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Topics - Jesse James

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136
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.

137
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. :'(

138
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.

139
The Vintage Collection / The Minor Upgrades You'd Actually Like To See
« on: November 10, 2010, 09:24 PM »
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.

140
The Vintage Collection / 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?

141
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. ;)

142
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!

143
JD Sports Forum! / NHL 2010-2011 Regular Season
« on: September 23, 2010, 03:51 AM »
I figured since the pre-season has kicked off, it's time to start the new regular season thread... 

Console Energy Center (Igloo 2?) opened tonight.  What a monumental occassion for me.  I'm going to be very sad to see the Civic Arena go.  I'm already planning to buy a chair or two, if they go for sale.  They're talking about putting some of the stainless steel dome parts into the ceiling of the new building as decoration.

The Penguins looked sharp...  err, well they sounded sharp anyway as it wasn't televised tonight.  a 5-1 win over Detroit.  Osgood looked like **** though too.

The Penguins are stacked and will have some interesting cuts to make.  Jordan Staal's going to miss the opener because of a nagging issue from last year's playoff loss to Montreal.  Hopefully he'll be back soon because he's a monster of a player, and fast becoming one of my favorites.  Crosby left the game early with a minor hip flexure, nothing serious, but didn't want him playing with it for no purpose.

I'd like to get to one game this year at the new arena.  That's my goal...  Well, that and Winter Classic tickets.  Not counting on the latter though.  ;)

Fantastic work at the new arena though.  I guess the boards are a little lively though, but they're just settling in and finding the little nuances of it out right now.  The goalies are saying the boards are similar to Detroit's in some ways.

Bill Guerrin is on a try-out-basis with Philly.  I'm bummed about that because he's a great guy, and got involved in charity and stuff here locally immediately, and wanted very badly to stay because his family loved it here.  I'm just bummed he's not been brought back.

Anyway, hockey is here!  Yay. :)

Oh, and one of the funny kinks they have to work out at the arena is the horn was pumped directly into the mic, so when a period came to a close this booming loud horn would go off full tilt.  Mike Lange and Phil Bourque were cracking up about it and I guess Lange took over and was turnign the volume down.

144
1:6 Scale Figures and Collectibles / 12" IG-88? Oh my.
« on: September 21, 2010, 08:59 PM »


Check it out on our front page to visit the brief production video of this anticipated assassin of steel and wire.  They're going to be hard-pressed to top what I consider one of Hasbro's ultimate 3.75" figures.  I'm curious to see SS's product, which they should be able to take to the next level due to the increased scale.  It's going to be tough for them though I think.

145
Modern Classifieds / Target Lava Reflection Figure Set (All 3 Figures!)
« on: September 21, 2010, 02:58 AM »
I have all 3 Target Lava Reflection Figures I'd like to sell as a set... 

Obi-Wan Kenobi MOC
Anakin Skywalker MOC
Darth Vader (including the ticket I was given the morning I bought him since it was a lottery system) MOC

I liked them as a set, but I'm trying to cut down on my carded stuff and this is a set I'm cutting out I think, after much thought.

I'd like $30 for the set of 3 + $5 shipping.

PM me if you're interested.

146
Wow...


Clicky to check out the front page story!

I like the obscurity SS is willing to go to with their 12" line.  I really believe Sideshow deserves a round of applause for what all they put out.  A very cool set I think.

147
TV-9D9 / Dave Filoni Q&A's on SW.com
« on: September 7, 2010, 11:27 PM »
They posted a video tonight on StarWars.com where Filoni answers a Question someone mails in, and so on...  Seems like an on-going series.

I found it kind of interesting that the question was regarding seeing Plo Koon without his mask on in the series, and the answer evolved into a bit more.

First, I found it interesting that Filoni was pretty easy to say "Would I follow how he looked in the EU or the Hasbro figure?  I don't know".  He did say he'd confer with Lucas on it, but it is just one more nail in the coffin for EU's importance IMO...  To so freely disregard it like that seemed telling to me.  He didn't say he wouldn't of course, but he seemed like it probably wouldn't be even a concern that they consider how Plo's look is established already.

Second though, I found it interesting how he has wanted more characters to have subtitles, but that the constraints of the series don't allow for it.  To me, that's huge, and makes me somewhat disevow the voices of the characters in the toon...  It's like the constraints of video game EU, having to allow for the dynamics of the game, or the constraints of the movies themselves having to condense time so the movie flows better and more quickly.  IE: The trip to Bespin from the asteroid field was probably pretty long, but the films can't show it.  The Rebel fleet's trip to the DS2 was probably a good while (and thus the Rebels were on Endor a while), and the films just can't show it.  Those things have always been of interest to me because I never felt the movies conveyed time/distance well.

Likewise the toon has to rely on more english-speaking than is maybe desired, but because it's a kid's show, and kids can't necessarilly read quickly, the subtitles get shelved.  It makes me view some of the characters differently.  Like Bossk...  I didn't like Bossk talking.  I do like him growling/slithering with his noises like in ESB though, and I sort of take Filoni's comments to maybe mean he's viewing them as though they're speaking their native languages as well, not English.  I had hoped for more subtitles myself, but I guess that's one of those things they have to bend for the series regardless of how much sense it would make.

148
The Vintage Collection / Jon Stewart Trooper
« on: August 16, 2010, 04:09 AM »


That's a cool freebie for doing an interview, I must say.  :)  It's amazing how good the likeness to Stewart is, given how off some of the main characters from the films tend to be.   :-X

Great little item though.  It would be awesome to have a professional sculpt your likeness and see how accurate they could get it.

149
The Clone Wars '08-'13 / Jedi Turbo Speeder
« on: August 13, 2010, 04:07 PM »
Sounds like a new vehicle slipped into the 2010/2011 stuff...  2010 I guess from the sounds of it. 

Curious to see good pics of this.

150
The Clone Wars '08-'13 / Ventress' Fanblade Fighter?
« on: August 10, 2010, 08:59 PM »
The latest Clone Wars Season 3 teaser trailer  appears to show Assaj Ventress' Fanblade Fighter...



I wonder if Hasbro would consider this, if it gets much play at all in the cartoon?

This is a ship I was pondering tackling myself.  The design's pretty bitchin', and so I'd dig having one that opened up.  I can't imagine the "fan" part being particularly sturdy though, and I never really got far in any planning on one.  I was more just thinking about how it would work.

Cool to see this showing up though, and the show itself is the platform by which a lot of items have a shot at getting made I figure.

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