#1991: Soundwave

SOUNDWAVE

TRANSFORMERS (HASBRO)

So, this Transformers thing…it doesn’t appear to be going away, does it?  Like last month, I am once again bookending a month’s reviews with Transformers.  Today’s offering is slightly different, however, because rather than looking at something new, I’m actually looking at something quite old.  About as old as a Transformer can possibly be, in fact.  It’s no secret that Soundwave is my very favorite Transformer, so it’s probably not a huge shock to see me go back to his beginnings, and take a look at his vintage figure.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Soundwave was released in 1984, as one of the line’s first Decepticons.  He was a re-working of the Microman Micro Change Cassette Man figure, and is actually one of the least changed imports the line had to offer, with only minimal re-tooling and some slight changing of his color palette.  In his robot mode, Soundwave stands 7 inches tall and has 15 workable points of articulation.  Though his sculpt is certainly boxier and more rudimentary than more modern offerings from the line, Soundwave is probably one of the best sculpts of the 1984 line-up.  He’s pretty posable, and maintains that sort of retro robot feel without getting too goofy or basic.  He’s also a rather sturdy feeling figure, which is certainly nice to find in a figure that’s 45 years old.  I particularly like the metal feet, which help to keep him up and standing.  There’s also virtually no kibble left over from his alt form which is downright impressive on such a figure.  Said alt form is, of course, that of a micro cassette player.  Cassette Man was part of a line of figures meant to be mini robots masquerading as everyday items.  While Soundwave in the show had to rely on some weird mass-shifting to go from one form to the next, the toy just sticks with letting him be a realistically scaled player, which is certainly a neat idea.  His transformation from one form to the other is pretty straightforward, which was a relief to a relative Transformers novice such as myself, and the cassette player form is a convincing one.  I mean, it’s not like it’s super complex or anything; it’s really just a box, but it does that whole box thing pretty well.  Soundwave, like many earlier Transformers, foregoes paint for more decals and the like.  For the most part, they’ve held up well, but mine is missing his Decepticon logo (which was actually replaced by a rubsign decal for figures released in 1985 and beyond).  Soundwave was originally packed with a shoulder cannon, a handheld weapon, and one of his cassettes, Buzzsaw.  My figure only has the shoulder cannon, which is really the most important to him personally.  Soundwave included an “action feature” of sorts as well; the door on his chest is spring loaded, allowing for a proper ejecting of any cassette-based associates.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This Soundwave was traded into All Time alongside a larger collection, and spent a good couple of months just sitting back behind the counter, just the see if anyone might as to purchase him.  No one did, and I found myself sitting there fiddling with him one night, at which point I realized I kinda didn’t want to put him back.  So, home with me he came.  He’s somewhat dated, but still pretty darn awesome, and I’m honestly pretty happy I snagged him.  I mean, what kind of a Soundwave fan would I be if I didn’t have the original?

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#1990: Speeder Bike (w/ Princess Leia Organa in Endor Gear)

SPEEDER BIKE (W/ PRINCESS LEIA ORGANA IN ENDOR GEAR)

STAR WARS: POWER OF THE FORCE II (KENNER)

The Star Wars franchise has long placed a good deal of emphasis on the distinct vehicles utilized by its heroes and villains, with at least a few new designs for every film.  For Return of the Jedi the cool new vehicle was the speeder bike, a hovering cycle that was perfectly tailored for exciting chase scenes.  It of course got a release during the vintage line, and by extension, it found itself among the re-purposed vehicle molds for Power of the Force II in 1997.  Where the prior release had been sold on its own, for PotF2, it was available with one of three pilots: the Biker Scout, Luke Skywalker, and today’s focus, Princess Leia Organa.

THE VEHICLE ITSELF

The main focus of these sets was the Speeder Bike, seen here as it appears on the forest moon of Endor.  As I touched on in the intro, a lot of the vehicles for Power of the Force II re-used the molds of their vintage counterparts.  For the bikes in particular, there’s a definite feeling of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  Measuring about 7 inches in length and standing about two inches off the ground, the Speeder Bike is a fairly decent replica of the on-screen version of the vehicle.  Some of the features have been simplified ever so slightly, and it still has the original mold’s adjustments to make seating the figure on it a little easier, so the controls are vertically oriented rather than horizontally, and there’s still that little plunger that held the original figures’ legs in place.  The plunger was no longer necessary thanks to the vehicle specific riders, but I can’t complain about it remaining, since that keeps it backwards compatible, and meant it could still be used with figures not specifically designed for this set.  The foot pedals have springs built in to maintain tension, allowing the bike to stay up straight even if not totally balanced in its weight distribution.  Later bikes would instead resort to flight stands and the like, but I actually like how this works, and it certainly makes it playable.  Speaking of playable, there’s a whole other spring-loaded feature designed with play in mind.  When you press the pack on the rear of the bike, it pops apart into several pieces, simulating the rather catastrophic damage the bikes tended to take in the movie.  In terms of coloring, the original bike was always a little on the pale side.  This one went a little more accurate, and also supplied some decals if you wanted to go even further with the accuracy.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Included with this bike was a variant of Leia, seen here in her camo gear from Endor.  Since this is what she’s wearing when on the bike, it’s pretty sensible, don’t you think?  Leia’s Endor appearance had previously appeared in the vintage line, though this would be its debut here for Power of the Force.  It would, however, later be retooled and released alongside a Commemorative Coin.  But this one was first.  She stands 3 3/4 inches tall and has 7 points of articulation.  These pilot figures were the first to sport knee articulation, which was a definite plus for this Leia, though the articulation is perhaps a little rudimentary in their implementation.  The sculpt is about on par with the rest of the line.  The helmet is permanently attached to her head, which is honestly the best way of handling it.  Her poncho is a separate piece made of a somewhat rubbery material.  It’s a little bit bulky, but not terrible as a whole.  Under the poncho, Leia’s got a fully defined uniform, which is a respectable match for what she was wearing in the film.  Leia’s paintwork is actually pretty darn decent.  Most of it’s pretty basic, but the work on the helmet and poncho is subtle and quite nicely implemented.  Leia is packed with a blaster pistol which, while it may look really similar to Han’s, is actually a totally unique sculpt.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

As a kid, the only of these sets I had was the one with Luke.  Back last year I finally picked up the one with the Scout Trooper.  Leia here?  The last of the three to be added to my collection.  All Time got her in last winter, and I picked her up during my splurge of PotF2 purchases.  For the money and time it takes to acquire, this release of the speeder bike, regardless of which figure it comes with is really the best option.  It’s pretty accurate, the spring loaded features are fun, and it scales nicely with the other offerings.  Plus, the Leia figure that’s included is actually not a bad offering, and is probably the best of the three potential figures to go with.

#1989: Sgt. Apone

SGT. APONE

ALIENS (NECA)

“Tough and gritty, Apone keeps the Marines in line. Right arm now bio-mechanical.”

When NECA’s highly-popular Predator line started running out of actual movie-based Predators to release, they started reaching back to the ’90s line of Predator figures from Kenner, a fairly popular move.  Obviously, it’s not a huge shock that the Aliens line would follow suit.  We got the Kenner variant of Ripley back on the first Alien Day, with Vasquez following suit the next year.  There was an assortment of Kenner inspired Xenos released between the two in 2016, and we’ve finally gotten a follow-up assortment just this year.  We’ve also gotten our first main series release for a Kenner human, Sgt. Apone, a character whose movie version we have still yet to see, due to Al Matthews, Apone’s actor, being notoriously protective of his likeness.  But hey, at least we have *some* version of Apone.  And one that’s super ’90s-tastic at that!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Sgt. Apone is one of the three figures in the Kenner-inspired Series 13 of Aliens from NECA.  The figure stands 7 inches tall and he has 22 points of articulation.  As I noted when I reviewed the original Kenner Apone, his design from Kenner was perhaps one of the most divergent from the source material.  Gone was his uniform and standard military gear, replaced by something I can only describe as “uber ’90s”.  He’s got a backwards baseball cap, fingerless gloves, a bright-colored t-shirt with the sleeves torn off, and even a pair of sneakers inspired by the ones Ripley has in the film (which her Kenner figure didn’t have; I can only imagine that Al stole them from her).  The look is unique to say the least.  For the part of this specific figure, he’s done a pretty amazing job of faithfully capturing the details of the original figure, while still updating him so that he won’t look *too* out of place with the rest of the movie-inspired figures.  There’s a lot of great small detail work going on, from the wrinkles of his pants, to all the little stitches and wear on his boots.  The facial likeness is a tricky area of course, since it’s not officially an Al Matthews likeness, same as the Kenner figure before it.  But, like the Kenner figure, it’s still got a more than passing resemblance to the guy, meaning he still looks like Apone.  For the more resourceful customizers out there, I can see this head leading to a pretty easy movie accurate version of the character.  If there’s one drawback to the sculpt, it’s the way the cybernetic arm impedes the articulation on his right elbow.  It’s not terrible, and you can still get some good poses, but it’s not as good as the left.  In NECA’s defense, the original Kenner figure threw the arm on with no intention to articulate it, so they’re just doing their best to remain faithful to that design.  In the end, it’s not that big an issue, but it did somewhat stick out at me.  Moving onto the paint, Apone’s got some solid work, and is appropriately garish in color scheme.  He’s got his signature “No Bugs” scrawled across his shirt, which definitely looks cool, and as a whole the figure just really pops.  What I like the most about it, however, is that NECA didn’t just do the basic colors, they’ve also gone behind and added some accenting work, especially on those boots, so even though he may be bright and painful, he still looks like a real person.  Apone includes two “grenades” and a shotgun, just like his old figure.  The gun is re-used from one of the Genisys Terminators, but it’s actually a surprisingly good match.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I’ve definitely been wanting an Apone for my NECA Aliens collection, and while I still want a faithful movie version at some point, I really can’t complain about getting this one.  The super ’90s nature adds a lot of charm.  Here’s hoping for some more Kenner Marines to go with him!

I got this guy from my friends at All Time Toys, who have (or had, at least) the whole series.   If you’re looking for toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay storefront.

#1988: Yon-Rogg & Phil Coulson

YON-ROGG & PHIL COULSON

MARVEL MINIMATES

Hey, do you guys remember yesterday’s whacky pairing of two guys from Captain Marvel that never meet?  Well then you’ll love today’s pairing of two other guys from Captain Marvel that also never meet.  Though, I guess in a slight uptick of connectivity, at least these two do occupy the same planet at the same time, which is more than yesterday’s pair.  Maybe they formed a budding relationship off-screen!  Well, let’s look at best buds Yon-Rogg and Phil Coulson.  Nope, that feels wrong.  I don’t think these guys are friends.  Let’s look at mortal enemies Yon-Rogg and Phil Coulson.  There, that feels better.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Yon-Rogg and Coulson are the last of the Walgreens-exclusive Marvel Minimates for the Captain Marvel assortment.  There’s also going to be a specialty-exclusive boxed set, but these are it for now.

YON-ROGG

Man, we were really itching to find out what Yon-Rogg’s big secret was before the movie came out.  Turns out the big secret was that there was really no big secret, aside perhaps from this version of Yon-Rogg somehow ending up as less villainous than his comics counterpart.  Honestly, though, it feels like they came up with the role for Law without knowing exactly which Kree officer he’d be playing, and eventually decided to tag him with Yon-Rogg’s name (the fact that said name is only spoken once in the film, said in a scene where his character isn’t even present kind of lends credence to this).  Whatever the case, he’s a pretty prominent character, and obviously he was going to show up somewhere in this line.  He makes use of add-on pieces for his hair, backpack, gloves, belt, and holster.  The hair is reused from Venkman, but otherwise these pieces are new.  At first glance, the holster looks the same as Korath’s, but it’s actually its mirror piece, correctly representing their placement in the film.  Like Carol, Yon-Rogg also includes an alternate helmet piece, should you want him fully armed up.  But, given how briefly he wears it in the movie, I don’t see it getting much use from me.  Yon-Rogg’s paint is pretty involved, and matches up with Carol and Bron-Charr (but not with Korath and Ronan). The face has a pretty solid likeness of Jude Law, which is certainly refreshing after the Legends figure.  Yon-Rogg is packed with a pistol, an effect piece for his weird gauntlet thing, and a clear display stand.

PHIL COULSON

Though relatively minor in the film, Coulson’s return to the MCU proper was still a delightful one, and Clark Gregg was clearly having a blast playing the rookie field agent version of the character.  His presence in this assortment is no doubt due to the large fanbase for the character.  He’s not new to Minimates, with an MCU release back in Series 39 for the first Thor film (reviewed here), plus animated and comics versions of the character.  That said, it’s nice to get another go at him, if for nothing else than to pair off with Fury.  Coulson is pretty much the same as Fury in terms of construction, just swapping out the hairpiece for a new one, representing Coulson’s ’90s hair.  Of course, it’s nondescript enough to work for a modern Coulson as well, if that’s what you’re looking for.  Coulson’s paintwork is respectable.  I think the facial likeness is better than prior attempts, and I especially like the different pattern on the tie.  Like Fury, Coulson is packed with a spare set of white arms, a handgun, a shoulder holster, and a clear display stand.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Though they don’t offer much new after looking at all of the other figures in this line-up, I do find myself quite liking this pair.  It’s nice to get a Yon-Rogg figure that isn’t horribly disappointing, and I’ve been hoping for a Coulson update since The Avengers came out.  All in all, a nice pair to round out a pretty fun little assortment.  I look forward to the boxed set.

#1987: Nick Fury & Ronan

NICK FURY & RONAN

MARVEL MINIMATES

When it comes to Minimates, specifically the two-pack driven lines, there are bound to be some slightly oddball pairings.  The prior two sets for Captain Marvel made a lot of sense.  Today’s set?  Well, the two characters contained within it not only never meet, there never even on the same planet at the same time.  And yet, here we are.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Nick Fury and Ronan are the third set in the Walgreens-exclusive assortment of Captain Marvel-themed Marvel Minimates.  It’s worth noting that both characters in this set have had MCU-based ‘mates before, for what it’s worth.

NICK FURY

Though his name may not be in the title, Nick Fury is still an undisputed star in Captain Marvel, with his largest MCU role to date.  We get to see quite a different side of the character, and start to see where the Fury we met back in Iron Man came from.  Like the Legends release, this figure goes for his men-in-black style suit, which, while not his main look for the movie, is a fairly distinctive one.  The figure makes use of three add-on pieces for the hair, jacket, and tie.  All three are re-used from many prior figures.  They’re pretty basic, but then, so was his look.  The rest of the work is handled via paint.  My figure has one major flaw; a splotch of missing paint on his cheek.  Apart from that, I guess things are pretty decent.  The face doesn’t have much of a likeness of SLJ, but it doesn’t look unlike him.  I do particularly like the pattern on the tie.  That’s a fun touch.  Fury is packed with a handgun, a spare set of white arms, a shoulder holster, and a clear display stand.

RONAN

Unlike Fury, the movie doesn’t really give us any more backstory on Ronan prior to our introduction to him Guardians.  Pretty much, Ronan’s still just kind of Ronan, for better or for worse.  On the plus side, the film uses Ronan’s affiliation with the Kree Empire to give him his more traditional color scheme from the comics.  The figure uses two add-on pieces: one for his head piece, and one for his skirt.  They’re the same pieces used for the prior MCU Ronan figure, which is sensible enough, since, design wise, they’re pretty much the same.  The new paint job is a lot greener, as expected of this variation of the design.  Like yesterday’s Korath figure, Ronan’s green isn’t metallic like the first two Kree uniforms were.  Of course, since Ronan’s from a different group, I guess it’s not quite as odd for him.  Beyond that, there’s a lot of nice detailing going on.  Ronan is packed with his signature hammer (with it’s head on the proper way this time) and a clear display stand.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I got this pair at the same time as the rest of the assortment.  Nick’s an important player, and the two distinct looks help him.  Ronan may be a much more minor character in the film, but he’s a nice, distinctive design, with a lot more pop than his prior Guardians release.

#1986: Starforce Captain Marvel & Korath

STARFORCE CAPTAIN MARVEL & KORATH

MARVEL MINIMATES

Despite its ’90s setting, Captain Marvel had quite a good number of returning (or, from a certain perspective, debuting) characters, who were a sizable part of not only the marketing, but also the merchandising.  It also followed the MCU trend of multiple distinct looks for its main character.  Both of those two things will be touched on in today’s review.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Starforce Captain Marvel and Korath are the second set of Walgreens-exclusive Captain Marvel Marvel Minimates.  All of the sets in this line-up feature at least one Starforce uniform, but this one goes nuts and gives us two.  I know.  Crazy.

STARFORCE CAPTAIN MARVEL

In a nice little throwback to Mar-Vell’s original colors, Carol begins the movie in green.  She also bears a slight resemblance to another comics company’s former test-pilot turned super-powered space cop, but I’m sure that’s just a total coincidence, right?  Would you believe this is the first time we’ve gotten any version of Captain Marvel in green?  That seems a little bit wacky to me.  Construction-wise, this figure is exactly the same as yesterday’s standard colored Captain Marvel.  She’s got the same basic hair, and swaps out for the same helmet piece as before.  The main difference is the paint, which is swapped for green and black and gives her a different facial expression.  I’m not crazy about the facial expression’s look when unmasked, but it ends up working out a lot better when the helmet is in place, so I find it to be a worthy trade-off.  Starforce Carol again mimics the standard figure for its accessories, meaning she includes a flight stand and a standard clear display stand.

KORATH

“WHOOOO!?!” …You see, it’s funny, because it’s Korath…the guy…the guy who say’s “WHOOOO!?” to Star-Lord at the beginning of the first Guardians….and now I’m applying it to him?  Get it?  I assure you, it’s very funny.  I’ve got this certificate that says so.  Where was I?  Australia!  No!  Korath!  That’s the one.  Though the Guardians ‘mates went pretty deep with their coverage, Korath was perhaps the one notable character to be left out.  Fortunately he got a second chance!  The figure’s almost a vanilla ‘mate; his only add-on is his holster for his sidearm.  Beyond that, he’s carried out via paint, which is decent enough.  The likeness is pretty spot-on, which is really the most important part, since I suspect a number of collectors will be sticking it on another body for a Guardians Korath.  The body’s okay, but not great.  The details just don’t seem to be quite as sharp on Korath as they are on the other two Starforce members, and the green appears to be a slightly different shade for some reason.  Korath is packed with a pistol and a pair of swords, as well as a clear display stand.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Like yesterday’s pair, I grabbed these two a little while before the movie’s release, but didn’t actually open them until the night I saw it in the theatre.  I wasn’t sure what to think of another Marvel, but I really dig the Starforce colors for her.  Korath’s not perfect, but it’s at the very least nice to finally have him, even if it is a slightly different version of him.

#1985: Captain Marvel & Bron-Char

CAPTAIN MARVEL & BRON-CHAR

MARVEL MINIMATES

“Ace Air Force pilot Carol Danvers becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races.  Set in the 1990s, Marvel’s Captain Marvel is an all-new adventure from a previously unseen period of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”

“Marvel’s Captain Marvel” does seem a touch redundant, don’t you think?  I mean, for the general public, at least.  I suppose there was a time there was some genuine confusion, but DC’s pretty firmly on that “Shazam” train.  So, while we’re on the topic of “Marvel’s Captain Marvel,” the movie sure is doing well at the box office, topping even DC’s own female-led Wonder Woman.  That’s pretty cool.  I’ve looked at most of the Legends from the movie, but this week I’ll be looking at the other major offerings, courtesy of DST’s Minimates brand.  I’ll be starting things off with the good Captain herself, as well as fellow Starforce member Bron-Char.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Captain Marvel and Bron-Char are the first of four Walgreens-exclusive Marvel Minimates released to tie-in with the film.  Unlike prior films, there are no shared figures between these sets and the specialty boxed set, so these two are totally unique.

CAPTAIN MARVEL

Seen here in her main colors from the end of the film, this is the definitive Captain Marvel release for the set.  Amazingly, this is only Carol’s third Minimate, and her second under the title of Captain Marvel.  The figure’s built on the standard body, so she’s 2 1/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  She’s got an add-on for her hair, which appears to be a new piece.  It’s a respectable match for her hairstyle from the movie.  It’s a little restricting on the articulation side, but it’s hardly the worst.  She’s also got an alternate helmeted piece, which is another new part.  It’s accurate to the film, and cleanly sculpted, but it doesn’t quite line-up so well with the face on this one.  The paint on this figure’s not bad.  I definitely dig the metallics, though some of the basic applications are a little sloppy around the edges.  The helmet probably gets the worst overall work; in addition to not really lining up with the face, it’s also got a really wonky misprint on the eyes, so make sure to keep an eye on that.  In addition to the helmet, Carol is also packed with a flight stand and a clear display stand.

BRON-CHAR

A slightly more minor character in the film, Bron-Char’s the Starforce’s resident bruiser.  He’s actually a decent choice to partner off with the main colors Captain Marvel, since they do have a notable fight scene in the film.  He’s a bigger guy, so he makes use of add-ons for his torso, belt, and gauntlets.  The torso and belt are standard parts; the torso isn’t one of my favorites, and doesn’t really work so well without any add-ons are the arms and legs.  The gauntlets are new, and nice enough pieces.  There’s no hair piece, which I kind of think might have been a mistake.  At the very least, one of the sculpted beard pieces would have added something to him.  The paintwork is pretty respectable.  There’s a lot of detailing and it’s all pretty sharp.  Bron-Char’s only accessory is a clear display stand.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I found this whole assortment of ‘mates at Walgreens a couple of weeks before the movie’s release.  I ended up letting them sit until the day I went to see the movie, so I was able to come home that night from the movie and open them up, which was pretty fun.  Basic Carol is a good basic Carol.  Fairly straightforward, but good nonetheless.  Bron-Char’s cool to see crop up, since it’s not like we’re really going to see him anywhere else.

#1984: Brainiac

BRAINIAC

SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES (KENNER)

“The fusion of alien lifeform and computer, Evil Alien Brainiac uses telekintec powers and a blasting space sled to control his enemies as he attempts to conquer the universe.”

After the smash success of Batman: The Animated Series, the show’s creative team moved to an adaptation of DC’s other big hero with Superman: The Animated Series.  Though not quite the same cultural phenomenon as its predecessor, the show was still a pretty solid success in its own right, and unsurprisingly netted its own line of toys.  But, while Kenner’s BTAS line actually covered a good chunk of the show’s cast, with the wacky-Bat-variants coming in later, Superman’s line was much more variant heavy from the very start.  There were only two non-Superman figures in the initial launch: Superman’s two biggest foes, the previously reviewed Lex Luthor, and today’s focus, Brainiac!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Brainiac was initially released in the first series of Superman: The Animated Series figures under the name of “Evil Alien Brainiac.”  You know, in case there was some confusion about his motivation or his place of origin.  Kind of sad we didn’t get this naming scheme across the whole assortment.  Why not “Good Alien Superman” or “Evil Human Lex Luthor”?  Would those have not appealed to the mass consumer as well?  Regardless, the figure in this review is not actually the Series 1 release, but is instead from the “Battle for Metropolis” four pack released at the tail end of the line.  The two figures are essentially the same, but there were some color differences, which I’ll touch on in the paint section. The figure stands 5 inches tall and he has 6 points of articulation, which was standard for the line.  After being reasonably faithful to the show designs for BTAS, the STAS line was a bit more stylistically divergent from the show.  Brainiac was one of the more faithful sculpts from the line, though he lacks the somewhat streamlined proportions of the show design.  Beyond that, though, it’s not a bad offering.  The details are pretty well defined, the costume details are all where they’re supposed to, and the pre-posing isn’t as crazy as some of the other figures in the line.  The paintwork on Brainiac does the sculpt well and keeps him fairly faithful to the show.  This second release was even closer, having swapped out the shade of purple for a slightly warmer tone like we saw in the show.  Both versions of Brainiac were packed with the same missile-launching Space Sled.  My figure is without said accessory, though.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

My STAS collection growing up was actually pretty small.  Brainiac here was a slightly more recent addition (though still purchased almost a decade ago, so “recent” is relative), purchased from Yesterday’s Fun Toys & Games during one of my family vacations.  He’s a solid figure of a solid design, and really one of the better figures in this line.

#1983: Phoenix

PHOENIX

X-MEN (TOY BIZ)

“The embodiment of the life force of the universe itself, the mysterious Phoenix Entity merged with the telekinetic X-Man named Jean Grey, transforming her into Phoenix! As Phoenix, Jean possessed nearly unlimited telepathic and telekinetic abilities – but the scope of her powers overwhelmed, corrupted and eventually consumed her. But, in the manner of her namesake, Jean later rose from the ashes of her demise, alive once again!”

Jean Grey’s spot in the X-Men has long been a tricky one.  She was a founding member of the team, and stuck with them until the “All-New, All-Different” team took over in Giant-Size X-Men #1.  Jean only actually departed for four issues, before returning for a rematch with the Sentinels that ended in her gaining the powers of the Phoenix Force.  She then remained a major player until “The Dark Phoenix Saga” ended with Jean sacrificing herself to save the day…from herself.  Then, like some sort of mythological bird that I can’t remember the name of, she rose from the ashes a few years later.  From that point forward, she was still a prominent member of the team, but never quite seemed in phase with the rest of them.  This kind of reared its head in tie-in materials as well.  For the ’90s X-Men toyline, it took three years to get a single Jean Grey figure.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Phoenix was the central figure of the “Phoenix Saga” assortment, the eighth series of Toy Biz’s X-Men line.  The assortment was designed to tie-in with the cartoon’s re-telling of the “Phoenix Saga,” and as such featured a number of pivotal players from it (and also Warstar, but we’ll talk about him later), and would not only be the first assortment to abandon a strict numbering system for assortments, but also has the notoriety of being both the last assortment to be released on the slimmer character specific card backs and the first to be released on the newer generic cards, via two separate releases.  This was not only Jean’s first figure in the line, but also her very first action figure in general, which was a pretty big deal.  The figure stands 5 inches tall and has 8 points of articulation.  Like a good number of this line’s early figures, she lacks any sort of neck articulation, due to a light-up feature in the hair.  Of course, given the shaping of said hair, it’s unlikely that she would have had much movement going on anyway.  Jean’s sculpt was new to her, but would see an inevitable re-use for a Dark Phoenix figure (pictured with Wilson 4) in 1996 as part of the KB Toys-exclusive Marvel Universe line.  It’s really not a bad sculpt, especially for the time.  The proportions are decently balanced, and not terribly unrealistic, and kind of breaking from a lot of female figures for the time, she’s not hideous or horribly distorted, which was a pretty big deal.  Compared to the Rogue figure from the assortment prior, she’s definitely superior, and she blows the Series 1 Storm figure completely away.  There have been better Phoenix sculpts since, but it took them a good long while.  The paintwork is fairly basic stuff; the colors are bright and fairly eye-catching.  The green could maybe stand to be a little darker to better contrast with the yellow, but it’s not terrible.  The clear plastic for the hair actually works pretty well, especially when you have the right lighting.  The Dark Phoenix figure is pretty much the same paint, but palette-swapped.  The yellow parts are now gold, which was an interesting choice, but perhaps not the wisest, as it again leaves the two parts of the costume without much contrast.  Phoenix was packed with a launcher stand, re-used from the X-Force line’s Cannonball (yes, Cannonball had a figure before Jean Grey; try not to dwell on it).  It’s not the most thrilling extra, nor is it super specific, which is probably why the Dark Phoenix figure dropped it.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Jean Grey has been my Dad’s favorite member of the X-Men pretty much since he started reading X-Men.  After discovering the Iron Man line on that fateful trip to Service Merchandise, he discovered the X-Men line via this figure (well, his copy of this figure, anyway), which he found at a dealer’s table at a con for the total insane crazy no one would ever pay this much for an action figure price of $20.  But hey, it was Jean Grey’s first figure, and he wasn’t going to pass it up, so he did not. …And then KB Toys did their buyout of Toy Biz figures, and you could get pretty much everyone in the line for under $5.  Not one to dwell on such things, my dad get me a Phoenix of my own, which I got alongside a Blackbird for the rest of my figures, if I recall correctly.  She was amongst 23 X-Men figures of mine that went missing for a few years during my high school/college days, but was discovered during “The Find” and has been on active display since then, because she’s just genuinely my favorite Jean Grey in my collection.

#1982: Ultraman – B Type

ULTRAMAN — B TYPE

ULTRAMAN FIGURE-RISE (BANDAI)

Hey, how about a look into two things I haven’t looked at in a long time?  It’s been over a year since I reviewed anything Ultraman related (the end of Ultra-Act and subsequent transition into Figuarts has been a rather major contributor to that), and three whole years since I’ve reviewed any model kits, but now I’m just throwing caution to the wind and looking at an Ultraman model.  I know, crazy stuff for me, right?  Just stepping way outside my comfort zone for this?

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Ultraman (B Type) is the first in Bandai’s newly launched line of Ultraman-themed Figure-Rise kits.  They’ve previously offered kits for Dragon Ball Z and Kamen Rider, and it’s not a huge shock to see them move onto another immensely popular license.  So far, it appears this line will be taking its cues from the currently running Ultraman manga, which sequelizes the original show, while working in elements of its successors in a new timeline.  This figure is the main Ultraman from the series, Shinjiro Hayata, son of the original Ultraman, wearing his second set of powered armor (as noted by the “B Type” at the end of the name).  The kit is billed as 1/12 scale, so the final figure stands a little over 6 inches tall, meaning he scales pretty decently with the Figuarts stuff.  He’s got 31 points of articulation, so he’s not quite on the same posability level as most of those figures, but he’s not terribly far off either.  Of all the models I’ve built, Ultraman is definitely the most intense.  As in “took multiple sessions to complete him” intense.  He’s made up of a lot of small, little pieces, that all click together very carefully.  While this may be a little stressful on the assembly side, it pays off on the appearance front.  This is definitely a sharp looking figures. Details are well-defined, and he’s a good match for the source material’s very machined appearance.  If I have one complaint, it’s that the figure’s not quite as sturdy as I might have liked.  I’ve had no breakage issues, of course, but the torso assembly pops apart with regular handling (mostly by design, to be fair).  He’s more a pose and set figure than a mess around with him figure.  Paint’s a no-go on these sorts of sets, so there are a few different ways to handle variations of color.  For the most part, this guy goes with the “mold it in the right color” method, meaning there’s a lot of very precise part assembly.  However, there are also some pretty extensive decal applications mixed in with that.  Again, they can get a little stressful, but the end result pays off, and you’d be hard pressed to discern these decals from actual paintwork.  Of course, time will tell as to their longterm hold-up.  Ultraman is pretty well accessorized for a thing I built myself.  He’s got five interchangeable hands (fists, open, and a trigger finger for his right side), a Specium Ray effect, two Specium Slash effects, alternate forearm guards for use with the Specium Ray, alternate guards with Specium Blades deployed, the MARS-133 rifle, and a display stand.  Pretty much, he’s on par with a Figuarts or Ultra-Act release.  He has one more feature: he lights up.  There’s a battery pack with LEDs attached that’s installed in the torso (hence how easily it comes back apart).  Using the included tool, you can turn it on and off.  It illuminates his eyes and color timer, and with a push of the button you can even switch the color timer from blue to red, which is fun.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Is it allowed to be Max’s fault two days in a row?  This one’s a borderline example at the very least.  He wanted one of his own, and they come in cases of two, so he needed another buyer.  Well, hey, I like Ultraman, right?  Admittedly, I was looking to get back into the model building anyway, and I didn’t yet have a Manga-style Ultraman, so why not give it a try?  He’s an intense build, but I do really enjoy the final product, and I think he’ll slot in pretty well with the rest of my Ultras.

I picked up this set via All Time Toys.  If you’re looking for toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay storefront.