Sunday, November 24, 2013

TRISH STRATUS - Mattel Elite Collection Series 24 Flashback Figure

Mattel's new Elite Collection Series 24 Trish Stratus figure sports a strong likeness from head to toe. The face is attractive despite a blue application above the eyes that's a bit too heavy for me and hair that could use some highlighting to offer contrast (though that's par for the course as far as Mattel WWE women go).

Trish is on the shorter side, with athletic thighs and a thicker torso. The top is well-designed and decoed, the work on the outside of the legs much less so. The flesh tone paint doesn't match the rest of the figure, and the pink x's look cheap.

The most frustrating part of this figure, for me, is the articulation. The head is immobile as a result of the hair. The hips don't move backwards at all and their forward movement is tight and pretty restricted. Worst of all is the right arm. It's bent awkwardly in the package, resulting in a nasty warp at the bicep swivel and the shoulder joint doesn't allow the arm to come down near to the body. The way it sticks out in my pics as as close as it comes. Finally, the hands are pretty stupid. The giant left man-hand comes standard with nearly every Mattel WWE female, I think, and though I don't have anything against fists, it would be nice if Trish could actually hold the Women's Title belt she comes with.

The torso sculpt allows for an additional "ab crunch" joint where the shirt meets the midriff (there's also a cut waist). It's one of the better joints on the figure, and allows for some decent tilting action.

Despite some shortcomings, Trish Stratus is a figure worth getting, especially for fans of hers. The likeness is good, she's sturdy, and she'll be a welcome addition to the shelf and the collection. There have been some pretty horrible figures of Trish Stratus produced in the past, but this isn't one of them. I'm not entirely convinced it beats my JAKKS Pacific Summer Slam Trish, but I'm happy with the purchase...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

COMMANDO SPAWN - McFarlane Toys The Adventures of Spawn figure

Commando Spawn was released by McFarlane Toys as part of the Series 32 Adventures of Spawn (2nd set) wave a few years back. The figures are done in an animated style, with bright colors, angular designs, cartoonish proportions and lots of smooth surfaces. They still sport some great detail, although it's done on a "simpler palette", if that makes any sense.

Ok, let's get this out of the way first: no matter that the packages call these "Ultra-Action Figures", these are slightly adjustable statues. Expect nothing more, and you won't be disappointed. They are either pre-posed in extreme leans (the women, especially), or are designed to stand tall in a vanilla pose.

Commando Spawn looks great doing just that. His right fist is clenched tight and his left is wrapped around a ginormous rotating barrel design. There's a hose running from the back of the weapon to a large backpack on his back, and a bandolier of large shells across his chest. Come to think of it, they really don't seem to match the weapon at all, so I don't know what they'd actually accomplish other than looking wicked.

He's got a small removable dagger strapped to his right thigh, ammo pouches around his left one and his belt, and a handful of grenades around his left bicep. There's another pouch sculpted onto his right bicep.

The backpack looks like no backpack I've ever seen, with a couple more hoses and lots of geometric designs all over it. The color scheme for the entire figure features matte black and grey, along with a deep red offset by olive green. The whole thing works really well: this guy looks dynamite.

As mentioned earlier, Commando Spawn is a glorified statue. His head has a cut joint, as do his shoulders, forearms (at the tops of the gloves) and calves (at the tops of the boots). That's 7 points. The leg joints allow you to get the feet to lie flat. The shoulders look odd when the arms are raised, because it throws the sculpt off, and the forearms function fine, even with the hose attached to the cannon on the left.

Commando Spawn stands 7" tall. He came with a display stand sporting the Spawn logo, but it isn't needed to help him stand at all.

One thing worth mentioning here is that Commando Spawn sports a hollow torso. He's incredibly light for his size, and I'd assume that this was done to prevent him from being too top-heavy. However, Tremor (from the same series) is completely solid, and is so heavy that he can't stand up at all, despite a special display stand. So that doesn't seem to be the reason (since the manufacturing isn't uniform even across the same series).  That leaves me thinking it had something to do with the manufacturing process. In any event, you may feel ripped off paying a ton for this guy once you have himin hand unless you go in knowing that he's gonna feel pretty light for his size.

Commando Spawn is a great looking statue. The sculpt and paint are terrific, and I really like the design. Everything works well together. No, he can't achieve more than two or three different looks, but that's ok for my purposes, since he'll be spending his time on a shelf looking menacing, rather than being played with...

Thursday, October 31, 2013

BLACKBEARD - McFarlane Toys Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag Edward Teach

For the number of action figures I own and buy, it's not often that I really "gush", but McFarlane Toys' new Assassin's Creed Blackbeard figure is the real deal. He's far and away my favorite McFarlane release in years (and that includes Halo and Walking Dead releases, as well).

Blackbeard stands 6" tall to the top of the feathers in his hat, making him an imposing figure beside Edward Kenway. He comes in the standard AC bubble card sans hat, with some game renders (which he honestly doesn't really resemble facially). Besides his removable hat, he comes with a sword and 4 pistols of various lengths. The sword can be worn on his hip, but looks right at home in his hand, while the pistols can be worn in the bandolier strap across his chest. I'm not sure the grips will allow for all 4 to be housed at once, but they look terrific however they're worn.

The hat fits perfectly and completes the look, though the bandana underneath is fully sculpted and weathered, and looks great, too. In short, he comes with a great number of accessories, which are also well-sculpted and painted with some neat silver highlights. It's not often that a figure will come with 5 useful accessories nowadays.

That said, it's really the sculpt that steals the show here. Edward Teach is nothing short of spectacular. The face is stern and grim. The beard is brilliant, with lots of braids and a neatly tied ponytail in back. The beard has two "wings" on the sides that might simulate the fuses that Blackbeard purportedly wore from beneath his hat and lit before battle to intimidate his foes. I'm not sure whether he wears lit fuses in the game or not, but you won't find them here.

The rest of the sculpt is just as impressive. The outfit seems to be made of at least 3 or 4 different materials, even though it's all plastic. The bandolier looks like cracked leather, his wide waist band features deep folds and a rich maroon color with dark washes to offset it. The jacket and tails look like weathered leather, while the arm straps seem like a smoother leather. The brown boots look like a softer, more comfortable leather. In short, it's the kind of sculpt that you can really spend some time returning to again and again.

The only major oddity about the sculpt, as far as I am concerned, is with the knees. They are done with the thick pins visible, which allows the calves to bend forwards. It's a weird look and an unnecessary range of motion. There's got to be a better way to design the knee articulation. My only other real gripe with the figure is with the paint. 99.9 percent of it is fantastic- there's plenty of tiny highlight work with the silver, and I've already mentioned the pistols and waist band. No, my paint problem is with a conscious design choice: the eyes. For some reason, it was decided to paint them looking to the right. I don't much care for figures that look off to the side, and to compound the issue, they seem to be painted badly. They are just off enough to ruin the faces of many of the figures that I've seen on the shelf, and I had to search through to find one I thought acceptable enough for me. I'd suggest avoiding buying sight-unseen, and I'm really skeptical about what I'll end up with from the Pirates 3-Pack I've ordered from Amazon.
The articulation is enough to get you a variety of standing poses. Blackbeard has a swivel head that works, despite the wide beard. Additionally, he's got ball pin shoulders that swing out as well as forwards and backwards, ball hinge elbows and some odd ball jointed wrists. The hips are those super-restricted McFarlane hips, the knees are ball hinged and the ankles swivel and allow for a little rocker motion to lay flat. It's enough to get Blackbeard to stand up tall and wield his weapons. I'd love a waist swivel and some better hips, but I'm ok with what we've got here.
McFarlane's Edward Teach is a terrific action figure. He's got a brilliant sculpt, excellent paint, loads of appropriate and useful accessories, and he looks great on the shelf. The articulation is good enough for my purposes, as well. Blackbeard is available as a Gamestop exclusive, where he will run you $15 or so. He's well worth the price, and I'd highly recommend picking him up while you can...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

HAYTHAM KENWAY - McFarlane Toys Assassin's Creed III

Haytham Kenway was released this past summer as part of McFarlane Toys' first half of their Series 1 set of Assassin's Creed action figures. The series mixes characters from Assassin's Creed III and the upcoming Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag, with 4 figures from each game being released in two parts (part 2 is currently releasing). Haytham, like the rest of the line, features an excellent, highly detailed sculpt and paint job, along with McFarlane's current standard articulation, done in an approximate 5 or 6 inch scale (he measures 5 & 3/4" tall). He comes with a pistol and sword. The pistol grip is thicker than his hand allows, and the trigger finger isn't separated from the rest of the gripping hand, so the pistol looks fairly awkward in his hand- it's a good thing there's a sculpted holster to store it in.
The sword fits better into his right hand, but the grip is still a bit tight. You may want to soften the hand a little with some hot water before stuffing the sword in. The pistol holster has a small slot alongside it which I assume is for the sword's storage, as well.

The sculpt on Haytham Kenway is quite good. The face is passable (not having ever played the game, I have no point of reference from which to quibble), and the outfit is exceptional. There are so many tiny buckles, buttons, clasps and such that the figure remains impressive even after thorough inspection. The accessories, and his large cloak likewise feature excellent detailing. The paint work is a little sloppy in places, but not enough to ruin things. There are so many tight edges and miniature metal "things" that some misalignment is bound to happen, but it's all entirely forgivable. My only knock is on the red of his "tie", which isn't quite dark enough to cover the primer coat underneath. Additionally, there is some fantastic tampo detail which I had no idea about while the figure was still carded. There's a faint white/grey eagle on Kenway's left cuff and an absolutely outstanding "something" on the back of his cloak that are both really impressive. The sculpt and paint work really well together to create a great "on-shelf" look.

The articulation has some issues, but the attempt is appreciated. McFarlane Toys has come a long way in this department recently (which isn't to say it's where it should be yet, but we're getting there), and this line has more right than wrong. The head is ball-jointed, but doesn't have a great range in motion. The shoulders and elbows are swivel/hinge balljoints and work pretty well. The wrists are cut joints, with the hands sculpted at slight angles. This all means that you can get one or two decent poses from the waist-up. Below the waist doesn't fare as well. The hip joints that McFarlane is using on these and the Walking Dead figures are almost like a mini Play Arts attempt, with the actual joints covered by a waist piece. On the Play Arts figures, this waist piece is fairly loose, allowing the legs a wide range of movement, though it doesn't always look good. McFarlane's hips sit in a tighter waist. The range of motion forward and backwards is nearly non-existant, though the legs can swing out to the sides a bit better. On top of that, Kenway has a long coat of very hard plastic- even if you could get the legs to move, the coat would prevent you from doing so. There are swivel/hinge ball-joints at the knees and the ankles have what I think are swivels, since I can't get the left one to tilt at all. Like the rest of the AC figures, Haytham Kenway stands tall very well, but you won't get any crouches or much in the way of action poses out of him.

I'm becoming quite a fan of this line of figures. I'm not a stickler for any one scale, and this particular one is growing on me. There's something easier to manage with this smaller scale, but it's not too small to be overshadowed (which is why I tend to shy away from 4" figures or less, for the most part). There's a nice assortment of accessories, which are too often overlooked with the 7" figures, some good detailing and the articulation is good enough for me to accept at this price point. That said, I paid $10 for this guy at Walgreens, which I am very happy about (the $17 some places ask for these is offensive). Even at regular price, Walgreens only charges $13, so that's your best bet if you are interested in picking up any of the current Assassin's Creed offerings.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

CONNOR - McFarlane Toys Assassin's Creed III Action Figure

The Facts:
Connor was released by McFarlane Toys in the summer of 2013, as part of Series 1 Assassin's Creed III, alongside Haytham Kenway and Edward Kenway (Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag). The figure comes sealed on a thin bubble card with some neat in-game graphics and exclusive unlockable in-game content.

Connor stands 5 & 3/4" tall, putting him in-scale with other McFarlane Toys releases (Halo and The Walking Dead, specifically), but out of scale with most other lines, including the previous NECA Assassin's Creed figures. The sculpt is solid, with appropriate buttons, wrinkles, pouches, buckles, etc. Connor has a thick build, with a barrel chest and large, rounded shoulders. Not having played the game, I'm can't speak about how accurate that may or may not be, but in terms of the aesthetics of the figure, he looks proportional. The cowl sports an eagle-type design at the point, and rotates with the head. There are lots of excellent paint apps (detailed bands around the biceps are terrific), and some poor ones (the sash is sloppy on nearly every figure I've seen), but the overall look is a good one. The face is well-sculpted and painted, though the eyes are a bit beady in my mind (this may be due to the smaller scale, and an unfair comparison to the NECA AC figures). Connor's bracer and weapons are also well-sculpted and painted.
Above the waist, the articulation is good. Swivel head (restricted by the cowl), ball joints at the shoulders and elbows (with some rotation), and wrists. The joints are pretty ugly, with unpainted (mismatched plastic) pins and ridged hinges that really call attention to themselves. The elbow bend is restricted a bit by the bracer and forearm pieces, as well. There is no waist articulation or ab-crunch, which is the real weakness of this figure.
Below the waist, things get worse. The hips are odd- the thighs can rotate a bit and move out to the sides, but the forward/backwards movement is very restricted. I can't get anything remotely close to crouches or even running poses. But I can adjust well enough to get some pretty natural standing poses. The knees have those hinged ball joints as do the ankles (which also have a rocker joint to allow them to lie flat with wider stances).

Excellent. Two pistols (which fit into the sculpted holsters), a bow (with string), hatchet, Assassin's blade (it's a little thick and has an odd sculpt, but can be pegged onto the bracer or left off), and 3 non-removable arrows sculpted into the quiver on his back. They are all appropriately sized, sculpted and painted nicely, and can be worn or held as needed, more or less. 

Final Thoughts:
I really like this figure! I'm not especially picky about scale - to me, a neat figure is a neat figure, not matter the size. That said, there's something especially appealing to me about this smaller 5" scale. Connor is easy to work with, is solidly constructed, has great accessories, and can be posed well-enough for my tastes. The AC figures were on sale this past week at Walgreens, where I picked them up for $10 apiece, which is a terrific deal. If you have the opportunity, I'd highly recommend grabbing these guys while you can- Series 2 (the pirates!) is about to hit, along with the release of Assassin's Creed Black Flag...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

LUCIFER - Chaos! Comics Eternal Toys & Art Asylum action figure

Lucifer was part of the first wave of Chaos! Comics action figures created through a collaboration between Art Asylum and Eternal Toys back in 2001. The wave included Purgatori, Jade and Chastity, as well, with a second wave released after, which included Battle Armor Lady Death, Oblivia, Vandala (I think) and someone else I can't remember. The figures were truly outstanding for their time, in terms of sculpt and the sheer attempt they made to be spectacular. Even more than a decade later, Lucifer intimidates nearly every other figure on the shelf beside him...

Lucifer is sculpted beautifully in a deep maroon plastic full of dark shading. The musculature features deep cuts for definition and plenty of veins popping here and there (this was the common "detail" to muscular males in the early 2000s, but the veins were often oddly placed and followed no anatomical rhyme or reason), in mostly appropriate locations. He stands a towering 9 & 1/4" tall to the top of his head, with a bit more added on for his curving horns. The accessories are just as amazing: the staff features a grotesque fanged skull at the top, individual vertebrae and a small curling tail at the bottom. There are tons of details to make the parts look like bone, and the grip has designs sculpted and painted into it. The spikes at the top are appropriately metallic, and the entire thing is made of a bendy rubber, so that the staff can be shaped as you wish. Lucifer's other hand dangles 3 decapitated, mangled and bloody heads with real chains protruding from their dripping eye sockets. Each of the three features rooted hair, as well.

As if all of that wasn't enough, Lucifer boasts a rooted hair beard and ponytail. The articulation includes a cut neck and wrists, ball jointed shoulders, single pin elbows, knees and ankles, a cut waist, and pin/post hips that allow for movement forwards, and to the sides: 16 points in all. The joints are tight (and the plastic is good quality), so he holds poses pretty well. However, despite all those points, I find him a bit restricted: there's nothing to allow his thighs or ankles to rotate outwards, so even though the hips can swing out to the sides, this would causes his feet to be angled to the floor. Similarly, without cut biceps, there's only so much that can be done with the arms. That said, he looks terrific just standing up and ahead with his fierce sculpted scream to keep you up at night.

Lucifer is a neat figure- probably my favorite of the line. He was impressive 12 years ago, and he continues to be a stand-out on the shelf. The love and care that went into creating him are evident, and make him a very worthwhile addition to any collection.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Tale of Two Vaders

Hasbro's new The Black Collection of 6" Star Wars figures seems to be my gateway drug back into Star Wars figure collecting. The 90's Power of the Force line is what roped me into the obsessive hobby in the first place, but I gave up on Star Wars years ago, with hyper-detailed 1/12 scale figures by companies like NECA taking in the brunt of my collecting dollars. Of course, now that looks like it's all about to change: Star Wars has returned with a vengeance. And it's not just The Black Collection, it seems. A ton of really neat new Star Wars figure merchandise has hit recently, and I couldn't resist two really different versions of my favorite baddy: Lord Darth Vader himself. First up is the Giant Size 31" behemoth I stumbled across at Wal-mart.

Ok, this guy really does top out at exactly 31" tall. I've seen the Man of Steel and Dark Knight giants, but was never really taken enough to bite. Vader here is totally different. He looks awesome! The sculpt is brilliant. The mask has lots of sharp angles and edges and the outfit itself combines plastic sculpt (wrinkles- check out the torso) along with soft goods cloth cape and skirt parts. It all fits together really well for a striking look. Vader even sports a chain clasp at the neck!

I was most surprised to see who made this big guy: JAKKS Pacific, makers of some of the most disappointing figures I've ever come across! Well, JAKKS knocked this one out of the park! My only real issue is with the proportions. Vader's head seems a little too small when compared to the body, and his right fist also seems a bit small, as does his lightsaber hilt. These are small issues. The "big one", is his crotch piece- it's enormous. That doesn't really sound like it should: theres an armor piece that runs from the belt clasp downwards that just dominates the entire lower half of the torso. It doesn't impede anything, and isn't too noticeable most of the time because of the skirt pieces, but it does tend to jut out if the legs are pulled back significantly.

Giant Vader has a terrific, clean paint job. The chest and shoulder pieces are especially great. Articulation isn't much to write home about: cut neck, shoulders, wrists and hips (7 points). You won't get anything dynamic, but this is one big plastic statue, so even raising his grasping left arm/hand and turning his head a little changes the look a bit. I think an elbow joint and an interchangeable hand/fist would have done wonders, but Giant Vader does what he is supposed to especially well: look imposing and really really big!

The other Darth Vader that I picked up is the much smaller Playskool Jedi Force Star Wars Heroes Vader with saber-slashing action. There are 3 new figures in this line: Darth Vader, Prequels Obi-Wan and Captain Rex. Each features a play action where squeezing their legs together with swing their right arm up and down at the shoulder. This means no leg articulation.

The sculpt on Playskool Vader's mask is very different from Giant Vader's. It's much more flattened and wide, plus the eyes are painted red. He also sports a cloth cape and skirt, along with minimal articulation: cut neck, wrists and shoulders, along with hinged elbows (7 points). No dynamic poses here, but kids will have a ton of fun swinging that saber hand by squeezing the legs (I know because my 7 year old never seems to tire of it!). Playskool Vader is fun and different enough to be worth getting. He's more kid-friendly but retains his inherent Vader evil coolness. And at $8 he didn't cause too much damage to the wallet.

Both of these Darth Vaders are neat figures in their own right, while being unique enough to be worth adding to the collection. I wish Giant Vader came with an ignited lightsaber that he could hold, while also wishing that Playskool Vader's lightsaber could be removed- that sounds weird, I know, but it would give each some additional looks. But all in all, they are both great interpretations of an iconic film baddy...