DC Icons: (#01) Batman by DC Collectibles

Last Friday I kicked off my look at DC Collectibles’ DC Icons series with Mister Miracle and I was notably impressed. Today, I’m pulling another figure off the stack and it’s Batman! Yeah, I went after Mister Miracle first because of my love for the character, but let’s face it… when you’re taking a new line of DC figures out for spin, Batman really is the best place to start!

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We saw the packaging last time, so I won’t dwell on it. It’s attractive and shows off the figure and the accessories well. My figure’s box is a little miffed up, but that’s OK. Just let me at the goods inside!

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Out of the box and Batman is looking damn fine. Being only a casual fan of Bats, I’m not sure which one they were going for here, but I dig the somewhat classic look of the outfit. There are no panel lines, so it sure ain’t from The New 52. Yeah, he’s a lot more understated than the snazzy metallic finish of my-man Scott Free, but I love the look of this guy. You get a traditional gray body suit with blue undies on the outside and high gloss blue boots and gauntlets. There’s a black bat emblem tampo’ed on his chest and a chunky yellow utility belt.

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The cape is a fairly light and pliable plastic that doesn’t throw off the balance of the figure at all. It also ends just above the ground and isn’t too cumbersome for most action shots. At the same time, it does sometimes feel restrictive in it’s inability to spread out behind him when he’s doing his intimidating Batman stuff. I do like the way it’s sculpted to plunge behind his neck and the scalloped edges look great.

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The portrait features a classic blue cowl and a face sculpt that is solid enough, but nothing exceptional. It’s a little bit soft, but still OK. I dig the detail in his furled brow.

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Articulation is a big deal with this line, which is a new departure for many of DC Collectibles’ figures. Let’s run down those points… The arms have 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, have double hinges in the knees, hinges in the ankles, along with lateral rockers, and swivels buried under the boots. The torso features both a ball joint and an ab crunch and the neck is ball jointed. Batman is a beautifully balanced figure and loads of fun to play with.

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Accessories! Batman comes with two pairs of hands (fists and holding hands), in addition to a grappel with a hand permanently attached to it. He also comes with a pair of very cool little batarangs.

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Yes, if I had to describe this figure with one word it would be FUN FUN FUN! OK, that’s one word three times, but I’m making a point. Maybe there’s nothing flashy or revolutionary about DC Icons Batman, but his lovely mix of articulation and accessories make him a hard figure to put down. He’s only the second notch on my DC Icons belt, but I can still feel my love for this line growing. At this point, the only complaint I can muster is that I really wish these figures came with action stands. I’ve been cheating with a Figma stand by putting the peg under the cape, but I’m really going to have to invest in a Tamashii Stage to unlock their true potential.

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Transformers: Masterpiece Tracks (MP-25) by Takara

I’ve been pretty quiet on the Transformers Masterpiece front, but that’s more Takara’s fault than mine. There were only a handful of releases over the past year and a lot of them were Diaclone homages, which I would have been all over if it weren’t for the fact that I collect so many other things and I’m not made of money. Case in point, the last MP Transformer I looked at was MP-22 Ultra Magnus and that was almost exactly a year ago today. So, let’s break this long hiatus and take a look at MP-25… Tracks!

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We’ve certainly seen this packaging before. Tracks comes in an enclosed box that matches the other MP Autobot cars. A lot of the copy is in Japanese, but there’s a little English to be had. There are plenty of pictures of the toy in its various modes and the front boasts that it is an official licensed Chevrolet product. These boxes aren’t terribly flashy, but they are collector friendly and they sure look great all lined up in a bookcase. Inside, you get a folded color instruction sheet, a profile card, and a bunch of neat extras. Tracks wasn’t a member of the Autobot “Class of 84” and I never actually owned his figure as a kid, but I enjoyed him a lot on the cartoon and the only reason it took me this long to pick him up was because he hasn’t been very well received. Let’s start with the alt mode…

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Faithful to his G1 roots, Tracks is a Chevy Corvette Stingray. I’ll be honest, I’m a Ford guy… Mustangs in particular, but if I ever loved a Chevy it was this lovely Corvette design. Tracks’ vehicle mode lives up to all my expectations, but then I never doubted it would. Apart from a seam here and there, the MP line hasn’t had any issues with it’s auto modes. He sports a gorgeous metallic blue paint job, which is absolutely flawless! We’ve come a long way from the paint QC issues on the original figures. The colorful tampo on the hood looks amazing and you even get a flip-panel on the roof, like we saw with Bumblebee, which allows you to display him with or without the extra Autobot symbol in his vehicle mode. I prefer it without. There is a fair amount of kibble showing through underneath, but that’s understandable because he’s got a lot going on under there. Also, it surprisingly doesn’t interfere with his ground clearance at all, allowing him to roll smoothly.  The only glaring issue I have with this alt mode are the mirrors. Takara includes two sets of rear view mirrors on sprues. Yeah, we’ve seen this before, but in this case, they don’t want to stay in very well. I actually wind up taking them out when transforming him to avoid losing them. I’m tempted to glue them in, but squirting glue onto Tracks’ paint fills me with dread and I’m sure he wouldn’t appreciate it either.

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Tracks features an opening hood, which reveals a detailed engine. It’s a really nice and unexpected feature. I’m pretty sure the Stingray had a reverse hood, but I’m not going to make a big issue about it here. Oh yeah, he also has a second alt mode…

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MP Tracks retains the alternate flight mode that was featured on the original toy and in the cartoon. I’m a huge fan of this, mainly because I’ve always had a weird obsession with the idea of flying cars. It’s not a huge difference from his regular car mode. He adds a couple of side pylons with intakes, his back wheels turn upward, sort of like VTOLS, wings fold out from the back and you can clip a gun onto the front of his bumper. Converting him into this mode is a bit more involved then I would like, but it’s hard to argue with the results…

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Especially when Takara gave us such an awesome display stand! This snazzy black stand features a double hinged arm that plugs into the bottom of the vehicle and a silver Autobot emblem on the base. I love that they included something like this. It really feels above and beyond and it turns what could have been just a flippant little secondary alt mode into something that I very well may use as a permanent display option. OK, enough with the alt modes, let’s get this dude transformed…

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So, transforming Tracks proved to be a real bitch the first time. He feels a lot more complex than any of the other Autobot cars and some of the movements are a little scary. The tab that holds the halves of the hood together is really tight and pulling that apart makes me nervous every time. Pulling the shoulders away from the body to extend them outward is another step that makes me cringe. There are a ton of moving parts here and sometimes I have to apply a little more force than I’m comfortable with. I also worry about paint scraping. A lot of those beautiful blue plates slide against each other and I don’t want the finish to be ruined. With all that having been said, I thought putting him back into auto mode would be a nightmare, but it went more smoothly than I expected.

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With all that having been said, I generally dig Tracks’ robot mode, but it isn’t the slam dunk that I felt we got with the Datsuns or Lambor. There’s no doubt about it, this is Tracks and he makes for a damn good idealized version of the original toy design. I think the proportions are overall OK, but there are little things here and there that feel less polished. I’m not a big fan of the construction of the ankles. There’s a little too much gap there when viewed from dead on. There’s a lot of hollow space visible behind his head, which is why most of the official pictures of this guy are taken from a low angle looking up. That’s definitely his best angle. Lastly, he looks pretty rough from the back. I don’t mind the rear of the Corvette as a backpack, it actually pegs in quite nicely, but below that he looks rather unfinished.

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The portrait is quite nice, featuring Tracks’ trademark red face and white helmet. Again, great paint here without a flaw to be seen. I also really dig the flip out Autobot symbol on his chest.

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In addition to his handgun, Tracks comes with a couple of friends. You get Rauol, Tracks’ human friend. You know, the one he met because he was trying to carjack him. He’s just a static figure on a stand with some very rudimentary paint and an eerie blank face, but a welcome little addition all the same. You also get a tiny little Blaster in his boom box mode. Definitely some cool bonuses.

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In no way do I think Tracks is a bad figure, but he does feel a little different from the figures that came before him and not as polishes as some of the better figures in the MP line. A lot of that is no doubt because of a change up in the lead designer, but some of it could also be because of Tracks’ more challenging design. Either way, he’s still going to have a proud place on my Masterpiece shelf and I certainly don’t regret picking him up. For whatever little issues he may have, Takara clearly went above and beyond with the extras on this guy and all that conspires to make him feel like a worthwhile purchase. In fact, to be honest, I’m seriously thinking of picking up the repainted and tweaked mold as Road Rage.

Star Wars Black: Luke Skywalker and Wampa by Hasbro

I’m patiently awaiting the arrival of new 6-inch Star Wars Black figures, so in the meantime I thought I’d deal with some unfinished business with one of the older Deluxe sets. The Luke and Wampa two-pack has been sitting around here waiting to be opened for months now and with all the pictures of snow lately, it seemed like an appropriate time to take a look! Oh, but don’t expect any pictures of these guys in the snow. I live in Florida and lately my idea of chilly weather is when it plunges into the low 60’s. Brrrr. Seriously, I don’t even own a jacket.

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The package is similar to what we saw with the Hoth Deluxe set. It’s a boring black box with a huge window that offers a great look at the toys inside. They were kind of going for a diorama display what with Luke hanging upside down in the box, but it really doesn’t work for me. It’s collector friendly, but I can’t see any reason to keep it so it’s going into the bin. Let’s start with The Wampa!

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I’ve owned several of these snow beasts before, including the original Kenner version, The Saga Collection release, and the 30th Anniversary Collection version, but they were all scaled to the 3 3/4-inch range. This guy is obviously a lot bigger and overall he looks pretty good. Every inch of this guy is covered in sculpted fur and I really dig the way the articulation cuts are sculpted in a jagged fashion to accentuate the fur. He’s got huge hands perfect for swatting Jedi off their Tauntauns and big, powerful feet to help stabilize him in various poses. The fur is a mix between white, yellowed, and a little grey. It looks OK, but it isn’t an exceptional paint job, especially not for a figure that’s this big.

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The beastly portrait is passable, but again nothing to get excited about. This guy scared the living shit out of 10-year old me when I first saw him in The Empire Strikes Back and I think they did a decent job sculpting his ugly mug here. I do kinda wish they made the mouth an actual hole like with the Kenner version. For some reason that aspect of the toy really creeped me out. I used to try to make him eat the figures’ guns. As with the rest of the figure, the paintwork here doesn’t add a lot. The blood around the chin and teeth is weak and the yellow and gray paint around the eyes and nose doesn’t hold up. The Wampa may impress with his size and heft, and I think this figure could have been something special with a really good paint job, but as it is, it’s pretty average at best.

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Another gripe I have against the Wampa is that Hasbro opted to make his right arm removable, which in itself is not a bad idea, but they did it in a way that limits the shoulder articulation in that arm. Instead of a ball joint, you just get a rotation. This is a case of the gimmick not really being worth the sacrifice of articulation, at least not to me. Besides, which, there’s really no reason they couldn’t have made the arm removable and kept the ball joint. Hasbro does it for Marvel Legends Build-A-Figures all the time.

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With that having been said, the articulation here is still overall excellent. The other shoulder features a rotating hinge and the same in both elbows, wrists, knees, and ankles. There are swivel cuts in the thighs and lateral rockers in the ankles. There are two ball joints in the torso and another in the neck. When you get down to it, the Wampa is capable of doing just about any pose I would want him to do. Alright, enough about this snowy beast, let’s take a look at Luke…

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With four versions in the 6-inch Black line, Luke Skywalker has had his ups and downs. I think the X-Wing Luke was fantastic, the Jedi Knight Luke was disappointing, and Bespin Luke fell somewhere in between. This one lands somewhere between Bespin and Jedi Knight. It’s passable in almost every way, but it doesn’t do anything to make it stand out. The outfit is reproduced with the quilted pattern on the vest and knees, the insignia on the chest and shoulder, and some overall nice rumpling and detail. His belt features not only a working holster for his blaster (complete with retaining strap), but also a hook for his lightsaber hilt. Those two features always go a long way in my book. But are we getting anything here that Hasbro hasn’t done at least as well (if not better) in the 3 3/4-inch scale? I don’t think so.

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And then there’s the portrait. It’s a shame to say it, but I’ve reached a point where I really temper my expectations from the likenesses on these figures. This one depicts Luke with his face all messed up from The Wampa attack with some blood and bruising. This is a head sculpt that I would have been far more forgiving of if it were on a smaller scale figure. Here, it’s just not that great. And once again, the paint quality just isn’t there either, particularly with respect to the eyes. But, oh look! Softgoods! Sure, it’s just a strip of cloth coming off the helmet, but at least they still work it into the line every once and a while. There are no goggles, but I’ll point out that you can take Hoth Han’s goggles and put them on Luke’s hat.

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Articulation here includes rotating hinges in the shoulders and elbows, but sadly only swivels in the wrists. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, have swivel cuts at the thighs, double hinges at the knees, and have hinges and lateral rockers at the ankles. There’s a ball joint at the waist and both a ball joint and hinge in the neck. I can get some decent poses out of Luke and the joints all feel good and solid. I’ll also point out here that Luke has an extra pair of pegholes on his feet to help him ride the Tauntaun that came with Han.

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Luke comes with both is blaster pistol and his lightsaber. The blade can be removed. We’ve seen these accessories before. Unfortunately the lightsaber hilt doesn’t have the same nice silvery paint as the hilts included with X-Wing and Bespin Luke. It’s just flat gray. The blade can still be removed.

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It probably sounds like I don’t much care for these figures, but that’s not really the case. It’s a fun set and I don’t think either one is terrible, but at the same time I think these figures illustrate how frustrated I am sometimes with the 6-inch Black line. Neither really show the true potential of the larger scale figures. I’d say the Wampa is mostly let down by the mediocre paintwork and well-intentioned gimmick. Luke, on the other hand, perhaps by the fact that Hasbro has done this figure at least as well in the smaller scale Vintage Collection line. I’m not sorry I picked up this set, it’s a nice companion to the Deluxe Han and Tauntaun, I just wish Hasbro would invest a little more work into this line to make it as great as it could be.

Doctor Who: Missy by Character Options

If you’re a fan of Doctor Who than you have probably already heard that show-runner Steven Moffet is retiring from Who after Series 10 (which won’t come until 2017, BTW). Moffet has most certainly been a polarizing element in the fandom. As for me? Well, there’s been stuff about his era that I loved, and stuff that I maybe didn’t like so much, but in the end I admire him far more than I admonish him. Believe me, I could go on for hours on the subject. Of course, one of the biggest bombs he dropped on the Whoniverse was back in Series 8 when The Doctor’s oldest enemy, The Master, turned up as a woman named Missy. The idea was instantly decisive on the speculation as to whether or not Time Lords could regenerate into either gender. And thanks to the wonderful (dare I say masterful performance of) Michelle Gomez, it worked brilliantly. It worked so brilliantly that Missy was one of those characters that Character Options couldn’t deny giving us in the old 5-inch scale.

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And here she is! I’m not sure what’s going on with the world of Doctor Who figures these days. Is CO even still producing that horrid 3 3/4-inch scale? They seem to be. And yet they also seem to understand that this 5-inch scale is what we really want and they keep going back to it for these scattershot releases. Anywho, Missy comes in the same style window box that we saw a few weeks back with The 8th Doctor from “Night of the Doctor.” You get a nice blurb on the back that recounts a little bit about The Master both before and after her gender-swap. It’s a handsome package and totally collector friendly.

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Missy comes donning her prim-and-proper purple dress and looking absolutely smashing. CO continues to up their QC game in these newest batch of figures and I see no paint flubs or pulled joints or any of that nasty business. In fact, I’ve got no complaints here at all! Granted, the dress is pretty simple, but still nicely done and even the little cameo on her collar is an impressive little piece of work. If you’re feeling a little naughty and fancy a look up her dress, you’ll see that her high boots are sculpted all the way up to her knees, complete with laces.

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The portrait is quite good as well. It’s a bit soft when you get in close, but still decent. It does a great job conveying Gomez’s rather stern brand of beauty. She wears her hat cocked to the front and side and the paint here is sharp and clean.

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Alas, due to the nature of the outfit, Missy doesn’t come sporting a lot of articulation. The arms do feature rotating hinges in the shoulders, which is nice, but I’m not a big fan of the exposed hinge on the outside of the shoulder. She has swivel cuts in the biceps and wrists, and I believe this is the first time a figure in this line has had rotating hinges in the elbows. There’s a waist swivel under that coat and while there’s definitely leg articulation, the tee-pee effect of the dress renders it not very useful. The neck is ball jointed and supposedly the head can be swapped with the other version (black dress) of Missy should you be lucky enough to own her.

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Missy comes with a pair of accessories. You get her little steam-punk phone thingy, which she can hold in her left hand (“Say something nice!”) and you get her umbrella, which can be held in her right hand.

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Character Options seems to understand which characters are important enough to deliver in the nearly defunct 5-inch scale and so we continue to get dribbles of these releases each year. Indeed, Missy was actually released simultaneously in two versions: The one we just looked at today and one in a black dress and sans hat with a different head sculpt. Sadly, the other version is currently exclusive to CO’s UK website and has yet to see distribution outside a limited run in Great Britain. The version I have is a fine figure, but I would have preferred the other, or would have happily bought both. It’s also a pity that we don’t have any Moffet-era Cybermen to go with her.

Marvel Legends (Hulkbuster Wave): Hulkbuster Build-A- Figure by Hasbro

Six figures and a whole lot of Marvel Mondays later and I’m finally ready to build my Hulkbuster. I always find the Build-A-Figures to be a nice slice of pie for desert after a hearty meal of regular Legends figures, but this time it’s different. I don’t think I’ve anticipated a BAF as much as this since way back to Terrax. Maybe Groot. Either way, I’m excited… so let’s see what we’ve got…

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Obviously there’s no packaged shot because this guy’s parts were spread out over seven releases, but there he is all laid out and ready for assembly. Most BAFs consist of six parts (four limbs, torso and head), but Hulkbuster is made up of two extra pieces. Instead of one torso you get a pelvis and front and back halves of the torso. Assembly may be a little more complex, but everything still goes together easy peasy.

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And what a beast he is! Now this is a BAF! It brings me back to the days of the truly giant DCUC Collect & Connect figures like Stel or STRIPE. The scaling on this guy feels really good, especially when standing next to the Age of Ultron armor, which was worn by Tony while wearing this armor. The proportions are appropriately chunky and he just looks like a powerhouse. A couple of my favorite points of interest include the contours of the lower leg armor, the giant slabs of armor on the forearms, and the curved plates that make up his shoulder armor. There isn’t an over abundance of panel lines, so it doesn’t quite give off that hyper-detailed movie look, but it works just fine for me.

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The bulk of the figure is cast in luscious red plastic, which sports a nice sheen, with minimal amounts of those swirly patterns that rear their ugly heads in Hasbro’s plastic sometimes. I hate those. Some of the gold, like the forearm pieces, are bare plastic, while other gold parts are painted. There’s a slight difference between these parts and overall I would have liked a more consistent metallic finish throughout, but then I feel guilty about complaining because so much about this guy is just magnificent. The deco is rounded out by some nice touches of gray.

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Articulation is pretty close to what we’re used to seeing in regular Legends figures. Obviously, the chunky sculpt of the armor is at odds with some of the articulation. Let’s face it, the Hulkbuster suit isn’t supposed to be an acrobat, so I’m pretty happy with the level of posability here. If there’s anything that nags at me, it’s the way the pelvis hooks to the upper torso. There’s a ball jointed post to make the connection, but the ball joint doesn’t swivel. The socket grabs it too tight and if you try to do the swivel it just twists the post. With that having been said, he is an amazingly fun figure to play with.

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Despite a few really minor and picky little issues, I think this figure is a total home-run. It’s exactly the kind of release that the BAF concept was created for. Take a figure that is too big or too complex for a regular release and get him to the collectors by parting him out. Hasbro has given us some real treats since the Legends line returned back in 2012, but it’s hard to think of too many that impressed me as much as having this beast on my shelf. He was worth the wait, and he’s probably going to spend a long time on my desk getting played around with before he finally migrates to my Legends display shelf.

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And that’s finally a wrap for this wave. I’m going to spend the next handful of Marvel Mondays going through the Age of Ultron Avengers boxed set and then we’ll start digging into the Rhino Wave!

DC Icons: (#04) Mister Miracle by DC Collectibles

When DC Collectibles revealed their new “six inch” line of highly articulated figures, I was interested in what could finally be the continuation of DC Universe Classics/Unlimited/Signature Series or whatever the hell it was called when Mattel finally put a bullet in its head and dumped it in the Gotham River. The new figures looked amazing and I could pick and choose which figures I wanted to upgrade and which DCUC versions I’d stick with. Aaaaand then we saw that when it comes to scale all “six inch” figures are not created equal. The heartbreak hit alongside the realization that they were not at all in scale with DCUC. I swore I would never pick any of these up. Nope, No way I’m going down that rabbit hole again. Scew that and screw you, DC Icons!

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And then that happened, so let’s start looking at some DC Icons figures! I’m only missing one from the initial run up through #9, but I’m not going to go in order. Instead, let’s start with Mr. Miracle. Why him? I’ll refer you back to my DCUC Feature on Mr. Miracle and Big Barda to answer that.

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Here’s the snazzy new packaging and I do like it quite a lot. Yes, it still clings to some of that stark white and bland style that DC Collectibles has been going with. But I like that each box is themed to match the character. I dig the angled window with the character name, like we saw with the Designer Series and the Flash TV Series figures. Speaking of The Flash, thanks to the convenient numbering system, it was easy find out that the figure I’m missing, #5, is The Flash with his Cosmic Treadmill. (Yup, he’s already been ordered). You also get a great look at the figure and the accessories.

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The back does show all four figures available in the first series. Everything is collector friendly and I’m tempted to keep the packaging for this line, but I’m just kidding myself. I don’t have the space for it. There’s no blurb about the character or anything, which is fine with me, although I’ll note that this is the New 52 version, which has made appearances in Earth 2: World’s End and Justice League Beyond 2.0. I’m not currently reading either of those books, but hey… It’s still Mister Miracle!

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Well, hello new and sexy costume! I really do like Scott’s new look. It’s certainly recognizable to older fans like me and just all over streamlined and new. Every single detail in the costume is part of the sculpt, so I don’t get that feeling of “let’s just paint a costume on a generic buck” as was often the case with DCUC and still is with Marvel Legends. In fact, everything about this figure feels like it’s been lovingly crafted. And while the scale being at odds with DCUC irks me on principle, I have to admit the figure feels just right in hand. Just how tall is “six inches” these days? Well, he stands a full head shorter than your average Marvel Legends or DCUC figure. If I were to make a size comparison, I’d say he’s just about Figma sized.

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The cape is lightweight, made of super soft plastic, and it doesn’t drag on the ground. These are all qualities that make it ideal for action poses. I also dig the way it cinches in the middle. It has a wind-swept look that adds a dynamic air to the figure without looking too pre-posed.

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The paintwork is superb. It looks like the figure is cast in a yellow plastic, which only shows through on the head and a bit on the arms. The rest is a meddly of rich metallic red and green along with some gold. The quality of the paint is fantastic with a sharp glossy sheen. Lovely.

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Articulation? It’s not too shabby. Let’s run down the points. The arms feature rotating hinges in the shoulders, with nice solid ratcheting joints. The elbows are double hinged with no mushy plastic making the connection. The biceps have swivels. The wrists are pegged in (to allow for swapping) and hinged. The hips are ball jointed and designed to allow for a solid range of motion. The knees are double hinged. The ankles are hinged and feature lateral rockers. There’s a ball joint in the chest and another in the neck and you also get an ab-crunch hinge. Room for improvement? Well, I would have liked some swivel cuts in the thighs, but what’s here is still really damn good.

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In addition to articulation, accessories will be a big focus in this line. For starters, Mr. Miracle includes an extra pair of graspy hands to go with his fists.

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You also get his Aero Discs, which now appear to be more like energy constructs than physical discs. They’re cast in translucent yellow plastic and peg into his feet.

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Finally, you get his tiny little Mother Box.

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Every damn thing about this figure screams quality and fun. What’s more, comparisons to DCUC or Marvel Legends are inadequate. DC Icons feels like something new and vastly better. If Mr. Miracle is par for the course, and there’s no reason to believe otherwise, I am going to thoroughly adore this line and I’m very glad I jumped on board. The scale difference is probably for the better anyway. Even if they were the same size, the DCUC figures would have looked out of place next to these guys.

Star Wars: C-3PO Deluxe Sixth-Scale Figure by Sideshow

Yeah, it’s Transformers Thursday, but I’ve got no new Transformers to look at this week, so I thought I’d go with another robot instead. This guy arrived at my door just a couple of days ago and he’s been a pretty polarizing release so far, so I wanted to bump him up on my priority list, so here we go…

I’ve been pretty firm on my decision not to get in on Sixth-Scale Star Wars figures. It’s a dark path that I really don’t want to head down for fear that it would consume all my monies and shelf space. That attitude will likely be changing when it comes to Hot Toys and The Force Awakens, but that’s a problem I’ll deal with later this Summer. As for the Original Trilogy, well I bent the rules when it came to Artoo and Threepio because they’ve been such iconic characters to me virtually my entire life. Early last year, I checked out Sideshow’s R2-D2, a solid if imperfect figure, and after a long wait his counterpart, C-3PO is finally here. Strap yourselves in, this one is going to be a long one…

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The figure comes in what seems to be standard for the SS Star Wars line. It’s an enclosed box with a nice look at the prototype of the figure (important for later!) and it’s obviously collector friendly. If you get the Exclusive then the box will have the foil sticker on the front denoting such. There are shots of the figure on the back and side panels as well.  I don’t have a lot more to say about the package so let’s just talk about the figure’s initial reception. I spent Tuesday afternoon waiting for my 3PO to arrive and I decided to do what I often do in this situation: Make a pot of coffee and read through forum posts of early impressions as they roll in. Here I was confronted with horror story after horror story of bad QC, including bad mold flashing, pistons breaking, paint scratches and chips, a head that wouldn’t come off to access the electronics, aaaand… oh yeah, the fact that it seemed like the entire run of figures had their thumbs put on backwards. Needless to say when the UPS man finally handed me my shipper box, I was pretty nervous about opening it up.

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So naturally the first thing I did was give the finish a good once over and based on what I’d been seeing from other owners, I was shocked at virtually no discernible flubs or scratches. You may think you see a scratch here or there in the pictures, but I assure you that’s just my arch nemesis, Cat Hair! No, apart from a very little bit of visible mold flashing on the right knee, this particular figure is just about spotless. There were no broken pistons or any other defects. I had indeed dodged what appeared to be a QC bullet. The thumbs? Oh, yeah. The thumbs are indeed assembled wrong. Which sadly isn’t an individual QC defect but a design flaw across the entire run. There are times when it’s obvious, but truth be told, most of the time I barely notice it. With the hands held to the sides or palms front, it’s barely an issue at all. I’ll deal more on that at the end of this Feature.

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Anyway, getting 3PO set up just requires you to pop off the head to remove the battery tab that will activate his eyes. The instructions ridiculously tell you not to pull on the head, only the neck, otherwise you may damage the figure. Frankly, I don’t see how grabbing only the neck is even possible and there are apparently a fair share of owners who have not been able to pop the head at all for fear of breaking the figure. Me? I was able to hold the figure firmly at the base of the head and just wiggle it right out, easy peasy. This lets you remove the tab and is also how you replace the batteries. Tap the back of the head, and 3PO’s eyes come to life and those peepers are pretty gorgeous. It’s a feature that really is necessary to bring 3PO to life and they nailed it. They may not look it under the bright studio lights, but in normal room lighting, they’re quite bright.

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With all the qualification behind me, I’d like to say that this guy looks pretty stunning on the shelf. The finish is obviously the worn and dirty version. This isn’t a droid you’d take to a Yavin celebration like the Tamashii version. That having been said, there’s still a nice metallic sheen to him. The gold paint looks rich and authentic, even if the realism of the oil and grease marks fall a notch or two below hitting the mark. I think it’s actually kind of cool that the weathering patterns seem to vary quite a bit from figure to figure. Some seem to have it in places where others don’t and that makes each individual figure a little more special. So long as your happy with the one you got, otherwise I guess it sucks. I don’t think the weathering looks bad at all, but with them there Hot Toys prices, Sideshow, I gotta turn my expectations up a couple of notches and so does everybody else. Oh yeah, I really dig the silver they used for the lower right leg and the rust spray on there looks outstanding.

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In terms of sculpt, I think they really nailed a lot of the aspects of the droid that other people haven’t been able to. The head, for example, looks spot on to me. The crest around the head, for example, isn’t too thick, which is one of my biggest pet peeves on 3PO figures. I’m sure there are plenty of obsessive Star Wars fans who can find plenty to nitpick, but that ain’t me. The texturing of the exposed mid section is nice, as is the paint on the wires, however, at this price, I would have liked actual wires attached to the rubber piece, but this works well enough and looks fine.

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The inner pistons on the arms actually work and look particularly nice. These are often too thick and prominent on larger scale renditions of the character. The trade off here, of course, is that they are crazy delicate. I’ve seen several pictures of them broken off in the boxes and others snapping when moving the arms. It’s hard to think of a better illustration of the fact that these are collectibles and not toys and more than a modicum of care is needed when articulating his arms. The pistons on my figure travel their channels smoothly and don’t inhibit the articulation all that much more than the original suit design intended. I do think the 3PO suit had a little bit more elbow articulation than what we got here, but not much. Moving on down below the waste, I’m particularly satisfied with the movement in the hips. I don’t dig my protocol droids to be all bow-legged and there’s enough easy play in those hip joints that you can get 3PO to stand with both feet touching. At the same time, the leg joints are all solid enough to support the figure with no worries or floppiness.

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3PO is not heavy on the accessories, which is unfortunate because of the high price point. In fact, the only accessories with the standard release are a pair of magnetic restraining bolts and the commlink. I assume they included two bolts in case you lose one, which is fairly likely since the magnets on the bolts are crazy weak. After a couple tries, I was convinced there was no magnet at all, so I tried it on R2 and it worked fine. Turns out you just have to be really accurate when you place it. The commlink is barely worth mentioning as an accessory. It’s just a tiny piece of painted plastic. Surprisingly, even with his challenged thumbs, 3PO is capable of holding it, but it takes some effort.

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The Exclusive included is the shoulder stump, which in theory just involves pulling the arm out at the shoulder and replacing with the stump. Unlike the head, my figure’s arm was an absolute bitch to remove. Getting the full arm out requires a little too much force than I’m comfortable with and putting the stump in results in a thunderous click as it locks in, making me initially think, “Oh God, how the hell am I ever going to get that out again?” It came out, but it was a bit of a fight. It’s a fantastic bonus feature and it looks great, but I doubt I’ll be doing that very often.

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Naturally, you get a stand, which is not nearly as necessary as I thought, because 3PO stands beautifully by himself. That having been said, I don’t risk displaying any of my 1:6 scale figures without a stand and Goldenrod here will be no different. The stand is as no frills as you can get. It’s just a big black hexagonal base with a post and crotch-cradle. Considering the price of the figure, it would have been nice to get something a little more fancy or maybe a stand big enough to display him and R2. I’ll probably try to hunt something down.

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So, where to come down on this figure? Quite frankly, I love it, but that affection needs to be qualified. On principle, the thumb thing is inexcusable. Either the figure should have been delayed to make a fix or Sideshow should have gotten in front of it in order to make it right for their customers before shipping. Instead, they posted pictures of the final product, complete with mis-assembled thumbs, right as they were shipping and still haven’t addressed the issue to their customers. It makes all the difference difference between being responsible toward their consumers and being blatantly unprofessional. If my figure had other issues, I’d consider doing a refund, but honestly, I love everything else about this guy so much, I’m willing to overlook what is becoming known as thumbgate. That’s not to say I don’t think some restitution isn’t in order, at least to garner some goodwill over the incident. If that sort of arrangement is forthcoming, I’ll be sure to post an addendum here.

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The other qualifier is about value. You may have noticed that I brought up price a lot during this Feature. As much as I love my shiny new protocol droid, I will say that at $230, I think this figure is grossly over priced. Sure he looks fantastic, even more so beside R2, but it’s still difficult to see where all the money went. At the $189-$200 range, I could have given 3PO my blessing, but tack another $30-40 onto that and I feel like I’m paying too much. Sure, licensing costs money and Star Wars is the hottest property there is, but Hot Toys just put out a First Order Stormtrooper with more accessories and for $20 cheaper. Now, to be clear that doesn’t mean I regret buying him, it just means I concede that I spent more than I was comfortable spending on him. Truth be told, at the end of the day, if I had had been given this figure on a trial bases, I’d still be pulling the trigger. I really do love him that much. 

Masters of the Universe Classics: He-Ro II by Mattel

It feels weird, this is the first month where I’m no longer collecting the MOTUC line. The last traditional Sub ended in 2015 and while I have been nothing but thrilled with my collection, I just couldn’t bring myself to sign up for the 2.0 and do it all over again with the Filmation versions. Maybe if display space wasn’t in such high demand around here, it would have been a different story, but it is what it is. I did go on Matty Collector and consider picking up Lord Masque, but with a checkout price of $38, I just couldn’t do it. Anywho, I do still have plenty of unfinished business with the line and today I’m opening up the last single carded figure from December’s sale… It’s Hero II.

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And here he is, in package. He-Ro… II? Yes, the II is to denote that this is the second He-Ro figure released in the MOTUC line and both have roots in the original Mattel property. This one, as the tagline on the package states, is the “Heroic Son of He-Man.” His real name is Dare and he is the product of Adam and Teela bumping uglies, at least in the Classics narrative. The character is based on the protagonist from a failed pitch in the 90’s to spawn a new Masters cartoon. So yeah, what we have here is a figure based on a concept series that didn’t get produced, let alone spawn an actual line of action figures.

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Dare isn’t so much like a cross between Adam and Teela, but rather He-Man and New Adventures He-Man. He’s got NA’s blue pants and ponytail and a spiffy futuristic version of He-Man’s chest harness and his fur lined boots. There’s so much I dig about this guy’s design and execution, particularly the corny combination of “H” and “M” on his belt buckle and the traditional He-Man crosses on his gauntlets and shoulder armor. Dare also features a belt with a working holster for his pistol and a bitchin’ crystal in the center of his chest harness.

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The coloring here is great too. There’s a couple purdy shades of blue along with a metallic blue for the shoulder and it combines with the gold, silver and red to make a dynamic and pleasing color scheme. In fact, this figure is loaded with great little touches to the paint and sculpt that make it obvious Matty put a lot of extra love into him. They just went all out.

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The head sculpt is new, but the nod to NA He-Man is certainly there. Besides the ponytail he’s got a younger look and a more angular face. The hair sculpt is particularly great with the tussled bangs.

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If you want a little more NA He-Man in your Dare, the figure comes with a swap out vest, which is basically a silver repaint of NA’s gold space vest. It’s a welcome bonus, but I’ll likely be sticking with the blue rig.

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In addition to the extra vest, Dare comes with his sword and laser pistol. The sword can be stowed in the loop on the back of either vest. I’m a big fan of mixing swords and laser guns, so this guy’s armament is right up my ally.

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There’s no doubt about it, He-Ro II is mined deep from the annals of Masters history and so as a character, he’s only going to appeal to the most hardcore of Masters fans who know the stories beyond the stories about the stories that never happened. But for someone like me, a significant portion of this line has always been more about the figures than the characters, and so I can say that I really dig this guy a lot. And since, I don’t have a New Adventures He-Man in my collection (yet). Dare may just stand in for him on that shelf. Oh yeah, I just realized I never looked at the Classics release of the first He-Ro, so I’ll try to remedy that next week.

Terminator 2 Judgement Day: Ultimate Sarah Connor by NECA

Boy, I sure am digging NECA’s Ultimate Series! But, if you’ve been reading FFZ for the last year or so, you already knew that. While the half-dozen or so figures in this line have hit on several different and classic points of action and horror cinema, this newest offerings are going back to T2: Judgement Day, the greatest sci-fi action flick ever produced (IMNSHO) with the most quintessential bad-ass mom of them all, Sarah Connor!

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Sarah joins the first T2 figure in the line, the T-800, with beautifully matched packaging. It’s the same chunky box with a front flap and I dig the way it like an oversized VHS tape sleeve. The flap opens up to allow a look at the figure and all her accessories and there’s a little blurb about the character on the back. Everything is collector friendly, and that’s great because there’s a lot of stuff here to store in it.

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Sarah is sculpted wearing the tactical gear she donned after hooking up with her merc friends and getting ready to go after Dyson. The outfit features high laced combat boots, pocketed pants, a sleeveless t-shirt, and a tactical rig. Everything here is reproduced with NECA’s usual uncanny attention to detail, which includes stitching on the pants, textures on the shirt, individual pouches and straps on the rig, individually painted fixtures on the belt, and a combat knife sheath with removable knife.

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Not to be outdone by the T-800 figure, Sarah also comes with three different portraits. The figure is packaged with the ponytail, military cap, and sunglasses. This one is a great look for the character and a nice likeness even with the glasses on. The glasses appear to be a separate sculpt and are permanently attached. My only point of contention here is that I wish the paint used for the silver rims of the glasses was a little sharper. There’s a lot of slop when you get up close with the lens, but it’s clearly not as bad with the naked eye. Want to take the hat and glasses off? Just pop on the next head…

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This one is the same ponytail, sans hat and glasses, with her bangs down in her eyes. Another great likeness, and I really dig the way they sculpted the bangs as a separate piece. You can actually pull them back and see her eyes under there. Neat!

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Finally, you get a portrait with her hair down and another pretty solid likeness. I think they got a little heavy handed with the eyebrow paint, but I’ve got no other complaints. And even with all that hair, NECA was still able to salvage the neck articulation thanks to the use of soft plastic and the cuts on each side where the hair falls in front of and behind her shoulders.

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Speaking of articulation, the articulation here is pretty solid. You get rotating hinges at the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees. There are ball joints in the waist and neck. The wrists have swivels and the ankles have both hinges and lateral rockers. Some extra points could have been justified, but I suspect some, like bicep cuts, were left out so as not to compromise the sculpt. If I could have one improvement here it would have been a better range of motion in the elbows. The sculpt stops them about halfway, which makes it more difficult than it should be to achieve certain poses with her guns.

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Naturally, Sarah comes with a nice selection of weaponry, in addition to the combat knife included in the sheath, she has three guns. Starting off with the pistol, she has the Colt-Detonics M1911 Hybrid, which the T-800 acquired at the bikier bar and Sarah picked up in the escape from the mental hospital. There’s some beautiful detailing on this, particularly in the distinctive grip.

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Next up, you get the Remington 870 police shotgun. This is a great looking accessory, which includes a hinged stock with the extra cartridges sculpted on top.

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And finally, you get a really great recreation of the Colt Commando. This one includes the laser site she used to target Dyson outside his home. Owning this figure and the T-800 results in a damn fine collection of iconic weapons in the 7-inch scale.

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Once again the term “Ultimate” is aptly used to describe this line. Sarah is a fantastic figure and with a bevy of weapons and extra likeness options, you get a lot more here then one is inclined to expect from a mass market figure in this scale and all for the ridiculously reasonable price of $21. Needless to say I’m continuing to be on board with every figure NECA puts out in this line, and the next one will keep the T2 love alive with the Ultimate T-1000.

Marvel Legends (Hulkbuster Wave): Thundra by Hasbro

It’s taken me an unusually long time to get through the Hulkbuster Wave of Marvel Legends. I started this endeavor all the way back in November for crying out loud. Well, it’s finally almost done as today I’ll be opening the final figure in the assortment. It’s Thundra. Let’s do this.

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Thundra shares a slot with Valkyrie and as such her name is not printed on the front of the package. All she gets is the moniker “Fearless Defenders,” which isn’t bad since it’s pointing out the fact that Hasbro has been doing a little team building with the ladies. Not that The Fearless Defenders is a tightly knit group. Anyway, this lovely little box also holds the final piece I will need to build the Iron Man Hulkbuster Armor and it’s only through an uncommon burst of willpower that I have resisted putting him together as yet. Ah, but that’s a subject for next Monday. Let’s get a look at Thundra…

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And here she is… what the hell is she doing in this wave? Thundra’s history is one of alternate futures and pure comic book craziness. The only reason I know her at all is from my early bond with Fantastic Four, where she happened to debut in the very same year I was born. As a teenager, I used to peddle my bike downtown and hunt badly worn copies of FF (among other comics) at the local used book shop. Fast forward about 30 years and I can’t say as I recall running into her again the (unfortunately) short lived 2013 run of Fearless Defenders and ultimately again in The End of The Fantastic Four. I understand that she’s currently appearing in Squdaron Supreme, but I’ve got a lot of backlog to get through before that ever gets to the pile on my nightstand. Where was I? Oh yeah, I’ve got a figure to look at!

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Thundra relies heavily on paint apps for her costume, although the defined muscles in her exposed abs suggest some new sculpting there. From the waist down, she’s got red painted pants with gold lightning stripes running down the sides and gold painted boots. The top is a sort of one sleeved red sports bra affair with a painted gold stitch pattern running diagonally down the top. The outfit is wrapped up with a painted arm bracer on her left wrist and a belt hanging on her hips. All in all, it’s a nice looking costume. The deco is certainly appealing and the figure pops beautifully on the shelf, even when displayed amidst a bevy of brightly colored costumed heroes.

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The head sculpt here is as solid as they come. Thundra is quite pretty with a lush mane of red hair and a flashy row of gritting teeth between her neatly painted lips. They also used a particularly striking bit of emerald green paint for her eyes. Last, but not least, you get a silver tiara peeking through her hair above her forehead.

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Articulation is good, although she does feature those hip joints that require some extra fiddling to get the legs to do what you want. There are swivels in the thighs, double hinges in the knees, and the ankles feature both hinges and lateral rockers. The arms have rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists, and you also get swivels in the biceps. There’s a ball joint just under the chest and another in the neck. Granted, the sculpted hair renders the neck articulation all but inert.

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In addition to the giant Hulkbuster piece, Thundra comes with a ball and chain and surprisingly it’s not a repack of the one that came with some of The Wreckers. This one has a much more dainty ball on the end. I think she took this off a Doom-Maiden in the comics…

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I may have made much ado about Thundra being a bit of a back bencher character, but I actually really like this figure a lot and for me every character contributes to my universe building, so it’s all good. I’m also doubly anxious now to pick up Misty Knight and get bolster my Fearless Defenders roster even more. Besides, there’s always someone out there that is going to be totally excited over a character that seems inconsequential to the majority. Hell, I’m still waiting for a new Legends Moon Knight.