#2078: Gladiator Hulk

GLADIATOR HULK

MARVEL SELECT (DST)

After exiting stage right at the end of Age of Ultron, and thereby skipping the pseudo-Avengers outing in Civil War, Hulk’s return to the big screen came not in his own film (because the two lukewarm performances from before showed that audiences just aren’t there for a solo outing), but in the third film of fellow Avenger and fellow Civil War abstainer Thor, which served to (at least loosely) adapt Planet Hulk, specifically Hulk’s turn as a space gladiator.  It’s a distinctive visual to say the least, and one that pretty much every toy company jumped on, including Diamond Select Toys.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Gladiator Hulk was released a few months after Thor: Ragnarok hit theaters in November of 2017.  Though slightly delayed, he wasn’t nearly as bad as some of the Infinity War figures.  The figure stands over 8 inches tall and he has 28 points of articulation.  Hulk was a brand-new sculpt, and a pretty darn solid one at that.  DST had already done some solid work on the Avengers and Age of Ultron Hulks, but this one really takes things the the next level, but in terms of detailing and in terms of how the sculpt and the articulation work together.  Mobility on this figure pretty much the same as you’d get from the equivalent Legends release, and it’s all very well-worked-in on top of it.  The design is quite close to Hulk’s renders from the movie, with only one notable inaccuracy, and that’s even limited to the alternate head.  The detailing on the figure is definitely top-notch.  It’s sharp, and there’s plenty of texturing all throughout, even on the heads, which is an area where DST can sometimes have a little trouble.  His main head is sporting his gladiator helmet from the movie, which is quite well-defined, and by virtue of being a permanent fixture escapes some of the issues that Hasbro’s BaF ran into.  The alternate head removes the helmet, revealing a head of hair that’s…not quite right for the movie.  He’s got a pretty distinctive cut there, but in DST’s defense, pretty much none of the promotional material had his helmet off, and they really aren’t *that* far off.  Perhaps my biggest complaint about the figure, still has to do with those heads, namely how difficult it is to swap between them.  The intense detailing is really awesome, but it, coupled with a tight neck joint, meant I tore up my hands a fair bit trying to get them off and on.  He also comes wearing the un-helmeted head, meaning you encounter this issue right out of the box, which can be a little off-putting.  The paintwork is some of the best I’ve seen on a Select figure, with a clean base application and a ton of accent work on pretty much every piece of the sculpt.  While he may not have the fancy face printing of a Hasbro release, he’s still quite lifelike in that regard, and just generally looks like an occupant of the lived-in world of Ragnarok, as he should.  In addition to the previously mentioned extra head, Hulk is also packed with two sets of hands in both fists and gripping poses, as well as his hammer and axe from the movie, which, like the figure, are superbly detailed.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

When the Legends figures for Ragnarok were released, I wasn’t in the financial position to collect every Legends BaF as they hit, and Gladiator Hulk was one I ended up skipping.  Several months later, when I was looking to fill in some holes in my collection, this figure was released, and I felt like he was the much easier alternative to trying to find all those BaF pieces.  He’s probably the happiest I’ve been with a Select purchase, though I do have to admit he’s one of those figures I kept forgetting I had (which is why it took me over a year to finally get around to reviewing this freaking thing).  He integrates amazingly well with my Legends, and is just one of the better Hulk figures out there.

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#1790: Thor: Ragnarok Minimates

GLADIATOR THOR, HELA, BRUCE BANNER, & LOKI

MARVEL MINIMATES

Three Norse Gods and….Mark Ruffalo?  What could possibly go wrong?

The Thor movies have some slight trouble with getting proper toy representation.  The Minimates have done a fair bit of good, but in the case of both of the first two films, last minute cancellations of planned store exclusives resulted in incomplete cast lineups.  Fortunately, Ragnarok was a bit more fortunate.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

These four were released in a specialty-exclusive four-pack, released at the same time as the Walgreens and TRU-exclusive two-pack assortments.  Thor and Hela were included in two-pack form in both of those assortments, but Loki and Banner are both exclusive to this particular set.

GLADIATOR THOR

Ragnarok delivered a rather changed-up look for our hero Thor, who had something of an evolving appearance as the film progressed.  This figure represents him from around the film’s mid-point, after he’s arrived on Sakaar and been thrown into the arena as a gladiator.  It’s definitely his most distinctive look from the film, so it’s a sensible inclusion.  Thor has three sculpted add-on pieces to aid in his look.  The first is his helmet.  Thor’s helmet has been frequently overlooked by the film’s and while he doesn’t wear it for long in Ragnarok, it does at least get some focus that it hadn’t previously.  It’s an all-new piece here, and a pretty decent one at that.  The general design of it’s very close to the one seen in the film, and the detail work is pretty solid.  It perhaps sits a little high on his head, but only ever so slightly.  He’s also got a brand new shoulder piece, featuring his shoulderpads and the remaining half of his cape.  It sits well on the body, and doesn’t bulk up the neck too much, so that’s a definite plus.  Finally, he’s got a generic skirt piece, standing in for the bottom portion of his tunic.  Thor’s paintwork is a good recreation of his film design.  The detail lines are nice and sharp, and while the face isn’t the spitting image of Hemsworth, it’s as close as any of the prior attempts have been, and at least this one’s got a good fighting expression.  The tunic features some rather ornate detailing, as do his wrist guards, but I think the little bit of Sakaaran armor on his right leg is my favorite bit.  It’s just so vibrant and genuine.  Since it depicts Thor following Mjolnir’s destruction, this figure doesn’t include that piece.  It does, however, include the two swords he tries to replace his hammer with during his time as a gladiator, as well as a spare hairpiece for a sans-helmet look and a clear display stand.

HELA

After sparring off with one of the franchise’s most forgettable villains for his second installment, Thor was granted a far more intriguing foe in the form of Hela, goddess of death.  She’s still not the Enchantress, but I guess I’ll take it.  Hela is built using two sculpted add-on pieces, for her cape and her distinctive headdress.  Both pieces are unique to this particular figure, though I’m sure they could easily work for a comic book Hela, should DST be so inclined.  They’re both very well crafted additions, capturing the designs from the movie very nicely.  The headdress is sufficiently ornate, and the slight swoop at the bottom of the cape is definitely a nice touch.  Hela’s paint work is suitably bold and striking, even a bit moreso than her onscreen design.  The slightly metallic nature of the green adds even more to the appearance, and I appreciate that the green detailing goes all the way around the legs and pelvis piece.  For accesroes, Hela’s packed with an extra head and hair, depicting her unmasked appearance from her more vulnerable portions of the movie, as well as the usual clear display stand.

BRUCE BANNER

While the two-packs were host to his jade goliath alter-ego, this set gives us a completely un-transformed Bruce Banner.  This is the second such figure we’ve gotten of the Mark Ruffalo version of the character, following his TRU-exclusive release from Age of Ultron.  Banner uses two add-on pieces, for his hair and his jacket.  Both of them are re-used.  The hair is, appropriately, the old Zombie Hulk piece that was used for quite a few Hulks.  It’s a pretty decent match for Ruffalo’s look, especially his slightly shorter hair from Ragnarok.  His jacket is the Ghostbusters World of the Psychic Peter Venkman piece, which has similarly seen a number of uses.  It’s just a basic blazer, so it works well for the look they’re going for.  Bruce’s paint work is perhaps not the most thrilling work in the whole set, but it’s reasonable work never the less.  The face capture’s Ruffalo’s likeness pretty well, and while the shirt lacks the Duran Duran cover from the movie (which I’m certain is a licensing thing), it does at the very least include some wrinkles and folds, so that it’s not just a blank grey block.  Bruce includes a second head, with an angry expression and green pupils.  It’s not the first such piece we’ve seen with a Banner figure, but it’s a welcome addition all the same.  He also includes the usual clear display stand.

LOKI

Loki, particularly Tom Hiddleston’s version of the character, is no stranger to the world of Minimates.  He’s managed to get at least one ‘mate for each of the movies he’s been featured in (well, barring Infinity War).  Ragnarok proved even more generous in this regarding, giving us not one, not two, but three versions of the character.  The one seen here is based on his look from the movie’s final climactic battle.  It’s a look patterned somewhat after his “Agent of Asgard” look from the comics, which is certainly one of his cooler looks.  Loki makes use of three sculpted add-on pieces, for his hair/crown, his cape, and his belt piece.  The hairpiece is unique to this figure, and does a respectable job of capturing the design from the movie.  The crown in particular is quite sharply detailed.  The cape, which is shared with one of the other two Lokis from the movie, is one of my favorite capes, in part because of its rather straight forward nature.  His paint is perhaps the figure’s one real flaw.  For the most part, it’s not bad.  Like Hela, the color scheme is rather striking, and the details on the costume are quite sharp.  In addition, the face is my favorite of the Hiddleston Lokis we’ve gotten to date; that smile is fantastic.  The real trouble is with the hairpiece, where the application is rather sloppy, and in what appears to be an across the board error, his ears have been painted the same gold as his headpiece, rather than the proper peach-tone.  Loki is the lightest packed in this set, featuring only a clear display stand.  I wouldn’t have minded his knives or an extra hair piece or something, but the other three help keep the sting down a little bit.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I grabbed this set from the best Minimate retailer around, Luke’s Toy Store, a few months back.  I actually had fallen behind a bit on releases, so this was part of a catch-up I was doing at the time.  It’s a pretty strong set. Gladiator Thor is one of the coolest versions of the character we’ve gotten in the MCU, and this ‘mate does a great job of translating that.  Hela’s an important character in the context of the movie, and a brand-new character in the context of the line as a whole, plus she’s got a pretty killer look.  Though he’s just a basic civilian, Banner’s a very well-executed ‘mate, and another winning figure in this already quite strong set.  This Loki is really the star Loki figure from the movie, and issues with the paint aside, he’s a pretty darn solid addition to the line-up.

#1490: Thor & Valkyrie

THOR & VALKYRIE

MARVEL LEGENDS (HASBRO)

“Armed with ancient weapons and legendary strength, these Asgardian warriors proudly defend the legacy of their realm.”

In terms of toy lines based on the MCU, Thor seems to draw the short straw.  Hasbro went all-in for his first film, and produced a rather expansive line.  Sadly, this one proved to be less than successful, which made retailers a little bit wary of backing him for later films.  Dark  World only got a very small assortment and Thor himself was only offered in an online-exclusive boxed set for Age of Ultron.  For Ragnarok, there’s a bit more coverage, but we still only got a small fraction of the main cast.  For instance, Valkyrie, one of the film’s main protagonists, was only available in a two-pack with a variant of Thor.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Thor and Valkyrie are a two-pack of figures from Hasbro’s currently running Marvel Legends.  Like the prior Star-Lord and Ego pack, these two aren’t exclusive to any one retailer.  Unlike that earlier set, these two actually hit in time for the movie, arriving on shelves about a week before the movie.

THOR

Thor gets quite a makeover in Ragnarok, and this figure replicates that new look.  I know a lot of people weren’t really big on the new short-haired look, but I didn’t mind it too much, and I certainly liked Thor’s new gladiator gear.  This figure makes use of a lot of the single-release Ragnarok Thor’s pieces.  Mostly, this one’s just got a new head to differentiate him.  The figure stands just shy of 7 inches tall and he has 30 points of articulation.  The new head is obviously the star piece here.  It’s not a bad likeness of Hemsworth; definitely the best we’ve gotten so far from Hasbro, I’d say.  It looks good head-on, I think it’s just the profile that throws it off.  The body sculpt is pretty decent, but I noticed similar issues with the torso to what was going on with the Loki figure.  He just seems a touch flatter than he should be.  I also found the cape to be a little too detached and easy to fall off for my taste.  On the plus side, the figure’s paint is pretty top-notch.  The face is the best work, rendering a rather life-like take on Hemsworth.  The body gets the bold color palette down, and I quite like the red detailing that runs down his left side.  That’s a fun touch.  Thor doesn’t include his usual hammer (since it was destroyed and all), but he does get an extra set of open hands, a lightning effect piece, and, somewhat oddly, Heimdall’s sword.  Not sure why that last one came with Thor and not, say, a Heimdall figure, but there it is.

VALKYRIE

Thor’s great and all, but the real draw of this set is definitely it’s new character, Valkyrie.  I was quite a fan of Tessa Thompson’s take on the character, and I’m eager to see the character turn up in future films.  And I’m also excited to have her in figure form.  Valkyrie is seen here in her bounty hunter garb from the first chunk of the film.  It’s the look she spends the most time in, and is also pretty close to her current comics look, so it’s a good choice.  The figure stands about 6 inches tall and she has 27 points of articulation.  Her sculpt is completely unique to her, and it’s definitely a very nice one.  It’s certainly my favorite of the Ragnarok sculpts I’ve seen, that’s for sure.  The likeness on the head is a pretty solid match for Thompson, and she’s sporting a pretty balanced and realistic set of proportions.  The cape is permanently affixed, which I like more than the removable capes of Thor and Loki. I wish the knives strapped to her legs were actually removable, but at least they’re actually there.  In terms of paint, Valkyrie’s pretty decent, with clean application and solid color choices.  My only real complaint is the small bit of splatter on her forehead, which is a little bit distracting.  Valkyrie is packed with her valkyrie sword, as well as its scabbard, which doesn’t seem to actually have anywhere to go.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I saw this set a few times before the movie’s release, always in rather large quantities.  After seeing the film, I came across it again at my local Target, but this time there were only two of them left.  Since I really enjoyed the film (and Valkyrie in particular), I figured I should probably grab them while I could.  Valkyrie is definitely the stronger of the two, but Thor’s still a solid figure in his own right.

#1479: Skurge & Grandmaster

SKURGE & GRANDMASTER

MARVEL MINIMATES

Thor Ragnarok hit the big screen last week.  After being more than a little underwhelmed by Thor’s last solo cinematic adventure, I was definitely hoping this one would be a marked improvement.  Having seen it, I’d say it most definitely succeeded on that front.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was still very, very good.  There were a quite a few new characters introduced in the movie, and several of them were real standouts.  Two of my favorites are the two I’m covering today, Skurge and Grandmaster!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Surge and Grandmaster are one of the Walgreens-exclusive sets for the Thor Ragnarok tie-in series of Marvel Minimates.  They’re something of an odd pairing, truth be told, seeing as the two don’t ever once interact or even participate in the same segments of the plot line.  That said, I’m hardly going to complain, since I like both characters.

SKURGE

In the comics, Skurge was at first simply known as “The Executioner.”  He was the right-hand-man to the Enchantress, and a key piece of the original Masters of Evil.  Definitely an important player, so his inclusion in the film was definitely something I was very much looking forward to.  Throw in that he was played by Karl Urban, a personal favorite, and you’ve got a real winner.  His design in the film isn’t too far removed from his comics incarnation, which means this figure can pretty well serve as either version.  The figure stands about 2 1/4 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  He’s built on the usual body, with add-ons for his chest cap and bracers.  The add-ons are new to Skurge, and are pretty decent overall.  The torso piece could probably be a little tighter to the body, but it looks decent enough.  His paintwork is decent enough.  It’s not super vibrant, but that’s true of the movie design, and it’s in keeping with what we’ve seen of the Asgardians in the MCU so far.  The details are all pretty crisp and clean, and his face looks passably like Karl Urban.  Accessories are easily this figure’s biggest failing.  He gets a clear display stand and nothing else.  Not his axe, not even his twin M-16s, which DST already had the molds for.  It’s more than a little disappointing.

GRANDMASTER

Grandmaster of the comics is one of the Marvel universe’s Elders, and he’s actually a little bit on the boring side.  In the movie, he’s Jeff Goldbloom, essentially playing himself.  That works out pretty well for…well, everybody.  He too is built on the standard base body, with a unique upper left arm (taken from the TMNT Foot Ninja), as well as add ons for his hair and jacket.  The pieces are decently handled, and look pretty sharp.  They translate the film design pretty well, which is pretty great.  His paint work is nice and colorful; the Grandmaster has one of the more vivid designs in the film, and that comes through here.  The likeness of Goldbloom is pretty spot-on as well, which is a definite plus.  Like Skurge, Grandmaster’s only accessory is his clear display stand, but that’s a bit less annoying in his case, since there’s not as much in the way of obvious extras.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I got this pair at the same time as the last two sets I reviewed.  By-and-large, I was holding off on the Ragnarok merch until after the film’s release, but these two in particular called to me.  As they ended up being two of my favorite parts of the movie, it’s safe to say I don’t regret my purchase.  Sure, it’s annoying that they don’t really have any accessories, but the ‘mates themselves are pretty solid.

#1389: Loki

LOKI

MARVEL LEGENDS (HASBRO)

““Forever a trickster, Loki’s allegiances are often unclear. However, one thing can be said for certain: Loki always looks out for Loki’s best interests.”

Summer’s on it’s way out.  So, move over summer blockbusters!  It’s time for…the fall blockbusters?  We’ve had Guardians Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming.  Now it’s time for the next Marvel entry, Thor: Ragnarok!  After being slightly underwhelmed by The Dark World, I’m hoping that Ragnarok can deliver something a bit more enjoyable.  The Dark World had only an incredibly modest offering of toys, but Ragnarok is getting a little more coverage.  The first of the product is just starting to hit retail now.  Today, I’ll be looking at the trickster god Loki!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Loki is figure 2 in the Ragnarok assortment of Marvel Legends.  This is actually the first time Hiddleston Loki’s been given a proper retail release, since the Avengers was only available as a Walmart exclusive, and then was re-released as part of the European version of the Hulkbuster assortment.  This one is, obviously, based on his Ragnarok appearance, which seems to have been somewhat influenced by the Lady Loki design of all things, along with a touch of the “Agent of Asgard” look.  It’s not a bad look.  The figure stands about 6 1/2 inches tall and he has 30 points of articulation.  His sculpt is new to this figure.  It has its ups and its downs.  By far, the best part is the head sculpt, which has quite a nice likeness of Hiddleston as Loki, slight little sneering grin and all.  I also quite like the hands, which are a nice open gesture, thus adding a lot of character when you pose him.  I’m a bit iffy on the torso, which seems slightly oddly shaped and kind of rudimentary.  Compared to some of the other Legends of late, this feels like a bit of a step down.  I’m also not a fan of the floating skirt piece on the waist.  I feel like a fixed piece would look better, and be less annoying when posing the figure.  Lastly, I don’t care for how the cape attaches.  Maybe it’s just my figure, but I found it to be rather difficult to bet both clips properly seated on the shoulders, and even once they’re in place, it doesn’t take much to knock one or the other out of place.  It gets a little frustrating.  On the plus side of things, the paintwork on Loki is pretty strong.  The best work is definitely the face; this is my first experience with the “printing” technique that Hasbro’s started to use on the movie figures.  Photos online had me skeptical about the process, but it person it looks really good.  The rest of the paint is pretty straight forward stuff.  The colors seem to match the movie design, and the application is all pretty sharp.  Loki includes his “helmet”, which has been streamlined down to more of a headband with horns attached.  It’s a little bulky, but fits on his head pretty well. He also includes the left leg of the series’ Build-A-Figure, Gladiator Hulk.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This guy snuck up on me.  I barely even knew of his existence when I found him at one of my local Targets.  I was actually looking for the Homecoming figures, which I still haven’t had any luck finding, when I came across this guy.  I was pretty excited to find him (and I’ve already tracked down a duplicate for Super Awesome Girlfriend).  Ultimately, he’s a bit of a mixed bag.  The torso on this guy is really poorly designed, just all-around, which is a real surprise from Hasbro these days.  Still, the good does outweigh the bad on this guy, and the end result is an overall nice figure.  He’s not going to be figure of the year, but he’s far from terrible.