#2845: Jaxxon

JAXXON

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES (HASBRO)

“Jaxxon is a nearly 6-foot tall, green-furred, Lepi smuggler and captain of the Rabbit’s Foot. Known for his wise cracks and high kicks, Jaxxon has helped Han Solo and Chewbacca out on more than one occasion.”

For some reason, this review has been very hard for me to start.  Well, I say “for some reason,” but I suppose it’s a bit more transparent than that.  There’s a rather big reason that anything is difficult for me these days.  I guess the “for some reason” comment more relates to how difficult this one review has been for me to actually sit down and write.  I’ve even written other reviews around working on this one, so it’s apparently just this particular green space bunny that’s giving me trouble.  Said “green space bunny” is Jaxxon, a big green bunny man created by Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin for Marvel Comics’ Star Wars #8.  He’s one of the earliest full-fledged EU creations, and is rumored to have been removed from the comics on Lucas’ request, although this rumor remains unsubstantiated.  Though an early player, Jaxxon was removed from the franchise just as early, and has up to this point been completely without a toy in a very toy-driven franchise.  Seems like a shame.  Fortunately, Hasbro’s on top of it.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Jaxxon is another of the four comics-based Star Wars: The Black Series line-up, alongside the previously reviewed Carnor Jax Kir Kanos.  Jaxxon is notably the only figure in the set without any prior toy treatment, as I noted in the intro.  There was just no love for the bunny before this.  The figure stands about 6 1/2 inches tall counting the ears (closer to 6 without them) and he has 27 points of articulation.  Though he looks very unique and different, Jaxxon actually has a fair bit of re-use going on.  His upper half is X-Wing Pilot Luke, and his lower half is ANH Luke.  He’s a lot of Luke, I guess.  It’s a combo that works pretty decently, though I’m admittedly a little surprised he’s not just a straight up Pilot Luke re-use.  I guess this keeps him a little more diverse.  Aiding in making him look sufficiently different is a new head, chest plate, and belt with holsters.  The new head is certainly a more realistic looking design than he usually gets, in keeping with how the line has handled other more cartoony characters, I suppose.  This is really Jaxxon viewed through the lens of actually being in one of the OT movies, where he’d have just been another guy in a rubber mask.  It’s a departure from the artwork on the box, but it’s not bad at all.  The new overlay pieces for the armor and belt sit well on the figure and do a strong job of selling him as having more new parts than he does.  Generally, the result of this mix of parts is a pretty good one.  His paint work suits the design.  It’s not many colors that you tend to really associate with Star Wars, but that helps him feel more unique, and certainly true to the character’s nature.  Application is pretty clean, and the head even gets some accenting to keep it from just being a basic green.  Jaxxon is packed with two blaster pistols, re-used from Jaina Solo.  Unfortunately, we once again have a figure with two blasters, but only one hand with a trigger finger.  Come on guys.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Disclosure: I’m talking about Jess a lot today.

I could give you the exact road map to how exactly “Green Space Bunny Pilot” invariably leads me to dwelling on Jess’s final days over and over again, but I can’t say that knowing the how really truly explains the why.  I suppose, technically, you could say it’s because this was the first item added to my collection that she never saw (since he came into the store before she passed, but I didn’t actually get him until after), and I suppose it could also be linked to him being another Star Wars piece, and how much we both enjoyed the franchise.  I suppose it could even be because he’s a Black Series figure, and that the figures I was photographing on the day that she asked me what I was doing and I answered “just taking a few photos of some action figures,” were the first series of Black Series. Or it could even be because he’s the first of the comic figures I’ve reviewed since Kir Kanos, who was the figure I was reviewing the last day I sat with Jess before we knew it was the end.  There’s a lot of supposing in there, huh?  That’s because I really don’t know any of it for sure.  I just know that, for some reason, every time I sat down to write this, it got very hard to do so.  I think it’s because Jess probably would have gotten a real kick out of the Green Space Bunny.  Seems like something that might be up her alley, honestly.  This feels like something I very much would have gotten to show her, and to experience with her, but it’s one of the first things I didn’t.  That sucks.  Plain and simple, it just sucks.  The figure doesn’t, for what it’s worth.  I actually quite like him, and look forward to more deep cuts like this for the line.  And perhaps those ones won’t be quite as hard for me to write about.  Time will tell.

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

#2843: Clone Pilot Hawk

CLONE PILOT HAWK

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES (HASBRO)

Store exclusives have been the bane of pretty much every collector’s existence for the last year, because not only has the number of things that are exclusive jumped, but so has the number of people trying to scalp them in order to make a quick buck.  Not helping matters is the general lack of quality distribution when it comes to actually getting them out there, making for an all around just unpleasant experience.  So, there’s definitely a little twinge of anxiety that hits every time a new item is announced, and then also confirmed as an exclusive.  In the case of Star Wars: The Black Series, there’s a whole sub-set of throwback Clone Wars figures, which seemed poised to be the worst thing ever to get, but which now seem to be significantly less so, which I suppose is a good thing.  For me personally, I was most invested in getting the clones, which I have.  I’m starting things off today, with a look at Clone Pilot Hawk.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Clone Pilot Hawk is one of the four figures in Target’s exclusive assortment of Clone Wars-retro carded Black Series figures.  He’s the most obscure character in the bunch, to be sure, notably being the only one included who has never had a figure, even in the days of Hasbro’s far more expansive Clone Wars toy line.  Not only did we not get Hawk, we never even got one of the pilots with this specific helmet design, which does feel kind of baffling when you get right down to it.  The figure stands just over 6 inches tall and he has 29 points of articulation.  Now, the fact that Hasbro very recently introduced an all-new basic clone body into the line might lead you to believe that Hawk might, you know, be built on it, what with being kind of a basic clone and all.  However, you’d in fact be a fool to think that, because he’s absolutely not built on that body.  Neither is he built on the old clone body, though, so don’t think that either.  Instead, he’s actually built on the Captain Rex body, for some reason.  I mean, I’m not knocking it.  It’s a good body in its own right, and certainly an improvement on the old clone body, meaning his movement isn’t really restricted like it would have been on that older body.  In fact, his movement’s pretty darn great, so that’s cool.  He gets an all-new head for his unique helmet, as well as a connected breathing device, to signify his pilot nature.  Also, in a far more minor touch, he also gets a new belt, sans the kama and the holsters.  The new parts are nicely crafted, with the helmet in particular being the real star piece here.  It does a quite respectable job of walking the line between animated faithfulness and merging with the realistic style of the line.  I definitely like it a lot.  Hawk’s paintwork is generally pretty nicely handled.  There’s a little bit of slop on the hands on my figure, but he otherwise turned out pretty nicely.  I like the extra markings on the armor, as well as how they’ve weathered them a bit to show that his armor’s been in use.  Hawk is packed with a standard small Clone Trooper blaster.  It’s a little light, but it’s also fairly standard set-up for a pilot figure in this line, so it’s hard to say it’s a surprise.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Hawk was my only “must have” figure in this set, largely because I’ve just always liked this particular pilot design and it’s literally never gotten a figure before.  I was happy he got a figure, but not so happy that it wound up as an exclusive.  Fortunately, Max was able to help me out with this one, as it wound up being literally the first of the four he saw at retail.  He turned out really nicely, and I’m curious to see if we might actually get some of the other Clone Pilots in the main line now.  Time will tell.

There’s also a bit of a post-Jess segment to this one as well.  This figure is the last figure added to my collection before Jess died.  Max brought him to me during her last week in the hospital, and I had him with me those last few days.  He’s the last new figure I got to show her, and the last figure she got to be excited about me adding to my collection.  I didn’t know that when I got him, but those are the sorts of things you never do know, I guess.  I do know that showing off my new figures to her was one of my very favorite things about collecting in the last eight years, and the items I gotten since all feel a little different, since something’s very definitely missing.  He gets to be my last contact to that feeling, and the last true part of that collection.  My collection post-Jess will be a different one, and I’ll have to figure out how as I move forward.  But this guy’s not going anywhere, I can tell you that much.

#2829: Captain America

CAPTAIN AMERICA

MARVEL LEGENDS (HASBRO)

“Donning a brand new suit and wings from Wakanda, Sam Wilson proudly takes on the mantle, ready to unite people as the world’s new Captain America.”

When Steve passed the shield to Sam in Avengers Endgame, Sam’s taking up the Captain America mantle seemed pretty inevitable, but The Falcon and the Winter Soldier devoted a lot of its time to showing that even when something is the inevitable or even most common sense outcome, that doesn’t mean that the journey there is always the easiest.  Much like Steve, Sam’s own hesitance at accepting the role, coupled with outside factors believing him wrong for the role based on superficial factors, are ultimately the very reasons that Sam is the right choice for the part, and the show pulls double duty of convincing both Sam and the audience watching that there’s really no other choice for the new Captain America.  And, if he’s going to be the new Captain America, then he damn well better get a cool new action figure while he’s at it, right?  Right.  So, let’s look at that, huh?

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Following in the footsteps of Homecoming‘s Vulture, Captain America is both the final single release in the Disney+ series of Marvel Legends and its Build-A-Figure, by virtue of his wings being parted out amongst the other figures, while the core figure himself is sold by himself.  This allows the wings to be far more intricate in their design than they might otherwise have been, while also giving people the option of just getting that main Cap look, which Sam does, admittedly have for quite a bit of his screen time.  The wings are certainly less key a piece for him than his Falcon design, or even really that prior Vulture figure, so I think it was a pretty wise choice.  The figure stands 6 1/4 inches tall and he has 30 points of articulation in his single-packed form, with an additional 6 points courtesy of the wings when he’s fully assembled.  His articulation scheme is pretty well balanced.  The wings can be a little floppy in certain poses, but they hold up alright, and the core body is on par with the rest of this line-up’s articulation.  Sam’s got an all-new sculpt based on his final episode design from the show, and let me take a moment here to once again discuss how strong many of the costume choices have been for these shows.  Much like Wanda’s Scarlet Witch design, Sam’s Captain America uniform is a quite faithful adaptation of his Cap suit from the comics.  I was quite a fan of that design in 2D, and I think it translated amazingly well to live action.  Rather fittingly, it’s also translated quite nicely into toy form.  The costume details match up quite nicely with those seen on the screen, and the head sports Hasbro’s best Anthony Mackie sculpt so far (which is saying something, because the prior Legends version was pretty good to begin with).  Most impressively, this time around the goggles are actually a separate piece, with a slight translucent feature to them, so you can ever so slightly see his eyes peeking out from beneath them.  If I have one complaint, it’s that he does still seem maybe a little too thin for Mackie’s build in the show.  That said, it’s not quite as bad as the prior figure, and on top of that, Mackie has also slimmed down a bit as his appearances have progressed, so it’s not terrible.  He still looks pretty good.  Generally speaking, his paint work is decent.  It’s not quite as sharp as some more recent MCU offerings, I think partially owing to just how much is going on with it, and there’s a few spots of bleed over and slop around the edges, but for the most part it looks okay.  I was certainly glad that they actually put the proper color change ups on the wings.  The core Cap figure is packed with the collapsed version of his wing pack, as well as his shield (which is distinctly different from Steve’s, as it should be).  I was a little letdown that he didn’t get any alternate hands, since he’s just got the open gesture ones.  They aren’t as limiting as just fists, or something, but I do still wish we’d gotten at least one more set, just to have the option.  The Build-A-Figure parts add in the whole extended wing pack, of course, which swaps out for the collapsed piece.  It also gives him the upgraded version of Redwing (which I really love that we got), who has his own flight attachment on the pack, and a stand to held support him when he’s got the full wing pack on.  While the core figure is perhaps lacking a touch, the full BaF treatment definitely makes him feel more complete.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

There was debate after Endgame about whether Sam should really be the next Cap.  As a longtime classic Cap fan, I’ve always felt he was the always the logical choice, so I was definitely there for it.  I really enjoyed seeing his journey to claiming the mantle, and I absolutely loved seeing his full Cap look in action, so I was definitely down for getting it in figure form.  I think the whole Build-A-Figure set-up worked pretty well for him, and the resulting figure is the best MCU version of Sam we’ve gotten so far, certainly worthy of the quality of the show.

I am, at this time, going to again get into some post-Jess stuff here, so another fair warning.  The MCU Falcon in Legends form definitely has some strong ties to Jess for me, because Winter Soldier was the first movie we saw in the theater together, not long after we started dating, and she also put a very large amount of effort into making sure that I got the first Legends MCU Falcon for Christmas the year it was released.  The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was also the last thing that the two of us got to watch start to finish together.  So, there’s already a fair bit of meaningful attachment to this guy.  But this whole set of figures gets an extra final little push, courtesy of some incredible generosity on the part of Jason over at All Time Toys.  Throughout all of Jess’s treatments and struggles, and our personal battles, Jason and the rest of the team at All Time Toys have been nothing short of amazing, doing whatever they could.  In the case of this particular round of figures, on the day Jess passed, Jason showed up at my house with this set in tow.  It’s a not small gesture, and it gave me something to focus myself on in the days immediately following losing Jess, which was an invaluable resource for getting myself back on my feet.  I was already poised to really like this set of figures, but now it’s a very special symbol of both the wonderful times I had with Jess and of the people who have been supporting me through these trying times.

#2826: Ultra Boy

ULTRA BOY

LEGION OF SUPER HEROES (DC DIRECT)

In the early days of the Legion of Superheroes, one of their by-laws for new recruits was that there could be no duplication of powers.  Today’s focus, Jo Nah of the planet Rimbor (who also got his powers after being swallowed by a space whale, in a reference to the biblical Jonah), aka Ultra Boy, got by on the technicality that, while his powers technically duplicated powers already covered by other members of the team (super strength, speed, flight, flash vision, and pentra-vision), he could only use one of them at a time, which is at least a different gimmick, I guess?  Of course, let’s not get into how they still managed to keep Superboy, Supergirl, and Mon-El on the team at the same time or anything….honestly, there was probably more than a little bit of prejudice and personal bias going into exactly when those by-laws came into effect; early Legionnaires were all kind of bastard people.  They got better.  Sort of.  Anyway, I was talking about Ultra Boy, so I should probably continue that, and not keep discussing how genuinely awful the Legionnaires are as people.  Even though they really are.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Ultra Boy was released in Series 3 of DC Direct’s Legion of Superheroes line, which marked when the line starting spreading a little more into the depths of the team.  Not terribly, so, of course, since it’s not like Ultra Boy is that crazy obscure, but he’s the sort of character that doesn’t tend to get picked for the more paired down team line-ups for, like, guest spots and other media appearances.  The figure stands just shy of 6 inches tall and he has 11 points of articulation.  Ultra Boy has quite a few parts in common with the Brainiac 5 figure, as by this point DC Direct had decided to institute more of a base body for this line.  The torso and legs are the same, as is the right hand.  The head and belt pieces were all-new, and the arms were a set designed to be a tighter fit than those used on Brainy and Mon-El, and were shared between this guy and Star Boy in this particular series.  All in all, I still think the base body works pretty well, and it certainly looks good here.  The new head is also one of my favorites, as it really seems to capture the ’60s Ultra Boy appearance, and just feels a little more unique than some of the others in the set.  Ultra Boy’s paint work is nicely applied, very clean, and very bold.  As with Brainy, he’s entirely painted, with no molded colors showing through.  It does aid in him looking clean, but there was always more potential for scuffing on this line of figures.  Fortunately, my Ultra Boy’s not so bad.  Ultra Boy was not packed with any accessories.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Fair warning: I’m going to be getting into some more post-Jess discussion here.

Ultra Boy is a figure that I always wanted when he was new, but who is actually one of my more recent acquisitions, because he just doesn’t show up nearly as often as the rest of the figures in this set, for whatever reason.  I actually quite vividly remember the exact day I got him, though perhaps not for the most happiest of reasons.  This figure came into All Time Toys, along with a whole ton of other DC Direct figures, on June 19th of last year.  It was the Friday before Father’s day, almost exactly a year from when I’m writing this review.  I know this because while I was at work that day, I got a call from Jess, who had just recently had a small surgical procedure done, and had just been told she would need to be moved into observation at the hospital.  She spent the next three days in the hospital, and I spent them right next to her, missing out on my family’s small plans for Father’s Day.  We didn’t know it was cancer yet, and wouldn’t find out for another two weeks, but it was the first indication that things were more serious than we realized.  So, I suppose, looking back, a year removed now, with Jess having been gone for 13 days by my time, this figure carries a rather odd weight, as the very last figure I purchased before my world changed.  It’s quite a bit of weight to place on one item, but my life in the last two weeks has seen me placing a lot of weight on seemingly small things.  And, I imagine, that’s where I’ll be for a little while longer.  And maybe that’s not the worst thing in the world.  As it stands, Ultra Boy’s at least a nice figure, so maybe not a bad choice for one that remains a token of how things were.

#2821: Scarlet Witch

SCARLET WITCH

MARVEL LEGENDS (HASBRO)

“Wanda Maximoff’s abilities of telekinesis, energy manipulation, and neuroelectric interfacing allow her to read thoughts and give her targets walking nightmares.”

Forgive me if I opt to find a story about someone’s struggle to come to terms with a devastating loss of a loved one, and subsequent efforts to do everything in their power to hold onto some vestige of that person very relatable at the moment.

Since Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff and Paul Bettany’s Vision were introduced into the MCU, I’ve been excited by the prospects of building their relationship further.  It was touched on in both Civil War and Infinity War, but wasn’t the main focus in either, so I was ecstatic when the pair were given a TV show to further explore their characters and their relationship.  WandaVision was a really fantastic show, which has given the MCU a very stable footing moving forward with its overall narrative, as well as showing that Elizabeth Olsen is very much a bankable talent to keep central to the MCU, even in light of the exit of the films’ bigger name stars.  Her performance as Wanda was nothing short of amazing, presenting a very human character going through very real emotional turmoil, while also building her up to be, very believably, one of the strongest characters in the Marvel universe, as she damn well should be.  Now she’s got herself another action figure, and it’s a cool one, and I feel like she really deserves that.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Scarlet Witch is figure 1 in the first Disney+-themed assortment of Marvel Legends.  She’s one of the two WandaVision figures in the line-up, and she’s based on Wanda’s proper Scarlet Witch appearance from the show’s finale.  For the first time, we got a more proper adaptation of something more akin to Wanda’s comics get-up, and boy was that really cool to see.  In general, it’s one of the best costume designs in the MCU, and showcases how well they’re advancing in their abilities to translate costumes from the page to the screen.  It’s got all the proper flair of Wanda’s classic costume, without looking silly at all.  I really dig it.  The figure stands about 6 inches tall and she has 27 points of articulation.  The articulation scheme on Wanda is pretty nicely handled.  It’s not like it’s revolutionary or anything, but it does what it needs to, and it does it well.  Near as I can tell, Wanda’s sculpt is all-new, with no parts shared with her prior figure.  I thought maybe the hands might be, but the details on the gloves are just a little bit different.  It’s quite a nice sculpt overall.  The likeness on the face is just a little bit closer to Olsen than the prior release, and the hair has a nice, dynamic feel to it, without being too over the top.  The body has a fairly realistic looking build, and the articulation is worked in pretty well.  The details on the costume are all pretty sharp, and they mostly match up pretty closely to the on-screen costume.  I think, technically, the tops of the gloves go a little bit too high on her arms, but it’s a very minor detail.  The figure’s paint work is generally pretty impressive.  She’s got the printed face, which is quite life-like, as well as some pretty decent accenting on her hair.  The rest of the application is also all pretty clean.  Technically, there are a number of parts of the costume that should be a bit darker, but I think it’s also very possible that some of it really comes down to the exact lighting in the show.  I’m happy with the color scheme presented here, and it’s not like it’s very far off if it is at all.  Wanda is packed with two sets of hands (one in standard color, one in translucent), two energy effects, and a piece of Captain America’s wing.  I know some people were hoping they might throw in the cape she was sporting in the final stinger, but it’s admittedly not part of the main chunk of the episode where this look appears, so I understand why they may have left it out.  Still wouldn’t have minded getting it, of course, but not having it doesn’t ruin the figure for me.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

WandaVision was a very impactful show for me.  It was one I was looking forward to as soon as it was announced, and by the time it actually dropped, the subject matter had become very poignant for some of the struggles I was personally going through.  In light of the last month, it’s become even more so for me, and I have particularly been holding onto Vision’s dialogue about grief being love persevering the last few days.  All of this has served to make Wanda an incredibly relatable character for me, which gives this figure a little extra weight.  She’s a very nice figure of a very nice design, from a very nice show.  I really like her.

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

#2817: Qui-Gon Jinn

QUI-GON JINN

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES (HASBRO)

“A venerable if maverick Jedi Master, Qui-Gon Jinn was a student of the living Force. Qui-Gon lived for the moment, espousing a philosophy of ‘feel, don’t think, use your instincts.'”

Though opinions have changed a bit on the prequel trilogy in the two decades since it began, the movies, especially The Phantom Menace, have been the slowest to find their way into The Black Series, with really just a trickle of items, every so often.  In the case of TPM, we aren’t even averaging one figure a year, and don’t have much of the core cast yet.  I’d gotten all but one of the ones released up to this point, and now, I finally got that one.  So, today, I’m looking at arguably the film’s lead character (even if he’s not part of any of the films that follow), Qui-Gon Jinn.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Qui-Gon Jinn was figure 40 in the Phase III Star Wars: The Black Series line-up.  He was released in the spring of May 2017, as part of the assortment that also included the Royal Guard, Lando Calrissian, and the Tusken Raider.  It was one of those sets that showed up more in theory than anything else, since it was the last assortment before the change-over for Last Jedi product, and earlier Rogue One launch product was still lingering.  Qui-Gon was only our second TPM figure, following up on the Darth Maul from the very first assortment.  The figure stands a little over 6 1/2 inches tall and he has 27 points of articulation.  Compared to more recent figures, Qui-Gon is definitely more restricted on the movement front, but it’s still pretty workable.  Additionally, given that Neeson’s portrayal of Qui-Gon had him generally being more reserved in his movements, it works alright for the character.  His sculpt was a wholly unique one, and has only been shared with the recent re-issue of the same character.  It’s a pretty good one, honestly.  Neeson’s tall and lanky build is captured well, and the details on his clothes are fairly impressive.  The head sculpt also does look quite a bit like him.  It’s a little bit harder to see it with the older style paint work, but the likeness is very definitely there (something that the recent re-issue with the new paint only further pushed).  The hair does get in the way of the neck movement a little bit, but that’s really hard to avoid, unless you’re going to try rooted hair or some other nonsense, and that’s just not gonna work at this scale.  The paint work definitely does mark this figure’s biggest short comings, but, honestly, it’s not quite as bad as you might expect.  The face is definitely not as life-like as later releases, but nor is it quite as lifeless as some of the figures that closely preceded it.  It’s an okay middle ground.  Additionally, they’ve actually gone to the trouble of giving him some accenting on his robes, so that they aren’t just all flat molded plastic colors.  It certainly looks much better that way.  Qui-Gon was packed with his lightaber, as well as two alternate left hands, one for gripping, and the other in open pose.  While it’s too bad we couldn’t at least get a robe for him, the alternate hand was still kind of a big deal at the time, and even now, that’s more than we get with a lot of the Jedi figures.  Heck, it’s more than we got with TPM Obi-Wan.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Full disclosure: this section’s about to get a little sad and sentimental.  This is the first review I’ve written since my wife’s passing, which will have been almost a full month ago as you read this, but is, for me, four very long days behind me.  Obviously, this soon after, I am still finding my footing and my new normal, but Jess did not want me to stop writing, and she was quite adamant about that.  So, I am going to try to keep writing, at least a little bit.  Qui-Gon being the subject of this review, is a bit serendipitous, I suppose.  I already had him on the schedule a month ago, but it feels appropriate, since one of our earliest conversations was about The Phantom Menace and how Qui-Gon was always her favorite character in the prequels.  I remember her being frustrated that I never found this figure when it was new.  When I did finally pick it up just this year, she was quite excited when I showed him to her.  It’s an excitement I’m going to miss as my collection continues, but one I’m going to try to keep in my own mind moving forward.

We’ll Meet Again

I haven’t talked much, if at all, about this here on the site, but the last year has been perhaps harder for me than it has for others.  On top of battling the same pandemic that just about everyone else in the world has been facing, for the last year Super Awesome Wife, aka Jessica, and I have been fighting an even more personal battle.  In June of last year, after going in for treatment on a strange lump, Jessica was officially diagnosed with endodermal sinus cancer of the vulva, or yolk-sac vulva cancer.  It’s a particularly rare, particularly aggressive, form of germ cell cancer.  Since last June, Jess has bee going through a number of treatments, in the hope of getting things under control.  Unfortunately, last month, we discovered that the cancer had moved from its original location in Jess’s groin, into her lungs.  Yesterday, after a very hard week in the hospital, Jess passed away in her sleep, at 25 years old.

In preparation for this event, I have been doing a lot of advance writing.  There are 23 reviews already written, which will be posted daily for the next 23 days.  After that, I hope to keep writing more, but I genuinely don’t know.  But right now, I want to talk about my wonderful relationship with my Super Awesome Wife, Jessica Lynn Headlee.

Jess and I met in the summer of 2013, at the sci-fi convention Shore Leave.  She was working as a time keeper for the panels, and I was there as a plus one for my dad, who was attending as an author guest.  We were introduced by a mutual friend, and were infatuated with each other almost immediately.  After spending that entire weekend together, we exchanged contact information, and began texting on a near daily basis, separated at the time by a roughly six hour drive.

During those early days of texting, we got to know a lot about each other, and my hobby of collecting action figures was a topic that came up, almost by accident one night, when I mentioned I was updating my database with some new pieces.  This led to the inevitable question: “how many do you have?”  I was, admittedly, embarrassed by the answer, which was at the time just a few shy of 2400 pieces.  I went vague, answering “a lot.”  “A lot’s not a number,” came the reply, “what’s the actual number?”  So, I figured I might as well be honest, and I told her the exact number.  Her response changed my life: “That’s not that many, and I’ll fight anyone who thinks it is.”

Before Jess, I was always embarrassed by my collection.  It brought me joy on my own, but I sort of hid it from people, because I thought it made me weird.  Jess didn’t see it that way in the slightest.  More than that, she loved it.  She asked more questions about what figures I had, asked for updates if I got new ones, and asked if I ever did anything cool with them.  I had just started taking photos of them, and she asked if I ever did anything with those.  She even wanted me to send her photos of them occasionally.  Her full support of my hobby was a major part of the confidence boost that got me to actually launch this site, and she was a faithful reader during those long-distance days.  We would officially become a couple in December of 2013, and that was when she really doubled down on the support, going so far as to buy me *more* figures, a completely insane concept to me at the time.

Jess and I moved in together in the fall of 2016, after deciding the long-distance thing was getting to be too stressful for both of us, and that we wanted to see each other more than a single weekend per month.  Being around me and my collection on the regular didn’t slow down Jess’s desire to support my hobby.  In fact, it rather sped it up, and even got her to start amassing quite a collection of her own.  We started to collect certain things jointly, and she even started writing reviews of her own.  She would also add her own commentary to my reviews, point out which figures she liked most, and even tell me what silly nickname a certain figure was to have in a review.

In the last year, with restrictions due to the pandemic, we had periods of not being able to see each other.  She had a selection of her own figures (actually an entire collection of Ratchets, to serve as her own little medical team), which she would take with her.  I was also to send her photos of new additions while she was gone, and to talk to her about them in great detail when we spoke on the phone.  It was important to her to remain as invested as possible, and she truly did.  She made me feel supported.  She made me feel valid.  She made me feel loved, unconditionally.  She was one of the most amazing people I ever knew, or will ever know.  She had a capacity for love and an excitement for life that I don’t believe has an equal.  And she was a fighter up until the very end.  But now, she is finally at peace, and is suffering no more.  She was my very favorite person, and my very best friend.  She was truly Super Awesome.  And there are no words to describe how very much I am going to miss her.  But I know we’ll meet again, some sunny day.

#2716: Ultraman – The Animation

ULTRAMAN — THE ANIMATION

S.H. FIGUARTS (BANDAI)

You know what be nice?  Not going over a year between Ultraman-related reviews.  Wouldn’t that be a novel concept?  I think it would!  I’m going to do my part, and so should you!  Now, my part is very clearly purchasing the Ultraman items and then reviewing them.  Your part is…reading the reviews?  I guess.  Seems like one of these jobs is gonna be way easier.  Not gonna say which.  But I’ll imply.  Because of the implications.  When last I spoke of Ultraman, I was focussed in on the Netflix animated adaptation of the manga, and I’m staying in that general area for today’s review.  But, while that review was of the Ultraseven stand-in, this time I’m looking at the series’ main central Ultra, Shinjiro Hayata.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Ultraman (The Animation) was released as part of the greater S.H. Figuarts line back closer to Netflix’s launch of the animation, as a tie-in.  I know, it’s a radical concept, right?  This is the second version of Shinjiro, following the manga-based version of the character that launched the Ultras into Figuarts back in 2015.  In adapting into animation, the suit uses the B Suit version’s colors, which were tweaked a bit to more closely read as the classic Hayata suit. The figure stands just shy of 6 inches tall and he has 40 points of articulation.  Ultra’s movement is rather similar to the Ace suit, as opposed to Version 7, where the hips and legs have good range, but the shoulders are a little more restricted.  It’s slightly different, since it’s not sculpt getting in the way so much on the shoulders, but more the joints just being tighter.  So, it’s possible to get more movement out of them, but it just takes a bit more doing.  I suppose that’s a little better for long-term posing, but it does at times make me worry I might break the joints.  The figure’s sculpt is up to the usual standards for Figuarts, so it’s sharp and pretty precise.  Compared to the pointy-ness of 7 and the boxy nature of Ace, this one’s a fairly good middle ground.  He’s fairly compact and streamlined. It has a lot of similarities to the 2015 figure, obviously, but it looks like parts sharing between the two is minimal.  This one adjusts things to slightly more streamline the silhouette.  It makes him look quite sleek, and I really like how clean he looks, especially when you get him into the right poses.  It also better captures the slightly adjusted design of the later suit, better emulating the classic Ultraman design.  The paint work on this guy is, like the sculpt, clean and sharp.  The color scheme is the later design’s colors, which, while perhaps not as unique, I find to be a bit more eye-catching.  The larger sections of the same color just seem to read better for the character.  In terms of accessories, Shinjiro includes three pairs of hands (fists, relaxed, and open gesture), two Specium Slash pieces, a Specium Ray effect, standard arm guards, arm guards with the Specium Blades deployed, and one arm guard with a spot to plug in the Specium Ray.  It pretty much covers all of the basics for the character, and they’re all pretty solid pieces.  I did have a little trouble with the arm guards popping out on my figure, but it’s not terrible.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

After getting the Version 7 figure from Super Awesome Wife for Christmas, I found myself with both Ace and 7, but no standard Ultraman, which seemed slightly incomplete.  She and I wound up with several Barnes & Noble gift cards after the holidays, and this guy was one of the figures they had in stock, so I figured it was as good a time as any to snag him.  He’s a fun figure to be sure, and I’m glad I finally rounded out the set.

#2635: Ultraman Suit Ver. 7 – Animation

ULTRAMAN SUIT VER. 7 — ANIMATION

S.H. FIGUARTS (BANDAI)

It’s been over a year since I last reviewed anything Ultraman, so I suppose I’m right on schedule to get something else in here so that I can go another year and change before getting something else.  Gosh, remember when these things were more prevalent?  I sure do.  And Pepperridge Farm does as well, because remembering’s the one thing they’ve got left.  Okay, that’s not true.  They’ve got Goldfish and Milanos.  They can ride those into oblivion.  Where was I?  Japan, I think.  There was something going on with Ultraman.  New toy.  Yes, very good.  Let’s look at the new toy.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Ultraman Suit Version 7 is a fairly recent addition to Bandai’s SH Figuarts line-up, hitting roughly at the beginning of the year.  He’s specifically patterned on the appearance of Dan Moroboshi’s Version 7 suit from Netflix’s animated Ultraman, which of course also means he’s patterned on the Version 7.2 Suit from the manga of the same name.  The manga version got a release back in 2016 under the SH Figuarts X Ultra Act banner, and this one is essentially the same mold, with a few tweaks, and, of course, the dropping of the Ultra Act banner entirely.  The figure stands 6 1/4 inches tall and has 39 points of articulation.  Compared to the Ace Suit, Ver. 7 is in some ways a stiffer figure, and in other ways not.  I found the legs a little trickier to work with, but the arms, especially at the shoulders, did showcase a slightly greater range of motion.  Obviously, a lot of the restriction is coming from the design of the suit, and not from how the figure is made, to Bandai’s credit.  He can get into a number of impressive poses, and can most notably get into the unsheathing the sword pose that is so commonly associated with this design.  The figure’s sculpt is certainly a more complex one than the Ace suit was, again due to the source material, which has the Version 7 suit being a far more intricate and detail-heavy suit.  It contrasts well with Ace’s boxier design, as something that’s far sleeker and pointier.  Certainly appropriate given the sword wielding aspect. It also carries the most memorable elements of the classic Ultra Seven suit forward, but keeps in line with the more mechanized takes of the rest of the series’ Ultra suits.  Paint work marks one slight change for this figure, contrasting with the original 7.2 release.  This one makes the red sections a bit brighter and gives them a flatter finish than the original release.  It’s a look that works very well for the sculpt and the design, and further hammers home those classic Ultraman vibes.  The application’s all pretty clean.  There’s a little bit of variation between the reds, but nothing too major, and the segmented nature of the armor helps break it up and keep it from being too obvious.  The Version 7 suit includes his Specium Sword and its corresponding sheath, a separate attachment piece for the sheath, a throwing dagger (modeled after the original Ultra Seven’s head fin), a slash effect with a stand, and 8 swappable hands (in fists, gripping, and open flat combos, as well as two variations on gripping for the left hand).  It’s not a bad accessory set at all, although it’s too bad there isn’t an unmasked head for Dan like there was for Seiji in the Ace set.  Still, I can certainly live with this set-up.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

My new Ultraman purchases have really slowed to a crawl, which is too bad, honestly.  I’m not the only one who feels that way, it seems.  Prior to the holiday season, Super Awesome Wife asked if I had a list of the Ultraman stuff I owned, which I did, and she took that and decided to get me this guy to keep things going.  I have the Figurise model kit, so I didn’t jump on this one when he was released, but in hand I do really appreciate the differences between the two.  There’s a lot of cool stuff going on here, and now I feel like I need a proper Shinjiro to round out my cast.

#2498: Captain America – Final Battle Edition

CAPTAIN AMERICA — FINAL BATTLE EDITION

S.H. FIGUARTS (BANDAI)

Bandai Japan’s S.H. Figuarts is a toyline that I’ve looked at a handful of times previously on the site, but the very vast majority of the items I’ve looked at from the line have been, rather predictably, I suppose, based on Japanese properties (well, excepting of course Freddie and K-2, but they were sort of stand outs).  They’ve been dabbling in plenty of American properties over the years, but up until now, I’ve been totally content to stick with the domestic options on those.  As of late, they’ve been really getting into the MCU side of things, with Infinity War and Endgame both getting a noticeable focus.  Today, I’m taking a look at their latest take on Captain America, specifically in his Endgame attire.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The Final Battle Edition Captain America started showing most places in the last month or so, right alongside the similarly Final Battle-themed Iron Man from the movie.  This marks our second Endgame Cap in the Figuarts line; the first one hit closer to the film’s theatrical release, and featured a much more paired down accessory selection, largely to avoid spoilers and the like.  Even as a basic release, it sold out pretty quickly, so Bandai was fairly quick to get another version out there.  The figure stands about 6 1/4 inches tall and he has 34 points of articulation.  He’s on the taller side of the Figuarts spectrum (due to Chris Evans being generally a pretty tall guy), but he’s still going to be a little small to scale with Legends.  Obviously, that’s kind of expected.  This release of Endgame Cap appears to be using the same core sculpt as the prior release.  The articulation is a little bit on the obvious side, falling back in line with what I’m used to from Figurarts.  There’s a pretty amazing range of motion, though some of the joints on mine, particularly his left elbow, are a little looser than I’d like.  I do wish the tolerance were just a touch better there.  As with any Figuarts sculpt, it’s definitely got a little bit of a stylization to it, to bring him in line with the rest of the figures.  It works pretty well for Cap, though, and gives him even more heroic proportions than usual. It also looks astoundingly svelte when compared to the Hasbro version, which was itself a bit beefy, I suppose.  It’s not a bad match for Evans’ build in the film, though, albeit in a slightly caricaturized way.  It does manage to get the costume details down a bit more accurately, I think, than the Legends release.  There are three separate heads included with this figure: masked with calm expression, masked with battle expression, and fully unmasked (which also gets its own separate neck post, since there’s a little bit of the helmet visible on the standard neck).  Of the three, I the neutral masked is probably the weakest.  The likeness just isn’t quite there, and he looks a little void of personality.  I really like the other two heads, though.  The intense expression is great for battle poses, and the unmasked head has a pretty fantastic Evans likeness on it.  The paint work on this figure marks a difference from the original release, which gave us a slightly more pristine Cap.  This one takes the “Final Battle” title and runs with it a bit, so he’s got a bit of grime and dirt.  It’s not enough to make him look “damaged”, but it gives him a little extra flavor.  All three heads have printed faces, which look a little wonky from up close, but great at a distance.  The gold color used on the hair of the unmasked head looks a little weird, but after having him in hand for a bit, I don’t actually hate it.  The major selling point of this guy is his accessory complement.  In addition to the three heads mentioned above, Cap also includes five pairs of hands (fists, relaxed, hammer gripping, flat, and with the shield strap in hand), his shield in both regular and broken forms, with interchangeable straps to go along, and Mjolnir with interchangeable energy effects.  The hands offer up some fun posing variety, and the flat palmed ones even have a tab to allow the corresponding strap with hanger on it to be attached, letting Cap actually hold his shield by its edge.  The shield’s straps also allow for use on either arm, one-handed hold, or mounting on his back, again really giving posing options.  Both shields are great pieces, and it’s awesome to finally have the destroyed one in toy form.  Mjolnir practically steals the show here, though, as the swap out panels with the energy effects are pretty amazingly dynamic for posing.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I don’t typically jump into the Figuarts realm for stuff that has other 6-inch lines, but I’ve been kicking myself for passing up the chance to grab the AoU Cap at a good price, and I was a little bummed when I missed the first release on Endgame Cap.  Fortunately, the updated version came along, and he’s even better, so it works out well.  When All Time got these figures in stock, I came very close to grabbing this guy right away, but ultimately held off.  However, Super Awesome Wife was nice enough to work with Jason to get me one for my birthday, and I really couldn’t be happier.  He’s a really fun figure, and goes great with the rest of my ever-growing Captain America collection.

If you’d like a Cap of your own (or the Iron Man that goes with him, perhaps), he’s still in-stock at AllTimeToys.com. And, if you’re looking for other cool toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay storefront.