Sunday, August 21, 2016

GODZILLA 2001 - S.H. MonsterArts GMK Godzilla Figure

It's been quite a long time since my last SH MonsterArts figure purchase, and even longer since one really got me excited! I think the last all-new figure I purchased was Gamera, and I was honestly a little disappointed by that release. So, I didn't plan on picking up Bandai's 2001 version until I'd seen some reviews of the figure. He looked so terrific in those reviews that I decided to jump back into the MonsterArts line and pick him up - and boy am I glad I did!

Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack! is my favorite Godzilla movie. This wasn't always the case. I grew up in the '70s, so my Godzilla had giant puppy-dog eyes, danced and acted like a Tokyo-defending superhero. I must have watched Godzilla vs. Megalon about a billion times and a kid. Through grown-up eyes, those films honestly lost a bit of their luster. When I started getting re-acquainted with Godzilla a couple of years ago, I gave Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack! (herein to be abbreviated as GMK) a try, and I really hated it. This wasn't my Godzilla: he looked so different, came across as wicked to the core, and really trounced the other monsters he faced quite handily.  A second watch and it started to grow on me. The story was good - it took itself pretty seriously, characters were well-developed and I really started to appreciate just how powerful and unstoppable a force of nature Godzilla was. And man was his look starting to grow on me! This is a nasty-looking version of Godzilla. The suit design was powerful and menacing, with tremendous feet and a boxy, rectangular jaw. The white, pupil-less eyes are frightening, but it's the level of personality the suit had around these eyes that really completes the look. This Godzilla can pull his lips up into a sneer, blink his eyelids and knit his thick, angular brows into an angry scowl. It's a level of expression that only the Legendary 2014 version was able to match with CGI (the level of unbridled anger released in that first real roaring shot at the airport in that movie still gives me chills). In short, I love the movie this figure is based on, and I love the look of this particular Godzilla suit more than any other (GMK Godzilla is one of only 3 X-Plus Godzillas I own, the other two being the 2014 and 1964 versions).

S.H. MonsterArts therefore had a pretty tall order in my eyes to do this figure justice. I'm so glad to say that they absolutely did so, capturing everything about him that I love. Opening this figure brought me all of the joy and excitement that I'm looking for in this hobby, with no regrets whatsoever.

Godzilla 2001 (GMK) is big, even in relation to other Godzillas in the MonsterArts line. He's beautifully sculpted - in fact, the sculpt is my favorite aspect of the figure. The head and face are particular high points. GMK Godzilla looks better with his jaws open than closed (there's too much of an overbite with the jaws clenched for my personal taste), and he has plenty of detail, even down to the interior of the mouth. The articulation is plentiful, as usual, with GMK Godzilla able to move in ways that he could not in the actual film. I'm not into extreme poses, so I have not encountered the issues that other reviewers have reported with joints popping apart or pieces coming loose. I was able to capture a look (several, in fact) that I really like on the shelf with minimal effort.

The paint complements the sculpt perfectly. The base body color is spot-on, with subtle airbrushing to highlight the spines and claws. Nothing is heavy-handed or distracting. There's a little bit of slop - I've got a stray paint mark on one spine - and the only part of the figure with any paint issue are the teeth, which could have used a touch more care. They aren't nearly as bad as the 2014 version's were, but I may have to touch them up, anyway. The eyes, in particular, are gorgeously done.

Disappointingly, GMK Godzilla does not come with any accessories. I knew this going in, but I really wish he would have come with something. I'm pretty sure we won't be seeing any other figures based on this film, so a little unarticulated Baragon would have been sweet. Not to mention the Satsuma submarine, one of those drill-missile launching vehicles, his devastating atomic breath or his beating heart from the end of the film. At $83 plus shipping, this guy is really pushing it, which is part of the reason I waited a bit to pick him up, and why I haven't ordered Godzilla 1954 yet (for another $77 and no accessories). But it really is a beautiful figure. Right now, GMK Godzilla is the star of my SHMA collection, right up there with Millennium Godzilla, Hesei Godzilla and Burning Godzilla as the best of the bunch. I'm looking forward to NECA's version, just to see how they handle this version of the big guy, but I can honestly say I'm totally happy and satisfied with what Bandai's given me here.

Monday, August 15, 2016

WONDER WOMAN - Square Enix Play Arts Kai Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice Figure

My Play Arts Kai Dawn of Justice Wonder Woman action figure finally arrived from Japan today, and I'm going to start off right away by saying that the entire thing has been a bad experience. I've had some really bad luck with PAK figures for a while now, and have vowed not to purchase any more. But I'd had this one on pre-order since it was initially solicited and the site I ordered from tends to frown upon cancellation of orders. So, I decided to bite the bullet and hope for the best. Here's what I got:

Yeah, that's the entire inner tray melted in upon itself. We've been having a ridiculous heatwave for near on two weeks now, and apparently the temp in the PO truck was a bit too much for the packaging to handle.  It was a real bear to pry apart, and forget about future storage, but at the least the figure and accessories were undamaged. 

The figure itself is what I've come to expect from PAK: it's ok looking and incredibly frustrating to work with. She's got plenty of joints, and they are all of the clicky variety. That's the problem. I can never get them to click in the place I want the pose to hold - they are always just too far in either direction. With the wrists and ankles, I've got to use needle nose pliers to hold them in place while I rotate the hand or foot to try to get it to bend like I want it to. The hip connections seem to be placed too far forward, and the knee collections are too far back, so she never looks natural just standing straight up. She comes with her shield, sword, lasso (looped), and 4 additional hands. They are well-done enough in terms of detail, sculpt and paint, but it feels a bit sparse for what I paid (about $120) for this figure. The sword fits into a loop on her left hip, but comes up so high that the pommel is right under her armpit. The lasso fits into a notch on her right hip. The sword also fits into one of the gripping hands, with a deal of pressure and twisting, and the shield can be worn on her left arm. It's tricky to get it on there, but I finally managed, again with a good deal of swearing and sweating.
Wonder Woman looks much better posed. Outfitted with her sword and shield, she's not bad. Examining her more closely,  however, reveals some issues with PAK's quality control. There's a silver spot of paint on her left breast. The rivets on her harness are very sloppy. There's an odd spot on her back that looks like it was intentionally left unpainted. The tiara looks crooked. If these issues were on a $20 Marvel Legends figure, I might be willing to overlook them. On a Japanese import figure costing 6x that much? It's unacceptable.

What else? The hair is glued into place around the ears in a way that allows them to stick out. As a result, she looks more like an elf than an Amazonian Warrior Princess. I'm going to stop here. There's no use in beating a dead horse, as the saying goes. To sum it up: I get a great feeling of disappointment with every Play Arts Kai figure I purchase. The solicit pictures look amazing, and then the figure arrives and it's that car or home repair feeling of, "I just got ripped off," and I'm not going to do it any more. Like I said earlier, Wonder Woman is an ok figure. She's light years ahead of the garbage Mattel released, and priced at $40 to $50 she'd be totally reasonable. Unfortunately, her asking price is nearly triple that. I'm still waiting to see how the Mafex version turns out - Superman seems to have been a dud while Batman is getting good reviews, and my experience with Mafex isn't much better than with PAK. Here's hoping that Mezco adds her to their One:12 Collective line, so I can finally have a BvS Wonder Woman to be proud of.

Monday, August 8, 2016

ZANGIEF - SOTA Toys Street Fighter Revolution Series 1 Figure

Truth be told, my current most anticipated series' of figures are those shown by Storm Collectibles for Mortal Kombat and (especially) Street Fighter V. I'm waiting on the MK stuff until I see how it actually turns out, but I've got pre-orders placed for both color versions of Ryu that are currently posted. Despite never really connecting with the games, there's something about the characters of SF that I really love. I've read much of the Udon series of comics and graphic novels, and I've watched as much as I can find of the animated films, so that's where most of my interest comes from. Unfortunately, I was just a little too late to the SOTA party, so I missed out on most of those figures when they were originally released. As a result, I've a pretty limited selection of them. The ones I do have, I love, and that's another reason I'm so looking forward to the SFV figures from Storm Collectibles.

Today I'm taking a look at the Red Cyclone, from SOTA's Revolution Series 1: Zangief. The Revolution figures were released at the very tail end of the run, and are known for 1) a slightly larger scale, 2) collector friendly packaging, and 3) very poor quality control. Zangief is a large character, and the resulting figure is appropriately hulking. He towers over my NECA Ryu, but still looks just about right.

The sculpt is fantastic, if not a little unrefined. As others have noted the hands and faces on some of these Revolution figures look as though they weren't quite finished before production. Creases and wrinkles are a little out of place, or absent altogether. Zangief looks mostly done, though, so I'm generally quite pleased with him. He's got raised scars sculpted all over his torso, he's sprouting giant tufts of thick hair on his chest and shins, and his muscles are bulging everywhere. His face is contorted into a lopsided growl, with his brow furrowed into a crazy, google-eyed scowl.

The detail paint work is good, though the laces on his boots are a little thick. The base color of the entire figure is slightly jaundiced, with some lighter pink shading in places to add depth.

In terms of QC, my Zangief is good (outside of the paint and hand-sculpt issues I've already mentioned). The joints all work as they should, except for the ab crunch, which is very loose and causes the upper torso to flop forward unless he's posed "just so". I won't do anything acrobatic with him, but I am able to achieve poses that I like in good variety. In short, Zangief is an excellent figure from what I might regard as the best action figure line of all-time. His issues are minor, and his positives are plentiful - if only the same were true for E. Honda, R. Mika and Dhalsim, I might consider tracking them down, even at their current astronomical prices...

YETI - Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare Diamond Select Deluxe Zombie Figure

Yeti is the first deluxe figure in Diamond Select's PvZ line. I have had the yeti for almost a year now and it is still very cool to me. I play the console version of Plants vs Zombies, which this yeti is based on, and he looks just about the same as he does in the game. The only difference from the game is that in the game he does not have white nails, he has green nails, but that is no big deal. I have also read most of the plants vs zombies books and comics.

Guest authored by my 10-year-old:

Currently these are the only decent action figures for Plants vs Zombies that I know of. I do know about the the Jazwares figures from the mobile game, but those figures look very sloppy from my kid- perspective.

He stands nearly 8" tall (nearly double the height of the regular figures), is made of hard plastic and features no accessories and no articulation, making him a statue. The other zombies in the line do have articulation, but usually only one to two points of it. His paint is overall pretty well done. He has some paint smudges that are very unnoticeable. For instance on mine he had smudges on his toenails, feet, mouth, and under his fur on his chin. (Here's where Dad takes over...) The overall sculpt does a good job of capturing the character's look in three dimensions. The mouth is especially well-done, with carved teeth and a tiny tongue sculpted inside.

It's unfortunate that DST decided to forego all of the articulation. There are thick seam lines where the arms meet the shoulders, where the legs attach to the torso, and where the head meets the body. All are glued solidly in place. Even the hands and feet are without joints. There's another seam where the lower jaw is attached to the head. Yeti stands fine on his own, which is good since that's all he'll be doing.

DST also decided not to include any accessories. They could have included some ice balls or another pack-in mini-figure, but decided to go bare-bones with this one instead.

Yeti is a fine figure to look at on a shelf. But as far as an action figure goes, this one won't be providing much fun at playtime. He's worth getting if you are collecting the line to display, but otherwise he's an easy pass.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

THE CREECH - McFarlane Toys The Adventures of Spawn figure

I thought it might be nice to take a look at an "older" figure from my collection. The Creech was released as part of The Adventures of Spawn line and features an animated look and design. I think the character was created by Greg Capullo when he was doing the pencilwork for Spawn. He features a miniature head (not articulated) and three whip-like tentacles substituted for hair. The figure has minimal articulation: swivels at the waist, boot tops, and slight swivels for the gauntlets/gloves. The tentacles are rubbery, with posing wires embedded inside. He's a bit top and back heavy, so the included Spawn-emblem stand is essential, though you can get him to stand without it, given a bit of patient fiddling. Creech stands about 6" tall.
The vibrant colors and unique sculpt design make this guy an interesting shelf piece. There's not much to be done with him outside of that. With Spawn looking like he's going to make a return to the figure market, I'm curious to see how McFarlane Toys decides to handle articulation with their new 7" properties. None of the prototype pictures shown so far seem to have any, and it will be interesting to see how the final designs turn out, and what fan reaction to them will be...