Dungeons & Dragons: Ultimate Grimsword by NECA

Just to show how behind I am on unfinished business, it’s been over TWO MONTHS since I checked out Warduke, from NECA’s first wave of Ultimate Dungeons & Dragons figures. Poor Grimsword has been waiting all this time to get the spotlight and he’s probably starting to take the snub personally. And seeing as how this is a guy I probably don’t want to piss off, let’s give him his due today…

Like Warduke, Grimsword comes in what appears to be a fully enclosed box, but it’s actually got a front flap that opens to reveal a window to show off the goods. It’s the same thing NECA has been using for their Ultimate figures since the beginning. The artwork on the front is nothing terribly gripping, but it gets the job done. You get a diagonal band at the top left corner pointing out that he is yet another EVIL action figure, so thankfully we’re going to get at least one hero in the next wave.

And here is Grimsword freed from his cardboard tomb and ready to prowl the dungeon looking for Do-Gooders to slay! Grimsword is a brute of figure, being overall bigger and bulkier than even the mighty Warduke. He also looks like some kind of evil golem clad in armor cursed with a snake fetish, and ready to do his evil master’s bidding. But, according to his bio, he’s just another evil warrior looking for trouble. What I love the most about this figure is how NECA managed to take what was a pretty silly looking design and make it both imposing and scary without actually changing any of the design elements of the original LJN figure. And there is indeed so much great stuff here, I don’t know where to begin.

Perhaps the coolest thing here is the weathered finish on the black plate armor. It has a rich and almost chalky look to it that practically radiates evil. Worked into all that black is some silver wear at the edges and overall scuffing that reveals the bare steel underneath it all. The gauntlets have sculpted brown straps with silver painted fixtures, along with rivets and detailed segments in each of the fingers. Similar straps are sculpted onto the greaves. The elbow and knee guards are painted red with silver bolts and his left knee has a green snake’s head. Another green snake motif coils itself around Grimsword’s abdomen, with it’s head reaching up and flicking a red tongue, which becomes a stripe for the flared right shoulder guard. The lower left shoulder is battered with markings from previous battles. The sculpted texture on the snake’s body is simply superb and really transforms what was kind of goofy on the LJN figure into something pretty badass. The armor is finished off with textured silver chainmail exposed on his upper thighs, his shoulders, and more peeking out around his elbow guards.

The head has also been amped up for a more realistic and sinister visage. Grimsword’s head is encased entirely in the same deep dark armor to match his body. There are sculpted bolts and some nasty gashes. The top of the helmet is crested with a mohawk-like comb of tan bristles and red barbed spikes protrude from the sides of the helmet. These can be angled in different ways, but I prefer them pointing forward and slightly down. From inside the deep set eyeholes of the helmet’s mask, you can make out two glowing red eyes.

Grimsword packs the same articulation as Warduke, so I won’t run through it all again here. I will say that as a chonky boi, he’s fun to play with, but the range of motion in his elbows is somewhat hindered by all that armor. He comes with a bevy of hand options, including fists, pointing finger hands, relaxed hands, and several designed to work with his accessories.

As for weapons, Grimsword comes with a scimitar, which can be worn on the golden hook on his left hip, which is a direct callback to the vintage figure. There’s no scabbard for the sword, so it just slides in there, but it stays put pretty well. The grip is simple, with a gold pommel and red crossguards. The silver blade has a sweeping curve, swells a bit toward the point and looks like it would be pretty fierce for slashing at foes. NECA really took some liberties with the simple LJN accessory, and I like it a lot, even if it feels a little too elegant and stylish for this brute.

His other weapon option is definitely a lot better suited to him. His spiked flail continues the running snake theme with the shaft being a hooded cobra and the handle a golden rattle. Yes, he’s mixing his snake metaphors, but I’m not going to be the one to tell him. Like the snake coiling itself around Grimsword’s armor, this flail is a beautifully sculpted piece with the nasty spiked ball hanging from an actual chain. I love it!

And finally, Grimsword comes with his shield, and boy is this a real showpiece of an accessory! It’s a giant snake head in the center of more of that awesome blackened steel. I’d like to think that this is an actual giant snake head taken as a trophy in battle, but that could probably get pretty messy every time he deflects a blow with it. Nonetheless, the sculpting and paint on it are both gorgeous, and once again NECA managed to take a pretty goofy looking aspect of the LJN figure and make it stunningly cool! The reverse of the shield has two arm straps, which secures it well enough without the hand needing to grip anything.

I kind of feel sorry for Grimsword. He is an absolutely fantastic figure, but he had to share a wave with Warduke, and as great as he is, there’s no way he could compete with that Warduke figure. I doubt anyone could. Warduke just has a lot more potential for detail in his design, more accessories, and he remains quite possibly the best figure in this scale that I’ve seen this year from any license or manufacturer. On the other hand, with Grimsword NECA was able to take a design that looked like bad Renaissance Festival cosplay and make it into an absolutely fierce and formidable design. They were practically able to reinvent him without really changing any of his trademark details. Warduke made me feel like NECA presented the best this line could offer right out of the gate, but Grimsword makes me very eager to see what amazing things they can do with some of the other LJN character designs. We’ve got Strongheart and Zarak coming next, and boy do I hope this line keeps going well beyond that!

Dungeons & Dragons: Ultimate Warduke by NECA

It’s crazy how you can go ages without any real D&D licensed toys and then all of the sudden, they’re dropping all over the place, like slimy guts out of a slain Beholder. Hasbro has been using the license to make figures based off the old 80’s cartoon and the upcoming film, Honor Among Thieves, but now NECA has stepped into the ring with the license to do modern versions of the old LJN Advanced Dungeons & Dragons figures. The first two releases are Warduke and Grimsword, and I’m starting my look at these today with Warduke!

To me, Warduke was the Boba Fett of the AD&D world: A mysterious masked warrior with waves of badassery wafting off of him. He was easily my favorite figure in the LJN line, and he would always be waging some epic battles with the heroic Strongheart. NECA’s version comes in their standard Ultimate style packaging. You get a window box with a flap covering the front and a mix of artwork and actual photos of the figure all around. And that’s a hell of a piece of character art on the front of the box! I’m really excited to check this guy out, so let’s just dive right in!

Even before I got him out of the box, I have to admit that I was in awe of this figure while still peeping at him through the window. NECA took the original toy design and just ran with it, turning everything up to the hyper-detailed and realistic max. I’m actually a bit speechless and not sure where to begin, because this figure looks absolutely stunning on just about every level. The network of belts and straps crisscrossing his torso are all sculpted separately, giving up a lot of depth to the figure in general. The yellow belt from the original figure is now painted in gold with a demon-head motif and a more pronounced brown furry sash dipping down between his legs. He has one buccaneer boot on the right foot with red oval stones and his left boot is fortified with a sculpted, spiked armored plate and straps. Warduke’s right side is far less heavily defended and showing a lot of skin, while his left arm and leg are clad in sculpted chainmail, with a gorgeous metallic blue finish. His right arm also has an armored bracer and gauntlet with individually sculpted straps, painted right down to the tiny silver buckles. The eclectic costume is rounded out by a spiked left shoulder guard and an amulet hanging around his neck, strung with what looks like golden fangs. Warduke may not be a fan of symmetry, but he sure knows how to look intimidating!

The mysterious helmeted head is painted in the same sumptuous metallic blue as the chain mail, with the exposed area inside the helmet left black and featureless, except for two piercing red eyes. The package suggests there is just a man under there, by as a kid my imagination went with something more dark and demonic. He has some red ornamental stones on the forehead and back of the helmet, as well as stubby horns on top. The wings on the helmet are a bit more refined than the ones on the original figure, and they’re even pretty damn sharp at the tips! Part of me would have liked to see a little more in the way of facial contours inside the helmet, but it almost looks like he’s meant to be wearing a mask under it, and that’s fine.

Warduke wears three blades on his person, carried in varying styles of scabbards and sheathes. The most notable being his broadsword, which resides in a scabbard across his back. The scabbard is smooth and without texture, but does have some sculpted straps and a copper painted throat and tip. The second largest is a blue scabbard with ornamental gold throat and tip, as well as some bands, and hangs off his belt by a real gold chain. He also has a sculpted red pouch hanging between this scabbard and the one for the larger sword. And finally, on his right hip he has a brown sheath with some black wraps, sculpted stitching along the edges, and a red diamond-shaped jewel with some ornamental beads hanging. The detail on all of these pieces is fantastic, and they contribute to his eclectic look. Campaigns in AD&D are always about improving your gear through loot, and all of this stuff certainly looks like it was acquired and added to his arsenal along the way.

The articulation here is pretty solid, with rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, knees, and ankles. The neck is ball jointed, and you get another ball joint down near the waist. The hips are ball jointed, allowing for a bit of swivel up there, and the ankles ensure his feet can stay flat on the ground in wider stances. The wrists are hinged pegs, allowing for the hands to be swapped out. You get two pairs of accessory holding hands, and a right hand with a pointing finger. I had no issues with any of the joints on this figure, and I think the range of motion is really good. The elbows can pull of 90-degrees, which is not bad for this type of joint, albeit double hinges would have been preferred. I think my only nitpick here would be that the arms hang a little far from the body, but I guess that gives him a readiness stance, which works for the character. OK, let’s look at the weapons, and we’ll start small and work our way up!

The brown sheath holds what looks like a miniature fachion. It has an angled blue hilt that matches the color of Warduke’s chainmail and helmet. The blade is painted silver and has some notable wear on the blade. I’m actually not sure if this is intentional or not, but it really looks great for weathering. The grip has some deep sculpted scrollwork patterns and two silver painted rivets.

The dagger is probably big enough to be considered a short sword. It has a long, thin blade, almost like a stiletto. The hilt is gold with some red painted jewels and not much of a guard. It’s not a perfect match for the broadsword, but the two do go together fairly well.

The broadsword is certainly an imposing piece of cutlery, with an extended grip that could work as a two-hander. The grip is painted brown and the guard and pommel are both gold, with a painted red jewel in the center of the guard. The blade thins near the blade and then swells out just a bit for the remainder of its double-edge. Unlike the smaller weapons, the silver finish on this blade is immaculate.

Of course, Warduke also comes with his rather iconic skull shield! It never occurred to me as a kid playing with the figure, that Warduke’s armor was designed with his left arm intended as his sword arm, and the shield carried in his right to protect his less-armored half. I don’t think I made that connection until I was a teenager studying arms and armor in my spare time. The shield looks amazing with a beautiful dark steel finish and a lumpiness to the sculpt that makes it look like it was forged with a bit of crudeness. It’s an absolutely intimidating piece with the horned skull and dark voids for eyes. The reverse side has a grab bar and a sculpted arm strap textured like leather with rivets holding it into place.

And finally, Warduke comes with a flame effect for his sword, which really elevates the display quality of what was an already amazing figure. The piece is cast in soft orange translucent plastic and it fits rather snugly around the sword. Because clearly this guy didn’t look badass enough without igniting his blade. I mean, holy shit!

I’m well aware that I tend to churn out pretty positive reviews on the stuff I look at here. What can I say? I don’t buy stuff that I don’t think I’m going to like, and as a result I’m not usually disappointed. But when I say that Warduke here is one of the best figures I’ve handled in a long while, I hope that comes across as genuine and not just some hyperbole. This figure is absolutely stunning to look at and loads of fun to play with, and while some would demand more in the way of articulation, I think this is a perfect blend of sculpt and poseability. But in the end, it’s the modernized design, the detail in the sculpt, and the quality of the paint that sells it so well. It is indeed the ultimate version of the character that I could have only dreamed of owning as a kid. And with so many excellent Mythic Legions figure reviews under my belt, I’m still willing to say that this is probably the best fantasy-themed figure I’ve ever looked at here. I’m anxious to check out Grimsword, and I can only hope that this line continues to cover as many of the LJN figures as possible.

Dungeons & Dragons (Cartoon Classics): Dungeon Master and Venger by Hasbro

Today, I’m getting all up to date on Hasbro’s Dungeons & Dragons line, or at least the one that’s based on the old 80’s cartoon. This line has had its share of problems, with lots and lots of QC issues, from figures arriving broken in the package to figures breaking soon after being taken out. Indeed, my very first experience with this line was instantly snapping Diana’s right elbow joint! Since then I’ve been boiling the figures before handling them, and I haven’t had any other issues. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but I’ve waited for these toys for enough decades that I want to see it to the end. And that brings me to the first multi-pack in the line, with the evil Venger and that little shit, The Dungeon Master coming together in one big box!

The box is shaped exactly like the one used for the Honor Among Thieves Gelatinous Cube, with that one weird angle in place of a top, right corner. You get some beautiful artwork inspired by the cartoon as well as the “40” which is denoting the 40th Anniversary of the toon. Photos of the toy is the best you’re going to get as far as seeing these before you buy them, which is why I try to be fairly timely on my reviews of these. Once again, each figure comes with dice. I haven’t really been showcasing these, because as much as I used to play the actual role playing game when I was in Middle School and High School, I never felt the connection between the game and the cartoon was all that strong. Most of my friends who watched it weren’t even remotely interested in ever playing the game. Anyway, let’s start with Dungeon Master…

This little bastard was a good choice to bundle with Venger, because he’s small and not really all that much of a figure. And that’s not a slam against what Hasbro did with him, because there’s really only so much you could do with this guy. The body and legs are static, you get rotating hinges in the shoulders as well as hinged pegs in the wrists. The neck has some kind of joint, but I can barely get him to turn his head at all and I’m not going to bother to boil him to see if it unlocks any more movement. I suppose if Hasbro went with softgoods robes, we could have had some more articulation here, but the sculpted costume captures the look spot on.

I think the head sculpt is OK. I feel like there’s something a little bit off about it, but it’s certainly not bad. There’s a hint of smugness to him that’s actually quite brilliant. I’m not even joking when I tell you that I absolutely hated this dude in the cartoon. It made absolutely no sense to me as to why he was such a cryptic bastard, putting these kids in mortal peril every week so they could do his dirty work. It was kind of appropriate that the toon was cancelled before they ever got home, because I like to think he actually had no idea at all how to get them home, even if certain episodes dispel my cynical theory. So, this is a decent figure, nothing great, but I’d say it’s the best Hasbro could do with the character design they had to work with. Let’s move on to Venger…

I’m pretty torn on this figure. On the one hand, I think they nailed the sculpt beautifully. The flowing plastic skirt looks great, as does his red armor and the sculpted black shoulder covers. The wings plug into his back as one piece and can be easily unplugged if you want to keep him in the box. The matte colors really sell the animated look, but you still get a little glossy red to spruce things up. He’s a nice, big and majestic figure that suits the character perfectly.

The head sculpt is also solid, but for some reason, Hasbro took a page from McFarlane’s book and painted him with side-eye. Side-eye works fine for statues, but not for action figures. Action figures should NEVER go side-eye. Maybe it was some kind of meta commentary on how poorly the articulation works on this figure, but I’ll swing back around to that in a minute. The eyes may sound like a minor nitpick, but it really limits the kind of posing you can do with him and not have it look like something is off. With that having been said, I love everything else about this portrait, right down to his tiny fangs and his enormously asymmetrical horn.

So… articulation! Venger has a full range of articulation in his legs, and I won’t bother going into it because it’s pretty pointless. The plastic skirt causes a tenting effect, which renders all that leg articulation moot. Ironically, I still had to boil his legs to get him to stand because his left ankle joint was stuck with his toe pointing downwards. There are slits in the sides of the plastic skirts, but they don’t really help. Even if Hasbro were to release his steed, Nightmare, I doubt there’s anyway this figure could sit on a horse. The arms are a lot better with full articulation in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists, and thankfully slits in the shoulder covers don’t inhibit them. You also get a ball joint under the chest. Like Dungeon Master, I don’t know that the limitations for the lower body could have been helped without the use of a cloth skirt.

Venger does come with an extra pair of hands with built in magical blast effects. These are pretty decent, and I was surprised how easy it was to swap the hands without fear of damaging the fragile joints. His regular hands include one graspy hand and one fist, which work fine for menacing poses.

This set also comes with a cardboard backdrop of the amusement park with the D&D ride, which is a nice touch, but one of the folds on mine was nearly torn right out of the package. I do actually like these figures, despite all the nitpicks, but I will say I was disappointed that Venger just isn’t very much fun to pose or play with. As an adult collector, that doesn’t bother me too much, as these are meant to stand on a shelf and look cool and maybe be fiddled with every now and then. Truth be told, I think these all look great on display, and while I’ve certainly tempered my expectations for these figures, it’s kind of a miracle that we’re getting them at all. I’m still excited to get Presto, Eric, and Sheila, but I doubt the line is going to extend much past that next wave, and I’m OK with that.

Dungeons & Dragons (Honor Among Thieves): Gelatinous Cube by Hasbro

Welcome to my cursed review! I had this one all done and ready to go a few weeks ago as a follow up to my look at Bobby and Uni from the D&D Cartoon Classics line, but then my computer lost its saving throw against Windows Update and got killed. It took me a week to get the computer to a point where I could comb through it for files and I managed to recover several thousand pictures from it. And after going through all of them, I found that the pictures for this review were not among them, so I had to just bite the bullet and reshoot. But as I was setting it up, I realized how ironic it was that this was a review that really didn’t merit the double effort, but I guess it’s worth offering up as a cautionary tale. So, let’s just get through this quick and dirty so we can all go back to our lives.

Hasbro acquired the license for Dungeons & Dragons a little while ago and seemed to be completely uninterested in doing anything with it, aside for some horribly generic looking Kre-O sets. REMEMBER, KRE-O??? I’m sure that building system had the folks over at LEGO sweating their balls off in fear of competition. Anyway, I guess the brand is finally getting it’s big push with the upcoming movie, Honor Among Thieves, and a toy tie-in. Unfortunately the brand is also mired in one controversy after another to the point where players are boycotting the film! I’m actually looking forward to seeing the movie, which is probably more a commentary on the sad state of cinema these days, than genuine enthusiasm. Still, I’m not really interested in the figures from it. I was, however, keen to buy a 6-inch scale Gelatinous Cube, because… come on… why not? If nothing else, it would make a fun accessory for the toon figures. The box dubs this as being from the Golden Archive, and I can’t possibly imagine what that may mean. The packaging is a fully enclosed, flat box, which means the cube has to be assembled, so let’s cobble it together and see what we’ve got!

The cube comes as six flat sides of soft rubbery semi-transparent plastic squares. There is a rather deliberate design to the way they lock together, but I use that term loosely, because nothing really fits together all that well. If you look closely at the pictures you can probably see places where the seams are pushed in or not aligned properly. It’s like trying to get the lid on a Rubbermade food storage container after it’s gotten old and warped. Plus, I got a hairline crack in one of the corners while assembling it. The top square is particularly vexing as it keeps wanting to burp open. Once it is together, the seams are really obvious and make it look like a container, which works against what is otherwise a fairly decent gelatin effect in the blue translucent plastic.

The sides of the cube are peppered with things that it’s sucked in and cannot absorb, as if they’re being pushed out to the surface and will eventually be rubbed off and discarded. It’s a pretty cool idea and some nice insight into the digestive system of these creepy cubical critters. These pieces peg onto the sides into specifically shaped compartments and range from weapons to chunks of bone, and other inventory items carried by the cube’s recent meals. The package boasts these as accessories, and it’s true some of them can be used by your 6-inch scale adventurers, but many are just literal junk, which I guess can be strewn about your dungeon as mere decorations. There’s a very cool ax and bow, a satchel, and a book which makes for a great questing item.

Opening the top of the cube reveals a sort of claw designed to hold a figure as if it is suspended within the cube and being digested. There are also some peg holes on the bottom plate to stand figures. I think the claw makes for a decent enough effect when the figure is viewed from the outside. The gelatinous plastic doesn’t obscure the post completely, but it looks OK.

There’s also a shield which can be removed to reveal a hole that a figure can stick his hand through, presumably so his fellow party members can try to pull him free. It’s a cool feature, I guess.

The Gelatinous Cube has an MSRP of $35, and that’s downright ridiculous. It’s a cool idea, and I’ve had some fun with it, and I can’t say I regret buying it, but it’s pretty poorly made and definitely not worth the asking price. Maybe if it had come pre-assembled so that it fit together better, but even then it’s just way too much money for what I’m getting here. At $20? Sure, I guess. I think they should have included some more useful stuff with it, like maybe a 6-inch scale skeleton. It does work very well with the toon figures, which is nice, because I doubt they’ll get anyone other than Venger to fight.

Dungeons & Dragons (Cartoon Classics): Bobby and Uni by Hasbro

A short while ago I kicked off my look at Hasbro’s new figures from the old Dungeons &Dragons cartoon. It was just a little ditty about Hank and Diana. I thought Hank was pretty good, but my Diana figure had multiple QC issues. I have since received a replacement, so I’m going to revisit her at the end of today’s post. In the meantime, let’s take a look at Bobby and Uni!

This line is utilizing Hasbro’s no plastic packaging, but I’m still digging it well enough. The presentation is the same as a traditional card and bubble, only with the bubble replaced with a little enclosed box. The character art is excellent and the side of the box-bubble lines up with the other figures to create a mural. Although as of now I think I’m missing some panels between Diana and Bobby. Overall, everything here is nice and colorful and really captures the spirit of the old toon. I buy almost all my toys online these days, so not being able to actually see the figure before I buy it isn’t really an issue for me, but had I been able to see the paint flubs on my first Diana figure through a clear bubble, I would have left her on the pegs, so I can appreciate that the no-plastic packaging is a bummer for those of you who still shop brick and mortar.

Luckily, I made out great this time, and neither my Bobby or Uni have any paint issues. I’ll also note that I boiled this pint-sized barbarian before trying to work his joints, because I didn’t want another elbow snap incident. The pins on these figures are extremely fragile and while it may be possible to gently work through a stuck joint on other figures, please do not try it with these until you apply some heat! It worked well enough, and so I happily I have no QC issues to report this time.

And boy did Hasbro do a great job capturing everything about this character! He’s perfectly proportioned as the youngest member of the party, and to me his two defining aspects of his costume are his big, chonky boots and his slightly askew horned helmet. Hasbro got these absolutely perfect, and with his little furry diaper, his studded chest harness, and his wrist bracers. He could easily pass as He-Man Jr. The harness is cast in soft brown plastic and appears to actually be worn by the figure, which gives it some great depth, and there are no unsightly seams. The articulation here is right in line with what we saw on Hank and Diana, and I while the fur diaper does restrict his hip movement a bit, he’s still lots of fun to pose and play with.

As for the head sculpt, I think this is the best out of the three so far. Not that Hank or Diana had bad portraits, but Bobby’s is just a dead ringer for his animated counterpart. The yellow hair is sculpted separately from the head and the helmet is also separate, which elevates the whole shebang, as opposed to if they just sculpted everything as one piece. The printing on his eyes looks great as do the scattershot freckles on his cheeks. The portrait is rounded out by a button nose and slightly crooked mouth. I think this likeness will be the tough to top.

Bobby comes with his magic weapon, which is an enchanted club. I always thought it was interesting that out of the whole party only two members got offensive weapons, and one of them was young Bobby. But it certainly fit his character, because he was a brave little scrapper. The club is pretty straightforward with a conical shape and an angled tip at the head. It narrows to nearly a point at the other end to fit into Bobby’s right hand.

In addition to his club, Bobby comes with his pet unicorn, Uni, which falls somewhere between being a figure and an accessory. Like Bobby, Uni turned out looking just like her(?) cartoon counterpart. It’s a simple sculpt with a smooth off-white, almost yellowish, body. The hooves are painted black and the hair on her head and tail is red. Once again, I love how the hair is a separate sculpt with the horn popping up through the middle of it, and her giant purple printed eyes are certainly on point. Uni only has one point of articulation and that’s her neck, and I think considering her size that’s totally fine. I certainly didn’t expect articulated legs!

I don’t how Bobby is regarded among fans of the series. It’s my experience that younger kids who are deliberately inserted to be relatable to the audience are not well received. With that being said, I actually liked Bobby in the cartoon. Uni, on the other hand, I absolutely hated. No disrespect to Frank Welker, but oh boy did Uni’s bleating get annoying. I used to wish that the party would get lost in the desert and have to eat her, because everyone knows that unicorns are both delicious and nutritious and come with their own toothpick. Either way, this pair turned out great and I am getting really excited to get the rest of the party. I don’t know when Sheila, Eric and Presto will be releasing, but I did just get shipping notification on Venger and Dungeon Master, so they will be on deck for review soon. But, before signing off…

I’m so very pleased to report that the replacement Diana figure that I received fixed all of the problems I had with the first one I got. The paint is immaculate, there’s no ugly blemishes on the plastic around her joints, and thanks to her spending a little time soaking in the hot tub (aka coffee cup), her joints are all fine. It doesn’t excuse the terrible figure that I originally received, and I’m hoping that it was an isolated incident, but I’m a lot more optimistic about this line! And I’m going to keep the Dungeons & Dragons love rolling along on Friday with a look at Hasbro’s Gelatinous Cube!

Dungeons & Dragons (Cartoon Classics): Hank and Diana by Hasbro

If you have any doubt that we’ve been living in a Golden Age of 80’s Toys Revivals for the past few years, look no further than the fact that we are finally getting action figures from the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon! Honestly, I’m at a point where if we can check off new action figures from Bionic Six, Kidd Video and Mighty Orbots, I could finally die a happy man. The D&D cartoon is one of those few 80’s properties that was pretty popular, but somehow managed to escape the toy treatment. That’s no small feat for a time when nearly all cartoons were just thirty minute toy commercials! Hasbro has had the D&D license for a little while now, and it looks like they’re finally doing something worthwhile with it. I was a big fan of the LJN AD&D figures back in the day, and was always happy to see when some of those characters made cameos in the cartoon, but now we’ve got the real deal. Hasbro is releasing the entire party of adventurers, along with Dungeon Master and Venger, in a few waves, and I just got in Diana the Acrobat and Hank the Ranger!

If you’re unfamiliar with the cartoon, the premise was six kids get on a Dungeons & Dragons ride at the local amusement park and find themselves transported to the fantasy world… FOR REALS! With the help (and I use that word loosely) of the enigmatic Yoda-like Dungeon Master, they each get assigned a character class, a magic weapon, and are forced to travel the realm trying to find their way home. It took me a while before realizing that the little shit was just using these kids to do his dirty work each week while dangling the way home in front of them as a possible reward.

The figures come in Hasbro’s new no-plastic packaging, which is admittedly pretty colorful, but of course does not let you see what the figures look like until you open the packages. I do like how it mimics a card and bubble style, and I may wind up keeping these packages. I especially love how the edges are going to line up to form a group shot of the party! Let’s start with Diana!

So, Diana lost her saving throw against bad QC and her right elbow snapped right out of the package. I repaired it with glue so I could go on with the review, but that’s a pretty big mark against her from the start. So, be careful with the joints on this lovely young lady, because the breakage happened with a simple attempt at manipulation and no force at all. With that said, I do like the overall sculpt here, as I think they captured the character’s costume very well. Her shaggy two-piece acrobat bikini looks good and includes a gold belt with brass studs, gold bicep bands, and a gold gorget with a brass design on it. The boots have sculpted wraps, which are painted red against the brown base color and some sculpted shag around the top edges of the boots. Unfortunately, the plastic looks really rough in some areas, particularly around the backs of the legs, where there’s some ugly seams and mold flashing. You can see more of this around the shoulders. It gives the figure something of a bootleg feel. There’s also a mess of gold spray on my figure’s top, which is really unfortunate when you consider how simple the paint deco is. Almost nothing about this figure feels polished.

I like the portrait a lot, but I’m not sure it’s a particularly great likeness to the cartoon character. It looks more stylized and it feels like something we might have seen had the actual figure been released back in the 80’s. Was Hasbro going for a retro look here? I highly doubt it, but it kind of works for me on that level.

The articulation is overall pretty decent. The arms feature rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. The shoulders and wrists move fine, but the elbows can barely pull 90-degrees. And obviously my figure’s right elbow can’t move at all because it’s been glued. The hips are ball jointed, and while I thought the furry diaper would hinder the hips, she can still take a knee and very nearly do the splits. She does have double-hinged knees, which is nice, and there are swivels at the tops of her boots, and hinges and lateral rockers in the ankles. There’s a ball joint up under her chest and in the neck. The joints feel a little gummy, and I just didn’t feel like she was a lot of fun to pose and play with, which is a real shame for an acrobat.

Diana comes with two accessories, both variants of her staff. They’re cast in a neon green plastic, which I like because it reminded me of the plastic used for the accessories that came with the old LJN AD&D Kelek figure accessories. Yeah, I doubt that was intentional, but whatever! The standard pole is as simple an accessory as you can get, while the other has some magical effects like it’s being spun. Let’s move on to Hank the Ranger!

Like Diana, I think this figure nails the costume pretty well. Hank sports an olive green tunic with silver studs, and green long sleeves and leggings protruding from it. His brown buccaneer boots have olive green tops, he has a wide brown belt with a silver buckle. Straightaway, this figure sports far better QC than Diana does. There are no noticeable paint flubs, no rough plastic around the joints, and everything looks so much more polished. I’m very happy to see the bump up in quality here, and I’m very interested to see if my replacement Diana will match it. On the downside, Hank’s natural stance is a little weird. His arms don’t quite hang straight at his sides, and when you combine that with the action orientated sculpt of his right hand, he feels like a figure that is either meant to be pre-posed or has some kind of action gimmick.

The portrait is OK, but I don’t like it as much as Diana’s. I think the contours of the face are exaggerated, making him look a lot younger than he’s supposed to be. Or maybe there’s a little Robert Z’Dar in there. It’s serviceable and certainly not terrible, but not great either.

Hank features the same basic points of articulation as Diana, but it feels like some of his range of motion isn’t quite as good. There are slits on the shoulders of the tunic that help a bit with the shoulders, but obviously the tunic still restricts the shoulder movement. The same is true for the part of the tunic that hangs below the belt. I also think the billowy sculpted sleeves give his elbows a bit less range as well.

Like Diana, Hank comes with two versions of his weapon, the magic missile. One is the dormant bow, and the other is when its activated and ready to fire. The regular bow is cast in a yellow-gold plastic.

The activated bow accessory is cast in translucent yellow plastic and it looks really cool, but Hank’s articulation really doesn’t allow him to use it all that convincingly. His left hand is sculpted to be drawing the magic bolt, but the elbow bend just isn’t enough to make that reach work. He does look pretty good posed as if he just released it and the bolt is about to fire. Oh yes, I neglected to mention that the figures come with D&D dice (one each), which is a cute addition, but I’m not sure how many fans of the cartoon actually played the game.

Well, this has been a rough journey with a lot of bumps in the road. Even without the elbow break, the QC on Diana is simply unforgivable, and while Hank faired a better in that department, he still had his share of problems. I’m obviously not as happy with this pair as I had hoped to be, but I’m not giving up yet. I should have Bobby the Barbarian arriving soon, and when I do that review, I’ll be sure to include how my replacement Diana turned out. I’m hoping Hasbro can still turn this line around, but right now it looks like it might be a case of these just being better than nothing. And that’s an endorsement that nobody wants.

Dungeons & Dragons: Beholder Boxed Set by Jada

I’ve been desperately trying to streamline my collecting these days, which is why my reviews have been pretty focused lately and rarely hold many surprises. It’s Hasbro, it’s Mythic Legions, it’s Phicen or Hot Toys, etc. etc. It’s mainly a question of the very finite amount of precious space I have remaining and what I am willing to spend it on. A far cry from the days when I would scour the clearance racks at Toys R Us and buy whatever was cheap and tickled my fancy. Still, every now and then something turns up out of left field and I just have to go for it. It also helps when that thing is a an assortment of tiny miniatures.

Dungeons & Dragons! When I was young I enjoyed the franchise through a Saturday morning cartoon and the LJN figure line. Later, it was a defining element of my early teenage years, right about the time I was getting out of playing with toys. I had a few friends that played and we would get together every other week to play. But for me D&D transcended the act of playing the game. I was obsessed with the books, the stats, the monsters, making maps, and yes collecting and painting the tiny miniatures. There was a store dedicated to paper and pencil RPGs and board games called The Compleat Strategist in the neighborhood mall that was like nirvana to me. Anywho, fast forward to my last trip to my Walmart’s dismal toy section, and I would have come away empty handed if it weren’t for finding this curious box of D&D miniatures from Jada Toys.

As far as I know, Jada is known for their diecast cars and miniature figures, so the D&D license seems like a no-brainer. And we all know Hasbro wasn’t doing a god damn thing with the license, right? This set of five painted miniatures comes in a window box, which pretty much lets the miniatures do all the talking. The D&D logo is downplayed, the bottom denotes who you’re getting, and the back has a pretty cool fantasy painting. The set gives you all you need to set up a little battle between your party of four adventurers and a vile beholder. Let’s open it up and have a look.

Oh yeah, did I mention that one of the party members IS FREAKING MINSC FROM BALDUR’S GATE??? He’s the only actual named member of the party on the package and yes, it includes his miniature giant space hamster, Boo! Well, sort of. Boo is just a purple glob on his shoulder. You really have to keep in mind that these are only a little over an inch and a half tall. With that having been said, the sculpt is OK, albeit pretty soft. It’s far from on par with some of the better D&D miniatures I used to have. MINSC is wearing a scale armor hauberk, a cape, and has a broadsword. He stands heroically with hands on hips.

I think the sculpt could have been helped out a lot more by better paint. MINSC is done up in a four color palate, which consists of brown for the hauberk, metallic purple for the cape and face tatts, flesh for his skin tone, and gray for the base, arm bracers, pants and boots. None of the finer details are distinguished, and I don’t mind that for the some stuff like the belt and boots, but it’s a shame they couldn’t paint the sword a different color than his cape. On my worst day I could have painted this figure better, and I was never good at painting these things.

Next up we have the Elf Bard, which I think is overall a lot better than Minsc. The sculpt is still pretty soft, but it conveys the outfit fairly well and he is posed playing his lute. The color palate here is also a bit more varied. The outfit is lavender, the cape is purple, the boots and base are brown, the instrument is black, plus you get his flesh tone and white hair. Sure, he’s probably the least exciting figure in the bunch, but I guess it’s nice to have music while you’re fighting a beholder to the death.

The third member of the party is the Tiefling Paladin and this is probably my favorite of the adventurers. The sculpt here is a lot more impressive than the previous two. You get some good detail in her armor and I really dig the crazy array of cutlery she has hanging off her belt. Her right hand is outstretched and about to strike with her flail, while her right hand is drawn into a fist. I also love her tail, which is sculpted as part of the cape interior between her legs. The paint on this one is limited to four colors: Metallic purple for the bulk of the figure and base, blue for the cape, black for her hair and belt, and red for her skin. This is a damn cool little figure.

The final adventurer is the Orc Paladin and I’m really torn on this one. The sculpt is very soft, but I can make out some details like the belt and satchel. The armored pieces are a little better, but his face is just a mushy lump. I do like the pose a lot. The coloring here isn’t the best. You get a beige for the bulk of his body and cape. Silver for the armor, shield, sword, and base. His face is a grayish green with some black for his eyes and beard and hair.

And the real showpiece of this collection is the Beholder, which comes floating on a translucent plastic stand. I’m not sure how much of this guy is actually diecast because he’s rather light. I know the eye stalks are all a bendable rubbery plastic. I can’t say enough good things about the sculpt here. It’s absolutely fantastic. They worked in a lot of his scales, some stubby little horns, and the teeth are absolutely terrifying. The only thing I will nitpick her is the choice of coloring. Metallic blue seems like an odd direction to go for his skin, as does the gold for his eyes. I can’t deny that it’s a striking color scheme, but it comes off looking a bit like those cheap novelty Christmas tree ornament you might find in a bin at Target. That sounds harsh, and I do really like this figure a lot, but I think it could have been so much better with a different deco. Indeed, the general choice to go with metallic paint in this set is a bit of a poser to me.

So what’s my overall feeling here? Eh, I don’t know. It’s really cool to find a set of D&D miniatures in the toy aisle of a major retailer and it makes a lot of sense for a company like Jada to do them. The sculpts are OK, but I think if these were painted with more care and detail this set could have gone from a mere curiosity to something really cool. Also keep in mind, this set was less than $10, which had a lot to do with me deciding to pick it up. It makes me a little more forgiving, but I would have happily paid another five or even ten bucks for decent paint. Ultimately, I think these are fun, and a little research turned up that they have another similar set of a adventurers facing off against a dragon. I might just have to check that one out too.