Thursday, November 29, 2018

Rant Review: Funko DC Primal Age Batman figure

Funko has really been ramping up their vintage MOTU-inspired Savage World action figure lines recently, and DC Primal Age is probably the most surprising of them all. I never realized how much I needed MOTU-style barbarian versions of DC characters before! It seemed like almost no time passed between their announcement and and their going on sale, which is very refreshing in a hobby where product delays and pre-orders of figures that sometimes take years to see the light of day are all too common. It was really cool to hear about these out of nowhere, and then be able to order them so soon afterward. They seem to be an exclusive, at least for the time being, so that's the place to go if you want some of these. (I've heard that Target will be carrying the line after the holidays, as well.) I plan to get the entire line eventually, as funds allow, but today, we'll be taking a look at Batman.

The sculpt is pretty good overall, although I do have a few niggling issues with it. The level of detail is pretty nice, and while it seems soft in some areas, this is in line with the vintage toys that inspired these. In fact, there are a few spots where the detailing is almost a little too fine, such as the tiny stitching in the cowl, and the fur of the loincloth and boots. There are some nice dings and notches in the armor and weapons, and the musculature is evocative of the vintage MOTU toys without venturing into "this is so similar they might get sued" territory. I'm not thrilled with the face, as it seems too generic and doesn't really say "Batman" to me, but then, this is a prehistoric barbarian version of Batman, so I suppose it's right that it look rather different than I expected. Batman works well size-wise compared to the vintage MOTU toys and the other Funko SW figures.

The paint apps are okay. Not terrible, but they're not gonna make you dance a happy little jig, either. There's some slop and overspray in multiple areas, but I suppose we can be generous and go with this as yet another detail that's similar to the toys of the '80s. ;) The articulation is just what you'd expect from such a figure, with cut joints at the shoulders, waist, and neck. The hips have a ball & socket connection that allows for a similar range of motion as the old MOTU rubber band legs, while (presumably) holding up better over time. The legs do have a tendency to pop off if you move them too far one way or another, but they pop right back into place with no issues. (There have been multiple reports of breakage where the legs attach, however, so be careful about how much force you apply if you need to pop them back in!) Sadly, the "power punch" spring-loaded waists from the vintage MOTU figures is not present on the Funko toys. I don't consider that a genuine drawback, but man, it would be cool if they had it!

Batman only has two accessories, but they're very cool ones. He has a great bat-hilted sword and a big bat-themed shield. Even as a barbarian warrior, Batman knows all about the importance of branding! Both are molded in a nice metallic gold, and the sword has some blue wrapping on the handle. The shield clips into place on the forearm right above the end of the glove, and the hands can hold the sword with no issues. The big furry cape is removable, so you could count that as another accessory, depending on how you look at it. Batman has more accessories than the SW figures usually get, but I can't help feeling he should have had a couple more. As the main guy in this line, it seems only fitting. A jagged stone batarang or two seems like a no-brainer, and I find myself wishing he also had an axe. That would give him the full complement of weapons the original He-Man figure came with, and would be another cool echo of the toyline that inspired this one. I'd also really like the armor to be removable, rather than sculpted on. Switching armor was always a fun feature with the MOTU figures, and it would be really cool if we could do so with these.

Jeez, that last paragraph makes it sound like I'm kinda down on this figure, but I'm really not. The fact is, Funko has done such a great job evoking that vintage MOTU feel with this figure that I can't help wishing they'd done a few things a bit differently to hammer it home even more. I'm very pleased with the figure as he is, though, and I can't wait to get the rest of this line! Kudos to Funko, DC, Amazon, and Target for making such a fun idea a reality. Now Funko just needs to focus on those issues with breakage. I was lucky with my figure, but it really sucks to see fellow collectors getting broken figures. Hopefully Funko gets the QC under control, as it would be a damn shame for this line to be cut short due to such issues. I'm hoping for a bright future for this line!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Intergalactic Skeletor (New Adventures of He-Man)

In today's review, we return once more to the most maligned corner of the MOTU universe: New Adventures! Like many MOTU fans, I wasn't too enamored with NA when I first saw the figures on the pegs back in 1989. As much as I missed MOTU, and wanted more, this just wasn't MOTU to me. The toys were completely different from a stylistic standpoint, and virtually none of the familiar and beloved characters were present. It felt like a poor man's Star Wars with my beloved Skeletor and He-Man wedged into it, complete with new looks that didn't measure up to the classic ones. Full of the sort of bitterness that can only be summoned by a child, I turned my back on the new toys, resigned to the death of my favorite toyline.

Obviously, I have a much more positive outlook on NA these days. (My review of Optikk makes that clear.) The Four Horsemen work wonders with their designs, and their takes on the handful of NA characters we've gotten in the MOTUC line have resulted in some of its coolest figures. Prototypes of the NA version of Skeletor were absolutely awe-inspiring, and this looked to be the figure of the year. The released version, sadly, falls quite a bit short of that promise.

I'll say this first: The sculpt is fantastic. There is intricate detail covering the figure from head to toe, so much so that many collectors feel he looks out of place in this line. While I love extremely detailed sculpts such as this, he does have much in common with the detailed sculpts of the 2002 MOTU line. Personally, I think the sculpt is phenomenal, and I wish there were far more figures in the line with this level of detail! Looking over the figure, you'll find intricate circuitry and metal parts everywhere, even lurking underneath the figure's helmet, and behind his cape. IG Skeletor would be a strong contender for the greatest figure in the entire line if not for one problem that reared its ugly head with frustrating regularity in this line: The dreaded Mattel design team.

Mattel's designated designer took the incredible Four Horsemen sculpt and decided that this figure would have a torso overlay, rather than a new torso. This technique has been used since the early days of the line to keep costs down, and a certain designer seems incapable of designing these overlays in such a way that they work properly. This has led to the "fat armor" syndrome, as well as figures with the inability to relax their arms. Unfortunately, IG Skeletor has what is quite possibly the worst case of FAS I've ever seen. The overlay is ridiculously bulky, and making matters worse, it goes all the way to the top of the figure's neck, so that he is stuck permanently looking down. This also renders that particular point of articulation a swivel joint, as the overlay restricts all other motion. On top of that, it leads to some awkward moments when the navel on the torso shows underneath the overlay. The overlay is supposed to be Skeletor's body, not armor, so this is even more odd-looking than it usually is when it happens to other figures. (Poor IG Skeletor not only suffers from FAS, but also DBS: Double Belly Syndrome!) This figure has a lot of new tooling, so I can understand the desire to cut costs, but this is Skeletor. He's the main villain of the entire MOTU mythos. He's probably the most popular of all MOTU characters. This is not a figure to cheap out on. The fact is, this figure needed a newly tooled torso to be done properly, and that is what Mattel should have done. Their cost cutting has reduced a figure that should have been a perfect 10 to a 6 or 7 at best. There are various tutorials floating around the net on how to alter the figure's torso overlay to make the figure look much better, and you better believe I'll be going that route. This figure is too amazing overall to be held back by a poor design decision. 

Paint apps are pretty good overall, with lots of the small details painted in, and a nice metallic blue used over much of the circuitry on the "skin." There are a couple of areas where the paint doesn't quite cover the entire piece of circuitry, but that can be easily fixed, at least. Articulation is a bit different than usual, owing to the torso overlay. The ball-jointed head becomes a swivel head, as mentioned above, and the torso hinge is rendered immobile unless you're reeeeeaally motivated to use it. (The back of the overlay is shaped to avoid blocking that joint, so my figure may just have a stuck joint. Even if it could move, the cape would get in the way.) The wrist swivels are at the tops of the gloves, rather than the hand plugging into the end of the wrist. Everything else is standard, with ball joints at the shoulders and hips, swivels at the biceps, thighs, calves, and waist, and hinged elbows, knees, and ankles.

Accessories include his helmet, if you count that, an alternate head, and his Havoc Staff. The staff is a perfect update to that of the original figure, right down to the odd creature clamped onto the back of the skull. With a blade on one end and what appear to be electric prods on the other, this incarnation of the Havoc Staff looks like a very nasty weapon! The alternate head is not for Skeletor himself, but for Faker. This is the much-requested battle damaged Faker head that fans have wanted since at least the 2002 days, and it's awesome to finally have it! The non-damaged half of the head is a very good match for the original head sculpt, and the skeletal half has some great details. The only issues with the head are with the paint. It was molded in silver with the other parts painted in, but they neglected to paint the teeth. This doesn't really bother me, but it has been an issue for some collectors who want the undamaged side to match the normal Faker head perfectly. Thankfully, this is very easy to remedy if it bothers you. The other issue is with the hair, which is a completely different shade of orange, without the paint wash that is present on other Faker heads. It's basically emulating the vintage colors, and it looks fine on the figure, but it will be a bit odd if you display this head alongside one of the standard ones. I do prefer the darker reddish-orange with  the blackwash, but again, this isn't really a problem for me. (A bigger issue is the very obvious mold line on the hair piece!) It would be nice if Skeletor had included a sword of some type, but I find that the 2002-style tech sword of power looks great with him! The only problem is that I had Faker wielding it until now... now he needs a new weapon!
Ultimately, IG Skeletor is a divisive figure. That great sculpt is marred by poor design decisions, but there is still so much that is awesome about this figure. I'm annoyed that I'll have to go to significant trouble to correct the design team's error, but this is a cool enough figure that I think he's worth it. Whether or not that holds true for you, or if you feel capable of taking those measures to improve the figure, is a decision only you can make. I do recommend snagging one if you find him for a decent price, and see if he grows on you despite the design issues. If nothing else, you'll get a cool extra head for Faker. That's it for today, but be sure to swing back by in two weeks for more! And there just might be a bonus feature next week, so be sure to check back for that! (I'm not being coy, I'm really not 100% sure I'll have it ready by next week. I'm gonna try, though!)  In the meantime, have a great Thanksgiving! And if you don't celebrate Thanksgiving, then have a great Thursday tomorrow anyway!

Here's a bonus version of one of the Faker pics from when I was screwing around with the colors and wound up with a slightly unsettling reverse colors version.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Collector's Choice Karg figure

Karg has been a long time coming! I've spoken about my feelings on the MOTU movie before; suffice to say, regardless of the movie's quality, I'm interested in figures of the various villains it introduced. Karg got the shaft back in the vintage days, for whatever reason, so he was considered off-limits for inclusion in the MOTUC line. As has happened before, however, a loophole was found: Karg's appearances in the UK MOTU comics made him fair game, as long as that design was used. Hooray for loopholes! Not only does Karg complete the MOTU movie "new villains" trifecta, he also appears to be their field commander, making him pretty essential to anyone who already has Blade and Saurod. The bio gives him the additional role of Skeletor's chief interrogator, which suits the character nicely.
The sculpt is phenomenal, even by the standards the Four Horsemen have set with this line. There's some nice texture work on several different areas of the figure, giving them the look of different materials. Various instruments of torture are sculpted on the belt, and the chest armor is situated in such a way that it mostly avoids the "fat armor syndrome" that plagued many of the Mattel figures. Despite using the comic design, Karg's face is a near-perfect rendition of the character's look in the movie; only the color is different. The 4H's work here is excellent, with Karg's sunken eyes, crinkly skin, and jagged teeth giving him a leering visage that would be right at home on the cover of a vintage heavy metal album.

Do you like blue? I hope you do, because Karg is one blue figure. Very, very blue. Fortunately, blue is my favorite color, so I'm happy to see Karg climb upon the blue train! The metallic shade used for most of the figure looks fantastic, and he really stands out on the shelf. Paint apps are pretty nice for the most part, with minimal slop and bleed, aside from the silver on and around his belt. Most of the individual tools are nicely done, but there are other areas where the paint is applied too thinly, and the blue is showing through. There are also more areas here where blue creeps up onto some of the tools, as the silver was not applied as far down as it needed to be. I'll definitely have to touch up the whole belt area, but given the choice, I'd much rather have sloppy paint apps on something like a belt than on the face. Oh boy, that face. They really nailed it! The sickly shade of yellowish-green chosen is wonderful, and there's a nice light wash to bring out the sculpted detail. The eyes and the Austin Powers teeth are done perfectly. My only gripes here are the lack of paint wash on the ears and hair. There's some wash on the hair right around the face, but the bulk of it goes without. Thankfully, this is something that'll be very easy for me to correct myself. One oddity with the paint is the red areas on either side of the amulet on his chest armor. They're bright red on the left side, but more of a copper color on the right. I'm not sure if this was a mistake, or if it was intentional ans I just hadn't noticed it in any of the photos. It's certainly possible I just failed to notice before, as they're quite small, and easy to miss.

The articulation is mostly standard for the line, with ball joints at the head, shoulders, and hips, swivels at the biceps, upper thighs, calves, left wrist, and waist, hinges at the elbows, knees, ankles, and torso, and a nice swivel/hinge right wrist. Well, in theory, anyway, as the right wrist is completely stuck on my figure. Hopefully I can free it up with some heat without tearing the peg. The head also suffers enormously due to the figure's design, as the furry cape, large frilly ruff, and Tina Turner hair renders it almost completely immobile. The hair is actually made from a pretty soft plastic, but it's so massive that it still just doesn't have the flexibility it needs. It's an unfortunate consequence of the character's design, and I'm not sure what else Super 7 could have done to alleviate this issue.

Karg comes with three accessories, or perhaps two, depending on how you count them. His pistol is based on the design of one seen in the movie, and his nasty dagger/icepick thingy is called the Dagger of Agony. I must say it does look pretty agonizing, and I think we can rest assured that anyone who pays a visit to his torture chambers gets well-acquainted with it. The third accessory is his hook, which plugs into his left arm stump. Since the hook is essential to his look, I can see why some might not count it as an accessory, but since it removes, I'm counting it. Unfortunately, the prototype and cardback art shows Karg wielding a barbed hook that looks infinitely cooler, and it's a damn shame it wasn't included as well. I would hazard a guess that its barbed design violated safety codes if we were still back in the Mattel era, but Super 7 doesn't seem to be beholden to those limitations, so I'm not sure why the hook was changed. Attachments from earlier figures such as Trap Jaw won't fit into Karg's arm stump either, which is another disappointment. These aren't things that seriously hurt the figure, but they are annoying missed opportunities.

Karg is a pretty great figure overall, and his movie buds will definitely be glad to have him join them at last! Super 7 has had some issues translating the 4H's sculpts into the production figures, particularly with females, but that wasn't an issue in this case. Karg was a friggin' awesome looking figure at the prototype stage, and he's a friggin' awesome looking figure now. I'm very pleased that Super 7 found a way to get us Karg, and I'm hoping a similar loophole can be used to get us a movie Skeletor. (Seriously, the Skeletor seen in the final issue of the Star comic series is basically the movie version with a different color scheme. It could totally work!) That's it for today, but be sure to swing back by in two weeks for the next review!