Monday, 29 July 2013

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man 6" Figure Review

Definitely not in bad taste.
This week we'll be looking at the Ultimate Comics Spider-Man 6" figure, from last year's Amazing Spider-Man movie line. The single wave consisted of the ASM (movie costume) Spidey, the Lizard, and in a nice surprise this guy, the new Ultimate Comics webspinner Miles Morales. "Who is this usurper?" and "how good is his action figure?" are questions you may be asking yourself. Well, read on if you'd like to find out the answers!

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1
After being bitten by a radioactive spider that was smuggled out of an Oscorp lab by his uncle, thirteen year old Miles Morales developed similar (but not identical) powers to those of Spider-Man. Following the death of the Ultimate universe's Peter Parker, and Miles' guilt at not helping in the fatal battle, he takes up the mantle of Spider-Man himself. As with all good spider-men personal tragedy runs rife, and he's already paying a high cost for the costume...

Packaging Front & Back
So, on to the figure. The packaging follows the template from the ASM movie line with the same visuals and cut of the card, and there's really not much to say about it, other than that this costume pops on the image on the back. These things are made for opening though, so let's see what we get!

Figure, shield and stand.
UC Spider-Man comes packaged with a stand and a clip on web shield, both of which look pretty cool and provide a good looking, if not particularly Spidey-esque display option. That's already more than what came with the 3 3/4" Ultra Posable Spidey, so we're off to a good start...

Face front!
First thing I noticed was how sturdy the figure felt out of the packaging; although I then felt like I was putting that theory to the test with my first attempt at posing. The joints were properly stiff, and I felt like I was going to snap the leg off, but after the first click the hip joints started to move a bit more freely. This figure boasts a whopping 25 points of articulation (including double joints on the shoulders, elbows and knees) which allows for amazing posability, but unfortunately it also suffers from only having a swivel head, which limits how good some poses can look. This is compounded by the hunched neck, which looks cool in some poses but really doesn't work in others. The thighs can only bend so high, which restricts some of the more athletic poses we're used to seeing with Spidey, but really these are the only drawbacks; the articulation is otherwise very well done.

And back!
Cast in black plastic, there's very little actual paint on the figure, but what is there should be good. The intricate lines and design of the costume are very cleanly applied, and the eyes have a pearlescent sheen that matches the black and red colour scheme perfectly and looks beautiful. It's a good looking costume and one that they've applied to the figure very well. On my sample (mail ordered) there were some chips in the paint which are noticeable on close inspection (and unfortunately I can't unsee the red dot on his left eye now), so if you get the chance to inspect this figure before picking it up it's worth giving it a scan. Individual blemishes aside though, the paint job is very well done.

The last strike against this figure is more about the character than the toy itself; Miles is a young teenager and is drawn as such in the comics, whilst this figure looks more like a fully grown and pumped adult. Overall though it's good we've gotten an action figure of Miles so soon in the character's history, and despite its few flaws this is a very solid toy.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Dark Empire Luke Skywalker

The Siege of Coruscant!
This is one figure that won't be going in the Purge; not least because Hasbro have stated that the Black Series 6" line will be for movie characters only. This Dark Empire Luke Skywalker figure is one that I've wanted for so long (we're talking late 90's here), and I was lucky enough to get him last month for a decent price. I was outbid at the last for the Clone Emperor, but I can live without; I'm generally more selective over EU material than I am the Prequels, but this design of Luke suits my post-ROTJ vision perfectly. At least until 2015, anyway...

I found a decent Photoshop lightsaber tutorial for anyone interested; I still need to refine the process a little bit, but it's easy enough to follow with a good end result.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, 22 July 2013

The Coming Storm

General Kenobi, Commander Bly
The Clone Wars are taking their toll on the Jedi. Their numbers are dwindling against the Separatist armies, and the pall of the dark side of the Force clouds everything. Even so they fight on, securing victory after victory, and the tide of the war is slowly turning. Yet as General Kenobi leads his battalion to secure yet another stronghold, he would never foresee the betrayal that awaits him...

The Clone Wars are almost over. The Great Purge is coming.


OK, moody scene-setting aside, the purge really is coming to the Mos Espa Collection; and given how sprawling my collection is becoming, that's only a good thing. SDCC this year was a watershed moment for fans of Hasbro's Star Wars line, I think. Fan outrage over the direction of the 'classic' figure line is not a new thing (or fan outrage about anything, for that matter), but I'm getting the impression that the SA 3 3/4" approach is winding its way down now, and that's going to affect a lot of people's collections. The new Saga Legends looks like the template for a continued line, and it's a move I fully applaud - these are toys with great character likenesses that are also sturdy and can stand up to rigorous adventures. These are the kind of toys that I wanted as a kid, and I'm glad that they're there for kids today; whether they're entirely something I would want as an adult today I'll come to in a minute. The fact that I'm not the target demographic aside though, these figures are also seeing release at a reasonable price point, which has been the most off-putting aspect of new Star Wars figures for a few years now. If reducing the articulation allows the line to survive until the new trilogy, then Hasbro should absolutely go for it, and fie on any collector who can't understand that.

I don't get it either.
So, where does that leave collectors? It's been theorised in a few places that the new 3 3/4" Black Series line is a way for Hasbro to release existing (but unreleased) sculpts and simple kit bashes as a way of clearing the line out completely ahead of 2015's sequel trilogy push, and that makes a lot of sense to me. The upcoming figures, both rumoured and confirmed, are ones that have been mooted (and some even shown) for release in previous lines and others are fairly simple updates to older releases. I'm basing this on nothing but speculation, but if, after years of missteps, you have your toy line for children finally in working order, why would you continue to sell a misfiring line to a smaller audience, that's more expensive to produce and harder to sell? Furthermore, why do this when there's very few characters in this line left to make? It's been eight years since ROTS hit cinemas, and there really isn't much left to do in this scale (and I'm a bigger fan than most, but I have yet to see one decent argument for why a Toryn Farr action figure is required at all, by anybody, as a mass-market release. Online collector exclusive is a different matter).

The future's black...
And so, we come to the 6" Black Series, and the future of Star Wars action figures. Following the lead of the re-branded Marvel Legends line, the Black Series introduces a new scale to Star Wars action figures, with superior sculpting, more articulation than you can shake a well-spoken stick at and a long future of first-release main characters to come. I think those doubting this line's ability to last should look at the success (and there is no other word for it) of the SDCC/Celebration exclusive Boba Fett with Han Solo in Carbonite, which sold out in a day despite the inflated price and is now trading for as much as £200 on Ebay. People, not just collectors but real-life people want these toys, and the buzz around them is the highest it's been for a Star Wars line since at least the Episode I merchandising launch. With this weekend's wave two reveals at SDCC, I can now say that I am beyond doubt amongst the converted.

Captain of the Millennium Falcon, woot!
What struck me about the Saga Legends line when I reviewed the Super Battle Droid last week was that they're good toys, and I fully support the line and its reasons for existing, but they're not figures that I personally want to spend money on because I've been there before. I will pick up select figures based on aesthetics or whimsy, but for my tastes, and for the level of quality that's on offer, I intend to migrate fully to the 6" Black Series with an Episode III-VI focus, because frankly these toys really sate my desire for high quality, affordable Star Wars action figures. To do this I'll need to create space and funds, and that means selling off a chunk of my 3 3/4" collection. This in turn means deciding what each figure means to me, which I think is going to be a revelatory process and one that I'm looking forward to starting. It's also a process that I'm going to cover here on the blog (as well as continuing reviews, Vintage Wednesdays and LoEB contributions), because I think it'll be interesting to look at how much of figure collecting is about the purchasing, rather than the enjoyment of owning that figure. Hopefully that'll be something many of us can relate to, so it'd be great if anybody can relate similar experiences over the course of 'the purge'.

And every now and then I may remember that I occasionally cover Transformers too.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

SL05: Saga Legends (2013) Super Battle Droid Review

"Super Battle Droids are capable of inflicting a punishing assault on their targets."
The 2013 Saga Legends figures have started to hit, which is either a case of 'about time', or 'oh God no', depending on your articulation/price point preference ratio... I plan to cherry pick from the first wave (I'm more excited about the Mission Series line-up), but today I saw the first single-carded figure that I was always aiming to get: the Super Battle Droid. 

Battle Droids (Super and not-so Super) in action.
In the interests of full-disclosure, I should point out that I've never been against this line. When it was announced at New York Toy Fair in February, I thought that the sculpts looked fantastic and the move back to a lower price point was long overdue. Many online were more reticent, to say the least, but the proof was always going to be in the final product.

Card Front
This is the first Super Battle Droid figure I've owned as I wasn't collecting much other than the odd Luke or Anakin during the AOTC/ROTS years, but now I've got a fairly sizable clone squad this seemed like the ideal opportunity to pick one up. Significantly more substantial than the Episode I Battle Droids, the Super Battle Droids, along with the Droidekas, present a far greater challenge to any Republic forces on the toy shelf...

Card Back
First up, the packaging. Now I wasn't sure about this at first, but in person it really works. Smaller than the cards we've been used to, the Vader picture on the front works surprisingly well and the cracked effect of the plastic bubble helps it to look more dynamic. This is exciting packaging, and an inspired choice for the kids/budget line. The card back is still ruined by more warning signs than I have fingers, but at least they managed to get some character info and pictures of other available characters on there. For any fellow EU collectors who picked up the late Vintage Collection, this makes a welcome change.

Face Front!
My immediate first impressions were of how sturdy the Super Battle Droid felt when I removed it from the bubble. The limbs feel solid and the joints are tight, and the figure has some weight to it. As you probably know, the most controversial aspect of the new Saga Legends line is the reduced articulation, with most figure clocking in at five (swivel head, arms and legs). The Super Battle Droid goes one less however, with the head being sunk into the body as it is. For this character that's not so much an issue as it only really stands to attention or extends its gun arm at 90 degrees anyway, so I'll have no problem using this with my clones and other droids.

Take Aim...
The payoff from the limited articulation (other than the lower RRP) is the more accurate sculpt. Unencumbered by multiple joints and hinges, the Super Battle Droid has an accurate silhouette and decent proportions, which means that for display this is one of the best versions of this character you can get. There's a lot of detail in the sculpt, from the pistons on the arms to the grooves on the soles of the feet, and the plastic has a shiny quality to it that gives the Super Battle Droid a metal-like sheen representative of the films. There isn't really a paint job to speak of, which given some of the boss eyes being reported on Mace Windu and Yoda may not be such a bad thing; all we get here is a simple red dot to indicate the power light. A wash might help bring out the sculpt a bit more, but it doesn't require any vital work to look like the character.

'10 to 2' position on the (imaginary) wheel
There's a lot of baggage around the new Saga Legends on message boards and nerd sites the world over, so I think the fairest way to look at this figure is without the context. It's got a great sculpt, stands well (didn't fall over once whilst shooting), and accurately represents the character. Elbow joints would be nice, even just on the left arm, and the almost total lack of paint shows how much the figures are being stripped back for this line. But then at least that's reflected in the price; probably the biggest plus point of all.

"Freeze, Jedi!"
Ultimately, the economy isn't what it was, and if this is the direction Hasbro has to take to keep action figures affordable, then so be it. For the Super Battle Droid the pros outweigh the cons, but I don't think the entire line will fare so well.


Thanks for reading!

Friday, 12 July 2013

Review: Clone Wars Republic Commando Boss

"Alone against all these droids...heh, they don't stand a chance."
RC-1138, better known as Republic Commando Boss, is a character that I'm mostly unfamiliar with. However I know a cool looking Clone when I see one, and when I spotted the 2012 Clone Wars line in my local B&M for just £3.99 I snapped him up. What do I make of him? Find out below!

Clone Wars Commando Boss
Despite Captain Rex appearing on the banner for this blog, I've not really invested much in the Clone Wars line to date. I never liked the skinny legs or the stylised takes on the characters, but then I wasn't hugely into the show either. Around Series Three that started to change, but I felt that in terms of the toy line there was too much water under the bridge to start collecting. I saw Republic Commando Boss in Sainsburys last year and was immediately taken with the design, and went away to research the figure - but by the time I returned to buy him, he was gone.

Carded Front, Rear & Loose
The packaging follows the Darth Maul Movie Heroes template, which is alright. It's slightly evocative of the POTF2/Episode 1 packaging, and does a good job of displaying the figure. It's easy to flick through these on pegs/in boxes and see which character you're getting from the side, which is always handy.

According to the back of the box, "Republic Commando Boss is the sergeant in Delta Squad, an elite clone trooper unit". Now, for someone who hasn't seen the episode he's in, or played the Republic Commando game, that's a little bit vague, but I get the gist - this clone is the best of the best. Why Anakin and Obi-Wan hang out with Rex and Cody when this guy's going spare I have no idea. Maybe I had better brush up on my Clone Wars a little bit...

Loose with Pack-ins
Out of the box, you can see that Boss comes with a lot of kit. It's a refreshing change to get a figure so loaded with extras compared to some recent finds, and much like the Rebel Commando it adds massively to the value of the figure. In box you get the Boss figure, two pistols, a larger gun, an opening backpack and a grappling hook with real string line. On top of that there's the Maul-card standard game die, character card and stand. This is a toy that was made for playing with, and that in itself gives it plus points.

Republic Commando Boss comes with eight points of articulation: ball jointed head, shoulders and elbows, and swivel waist and hips. The legs are in a stance somewhere between standing and battle-ready, which makes for a good standard pose and works well with the backpack but also leads to the figure's biggest flaw - it has quite a bit of difficulty standing. When you hit the sweet spot with the balance he stands and looks very cool, but it takes quite a bit of fiddling to get there and could easily lead to toy shelf dominoes unless you use a stand.

Front, Open, Back
The backpack was one of the selling points of this figure for me, because it looks good and serves a practical purpose. As you can see from the above shots the grapple claw clips neatly inside, and there's also space for the pistols. The larger gun doesn't fit but I think Boss looks best holding that anyway, so for me it works. There's a lot to like about the design and sculpt of the backpack, and it really does conjure up memories of the Kenner Hoth backpacks from the ESB line. 

Backpack Off & On
It attaches by both a peg, and a clip on the back of the belt. This extra security keeps it in one place and makes the belt sit forward of the figure's torso slightly, which is a good effect. I know some people might not like the hole in Boss' back, but to be honest you'd be a fool to display him with the backpack off anyway...

Best of the Best
The paint apps on my version are pretty clean, apart from a few flecks of orange on the visor. The visor itself looks very cool, the shade of blue reflecting light and really setting the orange and white armour off. As a design Boss is very striking, and this figure really does that justice. The sculpt is fairly detailed with contours and lines cut into the armour, and the legs are just about thick enough for my tastes - if they'd been the skinnier pins of earlier CW figures, I probably wouldn't have bought him.

In conclusion, Republic Commando Boss is a figure that's flawed, but still fun. I think the good outweighs the bad with him, and he's a welcome addition to the collection, but there are still issues. If you like clones, the Clone Wars series, displaying your figures on stands or buying them at discount prices, then absolutely go for it. On the other hand, I think if I'd paid full price for him I would've been disappointed.


Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Vintage Wednesdays: G1 Transformers Panini Sticker Album

If it's old school, it must be Wednesday, right? I'm marking the return of Vintage Wednesday with this cracker of a find from A Most Marvellous Place to Shop, Northampton's premiere retro and vintage rummage market. I present... The 1986 Transformers Panini Sticker Album, 3/4s complete!

Ah, sweet memories...
Now, some of you may be wondering what the appeal of a part-used sticker album that I'm unlikely to complete is, but for 50p I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity for some shameless reminiscing. My older brother had this album and he used to give me the spares - I remember one sticker being on the wall next to my lower bunk bed for quite some time. And besides, my collection of vintage TF paraphernalia is the largest claim to a genuine (pre-1990) vintage collection I have, so I guess you could consider this a focus piece...

S.O.S. Dinobots
Following a slightly confusing introduction to the Transformers on the inside front cover, the majority of the book is split into chapters that re-tell several G1 episodes, with the stickers providing the pictures. 'The Beginning' covers 'Arrival from Cybertron', 'S.O.S. Dinobots' and 'War of the Dinobots' introduces Grimlock and crew, 'Fire in the Sky' covers Jetfire's brief return, and then the album bows out with 'The Heavy-Metal War' and 'Fire on the Mountain'. Sounds kind of like a prog-rock album when I put it like that.

Cover Fire!
Two-colour illustrations sit between the sticker boxes, showing various scenes from the episodes. Nowadays this kind of crude picture, with its questionable accuracy, would be derided by kids and collectors but for the 80's this was as good as it got.

In addition are the profile pages that use shiny one-stickers for a TF's robot and alt mode, and then a larger six-sticker collage of them in action. The profile is similar to but not the same text as the on-box Tech Specs, and is enough to give kids an idea of what that character is like. For example, Inferno here 'does not follow orders very well' - goldmine info for setting up an Autobot vs Deception game.

Triple Cool Spread.
Finding this sticker album has been a genuine blast from the past, and is one of my favourite second-hand purchases I've made. It wasn't all I picked up though, so look out for more Vintage Wednesday action soon...

Pow! Right in the - uh... Yeah.
Any info on how to complete the gaps in the collection would be much appreciated. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Shelf Review: AOTC Blu-Ray Commemorative Pack Anakin Skywalker

Re-Armed in the Arena
Shelf Review! Not as in-depth as my regular musings, but a look at the equally-deserving items on my toy shelf all the same. This time round it's the turn of AOTC Anakin Skywalker from the Blu-Ray Commemorative four pack. How does he stack up? Read on to find out...

The Padawan Menace
Now, Attack of the Clones is a mess of a film, and is by far the worst entry into the Star Wars canon. Even with a re-edit (which it sorely needs, given how flabby it is) there's still more bad than good there. However, some of the good bits are great, are amongst them I'm going to include the costume designs. Anakin's costume is a unique and stylish take on the Jedi garb that echoes the costume later worn by Luke in ROTJ. As the look of a Jedi adventurer it works fine, and if you can get past the whiny, emo character wearing it (CW and EU do a much better job of representing Anakin to my eyes) it makes for a good look.

Face Front
That costume is well recreated here, and it makes for an equally stylish figure. The faux-leather robe looks great, even if it does feel a little flimsy, and there's even a soft goods skirt below the belt. Articulation-wise, there's a ball-jointed head, shoulders, elbow and knees, with swivel hands, waist and thighs. The legs are solid below the knee which works fine for me, as ball-jointed ankles usually look a bit... unnatural.

...And Back
The figure has all the articulation it needs for the toy shelf, and other than slightly bulbous elbows it maintains an accurate overall silhouette. As an Episode II Anakin however, I wouldn't go as far as to call this release definitive, even if it does fly pretty close.

Bare minimum, Baby.
The main issue is the lack of accessories. For a multipack figure that's not so much of a problem, but if this were on a single card I'd be annoyed by there being no mechanical replacement for the removable right arm, or spare lightsaber hilt to plug into the port on the belt. The original release of this figure, a Revenge of the Sith Evolutions multipack, included both of these parts. It doesn't kill this Anakin's appeal, but it doesn't feel complete either.

Not a good day to be a Tusken on the toyshelf...
In conclusion, this figure is a decent iteration of AOTC Anakin, and he stands proud in my collection as the single best Episode II figure I own. Given my disdain for the film that's not saying much, but this is a good toy nonetheless. All the same though, if you do have a Padawan-shaped hole in your collection, perhaps you should be looking to pick up this newer take from Hasbro's upcoming Black Series:

2013 Black Series AOTC Anakin Skywalker
Looks good to me, and there's a mechanical hand in there too...

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

The Little Things

Flee, mighty Pteranodon!
It's been an insanely hectic month just passed, with film edits, festivals, and a three-part celebration of my lovely lady's birthday all wrapped up in glorious summer sunshine. As you may have noticed though, that's left me with little time for blogging - and there's never any time like the present to turn things around...

King of the Thunder Lizards!
And so, back on track. These little Dino guys were unsold from a car boot sale the Emcat and her Mum were doing a couple of weeks ago, and I was kindly obliged to take care of them afterwards. I've wanted some dinosaurs for a little while; firstly because dinosaurs are perpetually stunning feats of nature, and secondly because I wanted to take some actual toy photos again. There's a real charm about toys like this, and the small scale makes them easier to photograph in multiple environments - well, the scale and a shallow depth of field, that is!

Head Shot! Gears of War's Anthony Carmine
Small scale figures are clearly on my mind right now (clearing the palette for the Black Series, perhaps?), and my latest purchase was this Gears of War blind bag figure. Costing £1.50 from Tesco and made by Meccano it's a surprisingly well-made toy, featuring 12 POA and a massive gun accessory. Gears of War is one of the few 'big' games of recent years I've played, completing one and being halfway through two as I type, so when I saw this line reduced to clear I thought I'd give it a go. It is really impressive for the size and price, and there's an easily-affordable six figures to the first series, so if you're into GoW and/or blind bags, I thoroughly recommend picking them up.

Invader on the Loose: Alien Conquest Lego & the Future of Space...
And so, full circle. All this thinking of mini-figures and blind bags put me in mind of the toy that started it all, Lego. Actually, that's somewhat a lie - I was thinking of Lego roughly concurrently, after finding out about the new Space line due later this year. You may recall, I'm quite a fan of the extra-terrestrial line...

Galaxy WAR!
Galaxy Squad looks like a lot of fun, and like a natural continuation from the recent Alien Conquest line. Insect-themed alien villains are a natural fit for playtime bad guys, and there was something about seeing the new spaceship designs and mini-fig uniforms that made me more think the Space sub-series was in better health than it has been recently.

It's not enough to get me back into Lego any more than the blind bags did (picking up the occasional pack here and there), but if it's looking good I might get the odd small budget ship. Both of the above pictures are from, and are used without permission. Hope that's OK...

It's good to be back in the saddle. I've got a load of reviews to write and will hopefully soon find the time to write them. But I'm not promising anything! :D

Thanks for reading!

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