#3260: Superman

SUPERMAN

FIRST APPEARANCE (DC DIRECT)

Though there are previous instances of costumed heroes and vigilantes with catchy names and gimmicks, the tried and true concept of the “Super Hero” was properly introduced in 1938’s Action Comics #1, which introduced Superman to the world.  Superman was a smash success, launching an entire industry of super hero comics, and becoming a major fixture in that very industry.  In more recent years, he’s become something of a divining rod for what kind of a person you are, given your feelings on whether he’s out of place in today’s world or not.  But, today, I’m looking back to his beginnings, with a figure based on his very first appearance.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Superman was released in Series 2 of DC Direct’s First Appearance toyline.  While there had been prior Superman figures from DCD at this point, this was the first to actually be sporting his first appearance attire, and the first specifically based on the golden age, or Earth 2, Superman.  The figure stands about 6 1/2 inches tall and he has 11 points of articulation.  All of the Series 2 figures got the benefit of ever so slightly improved articulation, notably including wrist joints on all of the figures, which was beyond the standard for DCD at the time.  The figure’s sculpt was all-new at the time, though DCD wound up re-using most of it a few times after the fact.  It’s a fun sculpt, which captures the spirit of the original art, while providing just a little more polish to the whole thing.  The proportions definitely match, as do the slightly more unique aspects of the costume design as well.  He’s meant to be based more on the interiors than the cover, showcased best by the specific boots he’s got.  They’ve added a little extra detailing to the sculpt, especially for the face and the boots.  The mixed media set-up that DCD was pushing early in this line is present on this figure in the form of his cape, which is a double thick item here, which has a wire in its lining, allowing for a little bit of dynamic posing.  All later releases using this mold had an actual sculpted cape, but this one certainly has its charm.  The figure’s paint work is fairly basic, but it checks all the right boxes.  The application is crisp and clean, and he’s quite bright and eye-catching.  The figure is packed with a display stand and a reprint of Action Comics #1, which was standard for the line.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I’ve discussed before that for a while in the early ’00s, my dad and I “shared” a DC Direct collection.  It meant there was very little overlap between our two respective sets of figures.  First Appearance Series 2 was one that we split evenly, and Superman was one of the two that my dad took.  I did quite like the look of the figure, but I also had a number of Superman figures already.  Last year, I was helping a family friend downsize their collection, and this Superman was amongst the departing items.  I had just pulled out my older figures from the set for review purposes at the time and was feeling nostalgic, and I couldn’t bring myself to pass on this one.  He’s a fun figure, and a great addition to the rest of the line.

#3259: Antoc Merrick

ANTOC MERRICK

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES (HASBRO)

“Antoc Merrick commands Yavin 4’s starfighters before the Battle of the Death Star, flying as Blue Leader”

Originally, during A New Hope‘s climactic trench run on the Death Star, the color-coded squadron of pilots joined by Luke was not supposed to be red, as seen in the final film, but blue.  However, when the production realized that the blue-screen effects they were using for the space sequences would result in all of the blue markings on the ships being replaced by the background, the squadron was switched to red, with the intended back-up squadron going from red to gold, and Blue Squadron winding up shelved.  With the advancement of special effects over the years, Blue Squadron has shown back up in other forms, including in Rogue One, where Blue Squadron is more or less wiped out during the final battle on Scarif, thus explaining their absence from A New Hope.  The squadron is lead in the film by Antoc Merrick, who’s a cool dude who got far too little action figure coverage when the original Rogue One product hit.  Have no fear, the second round of product is here!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Antoc Merrick is one of two Target-exclusive Star Wars The Black Series figures released for the Rogue One sub-set from earlier this year.  He is figure 8 in the overall Rogue One line-up, making him the second numerically of the two exclusives.  The figure stands a little bit under 6 inches tall and he has 29 points of articulation.  For the most part, this figure is re-using parts from the original Pilot Luke body (which I reviewed when it was used for Wedge), but he actually swaps out the arms for the ones from the Snowspeeder Pilot Luke, so as to give Antoc his proper gloves.  The Luke body’s technically a touch short for Merrick, whose actor Ben Daniels is closer to 6 feet tall, but given that he’s a much more minor player, I suppose expecting a totally new pilot body just for him is probably a bit much.  It’s at least a decent sculpt, and the alternate arms mix things up a little bit from Luke and Wedge.  He doesn’t get the proper collar piece from the movie, but it’s otherwise fairly accurate, and the collar’s honestly quite minor.  Antoc gets an all-new head sculpt, which sports a respectable enough likeness of Daniels in the role, although it does seem a little too large for the body.  Antoc’s color work is a nice change of pace for the pilots, since it’s predominantly blue.  The paint work is generally pretty basic, but it’s got some solid application, and the face printing works well.  Antoc is packed with his helmet and a blaster pistol, which have become the standard pilot offerings.  The pistol looks to be the same one included with Luke, while the helmet is, curiously enough, the Snowspeeder version of the mold, which is a bit smaller than the X-Wing version.  It makes getting the piece onto Antoc’s head rather tricky, since the sizing doesn’t work quite right.  It’s at least a very nicely painted piece, and it makes for a decent thing for him to hold.  Given he’s not likely to get an X-Wing to pilot at this scale, having him hold the helmet seems more appropriate anyway, but it’s still odd.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I’ve honestly been hoping for an Antoc Merrick in some form or another since Rogue One hit theatres.  He’s a minor character, but a cool enough one that he caught my attention.  I was always a little bummed that the basic line never got to him.  I wasn’t super thrilled by him being an exclusive, as I’m not really going out of my way to track any of them down these days, but I happened to find him in store right as Target was doing that crazy markdown on all of their figures, so I got him at $12, which is a price that I really couldn’t say no to.  He’s not a game changer or anything, but he’s nifty, and I do like actually having him.  Hey, another pilot for the shelf!

#3258: Silk

SILK

MARVEL LEGENDS (HASBRO)

“Bitten by the same radioactive spider that gave Peter Parker his powers, Cindy Moon develops spider powers of her own and soon takes on the role of Silk!”

Marvel’s Original Sin cross-over from 2014 was one with a few lasting changes, none of them particularly huge status quo shifts, or anything, but notable none the less.  It officially added Neil Gaiman’s Angela to the Marvel universe by revealing her to be Thor and Loki’s long-lost sister, came up with a convincing way to write out the original Nick Fury so that his son, Nick Jr, who happens to more closely resemble the Samuel L Jackson version of the character, could replace him, and, most relevantly for today’s review, revealed that the spider that bit Peter Parker had also bitten his classmate Cindy Moon, giving Cindy her own set of abilities.  Cindy was worked back into the mainstream universe during the battle with Morlun and his family the Inheritors, having been hidden away for years to keep her protected.  She was given the codename Silk, and spun (heh) off on her own, though she does find her way back to the main Spidey book from time to time for cross overs.  Silk’s actually been pretty fortunate in terms of raw numbers when it comes to toy coverage, though perhaps a little bit less so when it comes to actual distribution.  It’s okay, though, because I finally got one.  So, let’s look at Silk!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Silk is an part of an Amazon-exclusive Marvel Legends two-pack, which was released under the “60 Amazing Years” banner that’s celebrating Spider-Man’s anniversary. The other half of the set was a Doc Ock, which is just a slight adjustment on his figure from back in 2018. This Silk marks her third time in Legends form, following two solo releases.  This one is based on Cindy’s most recent look, which sports shorter hair, and a slightly more vibrant color palette.  It’s honestly my favorite of her looks thus far, so that works for me.  The figure stands about 6 1/4 inches tall and it has 29 points of articulation.  Silk’s largely built using the same patchwork body as Spinneret, which, apart from the ever evolving ports on the back of the torso, is honestly a pretty solid base body, and certainly a good match foe Silk’s usual depictions in the comics.  It’s also a good deal more posable than her last two figures, which feels more appropriate for a web-slinger.  Silk gets a brand-new head sculpt, and it’s honestly the nicest sculpt she’s gotten to date.  It’s certainly the first one to really capture her Korean heritage, which is definitely a plus, and I really like the more naturalistic approach to the detailing, as well as the ever so slight windswept look to her hair.  It’s enough to look somewhat dynamic, without looking too crazy.  Silk’s color work is based on the bolder palette of her newer design, so she’s definitely got some visual pop.  The application is generally pretty cleanly handled; there’s a little bit of slop on the edges of the white sections, but it’s pretty minor.  The head does quite well, with the printing for the eyes looking quite lifelike, and the subtle blue accenting on the hair really bringing out the sculpted details.  The figure is packed with an alternate unmasked head for Cindy, with a corresponding pulled down mask piece, as well as three pairs of hands (fists, gripping, and open gesture) and an extra right hand with a web effect.  It’s quite a nice selection of extras, and covers pretty much all of the bases.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Silk’s introduction was, admittedly, a little clumsy (something even her creator Dan Slott has admitted in recent years), but she got better pretty quickly, and she’s been a pivotal character to a couple of Spider-cross-overs since.  I missed out on her first figure because that wave showed up effectively nowhere, and her second because I just underestimated how quickly it would sell.  I was poised to miss this one, too, since I didn’t really need another Doc Ock, but I was fortunate to get just Silk on her own when one got traded into All Time.  She’s actually quite a lot of fun, and getting this version makes me kind of glad I missed the other two.

#3257: Axe Woves

AXE WOVES

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES (HASBRO)

“A skilled warrior, Axe Woves is loyal to Bo-Katan and is a member of a band of Clan Kryze Mandalorians striking back at the Imperial remnant”

When Bo-Katan Kryze made her first appearance in live action during The Mandalorian‘s second season, she was accompanied by two other Mandalorians: Koska Reeves and another guy.  Today, we delve into the other guy.  Okay, the other guy actually does have a name: it’s Axe Woves.  That’s a name that’s really just peak Star Wars naming, honestly.  And it really should be, since Axe was actually named by none other than George Lucas himself, who named Bo-Katan’s then un-named Lieutenant during a set visit whilst Season 2 was in production.  Unlike Koska, who re-appeared alongside Bo-Katan for Season’s finale, Axe has thus far only appeared in the one episode, but is rumored for a Season 3 return.  Perfect time for some action figure coverage.  Let’s take a look at that, shall we?

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Axe Woves is part of the first main assortment of Star Wars: The Black Series‘s 2023 line-up.  Clearly, he’s a little early.  It’s okay, so’s pretty much everything else.  He’s part of the Mandalorian sub-set of the line, of course, and he’s figure 25 in that numbering scheme.  The figure stands roughly 6 inches tall and he has 28 points of articulation.  In terms of construction, Axe is largely built on the bank of parts first seen on the Death Watch Mandalorian from earlier this year.  He keeps the same articulation scheme from that release, which is to say that he poses pretty well, and certainly on-par with a modern Black Series figure.  Axe gets two new pieces thrown into the mix, a new un-helmeted head and a new belt/lower abdomen add-on.  It’s otherwise just the Death Watch Mando, which is fair, since there are a number of shared armor pieces between the two.  The new head sculpt bears a passable resemblance to actor Simon Kassianides (who, it should be noted, has an oddly close resemblance to the Saga-era Jango Fett head sculpts), though it’s not as spot-on as other sculpts in the line.  Axe’s paint work pretty decent for the most part; it’s on par with other recent offerings, and there’s some rather nice weathering to the armor.  The only slight misstep is the face paint, which, at least on my copy, has the eyes set ever so slightly higher than they should be.  It’s not crazy, but it’s definitely off.  Thankfully, amongst his accessories is his distinctive Mando helmet, which is a re-use of newer Boba Fett mold.  It doesn’t sit quite as well on this figure’s head, but it overall works.  He’s also packed with his jet pack and a small blaster pistol, both of which are re-used molds.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Once we had both Bo-Katan and Koska, it was just a waiting game for Axe, since it’s not like they’re gonna leave one Mando undone, right?  Axe is exactly the sort of background character that would fascinate me in older Star Wars entries, and that came through on the newer stuff too.  I dig his look, I dig his name, and I dig the background behind it all.  He’s not a perfect figure, but he’s a pretty fun one, and a good by-the-numbers offering.

Thanks to my sponsors at All Time Toys for setting me up with this figure for review.  If you’re looking for toys both old and new, please check out their website.

#3256: Sakaar Loki & Heimdall

SAKAAR LOKI & HEIMDALL

MARVEL MINIMATES

“In Marvel Studios’ Thor: Ragnarok, Thor is imprisoned on the other side of the universe without his mighty hammer and finds himself in a race against time to get back to Asgard to stop Ragnarok – the destruction of his homeworld and the end of Asgardian civilization – at the hands of an all-powerful new threat, the ruthless Hela. But first he must survive a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against his former ally and fellow Avenger – the Incredible Hulk!”

For movies prior to Thor: Ragnarok, Diamond Select’s Minimates line-ups typically relied on a mix of a couple of different retailers carrying two-pack assortments, but beginning with Ragnarok, the specialty assortment was replaced by a boxed set, augmented by exclusive two-packs at both TRU and Walgreens.  For Ragnarok, Walgreens took two exclusive packs, while TRU took one, which is the one I’ll be looking at today.  Let’s have a look at Sakaar Loki and Heimdall!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Sakaar Loki and Heimdall are, as noted in the intro, the one proper TRU-exclusive set for the Marvel Minimates tie-ins for Ragnarok.  Interestingly enough, this was the second time the two characters had been packed together in the line, as they were also paired for the Dark World tie-in assortment as well.

SAKAAR LOKI

Surprisingly enough, Loki was actually the character with the most ‘mates for Ragnarok, edging out even his brother Thor, and netting one variant for each of the three release venues for the movie’s tie-ins.  This one is based on what he wears for the bulk of the movie, while running around on Sakaar.  It’s not quite as true to the character as his final battle attire, but it’s still pretty decent.  The figure is built on the standard post-C3 minimate body, so he stands about 2 1/4 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  Loki’s got three sculpted add-on pieces, for his hair, belt, and cape.  The belt and cape were shared with the boxed set Loki, while the hair was a new piece shared with the civilian Loki released on the Walgreens side of this assortment.  I find the hair to be a little bit bulky for Loki in Ragnarok, but it’s generally not bad, and the cape is still one of my favorites.  Loki’s paint work is a little cleaner than his boxed set equivalent, with no major issues with slop or bleed over.  He’s also a little more colorful, which is true to the Sakaar design.  I’m not as big on the facial expression for this one, which is rather bland, and feels like it has too many lines for Hiddleston.  Loki’s only accessory is a clear display stand, which is rather on the light side.

HEIMDALL

Heimdall’s only prior coverage in the line was his Dark World release, which actually wasn’t bad, and is also his fully armored attire, which was distinctly different from his on the run look from Ragnarok.  Heimdall gets two sculpted add-ons, for his hair and for his cloak/coat.  The hair is an alright piece, though it certainly feels rather too kempt for Heimdall’s look in Ragnarok.  Where Loki’s piece seemed too bulky and long, this one feels too tame and short.  The chest piece is also…it’s just not great.  Making the whole thing one piece means that the right arm is effectively trapped in place, and the legs and waist are also pretty restricted, and on top of that, the neck can’t really do much either, so he’s just generally not really posable.  And, to add insult to injury, the piece is just flat out not accurate to the character’s look, like at all.  It’s got him wearing some sort of heavy coat and multiple layers, when in the movie he’s got a sleeveless shirt and a simple pair of pants on under the cloak.  I’m not sure if this was based on early concept art or what, but it’s just not really right, and the figure would have really been better off if this piece had just been the cloak, rather than the whole thing.  The paint work doubles down on the inaccuracy of the sculpted pieces, resulting in a kind of dull look for the figure.  Heimdall is packed with his sword, as well as a clear display stand.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

There was a whole slew of 2017 releases for Minimates that I had to skip on when they dropped, and almost the entirety of the Ragnarok line-up was on that list, this set included.  This one was snagged from TRU during the beginnings of their clearing out of their products in 2018.  Loki’s okay, but not as definitive as the boxed set version.  Heimdall is rough, I’m not gonna lie.  He’s not accurate, and he’s not a particularly fun figure either.  This set’s generally kind of weak.

#3255: Protocol Droid – Holiday Edition

PROTOCOL DROID — HOLIDAY EDITION

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES (HASBRO)

Protocol droids like C-3PO are vital in smoothing differences encountered by the many farflung cultures interacting on a regular basis throughout the galaxy. Most are humanoid, like the company they keep.”

‘Twas two nights before Christmas and all through the house, Ethan was reviewing something festive two days before the actual holiday because both Christmas Eve and Day fall on the weekend this year, and he’s not doing reviews those days anymore.  Okay, maybe that version’s not quite as catchy as Clement Clarke Moore’s.  But I still think it’s got potential.  Look, the point of it all is that I’m gonna do this whole holiday cheer thing.  I’m cheerful, dang it.  So, please look at this overly commercialized cash grab product review as proof.  For the cheer.  And the jolly.  Perhaps even some whimsy.  Since 1978’s “The Star Wars Holiday Special,” the Star Wars franchise has been cashing in on the holiday cheer, though on the toy side of things it’s a more recent development.  Hasbro had a solid run of one-off holiday offerings in the early ’00s, but took a bit of a breather, before returning to it in 2020 with a whole mess of themed figures under their Black Series branding.  They were each exclusive to a different retailer, and were generally a bit of a pain to track down, so I avoided most of them.  This year’s follow-ups, however, included a Fan Channel offering, and so I’m taking a look at a delightfully festive Protocol Droid today!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The Holiday Edition Protocol Droid is one of the five 2022 Holiday Edition offerings for Black Series.  He’s a Fan Channel exclusive, and started shipping out in early November of this year.  He’s apparently got no official name, which, if I’m honest, feels like a missed opportunity.  Why no fun little in-joke with the naming?  For shame.  Oh well.  The figure stands 5 1/2 inches tall and has 21 points of articulation.  In contrast to the most recent Protocol Droids we’ve gotten from The Black Series, the Holiday Protocol is built on the first iteration of the C-3PO mold.  It’s generally not a bad mold, but this older version means that this release lacks the added elbow articulation that all figures post 4-LOM have gotten.  It’s a little bit of a bummer.  Not the end of the world, but a bummer to be sure after getting the improved arms on so many figures.  In order to mix things up and go just a tad more festive with the mold, the Holiday Protocol gets a scarf piece, courtesy of Lando. Beyond that, the change-ups are all paint.  This guy’s been done up in a variety of red, white, and green, which all feels appropriately festive.  On one hand, I’m a little sad we didn’t get any of the ugly sweater patterning that the troopers have been getting, but on the other, I can appreciate this one going with a different angle.  I do really like the striped “socks,” and this printing on the scarf is certainly a lot of fun.  Each of the Holiday Edition figures is packed with a smaller companion, and in the case of the Protocol Droid, it’s a re-decoed BD-1, who’s been done up to match the Protocol Droid.  He’s the same mold as the Fallen Order releases, which is honestly a pretty great mold, and he’s probably my favorite thing about this set.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I’ve passed on the other Holiday figures up to now, since, as I touched on in the intro, I didn’t really feel like hunting them down.  This year was pretty much the same deal, but since this one was going through Fan Channels, I had the opportunity to get one through work.  I don’t know that he’s really my preferred of this year’s offerings, but he was easy to get, and that’s really what matters, right?  The main droid’s okay.  He’s kitschy and goofy, but that’s what I expected.  BD-1 kind of steals the show here, but that’s just kind of the history of that mold, now isn’t it?  And that’s all I got until after the holiday.  Have a good one everybody!

Thanks to my sponsors at All Time Toys for setting me up with this figure for review.  If you’re looking for toys both old and new, please check out their website.

 

Flashback Friday Figure Addendum #0019: Han Solo

HAN SOLO

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES ARCHIVE (HASBRO)

Check this out!  Doing three whole Flashback Friday Figure Addendums in one year!  I haven’t actually done that since I launched them in 2017.  Weird.  It’s once again a Black Series figure that’s getting the treatment, thanks to Hasbro going back and redoing a lot of the pre-face-printing figures with the appropriate upgrades.  The last few I’ve looked at have been from the main line, but today I’m switching over to their Archive line, with my first Archive figure that I actually got the first time around.  So, let’s look at The Force Awakens Han Solo, whose original release I looked at back in March of 2016.

A lot of (very much deserved) praise has been heaped on the new cast members introduced in the Force Awakens, but one of the coolest things about the movie was the return of some of the “old guard” from the Original Trilogy. The most prominent returning hero by far was everyone’s favorite scuffy-lookin’ nerf-herder, Han Solo. For a number of reasons, Han, along with most of the other returning characters, was absent from the first few waves of Force Awakens product, but the merch based on him is starting to hit in full storm. Today, I’ll be looking at his much anticipated Black Series figure.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Han was released in the fifth series of the latest iteration of Star Wars: The Black Series. He’s marked as number 18 in the line, which makes him the last figure in this particular series numerically. The figure stands just over 6 inches tall (which is the same as his A New Hope figure) and has 27 points of articulation. Some of the movement, most notably his hips, is a little restricted, but he can certainly pull off just about any pose that the real Harrison Ford can. Han’s sculpt is totally new, and it’s an amazing piece of work. The proportions look great, certainly better than the last Han, and the detail work on the clothing is just fantastic. The jacket in particular has some amazing texture work, which adds a lot of character to the figure. The shirt and underlying belt are a little on the soft side, and I’m not sure I’m a fan of the pose on his left hand, but those are my only real complaints. The real draw of this sculpt is the likeness. Harrison Ford has a notoriously hard to capture likeness, but this is perhaps the best one we’ve ever seen. There are a few angles where it looks a bit off, but the overall appearance is very close. Now, you may be thinking that, based on the pictures, he really doesn’t look as close as I’m saying. Well, here’s where the paint comes in. For the most part, the paint’s great. The clothing (particularly the coat) has some really great work, which really sells this as a real person. My first nit is the eyes; they aren’t terrible, but they’re a little sloppier than I’d like. However, the major issue here is the hair. The application of the paint is alright, but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s simply the wrong color. Instead of being mostly grey with maybe a few streaks of light brown, it’s light brown with just a few streaks of grey, resulting in him looking a fair bit younger than he should. It’s really annoying, because it seriously throws off an otherwise really great figure.* Han only includes one accessory: his signature blaster, which is a totally different mold than the one included with the Series 2 Han.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

When I found out this figure was hitting stores, I was anticipating him being a chore to find. So, I was pleasantly surprised to walk into my local Target and find him hanging on the pegs, hiding behind a pair of Jango Fetts. I’m not sure I can adequately describe just how much I like this figure. He’s hands down the best Han Solo figure I own, and possibly one of the best Black Series figures to date, and certainly the best of the Force Awakens figures. Yes, the hair thing is annoying, but this figure outshines all those issues, and is just a ton of fun to mess around with.

I think, perhaps, the most dated part of the whole above review is how Jango was the figure I was pushing aside to find this guy.  Believe it or not, when this series hit, the Prequel resurgence hadn’t quite hit in full force yet, and, with the general hype machine that was still going behind The Force Awakens, Han was actually the more desirable figure.  How times have changed on that one.  Beyond that little diatribe, my review of this figure is pretty spot-on, I think.  This was definitely Hasbro’s best Han Solo sculpt for the line at the time, and even now is still a pretty high contender.  I think he gets edged out by Bespin Han, but that’s really it.  I was critical of the original figure’s paint, and clearly that’s the one thing Hasbro wanted to fix, so I must have been onto something there.  And fix it Hasbro did.  The new paint is absolutely night and day.  There was apparently some sort of contractual thing preventing the hair on any Han Solo merch from being a proper grey when it all hit in 2016, but it would appear that’s been lifted, and this figure’s all the better for it.  The new face paint is also perhaps the best upgrade from the entire line, and they’ve even improved on the already high quality paint on the body.  He’s really just an all-around win.

Thanks to my sponsors at All Time Toys for setting me up with this figure for review.  If you’re looking for toys both old and new, please check out their website.

#3254: Cobra Viper Officer & Vipers

COBRA VIPER OFFICER & VIPERS

G.I. JOE: CLASSIFIED SERIES (HASBRO)

Does this count as the eighth entry in the Day of the Vipers if that day actually wrapped up four years ago?  Eh, I’m gonna count it.  I love me a continuing bit.  So, for Part 8 of the exceedingly long Day of the Vipers, we’re jumping to the far-flung year of 2022.  Woooo.  The future is now.  After revamping the brand and moving to a 6 inch scale in 2020, Hasbro added an updated Cobra Viper to the line in the form of a rather impossibly hard to find Target exclusive, which hit in early 2021.  It was decidedly not so much fun for the fanbase.  To make it decidedly more fun for the fanbase, Hasbro decided to follow-up the initial Viper with a whole pack of Vipers.  I am much excite.  Very much excite.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

The Cobra Viper Officer and Vipers three-pack is a stand alone release for G.I. Joe: Classified Series, and is numbered 47 in the line-up, fitting the continuing trend of absolutely nothing in the Classified Series going un-numbered.  It’s still kind of amusing to see it on such a large-boxed item, though.  The pack includes the Officer and two rank and file Vipers.  All three are built on the same sculpt as the Target-release Viper, with the Officer receiving a complete paint overhaul and the two Vipers getting some minor tweaks.  Of note, all three uses of the mold have a slightly different composition on the plastic for the goggles, so they fit a little bit better than the first release.

The Cobra Viper Officer is actually a rather new concept, since the Vipers have classically been seen as the lowest on the totem pole, meaning their commanders would just really be any other Cobra officer.  When the Viper molds were re-purposed to be a Cobra Officer and a Cobra Trooper in 1998, Hasbro added a little bit of ranking with the colors, but not officially applied to Vipers proper.  Our first taste of the concept for Vipers originated in 2006’s Viper Pit set, which amongst its six Vipers included one with a golden face plate, albeit with no denotation of any added rank.  In 2014’s 50th Anniversary line, we got our first proper Viper Officer, who got not just the changed face plate, but a whole new color scheme as well.  That figure seems to have served as the primary inspiration for the figure seen here, though they do both seem to take at least a page out of the 1998 Cobra Officer’s book in terms of coloring.  The figure stands 6 1/4 inches tall and he has 35 points of articulation.  Since the sculpt is the same as the first release, the main change-up here is the colors.  This guy pretty much just copies the 50th color scheme, translating the officer to primarily light grey, with some red accenting, as well as the expected gold for the visor.  The application is generally pretty clean, though there’s some fuzziness on some of the change-overs, as well as a bit of slop at the edges of the forearms.  The depth of detail on the paint is also a little more involved than on the prior figure, with things like the lenses of his goggles getting their own coloring as well, which gives him a little extra polish.  The Officer gets the same scarf used on the Target figure, as well as a backpack in an updated color scheme, and a unique pistol, which even has a port at the front for effects pieces.

Backing up the Viper Officer, there are two lower tier Vipers.  By design, they’re meant to be interwoven with the Target-exclusive release, allowing those who already got some of those to not have to start over from square one.  Exactly how well that works is up to some debate, though.  There are a few little changes, not just from that release to this one, but also between the two figures in the pack together here, as well.  As with the Officer, these guys share their construction with the standard Viper, with their color scheme being the differentiating thing.  These two are very similar to the standard Viper, but the reds and blues are both shifted to be a little less saturated and just a touch darker.  It’s nothing major, and something that can be easily missed when not comparing the releases side by side.  But, if you’re some sort of weirdo that has to have every possible version, well, I guess you’ll see it.  The application is largely consistent with the prior release, but there’s the extra detailing again on the goggle lenses, to match up with the Officer.  I really like it.  While the standard Viper, as well as all prior Vipers from the brand up to this point, stuck with a consistently lighter skin tone, this set adds in just a little bit of diversity to the Cobra ranks, with one of the two Vipers sporting a noticeably darker pigment to his neck and forearms.  The other Viper is *supposed* to be lighter skinned, but, well, that’s not exactly how it worked out.  The neck is the intended color, but the forearms are the same darker brown as the other guy, meaning his skin tone doesn’t match.  I at first thought it was a fluke on my set, but after checking out a few additional sets, it appears this is an across the board issue for this release.  It’s not the end of the world, since the forearm bracer’s totally hide the issue, but it’s frustrating that you don’t get the option to go sans-bracers, since that’s kind of my preferred look.  Both rank and file Vipers are packed with the scarf, the back pack (with slightly tweaked colors), and the same sidearm as the Target Viper.

In addition to the parts that are clearly tied in with each of the specific figures in the set, there are also a selection of accessories that can go with any of the three.  There are two of the rifle included with the Target Viper, three different styles of more realistic assault rifle, a silencer, and nine different blast effects, which can be fitted onto all but the standard Viper sidearms.  The extras here are really great, because they do a great job of selling the army building potential, given how many options there are here with weaponry.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Have I mentioned that I really like Vipers?  Because I do.  I was not thrilled about the first one being a Target release, since it made doing any sort of army building pretty much impossible.  By a stroke of luck, I got two of those, but I was certainly not counting on getting any more.  I was very happy when this set was announced, and I like being able to just get a squad in one swoop.  The Officer’s a fun concept, and I like his uniqueness.  The two standards are just different enough to be different.  I do like the new colors and the improved paint apps, as well as all the cool new goodies.  I’m not thrilled about the mix-up on the one Viper’s forearms, and I’m curious to see how that pans out in the long run, and if Hasbro chooses to address it in any way.  I’m not expecting it, but I’m curious.  As it stands, that’s my one flaw on a set I otherwise really, really like.

Thanks to my sponsors at All Time Toys for setting me up with these figures for review.  If you’re looking for toys both old and new, please check out their website.

#3253: Ghost Rider

GHOST RIDER

MARVEL LEGENDS (HASBRO)

“Wielding supernatural abilities and weapons from the back of his flaming motorcycle, Ghost Rider roams the mortal world as the Spirit of Vengeance.”

I don’t review enough Ghost Rider stuff around here.  I probably should review more.  Honestly, It’s kind of crazy how the last two Ghost Rider reviews I wrote were in 2020 and 2019, and were neither one a “standard” rider.  In the fallout of the Engine of Vengence Haslab not making it, there’s at least a tiny glimmer of Ghost Rider hope out there.  Since it’s the character’s 50th anniversary and all this year, we’ve got a few small offerings to tie-in, including today’s focus, which is a Legends release that throws back to Toy Biz’s line from the ’90s…sort of.  I’ll get to that.  Let’s check him out!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Ghost Rider is a standalone Fan Channel release for Hasbro’s Marvel Legends line.  He was initially slated for a March 2023 release, but like a lot of items recently, he moved up considerably on the timeline, starting to hit in November.  He’s the first figure to sport the retro Ghost Rider packaging, though time will tell if there will be more going forward.  Though the packaging may be retro, the figure in the packaging doesn’t really directly correspond to any particular figure from the old toy line. Instead, he’s kind of an amalgamated sort of design, which ultimately makes him actually more of a throw back to the very first Legends Ghost Rider.  The figure stands about 6 1/2 inches tall and he has 30 points of articulation, which still includes that awesome moving jaw.  This guy’s a complete parts re-use of the Rhino Series Ghost Rider, who was himself using a good number of parts from the A.I.M. Soldier.  The whole thing’s been re-used once before, for the first Legendary Riders release of the character.  It’s a very good classic Ghost Rider sculpt, and one that still holds up really well even 7 years after its initial release.  Some of the articulation’s a little bit stiff, but for the character, it all works pretty well.  This release changes up the color scheme a bit; while the last two releases both stuck rather closely to the ’70s color scheme, this one sort of merges that look with Danny Ketch’s usual color layout, by going for a more straight black on the jacket, and grey for the pants.  The skull is now far starker white compared to the flames around it, and we even get the appropriate paint work to show off the bones of his neck.  The Rhino Series Ghost Rider was notably without any extras beyond the Build-A-Figure piece, but this one gets a fair number of extras, adding in the chain whip from the Riders release, plus two flame effects for the arms, and an all-new alternate head and hands (sculpted by Paul Harding).  The new head depicts Johnny mid-transformation, which is a ton of fun, and the new hands show off his skeleton hands sans gloves.  It makes for some really fun posing options.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I passed on the Riders version of Ghost Rider because I was content with the first release of the mold and didn’t feel like I needed a re-paint.  I was initially planning to do the same with this guy, but then I saw all the new parts he came with, and rethought it.  The prior version still remains my definitive, but boy are the extras a lot of fun on this one.  It really takes him to the next level.  Now, can we please get a proper Danny Ketch?

Thanks to my sponsors at All Time Toys for setting me up with this figure for review.  If you’re looking for toys both old and new, please check out their website.

#3252: Beast

BEAST

MARVEL LEGENDS (HASBRO)

“Dr. Henry McCoy, the gentle giant of the X-Men, uses his mutant physicality and genius mind for the betterment of humans and mutants alike.”

Back in 2019, Marvel Legends was taking its first real stabs towards completing the core ’90s X-Men line-up for the first time.  We got a Beast back then as part of the Caliban Series, and he and the Jubilee from the same series were legitimately always impossible to find.  There was a grey Beast variant later to alleviate the issue a little, but it definitely wasn’t the same thing.  As we add more to that ’90s line-up, a proper re-release of some sort kind of feels more and more inevitable.  And here it is, being all not evitable.  So, now we’re getting another go at the ’90s Beast.  On the plus side, this one’s aiming to not just get the prior one back out there, but also make it even better in the process.  Does it do it?  Let’s find out!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Beast is his own Fan Channel-exclusive single-offering for Hasbro’s Marvel Legends.  He’s under the Retro Collection banner, with a fun throwback card inspired by the early ’90s Toy Biz stuff.  This is the second time Beast’s been done under this banner, following the Grey Beast from 2020.  This one is, of course, more true to what Toy Biz actually put out back then.  He’s also not at the same price-point as prior versions, being in the mid-tier price between standards and deluxes, first done with Iron Spider.  This allows him to go just a little bit heavier on the accessories, and also keep his size and original core parts, which all feels like a win to me.  This Beast is, of course, very much a Jim Lee ’90s Beast in terms of design, fitting in with a lot of the other focus as of late, and loosely fitting with the VHS packaged figures, though without the specific cel shading set-up.  The figure stands about 7 inches tall and he has 36 points of articulation.  For the most part, this figure shares his sculpt with 2019’s Caliban Series Beast, which is exactly what we all expected, and is really just the aim of the figure.  It’s a solid piece of work, and a base that’s only gotten four uses at this point, so it’s not at all a bad choice.  He does get an all-new head sculpt, courtesy of Paul Harding, which gives us a far more calm and collected Hank McCoy than the first sculpt.  I was always kind of iffy on that one’s screaming look, so I definitely appreciate this one; it’s still perhaps a touch serious for my personal preference, but that also distinguishes it more from the Grey Beast head, as well as sticking pretty close to the original Toy Biz figure.  Beast’s color work is similar to the Caliban release, but ever so slightly changed up; the main blue is a ever so slightly lighter in shade, and the accenting is much subtler than before.  I liked the prior one for the time, but this coloring definitely is an improvement.  The biggest change-up for this release is the accessory selection.  He’s been moved to a higher price point, and to justify that, he gets not only the two sets of hands from the original release, but also the original release’s head, a cloth lab coat, Grey Beast’s glasses, and two different beakers with different color liquids in them.  It’s a great selection of extras, and I especially love the “X-Gene” label on the pink beaker.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I was overall happy with the first release of this mold back in 2019, but in the years since, I’ve really grown to dislike him being saddled with the one head sculpt that he got.  Add in that he was so hard to find, and didn’t quite fit with more recent releases, and it all comes together as a definite need for some sort of update.  I honestly wasn’t expecting something this involved, honestly, but I really can’t knock it.  This figure takes the 2019 figure and just makes it emphatically better in ever sense.  He’s finally a Legends Beast that I don’t feel is some sort of compromise!

Thanks to my sponsors at All Time Toys for setting me up with this figure for review.  If you’re looking for toys both old and new, please check out their website.