CyberFrog and Salamandroid PVC Figures by All Caps Comics

CyberFrog was born in the 90’s, the creation of comic book veteran and human ray of sunshine, Ethan Van Sciver, but he was re-born just a few years back, birthed from the cataclysmic war for the hearts, minds, and spending money of comic book fans. As the big corporate comic producers seemed to delight in antagonizing their established fan base, many creators decided to go it on their own, building a fanbase and support through crowdfunding projects. Like it or begrudge it, it’s been a huge movement in the contemporary American comic industry, and no one has been more successful at it than Mr. Van Sciver. I for one was happy to see CyberFrog return, and I’ve been an eager supporter of each and every one of these projects, which by now has run the gamut from comics to toys! Today we’re going to talk about toys!

For the uninitiated, our cybernetically enhanced amphibian hero came to our planet to befriend the bodacious Heather Swain, eat buckets of fried chicken, and defend humanity from the evil swarm of space hornets, known as The Vyzpzz. Fighting at his side is his giant brother, Salamandroid. Blood Honey saw the return of CyberFrog, shedding a good bit of the original comic’s 90s schlock (meant as a compliment!) and elevating the material by introducing a ton of heart and soul. Not to mention some incredible art and colors! The follow up, Rekt Planet, is still a work in progress, but is due to release next year. There are legit action figures coming, but in the meantime, we have this pair of PVC collectibles to tide us over!

One might expect crowdfunded perks like these to ship in polybags, but nope! Each figure comes in a collector friendly window box, which lets you get a look at the goods inside while still offering some gorgeous art and coloring. This professional packaging would stand out on the shelf of any toy aisle, and I do plan on displaying the figures in the boxes. I got this pair by going All In on the Rekt Planet campaign, a decision which seems to have paid for itself several times over, as there are going to be plenty more goodies coming. But I’ll confess, aside from the actual book, these PVC toys were what I was most excited for! Let me get them open, and we’ll start with a look at CyberFrog!

I suspect that it’s always a challenge to bring 2D characters from comic panels into the tangible 3D world. It’s probably extra challenging when dealing with highly original and stylized designs like these. Nonetheless, All Caps Comics pulled it off brilliantly. CyberFrog oozes personality as he strikes his hero pose, squatting on his haunches, one hand planted firmly on the ground, and the other trailing behind him. The sculpt is relatively simple, preserving the comic book feel, but you still get some nice touches, like the cut lines segmenting his legs, fingers, and feet, and some muscle definition in his amphibian bod.

The portrait is simply splendid, with his bulging yellow eyes and furled froggie brow. CyberFrog is over The Vyzpzz’s shit and his expression shows it!

And as great as the sculpt here turned out, the coloring certainly does its part to impress. The luxurious metallic silver paint is quite striking in person, especially when contrasted with the bright metallic green used for his cybernetic parts. Hasbro should take note, because I’d love to see this kind of paint on some of their figures. You also get a deeper hunter green for his froggie parts, as well as touches of bright blue and yellow. Beautiful! Let’s turn our attention to Salamandroid!

Holy shit, this figure is gorgeous! As in the comic, Salamandroid positively dwarfs his little brother, making this a hefty chunk of PVC. Sal stands majestically on all fours, poised to leap into action and fulfill his sworn duty to protect CyberFrog. He has the same deep cut lines segmenting his artificial limbs with reinforced joints in his back legs, making them look like coiled springs ready to launch him at his foes. He has a pair of hulking shoulders and curved bracers on his fore limbs, each with large blue stones set in the center.

Sal is a gentle, childlike giant, right up until his anger is roused, and that’s certainly reflected in this portrait. His adorable and lovable mug is punctuated by narrow red eyes, two rows of sharp teeth, and a long crimson tongue. His head is framed with dual silver rings, and there are cybernetic cables protruding from them into the skin around his neck. I also love the silver hump that arches back from his neck.

As with CyberFrog, Sal features a premium paint job. You get a lot more of that snappy silver on his limbs that we saw on his little brother. His skin is a soft powder blue with some greenish-gold speckling on his back, meanwhile his silver cybernetics are reinforced with metallic blue accents. Sal also features some charcoal gray paint on his arm bracers, and the cut-outs in his shoulders.

And I sure can’t fail to mention Salamandroid’s impressive tail! This long and fearsome whip is painted with more of that deep metallic blue with the segmented lines painted in black. The tail is softer plastic than the rest of the figure, and features a wire running through it that allows it to be posed a bit, which will sure come in handy when trying to find shelf space for this big boi!

Never in a million years did I expect to ever see CyberFrog toys, let alone toys produced at this level of quality. The sculpts capture all the fun and personality of these characters, while the paint makes these figures sing. I’m not sure what the availability of these are right now, but I do know that you can pick up limited gold or silver versions on the official CyberFrog Ebay Store. As I mentioned earlier, All Caps Comics has a wave of fully articulated action figures in production, which will include CyberFrog, Heather Swain, and a Vyzpzz. A Salamandroid figure for that line hasn’t been shown off yet, but I have every confidence we will see one released eventually.

Grimm Fairy Tales: Robyn Hood Bishoujo Statue by Zenescope

How about that comic industry, eh folks? Woof! With the Covid Virus closing comic shops, Diamond shutting down distribution indefinitely, and a lot of Marvel’s creators at war with their own customers on social media (well that last bit is nothing new), I’m not sure how this is going to come out. But that’s why I’m glad to have companies like Zenescope. Sure I used to buy their stuff at my (not so) Local Comic Shop, but these days I get most of it online and direct from the company. Same thing with Alterna, and I’d love to see other publishers work up similar online stores. At least it seems to me to be the way the industry is going. The only downside of smaller comic companies like Zenescope is the lack of merchandise. I like to be able to buy action figures and statues of my funny book stars and there hasn’t been a whole lot of that for Zenescope. Still, there was a temporary partnership with Phicen to make some Sixth-Scale figures, and now we’re getting the second in a series of Kickstarted Bishoujo-style statues. The first one was Sela Mathers, this time it’s Robyn Locksley! Next to her pal Liesel Van Helsing, Robyn has been my favorite character in Zenescope’s stable. She’s had some great limited series and even had an ongoing book for a while. From the golden early days of Pat Shand to the newer stuff by Chuck Dixon and Ben Meares her funny books seldom disappoint, and I was thrilled to see she was the subject of this new Bishoujo.

The box is similar to the Sela statue and obviously inspired by Kotobukiya’s Bishoujo line. The big difference is that there’s only one window here, on the front panel, so not as much light gets in to show off the goods. But chances are you aren’t eyeing this up in a store. And on the other hand, less windows made room for more character art, which we get on the front and side panels. The Grimm Universe logo is on the top panel, and the back panel gives us a blurb about Robyn as well as a teaser that Liesel is coming up next. Everything is collector friendly and there’s no assembly required. The statue is roughly 1/7th scale, which puts her right in line with Koto’s ladies and it’s cast in a similar sort of PVC plastic.

Out of the box, Robyn is looking mighty snappy and the pose really captures the character beautifully. Robyn is depicted in mid stride with her trusty compound bow drawn, as she targets an unseen adversary, probably one of The Cabal’s goons. The composition strikes a perfect balance between action and a measured pose and it offers a few choice angles for display.

The attention to detail in her costume is well executed and nearly all the details are part of the sculpt, including the reinforced bands on her high boots, the lines separating the leather and camouflage of her pants and top, and even the finger-less gloves. Even the cross strap that secures her quiver is sculpted separately from the figure. The quiver is a simple box with several arrows peeking out the top. I’ve always loved the design of Robyn’s bow and it’s recreated quite nicely here with all the sexy curves and complex network of pulleys and cables. If I had one nitpick, I wish they had used actual string for the bow because the plastic cables look rather chunky, especially in relation to the arrow shaft. Still, I could see why they wouldn’t want to go that way and if nothing else, making them plastic will certainly mean more durability.

The portrait is pretty faithful to the Bishoujo aesthetic with maybe a little bit of cupie doll thrown in. Robyn sports one green eye and her trademark scar is shown transecting her pupil-less left eye. It would have been cool if they did some kind of foil or gold leaf paint for her mystic eye, even if it was offered as a more limited exclusive. Oooh, they should have done that on the B&W one. That would have looked pretty rad. Either way, I think they did a great job on her facial details and I really dig the way her hair sculpt came out. Sela had some minor issues with mold flashing on the hair, but I’m not seeing any of that here. Of course her hair is capped off with her hood drawn up over her head, but not pulled so far forward that it obscures her face.

The paint and coloring here certainly gets the job done. I dig the use of metallic paint for the blue leather parts of her costume and the emerald green finish on the bow and quiver is quite striking. The camo portions of her outfit are painted neatly, although I would have preferred these had a matte finish. Add in the bright yellow coloring of the hair and ruby red lips, and you’ve got a deco that pops quite nicely. The skin tone isn’t as warm and soft as I’m used to seeing in Koto’s pieces, but it’s serviceable. I’ll also note that the applications are all crisp, with really no slop or uneven lines worth noting.

As with the Sela statue, the base here is just a black disk and I’m fine with that. It’s serviceable, but there’s nothing really else to say about it.

There were a whole slew of Add Ons and Stretch Goals that came as part of the Kickstarter. The project hit $92,000 so that means a lot of extra freebies were unlocked and I added some extra money to my pledge to get some other goodies. First off are these two beautiful art prints by two personal favorites of mine: Paul Green and Jamie Tyndall. I can never get enough of these two artists, and I’ll confess to having a ridiculous number of Tyndall’s framed art scattered through my home, a lot of which is signed.

Next up, there were three Exclusive comic covers of Robyn Hood: Outlaw #6 in my box. The first is by Jason Cardy and it’s the art on which the statue is based. The second is a gorgeous piece of work by another one of my favs, Mike Krome, which was limited to 200 copies. Finally, the third is the line drawing of the same piece of art with an added background. I believe one of these was an Add On and the other two were Stretch Goals.

There were also two stickers in the box, based on the Jason Cardy and Mike Krome art from the previously mentioned comic covers. These were each Stretch Goal bonuses.

And finally, I got four metal cards. I adore these things, but I don’t buy a lot of them individually. I do, however accumulate them as bonuses or incentives. These are all beautiful, but I have to call particular attention to the one based off of Billy Tucci’s cover of Robyn Hood #1. I also have a CGC graded copy of that comic hanging on my wall.

The Kickstarter was originally scheduled to deliver in September of last year, so yeah… things ran about eight months late, as my box just arrived last week. But after backing my share of Kickstarters, I’ve come to expect that. And it’s easy to overlook delays when such a wonderful box of joy ultimately arrives on my doorstep. I’ll say the same thing I said when I reviewed the Sela statue… these are not in the same league as Koto’s statues, but there’s no shame in that. Koto’s work is top-tier and they’ve been doing it forever. And with that said, I’m quite pleased with the way Robyn came out. I got mine with Early Bird pricing for $70 and that’s more than fair. And I’m obviously not alone in that assessment, because this project was funded in under four hours. It makes me happy to know that with successes like that, the line will continue, and I anxiously await the campaign for Liesel Van Helsing!

Femme Fatales “Hack/Slash:” Cassie Hack by Diamond Select

I can’t remember what got me started reading Tim Seeley’s wonderful Hack/Slash comic. Chances are I just picked up an issue at some point while browsing a comic shop and got hooked. It’s precisely that kind of book where you can open any issue to any page and instantly want to know what the hell is going on. If you like offbeat horror comedy I recommend a look and a lot of it is still available in convenient TPB or Omnibus editions. Sadly, there hasn’t been a lot of Hack/Slash merch out there, which always struck me as weird since there are all sorts of obscure indie comics with action figures or statues.

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Ah, but it’s Diamond Select to the rescue via their Femme Fatales line. I’ve reviewed some of these before and it’s a weird little line of economy priced collectible statues that pulls its content from original designs to comic book properties and even something as big as Star Trek. Diamond seems intent on getting more mileage out of this line as they not only produced this Hack/Slash piece, but they just launched a wide reaching sub-line of DC statues based on the art of Bruce Timm, which I’ll start looking at next week.

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Getting back on topic, the statue comes in a window box with a deco more or less in line with the last three Femme Fatales statues I bought. The windows let a lot of light in and give you a great look at the statue, which will come in handy if you happen to be buying it off the shelf and want to check the quality of the paintwork. Everything is collector friendly and while I don’t think the deco here is anything to write home about, I’ve still kept all my Femme Fatales boxes just in case I ever need to pack them away.

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And here she is out of the box, all set up, and looking mighty fine. Cassie comes already attached to her base, all you have to do is attach her accessories. The bat slips into her left hand and Vlad’s mask hooks on the fingers of her right hand. This PCV sculpt is by Sam Greenwell, who has done some work for DC Collectibles and I think it really does a beautiful job capturing the character and straddling the line between simple comic style with out sacrificing detail.

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Cassie’s had some variations to her look throughout her adventures, but I would consider the outfit here pretty iconic for her. She sports a see-through one-piece with skimpy black bikini top and a low-slung skirt, complete with her FaQ belt. She has long striped fingerless gloves, a pair of high top black boots and athletic socks. There are some really nice examples of sculpted detail, like the laces on the boots, the knitting in the socks, and even the stripes on her gloves are part of the sculpt. The paintwork on the outfit is excellent for a piece in this price range. There’s a little slop between her boots and socks, but other then that there’s nothing else to pick at. I dare say that I’ve seen more flubs on far more expensive statues. I will say that I would have preferred they went with her plaid skirt, but apparently DST is saving that for an exclusive release.

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The portrait is beautiful and an interesting sculpt, with her sculpted hair eclipsing the right side of her face. If you look at Cassie dead on she has a determined expression, but if you get a little lower and look up at her, she look a tad more vulnerable. Either way she’s very pretty and here too the paintwork is excellent.

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The accessories are both welcome additions. The bat has a wood grain texture, sculpted tape on the grip, and several nails sticking out of the tip. There’s also a gruesome crimson wash at the end. It just wouldn’t be Cassie without a weapon. I would have liked it to have “Kiss It” painted on, but they may be saving that for the exclusive too. And then you have Vlad’s mask, which was, in my mind, a necessary addition to have the big guy’s presence felt even though this is a solo piece. The rather clever base is designed to look like the head of an axe, complete with silver paint on the edge and a hole where the axe handle would pass through. As much as I love the design here, it is a tad wobbly, which is really my only complaint about this entire piece.

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At approximately 9-inches tall, she fits in really well when displayed next to my Ariel Darkchylde. The statues in Diamond’s Femme Fatales line retail at around $40 and I have to say you’re getting a really nicely crafted piece for your money here. It’s true that most of this line doesn’t tend to hold their value very well. Indeed, this is the first FF piece that I paid full retail on and that’s just because I wanted to support the fact that someone was delivering on the Hack/Slash merch and I didn’t want to take any chances on missing out on Cassie. For any fan of the comic, this is a must-own piece, and I’m not just saying that because there’s nothing else out there.

Transformers Generations: Bumblebee (IDW Comic Pack) by Hasbro

You know it’s been a busy couple of weeks here at FigureFan Central when I let a bunch of Transformers comic packs sit around unopened. Yes, I’ve had a lot of stuff rolling in and I’m trying to get to everything in a reasonable amount of time. Well, I’m starting to catch up a bit so let’s tear open another one of these today… hey, look it’s Bumblebee!

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Wow, this is an impressive piece of packaging. Bumblebee is carded in robot mode and between him and his weapons, he fills out the bubble admirably. You also get the comic book behind him with the exclusive Hasbro cover. This is award winning packaging. When I see it on the pegs, I want to buy it, even though I already have own it. I’m extra pleased to get the comic, because I wasn’t following this run when it was out. Bumblebee isn’t really in More Than Meets The Eye much, and I’ve only started reading Robots In Disguise where he’s been reformatted into a different body back on Cybertron. The comic is decent enough. It’s been tough for me to adopt the idea of Bumblebee as Autobot leader, and this issue addresses some of that a bit. On the other hand, it features two of my favorite Transformers, Thundercracker and Prowl, so I found it to be a good read even though it didn’t send me scrambling to Comixology to download more. Let’s start with Bumblebee’s alt mode.

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Drawing from the comic design, which makes some nods to the Bayformer design, Bumblebee is for all intents and purposes a concept Chevy Camero. The design certainly has some cool features, like the split spoiler in the back and the flared hood, which makes it look like a powerful machine. Little touches include the dual tailpipes, detailed headlights, and the rather nicely sculpted wheels. The clear windows and windshield are always a plus in my book, even if the rear window is painted on. I’ll also point out that Bumblebee is a nicely sized vehicle for a Deluxe. While he doesn’t dwarf any of the TF: Prime Deluxes, if you put him next to a figure like Cliffjumper or Bumblebee, he is noticeably bigger.

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While size has improved, I’m still not completely satisfied with the deco, or to be more accurate, the plastic. There’s something about the yellow plastic used here that doesn’t do it for me. It’s similar to the stuff used for Prime Bumblebee, but in this case it’s lighter and looks a little worse. It doesn’t feel cheap, but it kind of looks like it. More paint apps would have probably helped, and while this vehicle makes out a little better than Prime Bumblebee in that department, it still feels like it could have used a little more something in the deco.

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Bumblebee’s weapons can peg into the ports located on each side near his spoiler giving him some firepower while in his alt mode. I approve, but then I’m a pretty big fan of cars loaded out to deal damage. Your mileage may vary.

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Transforming Bumblebee to robot mode is easy. Getting him back into vehicle mode is a pain in the ass because of some subtle shifting that occurs with his rear window. Nonetheless, once in robot mode Bumblebee has his ups and his downs. Hasbro certainly did a nice job converting the comic design into a working Transformer. Yes, Bee uses some trickery. The chest, which is obviously supposed to be the hood is faked out, but I’m willing to cut them some slack for having to reverse engineer this guy. I like the proportions a lot. He’s a pretty clean looking robot. The head sculpt is very cool and very G1 inspired.

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My biggest issue here is the shoulders, in that I wish they were stationary. When you move Bee’s arms, the whole shoulder assembly moves with them and it’s kind of awkward. The way the doors become wings is a nice homage to the Bayformer design and to some extent classic Autobot design as well, but if the shoulders were fixed, this figure would have turned out a lot better for me. I’ve had a lot of fun playing with and posing most of the recent Transformers releases, but Bee here just isn’t one of them. On a brighter note, a lot of the deco issues I have with Bee’s alt mode are toned down in his robot mode. He has more black showing and grey thighs. It helps to break up the shabby looking yellow plastic a bit and make him a lot more interesting.

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Bumblebee’s weapons can be wielded in either of his hands, or you can clip them together to make one really cool looking cannon. Peg ports on the forearms would have been a nice option, but that’s OK, because I’d still probably prefer to display him with the big cannon.

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I’ve been up and down on this figure. When I saw the first official pictures of him, I thought I was going to love him. When I had the package in hand, I waffled a bit. Now that I’ve had him out and played with him a bit, I’m happy to say I’m a fan. The shoulders aren’t technical issues; they’re intentionally designed that way, so my attitude toward them is just a personal preference and not a flaw in the figure’s design. The plastic is what it is. Like I said, it doesn’t feel cheap, it just looks kind of cheap. But again, maybe that’s just me.

Zenescope’s Alice in Wonderland: Alice Liddle by CS Moore Studios

Ah, Zenescope, your comics are one of my favorite guilty pleasures. There’s nothing like a little gore, horror, and T&A to keep me coming back. I got hooked through Grimm’s Fairy Tales, but I think they really hit their stride with their Wonderland chronicles. That’s no small feat, since it seems like everyone and their mother has done a “dark and twisted” version of Lewis Carroll’s classic, but Zenescope’s treatment just scratches my itch. Enter the unique sculpting talents of Clayburn Moore and you’ve got a match made in heaven. Moore Studios is going to be producing a number of figures based on Zenescope’s books, and the first release in that series is Alice herself.

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That is some striking packaging! Alice comes on a very large card and in a sizeable bubble. The card is bright and colorful and further enhanced by the use of a reprint copy of Alice in Wonderland #1 as a backdrop to the figure. The included comic features an exclusive cover for the release of this figure with a big portrait of Alice and her white rabbit. The figure is mounted in her tray, slightly off center with her stand and accessories surrounding her. “Ages 14+” …really? The back of the card promises future releases of Sela, Calie, and Queen of Hearts. I’m rather surprised they didn’t start with Sela, the star of GFT, but I’m looking forward to seeing her.

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I’ve always been a fan of Moore’s sculpting talents. Sure, it helps that most of his subjects are gorgeous and half-naked chicks, but in this case he really outdid himself with the head sculpt. Moore managed to capture the beauty Alice from Robert Gill’s artwork and still add a modicum of his own personal style. It’s almost a shame that so much of her face is shrouded by her bangs, but it certainly suits the character design. I’m also pleased that they went with what appears to be painted flesh tones as opposed to bare plastic. As much as I love Moore’s figures, some of his past efforts have had a shiny, waxy look to the skin, but Alice here is perfect.

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Speaking of perfect, let’s migrate down below the neck and check out that body. Oh my! The pose is strategically chosen to show off… well, let’s face it: T&A. Her back is arched and her arms are out to her sides. Yes, Alice does indeed spend most of the book parading about in this outfit, and the figure’s costume lacks a couple of small details, like garters on the stockings and laces across her cleavage. This version of Alice also sports a pair of stilettos, as opposed to flats. Still, artistic license aside, it still manages to hit all the right spots quite well. The half-corset leaves little to the imagination and as for the skirt, well it might as well not be there. The ruffling on her tiny outfit is nicely sculpted and I really dig the almost metallic sheen used for the blue paint. In fact, all the paintwork on this figure is expertly applied with sharp edges, and little or no bleed or slop.

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If you’re familiar with Moore’s action figures, you know not to expect much in the way of articulation. Alice does little to buck that trend. She technically has six points of articulation, but the swivel cuts in her waist and neck are almost useless. She has swivel cuts up in her hips, so you can get her to do the splits, or sit in a rather suggestive way. But really, the most useful points of articulation here are the rotating cuts in the shoulders, and even those will only take you so far. Nope, this figure is primarily intended to stand there and look pretty, and she does that quite well.

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You do get some accessories with Alice. I’ve never met a Moore figure that didn’t come with a stand. In this case you get a very nice little splotch of bright green grass with some mushrooms. The paintwork on the stand is exceptional, particularly on the shrooms. You also get a croquet mallet, a “Drink Me” bottle, and Alice’s white rabbit. All are nice pieces, but apart from crowding them around the stand, you can’t really do much for them. Alice isn’t even designed to hold the mallet.

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Hopefully you can find Alice hanging around your local comic shop, along with some of Zenescope’s comics. If not, there are plenty of online alternatives, including Zenescope’s own storefront. Recently, they were doing a nice sale on their Wonderland titles, so I took the opportunity to upgrade my digital comics to TPBs and I tossed Alice into the shopping cart as well. At around $20, she is definitely a nice piece. If you’re a collector of Moore’s figures, you should find her a nice addition to your collection. If you read the Wonderland books, she’ll look nice on your Zenescope bookshelf. And if you just want a dead sexy figure celebrating Alice in Wonderland, you can’t go wrong here!

Sunday Funday: Hack/Slash!

Hooray for Sunday. This afternoon will consist of me, my patio, an H. Upmann Corona Major, a generous rock glass of Jameson, and the first three volumes of Tim Seeley’s Hack/Slash. This is the kind of stuff that makes slaving through the work week worthwhile.

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I’m actually not going to spend a lot of time talking about the misadventures of Cassie and Vlad. Suffice it to say, I love this comic. Last year, I read them all digitally and now I’m buying the TPBs for my bookshelf. I’ll probably do a proper feature on them some Sunday in the future. I’ve got many more volumes to go.

Nope, I just wanted to give a shout out to the Ebay Seller Rivalrycomics, because they’re so professional and awesome. I bought Hack/Slash Vol. 3 from them and they quickly messaged me to let me know that it had some light shelf wear and a bumped corner and apologized and said if I wanted to cancel the order or take a discount they’d be fine with that. I know where they’re coming from. I owned and operated a book shop for eight years. I did a lot of Internet business, and I know how hard it is to accurately represent collectibles when it comes to condition. Collectors can be crazy picky!

Anywho, I said it was Ok because I was mainly looking for a nice reading copy, it was a really good price on the book to begin with and the shipping was free. Well, they still tossed in some extra comics, including a super cool reprint Tales from the Crypt issue. They must have read my mind, because I don’t think they could have possible selected a cooler bonus comic. It’s awesome!

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And even after all that, the book I originally ordered was in great shape! So, it’s cool to see people who deal in collectibles who are so meticulous about condition. These guys get it. They’re professionals. They’re bros. They care. That’s the kind of people I love to do business with. I do a ton of business on Ebay, whether it be buying toys, comics, or old video games, and I’ve crossed path with my share of skunks and swindlers, so it’s all the better when you encounter some professionals. So, if you’re looking for some comics or video games, hit up their Ebay Store. Maybe they have something you’re looking for. I know I will be ordering from them again.

Sunday Funday: Grimm’s Fairy Tales Omnibus!

Arriving just in time for the waning days of my vacation, Zenescope has finally released their mammoth Omnibus collection of their always twisted and sometimes sexy take on Grimm’s Fairy Tales. It’s actually been available for a little while as an exclusive from their booth at various conventions. Unfortunately, I live toward the tip of a peninsula where such conventions are mostly fairy tales themselves. See what I did there? If you haven’t delved into any of the 80+ issues of GFT and its rapidly expanding universe, here’s the deal: In what usually plays out like an after-hours Twilight Zone episode, characters are beaten over the head with moral lessons played out in Fairy Tales that usually draw to a delightfully gore-filled conclusion. Needless to say I’m spending a lot of time with this book this weekend and my cigar of choice this time is the always faithful, H. Upmann 1844 Special Reserve. Mmm… lovely.

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GFT was the first comic that I started reading digitally on a tablet, and I’ll confess I didn’t take to the book right away. It lacks the pithy dialogue or sweeping stories that I usually go for in my comics. The humor is more subtle and I sometimes wonder how many of the chuckles I get out of this book are intentional. The first story was rather predictable and seemed to go nowhere, but I downloaded the first 10 issues as part of a sale and I pressed on. Before long, things got more interesting, and before I knew it, I was buying more downloads to see what kind of twisted shit they could come up with next. As it turns out, it’s an insidious book that slowly draws you in, making the stories more complex, and eventually pulling back the camera and revealing the two narrators, Sela and Belinda, as characters in a struggle against each other over the souls of their target of the month. If this whole thing was planned out, it’s rather clever, but also a risky move, because I imagine a number of people were tempted to drop the book from their pull lists before it really started to get good. As such, I think it’s one of those comics that may be best experienced in collected editions. On the other hand, if you stick with it through the individual issues, reading GFT is like being in that proverbial pot of slowly boiling water. I was getting hooked (or is that cooked?), but I didn’t realize it was happening until it was too late. Of course, all the Zenescope branded T&A in the art doesn’t hurt either. Yaknowatimean?

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The Omnibus is an ambitious beast of a publication. At 1350 pages(!), it encompasses the first EIGHT collected volumes, meaning it contains the first FIFTY issues of the comic! I was a little concerned about how well a book of this size and weight would turn out, but I knew I wanted these collected in a print edition for my shelf, and getting eight volumes worth of comics in one book seemed like the easier (and less expensive way to go). It turned out to be a worthy gamble. The quality of the print is gorgeous and the binding seems to be of very good quality. Even at the center of the book, reading or enjoying the art near the binding is not a chore, and it doesn’t seem like creasing in the spine or loose pages will be a problem, so long as a modicum of care is taken while reading. Each reprinted volume retains the often heartfelt introductions, although individual variant covers are not included. While this could be a big deal to some, it’s understandable that some sacrifices had to be made. The variant covers alone would have added another 100+ pages to an already gargantuan tome.

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The cover price for the Omnibus is $59.99, but I had my copy pre-ordered at Amazon for the ridiculously low price of $37 and they actually had it to me a few days before its scheduled release. GFT started out as a guilty pleasure, but it’s evolved beyond that for me and this collection makes me glad that I was content with my digital downloads and didn’t start going after the individual trades.  At this point, the only downside is that if I fall asleep reading with this thing on my chest, I’m liable to wake up thinking I’m having a heart attack.

Images used are the copyright of Zenescope and are reproduced here for review purposes only. If you love comic books, support the artists and writers by BUYING them, either digitally or in print. Better yet, buy them in print and support your local comic shop too!

Sunday Funday: Bendis’ Moon Knight

Tomorrow starts my vacation in which I will embark on a great quest to see how little I can leave the house during the span of a week. I seriously plan on doing nothing other than lay around read comics, enjoy cigars and libation, and maybe play a video game or two. Well, I started a bit early this weekend by lighting up an H. Upmann Corona Major and re-reading Brian Michael Bendis’ Moon Knight in its collected TPB releases. I’m thinking of just renaming Sunday Funday Comics & Coronas.

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Almost every year it happens. That one book I love gets shit-canned. The year before last, I was still reeling from some of my favorite DC books falling victim to the reboot, but last year it was the end of Bendis’ short run with Moon Knight that cut the deepest. God, I loved this book! It took a character that I hardly gave two shits about and turned him into someone that got me to the comic shop for each new issue. Marc Spector, self-appointed Hollywood socialite works on a campy TV series about his life, while trying to establish himself as a West Coast Avenger and unravel the mystery of a new Kingpin and the sale of an Ultron head. The art by Alex Maleev is excellent. It’s gritty, it’s edgy, and it gives the book a serious undertone, which balances out the black comedy really well.

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Yes, I love comics for all sorts of reasons, but in the end, it’s the ones that make me laugh that usually get me coming back the most. Bendis’ Moon Knight is good with that. Marc Spector is batshit insane (but he would argue all costumed super heroes are!) and the book’s greatest selling point is the pithy inner dialogue between him and the voices in his head who take on the personalities of Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Captain America. Cap takes on the role of Spector’s moral compass, Spidey is his fun and impulsive side, and Wolverine just mercilessly berates him for everything he does and everything he fails to do. Toss in the self-deprecating humor found in the fact that Moon Knight can get no respect from friends and foes alike, and Moon Knight is dark comedy gold.

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Not being satisfied with just his inner monologue, Spector takes his neurosis to the extreme and even dresses up like his imaginary friends and in his mind, becomes them. Of course, eventually the real players show up, which leads to great moments like this…

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I could go on and on. There’s some great play between him and his reluctant partner, the sexy, deaf ex-Avenger, Echo. A priceless run-in with criminal hack squad The Night Shift. But easily my favorite part of any of the books is when Spector dresses up like Bullseye and beats the shit out of his newly hired consultant just to see if the guy was trustworthy.

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There’s no doubt, Moon Knight was one of my favorite books of 2012. In fact, it’s probably second only to IDW’s Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye. I would have loved to see Moon Knight go on, but I can’t deny there’s something to be said for having a shorter, self-contained run. Moon Knight was canned after 12 issues. It went out on a high and it left me wanting more, and if you’re a comic book or movie, or just about any other kind of entertainment, that’s generally considered a success. As it stands, Moon Knight is the perfect length to pull out every couple of months and spend a lazy afternoon re-reading and I enjoy it every time.

Images used are the copyright of Marvel Comics and are reproduced here for review purposes only. If you love comic books, support the artists and writers by BUYING them, either digitally or in print. Better yet, buy them in print and support your local comic shop too!

Sunday Funday with Booster Gold!

It’s Sunday Funday, where I chronicle something I did over the weekend that doesn’t have to do with toys. This weekend, I kicked back with the Booster Gold TPBs: “52 Pick Up” “Blue and Gold” and “Reality Lost.” See, I told you the last three features of the week would synch up! Yes, Booster returned with his new Ongoing book in 2007, inevitably reprinted in some collected editions a couple years later. The series picks up exactly where the events of “52” left off. While not a complete collection, the three trades offer a cohesive (well, as cohesive as you can get from time travel fiction) storyline from the first 20 issues. To the uninitiated, these volumes are a great introduction to Booster, while fleshing him out as a more sympathetic character and offering a great tribute to his undying loyalty to and friendship with Ted Kord, the second Blue Beetle. In some ways, this collection is almost as much about Kord and The Blue Beetles (plural) as it is Booster, but then the two have always been rather inseparable in my eyes.

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In broad strokes, a good part of the ongoing story plays out as a DC inspired tribute to Quantum Leap (maybe with a dash of Forrest Gump since Booster manages to hit a lot of important moments in the history of the DC Universe). Booster bounces through the personal histories of various superheroes and villains in an attempt to set things right. He’s on hand to keep Green Lantern Sinestro from meeting up with Hal Jordan before his time. He has a hand in making sure Barry Allen gets zapped into becoming The Flash. He teams up with Jonah Hex to prevent a herd of teleported bison (!) from falling out of the sky (!!) and crushing the Doctor that would deliver the ancestor of Superman’s adopted Earth father (!!!) all while drunk off his ass. And he dodges some rather awkward questions from Ralph Dibny about his future with his wife. Even Booster’s own timeline isn’t immune to his good-natured meddling, as he eventually teams up with himself to defeat the mysterious villains. For me, the culmination of all these time travelling adventures is the harsh lesson Booster learns while repeatedly trying to save Barbara Gordon from the infamous paralyzing attack at the hands of The Joker. The Doctor would have referred to that as a “fixed point in time!”

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And, of course, against all warnings and advice, he uses his time-traveling power to bring back his best friend, Ted Kord, to the land of the living. And therein lies the bulk of the second volume, “Blue and Gold.” It’s so great to see the two chums standing shoulder to shoulder against evil again, even if we suspect from the beginning that such a good thing can never last. And in an instance of truly tragic irony, before the third volume is complete we see Booster unknowingly save the life of the ancestor of Max Lord himself. Time travel… it’s a fickle bitch!

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If the underlying theme of “Blue and Gold” is all about Ted, than a big part of the issues that make up “Reality Lost” gives Goldstar the spotlight, as more time meddling shenanigans bring Booster’s sister, Michelle, back to life and sees her teamed up with her brother. Much like “Blue and Gold” it’s bittersweet because we know this can’t end well. Still, it’s a fun ride along the way as Michelle gets to pose for Leonardo DaVinci, cosplay as Batgirl, and help steal the Batmobile with Booster dressed like Elvis. Epic hardly seems like the right word.

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As the bulk of my comics are in storage, picking up these trades was a nice treat. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my Saturday evening than sitting out on the porch, enjoying a cigar and a couple belts of Jameson and getting lost in the pages. Granted, it’s only been a couple of years since I last read this run, but it’s still one of those books that I love to read even though I know what’s going to happen. The editors did a nice job cherry-picking the issues to present casual readers with a complete package, but as a Booster fan, I’d still recommend hitting all 20 issues if you can. Sure, the overall story is mostly time-travel cliches and nothing to write home about, but it’s the journey along the way that makes it so entertaining. These books feature solid art, pithy dialogue and they really do the character of Booster proud. It’s whimsical, silly, poignant, tragic, but I’ll concede that I was always more than a little disappointed that it ends with the status quo being reinstated. Still, any chance to see Booster and Ted Kord in action again is a great book for me.

Images used are the copyright of DC Comics and are reproduced here for review purposes only. If you love comic books, support the artists and writers by BUYING them, either digitally or in print. Better yet, buy them in print and support your local comic shop too!

Sunday Funday: New 52 Suicide Squad Comics!

Yesterday was Free Comic Book Day and while work prevented me from taking advantage of it, at least I made lots of money to buy lots of comics. That’s almost as good. Anyway, the last time I talked comics on Sunday Funday, I got all ranty and kind of mean, and that kind of missed the point of the day, although I can’t deny it was fun. This weekend, a great deal of my downtime was spent reading the first two TPBs of Suicide Squad and then going back and re-reading some of Gail Simone’s run on Secret Six. I recently picked up two of those collected editions, “Unhinged” and “The Darkest House” as my individual issues inexplicably found their way into storage… at least I hope they’re in storage. 

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There were a lot of reasons to be suspicious and wary of the New 52 reboot, but when I look back to it, there was really only one thing about it that pissed me off: It signaled the end of Simone’s Secret Six. It was like being in a speeding car heading toward a brick wall and I couldn’t get out. Secret Six had grown to become one of my favorite comics of all time. Granted, that’s a long list, as I do love me my funnybooks, but Secret Six is a comic that I thoroughly savored. It hit on all the points that make me still an avid comic book reader, even as I enter that precarious point in my life called Middle Age. I can’t remember ever being so sad and disappointed as when I found out that it was wrapping up in favor of the impending reboot.

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As it turns out, I’ve been pretty happy with a number of the New 52 books. Some may call that sacrilege, but that’s where I stand. I can say that I read every first issue, I pursued a little more than half of them past the first issue, and since then I’ve narrowed it down quite a bit. But the ones that I’m still reading are entertaining enough and somewhat refreshing to me. I’ve got 30+ years of the crushing weight of comic continuity running through my head, and I constantly felt as if I was falling behind on the books I cared about and in some cases, getting caught up would be a lost cause. Reading comics started to feel like a frustrating chore, and that’s never what I wanted from one of my favorite pastimes. The New 52 made me feel like I had half a chance again. Maybe on some level the reboot was like killing the patient to cure the disease, but in the end I was glad DC did it.

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Anyway, one of the books I didn’t follow past the first issue was Suicide Squad. I was still bitter over Secret Six ending and I just thought DC was trying to use the Suicide Squad title as a cheap way to continue the popularity of Simone’s book.  Whether that’s the case or not, it’s hard to argue that it’s intended as the spiritual successor. I can remember flipping through that first issue violently and screaming, “YOU’RE NOT SECRET SIX… STOP TRYING TO BE!!!” Then I threw it down and ran out of the room sobbing while slamming the door as loudly as I can. Ok, that didn’t really happen. I did, however, want to stay mad and bitter, but ultimately, my love for King Shark and Deadshot sucked me in, and I picked up the first two TPBs while browsing at the comic shop a week or so back.

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A great deal of my resistance was worn down by seeing Adam Glass’ name on the cover. I really enjoyed Deadpool Pulp and Luke Cage Noir is still on my reading list. I can’t say I was instantly familiar with either artists’, Fernando Dagnino or Federico Dallocchio, work, but I can say that I’m a fan now because I really dig the look of these books.  Anyway, I devoured both volumes pretty quickly and then I flipped through them a second time to skim the good parts and it dawned on me that there was room to have both books exist in my good graces. Suicide Squad is fun, violent, crazy, and best of all I can get my fix of Deadshot and King Shark. Y’all know I’m not a big Batman fan, so this was one of the first times I really followed a book with Harley Quinn and I warmed up to her a lot more than I thought I would. Oh, and tossing Captain Boomerang in there never hurts either. It’s a far cry from the glory days of Simone and Secret Six, but a good time had at the FigureFan ranch this weekend, and I’m looking forward to October when I will most definitely pick up volume three.

Images used are the copyright of DC Comicsand are reproduced here for review purposes only. If you love comic books, support the artists and writers by BUYING them, either digitally or in print. Better yet, buy them in print and support your local comic shop too!