Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Rant Review Special 300th Post Edition: Masters of the Universe Classics Wind Raider with full-length comic story!

It's a big one today, as we're looking at one of the quintessential modes of transportation in the MOTU universe: The Wind Raider! On top of that, it's our 300th post, so I wanted to do something extra special. You know how I always include some humorous photos in all my reviews? About fifteen years ago, I used to do full stories in that style. I've been wanting to return to that for awhile now, and when I realized this milestone was coming up, I figured it would be the perfect time. (This is also why there was no post last week, as I had to put in a lot of extra work to get this done!) So, apart from the unrelated photo above, every photo in this week's review is part of a full story featuring the Wind Raider! Be sure to let me know what you think, and rest assured that more full-length comic stories will be showing up. Now, on to the review!

I never actually had the Wind Raider as a child, though I wanted one quite a bit. As a vehicle, its was priced higher than what was generally allowed when I could pick out a toy when we were in a store, yet it was small enough that I never asked for it as a birthday or Xmas present. (I usually aimed for something a bit larger, such as the Bashasaurus, on such occasions.) Many of my toys came from garage sales, and I never chanced upon a Wind Raider at one of those, either. Eventually, the toy disappeared from stores before I managed to get one. The 2002 line never gave us a Wind Raider toy, despite a redesigned version featuring prominently on the tie-in cartoon.

So it was that I never owned a Wind Raider until I picked up this MOTUC version recently. Thankfully, if you're only gonna own one version, this is the one to have! I don't normally comment on packaging, but as with the Talon Fighter, this package features some badass art by MOTU artist extraordinaire Rudy Obrero! It's a cool battle scene, giving us a look at some Rotons as well. While it doesn't measure up to the amazing art he provided for the original Wind Raider's package, it's still really awesome to get another great piece from him on a MOTU toy.

First things first: It's huge. We're not talking Talon Fighter huge here, but it's a good bit larger than I expected. It's about as long as the Battle Ram, and much wider. The sculpt draws some features from the vintage prototype, which is very welcome. As with the Battle Ram, details that were stickers on the vintage toy are sculpted here. This is very cool, and improves the overall look of the toy immeasurably. The big engine pods have panels that flip open, giving a nice peek inside. Assembly is quick and easy, as the wings snap right into place, and the rudder clips onto the back. It can take a bit of wiggling to get into just the right position, but it's secure once there. These can all be swiveled after attaching if you so desire. The cockpit is large enough to fit all standard-sized MOTUC figures easily, though getting both control handles into their hands can take a bit of work. One issue with my Wind Raider is some cloudiness in the orange plastic on the wings. There's also a slight change in the texture wherever it is present. Based on my own experience working in an injection-molded plastics factory, this is very similar to what we would see for the first few cycles after cleaning a mold. Basically, these parts should have gone to the rejects bin, and never made it to a finished product. I don't think I'll be returning the vehicle over this, as it's not terribly obvious, but it is annoying.

Paint/tampo work is pretty neat overall, even with most of the small details such as the control panel, and inside the engine pods. There's also an action feature, as the anchor launches, and the cord winds back up by turning the figurehead at the front of the vehicle. The button is disguised as a large rivet, and the feature is completely unobtrusive, so it gets my approval. The string is pretty damn short, however, so the posing options using it are somewhat limited. It would be nice to have a few more inches. (You know what I mean, keep your minds outta the gutter!)

While it's rather unusual for vehicles to include accessories, the Wind Raider has one: A rather cool flight stand! The vehicle has a hole at the bottom worked into the design, and that is the point of attachment. The stand arcs down from there, resting on a large base to maintain stability. The top of the base has a swivel, increasing the posing possibilities. My only gripe with the stand is that it really should have been clear. Still, it's well-made and quite sturdy, and I'm very pleased that it was included. It's a shame that Mattel never sold these flight stands on their own, as I'm sure many of us would like some for our Sky Sleds!

As one of the main vehicles in the world of MOTU, the Wind Raider is essential for any collection that includes vehicles at all. Basically, if you only own a single MOTU vehicle, it needs to be this one. It's ever-present in virtually every incarnation of MOTU, and its classic design is executed extremely well here. It's one of those MOTU elements that is so iconic that even non-fans will recognize it, and it adds a huge coolness factor to any display. All that aside, it's a great toy in a line that we honestly thought might never see any vehicles at all, as such things are very rare in collector-focused lines these days. Barring a movie, this is something that might not come around again, so I highly recommend getting your hands on one and enjoying the hell out of it!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Despara figure

Today we're looking at a true rarity in the MOTUC line, as Despara is a character drawing not from the vintage toyline, cartoon, comics, or concept art, but from the recent comic series from DC Comics. (It's a shame we didn't get more, as that series was ripe with great designs and characters for Mattel to draw from!) Despara was created as a darker, somewhat more realistic take on the origin story of She-Ra. In the Filmation cartoon, baby Adora was abducted and raised by Hordak, growing up to become a high-ranking member of the Horde. Once reunited with her twin brother, He-Man, and given her own version of the power sword, she instantly becomes heroic, and all of the atrocities she no doubt committed as a member of the Horde are forgotten. Of course, much of that is due to the limitations placed on programming aimed at kids in those days, but it's still one of the weakest points of the character's story. The DC Comics series explored this much better, and re-envisioned force captain Adora in a far more intimidating form as part of that. Wearing her adopted father's face, Despara led the Horde's invasion of Eternia, and her transition from villain to hero was more gradual, and far more painful. The weight of her crimes tormented her, and gave her a powerful motivation to be a hero, as she sought to undo all the evil she had taken part in. It made for a better-developed version of the character, and one that is more than worthy of inclusion in the MOTUC line.

The sculpt by the Four Horsemen is good overall, and she certainly has a formidable presence on the shelf. That said, the details are rather soft, and there aren't as many sculpted details as I would have liked. Stand her next to Hordak, and this really becomes apparent! The alternate head is well-sculpted, and it certainly looks like the previous versions of the character we've gotten in this line, but her cheerful facial expression just doesn't suit the character. A grimacing, angry, or even screaming facial expression would have worked far better here. Thankfully, I had no plans to display the figure with this head, anyway. The large cape is cool, but it's so heavy that it makes it tough for the figure to stand for long without toppling. So, while the figure's sculpt isn't bad at all, it does miss the mark in a few key areas. That's very rare for the 4H. Due to a production issue, the figure's left hand is misshapen, making it practically impossible for her to hold anything in that hand for more than a few seconds. It can be reshaped with the application of some heat, but once again, this is something we simply shouldn't have to bother with, particularly with how much most of these figures cost.

Paint apps are another sore spot. There's quite a bit of slop, and some areas simply aren't completely filled in. In contrast, both heads are very well painted, with crisp lines, and some nice highlights on the masked head. It's odd to see the paint apps vary so wildly in quality like this, but if there's going to be slop, I would prefer it be on the body, rather than the head, so I can't get too bent out of shape over how things worked out. Articulation is another uneven area for the figure, with some key points of articulation missing. Despara has ball joints at the neck and shoulders, swivel & hinge hips, hinges at the elbows, knees, and ankles, ankle rockers, and swivels at the biceps, wrists, boot tops, and waist. The torso hinge and thigh swivels are missing, as they are on many female MOTUC figures, and those omissions hurt this figure as much as it did all of them.

Despara fares well as far as accessories go. She has the previously mentioned alternate head, her Horde staff, and her twin swords. The weapons have nice sculpts, and I particularly like the design of the swords. Both swords can be stored on her back, which is always a nice touch. Unfortunately, she has a lot of trouble holding her accessories in her left hand, due to the production issue mentioned earlier. It's just another issue with a figure that already has far too many.

Overall, Despara is a mixed bag. I love the idea of the character, and she was an excellent choice to be produced as a figure, but the issues with the sculpt, paint, and articulation take a figure I really wanted to love and made it one that I think is just okay. Still, she does look cool standing on the shelf, assuming you can get her in a stable pose, and she fits right in with the rest of the Horde. I imagine she'd look absolutely badass leading a group of Horde Troopers into battle! (Note to self: I really need to get some of those!) Fans of the comics are also sure to want her, and even with all the figure's issues, she is worth tracking down. Just don't pay too much for her, and be prepared to fix that hand if you want her to actually be able to hold her weapons! That's all for today, but scroll down for many more photos, and be sure to swing back by next week!