#1500: The Joker

JOKER

THE DARK KNIGHT (HOT TOYS)

And another hundred reviews have passed.  Would you believe I only barely remember writing #1400?  It’s been a real whirlwind of a year, let me tell you.  As is the case with all of my “monumental” reviews, I’ll be taking a look at a higher end item, courtesy of out friends at Hot Toys.  These reviews are frequently from the MCU, which makes up a sizable portion of my Hot Toys collection, but today I’m flipping over to their distinguished competition and taking a look at another figure from the widely successful The Dark Knight (which, coincidentally, was released the same summer that the MCU was launched with Iron Man).  So, without further ado, here’s The Joker!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The Joker was released as part of Hot Toys’ long-running Movie Masterpiece Series line.  He was entry 68 in the line, placing him between the Original Costume Batman and the Tumbler.  He and both surrounding releases are, of course, from The Dark Knight, and this Joker represents the character as he looks for the majority of the film’s run time…more or less.  I’ll get to that. Joker stands about 11 3/4 inches tall and has over 30 points of articulation.

First up, let’s look at the headsculpt.  Right up front, this is the weakest part of the figure.  It’s not that it’s a *bad* sculpt, necessarily, but more that it’s highly inaccurate.  Look at that head.  Does it look at all like Heath Ledger?  No it does not, and that’s what makes reviewing it difficult.  See, it’s still a very strong, realistic sculpt, on par with HT’s best from a purely technical standpoint.  He totally looks like a real dude, just not the real dude who played the part in the movie.  Quite frankly, the sculpt isn’t even a half bad Joker.  I actually quite like it.  But it’s not Heath Ledger.  Even the paint sort of follows this trend.  It’s good technically, but for a Dark Knight Joker, it’s a little too clean and consistent.  If I had a guess, I’d say this whole head was largely assembled with early materials that didn’t quite represent Joker’s final look.

Joker’s outfit is made up of a shirt, tie, vest, pants, socks, sport coat, and over coat, as well as a pair of sculpted shoes.  The overcoat is probably the weakest piece.  Like the head, it’s not bad, just a little inaccurate.  It’s got the same basic look, but the specifics are a little off.  The rest of the parts are fairly decent, accurate, and generally well-tailored to the body.  His vest is a bit hard to keep closed, due to some iffy velcro.  I think snaps might have been better.  It’s worth noting that the belt is actually a superfluous piece, since he doesn’t have one in the movie, but you can remove it easily enough, and then there’s no issue.  The prints on the shirt and pants are quite impressive, and I particularly like the funky socks, a detail that most will never see.

Older HT offerings were a bit lighter than later ones.  Joker is one of the lightest in my entire collection, but he does still include two pairs of hands (one set for poses and one set for holding accessories), a deck of 13 unique Joker cards, a switch blade, and a standard black display stand with his same and the movie’s logo.  It’s not a huge selection, but it covers the basics.  Later releases offered other just about any extras you could want for a Dark Knight Joker, so there are options out there.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

The Joker has the distinction of being my very first Hot Toys figure, and easily one of the most difficult times I’ve had acquiring one of them.  I asked for him for Christmas the year they were released, and my parents ordered him, nut he just kept getting pushed back over and over, to the paint that I just gave up completely and ended up asking for a couple of Sideshow Star Wars figures instead.  I tried again the next year, and I finally got him that time, thus beginning my lengthy obsession with Hot Toys figures.  This figure’s started showing his age, especially in light of later Joker figures, but I still really like him, and except him for what he is.

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#1499: Carter J Burke & Xenomorph Warrior

CARTER J BURKE & XENOMORPH WARRIOR

ALIENS (NECA)

It’s been a little while since I’ve given Aliens its proper due.  Even longer since I did it by looking at some sweet NECA figures.  In fact, the last NECA Aliens figures I looked at were the re-releases of Hicks and Hudson.  As awesome as those were, there wasn’t a whole lot new to them.  Today’s review is different.

Though the Alien franchise’s most prominent antagonists are the titular creatures of each film, they’re more of a chaotic, not exclusively evil entity.  The real antagonists of the story are mostly employees of the duplicitous Weyland-Yutani company.  Perhaps their most vile operator is Mr. Carter J. Burke, who serves as a major draw of today’s set of figures.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Burke and the Xenomorph Warrior were released just about a month ago as part of the “Hadley’s Hope” two-pack, which is part of NECA’s overarching Aliens line.  These two join the Marine Two-Pack, as well as Vasquez and Frost under the 30th Anniversary banner.

CARTER J BURKE

“I’m Burke. Carter Burke. I work for the company. But don’t let that fool you, I’m really an okay guy.”

Don’t let the quote above about not being fooled fool you: he’s not really an okay guy.  Fortunately, the same isn’t true of his actor Paul Reiser, which is why we have this figure.  Apparently, after being informed during a Q&A that all it would take to get NECA to make a Burke figure was his sign-off on the likeness rights, Reiser made it a point of contacting them and making sure this figure became a reality.  Good on you Paul!  Burke is seen here in his casual attire he sports on LV-426, which is sensible, since he’s there for most of the movie.  The figure stands 7 inches tall and he has 26 points of articulation.  Burke’s sporting an all-new sculpt, and it’s up to par with the rest of the line’s offerings.  Structurally, he reminds me a little bit of Bishop, although they’ve definitely gotten a bit more comfortable with the use of overlay pieces integrated with articulation.  The head has a pretty solid likeness of Reiser.  They’ve gone with a panic-stricken Burke, which I think really works for the character, in the same way that it worked for the first Hudson.  I know some collectors wanted a more sly expression, but I find I prefer this.  Burke’s paintwork is pretty decent overall, apart from a few small nits.  The biggest flaw is the plaid of the shirt ending just a bit too early, thus leaving some un-painted white exposed.  It’s not the end of the world, and honestly isn’t that noticeable if you’re not looking right at it.  Beyond that, the paint’s pretty solid all-around.

XENOMORPH WARRIOR

Apparently, the humans don’t move so well at retail, so Burke needed an Alien to keep him exciting.  I have a lot of Xenos, so they don’t always thrill me, but I’m okay with it if there’s a good gimmick, which I think this one has.  It’s another concept figure, based on pre-shooting design for the Aliens Xeno Warriors.  It’s really just the same design, but with a dome on the head.  For the actual film, the domes kept breaking due to the more strenuous tasks performed by the aliens, so they were ultimately removed, creating the design we all know now.  It’s a neat little what-if.  The figure stands about 8 inches tall and has 39 points of articulation.  This Xeno makes use of a number of parts from the Series 1 Xeno Warrior, but not as many as you might think.  The head’s been tweaked to add the dome, the torso’s been tweaked to make the back fin a permanent piece, the hands, pelvis, upper arms, and upper legs are new pieces to add articulation.  It all adds up to a figure that looks rather similar to the prior figures, but is much sturdier and a lot easier to pose.  I loved the old figure, but this is definitely an improvement, and I look forward to seeing more Xenos built on this same base body.  The paintwork on figure is rather similar to the black Genocide alien’s.  It works for me, and I’m just happy it’s cleaner than prior Xenos.

Neither figure really comes with any character-specific accessories, but the set does also include the Hadley’s Hope town sign, which is a pretty awesome backdrop piece, and just a fun idea in general.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I grabbed this set from my usual go-to for NECA stuff, All Time Toys.  I knew it was hitting, and I made a point of stopping by to grab it.  Burke’s obviously the star here, and he turned out very nicely.  The Xeno’s actually one of my favorites from NECA, and I’m happy to add it to the shelf.  All around, and awesome set, which I’m thrilled to add to my collection.

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#1498: Kid Flash

KID FLASH

THE FLASH (DCC)

One of my favorite TV shows (and one of the few I can actually more or less keep up with) is CW’s The Flash.  The show’s gone pretty much all-in with the whole Flash mythos, and just last season they officially introduced Wally West in the role of Barry Allen’s sidekick Kid Flash.  Wally’s always been a very important character in the Flash, and I was pretty thrilled to finally get to see him in action.  I was also pretty thrilled that finally got an action figure, courtesy of DC Collectibles’ very slowly released line of figures from the show.  Let’s have a look at how he turned out, shall we?

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Kid Flash is the seventh figure in DCC’s The Flash line.  The last of these I looked at was Captain Cold, who was figure 2, so it looks like I’ve fallen a little bit behind.  Wally just hit a few weeks ago, alongside White Canary from Legends of Tomorrow.  The figure stands about 6 1/2 inches tall (just a skosh smaller than Barry, which is about right) and he has 26 points of articulation.  Wally loses several points of articulation from Barry, all of them swivels on the legs.  I’m not sure what DCC has against swivels on the legs, but they do seem to remove them a lot.  It’s frustrating, because it definitely limits the poses you can do with the figure.  He does at least have rocker ankles, so he makes out a bit better than Supergirl in that respect.  The articulation is far more useful than on recent Mattel offerings, and that’s a definite plus.  Wally’s sculpt is all-new to him.  While it’s not quite as detailed as Flash or Supergirl (which is true to his show design, since his costume lacks a lot of the texturing of the main characters’ costumes), but it’s still quite accurate to the show design.  I actually find his build to be more realistic and far less gangly than Barry, which is a step in the right direction.  The head sports a pretty solid likeness of actor Keiynan Lonsdale in the mask, although this is clearly him from earlier in Season 3, given the shorter hair.  Wally’s paint is some of the best I’ve seen on the CW figures, helped largely by the bolder colors present in the design.  There’s a lot of vibrance in the color choices, and he’s even got some pretty solid accent work to keep the larger stretches of the same colors from getting too monotonous.  Wall is packed with hands in fists, gripping, and in flat running poses, which make for a decent variety of poses.  He also gets an extra unmasked head, which makes me retroactively frustrated that DCC stuck the extra Barry head in a freaking two-pack.  I still would have liked to see some sort of running stand included here; I ended up making due with a Minimate flight stand for the photo up top.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I picked up Wally from Cosmic Comix.  As luck would have it, he hit during the 26th Annual Annual Sale, so I got him for 40% off his usual price.  I definitely wanted to pick him up at some point, but I won’t deny that the sale helped me make the decision to grab him sooner rather than later.  I’m happy with this figure.  He’s not perfect, but he’s still quite good.  And, most importantly, he got me to dig out my CW Flash figure, and reminding me that that figure was actually way better than I remembered.  And now I have this pretty awesome pair!

#1497: Han Solo – Smuggler

HAN SOLO – SMUGGLER

STAR WARS: 30TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION (HASBRO)

“A scoundrel through and through, Han Solo nonetheless adheres to a deep sense of right and wrong. He couldn’t leave his new friends behind to what he felt was certain death. Though some might call his arrival at the Battle of Yavin late, he prefers to say that he was ‘just in time.’”

2017 marked the 40th anniversary of A New Hope’s release, and thus the 40th anniversary of the Star Wars franchise as a whole.  Hasbro had a few commemorative releases, mostly to do with the Black Series, but it was notably smaller than the last big anniversary celebration they ran, back during the 30th Anniversary.  For that one, there were several different assortments running, with coverage of all six of the franchise’s films.  There were some new additions offered, but there were also more than a few variants of the main players.  There were three versions of Han Solo offered, and today I’ll be looking at the first of those three!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Han was released in the second wave of the Star Wars: 30th Anniversary Collection, which was based around the Battle of Yavin from the end of the first movie.  The whole assortment had initially been planned for release in 2006, but ended up pushed back to 2007.  Han was figure 11 out of 60 total figures in the 30th Anniversary Collection, and is based on Han’s fully kitted out look seen both when he uses the gunner turret during the Death Star escape and when he swoops in to save Luke from Vader during the trench run.  The figure stands just shy of 4 inches tall and he has 16 points of articulation.  After the introduction of the Vintage Original Trilogy Collection in 2004, Hasbro was beginning to experiment with more fully articulating the basic figures, and Han followed this trend.  This was partly out of convenience, as this figure was built on the VOTC Han’s base, and therefore inherited a lot of his articulation.  To facilitate the slightly different look of this particular Han design, the figure gets a new head and arms.  The head adds Han’s headset, which connects to his belt at the back.  I find the head has one of the better Ford likeness at this scale (especially for the time) and headsets just make everything cooler, am I right? (Fun Fact: the headsets used by Han and Luke in A New Hope are the same model used by the Nostromo’s crew in Alien and the Colonial Marines in Aliens.)  The new arms remove the hinge/swivel elbows of the VOTC figure for the slightly cheaper to produce angled swivel joints.  They aren’t quite as useful, but they pose well enough if you’re creative with them, and they’re pretty well hidden by the sculpt.  He also has new hands, sporting the gloves Han wears wile piloting the Falcon.  I’ve always liked the gloved look, so I was happy to see it show up here.  Han’s paintwork is pretty decent overall, with very clean application with little bleed over or slop.  His pants are a slightly brighter blue than they really should be, but that’s pretty minor.  The gloves are also usually seen with more of a yellowish hue to them, but I think the differences here can be written off as variations in lighting.  Han was packed with his trusty DL-44 heavy blaster pistol, which he can hold in either hand or stow in his holster.  He also included a 30th Anniversary Collection coin, which I foolishly threw into my bin of unnecessary extras before I got a picture.  Silly Ethan.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I wasn’t really collecting Star Wars figures at the time of the 30th Anniversary Collection, so I didn’t get this guy new.  In fact, my first knowledge of this figure’s existence was seeing him re-packed with the huge 2008 Millennium Falcon release.  I thought he looked pretty cool, but not cool enough to drop $160 for the Falcon (what a fool I was!).  Ultimately, I ended up getting this guy about a month or so ago, during Lost In Time’s grand opening sale.  All the basic Star Wars figures were marked down, and he just looked cool.  He’s a pretty sweet figure, and one of the better Hans I own.  It makes me a little sad that the Black Series figure didn’t include an extra head with the headset.

***SHAMELESS PLUG TIME!***

Hey FiQ-fans, do you enjoy reading my incessant ramblings about Star Wars toys?  If so, you should totally check out A More Civilized Age: Exploring the Star Wars Expanded Universe, which features an essay about the history of Star Wars action figures, written by yours truly!  And if that’s not enough for you, there’s another 18 essays discussing the Expanded Universe, (including one written by my dad Steven H. Wilson) as well as a foreward by Star Wars Novelist Timothy Zahn.  I’m very excited about it, so please check it out here.

#1496: Hawkeye

HAWKEYE

THE AVENGERS (HASBRO)

God, it feels like forever since the first Avengers movie, doesn’t it?  While some other movies about super heroes teaming that shall remain nameless tried introducing half of the team in the team-up movie, Avengers did the slightly smarter thing and only had one member, today’s focus Hawkeye, introduced in the main movie, letting the rest of the team be introduced in earlier films.  Anyway, here’s Hawkeye.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Hawkeye was released in the second assortment of Hasbro’s The Avengers tie-in line, alongside frequent partner Black Widow and one of their Chitauri foes.  The figure stands about 4 inches tall and has 17 points of articulation.  He marked a slight downgrade in movement from the IM2, Thor, and Captain America lines, but Hasbro hadn’t fully downgraded the articulation like they did for Iron Man 3.  His sculpt was new to him, and overall does a pretty respectable job of capturing Hawkeye’s design from the film.  There’s plenty of texturing and fine detail work on the various bits of the costume, and his proportions are pretty decently balanced.  The head’s sadly the weak point of the sculpt.  It’s not bad, but it’s hindered by a few small issues.  First, there’s the sunglasses.  They were all over the promotional materials, but ended up completely absent from the film itself, which made this figure notably inaccurate.  In addition, the actual details on the head sculpt are noticeably softer than the rest of the body, and he looks a little bit rounder in the face than Jeremy Renner.  That said, it’s not like he looks completely unlike Renner in the movie.  The paint work on this figure is passable.  The standard color work is all pretty clean and sharp, and there’s some really great work on the various SHIELD logos.  The head once again ends up the weakest.  The paint of his face bleeds into both the hair and sunglasses, adding to the overall roundness of the face.  Hawkeye is packed with two versions of his usual bow: the standard version, and one with a big ol’ missile launcher mounted in the middle.  Why these needed to be two separate bows is anybody’s guess, but hey, there it is.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Hawkeye’s absence from the initial waves of Avengers product really annoyed me at the time, so I was pretty anxiously awaiting his eventual release.  When he finally hit, he was a little rarer than others, but I didn’t actually have too much trouble getting him in the end.  He’s not a perfect figure, but I was happy with him at the time, and I’m still pretty happy with him now.

The Blaster In Question #0034: Firestrike

FIRESTRIKE

N-STRIKE ELITE

Do you ever find one of those movies where you have to watch it over and over in order to really understand everything, but on that last watch, it all clicks and you have an a-ha moment?  Well, that’s pretty much the Nerf community and the Firestrike in a nutshell.  If you were under the impression that this was just an Elite reskin of the Nite Finder, allow me to explode your brain patterns.  On to the review!

THE BLASTER ITSELF

The Firestrike was released in 2013 as part of the N-Strike Elite series.  Being one of the earlier releases in the line, it was more of an update to an existing blaster than a wholly new idea, that blaster being the N-Strike Nite Finder EX-3.  All of the functionality of the Nite Finder was preserved, using the same single shot muzzle-loading design and even keeping the “laser” sight and dart storage under the barrel.  Overall, the Firestrike is significantly more compact than its predecessor, most of the bulk being trimmed off the grip and under-barrel area.  The feature that stumped almost everyone for quite a while was the peculiar shape of the butt of the pistol grip.  There’s just this weird spike sticking down from the bottom and no one I know could say for certain why it was there.  As I recall, it took someone finding the actual design documents for the blaster to realize that the spike is to help dual-wield Firestrikes.  Every so often, those brainy types over at Nerf come up with some elaborate system to add a feature to a blaster and everyone gets mad hype about it.  This time they put a peg on the grip so you can prime the blaster with another blaster and everyone got mad hype, well after the release of the blaster itself.  I suppose it may have gotten a little blown out of proportion but I think people were just excited by a reason to buy a second Firestrike and for good reason.  Everything about the blaster works well.  It’s small size and relatively few moving parts make it feel sturdy in the hand, though I can see the small grips being an issue for some people.  As with the Nite Finder before it, the plunger rod sticks out the back of the blaster quite a ways when primed.  I’m not a fan of this from a purely visual perspective but it’s definitely simple and effective.  There’s an attachment rail on the top of the blaster, but I don’t know why you would want to put a scope on the Firestrike since it has a built in “laser” sight.  Sure it’s just an LED and is too dim to use outdoors or in a brightly lit room but it works as well as can be expected and performs admirably as an ominous signal to your younger siblings of what is pointed right at them.  The light requires 2 AAA batteries to work but it has no real bearing on the function of the blaster itself.  In keeping with Nite Finder tradition, the Firestrike actually packs quite a punch for its size, shooting a little farther and harder than some of the larger blasters out there.  The Firestrike comes packaged with 3 Elite darts.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Up until very recently, I only had one Firestrike in my entire collection, even knowing about the potential for dual-wielding.  I just happened upon a handful of older Nerf blasters at a local thrift store while browsing with my boy Ethan.  For $2, it’s almost not even a question if it’s worth buying, though I could easily have justified paying more.

 

#1495: Simon & Ellen

SIMON & ELLEN

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA MINIMATES

When Minimates first really branched beyond Marvel Minimates (well, in the smaller style, at least) there were some interesting choices in terms of licenses.  Namely, there were a lot of choices that didn’t necessarily make for the most exciting toys.  Case in point?  Battlestar Galactica Minimates.  The BSG relaunch was an undeniable success for the Sci Fi Network, and they were looking for merchandise.  DST picked up the license and offered some 7 inch figures, but presumably wanted the ability to offer a greater range of characters than that style would allow.  Enter the Minimates.  Today, I’ll be looking at Cylons Simon and (very old spoiler) Ellen.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Simon and Ellen were released in the second TRU-exclusive series of Battlestar Galactica Minimates, a series comprised entirely of Cyclons

SIMON

“Pragmatic and unemotional, the Number Four model was also known as Simon and spent many hours researching the possibility of biological Cylon reproduction. His cold and calculating human experiments were stopped with Starbuck’s destruction of his main facility on Caprica.”

Simon was originally slated for the fifth series of the line when it was at specialty, but like all of the figures in Series 5 and 6, he had his original assortment cancelled.  It was really in Simon’s favor in this case, since he was originally meant to be the short-packed figure.  He’s seen here in his fancy suit that he wore from time to time.  The figure stands about 2 1/4 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  He’s built on the standard body, with an add-on piece for his jacket/shirt.  Said piece was re-used from 24’s Tony Almeida, and it’s a well sculpted piece that matches up pretty decently with the sorts of things Simon was known to wear on the show.  The paint on Simon is passable.  The likeness on the face is a good match for actor Rick Worthy, and the details are pretty sharp.  The rest of it’s…well, it’s rather bland.  Lotta grey.  Woooooo.  Simon had no accessories, lest they make him more exciting.

ELLEN

“The rumors of her death greatly exaggerated, Ellen Tigh rejoined her husband Saul aboard the Battlestar Galactica and played a crucial role in the war against Cavil’s forces by revealing her knowledge of the Final Five’s true history.”

Ellen’s original slot marked a bit of genius from DST.  Series 5 and 6 were slated to hit after the mid-Season 4 premiere which revealed her as the final Cylon.  Since they had to be solicited about six months out and Ellen would have been dead for over a season at this point, her presence in the main line-up would have been rather a large spoiler.  So, instead, they came up with “New Caprica” boxed set, which would have included her, her husband Saul, Starbuck, and Leoben.  Then the set was cancelled, and the show was over by the time TRU picked them back up, so she could be safely added to a main assortment.  Given the original figure’s planned release, Ellen is seen here in her garb from her time on New Caprica.  Like Simon, she’s on the standard base body, with a new hair piece and a skirt re-used from Spider-Man 3’s Gwen Stacy.  It adds up to her look quite nicely.  The rest is all paint.  The likeness of Kate Vernon is pretty solid, and the details on her blouse look decent.  Unfortunately, like Simon, her palette is quite drab, being mostly greys.  She also includes no accessories, though I can’t say I know what you could give her.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I grabbed this set at the same time as the rest of TRU, back when they were new.  I then grabbed at least one more later down the line on clearance, because they were hardly fast sellers.  It was nice to get them to complete the 12 Cylons, but this is a set that’s hardly exciting, especially without the show’s finale propelling them.

#1494: Firestorm

FIRESTORM

DC ICONS (DCC)

It is only now, on Black Friday, that I’ve realized that it might have been more clever to review Black Adam today instead of two weeks ago.  See, because they both have “Black” in their name.   Pretty good, right?  You’re just blown away by how clever I am, right?  True genius.  If only I’d thought ahead.  Instead, here’s Firestorm, an unnatural fusion created by ungodly science.  That’s sort of like Black Friday, right?

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Firestorm was released in the fourth series of DC Icons as figure 16, making him the final figure in the assortment numerically.  He’s listed as being based on “Justice League,” which isn’t the biggest help in narrowing things down.  Presumably, this refers to when Firestorm joined the team a few years ago during Ivan Reis’s tenure as the artist.  He’s sporting his second New 52 era look, which first showed up in issue #0 of Fury of Firestorm.  It was a return to form after the more divergent split looks from the initial launch.  It keeps all of the important classic Firestorm details, while still being “modern” so I think it’s not a bad choice at all.  The figure stands 6 1/2 inches tall at the top of his flame hair (so, just over 6 without it) and he has 31 points of articulation.  Series 4 marked the first official move to the “new” Icons scale, so he’ll fit in with the Rebirth boxed set.  He also features the drop hips, which add to his mobility quite a bit.  Firestorm’s sculpt is really one of the nicest to come out of Icons.  It’s really sleek and clean and captures the character very nicely.  The details are all very sharp, and he has a nice, balanced set of proportions.  If I’m getting super nit-picky, his shoulders seem perhaps a touch narrow, but that’s really reaching.  The paint is similarly top-notch.  The metallic red looks really sweet, and the clear plastic works really well for the flames.  The details are clean and crisp, and he just looks very polished.  He’s packed with a spare set of open-palmed hands (in a translucent yellow), as well as a spare set of forearms with a nuclear effect (in the same translucent plastic).  They swap in and out pretty easily, and they make for a decent selection when posing him.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I ended up tracking down Firestorm on the recommendation of my friend Matt Thorpe, who I had run into at Barnes & Noble when I grabbed Lex and Black Adam.  He’d mentioned how much he liked the figure, so it made it’s way to the top of my list.  I grabbed the last one in stock at Cosmic Comix during their 26th Annual Annual Sale, meaning I got him for a pretty sweet 40% off of his original price.  I’m glad I picked him up because he’s definitely one of the best figures this line produced, and probably the best figure Firestorm’s ever gotten!

#1493: Iron Giant Minimates

IRON GIANT & HOGARTH HUGHES

THE IRON GIANT MINIMATES

“Arriving on Earth from an unknown point of origin, the Iron Giant explores his new environment and befriends a young Hogarth Hughes But as aggressive actions are taken against him by the military, he must battle his violent programming to be who he chooses to be.”

Back in the day, before you could have just about any movie you wanted instantly streamed to the nearest screen, it was a pretty big deal getting to see a movie you cared about aired on TV.  Networks would pay for the right to air the movie, and then they’d air the crap out of it, because they darn well paid money for it, and they were going to take advantage of that.  While big successful movies used to be a big ticket item for networks, some movies actually end up finding an audience they never had in theaters via successful TV runs.  Movies that were flops in their original run are a cheap way for networks to fill time, especially on holidays when they know that people will only be tuning in sparsely.  It’s A Wonderful Life is perhaps the most successful example of this, a Christmas classic that’s really only a Christmas classic because some network needed to fill two hours and it’s set at the holidays.  A less well-known but still prominent example of this is The Iron Giant, which became inexplicably linked to the Thanksgiving holiday for an entire generation thanks to someone at Cartoon Network deciding for several years straight that the best way to fill their holiday schedule was to air 24 straight hours of the Iron Giant, over and over again.  And, in the spirit of that insane decision, I’m going to review some Iron Giant toys today.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

The Giant and Hogarth Hughes were released as a stand-alone two pack of Iron Giant Minimates last month.  It would appear these two are the only ‘mates we’re getting.  While I would never say no to ‘mates of Manning, Dean, or Annie Hughes, I can hardly fault DST for going one-and-done on these.

IRON GIANT

Obviously, it’d be weird to release this set without the title character, so here he is.  What’s still weird?  The size.  Minimates have long dealt with size restrictions, so it’s nothing new, but it’s still a little goofy to have a character with “Giant” in his name be so small, even if his ‘mate marks the fifth time such an occurrence has happened with a Minimate. Fear not, if you’re looking for a more properly scaled Giant, there are other options available.  This guy stands about 2 1/2 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  His starting point is the basic ‘mate body, but he gets his own unique head, hands, and feet, plus an add-on for his torso and an extender at the waist for extra height.  In lieu of the usual legs, the giant actually uses a set of arms. It’s a really good idea in theory, since the Giant’s arms and legs in the film are clearly of similar sizes.  However, in practice, it just feels a bit off to me.  I think a lot of it’s got to do with the Vinimate being modeled with the standard legs, and perhaps throwing off my expectations.  Still, it’s not like the legs ruin the figure.  The new head matches pretty well with the larger Vinimate piece, which was itself a very nice translation of the film’s design.  It’s still missing his small dent in his forehead, but that’s minor.  The details on the torso piece are notably sharper than you tend to see on such pieces, which was a pleasant surprise, and makes for a good looking figure.  Similarly, the hands, feet, and torso extender all fit well and do a nice job of translating the Giant into this smaller form.  His paintwork is okay.  Compared to the Vinimate, I found it a little bit lacking.  My biggest complaint is the consistency of the application.  The lighter grey is very thick and lumpy in a few spots and it makes him look a little bit unfinished.  He’s packed with a clear display stand, which is his only accessory.

HOGARTH HUGHES

Interestingly, though he’s the focal point of the movie, Hogarth Hughes is actually quite a minor player in the original book.  For me, ol’ Hogarth here is this set’s real star.  He makes much more sense as a regularly scaled ‘mate, and even makes for a good accent to the previously mentioned Vinimate.  Like the Giant, Hogarth is built on the base body, at least in theory.  He uses the standard head, upper arms, pelvis, and upper legs, but gets the shortened forearms and shins, as well as the smaller torso piece introduced in the NBX line.  He also gets a unique hair piece, which does an awesome job of capturing Hogarth’s distinctive hair style from the film.  As far as paint goes, Hogarth’s is really clean.  The head has a really amazing rendition of his face, grinning and excited.  The body features a bunch of bold and clean color work, and he just really pops.  As with the Giant, Hogarth’s only accessory is his display stand, which is a slight letdown.  It’d have been nice to get his camera or the chunk of metal he uses to lure the Giant, but even an extra head with a different expression would have been appreciated.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I picked this set up from the House of Fun last weekend, while at Philcon.  I’d been meaning to pick it up the set for a while, and they had it there, and it was the last one, so I figured it was meant to be.  The Giant is okay, but sort of in a weird area of scaling and quality.  Had I not gotten the Vinimate first, perhaps I’d be happier with him.  Hogarth’s super awesome, though, and the set’s more than worth it just for him.  He looks fantastic with the Vinimate Giant!

#1492: Darth Vader

DARTH VADER

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES

“Once a heroic Jedi Knight, Darth Vader was seduced by the dark side of the Force, became a Sith Lord, and led the Empire’s eradication of the Jedi Order. He remained in service of the Emperor for decades, enforcing his Master’s will and seeking to crush the fledgling Rebel Alliance.”

When Star Wars: The Black Series first launched, Hasbro deliberately spaced out the heavy hitters, over the first year or so of the line.  Perhaps most noticeably affected by this was franchise icon Darth Vader, who didn’t officially join the line until five series in, well into its second year.  Hasbro presumably wanted to wait until they had the rhythms of the line down before tackling one of the most recognizable villains of all time.  Unfortunately, The Black Series had something of a downward curve of quality in its first couple of years, and poor Vader was left with a passable, but far from perfect figure.  Nevertheless, he’s Darth Vader, so the figure was one of the line’s strongest sellers, providing a scarce, expensive, and ultimately very disappointing experience for most collectors.  Fortunately, Hasbro took advantage of Vader’s re-appearance in Rogue One, as well as the original film’s 40th anniversary, to give fans another shot at the dark lord.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

This new Vader figure was available two ways.  The first was as part of the 40th Anniversary Legacy Pack, released early this summer, which included Vader carded in the same faux-vintage fashion as the rest of the 40th Anniversary Collection, packed alongside a display stand mimicking the materials included in the original Kenner Early Bird pack.  He was then re-released as figure 43 in the main Black Series line, as part of the first The Last Jedi-themed assortment.  There are some minor differences between the two, but they’re functionally the same.  This Vader differentiates himself from the last Black Series Vader by taking his basis from the A New Hope Vader design.  I like this, because it’s functionally the same design, but it means that the fans who have the old Vader still have a reason to own both.  The figure stands about 6 1/2 inches tall (the same as the old one) and he has 26 points of articulation (also the same).  He too uses a mixed media approach to the design, with plastic for the overall body, and then a cloth cape and robes.  This is dangerous territory, as bad cloth parts have been the downfall of more than one Black Series figure.  In this case, it seems to have worked out alright, though.  The pieces could still be a little tighter, but he’s not swimming in an XXL T-Shirt like the last figure.  The all-new sculpt fixes a few of the problems of the prior, most notably, the shaping of the helmet.  Since he never took off his helmet in ANH, this helmet’s a solid, non-removable piece, which makes for a more precise and accurate take on Vader’s distinctive mask.  I don’t know that I like this piece quite as much as the smaller Rogue One figure, but it’s certainly a marked improvement on the original figure.  His paintwork is generally pretty decent.  It’s nothing terribly complex, but there’s some nice, subtle variations in the various finishes which offer some nice depth.  Regardless of which release of this Vader you get, they both include his usual lightsaber, which appears to be the same piece that was included with the last figure.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

When this figure’s digital sculpt was first shown off, I was pretty pumped.  I was more than a little let-down by the old one, and a replacement was high on my list of wants.  When he finally hit stores, I was focussed on other things, and just had a hard time justifying his higher price-point, no matter how cool that stand may be.  Ultimately, I ended up getting him because I found one at 2nd Avenue for $3.  I can’t say for sure which release I got, but I’m happy I finally got one.  With all that said, in digging out the old figure for the comparison shots, I realized I was perhaps a little harsh on that one, and he isn’t as bad as I’d remembered.  Now I really don’t know which one I prefer.