Playmates Voltron: Legendary Defender… Let’s Form Voltron!

Happy Hump Day, Toyhounds! I’m checking in with a little bonus Wednesday content today so that I can wrap up my review of Playmates’ Voltron Legendary Defender Lions, because the Classic ’84 Lions have hit stores, and this Netflix set is really just old news now. Yesterday, I had a look at the Black Lion and today I’m finally putting these five kitties together to form Voltron… Dyna-Thrusters are go… Let’s go Voltron Force!!!

And here he is, and straightaway, I’m very impressed with the way he turned out. He’s big, he’s heavy, he looks mighty damn good, and he’s a surprisingly stable robot that can be played with like an action figure without worrying about him coming apart. I’ll talk more about the playability here in a bit when I get to articulation, because there are some caveats. He’s certainly not as well proportioned and streamlined as the Utlimate Voltron, but that’s to be expected considering this one is actually formed from the separate Lion toys. We’ve had more than a few combining Lion Voltrons over the years, and overall I’d rank this one up with some of the best of them. It’s always a question of the right amount of compromise between the Lion toys and the combined mode, and I think this one did just about everything right.

When it comes to transforming the Lions and putting him together, there’s nothing terribly complex, although there are some things that are really neat. I absolutely love the way the legs on the Green and Red Lions completely fold away. The front legs store inside their respective Lions’ bodies and the rear legs are hidden nicely too. The result is a very streamlined look to the arms, which is more than I would have expected considering the price point on those guys. If you have the electronics set to On, Black Lion will comment on every step of the assembly. It acknowledges which Lion is being plugged in and calls on the next Lion to join. Sure, it can get annoying, but it’s also really damn impressive. And if you get tired of hearing it, there’s always an OFF button. I had every intention of doing a video of the electronics, like I did with the Black Lion, but wrestling with this guy on camera proved to be way beyond my patience. When separating the Lions, the legs simply eject by pushing the buttons on the backs of the knees. The arms have to be pulled out, and sometimes that can require a lot of force.

As I discussed in the reviews of the individual Lions, the paint and coloring on these has been fairly good with little flubs here and there, and all that carries over to the Voltron mode as well. The various colored plastic of the torsos and limbs are all nice and shiny, and the silver and gold paint looks especially nice. It would have been really cool if they could have painted all the gray plastic in that snappy silver, but I get how that would have been expensive, and probably would have had rubbing issues when it came to the combining. Here’s hoping the gray on this one won’t yellow over time like the shitty plastic Mattel used on theirs. One thing I do find a little hard to excuse, however, is the lack of paint on Voltron’s face. It’s a key area of the figure and it’s not all that big a surface. I think it would have looked so much better had they painted it silver instead of leaving it that bare gray plastic, and I don’t see how it would have broken the bank. It’s a shame, yes, but not a deal-breaker, and I had the same issue with the Ultimate Voltron figure too.

So let’s talk articulation. There are some useful points here and some not-so-useful ones. If you’re talking playability, I’d say there’s a ton of fun to be had here, but in terms of poseability, then not so much. Voltron looks great standing there on the shelf, but as soon as I try to get him into some cool poses, I find out that he really is a lot more limiting than I had hoped. From the waist down, things are actually not bad. The hips offer the possibility of a wide stance, the knee ratchets are pretty strong, and you do have those swivels in the thighs. One thing to note while posing the legs is that the front legs on the Blue and Yellow Lions do not lock into place and since these serve as heel spurs, this can be good and bad and bad news. The good news is it lets you tweak them for stability in different poses. This helps since there are no ankle tilts. The bad news is, sometimes they will give way under the weight of a pose. In fairness, I had the same problem with Matty’s far more expensive Classic Voltron, so it’s not something that is unique to this toy.

The articulation in the arms is a lot more problematic. The shoulders do not articulate at the points where the Lions connect, but rather further into the chest where the Black Lion’s shoulders are. This can look awkward and throw off his symmetry on certain poses. But my big problem is in the elbow hinges, which are constantly at odds with the compacted hind legs of the Lions. You can’t bend the elbow far at all before it bumps up against these, and that’s disappointing, because it practically renders the whole joint useless. You can, however, get some decent lateral movement out of the shoulders. There’s no articulation in the torso, which is to be expected, but the lack of rotation in the neck really bothers me a lot.

As for his accessories, Voltron’s Shield plugs into the Green Lion so it can be worn on his shoulder. The Sword is completed from the two parts that came with the Red and Green Lions.  The Shield looks great, but I’m not at all a fan of this Sword. Part of that has to do with the design, as it’s really the one thing I think they screwed up when designing the Legendary Defender version of Voltron. Everything about this guy is so sexy, but that swrod was a swing and a miss. The toy version doesn’t help matters, as it just looks cheap and flimsy and the clear plastic blade is prone to showing scratches. He can, however, hold it quite well.

I also dig how you can attach the Red and Green Lions’ weapons to give some some added firepower.

It may sound like I’m coming down really hard on this figure, but the truth is I’m actually pretty happy with it. I think Playmates walked that fine line between creating some great Lion toys and making a solid looking combined mode, and that isn’t at all easy. Not to mention they did it in a way that allowed this set to be sold off the pegs in the local toy aisle, as opposed to as a more expensive adult collectible. In the end, I can’t emphasize enough the subtle difference between playability and poseability. This is a fun toy to play with, even with some of the limitations in articulation. He stays together very well and he’s just a gloriously hefty amalgamation of plastic robot lion goodness. But if you’re looking for a Voltron that can pull off some great poses on your shelf, than the Ultimate Voltron is definitely the direction to go. For me, having both really is the only answer.

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Voltron: Legendary Black Lion by Playmates

I was hoping to have finished my look at Playmates’ Voltron: Legendary Defender Lions before the end of last year, but that didn’t pan out. Hope y’all didn’t think I forgot, because I didn’t. I just got side-tracked in the craziness that was 4th Quarter. But I recently started picking up some of Playmates’ Classic Voltron Lions and that proved to be just the ticket to motivate me to wrap up my look at these guys from the Netflix series. Fair is fair, I can’t start opening those until I’ve wrapped up my reviews of these kitties. So, let’s check out the Black Lion today, and tomorrow I’ll come back and have a look at Voltron himself. And in case you missed it, here are my reviews of the Yellow and Blue Lions, as well as Red and Green.

While the previous Legendary Lions came on huge carded bubbles, Black Lion comes in a window box, which offers a great look at the toy from multiple angles and also has a Try Me hole so you can fire off some of the electronic phrases & sounds. Personally, I wish all the Lions came packaged like this one. Technically, the package is collector friendly, but it would probably take a lot of patience and determination to get Black Lion out without mangling the tray. There are a lot of rubber bands and some zip ties holding him in place so a Blazing Sword, or razor comes in handy. The back of the package shows you a picture of the toy and also the proper way to connect all the Legendary Lions together to form Voltron.

Out of the box, I find this guy to be pretty damn impressive. Obviously, he’s the biggest Lion in this pride, and the stylish wings on his back give him an even larger appearance. As with the other Lions, the quality of the plastic here feels really good in hand, and thanks to both the size and the electronics, he has a nice heft to him. Playmates has been able to maintain a uniform aesthetic throughout the entire set, while still instilling a little bit of individuality to each of these big cats, and that’s certainly true of The Black Lion as well. I think they’ve done a nice job recreating the animated models in toy form. He features that same great mix of angles and curves that walks the fine line between paying homage to the originals and yet still managing to look fresh and new. The coloring on the toy is mostly achieved through the plastic, which is predominantly a mix of black and gray. The black has a nice sheen to it, whereas the gray is a bit more matte. The red plastic used for the wings looks great, and you get some snappy silver paint as well.

The majestic wings attach to the body with rotating hinges, so you have several options on how you want to display them. I kind of dig them straight up and back, but they look pretty cool when they’re angled too. The tail on this kitty isn’t as bendy as on the others, and it’s designed to stay so that it’s curving up and away from the body, which looks really good. Overall, the leg articulation is similar to the other Lions, although you lose a bit of it in the hind legs so that they can serve as Voltron’s hips. The rotation at the tops of the legs doesn’t any further forward than you can see above. Also the middle hinges in the hind legs are designed to only bend backwards. In the end, this guy isn’t quite as poseable as his peers, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had with him.

The head sculpt is very nicely done and gives this big cat a lot of personality. The paint is overall pretty solid, but there’s a little white slop on my Lion near the nose. I’m still satisfied with how he turned out. These are, after all toys, and not very expensive ones at that. Black Lion’s mouth will open, but you’ll see Voltron’s face peeking back at you, so it’s best to keep it closed.

As with the other Lions, this guy comes with a pilot sled that can be stored in a hatch in the belly. As I’ve said before, this gimmick doesn’t do a whole lot for me, but it doesn’t hurt the toy either, so I’m fine with it. There’s also a button on the side of the Lion that allows you to fire off some of the phrases and sounds, as well as light up his chest. Likewise, there’s an On/Off switch on his back in case you want him to be quiet. Here are some of the sounds and phrases he says…

There may be a few more in there, but after a while he started repeating, and I think you get the idea. The chest light isn’t all that apparent in the Lion mode, because it’s pointing at the ground and kind of hidden underneath him, but it’s mostly designed for the combined Voltron mode.

The Black Lion seems to be selling at most places for around $30. I paid $25 for mine, and it feels like a pretty good deal. Playmates did a beautiful job with this kitty and, like the others, he’d be a damn fun toy even if he didn’t combine with the others to for The Big Guy. Looking back, I remember being happy enough with the Ultimate Voltron that I was considering passing on this version. But now that I have a complete set, and I see how great they look all lined up, I can confidently say that I’m very happy that I decided to collect these. It’s also good to know that there are proper Voltron toys on the shelves for the kids to enjoy, because these would have blown my little mind back in the day. Come on back tomorrow morning and LET’S FORM VOLTRON!!!

Voltron: Legendary Red Lion by Playmates

I had planned to look at both the Red and Green Lions last Thursday, but I was only able to get Green in time, so this week, I’m going to take a look at Red. It actually worked out fine, because I’m a little pressed for time today and needed to do a quickie… and after reviewing four of these kitties, this should indeed be quick!

We’ve seen this packaging three times so far, and Red’s isn’t any different. The card and bubble are not collector friendly, but it does offer a good look at what you’re getting. The inserts are personalized to fit the lion and the package shows you where Red goes when he combines with the others to form Voltron!

Of all the lions, Red and Green are the most similar to each other, both in size and overall aesthetic. The legs share the same molds and the differences in the bodies are very minor. I realize similarities are to be expected for the sake of Voltron’s symmetry, but I think the designs for Blue and Yellow (Voltron’s legs) were better distinguished. That’s not to say I’m disappointed. This sculpt is sleek and curvy and absolutely beautiful and the the heads are each unique.

Playmates picked a fantastic shade of red plastic, which looks great along with the black, gray, and silver paint. You also get a little bit of yellow at the base of the tail and some light blue paint apps on the hind legs. None of my lions have had poor paintwork, but I think Red here is probably the tightest. There aren’t any nicks in the white around the mouth and the slop is kept to a bare minimum. Given that these are most definitely toys and not collectibles, I’m quite happy with how they turned out.

And yes, the little pilot sled accessory is still included and can be stored in the hatch under the belly. I wish they were able to keep the paint apps on these that are shown on the package and promotional materials. Or that I had the skills to paint them up myself. As it stands, I don’t have a lot of use for these other than the way they really convey how enormous these lions are supposed to be.

The articulation is identical to the Green Lion, which means you get hinges in the hips, knees, and ankles of each leg, all of which contain ratchets. The head can rotate side to side but cannot look up or down. The jaws are spring loaded and the elbow joint for the arm mode gives him the ability to bend left or right in the middle, which is useful for posing.

As with the other lions, Red comes with a back-mounted weapon. In this case it’s called a Magma Beam Launcher. It’s fairly similar to Green’s weapon and as big and goofy as it is, I really don’t mind it too much. I do think it’s unfortunate that they couldn’t cast the missile in a red translucent plastic instead of the blue they used for Blue’s Ice Beam.

Red also includes the other half of the Blazing Sword. which features a translucent blue blase. Like Green, he can hold it in his jaws, but I don’t think it looks as good with him carrying it as the Green lion does wielding his half.

Playmates has produced yet another fun lion to add to the team. Right now, I’d say that Red is contending with Blue to be my favorite, but they’re all quite good. He even escapes the one minor gripe I have with these and that’s the paint on the others could have been a bit better. With that having been said, I’m happy to have most of this Pride of Lions assembled. Next up will be Keith’s Black Lion and after that I’ll be able to check out Voltron. And fear not, convertorobo fans, next week, I hope to be turning my attention back to Transformers proper at least for a week or two before coming back to Voltron!

Voltron: Legendary Green Lion by Playmates

As I’ve been threatening for the past couple weeks, I’m switching gears back to Voltron on Transformers Thursday for a couple of weeks. I had actually planned on looking at both the Green and Red lions today, but when I stopped off at the store to finally buy them, Red was gone. I wound up ordering him online, but he won’t make it on time and the show must go on so Green is going solo today.

The packaging is essentially the same as we saw last time for Blue and Yellow. It takes a mighty big bubble and card to contain this kitty, but the packaging is colorful and looks great. The bubble insert has an ad for the Netflix series and also shows that the Green Lion can form Voltron’s left arm, once you collect all five of the Legendary Lions! Alas, this packaging is far from collector friendly, so give me a moment to tear it open and we’ll check out Pidge’s ride!

There are a couple of things that I dig straightaway. First off, despite being an arm, he isn’t much smaller than the two leg Lions. That’s a big step ahead from my Toynami Masterpiece Classic Voltron where Red and Green are considerably smaller. I’ll include a comparison shot of the three Legendary Lions at the end. Yes, I know the more uniform size is going to come back and bite me when I get them combined and deal with Voltron’s proportions, but right here and right now, I like the scaling. I also really love the individualized styling of each lion. Green is a little less boxy than Yellow and Blue, but they still fit in beautifully with one another. And despite Green having an elbow joint in the middle of his body, he still looks great, and it adds that little extra bit of articulation to what is already a very posable toy. All the joints in the legs are strong giving him the ability to hold almost any pose.

Overall, the coloring is pretty good. The green plastic is bright and both the green and the black plastic are shiny. They both really pop next to the flatter gray. I do wish the paint was a little tighter on these lions. It’s not terrible, but the white paint on the face could have used another coat. It’s got a few chips in it and you can see some unevenness in the brush strokes. Yeah, this is a fairly inexpensive toy, not a collectors’ item, so I’m willing to be a little more forgiving than usual.

And yes, the Green Lion also includes a tiny pilot sled, which can be loaded into the opening door in his belly. The package shows the pilot fully painted, but in reality it’s just a black molded blob sitting in the sled. The only thing that I find cool about these is that they give you an idea of the enormous scale of the Lions.

As we saw with the Yellow and Blue Lions, each one of these comes with a special weapon that attaches. Green Lion has a giant missile launcher, which pegs into his back. Pidge’s Lion is supposed to harness the power of nature, and this thing is referred to on the package as a “Vine Launcher,” but it shoots a blue missile like the Blue Lion’s ice beam. The least they could have done is cast this missile in translucent green plastic. I wasn’t a fan of Hunk’s big disk launcher, but I liked Lance’s weapon, Pidge’s here falls somewhere in between. It’s not as stylish as Lance’s, but at least it can pivot and fire in different directions. I don’t hate it.

The Green Lion also comes with Voltron’s Shield and the back half of The Blazing Sword. The shield pegs into the back of the lion and the sword can be held in the Lion’s mouth, thanks to the spring-loaded jaws. Pretty rad!

With the two previous lions already on my shelf, The Green Lion fell right in line with my expectations. He looks good and he’s a fun toy. He’s also a damn fine value for the money. Green ran me exactly fifteen bucks at the local Big Box and I’m impressed that Playmates can put out a toy this cool for so little money. Hell, that’s less than a 6-inch Hasbro figure and about the same price as a Deluxe Class Transformer. He’s a good sized kitty with lots of articulation and he includes a bunch of extra stuff. Next week I’ll check out Red Lion and then get back to a few Transformers before moving on to the Black Lion!

Voltron: Legendary Blue and Yellow Lions by Playmates

I warned you all it was coming! Voltron has invaded Transformers Thursday and he ain’t gonna leave quietly. Well, truth be told, I have some new Transformers figures on their way to me, but they haven’t arrived yet so I needed filler! Still, after how much fun I had with the Ultimate Voltron, I thought I might as well check out Playmates’ Legendary, combining lions. Today I’m checking out Lance’s Blue Lion and Hunk’s Yellow Lion!

The lions come carded, which is pretty surprising as these are fairly good sized toys and larger than you’re average Voyager Class Transformers figure. The packaging lets you see lions very well and while the card look generic on the front, the backs are actually personalized for each lion. They also advertise the Netflix series, which, if you haven’t seen it, you should check out, because it’s surprisingly great. As attractive as the packages are, the downside is that they’re not collector friendly. Inside, you get the lion, a rather large weapon with projectiles, and a very tiny pilot with sled. Let’s open them up and let them loose!

I really love the look of these guys and I think they match the animated models quite well. They’ve got just the right mix of organic curves and squared off edges, making this an aesthetic that I can really get behind. They also compromise very little in favor of their ability to transform. The coloring is also very flashy, with base colors achieved through colored plastic and both the yellow and blue looking suitably bright and glossy. They also each have some red, white, and silver paint apps in all the necessary places. In a lot of ways, I’d say these cats can stand up to Matty Collector’s more expensive classic lions.

Another thing I really dig is that this pair are slightly different in size. Hunk’s lion is slightly larger and bulkier than Lance’s and each of the lion’s head sculpts are unique. I’m interested to see how the scaling difference effects Voltron, since they both form his legs, but I’m sure it’ll work out fine.

The articulation on these cats also stacks up quite nicely. The front legs feature ratcheting joints at the “shoulders,” “elbows” and “ankles.” The back legs have the same with an extra added ratchet between the “knee” and “ankle.” The tails are made of a bendy material and the jaws are springloaded and can open and close. That last bit, is a little disappointing, as it means you can’t display them with the mouths open. Also, there’s no articulation in the middles and the only articulation in the necks allow for the heads to move up and down.

Each lion comes with a teeny tiny pilot in sled. These go a long way to demonstrate the enormous scale of the lions and they can fit into opening compartments in their bellies. Honestly, I could have done without these. The shots of these on the package show them having paint apps on the little pilots, but that didn’t carry over to the actual toys. Once they’re in the lions, I doubt I’ll ever take them out again.

And speaking of features I could have done without, each lion also comes with a ridiculously oversized weapon that can mount on their backs. Hunk’s is an “armored disk launcher” and boy does this thing look stupid. It also doesn’t really match the cannon that Hunk could summon in the cartoon. It clips onto the lion’s back and it comes with four translucent blue disks. I’ll grant it this, it does shoot quite well! Obviously, I don’t need to use if I don’t want to, it just clips on and off, but it’s a whole lot of plastic invested in something I don’t plan on using a lot.

Lance’s lion features an ice beam, which translates into shooting a translucent blue missile. I actually don’t mind this thing as much as Hunk’s. The twin blades that reach out over the lion’s head looks kind of cool and once again, it shoots really well. Hey, I know these are toys, and I’m sure kids will have endless fun shooting these things off.

I’m not sure what the original MSRP on these lions are, but I picked mine up off of Amazon for about fifteen bucks a piece and it’s hard to argue with that. These figures are made really well and look great. Overall, the quality is loads better than what I was expecting. It goes without saying that I’ll be picking up the rest of the Legendary Lions, but next Thursday, I hope to be back to looking at an actual Transformer and then I’ll just alternate for the rest of the month.

Robot Vinyl Collection: Vehicle Voltron by Toynami

I almost wasn’t going to do an update today. This week has been craaaaazy and time has been so short. Also, I am still without any new Transformers to look at on this increasingly inaccurately named Transformers Thursday. I will, however, promise here that I’ll have a new Transformer for next week. Cross my heart and swear to Primus! Anyway, at the last minute, I looked at my pile of shit unwanted treasures, that I’m slowly getting around to listing on Ebay, and realized there was something in there I hadn’t reviewed here… and it’s a combiner robot, so it sort of fits the Transformers Thursday theme! So, let’s take a look at Toynami’s Vinyl Vehicle Voltron! Holy cats, say that five times fast!

Voltron comes in a clear plastic box, on a clear plastic tray, and this presentation works very well for display purposes if you don’t want to take him out. In fact, as we’ll soon see, he’s probably better off left in there. I think I’ve only had this guy out of the package twice and one of those times is right now. Anyway, the packaging is very nice, albeit very fragile. You may note that the bottom of the box proclaims this release as Volume 3 in the Vinyl Robot Collection. I know that they did a Lion Force Voltron before this one, but I had no idea that there were other releases, including a Zentraedi Heavy Artillery Battlepod, which I kind of wish I knew existed before it hit an approximate value of all-the-damn-monies on the secondary market.

The back of the package features a nice write-up about the series and has a picture of the toy inside. Other than my forever undying love for Vehicle Voltron and the lack of associated merch, I can’t for the life of me remember why I bought this. I’m not a huge fan of vinyl toys to begin with and while this figure is not without its merits, it really never had any place in my collection. I do remember it was on clearance, so I’m sure that had a lot to do with it. And with that resounding vote of confidence, let’s open him up and check him out!

Standing about seven inches tall, this figure is every bit a vinyl toy. The sculpt is soft, but honestly I think it works well with the animated design. And make no mistake, this sculpt is a very animated look. The details are simple, and you’ll note he’s missing some pretty obvious features, like the propeller blades on his shoulders. The simplification of detail is particularly apparent on the back, although they did keep the tank treads for some of the vehicles. Keep in mind, none of this really bothers me, as its a stylistic choice, and one that certainly sets him apart from the other Vehicle Voltron figures that have been on the market. What does bother me is that for a figure that doesn’t do much of anything, he really can’t even stand straight. I want to say it’s from the legs warping in the package, but as I take a good look at the legs, it seems like they aren’t even and that causes the figure to lean a bit to one side.

The coloring on this figure is absolutely fantastic. Yes, if you get in close enough you can see some less than crisp paint lines, but just viewing the figure in hand with the naked eye it looks really good. The blue and red paint are both vibrant and when coupled with the immaculate white, and the silver and yellow, you get a figure that really pops on the shelf. Voltron has always been about bright and attractive coloring and this figure conveys that very nicely.

As a vinyl toy, one shouldn’t expect much in the way of articulation, and that is certainly the case here. The shoulders will rotate, the head will turn, but the rest of the articulation consists of various swivel cuts, which are probably more a byproduct of the figure’s assembly than actual intended points of articulation.

And that, my friends, is all there is to say about Vinyl Vehicle Voltron. If you’re a fan of vinyl toys, this may be a nice piece to have in your collection. I’m not, and to me this figure really misses on all points. Voltron toys are fun because you can either combine and separate them, or because they can be posed and played with, and this one does neither. I understand that isn’t the point of this release. But, if you’re going to make a figure that’s designed to just stand there and look pretty, well I think you should at least make sure it’s capable of standing straight. Since it’s release many years ago, these figures seem to be fairly collectible, so I’m hoping I can get back what I paid for him on Ebay and that’s where he’s going!

Matty Collector: Club Lion Force Voltron by Mattel

Mega thrusters are go, Bitches!

It was a long wait, folks, and a unique and epic experience: A subscription that sends you a series of stand-alone toys, which in the end will piece together to form one ginormous robot. Throughout the course of my 30-some odd years of toy collecting, there hasn’t been anything quite like Matty Collector’s Club Lion Force: A year long journey, in which every couple of months brought me one step closer to something really damn cool. It was an idea that took the Collect & Connect concept to the extreme, and one that was perfectly suited to the Voltron property. When I came home to find my Black Lion sitting on my stoop, I was so relieved excited to know that the journey was finally complete.

Before moving on, let me throw out a little disclaimer. I realize for some people this ride was not a smooth one.  If you’re a toy company doing something like this, you really need to be able to get your shit together, and that’s something that Matty can’t always claim to be good at. I realize that some people had QC issues with individual lions, others had typical Digital River snafus, and when you’re dealing with parts of a whole, any one of these issues could be enough to ruin the entire experience. I’ve seen the horror stories from the people for whom one problem along the way stopped them from completing their Voltron. If you’re one of those people, I really feel for you. It’s not like you can take these back to the store for an exchange, and the prices of these damn things on Ebay are getting outrageous.

No doubt, I was really lucky. I haven’t had a single QC issue with any of my Lions. Nonetheless, my heart was in my throat as I opened Black Lion in fear that something would be wrong with it, and my journey to form Voltron would crash and burn just inches from the finish line. In the end, he turned out fine. And now with Voltron standing in front of me, comes the inevitable question: Was he worth it? Was he worth the stress and the money? The answer in a word? Yes. The answer in a few more words? Hell fucking yeah, he was worth it! So let’s form Voltron!

Plugging the limbs into the Black Lion goes very smoothly and the connections hold very well. I was a little afraid of how difficult it would be to disconnect the limbs without forcing them, but they all separate again just fine. The arms pull out without any undue pressure and the legs eject just by pressing the buttons on the backs, very similar to the Toynami Voltron.  I’ll confess to not being a big fan of the spring-loaded transformation gimmicks, but I sure do love the way you press in the chest crest to make Voltron’s head snap open and into position. It’s awesome! Once assembled, Voltron’s proportions are excellent and he looks mighty goddamn majestic. I stood him on a table and went to get some work done on the computer, and I just found myself admiring him every couple of minutes. He’s certainly an attention getter.

I try to keep the majority of my toys in my display areas, so they don’t take over the whole house, but dammit if I don’t want to just stand him on an end table in my living room like a vase or something so that guests would say, “Hey FigureFan (because that’s what everyone always calls me), what’s that on your end table?” And I would just say, “That’s my goddamn huge Voltron, son.” And with that we would go back to sipping cognac and playing Scrabble. Let’s just drop in a shot of him standing behind my Toynami Voltron for the proper size perspective.

Obviously we’ve already seen a lot of Voltron’s sculpt when we looked at the individual lions, so I won’t go into a lot of detail there. I will say how much I adore the face. It’s beautifully sculpted and perfectly captures Voltron’s stoic portrait and the paintwork is excellent. The chest crest is really great looking too. I was a little worried about how it would come out since the individual lions were missing some of their finer details, but it has a nice, chunky animated look that makes me smile.

Easily the biggest complaint I’ve seen about Voltron is his inability to stand in action poses or with his weapons in hand. It’s not so much an inability as it is people deciding to come out of the gate bitching, rather than take the time to play around with him to see what he’s truly capable of. He is definitely top heavy, there’s no doubt about that, but in a way very similar to Toynami’s Masterpiece Voltron. Still, his ratcheting joints are strong and effective, and he balances perfectly fine when placed in a typical standing pose. When you put his sword and shield in his hands, you do need to work at it to get him to stand, but I’ve had tons of success posing him while brandishing his weapons. There’s plenty to tweak to get him to stand. Besides the fold down heel struts, you can also make some little adjustments to the Yellow and Blue Lions’ paws for a little added assistance. I generally find that he will stand in all sorts of great action poses on carpet, but he tends to slide real easy on tables or smooth surfaces.

Naturally, Voltron comes with his weapons. We’ve already looked at the Collect & Connect Blazing Sword, but I’ll admit I was surprised to see the extra Sword in with the Black Lion. I’m sure it was revealed during the course of the year, but I must have missed it because I genuinely thought the Collect & Connect sword that came with the figures was all we were getting. Both the sword and shield have huge pegs that go into the recessed sockets inside the Red and Green Lions’ mouths, holding them in place very well.

I was really dismayed by how much negativity there was on the Matty forums about the finished Voltron. Surprised? No. Only dismayed. I’m not talking about the people with QC issues, I’ve already empathized with them, and they have every right in the world to be royally pissed. No, I’m talking about the bunch of whiny fuckers who are bitching just to bitch. Ever since getting my hands on the Red Lion, I had a pretty good idea what the finished product was going to be like, and everything fell right into line just as I imagined it. I wasn’t expecting a super-articulated ninja robot, and there was no reason for anyone to expect that. What I was counting on was a big, heavy beast of a toy that would have been perfectly at home in the 80s. I wanted a showpiece reminiscent of a time when toy companies weren’t shackled by safety regulations and they could produce a giant robot that would crush a kid to death if it fell on them.  No, if the final Voltron held any surprise for me, it was just how majestic he looks fully assembled and standing there on display. I know, I’ve probably thrown the word majestic around a few times in this feature, but it’s honestly the word that best describes him. I adore this thing, and might I remind you all that I’m the guy that cannot stand the Voltron cartoon.

Oh yeah, and while I know it would never happen, Matty if you ever do decide to do a second sub with a similar scaled vehicle Voltron, I’ll be there on day one with my money to suffer through it all again.

Voltron: Black Lion by Mattel

Yes, it was the final month for Matty’s Club Lion Force, and that meant that not only did we subbers get Keith, but we got the last and biggest Lion of the pack: Black Lion. Ever since the beginning of the month, I’ve been on pins and needles, worried about getting this thing safely into my collection. Was Digital River going to screw up? Would Black Lion be stricken with some horrible QC issues, like having four back legs and missing a head? Or would Matty just send me one of the Avatar beasts in a Voltron package. I was seriously stressing out. But it was all for naught in the end. Blackie arrived on my stoop with the rest of my October haul and now he’s safely in my clutches.

Once upon a time, I marveled at the size of the Yellow and Blue Lions. But damn, this guy is really big. He comes in the same style box, which has a cardboard base and back, and four clear plastic walls. The animated backdrop shows the Castle and all in all, this thing looks mighty impressive in the package. Matty probably should have mentioned somewhere on there that the Sword and Shield are concealed under the cardboard base, since none of the other lions have had any accessories packaged down there. I have to imagine someone, somewhere is going to pitch the packaging before realizing their horrible mistake.

As soon as I got Black Lion out of the box I gave him a good once over. It was like pulling someone out of combat and searching them for bullet wounds. There was a minor paint smudge on one of his red wings, but it came off with a little magic eraser treatment, and a tiny bit of black rubbing on one of his yellow shoulders. Other than that, this guy is fine.

 

As expected, Black Lion is the boxiest of the lions, but that goes with the territory of being the torso. On the other hand, he’s also the most complex looking of the bunch. The wings on his back stay folded up quite well, and you only need to lift them up to reveal the key slot for Black Lion’s cockpit. Push in the key, or any pointy object, and the hatch will release to reveal the cockpit compartment for your Keith figure. If you were wondering whether Black Lion’s huge size would give it a more roomy or complex cockpit, well, that isn’t the case. The inside of the cockpit is similar to the other lion interiors. There are some well-placed stickers to make up the instruments, and it’s just big enough to comfortably fit the figure.

In theory, Black Lion has about the same articulation as the others, but the fact that his shoulders form Voltron’s hips and shoulders actually give him a little more range of motion. I also really dig his tail a lot more than the other lions’ tails. He’s got three hinges in it, and it looks wavier, fluid and tail like, while the other lions’ tails look more like antenna.

In addition to the ubiquitous mouth blade weapon, Black Lion comes with the aforementioned Star Shield and Blazing Sword, but I’m actually going to cover those pieces when I look at Voltron on Friday.

I feel kind of bad for Black Lion. He’s easily the most impressive lion of the pack and yet he’s probably going to get overlooked by a lot of collectors who will be using him to form Voltron the moment he arrives and so he won’t spend nearly as much time in his Lion mode as the others. Still, he’s a great looking piece and makes for an awesome display when perched at the head of the group. In the end, I’m just so happy he arrived and in good condition so I can put an end to the rather trying, yet ultimately satisfying, ordeal of Club Lion Force .

Voltron: Keith (Black Lion Pilot) by Mattel

It’s the final month for Club Lion Force and thank Christ for that! While I have been lucky enough to have a pretty good experience with Matty on this subscription, my stress over each release has been mounting, until finally reaching a fevered pitch with this final month. But we’ll get to that tomorrow when we discuss Black Lion. Today, we’re going to check out the final pilot figure, Keith, and I’ve looked at enough of these that I’m going to try to go through this one pretty quickly.

As expected, Keith comes in the exact same style window box that we’ve seen with all the figures, except Sven. The box is black to match his lion and features some decent character art on the front along with a little window that displays the figure, the alternate head, and the key stand. The back panel has a little blurb about Keith and his lion, photos of the completed Blazing Sword and a shot of the figure fitting into the Black Lion’s cockpit. As always, the box is totally collector friendly, which is awesome. On the downside, the Blazing Sword is designed to lock together, so once it’s assembled, it won’t be going back into the boxes.

Keith holds no surprises. He has a solid head sculpt, and appears to be built off of the same body as Lance and Sven. The paint on the figure is great, with no smudging or dirt on the white, and no bleeding around the red. The alternate helmeted head is overall pretty good, but there’s an annoying black spot of paint on his visor. This black spot is the first true defect I’ve had in any of my Club Lion Force toys, so in the Voltron Quality Control Lottery… A winner is me!

Articulation includes a ball jointed neck, ball jointed shoulders and elbows, universal movement in the hips, and ball joints in the knees. Once again, the fact that the pistol is sculpted into his holster and cannot be removed is a constant sticking point with me and these figures, but I take a small bit of solace in the fact that this is the last time I have to mention it. Speaking of repetitive criticisms, I still really wish the key stand had a sticker on each side.

In addition to the key stand, Keith comes with the tip of the Collect & Connect Blazing Sword and the last two pieces of the stand, so we can finally put this thing together. The sword consists of snapping together the hilt, guard, and three pieces of blade. The blade is painted with a faint swirly energy pattern and the edges are sculpted with translucent yellow plastic flames to make it appear to be pulsating with Ro-Beast killing power. In reality, it looks ok, but I tend to prefer the regular Blazing Sword that comes with the Black Lion. But more on that tomorrow!

So, let’s take a moment to ruminate on the pilot figures. Remember when the first Lion Force sub details came out and Matty was going to sell the pilots and lions separately? Well, I think grouping them together was one of the better decisions. Sure, it meant that collectors couldn’t order extras, but I would have been plenty peeved paying $15 plus shipping for these things had Mattel shipped them separately on non-Lion months. A few of my friends maintain that I’m discounting the cost of the Blazing Sword pieces, and yeah it was a nice bonus, but I would have been fine without it. I still like the pilot figures, Keith and his teammates are plenty cool, but there’s no doubt Mattel took shortcuts with them, making them in no way worth the price.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the grand daddy of all the Lions!

Voltron: Blue Lion by Mattel

Today we’re checking out the latest release from Matty’s Club Lion Force and it’s the Blue Lion, number four. Blue is the second of the robo-cats that make up Voltron’s legs and that makes him the same size as Yellow, in other words, he’s one of the big ones. He arrives in a white mailer with the Allura figure bundled inside. At this point, there aren’t a lot of surprises, so let’s dig right in…

Ah, the packaging. It looks so good when it first arrives. As with the other lions the package consists of a cardboard base and backer and the rest is clear plastic. The box is color coded to coordinate with the Blue Lion theme and the back of the box shows off some pictures of the toy’s features as well as a little blurb about Princess Allura. You also get a tantalizing shot of Voltron showing where the Blue Lion fits in. The lion is posed inside with the help of a tray and heavy duty clear plastic straps and his weapon is rubber banded to the back. It takes some deft scissor work to get him out without tearing the hell out of the package. This whole ensemble is just collector friendly enough so that you can get the lion back inside, but it’s not very durable and once unstrapped, the lion just rattles around inside the package. I really would have preferred a straight up box with some artwork to store the lions in. I’ve saved all the packages so far, but chances are once I can build Voltron, I’ll be pitching these to reclaim some space in one of my toy closets.

When Yellow Lion arrived, I was blown away by his size and the same was true when I got Blue in hand. As expected, Yellow and Blue are both built on the same basic body, but there are plenty of resculpted parts to make Blue distinctive. He has a flat back, minus the grey half cylinder on Yellow. His head is also more squared off and less organic looking than Yellow’s. The legs are identical to Yellow’s, giving the toy the same nagging articulation limits. As with all the lions, I really wanted mid joints in the legs that could move both ways. Sure, there are still some good poses available here, but not as good as it could have been.

There have been a number of reported QC issues with the coloring on the lions. I know more than a few people have received lions composed of two shades of plastic. I’ve been really nervous since then about having a similar issue, but so far I’ve had no problems and I’m happy to say that the coloring on my Blue is spot on. In fact, the color here is pretty spectacular. I love the shade of blue used for the body and it contrasts beautifully with the white and yellow. All the paintwork on the head is bright and sharp. About the only flaw I can find is a little uneven application around the edges of the cockpit, but that’s only visible with the cockpit open and even still, I have to get pretty nitpicky to find anything to complain about.

As with Yellow Lion, Blue’s cockpit is hinged at the back and is opened by pressing the key (or key or any pointed object) into the button to release the catch. Once open you get a simple sculpted seat and stickers to add the details of the controls. It’s a roomy cockpit and little Allura has no trouble fitting inside.

Blue comes with a spikey dagger that he can hold in his teeth. There aren’t any little dimples in this one to match up with the teeth, but Blue’s jaws close up pretty tight so he can hold it very securely. I’m not a big fan of these weapons, but I suppose it’s nice to have them.

As it stands, I think Blue here is my favorite of all the lions. He’s beautifully colored and I love the sculpt. There are certainly some things that could have used more attention, particularly the featureless black plate on the top of his head. Either way, I really like this guy and I’m still digging the 80’s retro vibe I get from these toys. I’m also officially starting to get really excited about finishing off my BFV* and quite frankly having all the limbs and no Black Lion is driving me crazy. I’m still having trouble fathoming just how huge Black Lion is going to be, not to mention the Voltron figure itself. What I do know is that I’ll be lining all the lions up at least a week before Black Lion is shipping, just so I’m all ready to go when he gets here.

 *Big Fucking Voltron