FigureFan’s Favorites 2013, Part 1

Ok, folks, you got the preamble yesterday, so let’s not dilly-dally too much. Let me just say that after reviewing this year’s features, my original list of Favorites was HUGE. And even after I singled out the really great stuff, it was still more than twice what it needed to be. In the end, even I was surprised about a few things that landed here. There’s a lot of stuff that deserved to be on this list, and in some cases entire toy lines that deserved to be represented, but my self-imposed rule set for this nonsense can be a fickle bitch. Also, these are not necessarily in any order.

Starship Legends: Klingon Bird of Prey by Diamond Select: I should start out by saying that the re-issue of The Enterprise-D was also vying for this slot, but to be fair the outcome was never even close partly because of The Enterprise’s stand issues and partly because the Bird of Prey is just so amazing. This was the first time we saw the BoP in the Legends line and Diamond Select knocked it out of the park. The sculpt and coloring are gorgeous and the vibrant LEDs could burn out the retinas of a small child. Also, hearing Christopher Plummer’s pithy quotes as General Chang never gets old for me. Sure, the landing gear was held back for a later release, but I can’t hold that against what is otherwise a stunning display piece. It’s no wonder that Diamond has milked this mold for two more variant releases and is still planning on a fourth.

TMNT Anchovy Alley Pop-Up Pizza Playset: We all know that playsets are a dying breed. Retailers don’t want them because they’re too expensive or take up too much space on the shelf. Playmates found a work around with this ingenious release. It’s a playset that collapses into something small enough to hang on a peg and unfolds into a really cool set big enough to display all your Turtles. I love this concept, and while Playmates was able to make it uniquely TMNT by having it fold out of a pizza box, other companies really need to look at it and adapt it to their own lines. Imagine if Hasbro knocked out some of these for their 3 ¾” Star Wars figures! Anchovy Alley is a fun toy and a great display piece, but it earns its place on this slot for innovation alone.

Doctor Who: The Three Doctor’s Collectors Set by Character Options: CO had some great releases in 2013, many of which deserve mention here. In the end, however, there were two stand-out figures tied for consideration: Ace and The Brigadier. Ace is an amazing figure with a ton of accessories, but The Brigadier is… well, he’s The Brig for chrissakes! Plus, he came in a three-pack with Jo Grant, so no matter how cool Ace was, there was no way I could overlook the addition of two classic companions in one box for this list. They’re both great figures and extremely important releases in the 5-inch line. I’m only thankful that the other versions of The Brig didn’t make it out in 2013, so I didn’t have to choose between them.

Bishoujo Wonder Woman by Kotobukiya: Koto released a number of great Bishoujo Statues this year, many of which deserved mention here. Unfortunately for them, I was late in picking up Wonder Woman and so while she was actually released the prior year, she still claims victory. She is not only my favorite Bishoujo Statue to date, but she makes for a gorgeous stand-alone piece for non-Bishoujo collecting Wonder Woman fans as well. Had WW not been in my catalog of features this year, I’m pretty sure The Huntress would have taken the spot, as both are exquisite statues and I never grow tired of admiring them on my shelf.

Function X-2: Quadruple-U by Fansproject: In sticking with my rules, I was only going to allow one Not-Transformer on this list, despite they’re being made by different companies. I was really tempted to allow a second slot for Third Party combiners, but in the end I held fast and stuck to my guns. It was an insane year for Not-Transformers and I added a lot of them to my collection and loved them all, but there was never any doubt that one of FP’s Function series was going to make it on this list. I got all three this year so it was a tough choice. In the end, I went with Q-U because of three reasons: First, the engineering of the transformation is absolutely brilliant. Second, the deco on this guy is gorgeous. Third, of the three characters, Weirdwolf held the most nostalgia for me as a G1 toy. I was originally intended to just list the Function series as a whole, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that Q-U was able to edge out the others. Either way, they all deserve mention. Special recognition to MMC’s Bovis as he was my clear runner-up.

Alrighty, folks, that’s enough awesome for one day. Swing back tomorrow as I’ll wrap up the Final Five!

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By figurefanzero

Goodbye, 2013 and Hello, Best and Worst Week!

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Yes, it’s time for one of those insufferable “End of the Year” recaps. As a blogger I am contractually obligated by the Elders of the Internet to produce one of these vapid chronicles at the end of each year. Personally, this is a time of joy for me because it rings in the end of the Christmas Season, or what I like to affectionately call “The Hell Times” and lets me take a week off. Yes, these lists were lovingly crafted in sweat and alcohol during the course of last week so that I could set it up, put FFZ on autopilot, and spend the next week trying to kill those specific few brain cells that hold the memories of this beloved Yuletide Season. The tanker truck of Jameson docked at my house last night and my cat, decked out in full tuxedo, has just leapt upon my desk and exclaimed, “party of one, your table is ready.”

For the uninitiated, here’s how it works. I will chronicle my Ten Favorite items featured on FFZ in 2013 as well as my Ten Biggest Disappointments. My Favorites will be split up into two parts for tomorrow and Wednesday and The Disappointments into two parts on Thursday and Friday. Saturday and Sunday I will be off completely, no doubt trying to claw my way back to reality, and on Monday I’ll be back to start a whole new year of toy related shenanigans.

Now there are some general rules. Items on this list come from stuff I featured this past year, not necessarily stuff that was released this past year. With that having been said, I think most of it does happen to fall into 2013 releases. I wasn’t buying a lot of vintage or older stuff this year because I was having enough trouble keeping up with current releases. Second, I try to limit each toy line to one slot on each list. That keeps me from being a bastard and just taking up the entire Favorites list with Third Party Transformers and Doctor Who figures. I hope to be more or less successful in this, but there may indeed be some fudging.

And that’s it! I’m off to enter the Odin Sleep, although I will be popping on Interwebs from time to time. But before I go, I’d like to thank everyone who stopped by FFZ this past year to partake in my plastic obsession. I truly appreciate each and every Reader, Facebook Like and Twitter Follower, and I’m always grateful for the comments and emails… even the nasty ones! I continue to do this as a labor of love, but it’s always nice to have people to share my plastic passion with.

I will see you Toy Hounds next Monday with my first feature of 2014. Enjoy your holiday and be safe!

By figurefanzero

Doctor Who: Dalek Invasion Time Zone by Character Options

Cardboard playsets! Some weeks ago I waxed nostalgic and looked at Biff Bang Pow’s “retro-style” TARDIS, which harkened back to the days of Mego and their cardboard environments. Everybody knows that playset-grade toy plastic wasn’t invented until sometime around 1981. But even today some companies are using cardboard in their playsets. Playmates’ TMNT Sewer Lair is a fairly recent example. Character Options, however, appears to be trying to revive the cardboard playset with their new Time Zone sets. These are diorama display areas that rest on a plastic frame, but are otherwise made entirely of illustrated, glossy cardboard and held together by folded tabs and a handful of plastic pins. I wasn’t going to delve into any of these, but I finally broke down and bought this Dalek Invasion set, not so much for the environment but for something amazingly cool that comes with it… The Dalek Hoverbout!

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The set comes in a rather smallish enclosed box. It’s pretty thin and it could have been a lot thinner if it weren’t for the included Hoverbout. When you open it up and spill out the contents you find a whole lot of flat cardboard, the framework for the plastic base, some instructions, a bag of plastic pins, and the Hoverbout. Originally, I was not even intending to put this thing together, as I have nowhere to display it. But after a little examination I realized it could be disassembled again and put back into the box. Putting it together was pretty quick and easy and the parts tabbed in pretty well.

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Unlike the other Time Zone sets, this one doesn’t really relate to any specific episode. I suppose you could argue the case that it’s a “Journey’s End” set, but that was a 10th Doctor story and there are no figures from that era that are in scale with this set. Me? I kind of prefer a generic set over something very scene specific. Anyway, the diorama features two walls that form a backdrop of Dalek infested London, complete with Big Ben and part of a huge Dalek Saucer. There’s a landing pod coming off the Saucer with a ramp and a little enclosed hatch where you can stand a Dalek. Because of the pod there really isn’t a lot of extra room on the base for more figures, but you can squeeze some more in here and there. It’s quite sturdy for what it is, although the plastic tabs that hold the upper extensions on the walls don’t lock very well. I’ve already lost some of them. It’s also worth noting that these Time Zone sets are modular, so you can connect them together. Why you would want the submarine from “Cold War” stuck to “Dalek Invasion” and stuck to the mansion from “Hide” is beyond me. But, hey, whatever floats your boat.

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The biggest failing of the set is the cardboard TARDIS panel in the backdrop. It’s way too big to be in scale with the 3.75” figures and so it just looks weirdly out of place. It seems like a pretty careless oversight. Fortunately, the TARDIS is a separate piece so you can just leave it out creating a window where you can place the properly scaled Spin-and-Fly TARDIS and it looks pretty good there.

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Back in the old Doctor Who comics, the Daleks were sometimes pictured piloting hoverbouts into battle and this set actually includes one of those vehicles. It may seem like an odd piece considering that the NuWho Daleks can pretty much hover and flit about wherever they please, but I always loved the concept of Daleks using these little vehicles. The hoverbout included in this set is a wonderfully sculpted piece, complete with a control panel with an orb to interface with a Dalek’s sucker arm and detailed engines underneath the platform. There are indentations in it that match up with the wheels on the CO Daleks to keep him from rolling out as you’re wooshing this thing around your living room. The hoverbout is without a doubt the sole reason I bought this set and it certainly justifies the purchase. The 3.75” Daleks are awesome figures and they look great in this little vehicle.

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I had no real positive expectations about this set as a whole, so when I say it wound up being nicer than I thought, you should take that with a grain of salt. It’s not a bad little way to display some figures on a shelf, but it’s too big for any of my bookshelf displays and with how much space the saucer pod takes up, you can’t really pack it full of figures either. Nope, mine is destined to be disassembled and put back into the box for storage. The hoverbout on the other hand? That little beauty will be displayed all the time. It’s a wonderful pick up of a toy that I’ve wanted ever since I was a lot younger and reading the comic adventures of Abslom Daak and his Dalek hunting exploits.

Star Wars Black: Padme Amidala (3 ¾” Scale) by Hasbro

I know what you’re thinking. “What? More of those shitty little Star Wars Black figures? Why don’t you review the 6-inch figures, you sonofabitch?” Woah, there! I promise that this is the last of the 3 ¾” Black figures that I’m going to look at before moving on to cover Wave 2 of the 6-inchers. The name of the game this week has been doing quick features that I can squeeze in between my busy schedule. I’ve been intentionally putting the 6-inch Black figures off until January so that I could give them their proper due once things have calmed down for me. I’ve already featured two of these 3 ¾” figures and it’s safe to say that the line has not been kind to me, nor I to it. Let’s see if Natalie Portman can turn the tides!

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There’s the SWB 3 ¾” card and I’m still not digging it. I will say that at least this figure’s bubble hasn’t prematurely separated from the card, so that’s something. Contained within the miraculously still attached bubble is Padme Amidala in her strategically torn clothing from Thor: The Dark World “Attack of the Clones.” Hey, Hasbro, if you’re going to do an update to an Amidala figure you certainly picked the right one. Although if you do another, you might want to release her in that little black outfit from that scene where she’s telling Anakin she’s a Senator with only business on her mind while wearing an S&M inspired negligee. Anyway, I tend to think of this release as “Arena Battle Padme” and I’m pretty sure the last time this version was done was way back as part of the original AotC series and that’s when Hasbro was incorporating a lot of pre-posed sculpts and action gimmicks, which meant that the figures often sucked.

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No action gimmicks here! In fact… I’m almost shocked to say it, but… holy crap this is actually a really nice figure. No, strike that… this is an EXCELLENT figure! The detail in the outfit is fantastic, right down to the little sculpted piping in the top and the leggings. The boots are intricately detailed, her belt features some little pouches and a working holster and even her bicep rings are neatly painted. Now this is how to properly do a figure in 2013, Hasbro!

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Flip her around and she has some rather gruesome scratches across her back as well as tears in her top from one of those arena creatures. The scars are not only part of the sculpt, but also painted in with laser precision. Honestly, I could have done without them, as they are rather gross and off-putting, but I can’t help but respect how beautifully they were executed. Hasbro also did a pretty nice job sculpting Ms. Portman’s derriere. I’ll confess, I’ve grown a new appreciation for her butt after seeing “Your Hignesss.”

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The portrait is also quite good for a 3 ¾” sculpt. I’d definitely say this figure features a better likeness to Ms. Portman than Diamond’s recent Marvel Select version from their Thor 2 line (Woof!), and that’s a twenty dollar 6-inch scale collector piece. The likeness here is just superb and the paintwork on the face is crisp and clean!

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The articulation here is pretty good, with the only thing holding it back being the T-crotch for the hips. Proper ball jointed hips would have really made this figure perfect and the old style jointing feels dated alongside the rest of the figure’s articulation. The legs feature ball joints in the knees and ankles. The arms have ball joints in the shoulders and elbows and swivels in the wrists. Padme has a ball joint in the torso, which is cleverly hidden under her torn shirt, and her head is ball jointed. Not bad!

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Padme comes with two weapons. You get her Naboo-style blaster, which fits comfortably in her hip holster. You also get a larger blaster rifle, which I believe is one she salvaged from a downed Battle Droid, but I could be wrong about that. “AotC” is not exactly one of my “go-to” movies and it’s been ages since I’ve seen it. Her right hand is sculpted to hold the pistol and her left to hold the larger blaster, but I’ve been able to make it work the other way around as well.

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After doing two Star Wars Black features with two shitty re-hashes of figures that have been done so much better, it’s refreshing to finally hit a payoff here. Padme is a superb figure and an updated version of the character that was long overdue.  I’d go so far as to say she’s one of the best Star Wars figures I’ve picked up in a while. I got her for $5 during Amazon’s sale, but I would have been perfectly happy laying down ten bucks for this kind of quality. This is a figure that would have been right at home released alongside the other Vintage Collection figures. I believe she was planned for another line that was to coincide with the aborted theatrical re-release of “Attack of the Clones” in 3D and if that’s the case I’m very happy that Hasbro eventually got her to the pegs because she’s a must-have for any collection.

 

Transformers Generations: Rewind and Sunder by Hasbro

I hope everyone had a great holiday. Today I’m giving the gift of a quick and dirty Feature because I am back at work today cleaning up the aftermath and then I’ll be sinking into a hot bath with a bottle of Jameson for the remainder of the night. Hopefully I won’t pass out and drown. Today is indeed Transformers Thursday and while TFT was originally designed to look at past releases, for the time being I’ll be mixing some current Transformers into the mix and today is one of those instances. Let’s check out a couple of Blasters’ tape disc minions.

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While I liked Generations Blaster a lot, I wasn’t too keen on the Steeljaw disc that came with him, so I had no intention of buying any of the discs. Low and behold, someone gave me a set of these for Christmas and I was surprised at how happy I was to receive them. It was one of those situations where I would never have bought these for myself, so this was a convenient way for me involuntarily to give them a try. I don’t have a lot to say about the packaging, other than they come on a Generations-style card, packed in their robot modes alongside a couple of disc cases.

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The discs come with two translucent plastic cases with nice gold Autobot emblems stamped on their lids. It’s a cool nod back to the tape cases included with some of the recent releases of Soundwave’s cassettes. I’m still not entirely sold on these chunky discs as a credible medium for advanced robots to store data. Why couldn’t Hasbro have printed similar circuitry patterns on rectangular cassette-shaped devices and just called them Memory Chips? Am I over anaylzing the concept? Probably. Both discs feature an auto-transform gimmick where if you drop them just right they will spring into their robot forms. It works pretty well, so long as you drop them hard enough and the fall strikes the trigger button on the bottom of the disc.

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Sunder is the bird, which is obviously a repaint of Soundwave’s Laserbeak disc. Unless there’s a huge gap in my G1 Transformers memory, I’m pretty sure he’s a brand new character. I certainly don’t remember the old Blaster having a bird cassette. But I get it, it’s another way for Hasbro to get a little more money out of the mold and that’s cool. Sunder actually looks pretty good, although his wings are super chunky. He’s nowhere near as cool a design as the vintage Laserbeak and Buzzsaw, but he’s not terrible either.  As far as robot animals that auto-transform from big fat discs go, he’s certainly better than Steeljaw.

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Next up we have Rewind and I have mixed feelings about him. On the one hand, he’s a pretty primitive figure since the only articulation he has is rotation in the shoulders. He also doesn’t completely auto-transform, as you have to put his arms down and fold his feet out. On the other hand, considering he’s supposd to be a humanoid robot that changes into a disc, I’m trying to give him some slack. Truth be told, for what he is, I think he looks pretty impressive. The sculpt is good and I like the paint deco, you jsut can’t do a whole lot with him. He’ll display just fine next to Blaster, but he’s not a very exciting toy.

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In the end there’s nothing here that convinces me that I should have run out and bought these little figures, but they are much better than I expected them to be. Most people are afraid to get me toys for Christmas because they have no idea what I have, so it’s kind of a cool novelty to actually get these guys as a gift. I think Blaster would have been better served if he got bundled with one of these two figures instead of Steeljaw. Then again, maybe Hasbro thought nobody would pay for Steeljaw in a separate pack.

Doctor Who: Weeping Angel (3 ¾” Scale) by Character Options

[Merry Christmas, peeps and toy-hounds! This is actually a recording as I am off celebrating Christmas with my family and after that I will be coming home, getting snockered drunk (hopefully off a nice bottle of Scotch that some generous friend bestowed upon me as a Christmas present) and watching “Time of the Doctor” where we will be waving off the 11th Doctor. Oh, boy… Scotch and a regeneration episode. Before this night is over I’ll likely be crying like a baby. A big drunken baby.  Anywho, today’s feature was carefully chosen because it is Doctor Who content, and because nothing says Merry Christmas more than a creepy-ass stone angel that wants to kill you. Enjoy and have a great holiday!]

The last batch of 3 ¾” Doctor Who figures that I featured here on FFZ came from the wave of variants, but there was one figure in the original wave that I initially passed on and that was the Weeping Angel. I’m just not as smitten with these monsters as most fans seem to be, so picking up a tiny version wasn’t high on my list. Nevertheless, when I put in my order for the variant figures at Who North America, they still had some of these left, and so I decided to just complete the wave and get one, because.. well, why not? It’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for the figure, but let’s see how she/he/it turned out.

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Here’s the packaging. We’ve seen it plenty of times now, so I won’t dwell on it. In fact, the only thing I’ll say here is that I’m really surprised that CO packed a stand in with this figure. It obviously doesn’t need it, but we got one nonetheless and there is indeed a peg hole in the bottom of the angel to plug it into the stand if you so desire. This pleases me because my borderline OCD demands that if one figure in a collection is displayed with a stand, they all should be.

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Out of the package and I’m pretty impressed with how this little angel turned out. The sculpt is quite good. In fact, all things considered, it’s probably one of the better ones in this collection. The head is detailed and is as disturbing as a screaming alien-demon-angel creature should look. The robes are sculpted with all the pleats and wrinkles, and the wings are feathered. What’s more, the coloring and paint wash really do conspire to give the figure a pretty convincing stone look.

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As you might expect, there isn’t a lot of articulation to be had here. The Weeping Angel has that classic tee-pee design that a lot of figures wearing robes or long skirts have. In this case, however, the robes are one solid piece and there’s nothing under them. Granted, the 5-inch version had a shorter skirt and actual legs, but considering the smaller scale here, I’m not complaining. It’s certainly fitting for a figure that is supposed to be a stone statue and besides the 5-inch version can’t stand on its own very well, so I’m not sure the legs helped it. This smaller Angel does feature ball joints in the neck and shoulders, and it can swivel at the waist. The arms are sculpted slightly bent, so you can get them into various boogity-boogity poses and that’s good enough for me.

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The 3 ¾” Doctor Who line has certainly had its ups and downs, but I’m going to count the Weeping Angel in the plus column. It’s a nice looking piece with a good sculpt and a nice, realistic looking finish. Plus, considering the subject at hand, the limited articulation really shouldn’t bother anyone. After all, if you’re looking at the Weeping Angel figure it shouldn’t be moving at all, right? If I was a bigger fan of the Angels, I could see myself grabbing a few more, but seeing as how I’m lukewarm on these monsters, so one should suffice.

Star Wars Black: Biker Scout (3 ¾” Scale) by Hasbro

The first figure I looked at in the Black 3 ¾” scale series was the Stormtrooper and it was pretty disappointing. Nonetheless, thanks to Amazon selling these things for ridiculously cheap I couldn’t resist picking up a bunch of different figures in the line. Case in point, they were handing out Biker Scouts for less than $3 each so I gambled and picked up four of them to add to my already sizeable Imperial Forces. Could I possibly go wrong buying Biker Scouts for $3 a pop? Let’s find out!

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I love the minimalist and artsy deco used for Star Wars Black’s 6-inch window boxes, but I do not care for it all that much on the 3 ¾” carded packages. These figures look like the same kind of stuff we’ve been getting on the pegs for a long while and wrapping them in collector-style art house packages doesn’t really do them any favors. It’s kind of just bizarre and confusing. Now I don’t care one way or the other because I’m tearing these bitches open, but even the MOC collectors may have issues here since the matte finish on the cards don’t wear well and three of the four Biker Scouts I got have issues with the bubbles separating from the card. In fact, one bubble was completely off the card and rattling around in the shipping box. Also, there are no pictures of other figures on the back of the package. It goes against ages of Star Wars figure packaging tradition. It’s just wrong.

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Ok, so there he is. I picked one of the four I got at random for most of these shots. I wouldn’t say he’s the best or the worst, as they all have their share of problems. If you were gracious enough to read my SWB Stormtrooper feature than you know I’m not keen on scrutinizing and comparing different versions of figures. I find it boring and tedious. That having been said, quick research tells me that this figure is a repack of the one that came with the updated Speeder Bike released not too long ago. I never did pick up one of those, but most of my Biker Scouts are from the Legacy Collection, which in turn were repacks of the Vintage Collection figures… I think. I’ve always been very happy with the sculpting and articulation on those figures and so I bought them whenever I saw them on the pegs. 

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From the waist down, this new Black release appears to be a repaint of the Legacy figures I own. The pic above shows the two figures side by side. The sculpting on the Black figure strikes me as being much softer in some areas, and the plastic doesn’t feel as good a quality. Happily the ankle holster is still there for him to stow his pistol and most of the detailing has transferred over.  But the real problem with this figure lies in the paint job or specifically the lack of painted hinges in the shoulder joints. Yes, the shoulder hinges are left black giving him huge black stripes running down his shoulder plates. Blah! The hinges in the ankles are also left black, but with the shoulders being so obvious, it’s kind of hard to get upset about the ankles too. I suppose I could try to convince myself that the shoulder hinges are a paint stripe to denote a special squad of these guys, but I’m really reaching for an excuse. I am usually extremely forgiving about unpainted pins and hinges, but here the oversight is just too obvious and the fact that they were left unpainted in what is supposed to be a 3 3/4″ collector line is just bullshit.  The rest of the paint on this figure’s body is give and take, with a fair amount of slop and bleeding between the black and white.  The one notable improvement in the paint is the lack of mud on the boots. I prefer my Biker Scouts to be clean, although it was never a major sticking point for me on the Legacy Scouts.

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The head on the Black figure is the one thing about the sculpt that varies from the older release. Besides the detail being a lot softer on the Black release, the paint isn’t applied as well and the visor is notably bowed. Of the four figurs I have, the visor varies from being totally rounded to just somewhat bowed, but none of them are as straight as they should be. I definitely prefer the straighter visor and crisper detail on the older figure.

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I’ve never featured the Legacy Scout on FFZ before so let’s run down the articulation. The head rests on a generous ball joint, which is nice because he can look up when riding a Speeder Bike. The shoulders are ball jointed with a pin and hinge and the arms feature ball joints in the shoulders and swivels in the forearms. The legs have ball joints in the hips, knees, and ankles. There is no waist swivel, but there is a pretty flexible ball joint in the torso that gets the job done.

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In the end, I’d say the Biker Scout is only slightly better than the Stormtrooper and still quite a disappointment. With the cheap plastic, soft sculpt, and spotty paint it literally looks and feels like a knock-off. At $10 he is a huge step back from the previous released versions and the people at Hasbro should be ashamed of themselves for putting these on the pegs. It’s one thing to repack an old figure and sell it as new, but for the love of God, why make the figure worse? Granted, at less than three bucks a pop, I can’t get too upset about buying these. There’s always room in the back of my AT-AT for these guys to chill out and just buff up the numbers of my Imperial cannon fodder, but it’s no secret why Amazon is practically giving these things away as “Ad On Items.” So, that makes Strike Two for the 3 ¾” Star Wars Black line, Hasbro. We’ll come back to the line again in a couple of days and see if the next one is any better.

Star Trek Enterprise: Captain Jonathan Archer by Art Asylum

Scattered throughout the last few months I’ve been posting features of stuff that I’m finding in my Toy Crawlspace, and some of that has been a cornucopia of Enterprise figures. The Crawlspace hunt has slowed down lately, partly because I’ve been too busy with Christmas coming, and partly because I’m still waiting for the chemical fog bomb I set off to kill the mutant bat infestation that has taken root up there. Anyway, it’s going to be a real struggle for me to keep daily content going this week with how crazy-busy I will be, so I’m trying to tackle some quick and easy stuff. And that’s where Archer comes in, because he’s quite similar to the Malcolm Reed and Travis Mayweather figures I looked at not too long ago. We should be able to do him justice rather briefly.

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There’s the Enterprise packaging. It’s a card and bubble, but it’s huge and the clever use of printed inserts make it look more like a window box than an actual carded figure. The presentation here is great and you can tell a lot of love went into it. The inserts are printed with all sorts of panel lines to make it look like the hull of the ship and the window displays the figure quite nicely. There are even cutouts on the side panels to show off some of his gear. If you’re careful and have a razor blade handy, you might be able to preserve the packaging, but I just tore this sum’bitch open.

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As I’ve noted before, I like the Enterprise uniforms. They look practical and are convincing as something our early deep space explorers might actually wear. They are not, however, the most exciting design for an action figure. Nonetheless, Art Asylum went out of their way to make it something special. The torso part of the jumpsuit is made of soft rubbery plastic laid over the figure’s buck. It’s a cool effect that adds to what could have been a rather boring figure. The suit is loaded with sculpted wrinkles, cinching around the belt, zippers, and it features the departmental piping on the shoulders and the Enterprise patch on the shoulder.

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The Art Asylum inmates have always been pros at sculpting great portraits for their figures and Archer here is no exception. The likeness to Scott Bakula is quite impressive and the paintwork is pretty clean. You need to get in really close to see any tiny inconsistencies in the hairline.

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If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t want your Starfleet Captain sitting on the bridge all day, you should find the articulation here pretty accommodating. The arms have ball joints at the shoulders, swivels the biceps and wrists, and they are hinged at the elbows. The hip joints are concealed by the jumpsuit, but they feel they have some kind of rotating hinge offering a good range of motion. The legs have swivels in the thighs, hinges in the knees, and ball jointed ankles. Archer can swivel at the waist and features a ball jointed neck with a generous range of movement.

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As for accessories, you get the same assortment of Starfleet Gear that came with the other Bridge Officers: A phase pistol, a communicator, and a tricorder. You also get an extra pair of hands. The communicator and tricorder are pretty small and difficult for him to hold all that well, but the phase pistol is still a really cool piece, which Archer can wield brilliantly. Finally, you get the translucent blue Enterprise base stand, which looks beautiful with the figure standing on it, but inexplicably has no pegs to secure him to it. Weird!

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If you’re one of the minority like me that liked Enterprise, then you need this figure in your life. He represents the usual fine sculpting and craftsmanship that I’ve come to expect from Art Asylum and he looks damn fine on the shelf alongside his fellow Starfleet Officers. My only real gripe with this line was that we never did get the entire Bridge Crew in their jumpsuits, and that makes collecting these a little bittersweet. Oh yeah, this figure was also available in a larger bridge base set, which included the Captain’s Chair and a piece of the bridge which could connect to others. I do believe I have one of those kicking around here still in the box, but I haven’t unearthed it yet!

Masters of the Universe Classics: Eternian Palace Guards by Mattel, Part 2

Here we go, it’s the final day of Matty Madness Week on FFZ and I’m wrapping up my look at the Palace Guards two-pack. It’s the weekend before Christmas and I’ve got lots of Christmas-y shit to do, so let’s quickly run through a look at the guy that I affectionately call Guard #2!

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From the neck down this fellow is practically identical to the guy we looked at yesterday. The only difference is the plate in his chest armor has a sculpted eagle emblem on it. I do enjoy that this offers a little variety between the guards, possibly denoting him as a Captain or Lieutenant. Or maybe this guy is in charge of guarding the Royal Aviary. On the other hand, all the damaged chest plates we looked at yesterday just have the horizontal lines, so there’s no way to mess up this guy’s chest plate. If you’re not keen on the eagle or you want these guys to look more like the same rank, you could swap in one of the damaged ones and make the two look more uniform. While damaged eagle plates would have been nice, I think this set comes with enough already to justify the price, so I’m not going to complain about the omission.

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This guy’s portrait is a unique sculpt. He’s a pretty generic, clean-shaven dude and just like his buddy he looks way too nice to be a proper guard. Maybe all the battle-hardened bastards are out in the field and the Palace Guard jobs just go to the slow and simple-minded sons of Eternia’s wealthiest families. Once again the helmet is part of the head sculpt and while he comes packaged without a face plate attached, there is one included in the package for him. I definitely plan on displaying these guys with the enclosed helmets because it makes them look a lot more fierce and intimidating.

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This guard comes with the same shield and halberd as his partner, but instead of the mace he comes with a little battle axe. It looks like a repaint of the red one that came with the Weapons Rack. Once again, his weapons can be clipped onto his back. I should note that there’s a lot of transfer between the paint on the weapons and the figure. I’m not sure why, because the paint doesn’t feel tacky or anything, but each time I swap the weapons around, I wind up having to scrape a little silver paint off the figure wiht my thumbnail.

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Didn’t I mention something yesterday about severed heads? Yes, you get two more head sculpts to swap out if you aren’t happy with these two portraits. The additional heads are both different species. One is a reptile and while I don’t want to sound racist, I’m not sure I would be recruiting reptiles into the Palace Guard when one of the enemies out there are The Snake Men. On the other hand, you also get a cat person, which I assume is supposed to be a Qadian and one of Chief Carnivus’ lot. Both portraits are beautifully done and while they don’t come with their own faceplates, they are designed to work with the two that come in the set. Honestly, I doubt I will ever display the figures with these portraits, but it’s nice to have options. I think it was pretty generous of Mattel to include two brand new bonus head sculpts in this set.

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When the Palace Guards were originally released on Matty Collector, I dismissed them as a way for Matty to use the Man-At-Arms figure as a troop building cash grab, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Matty went the extra mile with these guys and they turned out to be exceptionally cool figures. They got a lot of original sculpting, cool weapons, extra heads, and the nifty Battle Armor gimmick too! They are usually available as part of the Essentials Collection at $54 for the set and considering that most individual figures are now at $27 I think that’s a pretty solid deal. What tipped me over and made me pull the trigger was getting them for around $25 as part of the Cyber Monday deal and I kind of wish that I had picked up two sets. It’s not like I have the space to display a lot of these, but at that price getting another set to put away seems like it should have been a no-brainer.

Masters of the Universe Classics: Eternian Palace Guards by Mattel, Part 1

Ok, we’re in the final stretch of this Masters Madness Week. My apologies to those of you who aren’t interested in this line and rest assured I’ll be back to more variety next week. I’ll also apologize here for stretching today’s feature into two parts, but it’s impossible for me to properly convey just how busy I am with work in this latter half of December so I’m eagerly grabbing any chance to pad something out for one extra day. Today we’re looking at the Palace Guards, better known as the generic and totally expendable Man-At-Arms Minions. They’re basically Eternia’s answer to Star Trek’s redshirts. How many of these poor bastards have to die before He-Man rides in and takes care of business? I guess that’s up to Randor.

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Here’s a little variety! Instead of the same old Masters carded packages we’ve been seeing all week we get a window box! If you’ve picked up any of the MOTUC two-packs then this should be pretty familiar to you. This one is actually only my second two-pack, with the first being the Horde Troopers. The box is also quite similar to the package used for the Jet Sled and Sky-High. You get the same cool Greyskull motif on the inserts and a pretty good look at the figures and only a hint of some of the accessories inside. It’s an attractive presentation that utilizes quite an economy of space.

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The back has the bio blurb and teases you with pics of other figures, many of which are now only available for exorbitant prices on the secondary market. Damn you, Faker, you’re the only one there that I’m missing! But enough about the packaging, I’m rather excited to open this up and see everything that’s inside. We’ll check out the dude on the right with the face mask first, because he looks bitchin. Then tomorrow we’ll check out his buddy and all the other accessories in the box.

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Damn this guy is cool, and I love the armor. The design is appropriately similar to the kind worn by Man-At-Arms, but it isn’t exactly the same, so Duncan is still distinctive enough to look like the leader. That’s important, so Skeletor’s forces know who to try to kill first! And man, let me say that Duncan looks great with a couple of these guys flanking him on either side. There are a total of nine pieces to the armor: Two grieves, two lower arm pieces, two upper arm and shoulder pieces, the chest armor comes in two halves, and a plate in the chest that can be swapped out to reflect damage. Everything is removable via soft plastic straps or clips, and the armor is sculpted with great detail right down to the rivets. Awesome! Under the armor you get a buck very similar to Man-At-Arms, only the boots are different and these guys don’t have the center bump on their belts painted. As a result the deco is the same familiar green and orange that we get with Duncan, which makes for a nice uniform appearance throughout the Eternian Army. This guy’s left lower arm piece fell off a couple times when handling him, but otherwise the armor stays on pretty well. There are also a few minor splotches of silver paint on the figure, possibly transferred from the shield.

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There are a total of three changeable plates for the chest armor: One clean, one with a single gash, and one that’s really been messed up. They work exactly like the plates on Battle Armor He-Man. To swap them you just take off the chest piece, pop out the plate and pop in the new one. Very cool! Here’s a ProTip for the bad guys of Eternia… When you’re fighting these guys, stop aiming for the heavily armored chest piece… try the totally unprotected groin area. You can thank me later.

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While the helmet is part of the head sculpt, the face plate is removable revealing a nicely sculpted face with dark skin. This guy has a pretty kind expression and if he comes across you on the streets surrounding the palace he’s probably more likely to help you out with directions than threaten to club you with a mace if you don’t move along. I love the way the face plate fits and it looks perfect while still allowing you to see the eyes and the bridge of his nose underneath. They look rather intimidating with the fully enclosed helmet. I’m willing to bet these helmets are exactly what the killer wears in Etnerian slasher movies.

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This particular Palace Guard comes with a silver shield, mace and halberd. All are very nice, no-nonsense weapons, just the kind of gear an average guard would carry. I’m very fond of the shiny silver paint used on them and I do believe they are going to look fantastic on my Weapons Rack. There are also two clips on the back of the guard’s armor to carry both weapons.

And that’s where I’m going to break for the day. Come on back tomorrow where we’ll check out the other guard and weapons as well as the severed heads that came in the package. SEVERED HEADS!!!