Thursday, June 30, 2016

LARA CROFT - Rise of the Tomb Raider Play Arts Kai Figure Review

I got Square Enix's Play Arts Kai Rise of the Tomb Raider Lara Croft figure back in April. In my initial impressions post here I thought pretty highly of the figure while it was in-package, but those feelings fizzled fairly quickly once she was out. Now, about two and a half months later, I'm re-visiting the figure to give it a fair shake.

As noted in that earlier post, this version of Lara is noticeably larger than the Survivor version. The level of detail is exceptional - this is a hallmark of the Play Arts Kai figures - and really deserves to be acknowledged and commended. There are plenty of buckles, straps, pouches, wrinkles and textures to keep even the most particular detail-hounds happy. The colors are appropriately muted, from the olive drab of the jacket to the khaki trousers and military boots. The proportions look very good all-around, with no gangly arms or legs, or exaggerated curves.

The face is quite nice, though it really doesn't bring Lara Croft (in-game or out) to mind. I don't think it reminds me of anyone in particular. I can appreciate the sculpt and paintwork here working together to create an attractive portrait, but there's no personality to it at all. The Survivor game required a heroine with grim, steely determination, and I would assume (having not played it yet) that Rise would require more of the same. The figure's face is so neutral that it just seems..."absent," if that makes any sense.

Rise Lara comes with an assortment of goodies. Yes, a standard PAK stand is included, though I don't use these. She also comes with: her bow (this one has an elastic for a string, unlike the Survivor version's delicate plastic one), two climbing axes (which peg to her belt behind her left hip with great difficulty), a pistol (which holsters nicely on her right hip), a group (quarrel?) of arrows for the quiver, and 5 alternate hands (one of which is permanently attached to an arrow. The accessories all look very good and work well, with one exception. There's an attachment point on the bow designed to peg into a hole on Lara's back. The problem I had was that the hole is too high. As a result, when the bow is pegged into place, the string cuts right across the figure's face. There's a workable solution, though. Just unpeg the bow and drop it down, and it sits just fine.

I generally have great difficulty with PAK's articulation scheme. There are plenty of joints, but the ratchets seem to require them to click into place outside of where I need them to be. As a result, the figures are often off-balance or just look awkward in their poses. I tried to mimic the box images with Lara, to varying degrees of success. My figure does have great difficulty standing straight up, as a result of having the left leg slightly longer than the right (either that, or it's pegged in to the hip joint incorrectly, making the hips asymmetrical.  She's not what I would consider a joy to pose. I felt like I was fighting with the figure to try to get it to do what I wanted it to. I'm pretty pleased with the standing pose and the kneeling pose, but I just couldn't get the arms to look right shooting the arrow. The results are pictured.

Overall, this is a nice figure, though it doesn't really scream "Lara Croft" at me. There's a nice assortment of accessories, the detail and paint are good, and she can achieve more poses than just about any previous incarnation of the character. At the same time, I'm not blown away. In fact, I have one PAK figure on pre-order, and I'm vowing that it will be my last. With a $140 price tag, this figure costs about double what it should. And being as difficult as it is to get into poses I like, it will probably just sit on the shelf, mostly forgotten, in a short time. To me, that's just not worth it. So, like I said, I plan to pass on PAK from here on out. If you like the line, appreciate the detail, love the character/game and can work with the articulation scheme for the price, you'll probably love this figure (and again, when I actually get to play the game I may have to revisit this review, because I might have a newfound appreciation for the figure).

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

BANE - DC Collectibles Batman Arkham Origins action figure

DC Collectibles' Batman: Arkham Origins Bane figure features impressive size, a great sculpt, good paint applications and poor articulation. Standing about 8 & 1/4" tall, he does an appropriate job of dwarfing his Origins Batman counterpart. The figure features broad shoulders and thick thighs, further amplified by pouches and weaponry.

The sculpt is highly detailed and praise-worthy. The facial features are sharp and well-proportioned. The mask looks to be sculpted onto the face (not just painted), with faint raised lines around the eyes. The underside of the nose has been left unmasked, as has the mouth, which is set in a grim slight scowl. There are raised wrinkles and such all over the top and back of the head and around the protrusions of the ears to simulate the mask. That level of detail carries over throughout the figure's outfit: lots of buckles, snaps, pouches and such. Plenty to look at, without it becoming overwhelming at the Spawn-level. Paint is mostly pretty clean, with some spots where the green in the tubes is peeling or dripping or where the silver is slightly inconsistent. The face and head look good.

This Bane is mostly a statue. He's got points of articulation, but the range of motion is very limited by the sculpt and the additional tubing. As a result, he stands up very well, but that's about it. I can't get him to reach or look natural in any other poses. So, he'll stay doing what he does best: standing up with his arms flaring out to the sides. He's a neat addition to a shelf display of Batman Arkham game figures, but that's about it...

Sunday, June 12, 2016

LAWMASTER - Mezco One:12 Collective Judge Dredd Electronic Vehicle

Mezco's One:12 Collective line is quickly setting the standard for 6" high-end action figures. They have managed to consistently impress me in every aspect - these are easily the best 6" action figures on the market, and in my collection right now, bar none. Mezco has recently added their first vehicle to the line, and it's yet another fine example of the high quality and superior attention to detail that they are investing in this line.

I'm taking a look at the "standard" (black) version, which was released as a stand-alone vehicle. There's a PX Exclusive "blue" version available as a combo-pack with the "Disco Dredd" figure, as well. Judge Dredd's Lawmaster is a beast of a bike, sporting proportions similar to a horizontal superhero: thick, wide top (front end), narrow waist (seat) and speedy, athletic legs (back end).

The front half is enormous and appropriately intimidating, with a tire that dwarfs the Dark Knight Batpod's handily. Cannons, missile launchers and machine guns adorn both sides of the fender symmetrically. The front fender is pocked with dings, dents and bullet pings to highlight the battle action it's seen. The handlebars sweep up and back, creating a chopper effect and adding to Dredd's aura. The seat is wide and rubberized, giving it a texture more akin to a real seat than plastic would. There's a working kickstand on Dredd's left hand side, and a compartment just behind him that opens to hold his cuffs. The gold along the top matches Dredd's pads pretty well, and sports faint highlight streaks of black grime. The "metal" details all over the bike have a drybrushing to make them more realistic, and there's hints of rust in several strategic locations.

So, in terms of looks and feel, the Lawmaster is great. Nothing feels delicate or cheaply made, the paint is sharp and spot-on, with highlights appropriate for accentuating the sculpt. The proportions are strong, and it functions very well - the tires roll beautifully. The front end is able to twist side to side ever so slightly to give a hint of steering control. Then, there's the electronics...

The Lawmaster sports 7 different buttons for a wide variety of lights and sounds. Three buttons on the center bar between Dredd's legs control the headlights, the fender lights (all of which are bright white) and the central control panel (green). There are two badge symbols outside of those buttons, which activate the sounds of the engine revving or cruising. Then, finally, down by Dredd's heels are a couple of buttons that control the weaponry: sounds for machine gun fire, cannons and grenade launchers, which correspond to yellow lights illuminating in the corresponding weapon tubes. Oh, and there are 3 red tail lights that activate with the headlights, as well. In all, it's beautifully done, there's little to no light bleed, the sounds are loud and clear, and the lights are bright (except for the weapons, which are a little hidden down the length of the tubes).

I should also mention that an alternate pair of "grip hands" is included for Dredd, which allow his pointer finger to wrap over the brakes on the handlebars.

Dredd's Lawmaster is another winner, in my book. It's a perfect accompaniment to the Judge Dredd figure, and it's everything you'd expect it to be. My only gripe, literally, is with the price. At $125, despite its awesomeness, it feels overpriced (and $260 for the PX Exclusive set is absurd). I know the lights and sounds add cost, but even with that taken into account, this price point feels about $25 to $30 too high. The enormous Animated Batmobile runs about $85 and has a whole lot more plastic to it. In fact, my worry about the entire One:12 Collective line is that the price seems to be steadily creeping northwards, with no end in sight. Punisher at $80 and now the SDCC Captain America and Armored Batman at nearly $130 shipped, apiece, kind of defeats the purpose of the One:12 Collective as it was originally pitched: Hot Toys quality at a fraction of the cost. That fraction keeps getting smaller and smaller. Any smaller, and I fear I'll be looking to Hot Toys for Hot Toys quality, at its own price. If Mezco can keep these figures near the original $65 price point, I'm gladly support the line to its end. Otherwise, I'll do like I did with MOTUC (Digital River), Star Wars Black Series (horrible distribution), DCUC (endless re-use) and walk away...

Sunday, June 5, 2016

MR. FREEZE - DC Collectibles Greg Capullo Designer Series action figure

Mr. Freeze was released as figure #7 in the DC Collectibles Greg Capullo Designer Series of action figures. He stands nearly 7 & 1/2" tall and features a terrific sculpt and flawless paint job. The dome is easily removable and he holds his freeze ray gun in his left hand (somewhat loosely).

The package is collector-friendly, and shows off everything you are getting very well. The back shows the other figures in the wave: Red Hood, Catwoman, and Thrasher Suit Batman. Freeze's sculpt is credited to Matthew Brouillard and Jonathan Matthews, and it really is exceptional.

The face is great: angry and restrained at once, with a fierce determination. No one will stand between Freeze and "his Nora" (even though it's revealed in "City of Owls" that Nora is not his wife, nor has he ever really even met her - interesting take on the character)! There's a tuft of mohawk atop his otherwise bald head, with a bit of dark blue wash to bring out the wrinkles on his lighter blue skin.

His freeze suit apparatus is likewise well-detailed without being unwieldy. The chestplate features a couple of gauges or dials, simply painted white, and a couple of rubbery tubes wind around the sides to the scuba-gear-like tanks on his back.

I particularly love the containers stuffed into the pockets on his legs. The way they sit, and the pants form around them make them look incredibly realistic - they look like they ought to be removable! The texture on the pants extends all the way to the shoes, and appears like tiny hexagonal designs.

The freeze gun is overly weird in design, but I think that's true to the art work. Highlights are done in blue. In fact, there's a whole lot of blue and gray going on here. That said, DC Collectibles did a nice job of adding depth to the figure with the darker blue wash.

The figure actually poses quite well - much better than my pictures show. The head is on an excellent balljoint, with lots of tilt available for personality. The dome is a cinch to pop in and out, so it's easy to get to the head. The shoulders are balljointed, and there's a swivel at the biceps, which is a little impeded by the odd armor there. The elbows are not great: single hinge with not a ton of range of motion. Surprisingly (once they were freed up), there's a waist swivel and an ab crunch hiding under the chest armor! The hips go in and out, as well as forward and back. There's a much-appreciated swivel at the thigh, and double-hinged knees! There's another hinge at the ankle, but that's the one weak spot on my figure: they are pretty loose, so he tends to want to fall over unless he's balanced perfectly. In all, he's a very posable figure, despite the great level of sculpt detail.

Overall, this is a really great Mr. Freeze figure! His detail isn't quite up to that of the Deluxe Arkham Asylum version, but otherwise he's better in just about every way. In fact, he's so well-done that I'm going to have to look into tracking down the other figures in the line...

Saturday, June 4, 2016

BATMAN - Arkham Origins action figure

This is currently my favorite 7" Batman action figure. I love the sculpt, the paint is good and the articulation is good enough for my needs. He looks awesome on the shelf. It's a pity he didn't come with any accessories or alternate hands or anything, but he really is a big, beefy intimidating Batman all armored and angry.

On the down side, the pegs seem to be fragile (from what I've read) - clear plastic disease and all - and mine has some pretty loose ankles. He could really use some swivel biceps, too. The elbows rotate on a ball, but the whole arm can look pretty funky if they are turned more than just a little bit. The cape is an especially thin rubber, which is great because it looks good, but doesn't make him back-heavy, so he stands really well even though the cape doesn't touch the ground.

DC Collectibles did a respectable job with the paint. The eyes are mostly ok on mine, and the 5 o'clock shadow is more of a bad sunburn, but there's some really great highlighting around the seams of the costume that make it "pop", and the symbol and details are mostly very well done. As I mentioned before, this is currently my favorite 7" Batman, topping the Arkham Asylum and Arkham Knight versions easily, in my book.