#2191: Cantina Showdown

OBI-WAN KENOBI, DR. EVAZAN, & PONDA BABA

STAR WARS: POWER OF THE FORCE II (KENNER)

“On the run from Imperial stormtroopers, Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker enter the seedy Mos Eisley Cantina in hopes of finding swift passage to the planet Alderaan. Inside, among the gallery of criminals are the murderous Dr. Evazan and the brutal Ponda Baba–both of whom are thirsty for a fight with Skywalker. Reaching for their blasters, the villains are suddenly cut off from Luke by the pulsating blaze of Obi-Wan’s lightsaber! Will Obi-Wan triumph and save the Rebellion’s only hope?”

So, believe it or not, the original purpose of the Cinema Scenes sub-line of Power of the Force II was to, you know, recreate scenes directly from the movies.  By the end of the line, it had transitioned into “let’s throw three figures into a set”, but there was far more focus with the early stuff, where it was a merging of previously released figures with new in order to create a specific scene.  This was the case for today’s set, the “Cantina Showdown”, which showcased Obi-Wan in his brief face-off with Mos Eisley Cantina denizens Dr. Evazan and Ponda Baba.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Cantina Showdown was one of the four sets released in 1997, the first year of Cinema Scenes.  This set was a Walmart-exclusive upon release, and would prove to be a less than stellar performer at retailer, for a few likely reasons I’ll touch on as I review the figures proper.

OBI-WAN KENOBI

Patterned on his single-carded release from ’95, this figure aimed to inject a little more dynamism into the previous figure.  Like that one, he stands roughly 3 3/4 inches tall and has 6 points of articulation.  It feels sort of odd and recursive for a figure to add more pre-posing to one of the ’95 releases, but this was far from the only time the line did it, so I guess it was a bit of a thing.  To be fair, Obi-Wan was one of the least stylized of the earliest figures, so I suppose Kenner just wanted him to get in on the ’90s pre-posed, super-roided fun.  So, here he is, I guess?  Despite looking similar, the only parts actually shared with the single are the head and torso, with everything else, including the robe, being retooled for his sick action pose.  I’m…I’m not entirely what the pose is going for, if I’m honest.  It’s not like Alec Guinness was breaking out the kung-fu moves when he whips out the saber at the bar, and even with the dramatically bent elbows, he still doesn’t have the ability to hold his saber two-handed, making the non-holding hand look even more awkward than the single-release, if I’m honest.  The paint on this figure is pretty much the same as the standard, and he’s also got his lightsaber, albeit the shortened version.   Shrinkage!

PONDA BABA

Like Obi-Wan, Ponda Baba also had a single carded release, which this one draws much of its stylistic inspiration from.  Unlike Obi-Wan, Ponda’s prior figure hit shelves just months before this one, making him feel a little bit more redundant.  Again, it’s the pose that really differentiates them, and again, the only real overlap is the head and torso.  Even the jacket gets re-sculpted in the name of dynamics.  It’s admittedly not a bad sculpt; all of the creatures stood out as the best of the earlier figures in this line.  That said, this version, due to the preposing, has a lot of troubles staying standing, which can get more than a little bit annoying.  For me, the most criminal piece of this release is that he doesn’t take advantage of the newly-sculpted parts to add the one important feature that the sing-card lacked: a removable arm!  It’s kind of key to the scene, so for it to be left out of this supposedly scene-specific release is just odd.  Also, this figure cuts the original’s accessory count from two to one, only including the smaller blaster pistol.

DR. EVAZAN

As the set’s one truly unique piece, Dr. Evazan seems like the natural fit for the set’s star, doesn’t he?  I mean, the character had never gotten a toy release before, so this one had to be a big deal, right?  Well, in a word, no.  The thing about Evazan is that he’s got the far less distinctive of the two creature looks here, which is why Ponda was always first for toys.  The thing about this particular Evazan figure is that it doesn’t even really capture that already less distinctive look, making him look even more average than he does in the film.  Removed from the other two figures in this set, it’s a little hard to place him, and that’s probably why his value also drops pretty drastically when it’s just him.  Kenner was right to think this guy couldn’t move as a single-carded figure, but that’s at least in part because he’s the worst of three figures included, made worse by there not being another option to get him.  I will say, they did at least try on the paint, giving him some more subdued work than we saw a lot of his contemporaries, especially on his vest.  He also included a unique blaster pistol, which I suppose would be cool if I had it, but I don’t.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

When you go completist on a line, there are the items that really test you.  This is one of those for me with Power of the Force II.  I mostly have them because All Time Toys had all three of them loose, with only the one missing piece between them, and they were super cheap, and I was already buying a bunch of other PotF figures.  It’s not hard to pin-point why this set performed so poorly.  Obi-Wan and Ponda Baba had a lot of work to do to prove their worth, and they don’t succeed.  Evazan didn’t, and yet somehow he also doesn’t succeed.  How does one manage that?

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#2163: Batcave (w/ Batman)

BATCAVE (w/ BATMAN)

BATMAN ’66 (MATTEL)

So, it’s apparently Batman Day, a fact I know because pretty much everyone keeps saying “hey did you know it’s Batman Day?”  I didn’t realize fictional characters were getting days now, but if anyone’s gonna get one, I guess it makes sense for it to be Batman.  He’s does have like one of everything; it’s only sensible he’d eventually have a day as well.  In the spirit of the day, I figured I’d take a look at one of the very many Batman items I have in my collection, courtesy of Mattel’s ill-fated run with the Batman ’66 license.  Let’s have a look at Batman and Mattel’s go at the Batcave!

THE SET ITSELF

The “To The Batcave” set was one of the last two items to come out of Mattel’s Batman ’66 line, released (initially, at least) as a Toys R Us-exclusive item, alongside the Triumphant Trio three-pack, in the late summer of 2015.  While billed as a playset, what it more works out to is a figure with a larger than average selection of accessories, because that’s just how Mattel do, I suppose.  The figure included here is a standard Batman, who would receive five separate releases by the time the line was done.  He stands right at 6 inches tall (quite under-scaling him when compared to pretty much any other 1:12 lines, since they tend to punch up a bit on size) and he has 23 points of articulation. Despite how many times it would end up re-issued, the Batman sculpt was probably the weakest of the line’s selection of very weak sculpts.  Firstly, let’s discuss the articulation.  DC Universe Classics was never on par with Legends, but it at least offered a workable selection of joints; not so with this line.  In addition to the general lack of joints, the joints included aren’t particularly useful.  The ab-crunch, the knees, and the elbows in particular have extremely reduced range, making even rather basic poses very difficult.  The quality of the sculpt proper’s not great either. While Adam West may not have been a body builder or anything during his time under the cowl, the extraordinarily skinny build on this figure goes way too far, building a figure that really doesn’t look like a real person at all.  Coupled with the already small scale on the figures, it makes Batman downright silly looking when compared to his contemporaries from lines running at the same time.  Additionally, despite being based on a real person, and not a comic book creation, this figure’s level of detailing marked a major step down when compared to prior Mattel output, as the majority of the costume is devoid of any sculpted textures.  About the best that can be said of the sculpt is that the masked head doesn’t have a terrible likeness.  So, that’s the old figure that they threw into the box to take up space.  What about all the new stuff they added that was supposed to actually sell this thing?  Well, the box proudly proclaims that the set includes 15 accessories…which is true, albeit not quite as impressive as the box might lead you to believe.  To go on the figure proper, we get an unmasked Bruce Wayne head.  Kind of an interesting choice, since I don’t believe we actually ever saw Bruce unmasked in the costume on the show.  However, it’s got a decent likeness of West, and it actually looks a little better on the body than the standard head.  The largest piece is definitely the Batcomputer, which is a decent set piece, even if it is pretty simplistic.  At least it’s got its proper label, showcasing 60s Batman’s love of labels.  The piece is hollow, and the back pops off to reveal the “Secret Equipment Storage,” which is where you can stow all of the other parts when you aren’t using them.  The back that pops off is designed to look like the inside of stately Wayne manor, allowing for two different display options, and two different sets of accessories to go along with them.  On the cave side, we get three batarangs (all identical), four cans of Batman Spray Repellent (again all identical), the Batzooka, Bat megaphone, and Bat communicator.  The duplication of the batarangs and repellent is kind of odd, since obviously he can’t use them all at once, nor is there really anywhere to display the extras, making it really seem like Mattel included as many as they did to bump that accessory count up.  Additionally, there’s the ongoing issue with Batman generally just being unable to really hold any of the included extras. The Batzooka in particular is notable, as its size and weight mean that the figure will fall over if its held in any fashion other than at his side.  On the Wayne Manor side, we get the Shakespeare bust with the hidden button for cave access and the red Bat-phone.  The bust is definitely my favorite extra included here, because the sculpt’s really clean, and the hinge works quite nicely.  To complete the two different set-ups, there’s a card with a Batcave illustration on one side and Wayne manor on the other, as well as a stand to hold the card.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

By the time this set hit, my enthusiasm for the line was completely dead.  I picked up everything from the initial run, but only ended up picking up the three-pack when I was disappointed at not getting anything Star Wars-y during the first Force Friday event.  This set, as interesting a concept as it may be, just didn’t excite me enough to drop $35 on it.  However, a friend of mine had gotten one a while ago, and decided they no longer wanted it, and thus it made its way into my collection.  As with so much Mattel did, it fills me with mixed emotions.  There are some cool things in here, and in general it’s a fun concept, but the core Batman’s kind of rotten, and this being the fifth time we got him really hinders the set.  I think if it had been in that first wave of product, rather than pushed all the way to the end of the line, it might have been a bigger hit, but quite frankly there’s a lot of things that could have been done differently to make this line worth while.

#2151: Cannonball

CANNONBALL

MARVEL LEGENDS (HASBRO)

Samuel Guthrie creates a powerful forcefield to fly at superhuman speeds as a leader of the New Mutants known as Cannonball.”

Cannonball is actually a pretty solid success story for a “late run” X-character.  Introduced in the pages of New Mutants as one of the team’s founding members, he was one of the few to stick with the team for its original run and well into its rebranding as X-Force.  He was eventually promoted into the main X-Men team for a bit, and has even had a go at being an Avenger for a span of time.  How about that?  Though not the most prevalent character in action figure form, he tends to get at least one figure for every stylistic iteration of Marvel toys, and he’s found himself included in the latest round of X-themed Marvel Legends.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Cannonball is figure 2 in the Wendigo Series of Marvel Legends.  He fits well with the running undercurrent of an X-Force theme in this particular assortment, especially since he’s in his ’90s X-Force costume.  Said ’90s costume is probably the design most evocative of the character, so it’s a good choice.  It’s also the same design that inspired his last Legends figure, some 12 years ago, so it’s got that whole direct replacement thing going for it.  The figure stands 7 inches tall and he has 18 points of articulation.  While not super low, that articulation count is a lot lower than most Legends figures.  And why might that be?  Well, as you may have noticed from the photos, Sam doesn’t actually have a lower half.  In the comics, Sam’s ability is usually showcased by sort of a rocket boost effect that consumes his lower half.  It’s a dynamic way of illustrating the level of force behind his abilities.  It’s also something that his figures beyond his Minimates have never really tackled, instead giving us Sam in his powered down state.  This figure instead goes for a fully-powered look.  I’m of mixed feelings on this choice.  While I like to have effects pieces, and the rocket boost is certainly a signature appearance for Cannonball, the choice to release him with only the blast effect and no actual legs severely limits what can be done with this figure.  Additionally, the blast effect is pointed straight up, unlike the Minimates piece, which was angled, thereby making it look like he was flying towards something.  This just makes it look like Sam is angrily propelling himself straight upward, which doesn’t really work all that well, dynamically.  His upper half is fairly decent, I suppose.  He uses the arms from Shatterstar, in conjunction with a new head, torso, and jacket.  The teeth-gritting expression is appropriately Liefeldian, and the new parts create a solid recreation of his costume from the comics.  The upper torso is also removable from the blast effect, if you want to try and give him a set of legs that they didn’t include.  The paintwork on the figure is decent enough; it’s pretty much what we’ve come to expect from the line.  The linework is clean and all of the important elements are there.  The variation from red to yellow on the blast is pretty cool too.  Cannonball has no accessories of his own (which really just further emphasizes that whole lack of legs issue), but does include a leg of the Build-A-Figure Wendigo (again emphasizing his own missing legs).

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I’m actually still quite fond of the first Legends Cannonball, so this one was already going to have a rough time of clearing that bar, but the confirmation that he wasn’t going to include legs just further put me off.  I’m still all-in on Legends so I was planning to buy him anyway, but I was sure hoping to be surprised by the figure in-hand.  The figure still fills me with mixed emotions.  The upper half is decent, and I don’t hate that he has the effect piece, but it’s really, really limiting, and questionably implemented.  There were definitely better ways of handling this.

Cannonball was purchased from my sponsors over at All Time Toys.  If you’re looking for cool toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay Store.

#2082: Spider-Man

SPIDER-MAN

MARVEL LEGENDS (HASBRO)

What’s a Spider-Man movie without at least one variant on the main character’s costume?  Well, Spider-Man 2, I guess.  That doesn’t really sell my point very well, though does it?  Let me come in again.  What’s an MCU film without at least one variant on the main character’s costume?  Poor marketing synergy, that’s what.  For Homecoming, we got both Peter’s Stark-designed suit and his personal prototype suit, both of which got their appropriate due in the film proper.  For the follow-up, we get another two (at least, though there may be more), with an update on his main design, and a more stealthy option, presumably given to him by his new friends at SHIELD.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

This version of Spider-Man (which gets no notation of his varation in his name proper; he’s just “Spider-Man”) is figure 2 in the Molten Man Series of Marvel Legends.  He’s the third, and final, movie-based single release in this assortment.  The figure stands 6 inches tall and he has 32 points of articulation.  Peter’s had a number of stealth suits in the comics, but this one seems to actually take a lot of influence from the Spider-Man Noir design (the comics one, that is, which is a little different from the one seen last year in Into the Spider-Verse), which kind of works if this is in fact a SHIELD design, and is therefore from an entirely different source than his usual costume.  It’s not a bad look all things considered.  That being said, it doesn’t seem to have made the transition to figure all that well.  It’s not terrible, but I don’t think it’s nearly as strong as the basic Spidey. The biggest issue, no doubt, is the neck, which is way too long.  Clearly, this is a production error of some sort, but it’s a pretty bad one, and throws the whole figure sort of into disarray.  Beyond that, the rest of the sculpt is a little better, but really feels devoid of detail when compared to the other figure.  There’s a lot of smooth surface, and a lot of very flat areas, making him look particularly toy-etic.  It’s possible this costume is just less texture heavy than the standard costume, but it seems kind of lackluster here.  There’s not a ton going on with the paint work on this figure; mostly, he’s just molded in black plastic.  There’s some slight variance in finish, which breaks up the monotony a bit, plus the silver for the eyes and peach-tone for the hands.  It’s accurate, so I can’t fault them there.  He’s packed with two sets of hands (fists and thwipping) and an extra head with the goggles flipped up.  The second head seems to sit a little better on the neck, but it’s still a bit high for my taste.  Spidey is also packed with the left arm of the BaF Molten Man.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This guy is kind of the reverse of the previous Spidey.  I was kind looking forward to him, and hoping he’d be new and different.  In hand, I was rather let down.  The neck issue is the biggest thing for me, because it’s hard to overlook it, even with posing.  Were that not present, I think I’d like him a lot more.  Ultimately, he’s probably not going to be a huge part of the film, so it’s not the end of the world, but that doesn’t make the figure magically better.

I got this figure from All Time Toys, and he can still be purchased here.  If you’re looking for other toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay storefront.

#2061: Captain America

CAPTAIN AMERICA

MARVEL LEGENDS (HASBRO)

Steve Rogers prepares for the ultimate battle to save the universe and channels all of his strength as Captain America.”

When is an amazing figure not an amazing release?  When the circumstances surrounding that release mean that not everyone who wants it is going to be able to get it.  Exclusives became the nature of the collecting beast years ago, as big box stores began to throw their buying power into guaranteeing they’d have something you couldn’t get anywhere else.  Walmart in particular has a reputation of refusing to carry certain toylines at all until they are granted an exclusive.  They didn’t carry initial assortments of Toy Biz’s Marvel Legends for this very reason, and it was because of this that Best of Marvel Legends came to exist.  Later in the line, they would get an entire series (the Giant-Man Series) to themselves, and boy was that just a pleasant experience for everyone involved.  And if you believed me there, I have a one-handed Giant-Man I’d like to sell you.  I assure you, he’s much better than one with both hands.  In recent years, Walmart exclusives have become less of an issue, but less because they actually got better at making them available and more because toymakers have started giving them less-essential stuff when possible.  I’ve not had too much trouble with the last few Legends releases, but then again, I’ve not felt like they were essential either (I also didn’t have the nightmarish experience getting Corvous Glaive that some collectors did).  Then today’s figure was announced, and I was again less than enthused by this whole exclusives game.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Captain America is the third Walmart-exclusive Legends release this year, but he’s actually the second to hit stores because, as of this writing, their Captain Marvel exclusive still hasn’t been seen anywhere domestically.  Cap actually has had a pretty fast turnaround, as we only found out about his existence two weeks ago, and he seems to be be arriving in full force, at least in physical stores.  He’s based on his newly-designed costume from the final battle of Endgame, and is what I’d classify as the “definitive” Cap look for this movie.  The figure stands 6 1/4 inches tall and he has 34 points of articulation.  Since Winter Soldier, all of the standard MCU Caps have been built on the same body.  While I loved it when it was new, that body has grown more and more out of place as the line has moved forward.  We got a taste of something new with the Infinity War Cap last year, which was part of why I was so disappointed when the Marvel Studios release went right back to the WS body, rather than retooling the new one.  I was crossing my fingers that Hasbro wouldn’t make the same mistake when it came time for this costume.  I’m happy to report they didn’t, and, in fact, they’ve given him an almost entirely new sculpt.  From the thigh down, he shares his legs with the IW release, and he has the helmeted head from the Studios offering (which is one of my few nits with this figure, because it means he’s got the smaller ball-joint of the WS body, meaning we once again have a Cap whose heads aren’t compatible with the Quantum Suit body).  Beyond that, everything else is new to this figure.  There’s a second head included, with another go at an unmasked Steve Rogers.  I liked the Studios unmasked head a lot, but I think this one beats it.  They really got Evans’ look from the movie down.  The build of the body takes note from the IW release, and bulks Cap up a fair bit, so he no longer looks quite as shrimpy when compared to the other MCU releases.  The detailing on the uniform is some of the best we’ve seen on a  Hasbro Cap, with the “scales” on his torso and shoulders being a real highlight of the figure.  I also quite like how they’ve made the shoulder pads floating pieces, so that they can slip over the torso when you’re posing him.  It helps to preserve the look and avoid restricting his motion on his shoulders.  The paintwork on this Cap is pretty good, thought I will say parts of it are a step down from other recent releases.  Both heads make use of the face printing, which looks very nice as always.  The paint on the helmet is also improved from the Studios release, which I was quit happy about.  The rest of the body is far more basic in its application, and also quite sloppy in several spots, especially on the abdomen.  It’s not as bad as some of the stuff we used to get from Hasbro, but it could definitely be much better.  In addition to his unmasked head, Cap also gets two more extras.  The first is his shield, which uses the sculpt from the Studios release, but this time has a fancy battle-damaged paint scheme.  Unfortunately, his left hand is still in a fist, so he can’t quite hold it right.  Fortunately, the hands can be swapped between this and the IW release, should you want a gripping hand.  His final accessory is rather cleverly hidden behind his shield in the package.  It’s Mjolnir, which he wields in epic fashion during Endgame‘s final battle.  It’s just a re-use of the previous MCU mold, but it’s still a fun inclusion, and it was nice of them to hide it in the package.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

As I noted in my review of the basic release of this costume, I walked out of the theatre ready to buy a figure of this design.  It was my assumption that he’d be showing up in one of the regular assortments later down the line, but I did have a little concern in the back of my mind that he might wind up as an exclusive of some sort.  I was non-plussed to find out it was Walmart.  Fortunately, I found him with only a few stops, but it did require me buying a figure with a sincerely jacked up package.  This figure is a really, really good figure, and the MCU Cap I’ve been wanting ever since Hasbro stepped up their MCU game.  He’s the definitive MCU Cap, and making him an exclusive to a chain who is notoriously bad about actually getting their exclusives out there seems like a serious misstep on Hasbro’s part.  My only hope is that they have some sort of an ace up their sleeve on this one.  He’s got a lot of new parts for a one-off release, and I can’t stress enough that he really feels like too big a figure just to be a Walmart exclusive.  Time will tell.  Until then, hopefully this figure won’t be too hard to find.

#2059: Longshot

LONGSHOT

X-MEN (TOY BIZ)

“Once a slave to the extradimensional tyrant Mojo, Longshot eventually escaped, came ot Earth and joined forces with the X-Men. Armed with razor-sharp throwing knives, his combined abilities of amazing agility and incredible luck allow him to take on the fiercest foes. Recently, Longshot left the X-Men to search for the secrets of his past and travel to parts unknown!”

Have I reviewed a Longshot figure before on this site?  I feel like I have. <checks backlog>  Why yes, yes I have, waaaaaaaaaay back in review #0034.  Wow, that was a while ago.  It also predates me being quite as in-depth with these intros, so I guess I haven’t really talked about him much, apart from saying he’s nobody’s favorite.  Aw, that feels a little bit cruel.  Past-Ethan’s a little bit of a jerk, isn’t he?  Well, on the Longshot front, it’s worth noting that the guy hasn’t had the best luck when it comes to action figures, both in terms of quantity and quality.  He had exactly one figure during the Toy Biz 5-inch days, and that’s the one I’m looking at today.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Longshot was part of Series 4 of Toy Biz’s ’90s X-Men line.  He falls into one of the line’s most oddball series, with Professor X, Cyclops II, Ahab, Sabretooth II, and the Brood as his fellow releases.  Longshot joined Ahab and the Brood in the club of “not having been relevant in several years” at the time of release.  The figure stands 5 inches tall and he has 7 points of articulation.  He’s a bit more limited in movement than a lot of the other figures from this line, and I’m not entirely sure why.  He’s only got one elbow joint (the left), which is in order to facilitate his knife-throwing action feature.  That I can kind of get.  But he’s also got no neck movement, for seemingly no reason.  That I don’t get.  Were they just not sure how to articulate it with the mullet?  Whatever the case, it’s not doing him any favors.  Also not doing him any favors is the general quality of the sculpt.  This early in the line, Toy Biz’s sculpts were still very hit-or-miss, and this one’s more miss.  It’s largely that head, which just looks downright goony.  Longshot’s usually depicted as being a somewhat charming fellow, but none of that’s visible, unless you are particularly charmed by the face of a chimpanzee.  Which maybe you are.  I’m not one to judge.  But Longshot isn’t classically this simian.  Toy Biz’s sculptors also seem to have understood the basic concept of the mullet, but not really the implementation, resulting in a hairstyle that’s…well, it’s certainly something.  The head is also rather small when compared to the rest of the body, which, it should be noted, is a much better example of sculpting, comparatively at least.  Longshot’s paintwork is fairly standard.  It’s clean and the colors match his usual depictions.  The face again gets the worst work, though, getting those round, wide eyes, making him look like he’s in a constant state of surprise.  Longshot was packed with two knives (in case you lost one, I guess) and a bandolier, which helped to complete his usual look.  He also had the “KNIFE THROWING ACTION!”, where his right arm will swing forward when pulled back.  It’s not the most technically impressive feature, but at least it wasn’t overly intrusive.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I didn’t get Longshot new, but I did get him fairly quickly after the fact (probably around 1999-2000), courtesy of Cosmic Comix during one of their legendary Midnight Madness sales back when they were still on Main Street in Ellicott City.  I don’t know exactly why I got Longshot, but I remember wanting him, for one reason or another.  He’s…not a great figure.  Of course, he’s in luck, because he’s not even the worst figure in this particular series (that’s Ahab).  Longshot’s goofy, and not a good take on the character, but I suppose he’s got his own sort of charm.

#1980: Force Link 2.0 Starter Set (w/ Han Solo)

FORCE LINK 2.0 STARTER SET (W/ HAN SOLO)

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (HASBRO)

When Hasbro launched their tie-in offerings for The Last Jedi, they launched alongside them a new play gimmick…well, an old play gimmick with a shiny new coat of paint, anyway.  Dubbed “Force Link,” it allowed for all compatible figures and vehicles to enhance their playablitity with sound effects and dialogue.  The whole thing required a reader to activate, and I reviewed that reader back when it was first made available. It was an amusing enough gimmick, but the whole thing ran into trouble just a few short months after its release, since Hasbro had failed to build in figures beyond the TLJ offerings planned when the reader debuted.  Not wanting to completely abandon the concept, but also not wanting to make all of the prior figures obsolete, they used the launch of Solo to offer up a “2.0” version, designed with updates in mind.  This, of course, meant another reader, and thereby another starter set, which I’ll be looking at today.

THE SET ITSELF

The Force Link 2.0 starter set was released alongside the rest of the Solo-themed product in April of last year.  Not quite the grand hurrah of prior toyline launches, but there it was.  The set includes the new version of the reader, as well as standard Han Solo figure.  Both of these items remained unique to this set throughout the line’s run, unlike the first starter set.  As with the first set, the three AAA batteries needed for the reader’s operation are not included.

FORCE LINK 2.0 READER

If you read my review of the first Force Link reader, then there’s not much new about the basics of this one.  It operates using the same NFC partnering between the reader and the figures.  The basic physical design is also the same, albeit with some slight cosmetic changes that better match it to Solo‘s aesthetics.  This mean’s it’s operation in conjunction with the figures is also the same, for good and for bad.  It’s still a tight fit on the wrist, and getting the figures to work as Hasbro intended doesn’t so much go; I again found holding the figures up to the reader directly to be more efficient.  There’s one new feature, which is kind of the selling point of the 2.0, but is also it’s biggest problem.  The new reader is tied-in with a Force Link app (which can be downloaded onto mobile devices), allowing for periodic updates.  This is supposed to fix the issue of the prior reader’s fixed selection of characters to interact with by allowing for new figures to be added via these updates.  So, what’s the problem?  Well, right out of the box, the reader is compatible with the Han Solo it comes packed with…and no one else.  No launch figures, no 1.0 figures, nothing.  Every figure beyond Han will simply give you a “Firmware Update Required” message.  You have to download and launch the app, pair the device to your phone and go through a rather frustrating interface process, all to start a very lengthy firmware update (Hasbro says it can take up to an hour, and mine stuck right to that).  The fact that they couldn’t even have the 1.0 and initial figures ready to go is a real problem, and it’s further hurt by the updates not actually being available when this thing hit shelves.

HAN SOLO

The second half of this set is a Han Solo.  But not just any Han Solo; it’s actually the standard Solo Han Solo.  Yes, unlike the first Force Link reader, which supplied us with a Kylo variant, this time Hasbro decided to make it a more worthwhile figure.  For those planning to buy the set, this is great, since they don’t have to worry about some extraneous offering.  For those not?  Well, it kind of means that Hasbro made a Solo line without a single-carded Han Solo, which, in retrospect, may not have been their finest move.  Moving past that, though, how is the line’s standard Han Solo?  He stands 3 3/4 inches tall and has 7 points of articulation.  He’s rather similar in design to the Han included with the Falcon, but obviously with the jacket added.  He uses the same head, legs, and hands, with a new torso and arms.  It’s a nice, sharp sculpt, and definitely my favorite of the various Hans available in the line.  His paintwork is clean, which is good, since you actually can’t see him in the box.  In fact, he’s probably the best of the Hans…again.  He’s packed with his usual blaster pistol, which he can hold or keep in his holster.  His Force Link sounds are:  “They call me Han Solo.”  “We’ve got company!”  “Blast ’em!” “This better be worth it.” “I don’t run from a fight.”  “Huh, I’ve got a really good feeling about this.” “Okay, stay sharp!” “Wa-hoo!” and then a blaster sound.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

It took a $10 off coupon to get me to buy the first Force Link starter set, so it’s probably not a huge surprise to find out I wasn’t eager to drop full retail on a second one, especially so soon after the first.  So, I clearance-waited on this one, which paid off quite nicely for me, since I was able to snag it for $4 just after the holidays.  Not great for the prospects of the concept continuing, of course.  I can see Hasbro really trying with this set, with the potential for updates instead of having to buy a new reader with every movie, and the avoidance of double-dipping on Han figures like they had with Rey and Jyn.  Unfortunately, the need to update right out of the box, coupled with how mind-numbingly frustrating the update process can be really hinders the fun factor on the reader.  The Han’s a nice figure, but he was stuck in a $30 set, and that’s a real hard sell.  And, ultimately, the fact that you couldn’t get a Han Solo figure in his own toyline without dropping $30 minimum really shot the line as a whole in the foot, which is a real shame, since they weren’t bad figures at all.

#1927: Red Goblin

RED GOBLIN

MARVEL LEGENDS (HASBRO)

When Norman Osborn merges with the Carnage symbiote, he becomes the villainous Red Goblin.”

Since Norman Osborn’s return to life at the end of “The Clone Saga,” there’s been some confusion about what to do with the character.  His goblin mantle had been filled in his absence by both his son Harry and the mysterious (or at least very illusive) Hobgoblin.  While he has returned to the Green Goblin a few times, there always seems to be something of a caveat to its presence.  He’s also taken on other identities, serving for a time as Marvel’s answer to Lex Luthor, a ruthless business man with no true secret identity, then as a twisted “savior” as the Iron Patriot, and then finally as the leader of an army as the Goblin King.  His latest identity, born from the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #799, is that of the Red Goblin.  Red Goblin is about as clear-cut an example of escalation is serialized fiction as you can get.  He’s the combination of Spider-Man’s greatest foe, Norman Osborn, with the deadlier, more un-hinged spawn of another of his greatest foes, Venom, all in a dark reflection of Spidey’s own time as host to the Venom symbiote.  Hey, when you get to issue #800, you kinda have to pull out all the stops, right?

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Red Goblin is figure 6 in the Kingpin Series of Marvel Legends.  He’s the final single-packed figure in the assortment, and the only of the individuals to be a clear-cut villain.  He also marks the second quickest turnaround from page to plastic in this assortment, being beaten out only by the Symbiote Spider-Man created to stop him in #800.  The figure stands 6 1/2 inches tall and has 32 points of articulation.  Like the last version of Norman, Red Goblin is built on the Bucky Cap body.  He makes use of Carnage’s tendril-ridden lower arms and legs, as well as his tendril back-pack piece, a sensible bit of re-use, since it’s the same symbiote and all.  He also uses Superior Venom’s feet and 2099‘s hands for properly clawed appendages.  Red Goblin is topped off with a brand-new head sculpt and a tail that’s been stuck to the back of the basic Bucky Cap pelvis.  The Red Goblin design is one that’s very dependent on specific lighting and a fluidity to the design, and because of this, it’s a design that’s not ideal for translation to toy form.  This is evident in the sculpt, and how it looks when viewed from most angles.  The head looks downright comical when viewed straight-on, like an old toothless man.  Also, as versatile as the Bucky Cap body tends to be, I wouldn’t say it really lends itself to “fluid”.  It’s a more realistic, balanced physique, so you throw a cartoony looking head on there and the head just looks even more cartoony.  Not helping matters is the tail, which is a big, solid chunk of unmoving plastic.  I can kind of understand Hasbro’s hesitance to do bendable appendages, with the long term issues that can plague them and all, but on a figure like this, it’s really limiting his play value, and ends up looking downright silly just sitting there in the exact same pose no matter what you do with him.  Furthering the issues with translating the design into three dimensions?  The paint.  They tried.  They really did.  They’re clearly taking a page out of the Carnage playbook with how they handled this, but it just doesn’t work as well with this particular design.  The black sections just look kind of random and blotchy, and there’s too much un-broken red between them to make it look convincingly like the symbiote is in motion.  The hands and feet being solid black also looks goofy, because it kind of looks like he’s running around with opera gloves and some toe-socks.  It’s undoubtedly too clean and too collected, and, again, it just ends up looking comical.  Maybe he’d look better molded in slightly translucent plastic?  Or something with various colors injected in?  It’d be an inconsistent effect to be sure, but I think that would only further help the figure.  He just needed something better than all the solid colors we see here.  Red Goblin is a rather sparsely packed figure, with only a single Carnage-infused pumpkin bomb.  No glider, which seems kind of criminal with any Goblin figure.  He’s also packed with the right leg of Kingpin, which is, without a doubt, the best thing he’s got going for him.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I’ve long felt that Norman Osborn was the sort of character that was better off dead.  Apart from a few decent stories here and there (the Goblin King angle was one I liked), he’s felt like he’s sort of out of place.  I appreciate the Red Goblin concept for what it is, but I can’t say I was that invested in it, nor was I that crazy for a figure of the design.  Having the figure in hand, my feelings really haven’t changed.  He just doesn’t work as a toy, and I struggle to find much to like about him.  I appreciate their attempt to be timely with this release, and he pairs off alright with the Symbiote Spider-Man, but he’s ultimately just not very well-made, and a very clear weak point in the assortment.

Red Goblin was purchased from my friends at All Time Toys.  He’s currently in-stock at their webstore.  If your looking for other Legends or other toys both old and new, please check out All Time’s website and their eBay storefront.

#1651: Big Barda

BIG BARDA

DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS (MATTEL)

“Born on the evil, warlike planet Apokolips, Barda was specially trained in all forms of combat by Granny Goodness. However, she fell in love with Scott Free, a child of peaceful New Genesis raised on Apokolips, and used her warrior skills to help him escape to Earth. Barda accompanied Scott, and they married after he assumed the name of Mister Miracle, world’s greatest escape artist. Since then, she has fought evil alongside her husband, both of them serving in the Justice League of America.”

When it came to DC Universe Classics‘ line-up, there was definitely a penchant for leaning heavily on Jack Kirby’s Fourth World creations.  This is something of a carry over from Kenner’s Super Powers, a line that inspired much of the DCUC line.  One prominent Fourth World member that was absent from Super Powers was Big Barda, who made her debut rather early into DCUC‘s run.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Big Barda was released in Series 7 of DC Universe Classics.  There were two versions of the character available: with helmet and without.  As you may have pieced together from the photo at the top of the review, this one’s the un-helmeted release, which, despite not being a standard look for the character at all, ended up as the easiest of the two versions to find.  Why the decision was made to make it two separate figures, rather than just tossing in the alternate look as an accessory is anyone’s guess, but it’s just the first of the problems that plague this figure.  The figure stands 6 inches tall.  I’m gonna say that again: 6 inches tall.  So, for those of you playing the FiQ home game, double-checking the stats up against prior players reviews, you’ll note that Barda is shorter than the DCUC Mr. Miracle, despite Barda being consistently depicted as a good half foot taller than Scott, and having, you know, “Big” in her name. Kind of an issue.  What’s especially odd about this is the fact that Barda has a completely unique sculpt…so, there’s really no reason for her to be the same size as all of the other female figures.  There’s legitimately no good reason for Mattel to have so badly underscaled Barda.  Apart, of course, from the looming “they’re Mattel and thereby must suck at everything” bit they’ve got going on.  And even from an internal standpoint, she’s still really off, because her arms and legs are really quite scrawny, again, in sharp contrast to that “big” descriptor.  How did nobody along the whole process stop and go “wait, something’s not right here.”  Or maybe they just thought it was an ironic nickname?  Like “Einstein” or “tiny”?  That seems like an appropriately Mattel thing to do, I guess.  If there’s one redeeming aspect to the figure, it’s the paint.  It’s from a time when Mattel was still kind of trying at such things, so she actually has some pretty solid accenting work, especially on things like the chainmail on the arms and legs, where it really helps bring out what few strengths the sculpt actually has.  In terms of accessories, Barda was rather light.  She has her staff and one of Atom Smasher’s arms, and she can’t even hold her staff all that well.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

No super exciting story about acquiring this figure.  A friend of mine bought this figure thinking there was a helmet included, and upon discovering no helmet was included, she handed it off to me.  The sans-helmet figure wasn’t my first choice, and I mostly just kept her because I wanted to finish my Atom Smasher.  She’s a flawed figure.  I can’t really get past that.  On the plus side, with the introduction of DC Icons and its rather diminutive nature, I at least have somewhere to put her.  Yay?

#1830: Spider-Man – House of M

SPIDER-MAN — HOUSE OF M

MARVEL LEGENDS (HASBRO)

“Quick on his feet and agile as they come, Peter Parker becomes the wrestling sensation known as Spider-Man.”

Ah, “House of M”, the second in an insanely long line of mid-00s-era events that were designed to “shake the world to its core and break the internet in half.”  Boy was that a greeeeaaat time.  My distaste for most things that Brian Michael Bendis is involved in has been no secret on this site, and “House of M” is certainly high on the list of things that have earned said distaste.  But alternate universe stories are prime choices for variants of main characters, and “House of M” has some decent ones, including everyone’s favorite web-slinger Spider-Man!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

House of M Spider-Man is figure 7 in the SP//dr Series, the second Spider-themed series (I guess third if you count the Venom set) of the 2018 Marvel Legends.  He’s the resident Spider-Man variant of the assortment.  This is the second time we’ve seen the House of M design in this scale; the last one was during Toy Biz’s final year with the license, and was part of their more action-feature-prone Spider-Man line.  This one is his first proper Legends release.  The figure stands 6 1/4 inches tall and he has 32 points of articulation.  You remember when I reviewed Pizza Spidey way back when?  Cool.  Well, this figure uses the exact same sculpt as that one.  No surprises there, since the designs really aren’t that far removed from each other, and they’re supposed to be the same guy.  Sensible re-use is sensible re-use.  The main breaking point between the two is the paint.  It’s still not crazy different, since the designs are still quite similar, but it nevertheless captures the slight differences in the costume design.  I gotta say, I actually like the red/blue used on this figure a little more than the basic Spidey, for what its worth.  House of M Spidey includes a web-line piece (which I hope to see become a standard inclusion going forward), and the left leg of the SP//dr Build-A-Figure.  That’s it.  No extra hands.  No unmasked head.  Nothing special.  This late in the game, we shouldn’t be getting any Spidey built on this body without the extra hands.  That’s kinda lame.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

So, dislike of “House of M” aside, I do kinda like this variation of the standard look, and I was certainly interested when he was first shown off.  The web-line in particular had me interested, since we haven’t gotten anything like that yet for the modern Legends.  The final figure gives me mixed emotions.  Just the base figure is actually surprisingly strong, but the lack of any sort of extras really, really hurts him here. I’m not sure why Hasbro opted to cut those extra hands just for this one variant is beyond me.

I purchased House of M Spidey from my friends at All Time Toys.  If you’re interested in buying other Legends figures, or are looking for other cool toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay Store.