Tuesday, January 31, 2012

DC Universe Classics: Mercury

Let's take a trip back in time, shall we? All the way back to the beginning of 2011 and Wave 16 of the DC Universe Classics. Along with "popular" characters like Azreal and The Creeper, this wave included Mercury. "Who's Mercury?" you might ask. Why, he's one of the Metal Men! "And who the hell are Metal Men?" They're men... made of METAL.

Honestly, I don't know all that much more about these guys. I've read a handful of comics where they had supporting roles, but frankly I've never really understood the appeal. They seem kind of silly to me, to be honest.

I can tell you this guy's name is Mercury and he can shape-shift. Also, he's sort of the comedian of the group. So, yeah: he's a robotic Plastic Man.

All that being said, I like this figure. The sculpt is simple and elegant. Even if you have no idea who this is, you can tell at a glance he's a shape-shifter. Of course, the giant set of scissors growing out of his fingers might have something to do with that.

In case you were wondering, the scissor do open and close, though I wouldn't try to use them to cut anything. If the giant scissors aren't to your liking, Mercury does come with an alternate hand:

The character has quite a bit of articulation. In addition to all the standard joints, he's got ball-and-pin wrists and double-pin knees and elbows. Since he's a lithe figure to begin with, this gives you quite a range of posing options.

Other than the alternate hand, the only thing he comes with is a chunk of Bane, the Wave 16 Collect & Connect figure. For what it's worth, it's a good sized chunk, and the scissors are awfully cool. Even so, I can't help but feel like the accessories are a tad light for what's essentially an extremely obscure character. First off, I really think figure stands should have been standard across this line, but that issue seems moot now that DCUC's final wave is on the shelves. But Mattel certainly could have tossed in another alternate hand or two, or maybe a head with a stretched neck.

On the other hand, I'm in no condition to complain: I found this clearanced for $5.90 at the Times Square Toys R Us. I mainly bought him for the piece of Bane. I'm still missing half the line, but I'm hoping to finish him eventually.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

DC Universe Classics: Mr. Miracle

Mr. Miracle is kind of an obscure character, but I really like him. One of Jack Kirby's New Gods, Mr. Miracle is sort of an alien escape artist. Raised on Apokolips under the name Scott Free, he has no idea he's actually the son of Highfather and heir to New Genesis (at least, I don't think he ever found out).

Personally, I like the escape-artist gimmick. It's an underused paradigm in superhero concepts, and it brings an interesting skill set. He's also one of a small number of happily married heroes in comics. His enemies better think twice before trying to get at him through her: he's married to Big Barda, a former Female Fury of Apokolips who's more than capable of pounding their mutual foes into pulp.

Scott's a decent figure, though the paint's a bit sloppy in places. But underneath it, there's yet another fantastic sculpt courtesy of the Four Horsemen (I know: big surprise, right?).

One area where Mr. Miracle really shines is in his accessories. While he doesn't have anything truly spectacular, Mattel included just about everything you'd think to ask for. First up, he comes with one of Kalibak's legs. I've actually already got Kalibak completed (I ordered a few parts off Ebay a couple years back).

Mattel also included a pair of disks that attach to Mr. Miracle's feet using pegs. He flies on these in the comic, and they're appreciated. Granted, you really need a flying stand or wire to get the desired effect, but it's still cool.

The main accessory is a pair of alien handcuffs for Scott to break out of. From the front, these are extremely cool. From the back... not so much. Hey: I think I figured out how he's always able to escape from Apokolips: their cuffs are one-sided!

While the simplistic nature of these does limit posing options, they work so well as intended you won't mind much.

Now, originally I'd assumed this was it for extras. Then I became curious if they'd remembered to sculpt a Motherbox on his back. I drew back his cape to reveal:

Not only is it there; it's detachable. I wasn't expecting this - it's kind of like coming across an Easter Egg on a DVD.

Sure, it's nothing fancy, but it's pretty cool. Granted, he can't hold it due to having two fists (alternate hands would have been great here), but I love finding extra little details like this. Kudos, Mattel.

Scott had been on my short list of figures I wanted for about a year now. When I came across him on sale at Entertainment Earth for just $4.40, I happily included him on a larger order. You can't beat a price like that for such a cool figure.

One last thing. In the middle of writing this review, I got really depressed I was missing Scott's wife. So I rectified that. She should be arriving in just a few days.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Quantum Mechanix Little Damn Heroes Serenity

The year was 2002, and it was Friday night. I'd just graduated from college and was sharing an apartment with a couple friends in Western Massachusetts. It was almost eight at night, and we'd gathered in front of the TV, intrigued by previews we'd seen for a new SF show premiering that night on Fox. That show's name was John Doe.

But between eight and nine there was another new SF show, this one by the creator of Buffy. A few years later, that'd have been a hell of a selling point, but, at the time, I'd only seen a handful of episodes of Buffy and Angel and didn't really care.

John Doe didn't turn out to be all that memorable, but from the minute Firefly started, I was hooked. To this day, it remains one of my favorite live-action series. It's early (and bizarre) cancellation almost adds to the show's legend. Yeah, it died far too soon, but it sure left its mark.

In addition to action figures, I have a decent collection of miniature spaceships. In general, I like die-cast, but I've got a few plastic toys and even a few models. Mostly, I have ships from Star Wars and Star Trek, since those are of course the properties with the most merchandizing. Given my love of Firefly, I've wanted to get my hands on a version of Serenity for years, but there was nothing out there that seemed worthwhile.

Recently, Quantum Mechanix picked up the license, and started making merchandise. They've got character maquettes in both realistic and animated styles, props, and a couple versions of the ship. Despite costing more than any other single collectible I've ever bought, this is actually the low-end alternative to a massive, electronic version. Yeah, I'd love to have that, but that thing costs as much as a used car: this one's closer in price to a small TV.

As someone who's been collecting toys for a decade, I always have difficulty adjusting to the price tag on statues. A toy version of an eight-inch space ship wouldn't generally run more than thirty bucks unless it was die-cast; even then, it would probably cost no more than fifty or sixty tops. At almost a hundred, this was a little hard to justify. But not knowing when anyone would produce a version of Serenity - or, for that matter, whether these are in danger of selling out, - I ordered it.

The sculpt and paint are good - better than you'd get on a plastic toy in a similar scale - though there are areas that feel weak given the price point. In particular, I find the windshield lacking. I feel like this should at least have a small panel of glass or clear plastic embedded.

I've located what seems to be a single point of articulation on a ring located in the engine. I'm reluctant to play with his too much, since I'm not entirely certain it's supposed to move. It doesn't add much, but it's a little surprising to find any moving parts on something like this.

Also surprising are the accessories: Serenity comes with her two shuttles, which are separate pieces. One has its wings in for docking; the other's wings are out. The latter is intended to be displayed in flight and comes with a wire stand that sits on Serenity's wing and holds up the shuttle.

I appreciate the effort, though a few minor changes could have greatly improved the effect. First, given how small these are, I think Quantum Mechanix could have spared an extra docked shuttle, giving us the option of having both in their bays. Secondly, the wire holding up the flying shuttle doesn't actually clip into or onto anything, which leaves the shuttle precariously balanced. This strikes me as a design flaw, though clearly not a serious one.

The other thing included is much less surprising: you of course get a stand for the ship. It works well and looks fine. My only complaint is that it's lacking a joint, preventing you from displaying the ship in alternate poses.

Mine also seems a bit crooked, possibly due to the area where the pin connects to the ship being uneven. I can't get myself worked up over this, though: I'd rather Serenity wasn't flying perfectly level, anyway. It just seems more appropriate that way.

This isn't a perfect piece, and it's clearly a tad more expensive than it should be. But I've been waiting a long time to get a version of this ship in my collection and, for all its minor faults, this is certainly good work. The price tag's a little hard to swallow: I paid $96 on Amazon (though it seems to fluctuate - it's a few bucks cheaper as I write this).

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Green Lantern Classics: Hal Jordan Vs. Sinestro

This is by no means a new set: it came out in advance of the Green Lantern movie in an attempt to cash in on its success (ha!). It's a Toys R Us Exclusive, which seems kind of excessive since there aren't that many other toy stores left. When you get down to it, all that really means is that these aren't sold at Walmart or Target.

At any rate, Toys R Us has been trying to unload these for the low, low, not-at-all-low price of forty-something dollars. Here in the city, I'm pretty sure they were charging around $45 at one point. Even if I didn't already have both a Hal Jordan and a Sinestro, that's a lot of dough.

But I'm a sucker for a deal, so I jumped when these hit $20 (actually, I paid less than that: I combined it with a Google Offer that got me a $20 credit at Toys R Us's website for $10). At any rate, I got a good price.

This is basically the same Hal we've gotten before, though he's painted in a more metallic paint than last time. I'm pretty sure Sinestro's unchanged, too, assuming you got this version and not the far superior Sinestro-Corps variant.

Actually, I'm a little unhappy with Sinestro. The peg on his left hand snapped when he came out of the box. I superglued it back on, but that was that for wrist articulation.

The main selling point on this line was the new accessories. And when I say "new" I'm of course being sarcastic. I'm pretty sure all of these were existing sculpts from other DCUC accessories done in semi-clear plastic. I can never get enough energy constructs, so this was a major reason I bought the set. It might not have been the best reason, however.

Above, you can see two of Sinestro's weapons and one of Hal's in action. I'm pretty sure the mace was from Hawkman, and the others are from some of the Metal Men. Hal's ball and chain are cool, but the fact the chain isn't green is a big problem. I think Sinestro's ax is okay, but it looks kind of cheap; same with the mace.

The gun originally came with John Stewart. Apparently, something happened to the mold between then and now, because while that one works perfectly, this one's malformed. I can't seem to get it to fit correctly on Hal's arm, no matter how hard I try. Again, the plastic is kind of cheap-looking.

Next up, we've got Sinestro's wrench and Hal's pizza slicer. Look, I realize that these characters have a history of whipping out random constructs, but these are kind of silly. Even if they'd flipped the colors, it would have been better: I just don't see Hal disemboweling his foes, nor can I imagine Sinestro fixing a toilet. The wrench does tighten and the saw does spin, though. If you care.

Finally, there's... this. It's playing off of a classic comic cover, which depicted the two standing on opposite sides of a power battery that was half green and half yellow. Yeah. Fine on paper, but stupid in reality. Unless you really want to build a display recreating that image, this isn't really useful. Really, for the amount they were charging, this set should have contained this thing along with a green and yellow power battery. Not that I really need more green lanterns, mind you: I've got a ton of them now.

At any rate, these are cool figures, and if you missed the earlier waves, now's a good time to pick them up on clearance. However, if you've already got these, don't think you need them for the constructs: they're not as good as you'd hope.

Oh, and one more thing: be careful with those wrist joints.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

DC Universe Classics: OMAC

OMAC, short for "One Man Army Corps," is a concept created by the legendary Jack Kirby. And, because he was created by "The King" Kirby, no one's really been willing to point out just how dumb this character is.

Look, I'm sorry. I really am. But I'm calling it like I see it, and I see a character who's completely ludicrous on every level. His origin's derivative, his name's idiotic, and his design is stupid. Yeah, I get it: the mohawk is supposed to make him look like a Greek soldier. Whatever.

It's not like this is Kirby's only misstep: over the course of his career, he created dozens if not hundreds of character designs that just didn't work. He churned out stuff that revolutionized the industry, but also junk that's been more or less forgotten. I'm mainly confused why anyone thinks OMAC belongs in the former category. 

The head sculpt's great on its own, though it really doesn't work with this body. The body's just too simple, too small. It's needs detail and texture to make this work. At the very least, that eye-symbol needs to sculpted rather than just printed.

You get two extras with OMAC: a pin and an arm. The arm belongs to Validus, and represents the reason about 90% of the OMACs purchased were bought. The pin's one of the cooler ones, honestly, using the character's symbol instead of some old art. I wish Mattel had done this across the board. Of course, it's value is dragged down by the fact I don't really have much interest in an OMAC symbol.

Honestly, I'd have preferred a more recent incarnation of the concept (say, an OMAC from Infinite Crisis), rather than the classic version. Alternatively, there are many better Kirby creations out there Mattel could have made instead. I appreciate that OMAC's had a resurgence recently, though for the life of me I can't understand why.

I bought this through Entertainment Earth for $8.70, plus shipping (though that was split several ways: I picked up several figures I was missing in one order). I got this for the arm, of course.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

DC Universe Classics: Jemm

I know you kids today haven't heard of Jemm, but that's because most of you are too young to remember the 1980's. Jemm was an orphan trying to keep her late father's foster house in business with revenue acquired through a successful rock band she was running in her spare time.

No, wait. That was Jem. I have no clue who the hell Jemm is.

Give me a minute.

Okay, I just skimmed the Wikipedia page, and apparently this guy's from Saturn, and his race is an offshoot of the Martians. He's been around since the 80's, and I just learned I have, in fact, read at least one story he was in. The fact I don't remember him says a lot about how memorable he is.

Let's set all that aside and take a look at the figure. The head sculpt, is pretty good, but then it was just as good when it was used on Martian Manhunter in the same wave (at least I think it's the same sculpt - I'm not 100% certain of that). They did add Jemm's gem on his forehead, and that's well executed, unlike the starfish on his cape.

I like the hands: they're very alien and make this figure somewhat distinct. The effect could have been achieved better if they'd given him double-pin joints on his elbows and knees, but this was way back in wave fifteen. If it had been even a wave later, I think we'd have gotten the extra joints.

The main accessory Jemm comes with is the left arm of Validus. Actually, let's be honest: for all intents and purposed, Jemm's an accessory that comes with Validus's arm.

You also get a pin. This one's actually pretty nice, featuring newer art. If there was anyone on Earth who cared at all about this character, this might actually be a nice addition.

Jemm's a fine figure, but it's irritating Mattel tried to pass him off as a separate figure, rather than an alternate version of Martian Manhunter. I appreciate that there were already two versions of the Manhunter, but prodding collectors into picking this up to complete Validus was a tad sketchy. At the very least, couldn't they have given him the figure stand instead of Golden Pharaoh? It's not like I need a Pharaoh figure, either (he's not even a comic character: just a toy), but he has a more interesting design than this guy.

Well, the good news is that Jemm sold so poorly, he wound up clearanced. I bought him, along with a handful of other toys, from Entertainment Earth. I paid less than nine bucks for Jemm, so I'd be able to finish Validus. That's not so bad.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Your Civic Duty

It's that time again: time to exercise your civic duty and cast a vote that matters. You already know I'm not talking about the Republican primary, because none of those clowns has a chance in hell of ever becoming president, anyway. However, it's time for The Poppies once again, and between now and January 31st, you can vote for the best toys of the year. And that, my friends, is important.

The Poppies, of course, are the annual toy and pop-culture awards run by Michael Crawford, who has been reviewing toys online longer than, well, anyone. If you're looking for a review of just about any major toy line from the past decade, his archives are a good place to start.

Green Lantern Classics: Collect & Connect Arkillo

Arkillo's one of those characters you either love, hate, or have no clue who the hell he is. Most people, honestly, probably fit into that last category, since he's a relatively new addition to the DC Universe.

Personally, I kind of love Arkillo. Yeah, yeah: the concept is completely ridiculous. He's the Sinestro Corps' drill sergeant, so he's basically an evil Kilowog. But that's why I love the guy: he's the Silver-Age nemesis Kilowog never had.

To put Arkillo together, you had to buy all six figures in the first wave of the Green Lantern Classics line. And - honestly - he's the only reason I bought about half of them.

As usual, the Four Horsemen did some phenomenal work on the head and hands. The rest, though, seems to be the same body used for Kilowog. This wouldn't be a problem if it had been a great body, but frankly it's a little dull. There's just not much detail or sculpting work, leaving the figure a bit bland. He's still cool - like I said, the head and hands are really cool, and the symbols and gauntlets are good - but I'd have liked to see a bit more effort, given what I paid.

Arkillo doesn't come with any accessories of his own, but I was a little surprised to discover the constructs that came with the Sinestro/Hal two-pack seem to fit over his fingers. I have no idea whether this was intentional, but they stay on pretty well. They're too small to really work, but they're certainly good for a laugh.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Green Lantern Classics: Black Hand

Black Hand is an old Green Lantern villain from the 60's who I'd never heard of until Blackest Night, when he killed himself then helped Nekron nearly wipe out all life in the Universe. I've made no secret of my general dislike of that story line, so it probably won't come as a huge surprise when I say I have relatively little interest in this particular incarnation of this relatively obscure super villain.

But screw all that: he came with Arkillo's other arm, which was the last piece I was missing.

In terms of sculpt and paint, this is a perfectly fine figure. I like the metallic studs, and the head's pretty well done. He certainly looks like a contemplative zombie, which is a pretty good approximation of how he appeared throughout most of Blackest Night.

Before I get to articulation, let's talk quality control. My figure had an unusual defect, albeit a correctable one. There was a weird knob in his elbow joint, effectively preventing it from moving at all. I twisted it off with a Leatherman, which freed up the joint. Yeah, there's a small patch missing paint now, but at least his arm works again.

Hand has both double elbows and knees, which is rare for these figures. To be honest, I'm not really clear on why Mattel decided to invest in these joints here: they're not really essential to the character.

I already mentioned he came with Arkillo's arm. In addition, he's also got yet another useless pair of 3D glasses. I can't help but wonder how many kids tried wearing these into the theater only to receive a crash-course on the difference between dual-color and polarized 3D projections.

Frankly, I feel like this could have used another accessory. Something iconic, something interesting. Say, Batman's skull. Come on: that was just about the only cool thing about Blackest Night: how could they leave it out?

While I got half of this wave at a discount, I paid fifteen dollars plus shipping for William Hand here (I picked him up on Entertainment Earth, which had him cheaper than anywhere else I could find). I'm not thrilled with this figure at that price, but I really wanted that arm.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Green Lantern Classics: Black Lantern Abin Sur

Abin Sur was the prior Green Lantern of Sector 2814. He held the job for a while then retired peacefully to a small planet in the Andromeda to pursue his love of music. Kidding! Like the vast majority of space cops, he got killed so a younger character could fill his shoes. That young rookie was, of course, Hal Jordan of Earth.

But that wasn't the end of Abin Sur. Nope: in the "Blackest Night" crossover, he was risen from the grave as a zombie fighting for Nekron to extinguish all life in the Universe, primary because life kept playing loud music late at night or something.

And that's where this version of Abin Sur comes from. The only problem is that Blackest Night was kind of a let down. Broadly speaking, the concept was decades old (Alan Moore introduced a prophesy of the event in the 80's, though I don't think he mentioned zombies), and expectations were sky-high for Geoff Johns, who'd already expanded the Green Lantern mythos brilliantly. In the end, the zombie-thing just felt silly and the story was kind of dull. On top of that, the subsequent company-wide reboot more or less made the whole thing feel pointless. Technically, most of it is still in continuity, but - let's face it - it really isn't relevant anymore.

The figure is certainly sporting a nice head sculpt. I also love the hands: this is an appropriately creepy toy. You also get some added effect from the sculpt thanks to some added articulation. Mattel went with the double-hinged elbows and ball-jointed wrists. Curiously, they stuck with the single-pin knees. I'm not really complaining - I don't need double-pin knees on this guy - but I was a little surprised they included them on the Manhunter and left them out here.

The only extras packaged with Abin Sur's corpse are a stupid 3D mask and the head/ass of Arkillo, the Collect & Connect character. It's a good head sculpt, by the way.

What's missing (at least in my humble opinion) is a bloody heart. I mean, look at this left hand: he should clearly be holding one.

Ultimately, I think I respect this figure more than I like the concept. He's really embedded in a single story-line I just don't care that much about. But there's no denying the head and hands are good work, and the added articulation works well here.

But, honestly, I really just bought this so I'd be another step closer to completing Arkillo. Toys R Us marked all these figures to less than nine bucks, so I picked him up.