Transformers: Masterpiece Optimus Prime (MP-10) by Takara-Hasbro, Part 1

Holy shit, Toyhounds, this acquisition has been a long time coming. I didn’t get in on the original release of MP-10 because I convinced myself I wasn’t going to collect the Masterpiece line. When I could finally hold out no more MP-10 was sold out everywhere and going for in excess of three bills on the secondary market. The Hasbro release of the figure granted me no better opportunities as there are no more TRU’s within my happy hunting grounds and even that version was getting scalped for ridiculous prices online. It seemed like owning MP-10 just wasn’t in the stars for me. Thankfully the tables turned in a most bizarre way…

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Behold the Asian Exclusive MP-10 reissue based off the US Hasbro release. Say whaaaaat? Yeah, this is an odd duck. It’s the Hasbro version of MP-10 in the Hasbro packaging, but it was released for the Asian Marketplace. It was made readily available at all the usual collector-orientated online toy retailers and with a $159 price tag it may cost more than the TRU Exclusive, but it’s also a far sight better than the $200-300+ secondary market price that just about any version of the figure was selling for. At the time of this post it should still be available at many e-tailers.

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I thought I was going to bemoan the fact that I was getting the figure in Hasbro packaging, rather than a box that matched all my other Takara MP figures, but once I removed this behemoth from the shipping box, I was simply in awe. The box is massive and the presentation is absolutely fantastic. I’m not crazy about the fact that the deco is reminiscent of some of the movie packaging, but there isn’t much of it as this box is mostly a giant window. It certainly isn’t as collector friendly as the straight up boxes that Takara uses, but with a little care and patience, I was able to preserve the packaging through the unboxing process. I originally thought it was going to go into the trash, but it looks so good that I’ve decided to save it and use it to hold the trailer and other goodies while Prime is displayed in robot mode. It also juuuust barely fits on the top shelf behind him and some of my other MP’s and will make a great backdrop.

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This release of MP-10 also includes the bonus item, The Key to Vector Sigma, packaged separately in a little cardboard trapezoid box. This is a cool bonus, so long as you aren’t expecting anything amazing out of it. It’s basically a gold-plated diecast key stuck in a plastic orb. In my days as a much younger and more carefree nerd I could see myself wearing this on a chain around my neck and representing my G1 love to the world. My Cyber-Bling! Now, I have no idea what I’ll do with it. The truth is that if you’re pissed about already owning MP-10 and missing out on this incentive, don’t worry about it, you aren’t really missing much. Still, I think it’s certainly better than those collector coins that have come with some of my other MP figures. But enough about the packaging and extras… let’s get to the figure. Today I’m going to talk about Prime’s robot mode and tomorrow I’ll circle back and check out the trailer and alt mode.

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So, for starters, I’ll say that the robot mode is pure money. I love the proportions and I’m so happy to see that the stacks haven’t been snipped as they were on my 20th Anniversary Prime. The sculpted panel lines, rivets, and other details look great, but they don’t overpower the figure’s somewhat animated aesthetic and to me that’s a very good thing. I like the mix of chrome and grey plastic and the red and blue both look gorgeous. The translucent yellow plastic in the pelvis is a nice touch too. The wheels in the legs aren’t completely concealed, but they are shrouded from view from the front. I thought the exposed connecting rods in the shoulders would bother me, but I was pleased to find you can close the gap and conceal them when Prime isn’t posing his arms too wildly. If I had one gripe about the overall look of the robot mode it would be that the doors on his chest don’t always close up properly, but I’ll get back to that in a bit.

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After seeing the initial pictures of MP-10, I wasn’t too pleased with the scaling, but now that I have him standing beside my myriad of MP cars, I’m pretty OK with it. Some comparison pics will follow both parts of this feature. Suffice it to say, I would have liked a little less disparity between their heights. To me, characters like Prowl and Wheeljack should come up to at least the middle of Prime’s chest, but I appreciate that Takara wanted to keep the vehicle modes in scale and in the end I think they’ve won me over on this decision. Yeah, he is also a smidge taller than MP Grimlock, but let’s blame that on Grimlock and not Prime here.

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The portrait here is very stylized and I like it a lot, but I don’t know that I prefer it over the head on my 20th Prime. It’s not so much a question of one being better than the other, but two very different versions of the head. That having been said, I find the head on MP-10 to be clean and beautifully painted. I particularly love the paint they used for the eyes and the fact that the antenna rotate. It’s definitely some great work and a great rendition of iconic Prime.

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One thing that surprised me about this figure is how toyish some aspects of it seems. I’ve seen a lot of pictures of him, but didn’t know a lot about what to expect when I got him in hand. He feels a lot more like a toy than my 20th Prime and that’s in a lot of ways a good thing. I don’t have to worry about him taking a shelf dive because of diecast making him so poorly balanced. The joints are much easier to work with, making him so much more fun to play with. Anyone who’s tried to work with those ratchet joints in 20th Prime’s hips probably knows what I’m talking about. On the other side, there are some things about MP-10 that are disappointing for a figure at this price point. Seeing all those ugly exposed screws from the back is certainly one of them. It makes him feel like he isn’t quite in the same league as the MP Autobot cars.

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As hinted at earlier, Prime’s chest opens up to reveal the Matrix of Leadership and damn, it looks spectacular when opened and on display. I’ve never been a huge fan of this gimmick in my Prime toys, but I think this figure just nails it almost perfectly. The Matrix itself is diecast and while it’s a little hard to dig out, it’s a great looking piece. Unfortunately, I find that the best way to get Prime’s chest to close up perfectly is to leave the Matrix out, which is not at all a big deal, although I may find myself occasionally displaying him with the chamber open and the Matrix exposed.

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Naturally Prime comes with his trusty rifle and he can hold it quite comfortably in either hand thanks to the combination of a tab and hinged fingers. It’s a pretty light piece, so Prime has no trouble supporting it in pretty much any pose. And then there was this cool surprise…

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The rifle can fold up and store in the compartment in Primes’ back. Nice!

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You also get Prime’s energon ax, which is cast in translucent orange plastic and fits over the right fist. It’s a snug fit that makes me a little nervous pushing it on, especially with how fragile Prime’s fingers can be. His hinged index fingers have a habit of popping off, although they will pop right back on again. All in all, this weapon is not a bad looking effect, but I like the way the 20th Prime did this ax much better.

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I’ll point out that if it sounds like I’m nit picking MP-10, you have to keep in mind that I’ve been waiting to get this figure for a long time and my expectations have been building like crazy, especially considering the insane prices I’ve considered paying for him. The truth is, I really do think this is an amazing figure and I’ve had loads of of fun playing with him since the day I unboxed him. As much as I still enjoy looking at my 20th Prime, I can’t say the same for that figure. Anyway, I’m running out of time and I’ve gone pretty long already, so I’m going to break here and pick it up tomorrow with a look at some of the trailer’s features and then Prime’s transformation and alt mode.

Doctor Who: Time of the Doctor Collectors Set by Character Options

Series 8 of Doctor Who is over and that makes me a very sad Whovian. However, it’s November 12th and what better day could there be to look at an action figure set that includes both the 11th and the 12th Doctors? Eh? 11-12? Get it? Anyway… besides commemorating the episode “Time of the Doctor” in which Matt Smith handed the torch off to Peter Capaldi, this set also proves that Character Options can’t seem to let the 5-inch scale action figure line completely die out. And that’s alright by me! There have been lots of “Regeneration” figures in this line, depicting a new Doctor in the previous Doctor’s costume, but this is the first time CO has put out a figure that can be changed. And no, I don’t count The War Doctor with Paul McGann’s head because that one didn’t even make sense. Ah, but the fun doesn’t end there, because with a third head offers a figure of the really old 11th Doctor who aged while guarding Tranzelore. Let’s take a look at this curious set!

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A unique set deserves unique packaging and CO certainly delivered here. The figure comes in a window box with two front flaps illustrated to look like the TARDIS. They are hinged at each end and held down by velcro. I was expecting just a regular blister pack or a tube or something, but certainly not this. The presentation is great and the whole thing is totally collector friendly so no matter which way you choose to display the figure, you’ll have a place to keep the extra parts.

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So, speaking of extra parts, here they all are and here’s how it works. The heads are simple swaps, but the real kicker is the ability to change the front of the torso to reflect the bowtie-wearng 11th Doctor (bowties are cool!) or the no-bowtie, newly regenerated 12th Doctor (with eyebrows like these, who needs a bowtie!). These fake shirts are made of soft plastic and tab into the figure’s torso and tuck under the jacket for a pretty cool switcheroo! It’s very similar to the way they did the removable shirt on the Professor Bracewell figure. The figure is packaged as straight up 11th Doctor, so let’s start there…

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We’ve certainly had no shortage of 11th Doctor figures, but I think many fans will agree that this is a most welcome version. I’d also say that even with the potential complications of the chest-swap gimmick, it’s one of the better executed ones and certainly far superior to the one that came in the last set with Clara. The sculpting and paint on the vest piece is really good, especially the now iconic bowtie and the chain for the fob watch. The same goes for the shoes. In every way it feels like this is CO trying to make up for the lackadaisical effort that we got for the 11th Doctor figure from “The Snowmen.” And it is most appreciated!

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Articulation is right on par with what we’re used to seeing in the recent 5-inch scale releases. That means the head rotates, the arms feature swivels in the biceps and wrists as well as hinges in the elbows. The legs have universal movement in the hips, swivels in the thighs, and hinged knees. But, wait… what’s this? Rotating hinges in the shoulders! Happy day!

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The second version is the aged 11th Doctor after he has spent centuries protecting the town of Christmas. This look is achieved with a mere head swap and while I can’t say I was really clamoring for this figure, it’s certainly nice to have options, especially when it consists of merely including an extra head in the package and you can take it or leave it. CO did an exceptionally nice job on this sculpt, even making the glasses work as a separate piece attached to the head. And aged 11th Doctor even has his cane so he can twirl it at the Daleks in defiance while shouting, “this one’s going to be a whopper!”

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Lastly, you get the swap out chest and head to make the newly regenerated 12th Doctor. The vest is identical save for the omission of the bow tie, which the 11th Doctor dramatically pulled off before regenerating. The Capaldi likeness isn’t bad, although with one eye arched upward, the expression is pretty specific. I thin they were going for that crazed look he gave Clara when asking her if she knew how to fly the TARDIS.

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Ah, but we’re not done yet. The set also includes the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver and… HANDLES! Yes, we finally have a 5-inch Handles accessory. It’s a beautifully detailed sculpt of the poor wrecked Cyberman head. Is this the closest we’re ever going to get to a 5-inch Series 7 and 8 upgraded Cybermen? Possibly.

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After being underwhelmed with the last 11th Doctor and Clara set, I have to say that I am both pleasantly surprised and impressed by the way this one came out. I feared that CO might have been phoning in the 5-inch scale releases now, but the quality and execution of this set certainly suggests that the last one was an exception rather than the new rule. I’ll refer back to the Capaldi portrait as my only real nit-pick and even that’s just a matter of personal taste and I’d still gladly by a 12th Doctor figure in his regular outfit even if it simply recycles the same portrait.

Masters of the Universe Classics: Sweet Bee by Mattel

Once again, I find Matty Sale Day rapidly approaching while trying to play catch up with last month’s figures. In addition to the previously featured Light Hope an Eldor, October also gave us Sweet Bee, not to be confused with Sweet Dee from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Not that anyone is likely to make that mistake as Sweet Bee is exactly what her name suggests she is… a bee lady, albeit not quite to the extent that Buzz Off is a bee man.

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There’s the packaging. Nothing new to see here. Sweet Bee includes the “Princess of Power” sticker on the front and she looks great inside the bubble. And check out that groan-inducing tag line… “Honey of a Guide!” Ugh. Her wings come detached and sealed on the back of the card just like Flutterina’s. Let’s get her open!

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Sweet Bee strikes me as a big departure from the last Etherian lady I looked at, Entrapta. Her outfit features a much simpler sculpt and a more focused color pallet. She’s basically just sporting a yellow dress with a black belt and black trim on the skirt. There’s a sculpted pink crest on her chest that’s vaguely insect-like in an abstract sort of way. She has orange-brown wrist bracers and tights and yellow boots with sculpted strapping tied around them. I think the colors on the outfit work pretty well, even if they aren’t all that exciting. I do wish the straps on the boots were painted black as it would have added a little more excitement as well as help to enhance the black and yellow bee motif.

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Yes, the head sculpt features a portrait that is still very evocative of the rest of the ladies in this line. It’s a very similar facial structure that we’ve been seeing since Teela and Adora. I know I say this every time, but I think it’s worth repeating. The dudes in this line have far more unique facial features than the ladies. That having been said, there’s something a little off about this one. The lips and eyes seem too big and the eyebrows are mighty beefy looking. There’s also some mold flashing on her jawline, which annoys me. Her orange hair looks like its fashioned out of modeling clay and the pink paint around her headband is slopped all over the hair. Granted, you have to get in pretty close to really notice a lot of this stuff, but it still feels like the QC on Sweet Bee’s noggin has taken a dive.

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Speaking of her hair, Sweet Bee’s orange hair is sculpted with two parts in the back to allow for the wings to plug in. It’s the same sort of thing we saw with Flutterina and it has the same limiting effect on the neck articulation. The wings cast in semi-translucent pink plastic and attach via rotating hinges that peg into the sockets on her back. They look great, but the hair really renders the articulation on the connection pointless. Nonetheless, as much as it sounds like I’m griping about the way the wings work, I can’t see any other way they could have done it.

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Sweet Bee comes with three accessories: A gun, a shield, and an alternate helmeted head. The shield is the same PoP shield we’ve seen over and over again. It’s sculpted in yellow plastic with a yellow crystal. I do like that Mattel sprung for the gold paint apps for the ornamentation, although I’d rather they spent that money on black paint for the boot straps. Yeah, I’m still dwelling on that! Still, you don’t always get the extra paint hit on these shields so I guess that’s something.

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I’m not a big fan of the bee gun. Yeah, it’s a bee-themed gun, I’m OK with that, but the way the stinger droops on the end makes me wonder if it can shoot straight. It just comes off as pretty dopey looking. Yes, I realize that I’m complaining that the bee lady’s weapon is too goofy. I’m not suggesting we give her an AK-47 painted with black and yellow striping. I’m just saying I think there could have been a happier compromise.

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And then there’s the helmet head, which is also an odd piece. It’s basically just a bucket with antenna and a huge blue face shield. It’s overly simple and it reminds me of the Morolians from SEGA’s Space Channel 5. Also, where does all the hair go when she’s wearing it? Does she get it all tucked up in there? On the plus side, displaying her with the helmeted head opens up more articulation for the wings.

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I’ve made it no secret that I’ve been more excited by the Princess of Power ladies lately than the main Masters line, but it didn’t work out that way this month. That’s not all Sweet Bee’s fault, she just head some really tough competition going up against two excellent figures like Eldor and Light Hope. And I’m not saying I hate this figure. Even with the questionable head sculpt and unappealing gun, I still dig her. She’s colorful and fun and she looks great standing with the other ladies of the Rebellion or just chilling with her fellow winged warrior, Flutterina. So long as I can keep Buzz Off from trying to pollinate with her, she’ll be a solid addition to my Princess of Power shelf.

Star Wars Black: Chewbacca by Hasbro

I’ve had the most recent wave of Star Wars Black 6-inch sitting on my receivings pile for a while now so I’m going to bookend this week with two of the figures from this assortment. No doubt, Hasbro has made some erratic character choices for the initial waves of the series. Three versions of Luke and where the hell is my C-3PO? Well, R2 may be waiting for his prissy counterpart, but at least this last wave has finally reunited Han Solo with his trusty shaggy chum, Chewbacca. I’ve been looking forward to this release ever since I opened Han, so let’s get to it…

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Hasbro has made some tweaks to the packaging for this new wave, but the changes are mostly superficial. Chewy still comes in a black window box, which is designed to stand on the shelf or hang on a peg. The figure comes on a clear plastic tray and the packaging is still totally collector friendly. His bowcaster is mounted, partially disassembled, at his side. Of course, the changes are bound to piss off collectors who have been keeping their figures boxed and like to line them up on the shelf. Ah, but I pitch the boxes, so I care not!

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So straightaway, I really dig the sculpt on this Wookie. Just looking at the figure and taking it all in, I think it looks great. Is it a huge improvement over any of the 3 3/4” Chewie offerings? Yeah, I think he is! I love the way his sculpted hair looks appropriately shaggy, particularly around his wrists and ankles and Hasbro did a nice job using that sculpted shag to conceal some of the jointing. I also dig the way they actually sculpted his hands and feet under all that hair. Look… Wookie Feet! (Remember that password, Kyle Katarn, it might come in handy later!) The bandolier strap and satchel are sculpted in a separate piece and if you want to remove it, you need only pop off Chewie’s head to do so. Oh yeah, did I mention he’s really freaking tall? Han barely comes up to his shoulders. Nice!

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This figure has caught a lot of criticism over the head sculpt, most particularly the open mouth mid roar. Fans seem to have preferred Hasbro went with a more neutral expression. I’m actually quite pleased with the way the expression came out. It’s not quite a full roar, more like Chewie’s just talking. Whether I decide to pose him just standing next to Han or repelling a squad of Stormtroopers, I think the expression can work for either. In the end, I suppose it comes down to just a matter of taste.

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The paint on the figure isn’t terribly complex. You get a couple shades to the fur which gives him a combination milk chocolate and dark chocolate look. Maybe the dark is a little too much on the upper legs, but it’s nothing I’m going to really complain about. There’s also some grey on his fingers and toes, which is something I’ve never noticed on any previous Chewie figures, but I like it. The only drastic departure from the fur is the metalic silver paint used for the cartridges and fixtures on his bandolier.

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If I have one issue with Chewie it’s in the articulation, but before I get to that let’s run down the points. You get rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees, and ankles. The legs are ball jointed at the hips and have swivel cuts in the thighs. Chewie features two sets of ball joints in the torso and a ball joint in the neck. What, no swivel cuts in the biceps? Yup, that’s disappointing. As I expected the sculpted hair certainly interferes with how much some of the joints will move, but you can still get a good amount of poses out of him. The head includes a generous triangle of hair that runs down his front and back. You can get a little movement left or right, but much more then that and his head will pop off. I think this was an issue of sculpt over articulation, and in hindsight Hasbro probably made the right choice.

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In addition to his bandolier strap and pouch, Chewie comes with his trusty bowcaster. Hasbro has had its share of troubles recreating this weapon in the 3 3/4” scale but they did a pretty nice job on this larger one. It comes in two pieces with the bow pegging into the weapon. Some have reported problems with getting them to stay joined, but mine connects pretty firmly and seems to stay put unless I drop it. It’s a little tough to get Chewie’s right hand to grip it, but he can do it.

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I absolutely love this figure! While there were a few compromises between sculpt and articulation, I think Hasbro hit all the right points and delivered an incredibly fun and great looking version of the big walking carpet. I found myself playing with him on my desk a lot longer than I have some of the other figures in this line and that’s always the best compliment I can give. In fact, he’s probably in my top four figures released in this line so far. What’s more he looks absolutely amazing when posed besides Han or crushing loads of Stormtroopers with his bare hands. I only hope that we eventually get a break apart C-3PO with a net so Chewie can carry him around on his back.

Saturday I’ll swing back to more Black with a look at The Dark Lord of the Sith himself!

Star Wars Rebels: Garazeb “Zeb” Orrelios and Stormtrooper Mission Pack by Hasbro

Hey, it’s a Saturday bonus feature! Why? Because I’m getting buried in new stuff and I really need to start getting caught up… so let’s talk some Star Wars…

Even after countless attempts I could never really get into The Clone Wars series, so I didn’t expect much from the new series, Rebels. Maybe low expectations were a good thing, because I’ve managed to stick with it through all five episodes and while the show has been hit and miss, I overall think it’s a fun and mostly harmless expansion to the Star Wars Universe. I think the best thing I can say about it is I genuinely like the characters and if you’re trying to get me to watch a show, that right there is more than half the battle. You know what else is half the battle? Actually getting the figures out on the pegs when the show premiers. Unfortunately, Hasbro seemed to miss that memo, but more on that in a minute.

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If you aren’t familiar with the Mission Packs, they’re basically two packs of figures that feature the retro style 5-points of articulation. Hasbro has been producing these figures alongside the regular Star Wars lines, but it looks like this will be the only style of 3 3/4” Rebels figures for now, although some of the characters will be available single carded. This pair comes carded on a Stormtrooper style card with an insert showing character art for each of the figures and the new Star Wars Rebels logo up at the top of the card.

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The back has a very brief blurb about the characters as well as a picture of most of the crew of The Ghost. Where’s Hera? Maybe she stayed on the ship when that photo was taken. Anyway, you’ll notice the bottom of the card shows other Mission Packs and all of them are characters from the Star Wars films and not Rebels and that’s because even after half a dozen episodes of the show, nobody seems to know when the line will hit the toy aisles. I know some people have found the vehicles at TRU as well as a three-pack including Kanan and Ezra, but I’ve yet to see them anywhere and this pack came from Amazon. And now rumors are percolating that most of the figures won’t be out until next year. Whaaaa? Anyway, enough about toy politics, let’s rip this pair open and check them out, starting with Zeb.

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Zeb is a new species of alien from the Star Wars Universe called a Lasat, and I took a liking to his character after just a couple of episodes. If he looks familiar that’s because he’s based off Ralph McQuarrie’s original concept art for Chewbacca. A good deal of the Rebels art design is coming from unused and re-purposed McQuarrie designs and I like that a lot. You want to know something else I like a lot? This figure!

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The animated style of the show transfers really well to action figure format and that’s especially the case with Zeb here. The sculpt is really well done, especially the portrait. There isn’t as much sculpted detail in the body, but that’s keeping in line with the animated look. The paint is also quite good. There’s not a lot of slop and the “shark” style logo on his shoulder armor is particularly sharp and clean. My only gripe about the quality is that there’s a good deal of mold flashing on my figure’s left foot. I had to clean that up with a razor.

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Zeb comes with his weapon in its rifle mode. The weapon can convert to a few different configurations in the show and yeah it would have been nice to get all three in the pack, but maybe we’ll see those later on down the line.

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And then there’s the Stormtrooper. I absolutely love the idea of releasing Mission Packs with one main character and one army builder. I know that Sabine will be coming in a similar pack. If Hasbro released the whole crew like this, I would happily by them to get myself an instant squad of these Stormtroopers. While the helmet is stylized to fit the show, the body looks pretty normal and the retro Kenner vibe that I’m getting off of this figure is palpable. Not palpatine… just palpable. Obviously there’s not a lot of paint on this guy, but what’s here is nice and sharp. In fact, the paint is a lot cleaner than what I saw on my Star Wars Black 3 3/4” Stormtrooper.

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Naturally, the Stormtrooper comes with his E-11 blaster!

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Articulation is exactly what I said earlier, you get five points on each. The arms rotate at the shoulders, the legs move forward and back at the hips and the heads turn. I can see this for what it is… cost cutting, and yet I have to say I kind of dig the retro feel on these and some of the other Mission Pack Star Wars figures. They may not be as fun to play with, but they do display great when lined up on the shelf and are probably less prone to avalanching than the more articulated figures.

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I really dig these figures a lot and I hope Hasbro can get their act together and get more on the pegs soon, because I’m in for the whole crew. It’s too bad that they couldn’t have Street Dated the line for the launch of the cartoon. I also have to say that the way Hasbro is distributing these figures has me all sorts of confused. Some are in Mission Packs, some are bundled with ships, some are single carded. Are they all the same figures? Will a Kanan that I get in a two-pack be the same as a single carded? Will Zeb here be available as a single carded? The whole push behind these figures feels like a convalesced mess. C’mon, Hasbro, you’ve been marketing Star Wars figures for decades now. How did you drop the ball on this launch so badly?

Ok, time for me to go enjoy the rest of the weekend. I’ll be back Monday to keep the Star Wars goodness rolling along with a look at Star Wars Black 6-inch Scale Chewbacca!

Transformers: Masterpiece Alert (MP-14) by Takara

Yes, it’s Transformers Thursday Friday and UPS dropped off an awesome package of Masterpiece goodness yesterday so I decided to bump the weekly Transformers feature back one day so I could cover one of those figures instead of dumpster diving into the Unicron Trilogy totes for feature fodder.  If you’re new to the party, you should know that I was soured on the current crop of MP figures when my first Lambor arrived as a QC catastrophe. The paint was crap and I unloaded the figure and decided I was going to pass on this line. But when the Datsuns started shipping, I couldn’t resist and I noted a marked improvement in the paintwork and was instantly smitten. I quickly pre-ordered the second issues of Lambor and Red Alert. Lambor arrived a while back and he was damn good and now Red Alert is now here too!

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While he may be the second issue of the figure, the package doesn’t seem to have changed. Red Alert comes in a box that should be readily familiar to anyone collecting the line. It’s completely enclosed and will suitably match the other recent Takara MP boxes on your shelf. While we know him as Red Alert, the box bears his Takara name as just Alert. As expected, much of the copy on the box is in Japanese, but the figure’s name and number are clearly readable to us Westerners and as with Lambor, this box also indicates that the product is licensed by Lamborghini. Red Alert comes packaged in his alt mode and nestled in a clear plastic tray with his accessories in the tray beside him.

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You also get this collector coin that comes in a Matrix style cardboard sleeve. The two ends slide out to reveal the coin. It’s a nice collectors piece, I guess, and it does add value to the package, but these things are really lost on me and I don’t really see the point. Let’s go ahead and start with his alt mode.

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Ah, the 80’s! It was an era when DeLoreans could travel in time and Fire Marshals patrolled the streets in their official Lamborghini Countaches. Seems legit. If you aren’t up to speed on your G1 Transformers, Red Alert was a repaint of Sideswipe back then and he still is today in the MP line. The Countache was easily my favorite car as a kid, and I’m pretty sure I owe that to its representation in the Transformers. This auto mode still looks fantastic, although I sometimes have difficulty lining up the seams on the sides, just like I do with Lambor. I don’t think it’s a problem with the figure, but rather that everything needs to be aligned perfectly and I’m not always hitting that perfection. Lambor’s aesthetics were a little more forgiving about the seams lining up as he was just solid red, whereas Red Alert has lettering and a symbol on his door that make any little misalignment more obvious.

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The paint on my figure is excellent with crisp lettering and no real slop to speak of. It’s also worth noting that the white paint used on the clear plastic canopy matches the rest of the white body much better than the red paint does on Lambor. Some of the black paint apps look a little tacky, but they’re aren’t to the touch. The Autobot emblem and Fire Department deco on the hood looks amazing as does the teeny tiny lettering just above the rear bumper. Aside from the deco, the only other difference between the two cars is Red Alert’s light bar. It’s translucent red plastic with white paint. It also has the roof notch so you can plug in the missile launcher and rifle and weaponize his alt mode.

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Despite a few minor tweaks to the mold, Red Alert transforms the same as Lambor. I hadn’t transformed Lambor back to auto mode since I reviewed him, so I was a little concerned to see how it was going to go with Red Alert, but it’s an intuitive transformation and I didn’t even have to consult the instructions once.

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Man, do I love the way this mold looks in robot mode. It’s the little things like the way those plates from the rear of the car cover the ankle joints or the way the canopy collapses in on itself to keep his silhouette looking clean. The only difference in the body between Red Alert and Lambor is the addition of the vestigial wheels on the shoulders. I’m still not sure how I feel about these things. I think the fact that they’re smaller than they should be is a nice nod to the mass shifting that has been a part of the Transformers Universe since the beginning. I also dig the effort to give Red Alert something distinctive over Lambor, but to be honest, I don’t think I would have missed them if they were left off.

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The deco in robot mode shows a lot less white and a lot more red and black. In a sense he looks a bit like Lambor’s color pallet reversed. It’s mostly all the same colors, they’re just all switched around. The sharp and gorgeous deco on the hood is just as great on Red Alert’s chest and the silver paint on his forearms looks really sharp. Lambor and Red Alert are both such amazing looking figures, I honestly don’t know that I could choose a favorite between them.

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Red Alert features a new head sculpt, which looks right on target. It is fairly close to the Lambor face, but the “helmet” hits all the right points between these two characters. He also comes with an effects part that clips on to his “horns” to simulate his sparking, malfunctioning and paranoid brain. It’s a fun piece to include, but probably not something that I’ll get a lot of use out of.

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You also get repaints of the same shoulder cannon and rifle that came with Lambor. The cannon is sculpted in red plastic and the back is painted in metallic silver, making it look more like a missile launcher than Lambor’s solid white weapon. As with Lambor, the piece can mount on either of Red Alert’s shoulders.

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The rifle is sculpted in red plastic and left unpainted. I think a few paint hits would have went a long way on the gun, as it isn’t as impressive looking as Lambor’s silver rifle. I also have the same problem getting him to hold it snugly as I did with Lambor. The handle does tab into the hand, but when you close the fingers around it, it seems to knock it out of the slot. He can still hold it OK, but it’s not as solid as the Datsuns hold their guns.

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I adored this mold the first time around and I haven’t lost any love for it. While I haven’t yet ponied up for the Tiger Tracks or G2 versions, I am very happy own the mold again as Red Alert. The figure is truly a work of art and also shows that Takara isn’t letting their QC slip back to the days of the original Lambor release. I’m really glad Takara reissued this guy as I’m not just about caught up on my MP Autobots. Yeah, there’s still one missing… the big guy himself, Optimus Prime, and thanks to another timely reissue I’ll check him out on the next Transformers Thursday.

S.H. Figuarts: Sailor Mars by Bandai Tamashii Nations

[I know, it’s Thursday… where the hell are the Transformers at? Fear not fans of change-a-bots, I’m only bumping this week’s TFT back a day and for reasons that will be made clear tomorrow. In the meantime, the feature I had planned for Friday will get bumped up to fill today’s slot. Enjoy!]

It’s been over a month since I last looked at one of Figuarts’ Sailor Scouts so today I’m checking out the third release in the line, Sailor Mars. Yeah, I’m way behind on these releases and I really need to work on getting caught up! When I looked at Mercury, I commented on how the anime really picked up for me with the addition of a second Sailor Scout for Usagi to play off of. Well, that sentiment is tripled after episode 10 when Sailor Mars joins the team. Ami may have made Usagi look bad on a regular basis because of how seriously she took her new found responsibilities, but the two still got along pretty well. Feisty Rei, on the other hand, was more like a rival and that lead to some great fun. As much as I dig Ami, she tends to be a pretty stereotypical character, whereas Rei comes across as a bit more complex. Needless to say I was super excited to get Mars into my collection.

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I love the packaging on these ladies! Mars comes in the same style of compact window box as the previous two Scouts. The deco is personalized to fit Mars with yellow, orange, and red and there’s a picture of the figure on the front beside the window. Surprisingly, there’s no artwork from the anime or manga, instead you just get lots of photos of the toy inside. As expected, the majority of the copy on the box is in Japanese with just enough english to tell you what you’re getting. Inside the box the figure comes on a clear plastic tray with all her bits spread out to the side and the entire package is, of course, collector friendly. The hands and faces even come in their own covered tray to keep them from flying all over the place when you open it. There is, however, still one loose hand and a scroll in the main tray so a modicum of caution should still be applied.

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Obviously, much of Mars’ outfit is similar to that of Sailor Moon and Mercury’s. You get the same sculpted pleated skirt as well as the large bows on her chest and back. Aside from the coloring, the only obvious difference in Mars’ costume is that she’s wearing high heels instead of boots. The heels look good, but they provide quite a challenge when getting the figure to stand on her own. I didn’t have nearly as much trouble with Sailor Moon or Mercury.

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Mars features four swappable faces. You get the stock, smiley face, the serious face, the eyes closed in concentration face, and the shouty face. The switch is made simply by removing the front of the hair piece, pulling off the old face and pegging on the new one. They’re all pretty good portraits, but I will likely stick with the serious face for Rei as I think it reflects her personality the best. The head sculpt also features Mars’ two tiny star earrings and a copious mane of black hair. The hair has hinged pieces on the sides so you can fan it out more to convey movement in action poses, or collapse it so it falls flat behind her.

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The paintwork has been solid on my Sailor Scout figures so far, with just a few very minor spots of uneven application or visible brush strokes. Mars’ paint, however, is pretty much perfect. I can’t find anything to nit pick at all. The red used for her skirt, collar, rear bow, and shoes is nice and bright and I dig the metallic purple and red used for the bow on her front. The pearlescent white on her top and gloves looks great as ever and the skin tones are all clean and even.

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Hands! Hands! HANDS!!! As expected, Mars comes with a lot of hands… five pairs and an extra, depending on how you count. She comes with her relaxed hands attached. She also has a pair of fists, a pair of slightly less balled up fists, a pair with fingers splayed out, a right hand with index finger pointed, and a single piece with both hands attached to recreate her FIIIIIRE SOUL! attack. You also get a single right hand designed to hold her Ofuda scroll.

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The included stand is the same as we’ve seen with the last two Sailor Scouts only with personalized paint on the base. It’s clear plastic with a heart shape base and a hinged arm that can delicately support the figure around the waist or under the arms. While I do love these stands, it’s worth noting that Mars’ long hair tends to interfere with the placement of the gripping arm. The previously mentioned hinges in her hair do help to create a gap and accommodate it, but to make it work you need to turn Mars’ head a bit.

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Apart from her extra portraits and gaggle of hands, Mars is a bit light on the accessories. In fact all she comes with is a single Ofuda scroll and man is it tiny. It’s designed to fit between the fingers of one specific hand and it does work well for that, but I can’t help but think it would have been better if they had sculpted it as part of the hand. They did that with Sailor Moon’s “Moon Tiara Action” effect and that was a much bigger piece than this little scrap of plastic.

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I picked up Sailor Mars for a little under forty bucks and I think that’s a great deal for what you get. Sure, Mars feels wanting in accessories when compared to Sailor Moon and Mercury. Tossing in a fire effect part would have gone a long way to help alleviate that, but it’s not something that dampens my love of the figure. The articulation makes for a figure that’s hard to put down and I could literally spend hours just swapping out hands and coming up with different poses for her. As my first real experience with Figuarts, these figures have been impressing the hell out of me and I’m having a blast building the team and fiddling about with them as I revisit some of my favorite episodes of the classic anime as well. Yeah, there’s also Crystal too, but I haven’t completely made up my mind about that one yet. I’ll try not to let so much time pass before revisiting this line, because Sailor Jupiter is next on my shelf waiting to be featured!

Bioshock Infinite: Booker DeWitt by NECA

Bioshock Infinite is one of my favorite games in recent memory, so when NECA offered the action figures, I was quick to buy. Of course, they went with some enemies (Boys of Silence and Motorized Patriots) and Elizabeth first. It kind of makes sense, as the game is a first-person shooter and so secondary characters and enemies are more recognizable. There was even some question for a while whether we would ever see an action figure of the game’s protagonist, but now that question has been resolved… behold, Booker DeWitt!

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NECA’s Bioshock Infinite releases have been spread out quite a bit, with the first two releasing way back in April of last year, but the packaging and presentation has still remained consistent. Booker comes in a sealed plastic clamshell with an illustrated insert with the series title on the top and a bubble insert showing some character art and the name of the figure. The back of the insert has a blurb about the character. The package certainly excells at showing you what you’re going to get. You can scrutinize the figure from three sides and even get a great look at his accessories. On the downside it’s not collector friendly and you’ll need a blade to get Booker out. NECA has since adopted window boxes for some of their other lines and I sincerely hope that means we’re seeing an end to these sealed blisters. Ah well, at least with these you still get that amazing rush of plastic smell when you slice into it.

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The sculpt here is absolutely fantastic, particularly in the outfit. Booker sports a jacket with sculpted lapels, rolled up sleeves and tons of little details from the stitching and texturing to the double rows of buttons and the button slits down toward his waist. The flaps of his jacket can be pulled aside to reveal the detailed wrinkling and stitching on his button-down shirt and he has a sculpted neckerchief and pronounced collar. Booker also features a shoulder rig with a holstered pistol (non-removable) under his left arm and some ammo pouches under his right. He even has Anna’s initials sculpted onto his right hand!

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As already mentioned, we don’t get to see a lot of Booker in the game, but he does feature prominantly in some of the artwork and we do see him from time to time on wanted posters throughout Columbia. I think the portrait is pretty good, although the plastic used for his flesh is a little shiny making him look sweaty under the studio lights. He also has a rather bewildered expression on his mug. In hindsight, considering what goes on in this game, it’s probably appropriate. Although, a more action-orientated expression would have suited the figure better, which leads me to the articulation…

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Booker’s articulation  is acceptable on paper, but the sculpt has other ideas. The points include rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and knees. There are ball joints in the hips, wrists, ankles, and neck, and there appears to be a ball joint in the waist as well. The biggest limitation on the articulation is found in the shoulders. It seems like the sculpted shoulder rig is preventing the arms from going down all the way, although I have some doubt over whether they would even if those pieces weren’t there. Either way, it’s impossible to get Booker into a relaxed pose with his arms at his sides. It’s mildly annoying to me, but I’m happy to stick with action poses instead.

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The paintwork on the figure is exceptionally good. The pin striping on his pants is neat and clean as is the silver applied to the tiny buttons on his coat and the fine striping at the lapels. Still, I’m most impressed by the paint on the shoulder rig. Not only does the wash make it look like worn leather, but tiny dots of brass paint on the buttons is impressive. Even the five-o-clock shadow on the face is pretty convincing.

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Booker’s two accessories are his shotgun and the skyhook. The shotgun has a pistol stock and a lever action guard. It’s a good sculpt and it’s finished with black and brown paint with some nice bronze for the fixtures. His right hand is sculpted to hold it perfectly with the trigger finger fitting through the guard.

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The skyhook is also a great piece of work. Of course, this isn’t NECA’s first time sculpting this unique tool as they put out a 1:1 scale version of the contraption a little while back. I love all the detail they crammed into this little accessory. All the tiny gears are there and you can even make out the sculpted moon deco on the side. The stock is made of soft plastic and if you pop off Booker’s hand you can slide it right onto his arm. Pop the hand back on and his individual fingers fit perfectly into the knuckle guards. Considering that I had an unfortunate breakage with the handle on the Motorized Patriot’s mini-gun, I’m really pleased with the way this piece turned out.

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Booker set me back about $20, which is right in line with NECA’s figures these days. I think he turned out great and I’m very grateful that we finally got him. As I’m sure I already mentioned, Bioshock Infinite is one of my favorite games of late and it’s nice to have a selection of figures from the characters. In fact, I’m still debating going back and picking up the Ben Franklin Patriot and a second Boy of Silence just to round out my display. My guess is Booker will be the last figure we see from this line, but hey… if they happened to turn out a Handyman, I’d happily buy one.

Masters of the Universe Classics: Eldor by Mattel

It may be November already (holy shit!!!), but I still have unfinished business with my October Matty Subscription figures. Last week I checked out the Club Etheria Exclusive, Light Hope, this time I’m going to take a look at October’s Club Eternia figure, Eldor. As I understand it, Eldor was a figure that Masters fans were pretty excited to get. I know nothing about this guy, but I thought the official pictures of him looked cool enough. Some of you may know that a big part of my love of this line is for the figures themselves rather than the characters they represent. So, let’s see what Eldor is all about…

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There’s a shot of the very familiar packaging and damn, if he don’t look cool in there reading his book while surrounded by all that greyskull stonework. Eldor’s tag line is “Heroic Guardian of the Book of Living Spells.” That sounds pretty important. I read the bio on the back of the card and it made my brain hurt. I was, however, able to glean a couple of things from it. One, this guy is a wizard and Two he’s from Preternia, which is probably why I know nothing about him. I can take or leave most of the Masters fiction, but the Preternian stuff is definitely outside of my wheelhouse.

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I’m also not scoring too well based on the figures on the back of this card. With just Eldor, Rattlor, and Hssss on my shelves, I’m only at 50% and I suppose that makes me a bad fan. I have no interest in that Preternian Disguise He-Man, but I could see myself grabbing up Snake Face and He-Ro at some point in time.

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As a wizard, Eldor has an interesting look that both embraces and dispels the classic wizard design tropes. The fact that he’s built on the traditional MOTUC buck is easily the biggest departure from the often seen withered and decrepit old man spellcaster. Oh, but as his name suggests, Eldor does in some ways look like he’s long in the years, but with the ripped muscles on his arms and legs and that broad chest, he’s obviously an old codger that has taken damn fine care of himself. He may know magic, but this is a guy who can also kick your ass. His outfit consists of a belted jacket and tunic, which is fashioned in soft, rubbery plastic and attached over the buck like a vest and he has a matching, and removable, hood.

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Look at that fine ass! Wait, what? No! I really took that picture to show off the great detail on his belt. He’s got a little hooked knife and what look like a couple of dog tags hanging off one side. I have no idea what the tags are or but they have some kind of symbols etched on them. The little knife is also a mystery. Maybe I don’t want to know what he does with that. Brises for hire? On the other side of his butt, he’s equipped with what is probably a bag of magical reagents. They also did a nice job distressing the fringe of his jacket. What’s also especially cool is the texturing that they put into his hood and the fringe of the jacket. It feels sort of like corduroy. Under the jacket you can see the stitching and lacing on his exposed tunic. All these little touches make for a real stand out figure.

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It’s in the portrait where Eldor betrays his age. He features a stern looking, white bearded visage with some sculpted creases in the forehead and around the eyes. The hood is a separate sculpted piece of plastic that fits on the figure very well. If you remove it, the fringe of the coat behind his head actually looks like it could be the hood in a down position, which is an incredibly nice touch.

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Under his hood Eldor wears a tight-fitting skull cap, which is painted and sculpted to look like it’s fashioned from hammered bronze. It reminds me of a less flashy version of the cap Nicol Williamson wore as Merlin in the 1981 film Excalibur. God, I love that movie! Anyway, everything about this guy just looks great. Eldor’s is easily one of the absolute best head sculpts we’ve seen in this entire line. The Four Horsemen really outdid themselves with this figure.

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Every wizard needs a staff and Eldor comes with a real beauty. It’s sculpted to look like it was carved from a single piece of ancient and enchanted wood and the head of the staff forms a “C” and holds a clear magic crystal. Eldor can hold it in either hand or both, but I should mention that the fingers on my figure’s hands are curiously tight so getting it into his hands is a bit of a challenge.

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The other item in Eldor’s inventory is perhaps one of my all time favorite action figure accessories: The Book of Living Spells! In addition to action figures, toys, and statues, I’m also a book collector. Or at least I once was. I’ve stopped adding to that collection for fear of one day getting crushed by a book avalanche, but I still have hundreds of great books and I even owned my own antiquarian bookshop for the better part of a decade. So it should come as no surprise that I think this is easily the coolest rendition of a book in plastic form that I’ve seen.

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The cover features gold painted fixtures and a clasp and the pages look appropriately aged and ragged. It’s the spitting image of what my mind conjures when I think of ancient magic tomes. Pop the clasp and the book’s covers are hinged, allowing it to open up. My only gripe here is that there’s no printing on the pages, although the bookmark is there. With how amazing everything else is with this figure, it seems like a rather obvious oversight. I hear tell some intrepid collector is cooking up a set of decals to add lettering to the pages. I’d be real interested in getting my hands on those! Either way, I don’t want to take away from what a cool accessory this is.

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Once again, this is what I love about the MOTUC line. This is why I put up with the crazy website and the questionable customer service and the slow and expensive shipping. Figures like Eldor are what it’s all about. I have no idea who this guy is or what his role in the Masters Universe might be. I don’t even care. I think it’s great that Masters fans recognize him and are happy to be getting a figure of him, but for me that’s not the point. The point is he’s an amazing figure crafted with great attention to detail and he’d be right at home in any fantasy collection. When you consider that just about every single figure or statue in my collection is tied to some character from some fiction that I follow, it’s refreshing sometimes to get figures just for their own sake. I have a separate little display along side my MOTUC shelves where I keep Vikor and Battleground Teela with Battle Lion. To me, these are just fantasy type figures that exist in my mind outside the Masters Universe. I do believe Eldor will be joining them. Sorry if that’s sacriledge to fans of the Masters fiction, but I think they look amazing together.