Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Action League: Batman: The Brave and the Bold: Aquaman Vs. Black Manta

So, a while back I noticed that I owned every founding member of the Justice League in this scale except Aquaman. I knew there were two versions of the character Mattel's produced: the Brave and the Bold version from the early days of the line, and the newly released Flashpoint version. The Flashpoint one has a far superior sculpt and paint work. Unfortunately, he sort of looks like a Nazi general, since that's more or less what his character was. So I decided to keep my eyes open for the Brave and the Bold one.

I expected it to take longer than it did: I found this set in a convenience store near the Bronx Zoo. It was going for eight bucks, which is about what I'd expect to pay at retail these days, so I picked it up.

Aquaman is good, though I'm sure he'd be a lot better if they did him now. The skin tone is too orange for my tastes, and I'd like to see more detail or shading in the costume. Still, he's a decent figure, all things considered.

In some ways, Black Manta's the better figure. I like the head quite a bit. Granted, it's comically undersized given the style, but the style supposed to be comical so it all works out somehow.

The articulation here is the same as later waves: cut shoulders, waist, and neck. I'd like more, but that's life. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Black Manta retains at least some of his neck articulation, despite those tubes on his helmet. It's limited, of course, but I'd half expected it to be stuck in place.

Mattel's made far better Action League figures, but ultimately I'm just happy I finally have the entire Justice League.

Monday, February 27, 2012

DC Universe Classics: Azrael Batman

The nineties were a strange time from comics. Actually, the 90's were a strange time, period, but their effect on superheroes is particularly relevant to this review. The decade was an extreme one, or at least it pretended to be so. In reality, the years were probably more melodramatic and angst-ridden than anything else, but, in hindsight, they're good for a few laughs.

In fact, this guy might be good for a lot of laughs. Yes, Azrael, the assassin turned crime-fighter who took on the mantle of Batman when Bruce Wayne was crippled by Bane: is there anyone more extreme?

Well, probably.

Mattel has made at least one version of Azrael previously, but I think this is their first Batman-Azrael (or Bazrael, for short).

Truth be told, I've never had much interest in this guy. He's ridiculous, absurd, and - well - stupid. But, looking back, he's also kind of fun. There was an unintentional campiness about him and his era that wasn't really evident at the time, but now it's impossible to miss.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that this is an absolutely fantastic action figure. The sculpt and paint work is top notch (though the legs are a bit bland). The added bits of armor, along with the utterly ridiculous number of spikes and pointy bits, add to the overall impression. Sure, Azrael's trying too hard, but you don't name yourself Azrael if you have a healthy sense of self.

I don't think I need many reminders of the 1990's (living through it was enough, thank you), but I'll happily take this one. That cape/wings/apple slicer on his back's a great example: what the hell is that supposed to be? What's it's purpose? And, frankly, who cares? It's a hell of a lot of fun.

Articulation is unusual this time. From the abs down, he's a normal DC Universe Classics (other than having double-pins on his knees, but even that's pretty common these days). But the top part of his body is a whole new game. His elbows and wrists are ball-jointed to take advantage of his gauntlets. His head's technically still a ball joint, but won't get much movement at all due to his suit.

The only accessory Bazrael comes with is one of Bane's legs. Jeeze, I know Bazrael got violent towards the end, but that's a little dark, isn't it?

I'm kicking myself, because I once passed this guy up for something like $12 or $13. I wound up paying twenty at a shop here in Queens and calling myself lucky: he's going for $40 and up online. In part, I bought him for the leg - I do want to finish Bane - but I'm also loving the figure. He's not a part of DC history I'm fond of, but I really dig the toy.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Robin, Revisited

I've been dishing out quite a bit of cash over the past year on new Robin figures. First, I bought the Young Justice version, which I reviewed here. Then, in order to complete Bane, I bought the Wave 16 Robin. In both cases, I bought the figures for their accessories.

The thing is, I actually did want another Robin to display: I've got a general DC shelf and a separate Batcave, and I wanted the Boy Wonder represented in each. But the Golden Age-costumed Robin, while having a good head sculpt, just didn't work for me: the outfit just didn't work with either display. The Young Justice Robin, on the other hand, had a great body but an awful head.

The solution, of course, was to swap their heads. I ran into a snag when I tried removing the head of the Wave 16 Robin. I should have immersed him in hot water first, but I skipped that step. As a result, the peg snapped, leaving half in the head and half in the body. Getting it out the body wasn't too hard: I just used a Leatherman to pry open the neck and yank it out. But if I wanted to use the head, that half had to come off as well. That required a Dremel and some assistance from my wife (while I could probably manage myself, she's far more experienced with the tool, and I don't want to take chances with something like this).

She drilled into Robin's head and removed what was left of the peg. In the process, she also wound up increasing the size of the hole. This turned out being quite a boon: Robin's head now functions like an actual ball-joint. There's a gap between the back of his neck and head now, but frankly it's worth it for the added articulation.

At some point, I should probably paint over his arms and neck: the flesh color doesn't quite match up. It's not really essential, though. If I ever want to go the other way and put the Young Justice head on the Wave 16 body, I'll definitely need to break out the paint: a darker face on a pale body works far better than the reverse.

I'm considering doing so, by the way. The Wave 16 Robin body was extremely cartoonish, and actually looks like it could work pretty well with that head. The fact the YJ head is oversized works, too: it actually seems to fit in with the larger Robin body. I'm in no hurry, though: this is the Robin I needed to pose.

Interestingly enough, this wound up similar to the Robin Mattel released back in Wave 3. I still prefer that one, by the way, but this is a close second.

Friday, February 17, 2012

DC Universe Classics: Big Barda

Wow - Wave 7. Where did the time go? We're on Wave 20 now. At any rate, I recently picked up Big Barda's husband, Mr. Miracle, and realized he was kind of boring on his own. So I ordered Barda, a former warrioress of Apokolips, now superheroine. I've actually come close to buying Barda numerous times in the past - I really like her outfit - but always hesitated due to price.

There are actually two versions of the character available: one with her helmet and one without. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, I like the other a little better. I went with this one mainly because she was cheaper. However, now that I have the figure in hand, I'm glad I went with this one. I'll explain why in a minute.

First, let's talk sculpt and paint. Overall, I think this figure looks fantastic. The scale armor is gorgeous, and the face looks good. I do think they could have done a little better on her helmet, however: say, by using metallic paint instead of primary yellow. In addition, there are gaps in her forearms around the cut joints, which is a bit disappointing.

Her articulation leaves a bit to be desired, due to her shorts and helmet, but that's to be expected. For accessories, she comes with a cosmic rod and one of Atom Smasher's arms. Not much, but I'm used to that. The accessory I'd have loved, of course, is the alternate head sculpt.

Now then. Let's discuss my real issue with this figure: scale. Look at the picture above: Barda's shorter than her husband. You know how her name's Big Barda? It's not supposed to be ironic.

Remember when I said I was glad I got the version with a helmet? It's because the other version would look even smaller.

I appreciate that this really comes down to money. Mattel doesn't have a slightly larger female body on hand, and they weren't about to invest the cash to create one. Consequently, Barda's the same size and shape as Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and every other woman they'd released. That's a shame, since her size is something of a defining character trait.

I know DC Direct also produced a version of the character and that theirs is more accurate in scale. But, despite this issue, I wanted the DC Universe Classics version. I like the articulation (even when limited) and the overall balance between toy and statue better.

Regardless of her faults, she's a cool figure. The outfit looks great, and she's a great addition to the DC shelf. Ultimately, now that I've got Orion, Mr. Miracle, and Big Barda, I'm pretty content with my collection of New Gods (at least as far as the good guys are concerned - I'd still love to have a Granny Goodness, but Mattel hasn't made one yet).

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

DC Universe Classics: Robin

This isn't the first DC Universe Classics Robin I've reviewed. Thirteen waves and one toy review site ago, I looked at Mattel's attempt at a Tim Drake Robin. That's still my favorite version of the character, by the way. Since then, I also bought the Young Justice version of Dick Grayson in the same scale.

Today, I'm looking at a figure that's kind of in the middle.

This is one of two versions Mattel released in Wave 16. The other has a more "Golden Age" expression. I chose this one because... well, honestly, I didn't "choose" him at all: he was the only one left in the store.

For a while, I thought his face was awful. But the more I look at him, the more convinced I am that his face is fine (well, other than those paint smudges): it's his costume that sucks.

Yes, this is the character's Golden and Silver Age outfit, and yes, it's accurately represented. But it still looks bad. The yellow/red/green combination clashes, and he really shouldn't be fighting crime without pants. Also, those shoes looked stupid in the forties, and the decades haven't changed a thing.

The articulation is good. Actually, the articulation is really good. He's got double-pin joints on his elbows and knees, pin-and-post joints on his wrists and shoes, and a neck joint that actually works. This is as good as Mattel gets.

On top of that, you get a fair assortment of extras this time. First off, you get the head and lower waist of Bane, parts you'll need if you want to complete him.

You also get two or three (depending on how you're counting) accessories. First, you get a bat-a-rang; generic, but always appreciated. Next, you get a grappling gun and hook. The string came undone on mine, making me realize the hook and rope would actually work pretty well on their own.

I bought this for $20, mainly so I'll be able to finish Bane, but I'm also happy adding another Robin to my collection. I am considering swapping out his head with another one of my Robins, since this combination just isn't working for me. While I like the articulation, there's something seriously wrong with a Robin this old school being so close in size to Batman.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Minimates Monsters: Frankenstein's Monster and Dracula (B&W)

I don't generally collect Minimates, but not because I don't like them. Actually, I like the style quite a bit, and I'm really impressed with the sheer number of different franchises represented. But I'm less impressed with the price: while I've come to terms with paying $8 for a pair of Action League or Superhero Squad figures, I just can't justify that kind of cash for what amounts to modified Lego mini-figs (price, incidentally, is why you don't see many Lego mini-figs reviewed here, either).

However, when I last visited Toys R Us, I found most of their Minimates marked down to five bucks a pack. That still feels pricey, but it was enough of a cut for me to justify picking up one pack. I looked through their selection of Marvel and Ghostbusters, but ultimately went with these guys. While I'm far more a fan of those properties, there's just not much display value in a pair of superhero mini-figures: you really need a substantial collection or there's not much point. But Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster? They're simple and iconic enough to work on their own.

The pack I chose was a Toys R Us exclusive containing black and white versions of the characters. There was a color version with Dracula and Van Helsing I liked, too, and I almost bought both. In the end, I decided one was enough and went with this one. 

Dracula's cool, though the lack of color hurts the costume. I appreciate the point behind mimicking the old films - and I like the sentiment - but the version from the other set just looked better. If it weren't for his pal, I'd have gone with that pack instead.

The head on Frankenstein's Monster is really impressive. He's got a sculpted brow, which adds a remarkable amount of depth to the figure. On the other hand, his costume's relatively dull.

In addition, mine seems to have an issue. One of the feet is extremely loose, and it falls out if the figure's lifted. While these are of course meant to come apart (all pieces are interchangeable), they're also suppose to stay together. I might experiment with some superglue at some point to reduce the chances I'll lose that foot for good (I've had a few close calls already).

I like these figures, but at the same time I'm glad I don't collect them. Considering their size, these are way overpriced.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

DC Universe Classics: Collect & Connect Bane

Bane's a polarizing character. He's an artifact of the 90's, and he certainly looks the part, particularly in the mask. Likewise, his dependance on venom, a fluorescent green drug he pumps into the back of his head, isn't exactly subtle. And if there's a single antonym describing comics of that decade, it's subtlety.

The character's claim to fame comes from the story arc he was written for: the Breaking of the Bat. He managed to defeat Batman and break his spine, forever crippling Bruce Wayne. Of course, by "forever" I mean "for about six months." Since then, Bane's oscillated between hero and villain. These days, he's generally played as being a completely insane villain who really thinks he's a good guy. Recently, he was used in Gail Simone's Secret Six. I've only read one trade from that series, but it was fantastic: I really need to track the rest down.

This isn't the first version of Bane Mattel's made that was (at least theoretically) in this scale. Back when they just held the license to make Batman and Superman characters, they released a Bane, but I passed at the time. Apparently, a lot of folks weren't happy with the size of that figure (he was a little bigger than Batman, but not much), so Mattel re-did him as a Collect & Connect figure. Now, he towers over Batman... probably more so than he should, but I don't mind.

The sculpt's good, though: for better or worse it's a pretty accurate adaptation of his mask.

The body's well done, though I'm a little disappointed he doesn't have any green veins popping out of his arms. It's almost like this is the "powered down" Bane, which is an odd choice given his size.

I really like the green tube and the wrist control, though. The tube is a nice, bright, toxic green, and it really pops. Likewise, the jumpsuit and belt look good.

Yeah, he's ridiculous, but I can always use another villain with some muscle to add to the DC shelf. Most major DC villains spend their time plotting, not fighting, so it's nice getting someone who seems threatening. Plus, he's extremely photogenic, which is certainly a plus for those of us with blogs to run.

Value's always a tricky subject when it comes to these. I'd already picked up half the set before deciding to complete Bane, and when all was said and done, I actually only bought two figures I had no interest in at all (Mercury and the Creeper). Neither were particularly expensive, unlike Azrael and Robin, who set me back twenty bucks each (pity I passed them up when they were going for $13). Is Bane - or the whole wave, for that matter - really worth what I paid? Probably not. But, then again, these are a hell of a lot of fun, so I'm not exactly regretting the expense.