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Topics - Jesse James

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121
The Vintage Collection
Wave 3 (Return of the Jedi)
Luke Skywalker (Jedi Knight)


Since I can't find anything from Wave 4 (2011 Wave 1, the Attack of the Clones figures), I decided to try to finish some of the Return of the Jedi wave figures because A) they're getting talked about a lot in our forums, and B) they're all pretty great.  But each has its nuances that are fun to point out as positives and negatives.  Today I'm going to look at one of the tougher to find figures from the wave (which is tough to find overall) that I think everyone universally agreed is a great figure.  We're going to examine Luke Skywalker (Jedi Knight), who takes a figure from just the previous year, and somehow manages to blow it out of the water.

Now let me start by saying that I personally loved the figure from last year.  It took Hasbro eons to actually update Death Star Duel Luke Skywalker, and when they did, they made some cool updates.  However, the figure had drawbacks.  First his arms and legs are a little thick, especially his shoulders which made him look much broader than Hammil's build was back in 1982/83.  But Hasbro did some great stuff though as well, like the interchangeable chest plates so you could have him buttoned up or with his shirt partially undone.  Also his left hand sculpt is fantastic for the scene where he takes his saber back from Palpatine.  I also think it's a pretty decent headsculpt, but that seems to be in the eye of the beholder.

Jumping forward though, it's clear that Luke got a major makeover at the end of 2010.  First, Hasbro went with a ground-up reworking instead of re-using parts like the last version.  Also they really wanted to work on the character's likeness, and finer points of the costume, and the effort shows.  Then the articulation...  Let's just say they bumped it up a notch and only removed one point from the last figure.  But he's not perfect, as no figure ever is really it seems.  This one's flaws don't seem to be keeping fans from loving it though, so read on and let's disect this update, and wait for the variant that has the shirt flap open and a little bit messier hair style.  :)

PROS

-Sculpt:  What can you say?  At this point, Hasbro loves to make collectors collectively mess their pants when they update a figure, even if it's one we just got a year before.  Sure, you may be annoyed that you're buying the same guy, again, but when they manage to truly knock your socks off with the second (or more) effort, you have to cave and buy it I think.

In Luke's case, it's pretty night and day with the previous incarnation.  First, the costume's much more accurate.  It's a tigher fitting costume than the previous figure displayed, and the sculptor caught every detail of that, with folds in the appropriate places like the elbows, knees, hips/crotch, etc.  Really though it looks a lot tighter fit to the new sculpt, and that's just how it should be.

Little details are enhanced as well.  The small pouch on Luke's right hip for instance, where he keeps his Mentos, "The Fresh Maker".  Also the two silver dots on the belt, the clips on the left hip for his saber, and even getting the belt buckle right (the previous figure's wasn't accurate).  They're a lot of little details right on the belt that are updated and much improved.  The costume even has a superior "texture" sculpted to it.  It looks more like a spandex-like material, for a form-fitting outfit, compared to the texturing sculpted into the previous incarnation. 

The headsculpt I think is a little debatable as to which you prefer...  Luke's head looks a little large on the Vintage sculpt, and something about the last figure I really liked, but I think the likeness in the face is superior and the hair is sculpted a little more naturally, a good bit more depth to it, and looks great. Ultimately I give the nod to the new headsculpt as the superior one, and I think most will agree, but I still think the 2010 figure does look decent as well. 

Overall though, this figure is pretty night and day to the previous one, and I actually liked the previous one (I was in the minority though).  I like, and miss, the removable chest pieces though.  I think that could have been, and should have been incorporated into this figure, especially with Hasbro's currently high prices on these figures, and retail asking above the MSRP in the majority of cases out there at the stores.  Anything $7.99 or up should really deliver a lot to you in terms of the toy you get.  In this case, I can see Hasbro scupting a new torso with the shirt flap open and getting people to buy it again, and that's frustrating.  We should get both with one figure at $8+ a pop.  At Toys R Us prices, the figure should walk, talk, and clean your home.

-Accessories:  The accessory count for this Luke isn't especially high, however it delivers the things you should demand with most Jedi characters, and it delivers an extra bit that is simply appreciated.  Could they include a blaster?  Sure, and it'd be appreciated, but it's not a necessity.  Going back to the sculpt, the only "extra" accessories I really would've liked would've been the interchangeable chest pieces, and that's really more part of the figure's sculpt than accessories to me, but I digress.

Luke comes with:
  • Lightsaber (Ignighted)
  • Lightsaber (Hilt w/Peg)
  • Imperial Binders/Handcuffs

It's only 3 accessories total, but it all makes sense with the figure, and is appreciated in a time when you don't always get the unlit saber hilt.  All Jedi should have that, but they're not really standard issue.  The only other thing one could've, maybe should've hoped for, is a cloth Jedi cloak...  However, to this costume, it's not really accurate either.  I guess we'll have to wait for the actual Vintage sculpt with the vest to maybe get the cloak. 

You do get the binders though, so you can recreate your favorite father/son moments, and you can have your favorite wrinkly old mentor with a bondage fetish remove those binders.  That's cool.  Or at least you have extra binders for your favorite Rebel figure to get captured with.

Overall though, that's 3 accessories which is about right for the character, in that specific costume.  If there's any gripe, it's that the paintjob on the saber's hilt is actually noticeably less crisp and carefully applied than the previous figures (despite being the same sculpt).  I just swapped accessories between the two.  You really notice it on the copper ring area and the copper button to ignite it though.  No biggie.  Enjoy.

-Articulation:  Here's where Hastro decides to spice things up a little bit.  And I'm not talking a little bit, but actually significantly.  That's not easy to do in the modern age where Super Articulation now is competing with Super Duper Articulation. 

The Clone Wars line introduced us to the ball/socket wrist joint.  It's impressive.  It helps a soldier figure hold his rifle in a much, much more realistic pose.  It helps Jedi hold their lightsabers in a myriad of stances.  It makes figures look like they have an incredibly compound fracture if you bend it all the way one direction or the other, but suffice it to say it adds a surprising ammount of movement to the hands.  It's unheard of in the realistic line though...  till now.

Hasbro wasn't done there though.  The ball/socket joint has become an increasingly used point of articulation on figures in both lines.  It helps characters ride certain vehicles or creatures more realistically, and it REALLY improves how a figure can be posed kneeling, sitting, or doing Yoga.  This Luke received both sets of these additional articulation points, and only at the cost of one torso ball/socket joint.  It's a trade-off I guess.

Luke features articulation at:

  • 2 Ball/Socket Shoulder Joints
  • 2 Ball/Socket Elbow Joints
  • 2 Ball/Socket Wrist Joints
  • 2 Ball/Socket Hip Joints
  • 2 Ball/Socket Knee Joints
  • 2 Ball/Socket Ankle Joints
  • 1 Ball/Socket Neck Joint
  • 1 Cut Waist Joint

That's a total of 14 points of articulation, and all but one of them are ball/socket joints to boot.  Talk about poseability!  This guy's like Gumby.  He's also articulated just right to ride a newly sculpted Speederbike, which we've been asking about here at Jedi Defender since before it was the cool thing to do! ;)  In all seriousness though, this figure has G.I. Joe levels of articulation going on, and then some.  I miss the ball-jointed torso somewhat, but at times that doesn't look great.  Ironically though it didn't look bad on the last figure, so I do miss that point of articulation on this character.

People really underestimate what the hips and wrists add to a figure too, especially a character who wields a saber.  Luke can have this awesome 2-handed, over-the-head, swinging pose with the saber just like when he's giving his Pop the smackdown...  Other than the chest not being accurate to that scene.  Still he can do that pose.  And like I said, the hips are great for all kinds of action poses, or riding a future Speederbike and looking quite realistic on it.  Here's to hoping for that.

-Versatility[/u]:  This is a weird one to list, but it's applicable to certain characters who have very subtle costume differences.  OK, so Hasbro didn't give us the interchangeable chest plates, but that doesn't change that fact that they now have a pretty perfect base to do a number of Luke figures from Return of the Jedi that only require a single piece new tooled, or some new accessories or whatnot.

Luke could get a new torso, and you've got Death Star Duel Luke with the open shirt-flap we've mentioned a couple times already.  You also have then a possibility of Hasbro sculpting a new torso to include the vest from his time on Tatooine at the beginning of Jedi, or they can add softgoods vest like the last Tatooine version of Luke from that film.  I'd prefer the latter really, as I like the movement of the softgoods.  Likewise you could then just add the poncho, a belt, and a helmet, and you've got a new Endor Luke using the new sculpt.  Unfortunately his head is too large for Endor helmets, so that'll need addressed with a bigger bucket, or a smaller head.

The point boils down to this figure being versatile.  Hasbro made a really solid base to work with on future minor differences, and so that means any future figure should really be the definitive version of that minor costume difference...  we hope.  Some accessory changes, and a new torso or softgoods, and you've got 2 or 3 new Lukes you can whip up.

CONS

-Paint Aps/Decoration:  Here's one area where I was actually pretty disappointed with this Luke figure, and collectors should be too.  First, figures are anywhere from $7.99 to $10.99 at retail right now.  That's obscene, but Hasbro's still skimping on paint applications in the production process to save a buck.

What really stings though, is that this Luke has barely any complex paint applications at all.  He's the man in black.  He's really not colorful at all, so why would you cut anything back then?  Every little thing wrong is going to get nitpicked by me, and it should be. 

First on my sample, the hair got a darker wash of brown paint to tone down the light color (which I don't think is as accurate as a little darker hair color in the first place).  The wash wasn't controlled well though, and bled onto the figure's skin a number of areas, and it shows pretty obviously.  His eyes and eyebrows are painted nicely, and even, but the hair's wash bleeding everywhere detracts from that a good bit, so I was disappointed with that from the start.

Upon closer inspection then, I noticed how sloppy the one pop of color on the costume was then.  There really is only a couple small points of silver on the belt, like the buckle and the saber clip.  All of it is sloppy.  The silver of the buckle bled onto the pants, shirt, and belt, that surround it.  The clip for the saber looks horrible and bled a lot onto the pants.  Both buttons are painted much larger than the button's sculpt actually is, it appears.

The paint applications are simply a let-down on a pretty flawless sculpt.  A lot of my disappointment ties to the price though.  $7.99 or up shouldn't see these kinds of flaws.  I can see cutting back on some aps though, but not doing a sloppy job on the ones that you do add.  Not for $8 or more.

-Distribution:  I'll keep this short and sweet, but ultimately the Return of the Jedi wave of figures has had some of the coolest figures in 2010 in it, yet it's been distributed horribly.  We're into February now, and Jedi wave stopped shipping back in December for my area.  That means almost 2 months now of not one new figure on the pegs here locally, but that Wave 3 never came close to satiating demand.

That's simply poor distribution it seems, which can be attributed to retail being clogged with Revenge of the Sith Clone repacks nobody really cared to have, and retailers cutting back for the holidays ending at exactly the wrong time.  Hasbro may need to step in and remove some of the clutter before we see any of these great figures in any quantity though.  Hopefully they'll get to that soon because I'm 2 waves behind.

-Figure Design:  Here's something I just don't quite understand about Hasbro, and it's frustrating because as a customizer I see a lot of how figure's are designed from taking them apart.  I'm going to use this point to compare this Luke, to the Wave 1 Bespin Luke specifically.  They're designed completely different from one another, and I don't know if Hasbro would ever give a reasonable explanation why.  The Bespin figure seems vastly superior.

First, this Jedi Luke actually is the first time, in a LONG time now, that I have seen Hasbro make a figure where you can split the torso into two pieces.  He's made using the more rigid ABS plastic, and to get the torso apart you bascially have to crack it open.

In contrast, Bespin Luke is one solid poly-vinyl piece of plastic.  It pops apart easily at the torso joint, and onto the lower torso.  It's really quite neat, and seems like it would take far less labor to construct the figure.

Second though, the lower torso of Luke is also this 2-piece style, and that means at the waist joint, the movement isn't as fluid.  My Luke actually sort of catches and can be difficult to pose because of this design change from the Bespin figure, which I think is a big step backwards.

As noted, it's got to take more labor to construct the Jedi Luke figure than the Bespin Luke.  It also takes more molds, as the torso is now two halves instead of one piece.  Two molds = more money invested.  The two rigid torso parts (upper and lower) also make for a looser fit at the waist.  It's very strange, and Hasbro hasn't done figures like this in quite some time unless they have a ball/socket waist joint.  Even then, they're not always done this way.

I don't know if this is a materials cost issue, or what.  I'm disappointed Jedi Luke isn't designed EXACTLY like Bespin Luke though.  It's hard to understand why they changed it though.  They may have a good reason, or maybe not.  I'd hoped we'd seen this style go the way of the dinosaur though.  I guess not.

-Price: What's a good review without a good major gripe, and with this line (and lately, the line in general), the price is pretty out there. $7.99 is the base price for The Vintage Collection, however many retailers are a full dollar above that, or all the way to $10.99 at Toys R Us!  That's pretty disturbing and it's certainly made me cut back in how I collect. That's a good bit of money for a little bit of action figure, generally. The lack of large or extra accessories, and the easy comparison with figures right on the pegs beside any Vintage Collection figure really makes you question some purchases.

When compared to Legends and Clone Wars figures, which are all to be $6.99 (though we're now seeing them bump up another $1 at these retailers like Target), and then the fact that they come with their Galactic Battles card, stand, and dice, and that Legends figures feature a mix of extra weapons as well... well how can you not compare? They're all Star Wars figures obviously, so you really can't help but look and think that the Vintage Collection is at least $1 overpriced, though at this stage I say it's more like $2 overpriced.

Since prices jumped above $5.99 though, I've been pretty focused on doing my army building and custom fodder buying when there are sales. Sales don't always hit when you want them to though, so you're stuck shelling out quite a bit, or cutting back. Myself, I've largely cut back. Figures I'd have not thought twice about buying 2 of in the past, I now put one back. Army builders I'd have bought 20 of (I'm, sadly, serious about that) I now only buy a couple of, or wait for sales all together. It's a rough time out there to afford the hobby, so price factors into the review I'm afraid.

OVERALL

So another figure off the review shelf and onto the dusty mess of a display shelf I have going till I can get my permanent set up ready.  I'm glad I got this figure when I did, as I probaby got him at the nifty prices retailers were running up to Christmas, and wish I'd bought a 2nd.  Right now though, buying one isn't even an option in my area as the Return of the Jedi wave of figures are almsot all long gone.  Woof's around now and again, but even he's not that common.

This is a Luke a lot of people had hoped for, for years.  People just weren't happy with the figure we got last time around, and while it was pretty neat to me, and I will always harp on missing that chest piece being absent on this new one, it really fails compared to the new Jedi Luke.  Hasbro pretty much hit a home run here.  That said, he clearly has flaws, and if he comes out again anytime soon you'll be likely paying more for him than before.  That stings.  It doesn't matter how good a figure is, if it costs too much for the hobby to even be considered affordable.

I'd like to see updates to this figure's torso though, like mentioned in the review.  I think he has a good chance at being a fantastic base figure to knock out the little costume differences Jedi Luke has going on.  I just wonder if when the different variations come out (It's bound to happen), will figures cost $20 a piece?  We'll see.

Wrapping it up though, if you don't have this figure, I feel for you.  Like I said, I wish I'd had a chance even to get 1 or 2 more of him.  I'd love to update my Endor Luke at least, using this guy.  Hasbro did a good job on the figure, they just need to make the line more affordable I think, at this point, and get these figures out there to people too.  There's definite demand for many from this wave.[/list]

122
12" Figures / Sideshow 12" Clone Sergeant (AOTC)
« on: January 13, 2011, 07:44 PM »
Wow, kind of out of left field here but Sideshow made a pretty bitchin' looking 12" Clone Sergeant and have it up for pre-order, as per our front page story!



I love the extra hands.  Any sergeant should come with the hand-signal hands, and now it makes me wish the 12" Endor Rebel Sergeant had some extra appendages like that.  Very cool.

123
    Entertainment Earth Exclusive 2010 Comic Packs
    Jaster Mareel & Montross


    So I wasn't thrilled with the first set I reviewed.  Let's face it.  That was a weak effort on Hasbro's part, and there isn't a really credible way to sugarcoat that Fel figure no matter how many cool helmets you pack in with him.  But that doesn't mean the EE Comic Packs were bad!  Oh no, not by a longshot on that one.  They really put out some cool figures, one pack aside, and that leads me to the focus of my newest review.  This time I'm peeling back the layers on the Jaster Mareel & Montross packs, which are some fine choices in the action figure world.  

    But I hear it now...  "Who the hell are Jaster Mareel and Montross?"

    And you know what?  You're right...  Who the hell are these guys?  Who the hell are half the figures the comic pack line had?  That's probably its biggest problem, and its most likely reason for failure, ultimately.  To shorten their story though, Jaster Mareel is Jango Fett's mentor in a Mandalorian military organization, and Montross is a rival.  If you're a G.I. Joe fan, think along the lines of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow during their training days.  Montross off's Mareel, Jango vows revenge, and in another story Jango off's Montross.

    Montross and Mareel are Mandalorian soldiers though, and who can't happily buy more of those if they look cool?  Kids seem to like these kinds of characters too, so I do think these would've been eye-catchers on the pegs of the local store had they gotten this far.  As it stands, I'm glad that Entertainment Earth picked these up for us because I really didn't realize how much I wanted these two in my collection.  And kids would love them not just because they're random Mando's, but because they just look bad-ass!  Blasters galore, funky paintjobs, cloth capes, removable helmets, and articulation...  They're truly mean looking characters!   Let's break them down some, shall we?

    PROS

    -Sculpt:  Both characters share some old parts, with a health smattering of new ones.  This is, to me, the ideal way for Comic Pack figures to have come out.  You get something new without completely getting something new.  I don't know if this is what the Hasbro bean counters require to spread out the costs in a wave of comic packs, but to me these are just as good as brand new figures of the two characters.

    Mareel is Jango Fett's mentor, and rightfully so, he shares some of the Evolutions Jango Fett figure's parts.  Namely, the feet, shins, thighs, torso, arms...  Holy ****, he basically share everything except the belt.  But this makes sense, as Jango inherits some of Mareel's gear.  In the Gamecube (that's going back now) game "Bounty Hunter", Jango's cruising in Jaster's old ship, so it stands to reason he maybe takes some of his gear as his own.  It doesn't hurt either that Mandalorian armor looks so similar from one warrior to the next, so why not, right?

    The sculpt is crisp and sharp all around with raised armor pieces over a slightly fitted but still wrinkled body-glove.  There is a ton of detail in the armored forearm guards, and the hoses to them are a nice touch (and appear to hide up into the armor).  There is a nice smoothness to the armor, and in general this was a great sculpt when first released.  

    The new parts are the head and belt.  The headsculpt is that of an older man, lines on his face, maybe a slightly "tired" look.  It's appropriate, and seems accurate to the character's likenesses.  It's generic enough that it could be used on almost any figure though, and look decent.  It maybe could use some scarring or something to truly make him look like a soldier for hire, but as it stands I think it's accurate and looks nice.

    The belt is incredibly detailed with pouches, straps, buckles, wraps, and more!  It features 5 sculpted pouches for ammo and gear, all with a very deep look to them, like they could actually open up, and even have little buttons sculpted on like they'd snap closed.  The same can be said about all the belts, holsters, and straps, as they feature adjusting holes for buckles, a leathery look to the holsters, and seams sculpted on.  The belt's a separately sculpted piece, and really a nice effort by whoever made it, as it really sets the figure apart from Jango I think.

    Montross shares parts with Boba Fett, however he shares very few.  He only uses Fett's upper and lower torso pieces.  Everything else is brand new!  Fett's torso armor has some distinct dents and dings, but they aren't a problem at all to me.  I like that they used Boba's armor so that Montross was completely like the Jango torso they used on Mareel.

    Montross' headsculpt is that of a military-man, complete with flat-top haircut.  He's younger in his life at this point, so a lack of scarring seems appropriate.  He has a cool kind of stern/pissed off face sculpt as well, which is appropriate for a guy as scummy as he is.  But I liked that they made sure to sculpt his arms with short-sleeves instead of full sleeves.  It seems to be a signature of his outfit in various EU that he turns up in.  I remember it from the game and how distinct it looks.  Plus they also gave him some pretty big guns too.  Looks like Montross could whip some ass with his popeye forearms and biceps!  This dude's pretty big.

    Just likek Jaster, Montross' belt is incredibly detailed, and sculpted as though it wraps around his waist multiple times.  There are blue straps that hang down off the back of the belt for some reason, and look like they're wrapped in with all the other layers of belt at his waist.  There are more crisply sculpted pouches and buckles, notches, and holsters.  Another great detail is that Montross has thigh-straps sculpted to the holsters on his belt.  They fit over the figure's thighs and thus move the holsters with the articulation.  This is something I truly wish Hasbro would standardize at this point.  Unfortunately, Jaster Mareel does NOT have this feature, but that's not to say he necessarilly needs it.  I don't know if Jango wore them or not, but if he did, he should have them then, and I think Jaster would look cooler with the thigh-straps.

    Montross features some simpler forearm gauntlets.  His legs are 100% new from top to toes.  There are straps sculpted on that wind around both his legs, and he has knee guards and some thigh pads.  He has boots with sculpted treads and some armor on the top of the shoes.  I guess he has to wear them for the Star Wars equivalent of OSHA.  No bounty hunting without metatarsals.

    Overall, both figures feature some old parts, and some new parts.  One figure is almost completely re-used, and the other is almost completely new.  Both are very fine sculpts, sharp details, and pretty great likenesses to how they appear in various EU.  All Montross needs is some weathering, altered paint details, and white-ish hair and he's all set to be re-released as Montross when he is competing with Jango Fett in the "Bounty Hunter" game!  And I'd buy him just for that reason.

    I have to say, I was really quite shocked at how nicely and accurate both these figure's sculpts are.  Tip of the hat to Hasbro on that one.

    -Articulation:  I'd generally rank articulation a little lower in the review, but I wanted to just kind of move it out of the way now because it goes without saying really that the articulation is great on both figures.  But I'll say anyway that it's basically "super articulation" as we've come to know it.  Hasbro didn't add anything, but they didn't take anything away either, and got it just right to me.

    Jaster Mareel features articulation at:

    • 2 Ball/Socket Shoulder Joints
    • 2 Ball/Socket Elbow Joints
    • 2 Cut Wrist Joints (Above the Forearm Guards)
    • 1 Ball/Socket Neck Joint
    • 1 Ball/Socket Torso Joint
    • 2 Cut Hip Joints
    • 2 Ball/Socket Knee Joints
    • 2 Ball/Socket Ankle Joints

    For a total of 14 points of articulation.  

    The gauntlets of the Jango Fett figure's arms have faced a little criticism, however I think they work well enough.  The only addition I'd make that would help a lot is giving Jaster (or Jango) wrist articulation also below the gauntlets.  Ideally, Hasbro could even give him ball-joints at the wrists like they're doing now with some figures.  It would help him hold more weapons properly (his hands are sculpted pretty specifically for his pistols right now).

    Montross features articulation at:

    • 2 Ball/Socket Should Joints
    • 2 Ball/Socket Elbow Joints
    • 2 Cut Wrist Joints
    • 2 Cut Hip Joints
    • 2 Ball/Socket Knee Joints
    • 2 Ball/Socket Ankle Joints
    • 1 Ball/Socket Neck Joint
    • 1 Ball/Socket Torso Joint

    For a total of 14 points of articulation.

    Like I said, basically super articulation as we've come to know it, on both figures.  Montross is a hair more poseable due to the different forearm articulation design.  Mareel re-using Jango's parts, and the way Hasbro did those on the Evolutions Jango, does seem a little limiting in poseability.  Montross has basically no problems though.  And both figures sit, run, kneel, shoot, and just stand around fine.  Posing them fighting has been cool on my desk here while I write this.  They look like bad-asses, and they have the articulation to make them fun to pose like bad-asses.  ;D  The articulation is quite sufficient though, on both.

    -Paint Aps/Decoration:  Both figures sport some pretty impressive deco applications at this point.  However, Hasbro still is cutting paint aps as well.  I'm going to focus on the positives at this point though, and I'll just list what's cut later because it's unfortunate.

    Both figures feature some pretty ornate decoes on their costumes first.  Jaster Mareel has a neat yellow diamond on his chest plate, some yellow and black bantha skull logos on his shoulders along with red shoulder armor pads, and the rest of the armor is painted a gunmetal type of color.  His costume is a dull grey-green jumpsuit, nothing flashy really, but appropriate.  The gauntlets got little paint detail added, but the hoses for the flamethrower and other sneaky weapons did get painted black.

    Montross has red triangles on his shoulders and his chest armor, and his armor is mostly a gunmetal color as well, except for blue shoulder pads.  His jumpsuit is a more dull blue color, and his straps around his legs and arms got black paint aps.  His flesh tone of his arms matches his face, which is nice because it doesn't always turn out that way!  Hasbro also dabbed some silver on his holster buckles and belt buckles.  This was something Mareel didn't get.

    Both characters have good face/hair paint applications as well.  Both my characters have perfectly centered eyes, no straying of any of the colors, and no crossed-eye-syndrome.  Jaster's eyes appear more complex, using the 3-layer-technique (white, iris, pupil), while Montross' eyes are more squinty in their sculpt and seem like they're just a simpler paintjob by default then.  Mareel's hair is jet black, which his age implies to me he should have some grey.  Montross has a light wash into his flattop sculpt that gives the impression he's greying a little bit.  I thought both characters have pretty expressive face sculpts, without looking too specific, and Hasbro did a nice job painting them just right.  The skin tones are even perfect to me.

    Like I said, some things were cut.  Mostly on Mareel's deco, but both suffered a lack of "wear".  Otherwise I think they're pretty great.  I like how they display, and with all the other Mando's (like the Clone Training Mandalorians from Entertainment Earth) they really look cool.

    -Accessories:  Both of these guys come armed to the hilt!  They're here to kick chew bubblegum and kick ass... and guess what?  They're both out of bubblegum (god, I love that line).  I'm really shocked, actually, at how many weapons and accessories both guys came with.  They each come with 3 weapons, backpacks, capes, and helmets!  That's a ton of stuff for a Star Wars figure, especially in the comic packs, which seemed to screw you on accessories sometimes, or something usually got left out.  Not these two though.

    Montross sports a blue cloth cape, jetpack, blaster rifle, two blaster pistols, and Mandalorian helmet.  

    The jetpack is just Boba Fett's pack redecorated...  sort of.  It's actually a NEW sculpt.  It's heavily based on Boba's pack, but it's not as smooth, and tiny details got changed on it.  It really isn't the same sculpt though.  The biggest difference though, is that it has a longer peg to compensate for fitting through the figure's cloth cape, and it's gunmetal decoed with blue highlights to make it Montross' pack.  I'm not sure how accurate this pack is to all the character's EU images, but it works for me.

    Montross has a blue cloth cape, which is pretty cool and fairly simple.  It has a little stitching for strengh at the neck, and a hole so the jetpack fits through at the back.  It's neat.  And he sports a re-use of a Boba helmet, complete with dent.  If it were me, I'd have used another Jango helmet without the dent, but it's probably easier to just use the Fett helmet with the Fett body I guess.  The helmet doesn't feature a moving range-finder, as they don't seem to do those anymore, and that should change in my opinion.  It does sport a pretty ornate deco though, with blue and black markings, as well as a yellow emblem on the right front above the visor.  Also nice is tht the visor is glossy black, and the other black details are dull and muted.  It's a pretty cool look.

    The hardware this guy carries into battle is great.  Montross got three blasters, which are new sculpts.  There are two identical pistols which Hasbro saw fit to give ornate decorations to both!  They have tan handles, as well as copper, brown, and gunmetal paint details.  That's a ton of paint for just a couple of accessories, and I'm shocked they did this much for just the guy's pistols.  He also comes with a blaster rifle which is a gunmetal grey color with a couple copper paint details, most notably on the end of the stock.

    One guy, and that's already a ton of gear.

    Jaster Mareel features similar stuff, though less ornate with the paint aps.

    He comes with the Evolutions Jango jetpack, which is unaltered except it's a lighter color than Jango's, with red highlights to make it Mareel's.  It matches Jaster's helmet nicely which is the same basic deco except with a glossy black visor like Montross has.  Like Montross, there is a cape, but it's a dark red since Mareel seems to like red a lot.  It has a black strap sewn to it, and a hole in the back for Jaster's jetpack to fit through as well.  It's a cool look, and works for both figures with the big flowing capes and the packs sort of holding it all together.

    Mareel comes with three blasters also, and they're also a couple of new sculpts.  He features two identical pistols like Montross, but they're a different sculpt and much smaller.  They're lacking any deco, and are simply a simple gunmetal grey color that they're cast in.  That's fine too because there isn't much you could do except some silver highlights or something.  To me, I'm cool with them as they are.  He also comes with a rifle which is a little hard for him to hold like he's aiming it.  It's  really cool sculpt though.

    The rifle's stock is a clearly wood-grain sculpting, and even features the Bantha Skull from Boba Fett's armor emblazoned on it!  It's a neat little tribute and looks really cool sculpted into the rifle's stock.  There is a lot of detail in the rifle overall and it sort of reminds you of Boba's from the classic movies.  It doesn't have a pistol-grip though, and is more like a traditional hunting rifle.  That's what makes it difficult for Jaster to be posed "aiming" the rifle, but shooting from the hip looks pretty cool.  It has little deco, like the pistols, which it actually could use some brown on the stock.  However they did paint the sculpted sling black, and a bayonette-type blade on the end got a silver deco, so that is cool.

    That's 6 accessories per figure.  That's a lot.  And at least half of those are new sculpts, and they're pretty great looking on top of that.  I would REALLY like to see these come back.  Otherwise, they're all great geat and I wish I had extras of all these weapons.

    CONS

    -Non-Moving Range-Finders:  I'm just going to get this out of the way quickly, but basically it's the only gripe I can possibly make about the accessories I think.  Hasbro did the moving range-finders on Mando helmets and ARC Trooper helmets for a while, but suddenly gave it up.  I'd really rather see them bring this back though, as I really thought it was a cool feature on the figures that had it.

    It's possible that they don't want a part that small on a removable helmet, but it wouldn't be the smallest part they ever made, and it could be made pretty secure to the helmets I think.  It's a cool feature, and EU fans surely would dig it for Jango at the very least.  Plus I believe Boba Fett's range-finder is down in Empire Strikes Back briefly.  It's something I'd like to see make a comeback.

    -Cut Paint Aps/Decoration:  I hate to even make a gripe because both figures are incredibly colorful, and both actually do feature a good number of paint applications.  It's just that some were cut that probably would've made sense.

    For instance, neither figure have any kind of wash or wear.  For "soldiers for hire" type guys like Mandalorians, you'd think there'd be at least a little dirt or wear to the outfits.  They're so clean it's like they're ready to parade before the Grand Poobah of Mandalorian's to show what good soldiers they are.  I think a wash wouldn't have hurt as it's something they could've done very lightly, one color, and it would've looked good.  As it stands though, looking really clean has its own coolness I guess.

    Jaster Mareel really is the character that got shafted on deco cuts though.  Especially his belt/holsters, where there is a ton of detail sculpted on that they just didn't highlight at all.  There are no buckles painted silver at all, and that sucks.  Every pouch has a button sculpted on it like it snaps shut, and not one of them got painted.  That's the little details some artist put in that really needed a paint ap to bring them out, and bring it to the collector's eyes what a great job was done to that new belt piece.

    Also both Montross and Jaster have sculpted-on treads at the bottom of their feet, but neither got a paint deco.  Even just black would look cool and make that little detail on both figures stand out.

    Ultimately it's picking nits because these figures both have a lot of deco already.  A little more could've gone a long way.

    -Availability:  It's hard to say this isn't a negative, in my view.  I'd probably have bought three of these sets by now if I could find them in stores.  As it stands, they're online exclusives, and as such they will cost you more than if you got them at the local store.  Entertainment Earth really deserves a lot of credit for getting these to market at all though, and if I don't find anyone with an extra set they don't want, then ultimately I'll be going back to EE to pick up an extra of these.

    Still, it's the kind of set that would've been great to see on the pegs at your local toy aisle.

    OVERALL

    Wow, long review...  I'm winded, or carpel tunneled, or whatever.

    What can I say about Jaster Mareel & Montross that I haven't already blabbed on about?  These two are great, and now that my review's done of them, I can't wait to put them up on my Mandalorian/Clone shelf.  They will blend in nicely there, however I have to say that these characters, and more particularly Montross, actually meant something to me.  I'm scratching my head most of the time with EU figures, and have to research them, but I knew Montross and was so glad he was getting a cool figure.

    The Bounty Hunter game on Gamecube really was a great gaming experience for me, and the story was outstanding.  If you've not played it, you should find a way to do so.  It gives so much insight into Jango's past leading up to Attack of the Clones, and makes you feel bad for him as a character because he's not really a "bad guy".  He doesn't like Jedi, but it seems like he's hardly alone in that mode of thinking.

    And his hatred of Montross is throughout the game till near its end!  I'm now intent on reading more of the Jango backstory as well, as I want to learn more about Jaster Mareel's character.

    Both figures turned out great though.  They're that ideal balance Hasbro sometimes finds.  New parts, old parts, but figures that seem completely new!  Great accessories, above-average decoes overall, very few flaws...  Hasbro hit a homerun with this set.  Not to mention that this would've had kids buying.  I cannot imagine a red and blue version of (basically) a Fett wouldn't appeal to random consumers and kids.  

    And here's a fun tip for you...  Both heads seemingly fit the Hoth Rebel Trooper for some troop diversity (as do any heads on the Boba or Jango bodies, like Jodo Kast).  A cool little extra I guess.  If it fits that body, it fits a number of other army builders as well like the Rebel Technician, and some of the Pilot figures and such.

    So the concensus?  If you don't buy another set of the exclusive Entertainment Earth comic packs, buy this one.  It's hands-down my favorite of the 4 they put out to, at least for now, wrap up this line.

    (Since these reviews are so long, I'm going to bow away from comic packs for now unless someone writes me asking to review one for some reason.  I'm going to try sticking with basic figures for brevity for a while, haha!)[/list]

    124
    This occurred to me in another thread...

    The Death Squad Commander, a "Death Star Trooper" but sporting the grey uniform, has two looks depending on how you want the figure made.

    The figure's based on production images of the trooper working the consoles behind Tarkin/Vader as they blow Alderaan apart.  He's rocking the typical Death Star Trooper tunic, but no ranks or anything.

    The actual vintage Death Squad Commander figure has all those details but sports a painted-on rank badge for one reason or another. 

    Which would you want then?  A complete vintage update that sports a red/blue rank badge?  Or would you want one that's film-accurate without a rank badge at all?

    Does film-accuracy trump vintage toy reproductions?  Does this fall into the same category as Hammerhead's sweet blue unitard?  Or would the little rank badge homage be appreciated more?

    125
    Seems like more of these are coming...  Sandtroopers.com snagged new images of 3 new sets.  Check out our front page story to get a direct link to them.



    Two SW sets, one ESB set...  Only the ESB set is particularly interesting.  HOw fast is that one going to blow out the door?  :D  I doubt I even make a huge effort to try getting it because it's the "scalper's dream" for the assortment obviously.  Pretty straight forward repacks it seems with no alterations, which is AOK by me.

    126
    Well of the Souls / Hot Toys Indiana Jones License
    « on: December 27, 2010, 08:30 PM »
    Soooo...  Hot Toys has a 12" figure license now, and the first (Indy) 1/6 figure was revealed over the weekend (Friday).  He comes with a big base for the golden fertility idol, desert robes, staff of ra, 2 pistols (Webley and .45), etc., etc.

    What's your thoughts on this line's development?  The price is going to be high I think...  It has to be.  Hot Toys is always an expensive brand, especially with their 1/6 stuff.

    I will say though, I left this thread open-ended and not tied to a single scale...  Hot Toys develope more than just 1/6, though their smaller stuff is slow going.  I keep having this tiny glimmer of hope we get Snap Kits though.  Their Snap Kits are much more reasonable priced by the case, even imported, and they're OUTSTANDING!  Anyone who has ever bought one knows the greatness of them.  Their last licensed sets were their finest work, from the film Aliens.  They command a decent penny as well now.  I got a case and it's a decision I only regret because I didn't buy a 2nd case to go with it.

    Indiana Jones Snap Kit figures?  I'd poop my pants with both glee and surprise.

    Their Snap Kits weren't distributed to the U.S., you had to buy through someone willing to ship here, so they may actually be able to dance around the legal web for 3.75" figures that way, if they just simply don't distribute anywhere but Asia.  I'd pay the premium for that I think because I can only fathom the quality would be worth the price.

    127
    12" Figures / Hot Toys 1/6 Scaled Indiana Jones & Star Wars Lines
    « on: December 17, 2010, 04:31 AM »
    Your wallet just pooped itself, and your credit cards have been connected to heavy-duty radiators usually used only on the heaviest of equipment.

    Are you in?

    Hot Toys is anything but cheap, but to the 1/6 collector, they're generally worth it.  The sculpts are usually astounding in their detail and realism.  Their accessory counts are usually only rivaled by the ultimate military action figure companies like Dragon's highest-end military figures.

    They're the kind of company that will pack-in gear a character was never even seen with, but which some obscure EU source said he always carried some in his pockets.  Like Han having a pack of cigarettes or something.

    I have resisted Sideshow figures, so I can't foresee me delving into Hot Toys, which will cost more.  It's inevitable.  However, I would be lying if I said I wasn't sorely tempted with a lot of Sideshow's stuff because of the quality of it, and so Hot Toys is going to kill me inside to pass on the truly iconic stuff...  the price is just not justifiable to me, generally, but I know the temptation will be intense on some stuff.  A Hot Toys Vader?  A Hot Toys Anakin/Obi-Wan from ROTS?  Egads.

    128
    Toy Reviews / New JD Review: TVC Wave 3 - Wicket W. Warrick
    « on: December 17, 2010, 03:49 AM »
    The Vintage Collection
    Wave 3 (Return of the Jedi)
    Wicket W. Warrick


    The next review I wanted to focus on a character I liked, but who was also not easy to find for me, at least as far as this wave stands now in the middle of December.  It's still fairly new, so certain figures are going to be tough finds like the Gammorean Guard or Endor Rebel, but this one surprised me that it's still a tougher item to get. 

    So for my next review, I'm taking a detailed look at the latest Ewok upgrade with Wicket, possibly the most important Ewok figure in the line, and which hasn't seen a new figure since the 1990's.  It's really kind of shocking that Wicket hasn't seen any upgrades for so long though, given that he was quite the marketing image from the 1980s, and had two films that kind of focused on him, as well as a cartoon series.  Sure, it's not 1983 anymore and Ewoks were the placeholders of Jar-Jar levels of hatred for many years, but it still is surprising Hasbro had a pretty weak sculpt of this character out for a long time without any upgrades.

    But now here we are, it's 2010, and Hasbro's looking back at a lot of their efforts from the early part of the modern line, and we're getting substantially improved figures.  Wicket shows all the love and attention that a full-sized figure gets these days as well, however he faces the uphill climb of being one of the tiniest figures in the line, and packaged in a card/bubble style that doesn't lend itself to doing 2-packs very well.  Can Hasbro make up the tiny stature of a figure for a full-sized price?  It's a balancing act Pawtucket bean counters know all-too-well, and they took an interesting direction to add value.  Read on, won't you?

    PROS

    -Sculpt:  This was a figure that I immediately went to my Endor shelf to scarf the POTF2 figure, and compare with the new sculpt.  If you think there aren't lightyears of difference between figures then and now, you're not paying attention!  First, the sharpness of almost every detail, from the eyes and mouth, to the shape of the ears, to the fur, is completely different.  It really is like looking at a bootleg, when you compare old with new. 

    Wicket's body is sculpted to give the fur a bit more depth than his predecessor, and it's a shorter more curly looking fur as well, which seems to match the costume a bit better than the POTF2 figure, who has a longer fur look to it.  The hands and feet both have some nice detailing on the digits as well, with unfurry fingertips and toes that each sport a sculpted fingernail or toenail.  Turn Wicket up on his head, and you'll see his bottom's of his feet have the same unfurry "pad" look to them as his fingers and toes, like  the little pads on the bottom of a cat's foot.

    OK, take a trip with me into the weird and creepy for a moment as well...  come on, stick with me on this.

    Wicket has a butt crack.  Weird?  Yes.  Weirder that I noticed this?  Absolutely.  An Improvement?  Compared to the POTF2 figure's lack of one, I think it shows a greater attention to detail and realism, I guess.   The POTF2 figure completely lacks this... oddity.  It's some strange level of anatomical correctness I guess.  If you're a Wookiee, I guess you've got longer fur to cover your pooper.  But for Ewoks, and their shorter/curly fur, Hasbro had less options and decided to make the character have a little bit of evidence of a butt.

    Anyway, from one end to the next, Hasbro really put the most detail into Wicket's face sculpt, which is quite detailed and full of his fierce, yet somehow cute, personality.

    First up, he's got a toothy smile, showing his 2 little bucky chompters jutting out from his slightly opened mouth.  It's not much, and Wicket's mouth on the costume didn't seem to be able to open a lot anyway.  It's just right to give him personality without completely closing the mouth, nor opening it too wide to look odd.  It also was cool of the sculptor to give the puffier cheeks to the figure, compared to the broad and flatter face sculpt of the previous figure.  Add in then the nicely recessed eyes under a furrowed brow, and there's just a lot of "life" sculpted into the face.  The POTF2 figure looks just like a smiling face, but the new Wicket could be scowling, concentrating, smiling...  There is a lot of different looks in this one sculpt.

    Overall though, night and day.  This is just a vastly superior sculpt, and it's the kind of figure that proves that Hasbro can go back to countless figures they've already done, and make vast improvements people will be glad to buy.  All 6 films have figures in need of resculpting, so this line has a lot of years in it yet.

    -Accessories:  Hasbro painted themselves into something of a corner with the new packaging.  2007 maybe spoiled collectors a little bit too, as that line dolled out some of the greatest accessories packed in with basic figures that the line had ever seen.  2008/2009 didn't help with Build-A-Droid figures helping each wave give you an extra figure or two if you bought them all.  The new cardbacks are great looking though, but the bubbles and staying true to the vintage look means that you cannot really pull a "2-pack" of figures off without compromising the card, and the bubbles are much smaller than the past several years.  That means a diminutive fellow like Wicket is $7.99 for what ammounts to a figure half the size of any average figure.  Where do you make that up then to consumers?

    Well Hasbro went the rout of packing in somewhat obscure accessories that no previous Wicket ever came with, and at the same time giving you a completely unique way to display the little furball!  Of course, this tricks many of us into buying a 2nd figure to display with the extra gear, but it's the kind of trick most of us are pretty happy to pay for.

    Wicket comes packed with:
    • Movie Style Hood
    • Spear
    • Sachel
    • Ewoks Cartoon Style Hood

    That's a lot of gear for one little furball, and I'm sure it's making a number of collectors ecstatic that they can now do a realistic styled "Ewoks The Cartoon" Wicket figure.  Does this mean Hasbro opened the door for other Ewoks Cartoon figures?  If they're realistic sculpts, I'm for it.  We got Droids Boba Fett afterall, right?

    The gear is all pretty great too, which is the really cool part.  The extra hood is very nicely decorated and colorful.  It's a large cape/hood, forrest green in color, with a black wash that highlights all the cool stitching sculpted into the hood.  Check around the ears, as I thought that was a particularly nice detail that they put the stitching sculpt into.  It also features a leather belt that must wrap around underneath it, with some kind of little bone button thing sculpted onto it and painted light tan and white.  At least I assume it's bone. 

    Wicket's spear is sculpted to look like a simple wood shaft with a stone head tied on the end.  It's a great sculpt though that makes the shaft look uneven and very "wooden".  Unfortunately the plastic it's molded in is the color they kept, and it's oddly shiney.  However the stone head is decoed nice and light grey, and the binding wrapped around it is a light tan.  It's a lot of deco on the weapon, and pretty cool.

    Wicket's sachel is another great sculpt for a tiny accessory, but lacks paint aps at all.  It's sort of a shame because there's even more stitching and a little clasp for the flap to keep it shut.  It's sculpted to fit snugly over the figure's torso, and you actually have to remove the head to get the sachel onto him.  I believe the sachel only should go with the Ewoks Cartoon hood though, and doesn't really fit well with the cartoon hood on.  It really only fits really well with the movie hood, but that's ok to me.

    Wicket's film hood is then his final accessory, and again it's filled with detail.  What I really liked here though, is that Hasbro cast the hood in the same forrest green plastic they cast the cartoon hood.  They then painted a leathery-brown deco over the green, but it's not super thick so just the slightest, tiniest hint of the forrest green shines through.  Go get your Wicket figure, and check this detail out.  It's barely noticeable, and incredibly under-appreciated.  Hasbro also saw to painting some dark brown stitching on the front of the hood, something you can see in the films on the costume, and that's a cool little detail they made sure to catch.

    By the way, both hoods are sculpted incredibly tight to the figure's head.  It's a little difficult getting the green hood on/off the headsculpt, as both are sculpted to rest in the head's fur detailing snugly so it's as close a fit as is possible.  It makes interchanging the hoods complex, but if you're buying 2 figures or don't swap hoods much, then it's no problem really at all.  Love these accessories because they're fantastic pieces made with lots of attention to detail.

    -Accurate Scale:  This is the first time that a truly diminutive Wicket has been done, and that's a glorious thing unto itself.  This is somewhat an extension of gushing over the sculpt, but I sort of consider proper scaling a separate positive because scale is such an important aspect to an action figure line to me.  Wicket was like so many other figures in that he's look absurd on the shelf for a long time.

    For instance, POTF2 Wicket next to any Leia?  You're laughing at it.  Leia is, herself, quite small.  Carrie Fisher was just a petite woman, and yet she was picking Wicket up off a log with ease, and he was tiny next to her.  POTF2 Wicket is almost as big as the current Endor Leia figure!  It's comical looking, and so getting a finally accurate height/dimension version of Wicket is great.

    Compare your new Wicket to other current Ewok sculpts though, and you'll see that he's a good deal smaller than any of them.  I have him next to several of the new sculpts, and it's great seeing him look tiny compared to even these new, smaller sculpted Ewok characters.  This is the same way I felt when hasbro made their first tall Chewbacca figure with the Power of the Jedi line.  They got this one right, and now Leia can stand with Wicket on my shelf and not have me cringe at the comparison of the two.

    -Articulation:  Articulating Ewoks isn't totally easy, but the Hasbro designers manage to squeeze a fair ammount of poseability into characters so tiny, and still hide it.  With Wicket, they cut back in one aspect of articulation, but moved forward in another aspect, making a character as poseable as his tiny frame is probably able to be, and making these little bears able to fight with the best of the Empire!

    Wicket features articulation at:

    • 2 Ball/Socket Shoulder Joints
    • 2 Cut Wrist Joints
    • 2 Ball/Socket Hip Joints
    • 2 Ball/Socket Ankle Joints
    • 1 Ball/Socket Neck Joint

    For a total of 9 points of articulation on a figure who stands just a hair over 2 inches tall!  That's some serious poseability, and it also marks the first time Hasbro added ball/socket hip joints to an Ewok.  This is an articulation point we're seeing more and more from Hasbro in the Star Wars line.  So far most are insert-molded, however Hasbro's also used traditional "ball/socket" joints where simply tension holds a ball joint into the socket (such as on the current Battledroid sculpt).  It's something I hope more figures get in the modern line because it's hidden and adds a good deal of range of motion to a figure's poseability.

    Wicket did regress in one articulation point though, compared to other modern Ewoks.  Others feature a cut waist joint, and unfortunately Hasbro saw fit to remove this point on the little guy, but it's not impacting the figure's ability to be posed in a myriad of positions.  One of my favorites is him holding Leia's hand, leading her away from danger on Endor, however I've had him throwing his spear, sitting down, running, and even crawling up on some prey.  He's a really cool little figure to play with, so enjoy your Ewoks responsibly.

    -Eye Paint:  I'm not overall completely happy with Hasbro's paintjob on the figure, it's where they cut back a lot, but they did do something pretty cool worth mentioning here on the eye's paintjob.  Hasbro got the simple glossy black of the recessed eyes down perfectly, but what I liked that they did was added little white dots to each eye, for the glint of light off Wicket's eyeballs.

    It's a little detail, but a cool one.  When you're watching Return of the Jedi again, take note of Wicket's eyes and the glint.  They almost seem like pupils of his eyes, but they're the light glare (Greedo has a similar thing going on), and Hasbro made sure to add that glint to them.  You have to appreciate that even if the rest of the paintjob is lacking.

    -Packaging: How can you not love this line's packaging? Even as a non-carded collector, I'm tempted to buy figures and leave them packaged. I've always opened and pitched, it's been how I've done things since some years ago I realized carded collecting was a virtually futile effort, reinforced by Hasbro's love of repacking virtually everything they ever make. The Vintage Collection gets even the most stalwart opener to take a second thought about opening that toy though.

    So far I've not kept anything carded except a Rocket Firing Fett, but I am on an effort to save the cardbacks of every figure I buy. It's a work in progress to try and preserve them, but I'm trying. At least they're flat and don't take up a lot of room.

    Still though, there's something about the Vintage packaging that was really special. It's colorful, it's bold, it's uniformed, it's diverse, it's iconic, and it's expanding with this line to encompass the prequals. There is a lot to love and Hasbro knows it.

    The obvious drawback is the space on the blister to add extra gear. We were given so many great characters wth great gear for the last 5 years. Changing to a small coffin-style blister meant less cool pack-ins. Hasbro has kept up somehow and given us decent gear with some figures, but others are getting the shaft and it becomes somewhat noticeable. Other figures seem like they've come with quite a bit though.

    They have to get high marks all around for what they're doing with this line's packaging designs though.

    CONS

    -Paint Aps/Decoration:  Unfortunately, while the eyes are neat, the rest is pretty simplistic, or completely lacking, or pretty sloppy.  Let me break each of those down though, respectively.

    First, the figure's largest paint application is the blonde-ish highlighting of the fur sculpt on the body and face.  The paint is blotched onto the body's front belly ok, but on the face it sort of goes everywhere and seems sloppy.  It also has a glossier look compared to the belly's color.  It's nothing flashy, and on the face it's more of a wash than anything.  It's not the worst though, or why this category is a negative, but it's not great either.

    Second though, although the figure has fine detail sculpted into the fingers and toes so that he actually has fingernails and toenails, Hasbro completely neglected adding any paint aps to them.  It's a small paint detail if it's added, but it would highlight the sculpt significantly because some effort was put into adding those details by the artist who did this figure.  Paint aps are getting cut, it's a fact of life with the line, but you hate to see it when it happens is the point.

    Third, my figure's paint ranges from good in a lot of spots, to sloppy in others.  Some of the washes strayed, but some of the details like the lips, eyes, teeth, and even the insides of the ears are nicely applied.  The wash just got a little sloppy, and really since Hasbro doesn't do them often, I appreciated seeing 2 distinct washes/highlights being done to this figure.  It's just when it strays or gets sloppy, and it gets onto some of the finer paint details like the mouth, that it becomes a little disappointing.

    I'd say the paint applications are disappointing, but only slightly.  If I had a category for in between Pro or Con, I probably would've put this into there instead.  I'm not bothered enough by any of this to let it ruin the figure for me.

    -Price: What's a good review without a good major gripe, and with this line (and lately, the line in general), the price is pretty out there. $7.99 is the base price for The Vintage Collection. That's a good bit of money for a little bit of action figure, generally. The lack of accessories, and the easy comparison with figures right on the pegs beside any Vintage Collection figure really makes you question some purchases.

    When compared to Legends and Clone Wars figures, which are all to be $6.99, and then the fact that they come with their Galactic Battles card, stand, and dice, and that Legends figures feature a mix of extra weapons as well... well how can you not compare? They're all Star Wars figures obviously, so you really can't help but look and think that the Vintage Collection is at least $1 overpriced.

    Since prices jumped above $5.99 though, I've been pretty focused on doing my army building and custom fodder buying when there are sales. Sales don't always hit when you want them to though, so you're stuck shelling out quite a bit or cutting back. Myself, I've largely cut back. Figures I'd have not thought twice about buying 2 of in the past, I now put one back. Army builders I'd have bought 20 of (I'm, sadly, serious about that) I now only buy a couple of, or wait for sales all together. It's a rough time out there to afford the hobby, so price factors into the review I'm afraid.

    OVERALL

    So where can I put Wicket?  Well, clearly I'm pretty pleased with him.  The paint aps were a very minor gripe to me, but it just detracted from the finer details enough for it to catch my eye, so I was annoyed.  Honestly, Wicket's hood covers up most of the paint blotches on my sample even, so I'm even less distracted by them once he's all put together.

    I, like probably many, picked a second Wicket up to put the Ewoks Cartoon hood onto him.  He's tiny enough that he doesn't look too different on my shelf, so I can't really consider him a completely unique Ewok with the other hood on.  I prefer the Movie hood then, and will just have the cartoon one standing next to him as a comparison.  My extra cartoon hood I am hoping I can fit onto another Ewok I have laying around.  I love army building Ewoks so extra hoods are always nice.  I haven't tried it yet, but I imagine it works.

    By the way, here's your "Tip of the Day" from me!

    Did you buy Indiana Jones figures?  Did you get the Ugha Warrior?  If you did, A) you have two great Ewok weapons, but B) you have a great Wicket-specific weapon.  Take the Ugha's bolo/sling weapon and, at least to me, it looks really awesome in Wicket's hands over his head for the classic scene where he slaps himself in the face trying to use the sling weapon.  Sling...  Bolo...  It's all the same to me.  And the Ugha's axe makes a neat stone axe weapon for a random Ewok you have who doesn't have a "can opener" handy for using on Stormtroopers.

    Anyway though, I love Wicket's new action figure.  He's rocking tons of poseability with his articulation count, he's got a fantastic sculpt, he has great accessories, and he has an adequate paintjob with some neat extra tiny detailing.  You'll feel better owning two of this figure rather than one, though the price may be the biggest hurdle for anyone to really get over.  $8 is a tough pill to swallow when paying for a figure who is about the actual size of some pills I've had to take, haha.

    If you can get over the cash hurdle though, or simply find them cheaper (which I did, so I'm guessing many others did as well), you're good to go on picking up two of these fantastic, and long overdue resculpts. 

    Hasbro, resculpt EVERYTHING from Power of the Force 2.  Figures like this prove you've got a deep well of figures that need redone, and that you can really blow away those old figures at this point.  Seriously, that old Wicket looks like a knock-off by comparison, it's that bad.  The old figures only make me appreciate the quality of the new ones even more.

    By the way, as of me writing this, Wicket is still not common anywhere I shop.  Hopefully this wave will be out in more abundance soon.  Figures like this shouldn't be difficult to find because everyone deserves awesomeness like this little guy.[/list]

    129
    The Vintage Collection
    Wave 3 (Return of the Jedi)
    Klaatu (Jabba's Palace) "Woof"


    The latest Vintage Collection wave of figures is simply outstanding.  It's the kind of thing that makes tears well up in a collector's eyes at its grandeur, and at the same time also shed a tear or two over the end of "themed waves" from Hasbro starting the wave after next.  Hasbro said, "Hmmm, what do fans want from Return of the Jedi?", and some guy replied, "Everything!  So let's see if we can squeeze it all into one wave!", and it seems like they actually tried to.

    Today's latest review (yeah, I'm trying to be regular again.  I took action figure critiquing fiber I guess) is from one of Jabba's goons from the Return of the Jedi wave by the name of "Woof", or "Klaatu (Jabba's Palace)" for you old school guys, and it's pretty interesting.  There is a lot to love here, and not a lot to hate, and Hasbro's also knocking out one of the background schlubs from the Palace that has yet to get a modern figure.  I remember picking this guy up in 1984 or 85 at Gold Circle (were these anywhere but Pittsburgh even?) near Pittsburgh, simply for his furry skirt.  

    He was a figure I loved back then, for no good reason I can point out really, and so I had some hopes set for what Hasbro would deliver in 2010.  Hopes like that can ruin your impression of a second effort though.  Read on, won't you?

    PROS

    -Sculpt:  I like to think that I know costumes of OT characters fairly well.  I always thought that I knew the little details well, and that Hasbro couldn't really surprise me much with any character.  I find that I'm wrong in that assumption though.  With every figure they dish out these days, I'm seemingly always surprised that I never noticed some small detail on a costume that Hasbro's now catching.

    That seems to apply to Woof here.  For instance, he seems to be wearing the body armor thing that Bib Fortuna had, or something similar, and it's just hidden by his vest pretty much.  And  his holster wasn't something I'd noticed before either, or his leather wrist guard on his right hand.  Little details are really caught by Hasbro these days, and it's making for amazing sculpts like this.

    One of my favorite aspects of the character's outfit are his pants though.  They're really sculpted intricately with lots of folding, and look like worms more than pants.  Hasbro gave his shoots a little effort too, more than just simply smooth feet that are largely hidden.  Instead they sculpted some leather flaps and straps, and soles on the bottom.  His leather belt belt has some texturing to it too, which reminds me so much of the faux leather bit that was on the actual vintage figure's cloth skirt, and was a nice touch by Hasbro.  However if you really like the tiny details, look on the flap of his belt that extends out from under his holster where it seemingly buckles?  Hasbro added tiny holes like the belt can be let out some, just incase Woof bulks up I guess.  That's a nice attention to detail.

    The rest of the costume features the routine buckles, straps, texturing, and tons of wrinkles as well.  It's really great, and shows how apparantly non-fitting Woof's outfit was.  He has a very "pirate" look to him, and still remains one of my favorite Jabba goons for some reason.  He's probably boring to most, but I love what Hasbro did, and I'm sure you will too, even if he's not your favorite character.

    The skin of the character is where the sculpt shines though.  The head is new, though it's very similar to the last "Green Nikto" figure we got, but it's a new sculpt for sure.  There are lots of details to his skin's texture, then the small horns and spikes on his face, and even tiny details like the pinholes for his ears or his nostrils.  You really can't say anything bad about the artist's sculpt of this character.  It's a home run.  Take it off your shelf and examine it NOW, and appreciate what a mass-produced work of art this actually turned out to be.

    -Accessories:  It's not often these days that you can gloat about a character's accessory count, especially since Hasbro has gone to the "coffin" blisters for the Vintage Collection of figures.  It's just a fact that you'll generally get less, especially as they want to keep the figures with actual vintage counterparts close to their original look and card/bubble dimensions.

    With Woof though, we get a good bit packed in there.  He features a removable helmet, vibro-axe/pike, blaster pistol (which may, or may not, be a new sculpt...  I'm not 100% sure on this one), and you also get a removable bandolier accessory.  The last one was really unexpected and I thought it was stuck to the figure till I actually had him in my posession.

    Every piece features paint aps too, which for accessories it's less common.  You often just get a cast piece, no detail added to it, but Hasbro gave a little effort to this character's hardware.  The pike is cast in a bronze-ish color with a metallic flake to it int he plastic, and they dabbed silver on the blade and a wire extended on the back of it.  The paint's a tad sloppy, but nothing major and likely just my sample is this way.  

    The pistol and bandoleir are similar in that both are a cast color, then have silver highlights.  The bandoleir has small silver tubes painted on it, and the pistol got silver details added to both sides of it above the trigger.

    The gem piece is his helmet though.  First, Hasbro sclupted this piece very fine, so that it sort of adheres to Woof's head ridges a little bit so that it sits a little more snug on his melon.  It's a nice effort, and while the helmet still will fall off easily if you're not careful, the ridges do help it stay on somewhat.  Take your figure's helmet off and look inside to see this nice extra effort because it's something the company does more often these days.  Check out Imperial kepi hats for instance, or other headgear.  It's a major plus for having your figure's gear stay on better.  What's cooler though is that the stitching/string design sculpted on the helmet got a light pink-ish paintjob on the string part so that it stands out from the helmet, and makes the knot on the nose-guard stand out a little bit.  

    All in all though, that's 4 separate accessories, and all with paint applications of some sort.  Some are more intricate than others, some seem better applied than others, but the detail is there and it's appreciated on the figure, let alone the gear the figure comes with.

    -Articulation:  Hasbro's doing better here and Woof is no exception.  Hasbro made sure this guard can do his fighting well with even your best Jedi or Scoundrel figures, and that's the way it should be.  It's actually become rare for Hasbro to not go borderline "super articulation" on any figure in the basic line, and that's very much appreciated by the collecting community.  It's a trend I hope never leaves the modern line.

    Woof sports articulation at:

    • 2 Ball/Socket Shoulder Joints
    • 2 Ball/Socket Elbow Joints
    • 2 Cut Wrist Joints
    • 2 Cut Hip Joints
    • 2 Ball/Socket Knee Joints
    • 2 Ball/Socket Ankle Joints
    • 1 Ball/Socket Neck Joint
    • 1 Cut Waist Joint

    For a total of 14 points of articulation, that's a pretty sharp total for a background goon.  Not long ago, this figure would've lacked most articulation from the waist down, or would've had angle-cut elbow joints.  These days, Hasbro's delivering figures that truly are the definition of "action figures", and even the obscure guys.  As a collector, these are interesting times for us.  When so many have left the hobby, the hobby is delivering probably some of its finest work routinely.  Those who left are missing out.

    I've had Woof doing everything from the Macarena to fighting with some Comic Pack Mandalorians on my desk.  He's been shooting, using his pike, standing around drinking from R2's tray, and even sitting on my monitor's base.  This figure's another fun one to play with, or "pose" if you prefer.

    -Paint Aps/Deco:  I'm going to give Hasbro a nod for what they did on Woof, but this is the one area they didn't go all out with this figure, and it shows here and there.  But what they did do was kind of neat, and done well.  Breaking it into both a positive and negative aspect is the best way for me to go then.

    First up, his skin gets the most detailing.  It's cast in a lighter green than the previous Green Nikto we got, and so that sets him apart.  It might be too light, which I can't tell by production photos because he looks dark in the film, but in the lighted archive images of just the actor in the costume standing there, he looks lighter (not quite as light as Hasbro got him, but lighter than the film images of him).  Hasbro did a light yellow-green brush to detail raised areas of the sculpt like the bumpy texture of his skin, but at the same time they gave an off-white detail to each "horn" on his cheeks, brow, and chin.  Likewise his hands got a similar treatment, but his very sharp fingernails/claws got shiney black paint ap details on them, which really stand out against the lighter skin texture.  His eyes also got nice solid flat black paint aps, which didn't stray on my sample at all.

    Klaatu's costume is a mix of good and bad, however.  The pants have a lot of cool shading/washes to highlight the many folds of the worm-like pantlegs.  It was a very detailed sculpt, and so the washes only serve to highlight that.  Woof's shoe's also got the soles painted black, as well as the tip of the toes.  I always love when Hasbro paints the shoe soles on a figure.  It's a nice extra and adds a bit of realism.

    Jump to the upper body though, and Hasbro abandoned a lot of the things that were working on this figure's decoration.  That's where the negatives come into play.

    -Packaging: How can you not love this line's packaging? Even as a non-carded collector, I'm tempted to buy figures and leave them packaged. I've always opened and pitched, it's been how I've done things since some years ago I realized carded collecting was a virtually futile effort, reinforced by Hasbro's love of repacking virtually everything they ever make. The Vintage Collection gets even the most stalwart opener to take a second thought about opening that toy though.

    So far I've not kept anything carded except a Rocket Firing Fett, but I am on an effort to save the cardbacks of every figure I buy. It's a work in progress to try and preserve them, but I'm trying. At least they're flat and don't take up a lot of room.

    Still though, there's something about the Vintage packaging that was really special. It's colorful, it's bold, it's uniformed, it's diverse, it's iconic, and it's expanding with this line to encompass the prequals. There is a lot to love and Hasbro knows it.

    The obvious drawback is the space on the blister to add extra gear. We were given so many great characters wth great gear for the last 5 years. Changing to a small coffin-style blister meant less cool pack-ins. Hasbro has kept up somehow and given us decent gear with some figures, but others are getting the shaft and it becomes somewhat noticeable. Other figures seem like they've come with quite a bit though.

    They have to get high marks all around for what they're doing with this line's packaging designs though.

    CONS

    -Missing Paint Aps/Deco:  Unfortunately Hasbro did cut some corners on a fine sculpt.  Maybe when you have so much detail, you simply can't afford to go crazy with the tiny paint details, but then sometimes they stand out.  On Woof's upper torso, this is unfortunately the case.

    First, his belt isn't a bad deco, and reminds me so much in terms of color, the old faux leather belt strap on the vintage Klaatu's furry skirt.  It was, of course, sewn to the fur and removable, but the colors seem exactly the same despite this new belt being molded piece of plastic.  It's kind of neat, but that doesn't mean a little paint wouldn't have helped both his belt and his leathery-looking vest.  But more than the belt, it's the vest that lacks the details.

    The vest has ties, straps, and buttons, all of which went without any paint applications.  The vest also lacks any kind of a wash, which I think a light one would've gone a long way towards highlighting all that texturing detail.

    There is also a difference in color between the sleeves, and the shirt, though it may not be totally inaccurate.  It stood out though, and so it's worth noting here I believe.  Still though, these are small issues to me.  The rest of the deco is pretty decent, especially these days, and so I'm not terribly bummed by the corners they chose to cut.

    -Price: What's a good review without a good major gripe, and with this line (and lately, the line in general), the price is pretty out there. $7.99 is the base price for The Vintage Collection. That's a good bit of money for a little bit of action figure, generally. The lack of accessories, and the easy comparison with figures right on the pegs beside any Vintage Collection figure really makes you question some purchases.

    When compared to Legends and Clone Wars figures, which are all to be $6.99, and then the fact that they come with their Galactic Battles card, stand, and dice, and that Legends figures feature a mix of extra weapons as well... well how can you not compare? They're all Star Wars figures obviously, so you really can't help but look and think that the Vintage Collection is at least $1 overpriced.

    Since prices jumped above $5.99 though, I've been pretty focused on doing my army building and custom fodder buying when there are sales. Sales don't always hit when you want them to though, so you're stuck shelling out quite a bit or cutting back. Myself, I've largely cut back. Figures I'd have not thought twice about buying 2 of in the past, I now put one back. Army builders I'd have bought 20 of (I'm, sadly, serious about that) I now only buy a couple of, or wait for sales all together. It's a rough time out there to afford the hobby, so price factors into the review I'm afraid.

    OVERALL

    So that wraps up yet another figure from the Return of the Jedi wave, and I have to say, it's even better than the Ackbar I just reviewed.  Maybe it's his more "action-y" nature?  I don't know.  But I really thought that Woof/Klaatu (Jabba's Palace) turned out fantastic.  He's pretty much poseable for any action pose you want, or just standing around guarding stuff, and he looks like a tiny Sideshow figure to me.  That's the mark that Hasbro has set standards that are as high with their 3.75" line as the companies that make what people call "high-end" type collectibles...  Well, I suppose some would argue that 12" figures aren't, but at their current prices I think they are.

    Anyway, the point is, people sometimes turn their noses up at the modern line because it's not expensive enough, it's produced in large quantities, and it's not generally difficult to find in toy aisles.  These figures are really little works of art though.  Every sculptor at Hasbro is doing some knock-out work.  The only time they seem to drop the ball is on nailing down specific human character likenesses, and if you think it's easy to sculpt Harrison Ford or Mark Hammil, guess again.  Human likenesses are probably among the more difficult things to get accurate, much less have them translate to accurately to such a small scale.

    So when you get these incredibly accurate figures like this, even if they're not human, it's really remarkable how good they look these days.  You have to appreciate the guys doing the work on them.  So obviously I'm impressed here, even gushing, and recommend you pick up your Woof today.  I'm seeing him more and more on my trips out.  There are two figures from the Wave I don't see often, but this one's available I'm finding.  He's good at $7.99 or $6.00, so I wouldn't hesitate at either price.

    130
    Entertainment Earth Exclusive 2010 Comic Packs
    Baron Soontir Fel & Yssane Isard


    Ah, comic packs...  Where did you go wrong?  That's a matter of debate to many.  If you talk to some collectors, they'll tell you the key to that sub-line of EU glory succeeding was more new figures and tooling, less repetition.  If you talked to others, you would hear that it's all about Dark Horse material.  Still others will demand that the Marvel Comics get their share of the pie.  And what sold where is just as mixed.  Some areas, the packs made for the army builder, from Rebel Pilots to Ewoks to Clonetroopers, flew off the shelves.  Elsewhere, the Marvel stuff did great, while it was the Dark Horse sets that stank it up, even with collector-demanded characters getting made.  This sub-line was a tough nut for Hasbro to crack just right.  They dealt with price hikes that saw the packs jumping from $9.99 at their start to $15-ish, and then balancing the costs of the sets with tooling budgets.  Then doing the same balancing act by wave...  It really was anything but a cakewalk I suppose.

    Flash forward to Fall 2010.  Jedi Defender sponsor, Entertainment Earth, start shipping what is (for the foreseable future) supposed to be the last wave of comic packs, and collectors receive them well.  Hasbro now is back to deciding if the line needs some kind of reboot or not. 

    Love or hate the EU, the comic packs have made some pretty slick figures...  and at the same time, they've made some dismal choices too (Leia with cankles, we're looking at you, and your absurd feet).  The sets from Entertainment Earth may have fans, but they're not immune to the problems the regular releases to mass retail had.  I'm going to take a look at at least one of the sets, maybe more as time allows, and give my thoughts on the character choices, the figure designs, and all the details that make these "hit or miss", at least in my eyes.

    And first up, we're going to check out the set that I was most looking forward to!  I'm going to review the Baron Soontir Fel & Yssane Isard from the Star Wars: Rogue Squadron series.  Who the hell are they?  Well, they're an Imperial fighter ace, and a weird Imperial chick with 2 different colored eyes, red outfit, skunk stripes in her hair, and a pretty strong following...  at least from the people who follow the EU.

    Hasbro knows that these two characters have some fervent support among the fans of non-movie characters, and so they seemed like logical choices as figures.  Did they succeed in satisfying the collecting world?  Read on!

    PROS

    -Isard Sculpt:  Isard rocks the re-used mold, for the most part, of the Force Unleashed figure, Juno Eclipse.  She had a solid sculpt to begin with, with hidden joints, a small/feminine frame, and scads of detail.  There's lots of wrinkles in the uniform at places which make perfect sense, such as just above the belt but below the chest, at the knee and elbow joints, and so on.  There isn't too much though, which is perfect since she's a high-level Imperial, and as such, she should have a fairly pressed and proper uniform to reflect her level of authority.

    When was the last time you saw a General or Admiral looking like a schlub, ya know?

    One minor flaw is the character's rank badge, which I'll get to later.  Otherwise the sculpt's pretty sharp, even with texturing to avoid the overly smooth look of early POTF2 Imperial officer uniforms.  Not much else is new, but it's a solid base to do a female Imperial from anyway.

    The headsculpt is new, and it's really incredible.  There is a lot of depth to it because Hasbro's sculptors/designers made the head and hair, two separate pieces.  This is nice for figures with longer/bulkier hair because it generally gives that greater 3-dimensional look to it.  Her facial expression is nice because it has a stern look to it, and reflects the character's fairly ruthless and evil nature.  It's nowhere near over-the-top, however.  It's just the right ammount of "evil" to look neutral, or focused as well.

    So, sure it's re-used mostly, but it's not a bad re-use besides the rank badge.

    -Accessories:  The accessory count for the pack isn't attrocious by any means.  It's also not knocking much out of the park, but these two characters really can't come with too much gear beyond what they come with, and Hasbro went the extra mile on the Baron Fel figure. 

    Isard comes with a pretty basic Imperial Rifle...  Besides maybe an officer's baton, or giving her a pistol (since she's an officer), then that's about right.  Fel comes with the same Imperial E-11 Isard has, and so many other Imperial characters come with, but he also has some headgear.  Hasbro included his black Imperial kepi hat, which was pretty nice since not all officers get a removable cap like they should.  He also came with a big surprise though. 

    Fel ultimately defects to the Alliance and winds up flying for them.  As such, he winds up wearing some more Alliance-like flight gear, including an X-Wing helmet, decorated in a unique all black paintjob with red striping and a Rebel logo.  Hasbro included the pilot bucket as well despite the figure being in his non-flight uniform.  It's a cool little "extra" thrown into the package, and was appreciated.  It also was a surprise because early images of the figures didn't picture this.

    So hats off (nyuck nyuck) to Hasbro for giving the, basically, appropriate gear and then a little bone thrown to the fans of the storyline these figures are from.

    -Articulation:  Both figures rock a good ammount of articulation, and Hasbro's stepped this side of their line up on most all accounts.  On comic packs though, it's great to see two figures with articulation sufficient to meet "minimums".  Or at least minimums as I choose to define them, as a collector who likes to be able to pose his figures any way he chooses.

    Baron Fel features articulation at:

    • 2 Ball/Socket Shoulder Joints
    • 2 Ball/Socket Elbow Joints
    • 2 Cut Wrist Joints
    • 2 Cut Hip Joints
    • 2 Ball/Socket Knee Joints
    • 2 Ball/Socket Ankle Joints
    • 1 Ball/Socket Neck Joint
    • 1 Cut Waist Joint

    For a total of 14 points of articulation.

    Yssane Isard Features Articulation at:

    • 2 Ball/Socket Shoulder Joints
    • 2 Ball/Socket Elbow Joints
    • 2 Cut Wrist Joints
    • 2 Cut Hip Joints
    • 2 Ball/Socket Knee Joints
    • 2 Ball/Socket Ankle Joints
    • 1 Ball/Socket Neck Joint
    • 1 Cut Waist Joint

    For a total of 14 points of articulation.

    This allows for a lot of poseability on both characters, and generally when you have this much articulation, not much can mess it up...  However, a molded "skirt" piece on a figure can accomplish that negative, and Fel has that issue.  Isard's molded skirt extension of her officer's coat actually doesn't inhibit the legs much at all.  It's shorter and the plastic is more flexible, which both help. 

    Still though, both figures pose pretty well.  I've had them both in action poses, firing blasters 2-handed, standing at attention, and at ease with their hands clasped realistically behind their backs.  It's a great thing when the figure can do pretty much anything you want.  Hasbro just needs to make a standard for molded skirts where they are flexible, and have cuts at the side that let them flex so the hip articulation isn't inhibited.  That, or go with cloth instead.  Will fans accept cloth on an Imperial Officer's "skirt" piece though?  That remains to be seen!

    CONS

    -Fel Sculpt:  Right off the bat, I was disappointed in the sculpt choice Hasbro made on Baron Fel.  Again he's mostly re-used, except the headsculpt and hands, which aren't great.  However, the bigger letdown to me was the choice of re-using the Captain Needa sculpt from 2008.  Unfortunately, with that figure, you often got an oddly wide leg stance, the pants didn't have have the poofy look at the thigh that Jagdpur pants officers wore should have, and which is utilized on the Vintage Collection AT-AT Commander figure.  Hasbro dropped the ball by not at least using that figure as the base, as most agree that it's a good deal superior.

    That's not to say the sculpt is horrible.  There are lots of small details in this sculpt that, on another figure, don't look so off.  It just has the very odd leg stance (and some may be better than others.  That was the case with Needa, and the Death Star Trooper the original sculpt was based on) on my figure, and the figure's rank badge wasn't changed as well.  Hasbro even sculpted the badges on Needa to be interchangeable now, so they could actually swap out a different and more accurate badge if they chose to.  Unfortunately on Fel they chose not to go that route, probably for cost reasons.  It would've been nice though since it was more a choice than on Isard's figure.

    Add to it that this sculpt was made for a more average/slimmer built guy, and Fel's supposed to be a fairly large/muscular character, and it really was just a poor choice as the base.  Isard's was pretty spot-on (it was really their only choice as well), but the male Imperial Officer probably needs a ground-up resculpt in general, and Fel probably needed his own unique officer sculpt to really look accurate.

    The hands and head on Fel are all that's new then, but not great.  The hands are simply gloved ones like a pilots, but Fel's headsculpt doesn't really resemble the character in the comics as much as I think it should.  It's more narrow looking, more gaunt it seems, and it features another angry/focused look to it.  On a typical Imperial I think this would be cooler looking, but on a guy who's changed to the Alliance supposedly, I find it odd.  It's not horrid, but it's not great either.  It just isn't what I had hoped for from them I guess, especially since their first Fel figure they did (also a comic pack figure) wasn't too great either.

    -Paint Aps/Decoration:  Both figures I got were lacking a little bit in the paint aps department.  This is really something that can vary, or you can see a trend, and it just simply depends on factories and such.  Since you can't pick these out in a store, you're kind of stuck with what you get.  I have no clue if this is a trend, but it stinks.

    On Isard, her deco is fairly good till you get to the face.  One of her defining features is her different colored eyes, and unfortunately my figure's eyes are lopsided.  The left is significantly lower than the right.  The eyebrows are painted on in a "raised" look for the right eyebrow, but something looks off on my sample there as well.  Like they're too far apart and the raised right brow is too sharp upward.  Also Hasbro didn't paint the code cylinder in her left pocket silver.  Since it's sculpted there, it should get a paint ap so it doesn't look goofy.

    On Fel, the paint aps are a bit better on the face, however the shoulders are where he loses it some.  This is actually a common problem, but Hasbro generally casts the pin of a ball/socket joint in the color of the costume.  In Fel's case though, he has black/red pin stripes on the sleeves of his coat and shoulders.  With the pin of his shoulder joints cast in grey, it stands out pretty significantly against the black/red piping when right at the shoulders there are big grey gaps.

    Paint aps are cut these days, it's just a fact of life.  When you're costing things out, you have to make cuts, and Hasbro's making it in the deco.  It's a shame sometimes because it impacts some fantastic sculpts.  The deco highlights the fine work some of the artists have put into these figures.  It's always a shame when small things like that impact the overall look of a character though, like it does with both these figures.  It's particularly disappointing on Isard though, who is really a fantastic figure till you get to her spooky eyes.  I hope others have better luck with the paint aps on her.  Fel, I wasn't wild about the sculpt either, so it's less of a disappointing paint application I guess.

    -Fel's Rank:  I'll reiterate the disappointing find that they didn't change Fel's rank.  This was particularly annoying because Hasbro specifically designed Needa's torso to have the ability to change the ranks, if they needed to.  His rank in the comics has a lot more bars than the Needa rank did from the films, so for Hasbro to use a sculpt that wasn't maybe the best choice to begin with, and to then not change the rank on that sculpt when they specifically made that a possibility, well that's just a little bit of a bummer.

    Had the legs been changed to the Jagdpur style pants that the current AT-AT Commander has though, I probably wouldn't have cared about this nearly as much.  Sometimes one thing can offset something else.  But on Fel it is sort of a situation where when it rains, it pours.

    OVERALL

    Sometimes I include price, or availability, or some other factor into my reviews...  Not this time though.  The prices varied depending on when you got your order in, and when it's an exclusive and you have to order it, the price is going to inevitably be a little more than you probably wanted to pay.  I got mine in a case I split on a pre-order we made the day they went on sale.  So for myself, these sets were pretty much as cheap as I was going to get them if I wanted them now, and I was content with that. 

    Likewise, availability...  they're at Entertainment Earth, so that was simple at least, but you're not going to get to play the price-comparing game much.  It's a trade-off.

    So I'm left with really just the product to stand on its own without the other factors.  In the case of these two though, they just don't stack up to what I personally would've liked.  These seemed to be the sets that were the "filler" for the wave.  For me, I was disappointed in them then as I probably was most interested in these two, and more importantly I was geeked at getting a new Baron Fel.  I'm a huge pilot fan from the Original Trilogy, and Expanded Universe.  So Fel's now had two figures out, and both are sub-par in some capacity or another.  I'd love to see both redone but I hold no hope for that. 

    Isard's good enough for me though, and so I'll happily display her on the Imperial shelf as soon as I'm done writing this.  She's not flawless, but she's passable.  Fel is going to need a little modification from me though I'm afraid.  I may even slip him into my Imperial shelf without the stripes on the sleeves or something.  This set gets a failing grade from me then as I really think Fel's the anchor of it and Isard's more like a bonus.  Others will view that ratio differently probably, but it's my column so tough toenails.

    Will the rest of the EE comic packs hold up though?  Well I just opened my others tonight, and I can tell you that I was happier with the other three sets.  A couple in particular were really fun, and I think Hasbro could make the comic line work if they rethought it, set some "standards" with it, and maybe tried to limit it a little more.  When it was at mass retail, it was out of control at times the number of sets that a store would have from a single wave.  Like was said at the start of this review though, what works and what doesn't work has a big gap between areas around the country.  Only Hasbro knows the truth, and they've deemed it not worth going on with the line for the time being. 

    Here is to seeing more sets in the future though.  Or at least some exclusives coming out here and there to satiate the die-hard fans of this line.  I really want that friggin' Noghri and Wookiee we got teased with. :'(

    131
    Toy Reviews / New JD Review: TVC Wave 3 - Admiral Ackbar
    « on: December 3, 2010, 12:13 AM »
    The Vintage Collection
    Wave 3 (Return of the Jedi)
    Admiral Ackbar


    The Return of the Jedi wave marks an interesting point in Star Wars action figures.  The modern line has been dragging along since 1995.  It's certainly had ups and downs along the way, and the interest of collectors has been right there for the roller coaster ride.  The Return of the Jedi wave shows though, that Hasbro can instantly recapture the collecting community by putting out a simply solid wave of new figures.  Even when it's largely made up of resculpts.

    If you think the modern line's dead, than you haven't looked at the myriad of figures that truly need sculpt/articulation updates to make them simply fit in with figures post 2005!

    With that said, I wanted to look at some of the ROTJ figures we got, and why not start with "Mr. It's A Trap" himself, Admiral Ackbar.  This character hasn't gotten an update since his original POTF2 sculpt many years ago.  Back then he rocked the typical-for-the-time articulation count of 6 points, and not all his poseability was even all that useful.  He also lacked many solid accessories, and the sculpt's crispness just doesn't compare to what is available today.  There's a lot to look at here though, and not everything is perfect, so let's begin.

    PROS

    -Sculpt:  First off, if you thought the POTF2 Ackbar was "good enough" looking, you've clearly just been proven wrong.  This figure is actually lightyears ahead of the POTF2 sculpt, which at its time was pretty decent.  He didn't have the buffness, he had a little character in that his hands weren't sculpted to really hold weapons as much as they were sculpted to look like he's pointing at stuff.  At the time, these were unique traits in a Star Wars figure.

    With the new Ackbar though, we get detail in the face and hands, showing something that's much less smooth, and much more organic and realistic.  It's kind of strange, but Hasbro actually made a Mon Calamari that looks like it has some age to him.  As an Admiral, you can expect that out of Ackbar I guess, but there's just something different about his headsculpt that they seemed to sculpt him to look like a just tad wrinkly lobster.  

    His hands are now posed to hold accessories as well with their sculpt, which is a nice plus.  Sure the old hands were unique, but Ackbar's got to hold a blaster to defend himself like everyone else, rather than clip one to his forearm.  It's an improvement to me then.

    The costume is also a lot more wrinkly and "lived-in" looking.  The pants fold and bunch at the right spots, and the sleeves are sculpted as though they're pushed up over his claw-like arms.  It gives the impression the costume was made for a human, and a Mon Calamari guy is just wearing it, and that is a cool little detail.  Also, with the folds and wrinkles, Hasbro has started a new trend where the pin for ball-joints is sculpted to simulate wrinkles at the elbows, knees, shoulders, etc. as well.  Technically they could stick with a standard smooth round pin for all the joints, but they got the extra mile to make the joint blend in with the rest of the sculpt, and you have to appreciate those fine details.

    Add in that Hasbro gave him the now fairly standard "skirt" extension of his vest, and you can clearly see a lightyear of difference between this figure's sculpt, and the POTF2 figure.  These are the kinds of comparisons you really use to gauge how amazingly far the line has come in 15 years.

    One minor flaw is that Ackbar's rank badge isn't accurate for the character.  It's missing a small bit.  However, Ackbar's rank badge is actually a separate sculpt, and plugs into a hole on his chest (I'm assuming it's glued in, though I didn't try to remove it).  This implies two things to me.  A) it's more realistic looking because it sits off the figure's chest, and B) it may mean that Hasbro intends to give us the "Mon Calamari Officer" someday using this sculpt and a new deco.  The interchangeable rank badges started with the Imperials, and it may be carrying over to the Alliance now.  Only time will tell though.

    -Decoration:  The POTF2 Ackbar's deco actually wasn't attrocious, but this figure's got some stand out paint applications.  The skin has a certain sheen to it, for instance, which only highlights his lobstery look.  It also contrasts the duller look to the costume, as it should, and shows that Hasbro was thinking about the paint aps some.  Lately deco has gotten the shaft in Pawtucket, so it's nice to see some figures still get a nice effort.

    The skin has a dark wash on it to highlight the recesses in the sculpt, from the wrinkles on his chin and neck, to the separation of his fingers/claws.  Tack on some lobster spotting, and he's pretty slick looking (no pun...  well, a little bit of a pun).

    The costume's deco isn't elaborate, but Hasbro got the details it needed to.  The rank badge has a little color detailing to it, the yellow stripes down his sides, the tan vest, the belt boxes...  Hasbro got a lot of little things right on a fairly bland costume.  Even the shoe soles, something they don't always do anymore, got the simple grey tread deco which makes a much more realistic look to the figure.

    And the golden shiney fish-eyes...  Very cool.  You have to love it.

    -Articulation[/u]:  My biggest complaint with any figure is, generally, where articulation falls flat.  Hasbro's upped their game in this department though, and almost all figures come with what I consider adequate articulation.  For me, Ackbar even goes a notch above adequate, even without ankle joints!  Hasbro knocked him out of the park though as far as I'm concerned, and here's his articulation breakdown:
    [ul]
    • 2 Ball/Socket Shoulder Joints
    • 2 Ball/Socket Shoulder Joints
    • 2 Ball/Socket Knee Joints
    • 2 Cut Hip Joints
    • 2 Cut Wrist Joints
    • 1 Cut Waist Joint
    • 1 Ball/Socket Neck Joint
    [/ul]
    Which comes to a total of 10 points of articulation.  Generally this figure would even have ankle joints, however Ackbar's pantlegs extending over his shoes makes adding ball/socket ankles a little trickier in the sculpting and molding process.  This probably added significantly to a figure like Ackbar not getting the poseable feet.

    That said, Hasbro sculpted the feet plain and flat.  Nothing bent like he's walking or running, nothing weird.  This means the ball/socket knee joints basically let you pose the figure's lower legs just fine, and just as if the ankles were there more or less.  I've had Ackbar running around shooting people, smacking people with his laser pointer, line dancing, walking, sitting, standing...  He does it all.

    It also bears mentioning that the "skirt" extension of Ackbar's vest is pretty pliable as well, and allows his legs to pose nicely at the hip.

    It double bears mentioning though, that Hasbro's designer/sculptor of this figure took time to know the character and what he did in the film.  Did anyone else notice that his neck articulation allows for some pretty drastic range of motion, and that the design of the head sitting down in the concave vest sculpt and resting on the neckpeg, actually lets you pose Ackbar in his classic "look down in relief" moment from Return of the Jedi, when the <i>Executor</i> is sent crashing into the Death Star II's surface?  That's flipping awesome in every way, and you can't tell me it wasn't intentional.  Few Star Wars figures have the ability to look down that sharply, but this one certainly does, and Hasbro almost certainly intended this.

    -Packaging:  How can you not love this line's packaging?  Even as a non-carded collector, I'm tempted to buy figures and leave them packaged.  I've always opened and pitched, it's been how I've done things since some years ago I realized carded collecting was a virtually futile effort, reinforced by Hasbro's love of repacking virtually everything they ever make.  The Vintage Collection gets even the most stalwart opener to take a second thought about opening that toy though.

    So far I've not kept anything carded except a Rocket Firing Fett, but I am on an effort to save the cardbacks of every figure I buy.  It's a work in progress to try and preserve them, but I'm trying.  At least they're flat and don't take up a lot of room.

    Still though, there's something about the Vintage packaging that was really special.  It's colorful, it's bold, it's uniformed, it's diverse, it's iconic, and it's expanding with this line to encompass the prequals.  There is a lot to love and Hasbro knows it.

    The obvious drawback is the space on the blister to add extra gear.  We were given so many great characters wth great gear for the last 5 years.  Changing to a small coffin-style blister meant less cool pack-ins.  Hasbro has kept up somehow and given us decent gear with some figures, but others are getting the shaft and it becomes somewhat noticeable.  Other figures seem like they've come with quite a bit though.

    They have to get high marks all around for what they're doing with this line's packaging designs though.

    CONS

    -Accessories:  Didn't we just leave this party?  Yeah, we did, and sadly Admiral Ackbar falls prey to the lack of accessories.  I think one thing a lot of people clamored for, before the Vintage Collection was announced, was a chair accessory to come with an Admiral Ackbar resculpt.  I can't blame them, and I'm sure I probably mumbled somewhere along the way that I too wanted a chair for him.

    There's not much you can give to Ackbar though, that isn't a big accessory.  Hasbro gave you two smaller items, neither of which he was wandering around with in the movie.  He has a laser pointer stick thing, which is an homage to the stick his original vintage figure came with.  I give Hasbro props for adding props to him, that he really doesn't use in the film (I think?), and tying it to a vintage homage as well.  That's pretty cool and fits with the Vintage theme.

    The other accessory he sports is a weird computer screen...  on a stick...  without a screen.  I don't know what it is, actually.  It could be a computer screen, or a humidifier for his species, or who knows.  It looks like something that should be attached to his chair/console, but who knows what it ultimately is.  It's got some deco though... a little silver here, a little grey there.  It's kind of uninteresting though, ultimately.

    People really are hoping to someday get the Admiral's swiveling and swirling command chair.  The only other thing I can imagine them giving to him is a big holographic table to display a holo Endor and Death Star on.  That'd be pretty cool, and I could totally see Hasbro doing some kind of Rebel Briefing Battlepack with pilots and Ackbar getting a proper chest badge someday.  At least I think it should happen.  Could is maybe a little too much wishful thinking on my part.  It's a sharp way to get us a Nik Sant Rebel Commando though, Hasbro.  A couple more Rebel Pilots or a General Han or something could slip into the mix too...  I'm just sayin'.

    -Price:  What's a good review without a good major gripe, and with this line (and lately, the line in general), the price is pretty out there.  $7.99 is the base price for The Vintage Collection.  That's a good bit of money for a little bit of action figure, generally.  The lack of accessories, and the easy comparison with figures right on the pegs beside any Vintage Collection figure really makes you question some purchases.

    When compared to Legends and Clone Wars figures, which are all to be $6.99, and then the fact that they come with their Galactic Battles card, stand, and dice, and that Legends figures feature a mix of extra weapons as well...  well how can you not compare?  They're all Star Wars figures obviously, so you really can't help but look and think that the Vintage Collection is at least $1 overpriced.  

    Since prices jumped above $5.99 though, I've been pretty focused on doing my army building and custom fodder buying when there are sales.  Sales don't always hit when you want them to though, so you're stuck shelling out quite a bit or cutting back.  Myself, I've largely cut back.  Figures I'd have not thought twice about buying 2 of in the past, I now put one back.  Army builders I'd have bought 20 of (I'm, sadly, serious about that) I now only buy a couple of, or wait for sales all together.  It's a rough time out there to afford the hobby, so price factors into the review I'm afraid.

    OVERALL

    Sure $8's a lot of money.  Sure he doesn't have his chair...

    But Ackbar's a pretty great figure, in a definitely great wave.  It's as simple as that really.  The sculpt is night and day to his previous incarnation of the great admiral, and the paint applications are downright elaborate for a figure these days.  His gear leaves a little to be desired, but you have to give props to them for the little pointer thing as a vintage homage.  The articulation is everything you need to be content with him too, and the fact he does his relieved head nod down?  That's worth it to me ultimately.

    The Vintage Collection has, to me, been very good.  The future of it will depend on what Hasbro does with it, but waves like this Return of the Jedi wave make me have a lot of hope for what could be coming down the line.  Sure, 2011's first wave images weren't too sharp, but I think things are going to be fantastic for most of 2011's line-up.  Ackbar's probably not the most exciting character, but fan demand for a resculpt was there.  Hasbro delivered something pretty special for our collections, and that's what keeps guys like me in the hobby for 20 years and counting.

    132
    I was thinking of figures that I'd like to see get minor upgrades (major would be cool too, if done well, but minor upgrades to already pretty good figures is what I'm thinking).  What are the figures you'd like to see get these minor tweaks?  Like, as an example, Stormtroopers getting the ball-jointed hips and coming with maybe a new E-11 and rifle like we're going to get...

    I'm into that figure, just not his utterly shite helmet and rifle.  If the helmet and rifle are better than initial pictures, I kinda dig that figure a lot, actually.

    My first figure...  Commander Bly.

    We've gotten a version or two of Bly, but none have been quite perfect...  They're neat, but I'd gladly take a new one using the ball-jointed hips Clone, maybe a cloth kama, and god-willing a completely accurate paintjob.  Not major tweaks there, as all that pretty much exists.  The only thing new would probably be a removable helmet and possibly a headsculpt (perhaps one that matches his CLone Wars animated headsculpt's look somewhat).  I like the removable helmets, so I'm biased there, but I know CHEWIE doesn't dig them, so I sort of left it off as a major upgrade.  I suspect it would happen though.

    I'd live without Bly getting redone though, is my point.  But it's the kind of tweaks that would make me happily rebuy him too. 

    This is probably the direction Hasbro will go, with many figures, I believe.  The precedent is obviously there...  Taking something that exists, and doing a little bit to it to make it "better".  I think it's a big part of the realistic line's future.  Hell, it's already in the Clone Wars line even.

    133
    The Vintage Collection '10-'13 / How Many Repaints Are Too Many?
    « on: November 4, 2010, 08:57 PM »
    I was thinking the other day, and then again tonight...  How many repaints of something are too many to own?

    This sort of applies to all the lines, but in general, are you trying to cut things down to one version of a vehicle?  Would you want Wedge and Luke's Snowspeeder, or just one version?  Would an Imperial AT-TE sway you to pick one up even though it's an EU design?  Or is that just too many?  Is the new AT-RT worth keeping the old ones around at all? 

    I'm sort of hitting a crossroads on vehicles I guess...  Things like the Jedi Fighter have gotten out of control for me, to the point where I'm not buying them any longer.  I figure, if Ir eally want a deco variation of a ship, I'll get it down the road.  I had so many ROTS fighters that I'm not reluctant to buy ANY JSF at this point.

    What's your breaking point with all the repaints?  Does a vehicle's size matter?

    I really want the new Boil/AT-RT, but at this point I'm reluctant to buy it because I have 3 unique AT-RT's hanging around.  Same goes with the Freeco...  Do I really care?  It's to-scale, but honestly, do I need a 4th AT-RT?

    134
    The Clone Wars '08-'13 / TODO-360 Figure
    « on: October 15, 2010, 02:18 AM »
    As per the front page...

    Suffice it to say, he's got a pretty good shot at a figure in the near future.  ;)

    But as always, nothing's confirmed till Hasbro, blah blah blah...  but yeah.

    Articulation appears as though it'll be limited.  Like I said on the front page, perhaps more of an accessory to a figure, than a figure. ;)

    135
    Toy Reviews / JD Review: Uncle Milton Fall 2010 Products
    « on: October 1, 2010, 04:06 AM »
    We did a little review for Uncle Milton on a couple of their Fall 2010 products including the Death Star Planetarium, and their Remote Controlled Lightsaber Room Light.  Both are outstanding products!


    Click Here to Read the Full Review!

    I really had a blast reviewing both toys, and I gotta say, these are a big improvement over the last round of products in my opinion.  I even found a pretty practical use for the Saber set that any collector could find useful too.  The Death Star I really enjoyed too, from the perspective of having a physical map of the Star Wars galaxy on my wall.  I dig seeing the distances traveled in the Star Wars galaxy.  It's the EU-ness in me. :)

    Read the review, feel free to share your thoughts, and enjoy!

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