Cover Girls of the DC Universe: Platinum by DC Collectibles

I started this week with a Marvel statue, so let’s end it with a DC statue! It’s been a little while since I last visited with the Cover Girls of the DC Universe. The series was rebooted, obviously along with the entirety of DC Comics, and last year I picked up Catwoman and Harley Quinn. It’s not quite the same line as it once was, but I still think there have been some interesting releases worthy of my monies. Today’s feature just happens to be one of those: It’s Tina from the Metal Men! I first became a big fan of this team after reading the ambitious, year-spanning series “52” and that got me to go back to read through the initial run of Metal Men books. It was hard not to fall in love with Tina as her mischief and desire to be human often drove many of the stories along. Fast forward to the “New 52” and while the Metal Men proper are still only being teased, Platinum did indeed turn up in Justice League #18 albeit with somewhat tragic consequences. And that, my friends, brings us to today’s statue. I was originally on the fence over buying this one, but I’m very glad I did.

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The statue comes in the typical boring but serviceable DC Collectibles box. You wouldn’t know it from looking at this, but it comes from a company that specializes in graphic design. There are some photos of the statue but the presentation here is just very bland and uninspired. Although, I suppose you could also call it artsy minimalist. The piece inside comes wrapped in plastic and sandwiched safely between two styrofoam trays. Nope, it’s nothing special. What we’re dealing with here is a pretty utilitarian way to get the statue safely to the collector and not much else. Platinum comes out of the box already assembled, attached to her base, and ready for display.

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When dealing with statues, I usually like to kick things off with the composition or sculpt, but in this case the first thing you may notice is the rather monochrome nature of this statue. The entire piece is painted in a metallic silver (or dare I say, platinum?) color with some black scant panel lining to bring out the details of the sculpt. That’s not a complaint, mind you, as the coloring is quite nicely achieved, looks good on the statue, and is above all appropriate. It is, however, worth noting because if you’re looking for a colorful piece for your shelf, this isn’t it. On the other hand, here’s a piece where you don’t have to worry about paint slop or bleeding and the metallic effect is quite striking, particularly when seen in person.

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The composition here is pretty reserved as it simply features Platinum striding along with one foot melting into the base. I’m not sure if she’s meant to be merging with it or if the base is supposed to just be an extension of her, but either way it makes for a pretty cool and creative effect. I’m really happy with the pose DCC went with here. Tina has always been a rather sexualized character and this statue drives that point home without resorting to cheesecake. Sure, she looks kind of like a model striding the runway, but at least she’s not bending over or pushing her boobs together. And she certainly doesn’t need to. Even without a gratuitous pose, Tina’s chest and tushy are well defined and all her womanly curves are on display. While I do like Platinum’s “New 52” design, some may not. Either way, it certainly gave the sculptors more to work with. She has exposed wiring in her arms and just a beautiful mix of organic features, like her visible clavicle, and the robotic plating in her tummy.

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I’m also particularly fond of the portrait here and that’s saying a lot since there isn’t a lot of paintwork to help the sculpt along. I think the detailing in her face is better achieved than we’ve seen in some of DCC’s other recent offerings. Her integral headset is a cool design and the giant plate with her trademark “P” is a nice throwback to her more classic self. I think a lot of my love for this piece comes not only from my fondness for the character, but my weird fascination with female robots. I’ve loved this kind of conceptual art design ever since I first saw Metropolis and one of these days I still swear that I’m going to pony up the big bucks for Yamato USA’s discontinued and pricey Sexy Robot 002 statue.

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My next purchase in this line was intended to be Supergirl. I actually had her pre-ordered last year and had to cancel it in order to bankroll some higher priority stuff. She still would have been next if it weren’t for me finding Platinum on sale at $55, a price I simply could not refuse considering the retail on these is usually $99. She is a really nice piece, but I fear she has a number of things working against her. The lack of dynamic coloring in the source material may put some people off, but most of all, when you consider her abrupt one-off appearance in the “New 52”, Platinum was just a strange choice to occupy a slot in this line. It doesn’t make her any less welcome to me, but it might have been more prudent for DC Collectibles to wait until she was actually appearing in her own book with the rest of the team.

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Transformers Cybertron: Thunderblast by Hasbro

Transformers Thursday is once again upon us and as promised last week I’m going to keep this crazy nautical-themed Decepticon thang going on for one more entry with Thunderblast. This time we have a double rarity because not only are we checking out another seafaring Transformer, but it just happens to be one of those female types. What-What??? Let’s start with her alt mode.

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What we have here is a sleek and sexy speed boat that happens to be armed to the teeth. It’s also one of my all-time favorite Deluxe alt modes from the Unicron Trilogy days. Besides just being so unusual, it’s also wonderfully detailed right down to the little seats in the open cockpit and the translucent orange windshield. There’s a tiny deck gun on the bow that swivels and two outriggers with detachable torpedoes. Dominating the entire payload is the huge 4-pack missile launcher on the back that can swivel 360-degrees as well as raise and lower. If you think it’s a bit much you can also take it off to give Thunderblast a sleeker look. This would be an incredibly fun little toy even if it didn’t transform.

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The deco here is Decepticon perfection. You get a lot of blue with a beautiful coat of metallic silver paint and some purple accents. And since Thunderblast comes from the days when Hasbro could throw paint apps at a figure on a whim, you get a little gold on the very front of the ship and a couple of red accents to round out a great look. The Decepticon insignia on the bow is a thing of beauty.

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As a Cybertron figure, Thunderblast comes with a Cyberkey that unlocks a gimmick in the 4-pack missile launcher. Put the key in the back and it opens up the faux launcher to reveal a real one. You can load the torpedoes into it and fire away. As far as Cyberkey gimmicks go, this one isn’t one of my favorites. I don’t like the fact that you have to load the launcher after the reveal. Plus, those missiles look great as torpedoes, what’s the point of taking them off and shooting them through the launcher. The Cyberkey stuff has always been hit or miss for me and this one is largely a miss.

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As great as Thunderblast’s alt mode is, transforming her is pretty laughable. You just open up the bottom of the boat in two halves and there she is. Unfold her arms and legs, and hinge the boat backpack down to help her stand and you’ve got your robot mode. The robot itself looks really good, but that doesn’t impress me when she’s wearing a giant splayed out boat on her back. I suppose you could argue that it looks like wings and an analogy to G1 Scourge could be made, but the boat kibble is just too unwieldy to make this figure work for me. It’s a shame too because she has amazingly good articulation. There are ball joints in her shoulders and hips, double-hinges in her elbows, hinges in her knees and ankles, plus swivel cuts in her biceps and thighs. Her head is ball jointed and she even has a swivel in her waist. That’s a lot of great articulation that you can’t do a whole hell of a lot with because of that backpack.

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Still, as far as female Transformers go the sculpt here certainly works. Thunderblast looks a lot more feminine than the other female Cybertron figure, Override. She’s got some beefy child-bearing hips, high-heeled boots, and she’s definitely packing a chest. Oddly enough, the chest looks suspiciously like the Autobot Matrix of Leadership to me. Weird! The face is very reminiscent of the CG model of Beast Wars Blackarachnia and there is some spectacular light piping in the eyes. Also, I really love the silver paint they used here.

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In robot mode, Thunderblast can make use of her huge missile launcher as a giant gun. It pegs into either of her forearms, but it’s designed to look like she’s holding it by the handle, which is pretty cool. You can get some decent looking poses with her wielding it, but between the giant gun and the huge backpack it looks like this poor girl is going to crumble from the weight of poor design.

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In the end, Thunderblast is definitely a worthwhile figure to own just because of how unusual she is. A female Decepticon boat? You just don’t see that very often. Her alt mode is fantastic, but she’s ultimately a super simplified shell-former with engineering that just doesn’t impress. Sure, I’ve seen plenty of worse Transformers, which is why I’m still happy to have her on my shelf, but I can’t help but think that if she was a Voyager Class maybe Hasbro could have worked a few more hinges into her and got that huge backpack of hers under control.

And since I mentioned Override and there aren’t a lot of female Transformers out there, next Thursday we’ll go ahead and check her out.

Star Wars Black: Han Solo by Hasbro

Well, it sure took me a while, but today I’m finally wrapping up my look at Wave 2 of Hasbro’s Star Wars Black 6-inch series. In this case, I’m starting and ending with my two favorite figures in the wave. As amazing as Boba Fett is, I think Han here is an equally fantastic figure. But enough with the introductions… boring conversation anyway… let’s dive right in! swb6solo1 Yup, Han comes in the same black window box we’ve been seeing since Wave 1. With a collection of seven of these figures (don’t forget I skipped Maul!) I’m still keeping these in their collector friendly boxes on one of my bookshelves. As the collection grows, I may eventually have to deep six the packaging in favor of a tote or possibly give them their own shelf, but for now the boxes work great to display the figure as well as give me someplace to store the extra bits. And in the case of Han, there are indeed a fair number of extra bits. swb6solo2 swb6solo3 Han comes wearing his Stormtrooper belt, but we’re starting out with just the regular base figure. Obviously, this is “A New Hope” Han, which straightaway makes me a happy camper. I’m looking forward to completing an “The Original 12” in this line and Han brings me one step closer to that. But besides that, I really think Hasbro needs to be focusing on the most iconic characters from the Original Trilogy and once again Han fits that bill perfectly. He comes sculpted in his original smugglers outfit, complete with rumpled shirt, soft plastic vest, and high boots. You also get a choice of belts to change him from Cantina dwelling Han to Death Star escape Han, but we’ll get to those in a moment. First, let’s talk likeness… swb6solo4 Harrison Ford must be a tough actor to sculpt correctly because companies have been trying it for decades and few ever seem to get it quite right. Hasbro has had their wins and opps in the 3 ¾” scale, but even companies like Sideshow and Hot Toys have had their issues getting it just right on far more expensive figures. I can still remember having to pass on Hot Toys’ Indiana Jones, a figure I desperately wanted. In the end I couldn’t justify spending the money because the likeness just wasn’t where it needed to be for a figure in that price range. With all that having been said, I think the portrait on Black’s Han Solo is pretty solid for the scale and price range. A lot depends on which way you’re looking at him. It’s like all of the key features are in place, but at some angles it doesn’t always add up to Ford’s likeness. It’s not bad, though, and I’m pretty content with it. swb6solo8 swb6solo5 In terms of articulation, Han comes equipped with all the poseability I need in my outer space action hero. You get ball joints in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, and hips. The knees are double-hinged and the ankles are both hinged and have lateral rockers. There’s a ball joint in the chest that is really far down and close to his waist, and yet still provides a good degree of movement for the torso. Lastly, the neck is ball jointed and includes an extra hinge. swb6solo9 swb6solo11 And that brings us to the accessories. With two belts, two weapons, and an extra pair of hands, you get almost all you need to create Han at various points along “A New Hope.” Let’s start with his smuggler’s belt. Y’all know by now that I have a fetish for working holsters with my figures and this belt is a thing of beauty. It’s a bit tough to get on, as you need to point Han’s toe pretty sharply and work the thigh strap up his leg. The belt itself fastens with a peg in the back and there’s an extra strap that secures his pistol in place with another peg. It looks absolutely fantastic on the figure. My only concern is that the soft plastic is rather thin at some points and I worry a bit about it’s durability over time. Han is a repack in Wave 3 and I may wind up getting a case assortment just to have a spare Han in case the belt malfunctions. swb6solo7 swb6solo10

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Along with the belt Han comes with his trusty and iconic DL-44 Heavy Blaster. It’s a great looking piece and it fits perfectly in his right hand as well as in the holster. There’s not a lot else to say about it, other than I couldn’t stop taking pictures of him with it out and ready for action!

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swb6solo13 swb6solo16swb6solo17 swb6solo15Next up is the Stormtrooper belt, which comes with a functional holster for the E-11 Blaster. This belt is a lot simpler than his smuggler’s rig, but certainly no less welcome. It fastens with a simple peg and the Blaster fits perfectly into the holster on the back. The Blaster itself is just one sculpted piece, which is odd since the 3 3/4″ Star Wars Black Stormtrooper got one with an articulated stock. Still, I’d rather have one solid good looking piece than a wobbly one with soft moving parts, so I’m cool with that. The only thing left to mention are the extra hands, which are sculpted with Han’s fingerless gloves. I won’t scoff at extra hands, but I doubt I’ll ever even bother to put them on the figure.

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swbhsologrp Ultimately Han Solo here is exactly what I hoped this line would be, and he nudges out Boba Fett as my favorite SWB figure released so far. The figure definitely benefits from the scale change and you get a lot of cool gear and even the ability to create your own subtle variant. Han and Boba make for some nice bookends for what was a pretty solid wave for Star Wars Black. If Hasbro can keep populating waves with figures like Boba Fett, Han, and Greedo, they’ll get no complaints from me. Had Hasbro gone with “A New Hope” Leia over Slave Leia, this assortment would have been a perfect home run for me, but even that Leia was decent enough, and a triple play is nothing to sneeze at. And now that I’m current on the 6-inch Black series, next week I can start swinging back to the 3 ¾” Black figures that I have yet to open.

DC Comics Unlimited: “New 52” Aquaman by Mattel

If you’ve been reading FFZ for a while, you probably recall me making the odd remark about my borderline OCD. It’s not like I can’t go outside without checking the lock on the door a thousand times and I don’t wash my hands until I see bone. It’s just that little inconsistencies often nag at me. I’d like to think there’s probably a little OCD in any collector, so I don’t worry about it too much. What the hell does any of this have to do with Aquaman? Nothing really. It’s just that when it comes to collecting action figures, I hate not being able to complete a team, and Aquaman was the last “New 52” Justice League figure that Mattel gave us before bailing on the DCUC style in favor of that Total Heroes garbage. At least we got five members of the Justice League, but the fact that we’ll never have a proper Green Lantern or Cyborg in DCUC “New 52” style makes me really wish I had just gone with DC Collectibles’ figures in the first place. What was I here to talk about again? Oh yeah, Aquaman. Let’s check him out…

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We’re going to be seeing the DC Unlimited packaging more than a few times over the next month or so. Around Christmastime Amazon had a fire sale on these figures for around $5 each and I took the opportunity to not only finally pick up Aquaman but also get some of those Injustice figures that I was holding out on. We’ve seen this before and I still dig it quite a bit. It’s not too far removed from the old DCUC packages, but it has a fresh new design and a really nice panel of character art on the front that the DCUC packages lacked. The back panel is more similar to the old style, complete with bio and some stats, as well as more of that great character artwork.

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In terms of costume design, Aquaman’s really hasn’t changed much in the jump to the “New 52.” I guess when you hang out underwater with tuna all the time, you don’t always get the new fashion memos.  For those of you who aren’t a fan of the new costumes’ panel lines Aquaman has escaped that treatment. As a result, a lot of this figure is borrowed and/or resculpted from the old DCUC Aquaman, particularly from the waist down where only his fins have been resculpted. The shirt is the same great scale texture that we’ve seen on previous DCUC releases and the sculpted belt is raised from the rest of the figure in keeping with DC’s 3D design guidelines for these characters.

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The portrait on the figure is quite good, with clearly defined features, neat paintwork, and a slightly determined expression. I’d rank this head sculpt closer to the better stuff we were getting out of the DC Signature line. The more youthful nature of the new Justice League is certainly conveyed here as well. Nice job, Mattel!

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Aquaman features all the articulation we’ve come to expect from the DCUC format. The arms feature ball joints at the shoulders, hinged elbows, and swivels in the biceps and wrists. The legs have the usual DCUC style hip joints, hinges in the knees and ankles, and swivels in the thighs. The neck is ball jointed, he can swivel at the waist, and he has the usual ab crunch hinge in the torso.

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Naturally, you get Aquaman’s ubiquitous trident. It’s cast in a matte bronze color, and I really dig the more utilitarian barbed head on this piece. It looks a lot more useful than the overly ostentatious trident from the old DCUC figure. The figure’s hands are sculpted so he can hold it in either or both.

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There’s no doubt that Aquaman is a great addition to the DC Unlimited line, even if the DCUC “New 52” Justice League will never be truly complete without Green Lantern and Cyborg. I’ll concede that this probably isn’t the most exciting figure around because, well, he’s Aquaman and he doesn’t look that much different in the “New 52” Universe. On the other hand, I’ve really enjoyed Aquaman’s current book as well as his contribution in The Justice League. He sure played a pretty big part in the third volume TPB so it’s nice to finally have his figure on my shelf.

Marvel: X-Force Psylocke Bishoujo Statue by Kotobukiya

I ended last week with Kotobukiya and we’re starting this week with the same! The difference is that this week I’m giving the Justice League ArtFX+ statues a rest and instead turning my attention back to Koto’s Bishoujo line. Koto has a veritable shit-ton of amazing Bishoujo statues on deck for 2014-15. From Marvel to DC to Star Wars and Street Fighter, this line is going to get a lot of my money in the months ahead. And if their most recent release, Psylocke, is any indication it’s going to be a damn fine couple of years. This release is Psylocke’s second outing for the Bishoujo line and that’s a rather sore point for me because I missed the first statue and now it sells for crazy prices on the secondary market. I try not to look for it a lot because I kind of want it bad enough to pay a lot more than I should, and so it’s best to try to forget it exists. This all-new Psylocke release, however, serves as a mighty nice consolation prize, even if I’m not usually keen on the X-Force costumes.

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The box shares the same deco style as previous releases in this line, but it’s a little unusual as it is a landscape shaped box to fit the unusual orientation of the statue. As usual, there’s some great source artwork by Shunya Yamashita on the package and the windows give you a tease of what’s inside. The statue is wrapped in plastic and nestled between two plastic trays, so if you want to really get a good look you’ve got to take her out and unwrap her. Psylocke comes already attached to the base and the only assembly required is placing her katana in her hand.

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I’m always impressed by these statues, but Psylocke here absolutely blows me away. Seriously, I don’t want to downplay previous releases in the line, they’re pretty much all great, but I don’t think I’ve been this amazed by a Bishoujo since Wonder Woman. To see what all the fuss is about, first and foremost we have to look at the composition because in terms of pose this is some of Koto’s finest work. Psylocke is poised close to the ground, with one leg bent back under her and the other stretched out all the way so that it extends well beyond the base. She has one hand on the ground and the other holding her katana aloft. This is absolutely gorgeous composition work, so much so that it feels like it belongs among one of their larger and more expensive Fine Art statues. Speaking of size, Psylocke scales perfectly with my other Marvel ladies. Her head is close to the same height as the kneeling Mystique and X-23, but with her katana stretched above her the total height of the piece comes close to statues like Black Cat and Black Widow.

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Of course, composition is only half the battle, and doesn’t mean much without a solid sculpt. Again, in this department, Psylocke outshines most other releases. The contours and curves of Psylocke’s body border on pure poetry and the muscle definition in her shoulders and… um, groin, are superb. The straps on her thighs and biceps are sculpted so that they ever so slightly constrict her skin and the rumbling of the costume adds that extra touch of realism. Even the way her white belt rises up in a frozen flurry conveys the kinetic energy on display here. Her scabbard is tethered to her belt with sculpted ties and is punctuated with a little brass cap. Truth be told, there isn’t a lot of complexity to Psylocke’s costume, but it feels like Koto went above and beyond with what little they had to work with.

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As for the portrait, I really like what they did here. Sure, you can argue that a lot of the Bishoujo portraits look alike, and I wouldn’t refute that. Psylocke here has slightly narrower eyes, giving her a more serious expression that better matches her action packed pose. It fits the statue better than the more frivolous portraits that Koto has used on some of the more cheesecake poses like Kitty Pryde or Sue Storm. I also dig that her face is looking straight up. The style with many of the Bishoujo statues is to have the girl looking slightly down and to the side. It’s part of the “pretty girl” motif, I get that, but it’s kind of nice to get a good look at the portrait from dead on for a change. Of course, Pyslocke’s hair is flowing outward with beautiful effect and the tips of her hair are partially transparent.

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I don’t have a lot to say about the coloring here. The katana looks particularly good with a semi-steel finish on the blade, intricate paintwork on the grip and a bronze colored tsuba and ricasso. The X-Force costume is black and the high gloss contrasts beautifully with the soft matte plastic used for Psylocke’s bare skin. It looks good, but I would have so preferred this piece be her in the traditional purple costume. I suppose there’s always a chance that we could get a Comic Con recolor.

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The base places Psylocke in what I think is supposed to be a Shinto Garden with a piece of sculpture off to the side. The base is textured to look and feel like stone with what looks like possibly snow covered grass. As mentioned, Psylocke’s leg stretches well beyond the base making her the least space efficient Bishoujo so far. She certainly demands a lot of real estate on the shelf, but she’s well worth it and she looks great in the front row with the taller statues behind her.

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Psylocke retailed at just under $60, which is a pretty solid value. Sure, sometimes the Bishoujo’s go down in price, but they also sometimes go up. Because of the fluctuations in price, I usually gamble and don’t pre-order this line, but I was pretty smitten with this piece when I first saw it and so I dropped a pre-order straight away. She’s the 13th Bishoujo statue in my collection and right now she’s definitely in league with Wonder Woman and Huntress in my top three favorite releases. That’s saying quite a bit since I’m not necessarily a big fan of the X-Force costume. This is just a case where Koto nailed the essence of the character perfectly in a breathtaking pose and followed through with a superb sculpt.

DC Comics: The Flash ArtFX+ Statue by Kotobukiya

Today I’m taking a look at the next addition to my Justice League ArtFX+ statues by Koto. This time it’s The Flash and he’s been sitting around waiting to be opened since just after Christmas. I think it’s well past time I get him out and add him to the team! I should note that there’s no particular order in which I’m picking these up. I’ve just been going for whichever ones turn up at special prices online.

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There’s the packaging. It’s the same style used for Supes and Wonder Woman only this time with a Flash motif. Once again, the clear illustrated plastic box makes for a great presentation, but it is rather fragile. I worry about it surviving in the long term, but I still think the tradeoff was worth it. Besides, the character art all matches up with the other statues so chances are you’re going to opt to display the boxes behind the statues rather than put them away into storage. On the downside, I’m going to have to find a wider shelf to display them all because I estimate I’ll only be able to get five across in the display case they’re in now. I call that a First World Problem!

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As with Supes and Wonder Woman, the pose here leans more toward “museum style” than it does action scene, and yet with each release, Koto has managed to work a little inferred energy into the character’s stance. In this case, Flash is standing with one fist punching his open palm. It’s a great pose as it conveys a “Let’s do this!” attitude, as if he’s getting ready to go up against a wave of Parademons.

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If you aren’t up to speed on this line, it’s the “New 52” look and I’m quite partial to The Flash’s current costume. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, many of the current DC costumes were expressly designed with 3D modeling in mind and it really shows in a statue like this one. Every single detail on this piece relies on sculpt rather than just paint. As a result you get all the cut panel lines, the texturing on the boots, the raised chest emblem and even the belt is raised. On top of that Flash features some superb musculature, particularly in his back. You don’t get to see the back detail on Supes because of the cape, but here with Flash it looks pretty spectacular.

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The portrait retains the same anime style as we saw with Superman and, to a lesser extent, Wonder Woman. I don’t think it’s quite as apparent here either, but mostly because Flash is looking slightly down and his mask does cover a great deal of his face. It works for me, but I know some have been put off the style. Either way, the coolest thing about Flash’s head sculpt for me are the lightning bolts. They’re slightly bent to follow the curve of Flash’s head, but each ends in a razor sharp point and boy do they look amazing.

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And then there’s the coloring. No doubt, one of the high point of these statues for me has been the jaw dropping metallic paint jobs. I was a little concerned about Flash because the statue substitutes the gold for the yellow in his costume. It’s really the first time Koto had to make a significant color change to make the metallic finishes work and it obviously makes Barry Allen’s costume look more like old school Wally West’s. In hand, it doesn’t bother me so much, probably because I’m just smitten by how gorgeous it looks.

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Once again, the included base is a simple black metal square with “Justice League” printed on the front. The magnets in Flash’s feet allow him to stand up without toppling over and you can position him on the stand anywhere you want without having to worry about the placement of peg holes or posts.

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So far this line has not disappointed and these statues just look amazing alongside each other! Koto continues to deliver fantastic display pieces for extremely reasonable prices.  Flash retails at around $40-45, but like a lot of these statues, I was able to grab him for just under $30 and that’s quite a steal for the workmanship involved. Next week, I’m going to take a week off from the ArtFX+ statues to give the Kotobukiya slot to Bishoujo and then the following week we’ll swing back around to look at Aquaman!

Transformers Energon: Mirage by Hasbro

It’s Transformers Thursday again and as promised last week I’m back with a look at the Commander of my Sharkticons, Mirage. If you missed last week’s TFT, I gassed on about how I army built Energon Sharkticon and gave them to this guy as his own private armada. Basically, the Energon Sharkticons are the Sweeps to Mirage’s Scourge! But wait… Mirage? Mirage??? I’m usually fine with Hasbro recycling names of Transformers for the various series, but this instance just bugs me. To me, Mirage will forever be an Autobot Formula-1 racecar and taking that name for a Decepticon attack ship is something that I just can’t wrap my G1 head around. It’s too much of a leap. He was repainted later on as Dreadwing and that’s the name I tend to use for him. Anyway, let’s jump right in and check out his alt mode.

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Mirage is a vicious looking warship. I don’t know what you’d classify him as, but he strikes me as a swift moving hit-and-run attack craft. Amidst the countless numbers of cars and jets, there aren’t a hell of a lot of seafaring Transformers so I’m always nice to get a new one. Mirage features an enclosed cockpit area and blade-like fins coming off the front and back of his hull. The front fins each hold two bombs (or maybe torpedoes?), which can detach. For additional firepower, he has two missile launchers mounted toward the back and two more on the front deck. The back launchers can fold out on wings and the front ones can pop up on a clear spring-loaded framework. I like to think that the folding rear wings make Mirage pretty suitable for use as a space faring ship as well as a sea craft.

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The deco here is all over the place. There’s dark blue, light blue, orange, gold, grey, it’s just a crazy mix of colors that compliments the equally crazy colored Sharkticons fairly well. In terms of overall aesthetics, Dreadwing has a much better and more uniform paint job, but as the commander of my Sharkticon army, Mirage’s deco works just fine.

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Mirage’s transformation can be a bit of a pill. It’s fairly complex and there are a lot of moving plates on ball jointed arms that have to be positioned just right. Things tend to flop around all over the place and if you don’t know what you’re doing it can be a disaster. The two halves of his hull also tend to get in the way and a lot of times I’ll just pop them out of the ball joints and set them aside until I’m done. If I haven’t picked this figure up in a while, it’s not uncommon for me to become frustrated with nothing but a half-transformed mess in my hands. It takes some fiddling, but eventually I get there.

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Mirage’s robot mode is 100% Cybertron-Grade-A bad ass. The cockpit area of the ship forms a broad, boxy chest with a socket for an Energon chip dead center. It contrasts nicely with the sculpted organic contours of his legs. It’s a hybrid style aesthetic that reminds me a lot of the original G1 Transformers movie and I really dig it. The proportions are excellent, so much so that even his sizeable backpack doesn’t feel out of place or weigh him down. The side panels that make up his alt mode’s hull are left on double ball jointed arms so there’s a lot you can do with them to customize their look. I have seen some collectors that like to display him with these panels up, but I prefer to sweep them back like wings. That keeps them fairly out of the way and it also stabilizes him really well when standing.

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Mirage’s head sculpt is mighty distinctive and definitely not very humanoid. I do get a vague nautical vibe off of it and while the helmet is completely different, he still reminds me a bit of Beast Wars Depth Charge. In retrospect, that would have made a better name for him than Mirage. Either way, this guy’s portrait ranks up there as one of my favorite Energon head sculpts. It also features some very effective light piping too!

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The only real issues I have with this guy are the large panels that make up his arm launchers. From certain angles they look just fine, but it’s still hard to ignore the major kibble hanging off his arms. I think what frustrates me the most about these is that they could have probably been fixed with the addition of one extra hinge on each plate. It almost looks like that was the original design plan but it didn’t cost out at the end. Ah well, it’s not a deal breaker for me and I suppose he can use them as shields. The deck launchers that now reside on Mirage’s backpack can still be deployed by the push of a button and they angle straight over his head and shoulders. It’s cool that the design enables them to be used in robot mode, but they don’t rest evenly so they don’t look all that great. The one on his left is rather droopy.

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I think Mirage’s deco improves a lot in his robot mode. The blue and orange parts are mostly confined to his back giving him a more cohesive black, purple and gold motif with the grey bits landing mostly on his limbs. Again, I think it makes for a pretty nice match with the Sharkticons.  Also, that sculpted Decepticon emblem on his chest is pure money. I was going to dig out Dreadwing and take a look at his deco, but sadly I ran out of time, so I’ll have to save him for another Thursday.

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Mirage and Dreadwing represent many of the things that I loved about the Energon line. The mold has an imaginative and unusual alt mode and an absolutely bitchin’ robot mode. Above all, it’s a well-designed toy that only stumbles a bit in the floppy and confusing nature of the transformation along with some shell-former shenanigans. Nonetheless, this is a figure that represents Hasbro designers willing to think outside the box and the result is a truly unique figure that stands out as something very cool and very different. I still hate the name, but he’ll always have a place on my Transformers display shelves.

Next Thursday I’ll keep the nautical Decepticon theme rolling for one more week with a look at Cybertron Thunderblast!

Masters of the Universe Classics: Two Bad by Mattel

Holy shit, it’s 2014 and for the first time since the whole Matty Collector madness started I am an official Club Eternia subscriber: Smart move or pure idiocy? Folks, only time will tell. But right now I’m feeling pretty good about it because my Two Bad has arrived and I was able to let Sale Day pass me by without having to worry whether I would be in the middle of a management meeting at work when the gates opened. Of course Sale Day wouldn’t have mattered in Two Bad’s case because he was a Sub Only figure with no stock available for Day of Sale. It was kind of a dick move on Matty’s part, but at this point who isn’t used to it?

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I don’t usually bother with the mailer boxes, but I took a shot of this one because Matty has moved away from the familiar white mailers in favor of these new (and I assume cheaper) brown boxes. To date, I’ve only saved two mailer boxes and those were for the two vehicles, which I keep boxed. As a result I really don’t care about this decision, but I can imagine it might irk some MIB collectors.

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The actual package inside is what we’ve been seeing all along. The only thing I have to say about it is that it corrected my consistent urge to put a hyphen in Two Bad’s name when there isn’t supposed to be one. Sorry, Two Bad… My Bad! HA! I’ll also point out that I found his bio to be of particular interest. I’ve always been familiar with the vintage figure, but I never knew anything about the character. I love the fact that Two Bad was originally two people magically fused together by Skeletor because they failed to take out He-Man. Jeez, talk about a disproportionate response. If Skeletor did this every time his minions failed, he’d just have one giant ball of arms and legs and heads following him around. I also dig that their names, Tuvar and Badra fuse together to make Two Bad. Sort of. It’s like that episode of Star Trek Voyager where Tuvok and Neelix fused to become Tuvix. LOL… Voyager was shit. I’ve been drinking. Where was I? Oh yeah… Let’s rip open Two Bad and check him out.

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My first impression is that I expected Two Bad would be bigger. That’s not a complaint against the figure, just a misconception on my part. He’s actually not much bulkier than your average MOTUC figure and that’s fine by me. With that revelation out of the way, I’ve got to say the next thing that impresses me the most are the colors. I absolutely love the colors on this figure! These particular shades of blue and purple look amazing and when you toss in the silver paint on Tuvar’s gauntlet and boot, the bright red belt and the orange chest armor, it all makes for a very pleasing deco. Indeed, Two Bad’s coloring really gives Mantenna a run for his money and that’s high praise. He’s gorgeous!

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Not to be outdone by the coloring, the sculpt is right up there as well. The contrast between Tuvar’s smooth skin and Badra’s meticulously sculpted scales drives home the combined nature of the figure. I also really dig all the attention paid to the sculpt of Badra’s boot and gauntlet. They don’t stand out much because the dark brown blends in with the dark purple, but there’s some crazy attention to detail there. The boot has all kinds of medieval looking spikes and buckles and the glove has a reinforced band on the knuckles to deliver extra pain in his punches.

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And then there are the portraits! Usually when we talk about multiple portraits on a figure we’re talking about swappable heads, but in this case it’s two at the same time. How cool is that, eh? The head sculpts are each pretty well done, although I’m leaning toward Tuvar’s as my favorite mainly because of the paint. I’m not entirely sold on the orange eyebrow ridge on Badra and it also looks like there might be a bit of mold flashing on his noggin. I’ll also point out that there isn’t a lot of clearance between the heads, thanks to Badra’s ear spike thingies. If Tuvar is looking straight ahead then Badra can turn just fine, but if Tuvar’s head is off to the side there’s some rubbing. No big deal, and I’d prefer it this way than have their heads set tilting away from each other like on the vintage figure.

Unless you count the extra ball jointed neck, Two Bad has mostly the same articulation as any other MOTUC male buck. That includes ball joints in the shoulders and hips, hinges in the elbows, knees and ankles, swivels in the biceps and wrists, a swivel in the waist, and an ab crunch hinge in the torso. Oh yeah, he also has swivels at the top of each boot.   

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Two Bad comes with two accessories. First, you get an orange shield with a really strange clip that’s made to work with the fins on Badra’s gauntlet. I like the shield, but it seems like it could have used some more paint apps. Plus, if you like to mix and match weapons you’re out of luck here because this thing is only going to work with Two Bad. Secondly, you get the two headed mace, which is a really goofy and unwieldy looking weapon. I get it, it’s got two heads just like Two Bad, I still think it’s kind strange.

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Two-Bad is an amazing figure and I love him enough to say he comes close to beating out Mantenna as my favorite recent figure in this line. He’s colorful, quirky, and beautifully sculpted. It’s a shame Matty had to go and make him a Sub only figure because I realize there are tons of collectors without the means or willingness to do a whole sub. That having been said, you can still find him for sale through secondary online sellers and while he’s expensive, he’s still a ton cheaper than buying a Sub just for the one figure. Either way, he’s a great way to kick off 2014 and it’s figures like Two Bad along with the great releases from last year’s Filmation Club that convinced me to go in for a Sub this year. Hopefully I won’t be regretting it by the end of the year.

Star Wars Black: Princess Leia (Slave Outfit) by Hasbro

I’ve looked at Greedo and The Fett, and now it’s on to the third figure in Wave 2 of the Star Wars Back 6-inch line, today we’re looking at Slave Leia. As most have already pointed out, this was a really strange choice for such an early wave and certainly a peculiar choice to be the first version of Leia released in this line. I was certainly hoping for a Tantive IV version of her and I’m still really looking forward to that figure. It could be that Hasbro was betting that sci-fi’s favorite pin-up girl would be irresistible to Star Wars fans and collectors. Whatever the reason, we have Princess Leia making her debut in the 6-inch scale showing a lot of plastic skin… let’s take a look!

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Here’s the packaging and there’s not much new to say. Leia comes on her tray with her two staff weapons beside her. The back panel has a monochrome image of her kicking ass and taking names on top of Jabba’s sail barge. As always, the packaging is totally collector friendly and I appreciate how compact these boxes are. I still have all my SWB figures stored in them and I’m considering hanging them on a wall in the back of one of my Toy Closets.

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And here she is out of the package. I’ve watched and read a few tepid reviews of this figure before getting mine, so I was rather worried about what to expect. Even the Vintage Collection 3 ¾” Slave Leia wasn’t what I would call a homerun. Would the larger scale accentuate the problems or give Hasbro’s sculptors more room to work their magic? In the end, I think it’s a little of both. Let’s start with the portrait…

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Hasbro has had their history of flubs when it comes to female head sculpts. You need only look at their recent 3 ¾” Mara Jade for an example of that. Oh, wait, I haven’t gotten around to reviewing her yet, so forget I said that. Is this a great likeness of Carrie Fisher? Nope. Can I see her in there somewhere? Yeah. It looks as much like any of the hundreds of “Slave Leias” you might see at a Comic Con than the genuine article. On the other hand, I was expecting f’ugly, and this sculpt certainly isn’t that, although I’ll admit it does not photograph well at all. The face is attractive and the crisp paintwork, particularly on the eyes, helps to sell it. The hair is very well sculpted and the soft ponytail is executed flawlessly. She has her ubiquitous neck chain, which is cast in soft plastic and can be removed by popping off her head. All in all there’s room for improvement, but there’s also a lot for me to like here.

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The same can be said for Leia’s body. It’s tough to do a figure showing this much skin and still feature an acceptable amount of articulation. By using ball joints in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists, Hasbro kept the ugly jointing down to minimum. They also managed to conceal her torso ball joint just under the bikini top. Even the double hinges in the knees and swivels in the thighs aren’t that off-putting. The proportions are also nicely done. Naturally there’s not a lot to her costume, but the boots and bikini look good and I applaud the use of softgoods for the skirt. Hasbro opted to cast the bulk of the figure in flesh tone plastic, which was a gamble. On the one hand it tends to come out looking waxy, but painted flesh tones often come away looking dirty. Here the compromise paid off because the skin tone looks good and they did a nice job matching the painted face to the rest of the body.

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Leia comes with two weapons, which was honestly something of a surprise for me. I knew she was coming with the force-pike, but I didn’t know about the other one. The force-pike is one of my favorite weapons of the Star Wars Universe, which is a ridiculous thing to admit, but it probably stems from the Sarlaac execution being my favorite scene from any of the movies. I’m sure I’ve gone on and on about it in my various Skiff Guard figure reviews, so I’ll just leave it at that. I have absolutely no idea what the other thing is supposed to be. Is it some kind of rifle? I’ve been getting those things with Skiff Guard figures for decades now and they still leave me bewildered. I’m sure I’ve gone off about that issue in the past as well.

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In the end, Slave Leia was a pleasant surprise. Based on early reactions I expected her to be a pretty poor offering, but I think she turned out quite good. I’ll concede that she is still the weakest of all the 6-inch offerings so far, but that says more about how exceptional this line has been than it does about the flaws of this figure. I’m willing to forgive the slightly unsightly jointing because, well there’s just no way around that unless you’re going to cover the figure with a rubber skin and we all know that wasn’t going to happen in this scale and price point. The head sculpt could have been better, but it could have been a lot worse too. I suspect, she’ll be an odd-figure-out for a while as I don’t see a lot of Return of the Jedi figures coming out in the line anytime soon, although Hasbro has been hinting about a 6-inch scale Jabba the Hutt, which would make this figure a very nice companion piece what would be a mighty epic display.

Bioshock Infinite: Motorized Patriot by NECA

It’s been a long time since I looked at NECA’s Bioshock figures, but then this offering is only their third release in the line and it took them a long time to get it out. I make it no secret that Bioshock Infinite was my favorite game of last year and it’s probably single handedly responsible for getting me back into gaming again… and I’ve come back to gaming hardcore. Once I played Infinite I knew I had to have some figures and NECA obliged by giving us Elizabeth and a Boy of Silence. Now they’re finally upping the ante with one of the game’s “Heavy Hitters.” It’s the Motorized Patriot and he cannot tell a lie… he’s going to murder the shit out of you motherf’ckers in the name of Freedom.

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Holy hell, that’s one gigantic blister pack. It’s possibly the largest I’ve ever seen. While lesser companies would have buckled and put this guy in a box, NECA stood their ground and vac-sealed this plastic behemoth sonvabitch into a perfect prison of plastic. Because the bubble takes up the entirety of the package, the presentation here lets the bubble insert do the talking and the back of the insert has a little blurb about this guy. The Motorized Patriots were a major pain in my ass in the game. They were relentless and they took a ton of damage before dropping. Plus, once I got used to fighting one of them, the game would start throwing a pair at me. On the other hand, it was always fun to take control of them and make them fight for me. Anyway, I’ve been waiting to get this figure in hand for what seems like an eternity, so let me go find a razor blade and slice this guy out… And back! Opening the seal on a normal sized NECA figure usually produces enough glorious plastic fumes to make me feel like I’m going to pass out. Imagine what opening something this big is like? I seriously think I slipped into an altered state of reality for a few moments. That smell of plastic is what tells you you’re getting your money’s worth. Well, that and the fact that this thing weighs a ton.

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If you’re unfamiliar with the game, the Motorized Patriot is basically a robot. Think of it like one of those animatronic figures from the Hall of Presidents, only this one carries a chain gun and wants to give you a patriotic suppository made out of white hot lead. NECA did an amazing job crafting this guy into action figure form. His Colonial Era outfit is recreated all in soft plastic with rips and tears in the knees and right elbow to reveal his robotic joints. The overcoat is layered onto the figure and it’s damn gorgeous. The sculpt features all the little buttons, clasps, wrinkles and stitching that I’ve come to expect out of NECA’s superb detail work. The huge brush-style epaulettes are glorious and he has clockwork gears and wheels exposed on his back and hips. The figure also features a lot of useful points of articulation. I’m not going to run through them all, because it’s tough to see what all is there under the layers of plastic clothing. I originally didn’t care because I thought I’d be content to always pose him firing his weapon, but the truth is there’s a lot more fun to be had with him.

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Patriot’s portrait is a grizzly visage of George Washington with a cracked porcelain style mask and a powdered wig. His noggin is nestled in the high collar of the coat, but you can still get some good movement out of the ball joint in there. Creepy!

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Of course, one of my favorite things about this figure is the set of soft goods flags that come with him. Each one is crafted to look old and tattered. They come attached to poles, which fit into sockets on the back of The Patriot. You can leave them hang free like a cape or you can tuck them into the gilded loops on his back to make them appear more like wings. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen softgoods used this effectively to enhance the appearance of an action figure as these flags. They’re simply brilliant and they just look perfect on the figure.

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The Patriot features two extras: First off, you get a second head in which the mask and hair has been blown away revealing the robotic skull underneath. It’s made to look part metal but with a nose and jaw carved out of wood. There’s one fake human eye remaining and the other has been blown out of the socket. The skull matches the exposed robot joints on the body quite well, making for a great effect. The heads swap out pretty easily, although I thought it odd that that the post and ball joint is part of the head and not the body.

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The other accessory is his big ass chaingun. This weapon is a very cool piece and includes a working crank that rotates the gun barrels. On the downside, the handles are too big for his hands and the overall gun is ridiculously fragile. Those two things don’t mix well because you have to apply a lot of force to get the handles into his hands. The crank is designed to separate from the gun to avoid breaking, which is good, but the main handle isn’t, and that’s not so good. The handle on mine broke on the very first try to get it into his hand. In retrospect, it seems impossible for it not to break as it’s attached with such a thin point of plastic. I will likely be able to glue it back, and eventually I’m going to have to put a pin in there to keep it from breaking again. I think a swap out hand holding the handle that attached to the gun would have been a better way to do this.

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The Motorized Patriot retails for around $30-35 depending on where you get him. It seems right in line with NECA’s larger deluxe figures and yet it still feels like a pretty good value. Sure, I could bitch about the handle on the gun breaking. It’s a big deal and even in hindsight I don’t think I could have avoided it, but it is something that can be fixed. I could also probably take issue with his size as I think he should scale bigger when compared to Elizabeth or the Boy of Silence, but he’s so damn gorgeous I can’t help but love him. In fact, my only real complaint about this guy is I don’t have a Booker DeWitt figure to stand next to him on the shelf. NECA showed off an early test shot of a Booker figure a little while back. I do hope he’s still coming! I also still need to pick up one more Boy of Silence.