Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Goat Man figure

Fandom is a funny thing. No matter what franchise you look at, be it a movie, TV series, comic book, toyline, or, in this case, all of the above, people will become fascinated with some of the most random and obscure characters. Case in point: Goat Man. This character appeared for a few pages in a single MOTU storybook (featuring art by the late, great Eduardo Barreto) in the '80s, and honestly, he didn't do much of anything. Yet, for whatever reason, people have been clamoring for a Goat Man figure for years. He wasn't as fan-demanded in the MOTUC line as even the C-listers who had figures in the vintage line, of course, but there were enough people who wanted a Goat Man figure that he maintained a perpetual presence on "most wanted" lists. I certainly wanted a toy of him when I was a kid. His appearance was in one of the few MOTU Golden Books I owned, and he just popped up as if he had always been a part of this world. I assumed he also appeared in other books, or even cartoon episodes, that I'd missed, and figured we get a Goat Man toy at some point. Sadly, in the original MOTU line, it was not to be. I liked him enough that I even customized a Goat Man figure for the 2002 MOTU toyline.

Now that we finally do have a Goat Man figure, another hole in the line has been filled. This is yet another figure that shows how well the MOTUC buck system works, as the Four Horsemen have created a very cool and book-accurate figure with only a few new parts. Mattel could have cheaped out and used the standard bracers, and frankly, it would have worked fine, but it's nice to see them include new ones to make the figure as accurate as possible. The black straps have a nice leathery texture sculpted into them, and the head sculpt has a lot of character. It's one of those sculpts that can seem to have a completely different expression if you view it from different angles, and those are always nice to get. Goat Man can look pissed off, dismayed, or completely befuddled depending on how you look at him.

Articulation is standard, though the figure has the "fat armor" issue that became depressingly common in many figures, so, like Ralphie's little brother,  he can't put his arms all the way down. The armor doesn't inhibit the abdominal hinge much, though, which is nice. The ankles on my Goat Man are very loose, which makes it difficult for him to hold certain poses. Paint apps are pretty basic, but they're neat, especially where they matter most, on the eyes and teeth.

Goat Man includes two accessories, though only one of them is intended for him. He has a huge badass hammer, which has a cool sculpt and a nice paint wash over it. The other accessory is the long-awaited Staff of Avion, so Stratos finally has something to hold. If he could hold anything, that is. Thankfully, the 4H sculpted a bracket around the handle, so that it can fit around either of Chinstrap's open hands.

Goat Man is about as far from essential as you can get when it comes to MOTU characters, and that's largely why I love this figure as much as I do. After several false starts, and years of canned "Stay Tuned!" responses that never seemed to lead anywhere, the fact that we finally have a MOTU toyline that is so expansive fills me with glee. Mattel and the 4H took an obscure, single-appearance character and knocked him out of the park with this figure. Many, perhaps most, MOTU fans won't consider him a "must have" figure, but if you like the oddballs, as I do, you'll wanna grab him for your collection.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Procrustus figure

I know I say this sort of thing a lot in these reviews, but when the Masters of the Universe Classics line kicked off in late 2008, Procrustus was the type of figure nobody expected to get. Due to retailers' total disinterest in carrying MOTU toys(which was understandable, considering Mattel's colossal bungling of the then-recent 2002 line), the adult collector-focused, online exclusive toyline was seen as something of a desperation move, and getting the main few dozen characters as new figures was the best most of us hoped for. Obscure characters who only appeared in a couple of pages of a single minicomic, much less a giant, seemed like a pipe dream.

And yet, here Procrustus stands. I remember being very, very young and looking at him in the early minicomic The Magic Stealer, and wanting a toy of him so damn bad! Like the Goddess, he was one of those early comic characters I was drawn to, and who never received his due in plastic until decades later. While he's not as huge as depicted in the minicomic-- a six-foot-tall toy would be rather cost prohibitive, particularly in this line-- he's quite large, and his extra arms give him even more bulk than the other giants, Tytus and Megator. Procrustus was released during the period during which I was unable to buy any MOTUC stuff, and I purposely avoided looking at photos of him, since it would only be torturing myself. Given this line's heavy reuse, and Mattel's general chintziness, I figured he would probably be mostly reused parts from Tytus, with a few key parts newly tooled to set him apart. Basically, the bare-ass minimum, which is often all Mattel is willing to deliver. (Do note that when I rant about how cheap and often incompetent Mattel is, I'm not talking about the teams that work on the individual lines. There are some very passionate and talented people working on Mattel's various lines, and the fault for such decisions very rarely lies with any of them. It's the higher-ups who make some key decisions who often undermine what the people who actually work on these toylines try so hard to accomplish.)

Thankfully, this is not the case. Procrustus is composed almost entirely of newly tooled parts, and he is all the better for it. His sculpt is typical of the excellence we have come to expect from the Four Horsemen, with lots of detail in his craggy skin. Even his hair and loincloth have that rocklike texture. This makes for a figure that is very visually interesting. The exceptions are two of his hands and his legs. These are reused from Megator, and the smooth appearance of the legs is completely incongruous with the rest of the figure. Given how many new parts Procrustus has, I can live with the reuse here, but it does harm the figure's overall appearance a bit.

Procrustus is cast in a tannish/peachy sort of color that is pretty close to his comic appearance, with a very nice paint wash to bring out the sculpted detail. This paint wash also helps blend the smooth legs in with the rest of the sculpt a bit. His eyes are white, with a touch of eyeliner for the stylish flair you'd expect from an immortal giant who spends his time holding the entire planet together. Articulation is not up to the normal standard for this line due to the additional cost that would incur. (Though I do find Mattel's claim that a fully-articulated figure in this scale would have to cost $100 pure bullshit. Other toy companies have figured it out, even on limited-run items, so they should be able to do the same.) Procrustus does fare better than his predecessors, thankfully, especially Tytus. His shoulders are not ball joints, despite appearing to be. Each attaches to a peg mounted in his torso, and moves as a swivel. He also has swivels at the biceps, wrists, hips, and waist, joints at the elbows and knees, and a ball-jointed head. His hair and loincloth are very stiff, however, and severely limit the range of motion. You can get him into some cool poses, but he is extremely limited from the waist down. (Something no man likes to admit!) Some of his hands are sculpted to hold weapons, but he doesn't include any. His lone accessory is the Star Seed, an immensely powerful magical artifact. I always like getting lore-friendly items like this, so it's a cool bonus with the figure.

I waited more than three decades to get this figure, so he needed to be pretty damn awesome. While I would really like him to have more articulation, and the reused smooth legs are a shame, Procrustus is still a very cool figure. I still can hardly believe this figure even exists, much less that I have one on my shelf! His height and bulk give him a very impressive presence, and he is essential for anyone who loves the pre-Filmation era of MOTU. Now we just need an Attak Trak in the MOTUC line so we can re-enact that scene from the minicomic! ;)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Battleground Teela figure

We've got more pre-Filmation Masters of the Universe goodness today, with Battleground Teela! This was one of those character variants I figured wasn't too likely to be produced as a figure early on in the MOTUC line's life. Though she had blonde hair in multiple appearances in the early years, Teela only appeared in this outfit in a single early DC-produced comic. Honestly, simply reissuing the standard Teela figure with repainted hair seemed much more Mattel's speed than putting forth the effort to create a figure that's different enough that it could serve as another character altogether. (Really, given their preference for doing that in the MOTUC line, I'm rather surprised they didn't give this figure a different name!) Anyway, we did get the figure, and damn, is she ever cool!

The sculpt is typically great work from the Four Horsemen. There are only a few new pieces here, but they're the ones the figure really needed to warrant being sold as a new figure. The most notable new piece is the head. Despite creating generally excellent work, the 4H have had some issues with female head sculpts. All too often, their women wind up having faces that appear flat or pinched. Thankfully, BG Teela avoids these issues, though her expression is perhaps a bit too serene for an incarnation that's supposed to represent her in full warrior mode. This can be largely attributed to the tampo work on her eyes, which has her perpetually looking up. I reckon she's rolling her eyes at how easily her most recent opponent went down? Despite that, it's a good head sculpt, and looks just different enough from the standard Teela head that she can easily pass as a separate character.

Articulation is mostly the same as the standard females that preceded her, aside from the new hips. This means no ab hinge and no thigh cuts, unfortunately. I can understand eliminating the ab hinge for aesthetic reasons, but the lack of thigh cuts really hurts. It really limits the posing options, and it's not as if the standard hip articulation looks so terrible that it must be completely hidden or eliminated. It's a strange omission. I'll point out here that the hair is made with an extremely stiff plastic, severely limiting the range of motion. It's a shame that such a long-awaited and awesome looking figure is lacking some key points of articulation.

BG Teela only has a pair of accessories, but they are cool ones. She has a sword and a ray gun, both of which she uses in the source comic. They're well sculpted and true to the source material, but I find I prefer to outfit her with a pair of the swords that came with Point Dread Teela, so you'll see her with those in a few of the photos. I'm not sure what else would have been appropriate to include here, but it does feel like one more accessory could have really put her over the top. I've seen some griping about the lack of paint apps on the gun, but it's true to its appearance in the comic, so I can't fault them for that. They did add paint apps to the sword, though, so I can understand some feeling that they should have done so to the gun as well!

Overall, Battleground Teela is a very good figure that would have been great with just a couple of tweaks. That's being completely objective, however; personally, I love the figure! Despite its shortcomings, this is another figure representing the pre-Filmation era of MOTU that I love most, and it's executed pretty well. I imagine I'll have her paired up with Vikor (when I eventually get him!) on the shelf, but she's definitely going be on permanent display wherever she ends up.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Oo-Larr, the Jungle He-Man, figure

After a two week break which saw me manage to give myself a concussion, along with plenty of other events, I'm back with the newest Masters of the Universe Classics review! Today we're looking at a figure that was long desired by those of us who love the world and lore we saw in the early MOTU minicomics: Oo-Larr! Of course, to lovers of the early MOTU minicomics, this is just He-Man, but Mattel decided to present him as a separate character. I don't really care how they justified it to themselves, I'm just glad we finally have this figure! It may be difficult for some to understand exactly why so many MOTU fans got so excited about a figure that looks like He-Man just misplaced all the shit he usually carries around. That's understandable, so here's a quick crash course.

The image above is the first appearance of He-Man in any story-based media. For those of us who were interested in MOTU before Filmation began producing their animated series based on the toyline, He-Man was a barbarian who left his jungle home to defend Eternia against the evil forces who sought to impose their will upon it, Skeletor foremost among them. He rescued the Sorceress, referred to as the Goddess in some of the early comics, from a monster that seemed moments away from devouring her. The Sorceress gave He-Man armor and weapons to aid him in his struggle against the forces of evil, and the endless war between He-Man and Skeletor commenced. Even when DC introduced the Prince Adam secret identity a bit later, this was still a much darker and hard-edged world, far removed from the sanitized, toddler-friendly Filmation series. (Not that I'm knocking the show, as I enjoyed it when I was a kid. I just always liked the early comics a hell of a lot more!) 

With that in mind, this is a very important version of the He-Man character to have as an action figure. Once Mattel released a head for Skeletor which was lovingly sculpted by the Four Horsemen to replicate his appearance in the Alfredo Alcala-illustrated comics, it became even more imperative that we get a He-Man to pair up with him. With the release of this figure, a longtime need for pre-Filmation MOTU fans was finally filled. Thankfully, this long-awaited figure meets expectations. The body is the same basic body we've seen many times before, of course, with a few new parts to properly capture this version of the character. The head sculpt is pure Alcala, and I'll definitely be seeking out an extra so it can be the head for my default He-Man in my MOTUC display. The facial features and longer hair perfectly capture the character's look in these early comics. Truly excellent work by the Four Horsemen here. 

Articulation is standard for the line, although it is worth noting that the head's longer hair slightly interferes with its range of motion. The ankles on my figure are extraordinarily tight, and feel as if they might break when I move them for posing. Loose ankles are bad, but ankles this tight aren't good, either. Mattel seems to really struggle to find that happy medium. 

He-Man shines once again when it comes to his accessories. He includes the spear seen in the original minicomic, a sword that appears to be the energy blade Skeletor often uses in the early minicomics, and a very cool alternate head sculpt for He-Man! This head sculpt more closely resembles that of the vintage He-Man figures', and looks much better than the standard MOTUC He-Man head. While I like the Alcala-style head more, this vintage toy-inspired head is what the MOTUC He-Man head sculpt should have been in the first place. It's a shame that these two excellent head sculpts are somewhat tough to get! The one big omission that I think really should have been included is a power sword in the Alcala style. While Mattel did eventually release one, it was as an accessory with a (relatively undesirable) figure whose story is set in the future, and it would have made much more sense to include it here.

This "first appearance" He-Man figure has been a very long time coming. Thankfully, he's every bit as cool as I had hoped. The Four Horsemen outdid themselves on both head sculpts, and while the figure may look a bit plain compared to some of the others in the line, it's an extremely important figure. This is the He-Man that introduced the world to Masters of the Universe, and it's very nice to see him take his place in the toy line at long last. Now they just need to make a full-on Alcala He-Man, using this head sculpt, with the boot knife! 
An alternate shot of the struggle between He-Man and Beast Man:

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Rant Review: Mattel Halo Master Chief and Ghost with Elite Officer

(Note: I realized after the fact that I posted this before it was completed, hence the lack of photos. this was the day I got the concussion, so cut me some slack. ;) The written part of the review is done, so I'll leave it up since it's already posted, and photos will be added soon.)

I've slacked off a great deal on buying action figures the past few years-- a combination of decreasing space in my home and rising costs of toys to often ridiculous levels led to this-- so, despite my love of the Halo franchise, I didn't pounce on Mattel's new line of Halo toys right off the bat. I planned to pick up a Master Chief figure, at the very least, but I figured I could stand to wait for a better deal than the $20 retail price. Thanks to Amazon.com, I finally picked up a couple! Today, we'll be looking at the Master Chief and the Ghost vehicle, which comes packaged with an Elite Officer.

The Master Chief and Elite Officer are sculpted quite well, with some nice detailing on the armor. The EO has a suitably angry expression on his face. The detail isn't on the same level as you'll find on many other adult-oriented lines, however, including the offerings from former Halo license holder McFarlane Toys. These are still very good looking figures, though. The MC stands about six inches tall, as Mattel has chosen to eschew the five inch scale McFarlane went with. This is a big positive, in my opinion. That said, MC may seem a bit on the small side next to your superhero figures, considering he's supposed to be a big dude wearing armor that makes him even larger. The EO is bigger, and actually looks pretty good next to other lines in this scale. If anything, I think he may be a bit too large in relation to the MC.

The plastic quality is also good; this has been an issue for many Mattel lines in the past, but I had no problems here. All of the armor pieces apart from the MC's helmet are removable, and can be put on and removed without too much trouble. A few of the pieces move around a bit when you're posing the figure, but it's not much of a hassle to put them back in place, and they stay put as long as you're not messing with it. That applies to the MC, anyway. Several pieces of the EO's armor is much more prone to falling off if you try to move the figure. Or breath near it. Or look at it. Or think about it too hard! (More on that later.)

Other accessories for the MC include an assault rifle, plasma sword, and an alternate hand designed to hold the plasma sword. A build-a-figure piece for an alpha crawler is also included. The weapons have sculpts that are good, but not great, and they have a couple of issues. The rifle includes a pin to attach it to MC's back when he's not holding it, which is a nice move. The hole to attach it to the pin goes all the way through the gun, however, which is not. It's also pretty difficult for the figure to hold the rifle in a manner that looks right, owing both to the gun's design and the clunky armor limiting the range of motion in the arms somewhat. As for the plasma sword, it's made of a softer plastic which is prone to bending, and there are a couple of bits of plastic along its length designed to hold the blades in alignment. It's a bit of an eyesore, but I'm sure safety regulations meant that Mattel couldn't just use a very stiff plastic for the sword to avoid this issue. (This is an issue that amply displays the differences between a collector-focused lines and one mass-produced and designed to be kid-friendly.) The EO includes a carbine rifle, which also has the pinhole all the way through it.

The MC's articulation is excellent, with a total of thirty points of articulation, as boasted on the packaging. The EO gets slightly less, but is still amply articulated. As I mentioned previously, MC's range of motion is hampered a bit when he's fully armored up, but not too bad. The EO fares slightly better here, but again, the armor is likely to give you a good deal more trouble during posing. (Seriously, more on that later. Promise.)

The figures don't fare so well in the paint department. Mattel has seriously cut back on paint apps in the past few years, to the detriment of many of their products. (See last year's Batman v Superman line for clear evidence of good sculpts ruined by terrible paint apps.) They've done the same here, but thankfully, the designs of these figures means that they don't suffer much because of it. A decrease in the quality of paint apps affects faces most of all, and MC's face isn't visible, and the EO looks fine with just the two dabs of paint for his eyes. I plan to do some drybrushing over both figures to bring out the sculpted details, but they actually look pretty decent from a paint standpoint right out of the box.

This brings us to the elephant in the room: the Ghost. It's quite large, and sculpted quite well. The MC can be sat on it pretty easily, and the scale is good. The EO, on the other hand, doesn't fit on it well at all. the biggest issue is that he's just too damn big. (As I mentioned earlier, he's a bit to large in relation to the MC, and this is another sign that the Elites in this line are larger than they should be. Or that everyone and everything else is smaller than they should be; take your pick.) Once you remove his butt armor and finagle him around on the seat, trying to get him to fit, you'll notice several things:
1. His legs are far too long for his feet to rest on the footrests.
2. His arms are far too long for him to grasp the controls in any way that looks remotely natural.
3. His goddamn arm and leg armor will pop off any time you make the slightest adjustment!
This last point is what has me planning to apply some gorilla glue to this bastard as soon as I'm done typing this review. The tiny forearm pieces, in particular, fell off constantly, prompting me to finally just remove them altogether until I had the figure in a reasonably stable position on the ghost. The thigh armor was also a big problem, but nowhere near on the same level. I'm sure that removable pieces of armor sounded like a fun feature, but in practice, it's mostly a source of frustration. I pity any child who gets this toy and is actually interested in keeping the armor in place while they play with it. (Hopefully this hypothetical kid has some super glue!)  Once you get the EO on it in a somewhat decent looking pose, you'll probably want to just leave him on there to avoid having to go through the whole hassle again. After I spent hours (actually just a few minutes, but very long minutes) wrestling the EO around on the seat like he was riding a mechanical bull, flinging armor aside as it was shed like so much dead skin, and muttering prayers to Cthulhu to aid me in my predicament, that is most certainly my plan.

Once you get the bastard on the ghost and attach it to the included base-- which is design to look like the energy trails the vehicle emits while it's flying, a very nice touch-- it looks pretty great. Despite the relatively minor frustration, it was well worth the fourteen bucks I paid for it, and I hope Mattel makes a Warthog in this scale soon! (They already have one for those twelve inch figures, so it has to be just a matter of time, surely?) Even with a few shortcomings, these are some good looking and very fun figures, and I highly recommend them to Halo fans, especially if you can find them for less than the retail price! (Here's a hint: go check Amazon.com now! They're $15 each right now!)

Rant Review: DC Multiverse Batman- The Dark Knight Returns Joker figure

(I have a concussion as I type this, so you'll have to forgive any odd phrasing that may pop up in the course of this review. If anything, it'll probably just amount to some typos I don't catch.)

As someone who was an avid collector of Mattel's DC Superheroes and DC Universe Classics lines, I've bought surprisingly few of their DC action figures in the last several years. This is due to several factors, chief among them the rising prices and increasingly poor execution of many of their products. Let's face it, while $20 has become a pretty standard price for a mass market figure in the six-ish inch scale, it's still a nice chunk of cash for one toy. That alone would make me more selective, as I don't have a whole hell of a lot of disposable income, but couple it with Mattel's cheapness compromising more and more of their figures, and there just haven't been many of them that I felt warranted their bloated price tags. There have been quite a few that I wanted based on prototype photos, but any desire I had to own them dissipated once I saw the actual figures in person. It's a disappointing turn of events, but hey, at least it saved me money!

Obviously, there have been a few exceptions. The small subset of figures based on the seminal Batman story The Dark Knight Returns, spread throughout their Batman Legacy and DC Multiverse lines over the years, are among them. Mattel addressed the one glaring whole in that set with the release of the Joker as he appeared in that story.

The sculpt is very good overall, and both heads are excellent. Whichever head you choose to display him with, the Joker looks as if he stepped right off the printed page. One head has a calm expression, while the other captures the Joker at his maniacal best, with a removable batarang in his right eye, as seen in his climactic battle with the Dark Knight in book three of the story. His right hand is sculpted to hold the gun perfectly, but also holds the knife with no issues. Perhaps owing to the lack of paint apps on most of the figure, the heads feature much better attention to paint detail than most of Mattel's figures these days. Paint apps are clean and precise, with a nice wash over the skin that really captures its appearance in the source comic. The open-mouthed head has a gloss coat over the interior of the mouth to lend it a wet appearance. There is also a well done wash on the hair to bring out the sculpted details. The paint apps on the rest of the figure are basic, but overall, this is fairly impressive work for a mass market toy.

Articulation is more or less the standard for this line. The Joker has ball joints at the head, shoulders, and hips, swivel & hinge joints at the elbows and knees, swivels at the waist, wrists, and upper thighs, and hinges at each ankle. The lack of bicep swivels is made up for by the swivel/hinge elbows, and the missing abdominal hinge isn't an issue, since the suit coat would greatly hinder its movement anyway. The hips are the MOTUC style joints, which I prefer to the normal Mattel hip articulation. They are rather unsightly, but the long coat covers them without impeding their range of motion much. While the articulation is adequate, and you can get some very cool poses, it is a bit outdated; swivel & hinge wrists should be standard by now, along with double knee joints. Hasbro has been implementing these points of articulation on most of its Marvel figures for years, and Toy Biz before them, so it's frustrating that we DC figure collectors are still getting figures that omit them.

The Joker includes the previously mentioned alternate head, gun, and knife, along with a torso for the King Shark build-a-figure. Even if you don't give a damn about the BAF, it's still a solid set of accessories, and it's particularly nice to see Mattel including alternate heads on some of their mass market figures. Hopefully we'll see this more often going forward.

Despite a few mostly minor flaws, this is a great figure, and a real standout in Mattel's recent DC offerings. This Joker figure is a fantastic addition to anyone's collection, and is an absolute must for anyone who already has some of the previous DKR figures. He's a bit too large to work scale-wise with most of the DCUC figures, but he scales nicely with Mattel's DKR figures, which tend to run larger. Walmart currently has the price of DCM figures cut to $16, so that's the place to look if you want one. I suggest grabbing one now if you have any interest, as the price is likely to rise once the supply dries up. That's it for today! Barring any unforeseen delays, the regularly scheduled MOTUC review should return next Tuesday! For now, scroll down for more photos!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Multi-Bot figure

The Evil Horde arrived during a period of great experimentation in the original Masters of the Universe line. By this time, most figures were defined by their action features, and the line had become such a monstrous success that Mattel didn't hesitate to invest in lots of new tooling for most figures. Part of this experimentation was occasionally incorporating aspects of other types of toys, such as a transforming aspect to create the rock warriors, and an interlocking building block style of play for Modulok. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to proclaim Modulok one of the line's greatest successes, and he (They? It?) was popular enough to inspire the creation of another figure with the same gimmick the following year: Multi-Bot.

Multi-Bot was dismissed by some as a mere retread with none of the great design and panache of the original, and is still treated as such by many adult collectors today. Personally, while I found Modulok's monstrous design more to my liking, I always preferred playing with Multi-Bot. In that intervening year, Mattel's designers refined the design of the interlocking pegs and holes to address the issues Modulok had, and the result were pieces that attached and detached more easily. This made for a toy that was simply more fun to play with. I tended to keep Modulok in a single form, and ditch the plain red arms altogether, since they were very difficult to attach, and constantly fell off. Multi-Bot, on the other hand, was a toy I constantly disassembled and reassembled into numerous configurations. So, while the monstrous space demon vibe Modulok has appeals to me, I have a soft spot in my heart for Multi-Bot that many adult MOTU fans do not. 

With Mattel's long history of quality control issues, there was some concern about the MOTUC iterations of Modulok and Multi-Bot. There were many parts to each figure, and the QC had to be on point for them to function properly. Unfortunately, I don't yet have the MOTUC Modulok, but I can say with some relief that they nailed it with Multi-Bot. MB includes a total of 28 interchangeable pieces, and they all fit snugly and disconnect without much trouble. The pieces are engineered well, and the neck connectors allow for a separate point of articulation at the base of the neck, which is a nice bonus. MB is even more fun to assemble into crazy configurations than the vintage version, thanks to the increased articulation. While it is very easy to place him into the default configuration shown on the box, with six legs and a torso and head at each end, I find that I actually prefer having the two bots separate. Of course, part of the fun is taking him down from the display and reconfiguring him whenever the mood strikes, and he works great in that regard.

Sculpting is excellent, successfully translating the vintage design to the MOTUC aesthetic. Even the odd helmet on the green head, which I always inferred as that head having a big metal mustache, is presented in loving detail. While I normally find figures that are straight updates of the vintage figure with nothing new added boring, MB's design naturally allows for far more details than are standard in the MOTUC line. The Four Horsemen took the mechanical details present on the vintage figure and extrapolated plenty of additional details that fit perfectly with a design that is firmly rooted in the vintage look. I was particularly surprised and pleased to see circuitry sculpted in the interior portion of the abdominal hinges, which are only present when the upper part of the torso is bent backward. This sort of attention to detail is a big reason why the 4H remain some of the very best in the business.

Unfortunately, the paint lets the sculpt down a bit. The paint is very clean where it counts most, on the faces and the eyes, and paint apps are generally quite clean. the problem is that there just aren't enough of them. There are some nice metallic accents on the arms and legs, but the legs are basically molded in the proper color and left almost completely plain. The back of the torso pieces are also completely unpainted. Given the complexity of this figure, if costs had to be cut, I'm glad they cut the paint apps rather than compromising the main feature by using a lower-quality plastic, but it's still a shame. Given the retail price of the figure, one would think the additional costs would have been covered. 

Articulation is quite good. Each of the torsos and limbs have all the standard MOTUC articulation, with some additional POAs here and there. As mentioned previously, the neck pieces have an extra POa at the base. The arms have hinge & swivel elbows, as opposed to just a hinge. Swivel & hinge joints are on the purple set of legs, but the other legs only have hinge knees, for whatever reason. 

MB's lone accessory is his rifle, which splits into two pieces, just like the vintage one. Like much of the figure, is' molded in the appropriate color and completely unpainted. Some would call this "adhering to the vintage design;" I call it being cheap. 

Despite a few flaws caused by Mattel's incessant cost-cutting, Multi-Bot is a very cool figure with an awesome action feature. That such a figure was produced so well with a design that is far more complex than the original is testament to the skills of the 4H and Mattel's design team. (Sure, their designers have caused many headaches for collectors of this line, but credit where it's due! They knock it out of the park sometimes.) Multi-Bot can currently be found for well below his retail price, so grab him cheap while you can! It's tempting to pick up an extra so I can make even bigger and crazier bots from the pieces. My problem now is finding an affordable Modulok so I can build that Ultrabeast! 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Skeletor and He-Man Lego-style minifigures are here!

I came across these LEGO-style minifigs a couple of weeks ago, and naturally, I had to order a set! There are a few issues with them-- He-Man's sword bears little resemblance to the Sword of Grayskull, and Skeletor's hood is far too light a shade of purple, for instance-- but they're still very cool! The quality of the figures is very good; in fact, they're nearly indistinguishable from legit LEGO minifigs! The quality of LEGO-compatible stuff from other manufacturers can vary wildly, so I'm glad that these two are on the higher end.

Regular Rant readers may remember the Throne of Bone I made for my cobbled-together Skeletor minifig a couple of years ago. With a couple of parts swapped out, this new Skeletor minifig looks quite awesome atop the throne! All in all, I'm very pleased with this pair of figures, especially for the dirt cheap price. The only problem is that I now want minifigs of more MOTU characters even more than I did before! Alas, we all have our burdens to bear. That's it for today, but keep scrolling down for a few variations of the throne photo, and be sure to creep on back next Tuesday for the next MOTU Classics review!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Point Dread & Talon Fighter playset with Teela figure

When the adult collector-aimed Masters of the Universe Classics line debuted at the end of 2008, while everyone hoped for the best, I think most of us expected that, realistically, we might get a few dozen figures. I know that I was just crossing my fingers that we'd get the core heroic and evil warriors groups completed, since Mattel's bungling saw that the 2002 MOTU line couldn't even manage that. I don't think anyone was honestly expecting that we'd get so much as a Battle Cat, much less any full-on playsets. And yet, today we're looking at one of the largest vehicles produced for a toyline in this scale, along with the second playset in the MOTUC line! Sometimes I really am astonished at how much the MOTUC team was able to get produced.

As a playset & vehicle combo, the Point Dread & Talon Fighter set is a big-ticket item. Unfortunately for Mattel, but thankfully for me, they wound up with a lot of unsold stock, and I was able to grab one on the cheap. It's a good thing, as even though the Talon Fighter was possibly my favorite vehicle in the vintage MOTU line-- it was always neck-and-neck with the Battle Ram for that title-- I don't know that I ever would have been able to justify spending the cash to grab it for the retail price. that's important to keep in mind, since the execution would have to be extremely poor for me to be disappointed with it at the price I paid for it.

That said, Mattel's spotty quality control reared its ugly head the moment I opened the box. The instructions, sticker sheet, and radar dish were all missing. A replacement is on the way, but since it didn't arrive in time for this review, that dish will be missing in all the photos. I'll also note that the set is so large that my normal photo setup couldn't work for anything other than the pair of photos showing the Teela figure, so I had to photograph it in my bedroom using the flash. The quality of those photos is affected accordingly. My vintage Talon Fighter is in storage, so I couldn't take a comparison photo. With all that out of the way, on to the meat of the review!

The first thing you'll notice upon seeing this set in person is its size. It's huge. The box itself is quite large, and features some great art from vintage MOTU packaging artist Rudy Obrero, but it belies the size of the assembled product. The Talon Fighter is about eighteen inches long, and about as wide. Perched atop Point Dread, it's about eighteen inches tall. It's one thing to read those measurements and see the scale in photos, but until you actually have it in your hands, it's really impossible to know just how gigantic this thing really is. The Talon fighter's cockpit is large enough for up to three figures to sit inside it, though you'll need two females in the back to achieve that. Point Dread itself is tall enough to allow a figure to stand inside in front of the control console, but adding anymore figures requires some creative positioning. This is due to some extra plastic added to the open side of it, which is necessary to support the massive Talon Fighter. there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth over this, but given the choice between posing multiple figures in the back of the playset and having it sag under the weight of the Talon Fighter, I think Mattel's designers made the right call. (If anything, they made a mistake in showing it to us with the open back before the design was finalized.)

Point Dread has an interesting history. Very early in MOTU's existence, before Snake Mountain was created, it was considered the headquarters of Skeletor, but this was abandoned early on. The Point Dread of the early minicomics was a powerful battle station capable of turning the tide of any battle, and was deemed too powerful to remain accessible to the likes of Skeletor and his crew, so the Goddess used her magic to place it atop Castle Grayskull, where it would be inaccessible. This was a very cool play feature with the toy, as the top of Point Dread could be detached and placed on the right-hand turret of the Grayskull playset. So it is with this version, though I can't include any photos of that since I don't have a MOTUC Grayskull... yet.

Thankfully, Point Dread makes a fine display piece all on its own. It still has the odd staircases that are in two different scales, which I always found a puzzling feature on the vintage PD. The base is very wide, giving the set a large footprint, and a very stable base for supporting the weight of the TF. The control console is a plastic piece, which is definitely a huge upgrade to the cardboard of the original. The perch is sculpted with mechanical details, rather than the plain brown of the original, which gives it an appropriate feel that meshes with the futuristic TF. The feet of the aircraft lock into place on the perch, and there is a release lever on the underside. This is a nice touch, and gives the vehicle more stability.

The sculpting on the Talon Fighter is excellent, a perfect update of the vintage toy. I normally find MOTUC releases that are straight updates with nothing new in the mix boring, but this doesn't really apply to the vehicles, for whatever reason. There is so much detail here, and areas such as the thrusters and some of the consoles inside the cockpit are sculpted, rather than stickers. (The flyswatter is there, too!) There are still a couple of stickers in the cockpit, however. I'm not sure why this is, as it's somewhat jarring to see sculpted control panels right alongside stickers. There is a blank area on the main panel, and the sticker sheet has three stickers that can fit in this area, so you can choose the radar screen you prefer. (This is all theoretical in my case, of course, since that sticker sheet was missing.) Paint apps are inconsistent. Some of the small bits on the consoles are neatly applied-- I'm assuming this is tampo-- while other areas have a good bit of slop or overspray. Of particular note is the swath of very gloppy blue paint on the back of my TF's canopy, and the orange bleeding over the front edge of the bird's head. Given the price of this set, and how few paint apps there are, this is an area where the otherwise excellent set is really let down. (Of course, given what I paid for mine, I can easily overlook it.)

Assembly of the set is easy, with only a few detached parts that snap easily into place. When attaching the top of Point Dread to the base, it is necessary to press down fairly hard to get it to lock into place. Otherwise, it will come apart when you pick it up. It's also worth noting that the control console does not snap into place inside Point Dread, it simply stands wherever you place it, so be sure to remove it before you transport the set, or it'll fall out.

Now, on to the most controversial part of the set: the pack-in Teela figure. First seen from behind in a video about something else entirely, this figure was standing inside Point Dread, and could be seen off to the side. Speculation ran wild, particularly since the details that could be made out indicated that this would be a Filmation-style Teela figure. Then the first photos showed up, and people lost their goddamn minds. The figure was derided as the worst in the entire line, and the complaints overshadowed the set itself. Though something clearly happened during production-- the head on this figure is clearly not the same head the Four Horsemen sculpted-- the figure is nowhere near as terrible as the apocalyptic reaction would have you believe. That said, it does have some serious issues.

The normal head sculpt suffers most from the lack of a chin. Her face appears to be sliding off her head. The alternate head is much better, but still nowhere near as good as the original figure's. (Personally, I think this figure will be sporting the extra "snake armor" head from the first MOTUC Teela.) The clothing overlay makes the body look overly bulky, a problem that was plagued the line for years as Mattel's designers seemingly forgot how this issue was avoided in the line's first year. The waist cut really stands out and looks awful, which was unavoidable, given the white expanse of the outfit. The only other option was omitting the waist cut altogether, as with the original MOTUC Teela. Collectors loudly complained about that for years afterward, so Mattel's designers were really in a no-win situation here.

Aside from the head, sculpting is mostly good, though inconsistent. The clothing and new bracers are sparsely detailed in an attempt to capture an animated look, while the upper arm bracers and boots sport the more detailed sculpts of the original version of the figure. This creates an incongruity that gives the figure an odd appearance. The paint apps are pretty good, at least. The paint on the basic head on my figure is much better than many of the heads I've seen online, which improves the overall figure quite a bit. Teela has some very cool accessories, including a Filmation-inspired sword and shield, and a removable visor for the helmeted head.

Despite a few shortcomings, this is a very impressive set overall. The sheer size of it makes it an excellent display centerpiece, if you don't have a Castle Grayskull, anyway. I could see someone having a bit of buyer's remorse if they shelled out to get it at the original $125 price, but as I only paid a third of that, I'm extremely happy with it. The biggest knock against this set is the pack-in figure, and that's hardly a deal breaker. For what you can currently get the set for, Point Dread & the Talon Fighter is a must-have for MOTU collectors.