GI JOE: 50th Anniversary “Arctic Ambush” 2-Pack by Hasbro

As promised, I’m back today to once again start spreading a little Joe loving around these parts. In a perfect world the stores would have been crammed full of toys to honor the 50th Anniversary of one of the greatest action figure lines of all time. In this world, the line is all but dead and the 50th was quiety acknowledged by Hasbro and Toys R Us with some exclusive figure packs and a couple of vehicles. Seeing as how I don’t have a TRU within 50 miles of here, these passed largely unnoticed to me until browsing an online retailer and finding some of them up for sale. I grabbed two and the first of those is what we’re looking at today… Behold the Arctic Ambush!

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The packaging here is pretty damn cool. You get a blister card with a large bubble showing off two figures and a shitload of weapons and gear, The top of the bubble is molded to look like part of a star and the insert on the front features the GI JOE logo, the 50th Star and the names of the figures: Snow Job and Arctic BAT. I absolutely had to get this when I saw it because Snow Job was my very first Joe figure when I was a kid. I can still remember going to get pool supplies with my dad in Newark, NJ. There was a huge pool-slash-toy store there and he got me Snow Job and the Poler Battle Bear. There was no coming back from that and ever since then Snow Job has had a special place in my collection. The back of the card has filecards for each character and a little saying about how GI JOE has filled our imaginations with exciting adventures for fifty years and it makes me want to cry. Before I get all weepy, I’m going to open this baby up and start with Snow Job.

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Snow Job comes all bundled up for action in a set of toasty warm arctic combat fatigues, which include a parka with high collar that prevents his neck getting frostbite and his head falling off (Trust me, that joke is going to be a lot more tragic when we get to the end of this Feature). As a result, there isn’t a lot of variety to this figure’s outfit, but it sure looks great, right down to all the sculpted stitching and the painted camo patterns. The head sculpt includes a sculpted cap with a set of goggles permanently down over his eyes and about the only thing you can see that’s actually Harlan under all that is his glorious red beard. I do kind of wish the goggles were removable or maybe have an extra head in there, but it’s hard for me to criticize the lack of a spare head when I see how much stuff comes with this guy. Let me just run through it all…

  • Backpack with Sculpted Bedroll, Antenna, and Removable Equipment Rack.
  • Cloth Bedroll
  • Cookstove and Frying Pan.
  • Skis and Ski Poles
  • Gasoline Can
  • Ice Pick
  • Radio
  • Machine Gun with Bipod.

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God, I love all this gear and I particularly love the fact that just about all of it attaches to his backpack in one way or another. The bedroll is about the only thing I can’t find a way to attach, but you can still tuck it in there somewhere. As a kid, I used to picture Snow Job as a survivalist and a loner who was always out there in the white wilderness maintaining some god-forsaken JOE base camp and waiting to be called on when some strategic piece of satellite happened to soft land up there and Cobra wanted it. This figure really gives me the feeling of the original 12-inch figures from the 70s, because they used to come with all this great stuff. It’s beyond cool that Hasbro is able to make it work with such a small scale action figure.

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Snow Job also features far better articulation than anyone wearing this much cold weather gear should possibly have. His arms have rotating hinges in the shoulders and elbows, and swivels in the wrists. His legs are ball jointed at the hips, have double hinges in the knees, and rotating hinges in the ankles. He can swivel at the waist and he has a ball jointed neck.

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What possible match could Cobra have to go up against Snow Job’s cold weather combat skills? An Arctic BAT of course! Why go bundling up humans to brave the bitter cold climates when you can just send in machines? I always loved the Battle Android Troopers. They were an ingenious way to cash in on the robot craze of the 80s while also giving Cobra a disposable army that GI JOE could smash to bits on the cartoon without censors crying foul about violence. Frankly, Hasbro was missing out on a great opportunity by not repainting the hell out of these things into various different specialties like Desert BATs, Jungle BATs, Stealth BATs, etc. Well, I guess it’s never too late because here we have the Arctic BAT and he is freaking glorious.

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The sculpt and deco on this BAT is absolutely crazy. He’s got the same arctic camo pattern on his fatigues as Snow Job plus a transparent chest unit so you can see all the doo-dads and what-nots of his inner android workings. The BAT includes a total of five different Borg-like attachments for his arms and he can tote two of the extras around in his backpack. He also comes with an automatic pistol in a functional holster, a machine gun with a bipod and a HUGE capacity magazine, an assault rifle that’s all taped up, and a pair of ice picks, which aren’t painted as nice as Harlan’s.

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The BATs articulation is pretty standard stuff for modern JOES. The arms feature rotating hinges in the shoulders and elbows and a swivel in the forearm where the arm pieces detach. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, double hinged at the knees, and have rotating hinges in the ankles. There are ball joints in the torso and neck. If all that gear wasn’t enough, each figure also comes with a personalized display stand. These are the same style of stand that was introduced back in the 25th Anniversary line only with the GI JOE and Cobra emblems painted, which makes them look mighty snazzy.

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Oh, wait! Did I mention that the BAT also comes with a battle damaged head and chest plate? How cool is that? Did I mention that when I swapped the head the second time the entire neck post snapped off my figure? How cool is that??? Nope, that’s not cool at all Hasbro. Here I am making a point to talk up GI JOE and you stick me with poor quality control. This is seriously the first time I’ve ever had this happen, and I’ve been collecting action figures nearly all my life.Oh well, I guess it’s better the BAT broke rather then Snow Job. Crippling QC issues aside, everything about this set feels like it was aimed right at me. It has a great new version of one of my earliest JOE figures, an environmentally specific BAT, you get a ton of gear, and with one good guy and one bad guy, it has that battle pack mentality that I love so much. Just leave me alone with this 2-pack and I’ll be staging battles on my desk all afternoon long… at least until the head snaps off one of them and then the fun stops short. Next week, I’ll circle back and take a look at the other one of these sets I picked up. Hopefully noone will get decapitated.

GI JOE WILL RETURN AFTER THESE MESSAGES…

Folks, I’ve had GI JOE on the brain lately and for a number of seemingly unrelated reasons. At first it was mostly feeling bad about never getting around to the Features that I planned for the 50th Anniversary, most notably looking at my other two 25th Anniversary 5-packs as well as my finally complete set of the 25th Anniversary Dreadnoks. Then the topic of this year’s JoeCon came up on the last episode of 2 Drunk Geeks and Ryan and I was pretty vocal about how sad and pathetic I thought the showing of product was. It was at the end of the show, and the Jameson had me in a proper state by then, but listening to it made me feel like I was being pretty harsh toward a loving fan base who were clearly just happy to be getting anything. Part of it was the booze talking, but part of it was just inner rage.

When almost every single toy line from the 80’s has had (or attempted) a comeback these days, it angers me to no end that the Targets and Walmarts can’t set aside 4ft of space for GI JOE and that Hasbro can’t make this happen. It’s all the more irritating considering how great the modern figures have become. Hell, even with two totally shitty movies to work with, Hasbro still managed to turn up some amazing figures. I doubt I’d ever sit through GI JOE: The Rise of Cobra more than once, but I sure have a lot of the figures, and most of them are excellent. Hell, I even ponied up for the massive PITT playset. OK, it was on clearance, but I still bought it and love it. It was the last truly huge vehicle the line would see and now fans have to be excited about yet another remold of the bloody AWE Striker. It’s a sad state of affairs for the property. And when I still see The Corps figures are still hanging on the pegs at my local Target, that just rubs salt in the wound.

And yeah, I’m sort of part of that fan base. Because I’m not willing to join fan clubs or hunt down many store exclusives, the brand has more or less died out for me. But GI JOE was such a huge thing to me growing up, both the original 12-inch figures that were handed down to me by my uncle and later the 3 3/4″ stuff that replaced Star Wars as the focus of my toy world. I still have a ton of GI JOE stuff and while the figures are all neatly bagged with their accessories and easily accessible in Toy Closet Alpha, and I proudly hang a Skystriker on my wall, the rest of the vehicles are relegated to half a dozen Rubbermaid Totes and stowed far out in Toy Closet Zulu. I don’t have the space to display them so it becomes an “out of sight, out of mind” situation.

But the other thing that brought GI JOE back to the forefront of my alcohol addled brain lately is that I’ve actually bought some Joes for the first time in a while. A few days back I picked up two of the Exclusive 50th Anniversary Two-Packs, one of which I’ll be looking at tomorrow. I’ve also recently replaced a handful of my Sigma 6 figures, which were lost to me in a flood several years back and which I’ll probably start featuring here sometime in a week or two. Yeah, I know most JOE fans see S6 as an abomination, but I loved these figures simply because they were such fun toys. So, as the title says, GI JOE will be returning to FFZ. It’s going to be one of my side projects over the Summer to get the brand represented here with some regularity again and help bolster those three dozen or so Joe Features that appear in my Index of Reviews.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back with a look at the 50th Anniversary Arctic Ambush set. Yeah, I know it’s the weekend, but I’m trying to make up for some of the downtime last week. YO JOE!

Star Wars Black: Han Solo in Stormtrooper Disguise by Hasbro

Last week I checked out Bossk from Hasbro’s most recent wave of 6-inch Star Wars Black. It was one of those annoying half-waves that was bogged down by two repacks from the previous wave, in this case Chewbacca and the Tie Pilot. Both of those were excellent figures, but I’ve already got them, and if I decide I want another Tie Pilot there’s been one languishing on the shelf of the Walgreens around the corner for weeks now. Nope, all that’s left for me here is the Han Solo in Stormtrooper Disguise, and I suspect that’s barely even a new figure. Let’s take a look.

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Han comes packaged with his helmet off, which is no big surprise as it allows you to tell the difference between Han and the real Stormtroopers. This figure was a no brainer for Hasbro as it allowed them to kitbash a release on the cheap and in all honesty, it’s not a bad score for us collectors. Yeah, I was one of those idiots who immediately tried to do a head swap between the Stormy and Han when I first got them only to find Hasbro was too smart for me and that the ball joints weren’t the same size, thus preventing fans from easily making this figure on their own and now having to shell out an extra Andy Jackson.

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And yes, as expected, this is a straight repack of the Stormtrooper body with the head from the Han Solo release. The only modification Hasbro had to do was make the heads fit by adding a longer neck post with a smaller ball joint and putting a “turtleneck” ring around it. I’m not throwing that up as a criticism, there was no reason for any changes as the Stormtrooper body is excellent. It’s easily one of my favorite things to come out of this line. So, yeah, Hasbro… milk that puppy for all its worth! The only differences I can see on my figure come from the paint. The soles of Han’s boots aren’t painted gray like the regular Stormy’s, but they are still painted around the edges. Also, the bottom of Han’s crotch is left white, where it’s painted black on the Stomtrooper. I know, riveting stuff, right?

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While the head is the same sculpt as the regular Han Solo release, this one looks a little better and I mostly attribute that to normal variations in paint. Some people have had issue with the likeness here, but I really don’t. It’s certainly not spot on, but if Hot Toys can’t get Harrison Ford right on their $250 12-inch figure Indiana Jones figure, I think this is pretty solid for a $20 6-incher. As for the helmet, I expected it to be a trainwreck because it’s sculpted out of softer plastic, but it holds its own compared to the regular Stormy head. There are a few issues with the paint, like the black on his chin is a little off to the side, but I would imagine that’s not exemplary of all figures, some may do better and some worse. It fits on the figure beautifully, which is no small feat considering Han’s copious 70’s coif, and it won’t come off unless you pull it off.

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Obviously, the articulation here is identical to the regular Stormtrooper, so rather than go through it all again, I’ll just refer you back to that review.

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In addition to his Stormy helmet, Han comes with the same E-11 Blaster that came with the regular Stormtrooper. It’s still an amazing sculpt, fits into the holster, and this time around Hasbro actually painted the chamber on the receiver. Why is that even there? Is that where you load more lasers into it? Maybe it’s where the battery goes? Or, maybe it’s because the prop was made out of a Sterling machine gun.

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So, some may cry foul at this release being a quick and easy cash grab on Hasbro’s part, but I think it’s a worthwhile addition. The “Stormtrooper Disguise” figure is almost as old as the Star Wars action figure line itself, first appearing in the Power of the Force rebranding that came after Return of the Jedi. Although if my memory is serving me well, I think Luke was the only one that got the figure treatment back then. Besides, if you don’t want the Han, just slap that helmet on him and you’ve got yourself another Stormtrooper! I do think Hasbro did us collectors a diservice by including this one in a wave that was already half full of repacks, but that’s only because I rely on buying the case packs in order to get all the figures at a reasonable price. When I need to buy partial packs or individual releases, I usually get hit for more money and that was certainly the case with Bossk and Han here.

Transformers Combiner Wars: Dead End by Hasbro

Howdy, folks, and welcome to Transformers Thursday! Yeah, last week I ran into some complications with content because my studio was ripped apart, so I’m trying to play a little catch up this week. Today I’m opening up the very last Stunticon, or at least the last one until Wildrider (or whatever they’re calling him) comes along. I saved Dead End for last because next to Motormaster, he was my favorite Stunticon as a kid. What abritrary reason made me choose him over four other relatively personality-less cartoon robot cars? I couldn’t tell you, but I’m sure it was well-reasoned. This being the case, I’m coming into this figure with some high expectations, so you better not disappoint me Hasbro!!! Hang on, while I take a fortifying sip of Jameson. Ahhhh. Good stuff. Let’s look at the package…

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Yes, it’s the same packaging we’ve been seeing all along and it’s growing on me, especially since there’s a free comic book in there. I haven’t mentioned it before, but I really dig the way they do a data sheet on the character on the back cover of the comic. I’ve really got nothing else to add at this point. Dead End is packaged in his robot mode, but we’re going to start with his alt mode, because that’s just how I roll.

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So, straightaway I’ll say that Dead End takes the top spot as my favorite of all these Stunticon alt modes. Yeah, Breakdown was the closest to his original G1 alt mode, but this here is on snazzy looking car. He’s a little more rounded out than his original G1 namesake, but the maroon body, black painted windows, and the off center racing stripe all conspire to warm my GeeWun-loving heart. Sure, he wears his Decepticon emblem on his hood instead of the door, but I’m Ok with that and the grey on the side panels give him a little modern zing. I do, however, wish the hood emblem was straight. It looks like they tampo’d it on an angle to line up with the contours of the hood, but the result is really aggrevating my OCD. Ah, but even that can’t mar what is an otherwise beautiful little evil sports car.

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Dead End features three weapon ports, one on top and one on each side just behind the front wheels. You can use these to weaponize him up by pegging in his… ah, exhaust pipe. Yeah, other than the combiner part, this grey pipe is all you get. I suppose it looks kind of OK pegged into the side, but, no… not really. We’ll circle back to that pipe when we get to the robot mode.

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Transforming Dead End is as simple as these Deluxes tend to get and the engineering doesn’t really hold any surprises. In fact, he actually has a lot in common with Breakdown, particularly in the way he has a chest flap that closes down to partially cover the combiner port. The way the windshield and front of the car folds onto his back is also similar, but Dead End got the better end of this deal. Instead of the ugly inside crater of the car shell showing, Dead End’s backpack shows off the hood of the car. As far as car kibble backpacks go, this is about as stylish as you can get. I also really dig the head sculpt on this guy. It’s a great looking portrait for a ‘Con and I’m glad to see he got the Sunbow style mouthplate.

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The deco in robot mode features a lot of the same maroon and gold, although you do get a good amount of dark gray plastic thrown into the mix. While Dead End is far from traditional Decepticon colors, I think the dark deco works really well for him and I love the tiny little Decepticon emblem on his chest. It looks like it belongs there, whereas the other Stunticon faction emblems look like they were stock on as an afterthought.

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As much as I find this bot mode to be pure love, I still have a few little quibbles. The elbows use that annoying style of hinge that attaches at the end of the two halves of the limb. I call it “hollow elbow” and while there is probably absolutely no reason why a robot couldn’t function like this, I just think it looks weird. You also get a grey socket thing sticking on the inside of his right leg that looks rather conspicuously out of place. It’s there to attach the foot or hand in combiner mode and it does just come off if you don’t want it there. I did think the short lower legs would bother me on this figure, but they really don’t at all.

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Dead End’s choice of weapon is an odd one indeed, because it’s basically just an exhaust pipe. Normally I prefer my Transformers to have guns, swords and axes will do in a pinch, but just giving him a big pipe? I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, I suppose going into battle with nothing but a giant pipe is kind of bad ass and represents a certain degree of thuggery befitting of a ‘Con. On the other hand, it seems like a really stupid thing to do when 95% of the other robots out there are going to have guns and the other 5% probably have swords. Anyway, Dead End can wield it like a club, or there’s a peg on the side so he can wield it like a PR-24 police baton.

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Even with some minor gripes, Dead End is easily my favorite of the Deluxe Stunticons. That’s not to say the others are bad. I’ve actually enjoyed these guys quite a bit. Yeah, I was a little iffy on Dragstrip at first, but he’s grown on me a lot. I expected to hate Breakdown, but he’s actually pretty cool. Really, that just leaves Offroad as the odd bot out, and that’s not because he’s a bad figure, but mainly just because I see him as an imposter. Next Transformers Thursday I will revisit the Stunticons for one last time to take a look at their combined form, Menasor. At the risk of spoilers, I’ll just say this… writing that piece is going to require a lot of Jameson. Meaning I’ll need some booze to get through it. Because Menasor sucks.

Lost Exo-Realm Volar with Velos (LER-03) by Fansproject, Part 2

Welcome back, lovers of legally-suspect third-party convertorobots! Today I’m wrapping up my look at Fansproject’s Volar, a figure who is most certainly not in any way meant to be perceived as a Dinobot named Swoop. Yesterday I checked out the packaging, Volar’s alt mode, and Velos’ robot mode and today we’ll switch it around and look at Volar’s robot mode and Velos’ weapon mode. Let’s get to it!

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Hot damn, do I love this robot mode! I mentioned yesterday, that there aren’t too many surprises when it comes to Volar’s transformation. The beast mode’s legs unfold into the robot’s legs, the arms fold out from the back, the beast head locks into the chest, and the back half swings back to reveal the head. That’s the reader’s digest version of the engineering here, but there’s not a lot more to it. Compared to the sometimes tortured steps of getting Cubrar and Columpio back into their dino modes, this guy is a snap. And hey, complexity isn’t always necessary. What’s here works beautifully and certainly makes for a great looking homage to G1 Swoop. One thing I was particularly happy to see was that Volar’s wings are not connected to his arms, so you can have independent movement of each. You do still have plenty of options as to how you want to position them, but it’s damn nice that they will stay put no matter what you have Volar’s arms doing.

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Those wings are indeed the biggest departure from the old Swoop we all know and love, which is something that was evident in his alt mode. They have a hooked, almost sickle-like design that really drives home the fact that this is more robot thaen beast. It also makes him look rather bad ass. The rest of the design is a lot more familiar, right down to the way the dino head splits in half with the front forming the center of the chest and the back making up the back of his robot head. It’s also worth mentioning that Volar is a lot more svelte than his two bulky brothers. His waist is really thin, but with broad shoulders and the big set of wings to back him up, he still fills out his form pretty well and can certainly hang with Cubrar and Columpio. He also feature some great articulation. The arms have shoulders with rotating lateral hinge, swivels in the biceps and wrists, double hinges in the elbows, and the fingers are together on one hinge. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, swivel at the hips, double hinged in the knees, and ball jointed in the ankles. Volar can swivel at the waist and he has a ball jointed neck.

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Fansproject has a way with robot head sculpts, and Volar is another great example of that. The face is clean and simple with some beautiful blue eyes.
The color pallet remains practically unchanged from the alt mode. You get a lot of grey plastic, with a red torso and pelvis, and that great satin gold and silver. It’s all rounded out with some black trim. As mentioned yesterday, Velor comes with an optional blue torso if you’d rather go that way, but I’m happy keeping his colors matching Columpio and Cubrar.

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When it comes to weapons, Volar has a lot of options. His missile launchers can be left on his wings, front or back, or they can be wielded in hand like guns. I would have liked the option to mount them on his arms too, but I can’t find any way to do that. Like his predecessors, he comes with his own unique translucent red bladed energy sword, which can peg onto his hip for storage. Between keeping his launchers on his wings and his sword on his hip, Volar can easily tote all of his weapons around with him, which is one of the many features I love so much about this line.

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And speaking of weapons, Volar’s little buddy, Velos, can transform into a funky looking crossbow. It’s a tad unwieldly, but since we’ve already seen a couple of axes, I like that they mixed it up with a new kind of weapon. Velos’ transformation isn’t as clever as either Derpan or Tekour but it still works fine for me. The Targetmasters were never a selling point for me and this line, but they’re certainly neat little bonuses and definitely add value.

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I’m now three figures into this line and with each release I’m happier that I went with Fansproject for my Not-Dinobot needs. I’ll confess I really like the more traditional designs of some of the other companies doing these in Masterpiece scale, but I still expect to get those from Hasbro one day. Besides, which, I’m really enjoying Fansproject’s slightly more original take on these characters. These figures strike me as something more unique that we aren’t likely to see again. At just under a hundred bones, Volar is a pretty good value for what you get, at least in the relative world of pricey third-party Transformers. His size makes him just right for my Generations shelf, as I’m of the belief that these guys should be bigger than Optimus and a lot bigger than the regular Autobots. He also fits in great with FP’s own Function Series. And speaking of which, Fansproject, you still owe us a Function-X Skullcruncher. Don’t think I forgot about that!

Lost Exo-Realm Volar with Velos (LER-03) by Fansproject, Part 1

[If you dropped by last week during my temporary shut down, you may have gotten a raw preview of today’s Feature. I had forgotten it was scheduled to go out and it was indeed not yet complete. It was probably up for a day or so before I stumbled upon it while tinkering with the site, spat Jameson all over my monitor, and quickly took it down. Anyway, here’s the finished, final version and hopefully the last of the wrinkles from last week that I have to iron out. -FF]

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that every Third-Party Convertobot company out there has been taking a crack at their own versions of The Dinobots these days. While some of these companies have been brazenly shooting for “as close to copyright infringing G1 likenessas as they can get” styles, Fansproject has been presenting us with a little more of a unique look to these prehistoric-based Transformers. That tickled my fancy enough to get me to shell out the monies for the first two, Columpio (Not-Sludge) and Cubrar (Not-Slag) and I was quite pleased with what I got. To me these are something more akin to what we would get from Hasbro if they ever did a proper Generations-updated style of Dinobots, only far more detailed and complex. The Lost Exo-Realm figures flirt with the G1 designs just enough, while still bringing plenty of originality to the table. I can’t see any rhyme or reason to the order these guys are being released (I mean, who starts with Sludge?), but their third release is Volar (Not-Swoop) and this guy landed on my doorstep last week.

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There were some differences in the presentation of packaging between Columpio and Cubrar, but things seem to have settled down now as Volar’s box is very similar to Cubrar’s. There’s some great artwork on the front and lots of pictures of the toy on the back. The front flap is secured by some of the strongest velcro I’ve ever encountered and lifts up to reveal a window showing the goodies inside. The contents include the two figures, a bag of weapons, and an instruction booklet. Also included with my purchase was a replacement pelvis and hips for Columpio, which some may remember shipped with some rather loose hips. Getting bonus parts to improve on earlier releases is something I first encountered with Mastermind Creations, but it’s cool that Fansproject is following suit. Will I swap them? Probably not. It’s not a huge issue with me, but it’s nice to know I have the option. Anywho… as has been the case with past LER releases, Volar comes packaged in his alt mode and that’s where we’re going to start.

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I don’t know what’s what in the dinosaur world anymore, but back when I was a kid we called something like this a pterodactyl, although I seem to recall Spike calling it a pteranodon in one of the episodes of the Sunbow cartoon. Either way, it’s one of them flying dinosaur sum’bitches. Overall, I think this mode is pretty well done, but I’ll also admit that I’m grading it on a curve because this is a tough alt mode to do much with. In a lot of ways it reminds me of FP’s Sigma-L (Not-Mindwipe) because you’re pretty much always just going to have the robot feet tuck in to be the animal’s legs, and the arms tied into the wings. Volar does a few interesting things, like the way the arms fold behind him to form a sort of jetpack and the fact that he has a cute little dinosaur tail, but looking at this mode still tells almost the whole story of how this thing is going to transform.

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That having been said, what’s here is pretty damn cool. I totally dig the head, which is extremely evocative of the G1 character design. The wing configuration has more of a hooked profile than I remember the original toy having, but it’s quite distinctive and pretty vicious looking. The wingspan is an impressive 13-inches or so when fully extended and there’s a lot of articulation there to work with. Each wing has universal movement at the point of connection to the body and is hinged in two places, so you can fold them up and put them at his side when Volar is standing at rest. The head features some limited movement at the neck, but mostly up and down and a little tilt side to side. The jaw is fully articulated and can open pretty wide.

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If you’ve been collecting the retail releases of this line, you know what to expect from the deco. Volar is mostly molded in red and gray plastic and features that same great satiny gold paint that we saw on Cubrar and Columpio. There’s also some silver and blue accents as well. One thing Volar is missing is the shiny metallic silver found on his two predecessors. In this case the silver is more like a satin finish to match the gold. Swoop comes with a red torso, but if you want to mix it up for a little Sunbow cartoon accuracy, a blue torso is included so long as you’re willing to do the work to switch it out. I’m not one for disassembling my $100 toys, so pardon me if I don’t show you both versions.

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Volar features a pair of (non-firing) missile launchers, which can be attached in a couple of different ways. They can be clipped onto his back, or more specifically, they are held by his robot hands, which jut off the sides of the jetpack. They can also be pegged into his wings for a more G1 accurate look, either front or back.

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Of course, one of the cool little bonuses of the Lost Exo-Realm line is that each figure comes with a little Targetmaster-style buddy. I don’t know if it’s really appropriate to call the previous two Targetmasters because they turn into some kind of chopping or bludgeoning weapon, but in this case, Velos is some kind of crossbow. I love the idea of these little guys and they have featured some really impressive sculpting and design work, but having the huge weapon shaft sticking off of their backs has been a downer. I’m happy to say that Fansproject fixed that problem with Velos by having the the end of the shaft unpeg to become his weapon with the rest of the shaft pointing upward behind his back. Ironically, apart from this huge improvement, Velos is probably my least favorite of these three little figures. He’s perfectly fine, but I like the looks of the others better and their own little weapons were much cooler.

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Aaaaand, that’s where I’m going to break today because my trusty word processor is telling me I’m well past my arbitrary and self-imposed word count limit. Tomorrow I’ll swing back and check out Volar’s robot mode and Velos’ weapon mode!

DarkStalkers: Morrigan Aensland Statue by Capcom

[My apologies about last week’s kerfuffle, but with all I had going on at work and at home, I was not in a good place to be creating content and in retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t try. Things should be back to normal now… Enjoy! -FF] 

One of my big pet peeves is that there isn’t enough DarkStalkers merch out there. Seriously, this is the kind of thing that sometimes keeps me up at night. It may not be one of Capcom’s hottest properties these days, but I love the character designs and some of their wacky and creative attacks. And let’s face it Morrigan and Lilith should be ripe pickings for any one of a dozen manufacturers of big-busted, anime-themed hawt chick statues. I’m still hoping that Kotobuikya’s relationship with Capcom might net us some proper Darkstalkers Bishoujo pieces one of these days. Nonetheless, I stumbled across today’s statue on the InterWebs without even knowing it existed and the price was certainly right so I gave it a chance.

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The box is quite large as this is a rather large statue, landing somewhere between 1:7 and 1:6 scale. It’s just a bit too big to really fit in with Koto’s Bishoujo’s and definitely projects its own presence on the shelf. The box art features some great illustrations and pictures of the statue itself. There’s a window on the front, but the statue is wrapped in so much plastic that you really can’t get a great look at the goods inside. Below the window is the priceless tagline that identifies Morrigan as “The Labido Roming The Shadows!” Gotta love it! I’m going to assume that this piece is actually produced by Capcom, although I find that rather surprising, especially since the bulk of the Figure Builder Creators pieces seem to focus on Monster Hunter rather then anime girls. Anyway, I’m pretty curious to see what’s inside the box, so it’s time to free this Succubus!

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Before I get into how great this piece looks, let’s talk about the perfect storm of frustration that was the assembly process. The statue comes in four pieces: The figure itself, two wings, and the base. The wings are tabbed with individual shapes so the right will only go into the right slot and vice versa, which is all well and good, but the tabs are such a tight fit, I couldn’t get either wing in more than a tiny bit before running up against resitance. Add to that two more factors: One, the wings are super thin and feel super fragile. Two, both tab slots are just below Morrigan’s windblown hair. It’s difficult to get a hold of either of the wings’ base to safely apply pressure and even when I had a good entry point all the force I could muster was not getting those wings all the way in. I eventually resorted to boiling the tabs and that got them most of the way in. Now normally a little gap from the pieces not seating right wouldn’t bother me, especially in this case since those parts are only visible from the back and mostly obscured by her hair, but the stand is designed to cradle Morrigan’s butt (giggity!) along with two slots for the wings at a very specific angle. If the wings aren’t seated perfectly, it’s tricky to get her cheeks to stay in that cradle. The result is that the figure will tilt backwards at an angle, and since this statue already has Morrigan arching backwards and looking upward, it’s really noticeable. With a lot of work, I was able to strike a happy medium and get her cradled OK, but I really wish this whole process went easier. If you thought reading about all that was a lot of bother, just be thankful you didn’t have to endure it.

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With all that worry out of the way we can finally step back an admire what a beautiful statue this is. The sculpt manages to capture all the ridiculous curves of Morrigan’s sumptuous succubus body from her rounded hips to her dramatically over-sized breasts. Such things are certainly not unusual in the world of anime-inspired statues, but this one makes any one of my Bishoujos look tame by comparison. The pose also goes a long way to accentuate what is already a pretty obviously killer body. Morrigan is in mid flight, arching her back, and pushing her chest up with her head raised upward and tilted to the side. While the pose works really well to compliment the sculpt, I’m not sure exactly what they were going for. I suppose it’s supposed to be seductive, but it almost looks like she’s swooning or even going for a little damsel in distress expression. It also kind of looks like she’s stretching, so maybe she just woke up from a long day’s nap and is ready for a night on the town. Nonetheless, as confusing as the pose may be, I still dig it a lot.

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Morrigan’s outfit is achieved through both sculpting and paintwork. Starting at the bottom, she has a pair of high heeled boots, which are painted in high-gloss black. Her trademark stockings are painted on with the purple bat emblems scattered about her legs. The base color of the stockings can look more orange under some lights, but in person it’s more of a pinkish-purple. I think it would have looked better with a more definitive shade of purple, but as it is it certainly makes things more colorful. Her one piece is sculpted with a heart shaped cut out in the middle to show her mid-riff and the top is sculpted so that it can barely contain her boobs, and it’s all painted with the same high-gloss black as her boots. The outfit is rounded out with some feathered fringe around her shoulders and sleeves painted to match her stockings. The glossy black does a nice job of contrasting with the soft skin tones of her body and all in all I’m satisfied with the paintwork here.

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Of course, you also have her two sets of wings, two large coming out of her back and two smaller ones protruding from her head. As troublesome as it was to get the wings in, they look absolutely fantastic, even with the notable gap between wings and body. The purplish-pink paint used for the membrane carries a pleasing animated effect and the black paint used for the rest is neatly applied. Still, the wings are pretty thin in some areas and thus probably quite fragile.

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Last up, we have the portrait, which is certainly attractive, but also has a somewhat unsettling otherworldly vibe going on. I’m not sure if it was intentional or just the way the statue came out, but it certainly is interesting. I attribute a lot of it to the paintwork in the eyes, which are somewhat haunting. Her mouth is especially nicely done with her lips slightly parted and showing just a glimmer of teeth. The hair sculpt is a tad chunky in the bangs, but I think they did an overall good job of creating a crazy windblown look to it and the way it tapers from powder blue to purple at the ends looks good.

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And then there’s the base, which remains my big bone of contention with this statue. Beside the fact that it isn’t engineered all that well (as outlined in my assembly rant) the somewhat primitive style is a bit at odds with the beauty of the figure. The bats are clearly just intended to be thick 2D representations and the moon is heavily textured with a less than stellar looking paint spray. The idea of the imagery is OK, but I just don’t care for how its executed all that much because the decor on iit looks almost intentionally fake like cut-outs.. Is it a dealbreaker? Nope, not at all, but in this case I think something simpler might have worked better. I will concede, however, that while the way the statue balances on the stand isn’t all that well executed, it is nice to be able to take her off and have a figure that is in no way marred by a post or socket. That leads me to wonder whether this piece might look better on a traditional Sixth-Scale figure stand. I may have to try that at some point.

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Morrigan set me back $70, which is a bit much for what was essentially an impulse buy of a piece I had never seen reviewed or in person.On the other hand, for a statue of this size it feels like something of a bargain. If it were any other property, I probably wouldn’t have gone for it, but, such is the result when DarkStalkers statues or figures are such a rare breed. She may not match the quality or craftsmanship of a Kotobukiya or a MegaHouse piece, but I do think she was well worth the money. She’s big, colorful, and ultimately impressive, and as a fan of the property (and boobs) she was impossible for me to turn down, and in the end I’m mighty glad I splurged on her. I said SPLURGED on her. Get your minds out of the damn gutters, people!

Sadly, That’s A Wrap For This Week…

Yeah, I’m going to have to close up shop until at least the weekend.

What began nearly six months ago as some minor renovations has since turned into prime material for Builders From Hell. Back on the week of Thanksgiving, the property management here embarked on a well intentioned crusade to improve the property, which included total renovations to the outside and installing new windows. After a Week of Hell the new windows finally went in, but they left the inside of the new windows unfinished. THAT WAS FIVE MONTHS AGO!!!

They’ve only now come back to redo the frames and that meant I had to pack everything up in my studio, including a sizable piece of my collection to avoid any collateral damage. Most of the work is done, but they still have to come back and paint after the foundation dries. That’s either going to be tomorrow or Thursday. I’ve got enough stuff going on with an erratic work schedule this week (I’ll be pulling at least one overnight), so rather than stress over it, I’m taking the rest of the week off from creating new content.

Hopefully I’ll get everything back together on Saturday and I’ll be able to at least sneak a couple of this week’s planned Features in on the weekend and then get back to business as usual on Monday!

Star Wars Black: Bossk by Hasbro

I know, I know. Yesterday was May the 4th aka Star Wars Day, but I really wanted to wrap up my Age of Ultron Trifecta. I’m making up for it today with a long overdue revisiting of Hasbro’s 6-inch Black line. Man, it feels like forever since the last time I checked out a figure from this series, and it has been a while: Back in January when I featured the Tie Fighter pilot, to be exact. Some of that has to do with me skipping a few figures along the way, particularly the Yoda and one of the colored Clone Troopers. Even this current wave wasn’t a complete buy-in for me. I can’t even remember exactly what four figures comprised the case, but the only two I picked up were Bossk and Han Solo in Stormtrooper Disguise. I decided to go with Bossk first because… well, it’s Bossk and it was really never a contest. Sorry Han, we’ll check you out next time.

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I’ve got nothing new to say about the packaging, so let me just take this opportunity to say how happy I am that Hasbro started getting into the Bounty Hunters early on with this series. Yeah, we’re still waiting on some staples of the line and there are plenty of characters (or versions of characters) that we should probably be getting before a one-line-wonder like Bossk. On the other hand, anything that brings me closer to a complete set of 6-inch Bounty Hunters makes me happy. Oh yes, kids, 6-inch Dengar better damn well be coming! Anyway, I like Bossk and I always have. If for no other reason, it just tickles me that his outfit is a reused costume from the 1968 Doctor Who story “The Wheel in Space!” That’s just rad!

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It’s probably most appropriate to start with the costume because it’s also one of the greatest opportunities this figure has going to the 6-inch format. Sure, Hasbro has managed to cram an impressive amount of detail into some of the flight suits on the 3 3/4″ figures, but the larger scale breeds better opportunities for attention to detail and I think they took good advantage of it with this figure. Bossk’s flight suit is quite complex and that’s certainly reflected here. I don’t pretend to know what all this stuff does, but all the straps and cables, and hoses hanging off of our Saurian friend here looks great. Bossk features that same type of harness that we saw with X-Wing PIlot Luke. It’s a soft plastic rig that connects to the belt and loops around his thighs. It’s all also connected to the hose that runs into his vest. You also get a hose running out of the front of his suit, runs around to the back and connects into his vest, probably to help circulate his lizard juices. The mostly yellow jumpsuit is sculpted to look like its bunched up around his knees and he has those familiar silver bands of cylinders running around his legs. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve grown to accept Bossk’s outfit as iconic and this figure nails it quite well.

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The exposed lizard parts are also very nicely detailed with sculpted scales and the claws on his fingers and toes. Ah, but it’s the head sculpt that really drives the beauty of this figure home. It looks fantastic and the inclusion of an articulated jaw was a somewhat risky and bold choice. Truth be told, it doesn’t open all that wide, but I think that’s what makes it such a neat little touch. And surprisingly, the added articulation doesn’t detract from the quality of the portrait at all, so I think it was a worthy addition.

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The paint on this figure is mostly good. There are some black spots on my figure’s arms, which looks like rubbing of the paint, or possibly transfer from some of the black applications. Aside from that, the detail work around the silver fixtures of the costume is all quite well done and the wash looks pretty good. They also picked the perfect shade of slightly washed out yellow plastic for the jumpsuit. If I had one major complaint it would be that the painted eyes on my Bossk are all googly. Ugh, come on Hasbro, you come so close and then you blow it with the little stuff. Ah well, I suspect I’ll be able to fix that by filling them in a little more with a sharpie, but it’s something I shouldn’t have to be doing on a twenty dollar collectible figure.

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He may have stood there on the deck and did nothing in the movie, but Bossk’s figure still features all the articulation I’ve come to expect from this line. The arms have rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, double hinged at the knees, have swivels at the thighs and below the knees, and the ankles feature hinges and some generous lateral rockers. There’s a ball joint in the torso, but it really doesn’t offer a whole lot of movement, the neck, however is both hinged and ball jointed and I’ve already mentioned that sweet hinged jaw. Most of this articulation is as good as it sounds, with the one stand out being the elbows. The way the arms are sculpted doen’t give Bossk a lot of range of motion there.

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Bossk comes with one accessory and that’s his laser rifle. It comes complete with shoulder strap and while it’s a fairly simple sculpt, it looks good and his left hand is sculpted in just the right way so that he can grip it comfortably and hold onto it securely. On the downside, because of the limited elbow articulation, I can’t get him to hold it both hands very convincingly.

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Yes, the 6-inch Black line continues to have its ups and downs, but releases like Bossk pull me in and remind me why I’m collecting this line. He’s a great figure, with just a few little issues here and there, that ultimately makes me all the more excited for the up and coming IG-88 release and I sincerely hope the rest of the Bounty Hunter scum are going to be turning up in the next year or so. Now if we could just get Hasbro to stop repacking figures from the previous wave into the new ones, I could finally go back to buying cases and not having to get individuals or pairs of figures from scalpers.

Marvel Legends (Thanos Wave): Iron Man, Mark 43 by Hasbro

I’m just now coming off the high of the Age of Ultron weekend. I actually got out to see it twice, while also viewing some of my Marvel Blu-Rays too and I’m still pretty pumped. If only I had some freaking toys from the movie to look at… Oh yeah, I do! If you haven’t been following along with my Marvel Legends madness, I’ve already looked at two of the three Age of Ultron figures from the Thanos Wave of Legends and today I’m checking out the last one and it is indeed Tony Stark in the Iron Man, Mark III armor! But before jumping in, can I say how disappointed I am that the movie doesn’t have its own line. Yeah, apparently there were some 3 3/4″ figures with five points of articulation that got clearanced out before the film even hit. And you have that weird 2 1/2″ line that feels like Hasbro wanted to do something, but not really commit to it. Well, I suppose I should count myself lucky that these three figures found their way into the Legends line.

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There’s the packaged shot and since I’ve got nothing new to say about it, I’ll touch on a few words about Tony’s new armor. So, even a geek like me has trouble keeping up on all of Tony’s different suits, but a few do stand out to me. My favorites are unquestiongly the Mark III and the Mark VII. The Mark 42 debuted in Iron Man 3 and I was pretty iffy on it, mainly because of the saturation of gold over the red. It has grown on me a little bit and I think it looks better in certain formats. The Mark 43 is basically the same armor with the gold turned down a lot and I think to much better aesthetic effect. I think this one is a move back in the right direction, but truth be told, I think I’ve officially reached armor fatigue when it comes to all the new designs.

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If you were here for Friday, you may remember that the Age of Ultron Captain America was a repaint and remold of the Winter Soldier figure. Well, in this case the Mark 43 is a straight repaint of the Mark 42. That having been said, it’s impressive how some of the changes make certain aspects of the sculpt stand out as different. I can see collectors who passed on the 42 actually digging this figure a lot. It really is funny how much difference a fresh coat of paint can make.

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Obviously articulation is identical to the Mark 42, but let’s run through it anyway. The arms feature rotating hinges in the shoulders and wrists, swivels in the biceps, and double hinges in the elbows. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, swivels at the thighs, double hinges in the knees, and hinges in the ankles. There’s a ball joint in the torso and both a hinge and a ball joint in the neck. What’s here is pretty good, but I would have loved some lateral rockers in the ankles. Also, the right arm on my figure doesn’t want to go all the way down by his side, which is kind of strange since the Mark 42 doesn’t have the same problem.

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You do get one potentially nice bonus with this figure over the Mark 42 and that’s the extra Tony Stark head with the opened helmet. Granted, it is not one of the better headsculpts that we’ve seen in the Legends line, and that’s me being generous. It’s actually pretty terrible. I’m not sure if it’s the sculpt or the paint or a combination of both, but it actually looks like a bad mannequin head of Downey Jr. When I think about some of the great portraits we’ve seen in the Legends line over the last few years, this one is just baffling. Hell, in this very wave we got the unmasked Steve Rogers head, which is a work of art compared to Stark’s melon. One cool thing is that since the helmets on the 43 and the 42 are identical, you can do the head swap on the Mark 42 as well.

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Repaint or no, I’m happy to have this figure in my collection. Granted, the Mark 43 is only the second of the movie armors that I own in this scale, so my shelves aren’t exactly packed with MovieVerse Starks. It’s a bit of a shame that Hasbro didn’t toss the Mark 45 into this wave, but I’m sure the lure of a quick and dirty repaint was too much for them to resist. The unmasked head could have definitely been executed better, and some extra hands would have been nice, but all in all, this one is still a solid, albeit not stellar entry. Of course, it still feels odd just getting these three and I can’t help but hope we might see some ofther Age of Ultron figures in forthcoming waves of the Legends line.