classic look here, as opposed to the more modern black outfit. It’s not that I dislike the newer look, but with X-23, Black Cat, and Black Widow on my Bishoujo shelf, I’m all for adding a little more color and Mystique teams up with the likes of Power Girl and Wonder Woman to brighten things up a lot. Besides, this outfit is far more iconic to me. That having been said, Mystique is posed on her knees, her back arched ever so slightly, Uzi submachine gun in one hand and her other hand running through her wild hair. It’s a fantastic pose, very seductive, and giving off a come hither look… come hither so I can murder you with my submachine gun! Also, since she’s shorter, she fits nicely in the front row of my display beside X-23 without blocking the view of statues in the back.

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I really dig the portrait here, although I do find it borderlines on being a tad creepy. It’s all in the eyes. They’re appropriately yellow and marvelously unsettling. The paintwork on her lips and razor thin eyebrows is excellent and I’m impressed by the way her sculpted hair falls all around her shoulders and her left arm. There may be a little too much of the translucent effect on the hair for me here. I would have liked the hair to be a tad more vibrant, but I’m nitpicking. The adorable little skull on her widow’s peak finishes off the portrait perfectly.

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The body features a gorgeous pearlescent plastic for her dress, gloves, and stiletto boots. The stitching and wrinkles are perfectly reproduced and remind me a bit of the Power Girl statue, although Kara’s outfit looked like heavier latex, whereas Mystiques looks like a lighter, shimmery material. If you look closely enough at the boots, you can see a subtle texturing that contrasts nicely with the smoother texture of her skin. It’s that little attention to detail that I love so much about this line. And speaking of skin, Koto used the perfect shade of blue. Even when displayed on a shelf of a dozen excellent statues, my eye is usually first drawn to the pearl and blue beauty of this piece. The skull belt is a separate piece and it hangs loosely on her hips, and the gun is removable from her right hand.

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About the only let down to this piece is the display base. It’s a simple clear disc. At first, I thought Koto might have included an insert like they have with their Tekken Bishoujos, but alas no. Virtually all the pre-production shots featured this statue without a base at all, and I always wondered why. While there are tabs on the front and back of her dress to hold her in place on the base, you can actually display her without the base at all. I’ve recently come to appreciate the uniqueness and personality that Koto has given many of the statue basis in this line and quite frankly, I wish they had done something similar here.

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Quibbles about the base aside, Mystique is another homerun for Koto and their Bishoujo line. The sculpt and pose really captures the essence of the character while still introducing the quirkiness of the anime stylings that this series is all about. She’s also still readily available at a lot of e-tailers and at pretty good prices too. I picked up mine for under fifty bucks and in a market where quality statues are usually closer to $100 and up, I find her to be a great value.

Transformers Classics: Jetfire by Hasbro

I had a lot of fun checking out TF:U King Atlas last week, so I thought I’d pull out another Autobot jet that I haven’t featured yet on FFZ… It’s Jetfire! How is it possible that in over three years of doing this toy nonsense, I never looked at Jetfire here? I loved Jetfire in the Sunbow cartoon and while I’m not going to sit here and say I didn’t love the Macross style G1 toy, I always wanted something a little closer to the animated counterpart. Was this Classics release it? No, not really. There are some obvious homages here and there, but in the end Classics Jetfire is more a reimagining of the character then a direct update. I’ve had this guy in my collection for a while and the package is long gone, so we’re going to get right to the figure. As always, let’s start with his alt mode!

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Like the original G1 toy, Jetfire has removable booster rockets, giving him the ability to be displayed in a basic jet mode. To be honest, I usually display him with the boosters on, but I love having the option to outfit him the way I want, especially since his vanilla jet mode looks so bitchin. The design borrows from both the Sunbow and the original toy designs, but I see more of the old Valkyrie style here than anything else. You get the same swept back wings, which can be positioned forward, the same dual rear fins, and even the folded feet thrusters all nod back to the old Macross style. The bulk of the toy is bare white plastic, which looks so much better than the stuff that Hasbro uses today. It’s detailed with beautiful red paintwork all very reminiscent of the G1 figure.

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From the Sunbow side of things, we get a squared off nose and a blue cockpit. Compromise isn’t always a good thing, as collectors looking for a jet design that is accurate to either the G1 toy or the G1 cartoon will both be disappointed. I’d still like to see a straight Sunbow version of him at some point, but I still think this toy has a great looking jet mode that hits all the right points.

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If you turn Jetfire over, you can see his arms and fists as clear as day. That doesn’t bother me so much as you’re almost always going to have some robo-kibble on jets in this size of toy. Plus the two missile launchers that peg onto the arms under the wings do their part to conceal it from the sides. Jetfire also features three working landing gear and a very nicely detailed cockpit.

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Jetfire’s booster rocket pack simply pegs right onto his back in one big assembly. All you need to do is fold down his rear fins. It matches the iconic look of the old Valkyrie-style jet beautifully. He looks totally bad ass, and this is my favorite way to display him when he’s parked in jet mode. By sliding back the rear of the red frame you can deploy two spring loaded cannon.

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Transforming Jetfire is fairly simple, although there are a few clever things at work. As already mentioned, the arms are practically complete even when in jet mode. You can remove his missile launchers, but it isn’t necessary for transformation as they wind up right where they should, mounted onto his arms and ready to fire at Decepticon fools. His feet and legs fold out just as I remember the old toy did. The chest and torso uses some cool new engineering, like swinging the arms up to the shoulders, and splitting the nosecone to beef out the chest.

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In robot mode, Jetfire sheds most of his G1 toy roots, and while he skews a bit more toward his Sunbow animated design, this toy’s bot mode is mostly his own.  Any disappointment I ever had about him not being more Sunbow accurate quickly washed away because he’s such a glorious looking figure, and there’s certainly no doubt who he supposed to be. He manages to still look iconic, while still representing a significant departure from the original designs.

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The cockpit looks great on his chest even if it is derivative of almost all the other jet Transformers out there. I’m old school. I think jet Transformers should have their cockpits on their chests and car transformers should have their front bumpers on their chests. Not really all the time, but it’s the quintessential look for me. No pun intended. Quintesson? Ahem… moving on. I thought I’d really miss the way old school Jetfire’s back wings crossed his back, but I do dig the way this toy’s wings sweep down his back like a cape. The missile launchers on his arms invoke the G1 Seekers weaponry, which is always a great thing in my book. He’s a nice, sturdy and fun figure to play around with.

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Jetfire’s stock head is fairly close to the Skyfire we all know and love, and he actually comes with a more G1 style head that fits over it like a helmet. I really don’t like the helmeted look and mine is rattling in the bottom of a tote somewhere anyway, but if I ever find it, I’ll have to do an update. I will note that the regular head looks a tad small, mainly because the cockpit juts pretty far out of his chest. The helmeted head seems to be scaled better, as it’s a tad bigger, but I still don’t like the way it looks as much. UPDATE… I FOUND HIS HELMET!!! My toy filing system is obviously better than I thought!

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Yep, Classics Jetfire is one of my favorite figures in the line. That’s saying a lot, because generally speaking the Classics series figures could do no wrong by me. Sure you had a couple bombs like Tankor, and Grimlock was kind of disappointing, but Jetfire is a great figure among many great figures and he looks amazing standing in the back among the rest of the re-imagined G1 Autobots. I’ll grant you that he should have been bigger, but scale issues are a common problem in Transformers toys, so I’m not going to come down too hard on him for that. As much as I adore Classics, even I have to admit some of the toys are starting to look rather dated now, but I think Jetfire holds his own. And I just realized when shooting him besides Classics Optimus, that I haven’t featured him here before either, so I’ll have to swing back and look at him sometime next week.

DC (Batman) Unlimited: “New 52” Batgirl by Mattel

Bringing back Barbara Gordon as Batgirl… it was easily the most controversial thing for me about the “New 52” because it meant in turn that Oracle had to go. I was pretty bummed about that… until I saw Gail Simone was at the helm of the new book and I got over it… sort of… kind of… a little bit. Needless to say Batgirl has been regular reading for me since the reboot and I was rather anxious to pick up the new action figure of Babs for my “New 52” DCUC shelf. Alas, this one proved to be a tough figure to find at a reasonable price, but we’ll get to that in due time. First, let’s have a gander at the packaging.

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Yes indeedy, I do love the Unlimited packaging, particularly for the snazzy shingle of character art that runs beside the figure. It’s just gorgeous. I feel bad for the mint-on-card collectors because these packages are huge. They’re also apparently hard to keep in good condition. I don’t think I’ve gotten a single DCU figure where the card wasn’t all frayed at the edges. If I didn’t already own the comics, I’d be tempted to keep the insert with the character art. But… I care not. I’m ripping this baby open with extreme prejudice.

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Unlike a lot of people, I dig many of the New 52 costume redesigns (just don’t get me started on what they did to Zatanna), and Batgirl here is par for the course. The head sculpt sticks fairly true to tradition. The hair looks really great flowing out from the back of her cowl and it doesn’t inhibit her neck articulation nearly as bad as I assumed it would. I’m also very pleased with the paintwork on the eyes and lips as it is both clean and precise.

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The New 52 Batgirl is sporting more of an armored look then past incarnations, and that’s reflected nicely in the sculpt. The scalloped armor and panel lines are all present and her bat crest is sculpted rather than just painted on. I’m a big fan of the cape, particularly its triangular configuration that keeps it from dragging on the ground. In the end, though, I think it’s the coloring that really makes this such a stand out figure. The mix of high gloss black and the more subtle gold go great together, and I love the purple for the interior lining of the cape and the black matte used for the back. It’s a killer deco that makes her pop on the shelf, even next to her colorful superhero peers.

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Batgirl features solid articulation, although she is missing two points that are rather crucial to me. There are ball joints in the neck and shoulders. The arms feature hinges in the elbows and swivels in the wrists. The legs have the usual DCUC style hip joints, swivels in the thighs, and hinges in the knees and ankles. She does have a ball joint in the torso. It’s very well concealed and it doesn’t offer a lot of movement, but it is there. So what’s missing? Bicep swivels! Matty’s been a lot better at including them on the female figures, but I guess Batgirl missed out.

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I’ve got no chance of finding any of these figures hanging on the pegs, so I’ve had Batgirl on my Amazon Wish List for a while, where she languished at the price of $25. Even with my Prime free shipping, I wasn’t going to pay that much. Although, seeing as how that’s about what I pay for my Club Infinite Earth figures, I’m not sure why I was so reluctant. Anyway, just last week she dropped to $15.99 and I pulled the trigger. She’s a fantastic figure, thanks to a solid sculpt and a stellar paint job and another great addition to my New 52 shelf!

Marvel Universe: West Coast Avengers 3-pack by Hasbro

It’s a Marvel Monday triple-play today with a look at one of the fairly recent Marvel Universe 3-packs. Since I spent this past weekend reading Moon Knight’s exploits on the West Coast, I thought it would be timely to check out this West Coast Avengers set. It contains Hawkeye, Mockingbird, and War Machine. It seems like they could have come up with someone other than Hawkeye, someone more West Coast Avengers exclusive, but given he’s the main reason I bought this set, I won’t complain too much.

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If you’ve seen any of the previous multi-packs, you should know exactly what to expect here in terms of packaging. It’s the same style of window box we saw with the Fantastic Four and the Guardians of the Galaxy. There’s some nice character artwork and the figures come spread out on a tray in various action poses. The package is quite collector friendly, if you’re inclined to keep it for storage or display. Let’s start off with Hawkeye…

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Hawkeye’s been available twice before in the Marvel Universe line: Originally in a Secret Wars comic pack and again as Dark Avengers Hawkeye, which was really Bullseye in costume. Ok, I guess technically that’s only once. This version is a slight repaint of the Secret Wars release with some resculpting to the arms. He’s a pretty complex figure for the MU line in that he includes a harness and tunic sort of thing over the regular MU buck and a removable quiver of arrows that slings over his shoulder. I like the head sculpt well enough, although it is a tad soft. There’s some slop around the face, but otherwise the paintwork is nice and clean, presenting him in his iconic purple and blue deco. All in all, this is a solid representation of comic Hawkeye in figure form and I’m pretty pleased to finally have a comic accurate Hawkeye on my shelf.  In addition to the quiver, you also get a bow and arrow.

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Because Hawkeye is based off an older figure, there’s a little less articulation than what we’re seeing now. You get ball joints in the neck, shoulders, and hips. The arms have swivels in the biceps and wrists, and the elbows are hinged. The legs feature double hinges in the knees, swivels above the boots, and hinges in the ankles. There’s also a ball joint in the torso. It’s not a bad degree of poseability, although it’s frustrating that you can’t really get his arms down.

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Next up is Mockingbird and she is not a bad pick up for the MU roster. She uses a very standard female buck, so she does feel a little dated. The only original sculpting on the body is in the tops of her boots. Still, Hasbro makes up for that with a really great head sculpt. Her mask looks terrific and her long hair is sculpted to fall both in front of and behind her shoulders, and doesn’t inhibit her neck movement too badly. Her costume is painted on with a simple black and white deco. There’s a little bit of slop along the lines. It’s definitely not the cleanest paint job in my MU collection, but I’ve seen a lot worse… I’m looking at you Ms. Marvel!  She comes with her fighting stick, which can separate into two and I’m pretty sure it’s just a repaint of the weapon that came with Daredevil.

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Mockingbird features the older style female MU articulation, which means no swivels in the biceps or thighs. You do get ball joints in the neck, shoulders, and hips. The arms have hinges in the elbows and swivels in the wrists. The legs have double-hinges in the knees and hinges and swivels in the ankles. She can swivel at the waist and has an additional ball joint just under her chest. Honestly, the dated articulation bothers me the most on this figure because I’d like my Mockingbird to be able to pull off some cooler moves than she’s capable of.

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And last up is War Machine. I’ve saved him for last because he is a straight repaint of the Iron Man 2 figure, which I have in my collection and featured waaaay back in March last year. Hey, I’m not complaining, because this is a great sculpt and I adore this new paint job. Rhodes is done up in his black and white deco and holy crap it looks awesome. The black has a subtle metallic finish and the white parts are a beautiful pearlescent white. I’m not big on double-dipping on repaints, but this one was well worth it… he’s gorgeous! War Machine comes with the same two effects parts as the Iron Man 2 release, which fit over his weapons to simulate firing. As is often the case with MU effects parts, I can take them or leave them. I’ll concede, however, that these are better than the usual translucent blob that goes over the hands or that terrible energy funnel that has come with most of the Iron Man figures.

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War Machine features ball joints in the neck, shoulders, elbows, and hips. His wrists have hinges, but there’s no bicep swivels. The legs have double hinges in the knees and swivels and hinges in the ankles. There’s some kind of ball joint or swivel in the torso, but it barely moves. In addition to the regular articulation, War Machine’s shoulder weapons are hinged to angle onto his back and his shoulder armor pieces are hinged to allow for greater arm movement.

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Yes, this set features some classic double-dipping and the figures feel rather dated compared to the current MU single carded offerings. But these sets are all about value so a lot of this is to be expected. I got mine for $20 and that’s not bad for three MU figures these days. Both Hawkeye and Mockingbird fill some holes on my MU shelves and the War Machine repaint is just bad ass enough to have warranted a purchase, even if he was alone. Granted, if you already own Secret Wars Hawkeye, this set might give you pause, but even then it’s probably worth it if you can get it for an Andy Jack. It’s definitely the most accessable and least expensive among the current crop of these multi-packs. I’m still hunting for the others at a more reasonable price than what I’m seeing.

 

Sunday Funday: Bendis’ Moon Knight

Tomorrow starts my vacation in which I will embark on a great quest to see how little I can leave the house during the span of a week. I seriously plan on doing nothing other than lay around read comics, enjoy cigars and libation, and maybe play a video game or two. Well, I started a bit early this weekend by lighting up an H. Upmann Corona Major and re-reading Brian Michael Bendis’ Moon Knight in its collected TPB releases. I’m thinking of just renaming Sunday Funday Comics & Coronas.

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Almost every year it happens. That one book I love gets shit-canned. The year before last, I was still reeling from some of my favorite DC books falling victim to the reboot, but last year it was the end of Bendis’ short run with Moon Knight that cut the deepest. God, I loved this book! It took a character that I hardly gave two shits about and turned him into someone that got me to the comic shop for each new issue. Marc Spector, self-appointed Hollywood socialite works on a campy TV series about his life, while trying to establish himself as a West Coast Avenger and unravel the mystery of a new Kingpin and the sale of an Ultron head. The art by Alex Maleev is excellent. It’s gritty, it’s edgy, and it gives the book a serious undertone, which balances out the black comedy really well.

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Yes, I love comics for all sorts of reasons, but in the end, it’s the ones that make me laugh that usually get me coming back the most. Bendis’ Moon Knight is good with that. Marc Spector is batshit insane (but he would argue all costumed super heroes are!) and the book’s greatest selling point is the pithy inner dialogue between him and the voices in his head who take on the personalities of Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Captain America. Cap takes on the role of Spector’s moral compass, Spidey is his fun and impulsive side, and Wolverine just mercilessly berates him for everything he does and everything he fails to do. Toss in the self-deprecating humor found in the fact that Moon Knight can get no respect from friends and foes alike, and Moon Knight is dark comedy gold.

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Not being satisfied with just his inner monologue, Spector takes his neurosis to the extreme and even dresses up like his imaginary friends and in his mind, becomes them. Of course, eventually the real players show up, which leads to great moments like this…

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I could go on and on. There’s some great play between him and his reluctant partner, the sexy, deaf ex-Avenger, Echo. A priceless run-in with criminal hack squad The Night Shift. But easily my favorite part of any of the books is when Spector dresses up like Bullseye and beats the shit out of his newly hired consultant just to see if the guy was trustworthy.

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There’s no doubt, Moon Knight was one of my favorite books of 2012. In fact, it’s probably second only to IDW’s Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye. I would have loved to see Moon Knight go on, but I can’t deny there’s something to be said for having a shorter, self-contained run. Moon Knight was canned after 12 issues. It went out on a high and it left me wanting more, and if you’re a comic book or movie, or just about any other kind of entertainment, that’s generally considered a success. As it stands, Moon Knight is the perfect length to pull out every couple of months and spend a lazy afternoon re-reading and I enjoy it every time.

Images used are the copyright of Marvel Comics and are reproduced here for review purposes only. If you love comic books, support the artists and writers by BUYING them, either digitally or in print. Better yet, buy them in print and support your local comic shop too!

Terminator 2: T-800 and Endoskeleton by McFarlane

Yes, folks, it’s Pub Night for me and in the interest of doing a really quick feature more quality Toy Closet Finds features, I’ve crawled into the back of my storage and pulled out a random file box. Inside was a wealth of goodies from my glorious KayBee Toy Outlet days. No, actually, it contained a bunch of shit that I should probably go drop off at Goodwill, but there are a few decent pieces in there. I used to hit the KB Toy Outlet once every week or so with a goal of spending no more than $20 and it’s amazing some of the stuff I used to come out with. I really miss that place. A lot of the figures I used to buy were from McFarlane Toys and today we’re going to talk Terminators: Specifically, the T-800 and the Endoskeleton from the Movie Maniacs line. I was really impressed with these guys when I picked them up way back when. Let’s see how well they aged.

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Kicking things off with the Endoskeleton… he’s a good example of how investing in McFarlane figures isn’t always a good idea. Sure a lot of them go up in value, but they also deteriorate right before your eyes. This guy was sealed in a nice safe baggie and carefully packed away in the box. When I withdrew the bag, it was full of parts. Did he disassemble himself? I guess after ten years anything is possible. Happilly, I was able to piece him back together, and ultimately the only thing wrong with him is one of the cables on his left shoulder separated. We’ll call it battle damage and move on.

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I think the Endoskeleton holds up really well. This is a pretty complex design that can’t be easy to reproduce at this scale, and yet the sculpt is certainly amazing. There are so many little fantastic details here, particularly in the head and the upper body. It’s funny to think that a decade later, Playmates couldn’t come close to reproducing anything close to this quality of detail with their shitty take on the Terminator: Salvation license. In addition to the superb sculpt, the weathered steel look of the paintjob makes works well. Obviously a mirror polish finish wasn’t going to happen, so it was smart to go with the gritty look. It just makes him look all the more realistic. I’m pretty sure he came with a couple of guns, but I have no idea what became of them.

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As we’ll see in a moment with the T-800, McFarlane’s Movie Maniacs line weren’t known for their articulation, so it’s ironic that the Endoskeleton turns out to be more action figure than statue. His head swivels, and his shoulders can rotate and have lateral movement. His arms have swivels in the biceps and hinged elbows. His legs rotate at the hips, his knees are hinged, and he can swivel below the knees. He can even swivel a bit at the waist and he has an ab crunch! Even better, all his joints have working pistons! It would have been cool if his head angled up and you could get him in a decent crawling position, but considering this is McFarlane we’re talking about, I’ll quit while I’m ahead.

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Moving on to the T-800, this is Arnold from the end of Judgement Day where he’s seriously messed up. It was a cool decision to base the figure off this point in the movie because the battle damage really gave McFarlane’s sculptors a chance to shine with all the little details. Let’s get one thing out of the way first, this is a statue with a few points of articulation to tweak the pose. He has swivel cuts in the neck, shoulders, wrists, waist, thighs, and boots. It may sound like a lot, but it’s not. The Endoskeleton may pass as an action figure, but Arnold here does not.

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But what Arnold lacks in articulation, he makes up with in sculpt. The detail on this piece is insane. His face is blown off, revealing bits of endoskeleton and every little chunk of jagged flesh is lovingly recreated. The leather jacket and pants are replete with little wrinkles, stitches, and zippers. The jacket itself is sculpted separately so it can hang loose around his waist. His bandoleer strap of grenade rounds is also a separate piece, and it’s even missing three of the rounds in the front, and cleverly plugs into the bullet holes on his back. Bullet holes? Oh, the tiny little bullet holes! He’s absolutely riddled with them. Fantastic! A great deal of Arnold gets by with the matte black paint for his leather, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some impressive paintwork on display here, particularly on the head where there is a delightfully disgusting mix of flesh tone, glossy red gore, and burnished steel. The torn up knee is pretty cool too!

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Arnold comes with two weapons: A grenade launcher and an automatic pistol. They are both decent sculpts and the grenade launcher will even break open for loading the breech. They can both be removed from his hands, but there isn’t much point since each weapon is designed for a specific hand and he looks rather funny posed without them.

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Generally speaking, McFarlane figures leave a sour taste in my mouth because a lot of mine didn’t survive storage. And even if they do, they often have a habit of breaking of breaking rather quickly when I take them out and handle them. Case in point, out of all my Viking Age Spawn figures, I think only one has survived to this day. That having been said, this pair do hold up really well even a decade later. I’m not really that into the Terminator franchise anymore, so I doubt these will be on display again anytime soon, but it’s nice to know I can still pull them out and admire them the next time I decide decide to bust out my Blu-Ray of Judgement Day, a movie that I still consider to be one of the best science-fiction-action films ever made.