The Marvel Universe line has been notorious for reusing the same molds to death. Hasbro's basic counter argument is that many characters have a similar base body and thus reusing molds isn't a big deal. While some characters this doesn't work with one that it does is Gladiator.
Gladiator uses the typical "Big Guy" mold that has been used for the Wrecking Crew, Captain Britain, Doc Sampson and others. In the case of Gladiator it fits though since he is a character that is basically in that category. I won't say Gladiator is a favorite character of mine, he is often labeled a hero but is tossed into a role of a villain for the X-Men and Avengers. Sometimes that works while with other times it seems very forced. Still he is one of those "D-List" characters that is fun to see within the Marvel Universe line just because he is unexpected.
Gladiator sometimes comes across like a rip off Superman without the Boy Scout routine. One of his oddest traits is that his power is directly related to his confidence level. Thus if Thor hands him his rear end he turns into super wuss. This seems weird and it often seems that if you just start making fun of him he might de-power and be knocked over by a feather.
Admittedly, Gladiators powers listing seems so over the top it's hard to believe even in the context of a super-hero world. Some sites list he can fly one hindered times the speed of light and can shatter planets with his fists. I personally think that this keeps Gladiator from being a more popular character as he seems to powerful to even be believed. Sure Superman could probably match it, but most times Superman's powers are downplayed to make him more relatable. Plus if he really could do such feats how on Earth could the X-Men, Fantastic Four, ect ever hope to stand a chance.
Still he is a common enough fixture in the Marvel Universe to not only warrant a figure but also be pretty close to a "must have" character. His figure is good, but no where near his claims of super powers and maybe that's why he isn't the greatest seller LOL.
Some said his cape was going to be great to use as a Dr. Strange custom when he came out, but that didn't need to happen as Strange was revealed shortly after this figure was.
I'm not a nostalgic guy very often. One of the few things I actually get nostalgic about is Power Man and Iron Fist. That series was fun, unique, and the two main characters played well off each other. I have also been pretty vocal about my disappointment in the Iron Fist figures presented in Marvel Universe thus far. Sure they are accurate to how Iron Fist appears in modern comics, but also that look is dull and boring. It's just a straight set of tights with next to nothing special. Thankfully Iron Fist got a revisit this year with a comic pack and thankfully he was given his old costume which is miles ahead of the current one.
This figure shows how a few modifications can greatly change the overall look of a figure. The mold is basically the same as Iron Fist's previous release but this time has a new torso that gives his collar a chance to shine. Sure that part looks dated but it's also pretty cool. In addition an new head and sash just looks great and adds a whole lot to the figure. Basically it's a custom job but done on a production level. I thought the collar was going to be glued on but I am really glad it wasn't and is a whole new piece.
Iron Fist is a character that can be less fun if taken entirely too seriously (as is being done in modern comics). That's not to say that he should be a joke, but I find when he and Luke Cage work off each other in a more whimsical fashion that the team is much more enjoyable.
Making Iron Fist more enjoyable is the fact he is packed with Power Man in his classic uniform as well as one of the better issues of Power Man and Iron Fist. It's a comic that makes me miss the fun days of comics when everything wasn't just filler to the next "Big Event" and stories were told to be entertaining. I guess that implies modern stories are not intended to entertain, but sometimes it feels like they are not.
Iron Fist, a cool figure from a lost age.
It may shock some readers to know this, but I am not a big gamer. That's not to say I don't enjoy video games, but the hours I log are minuscule to many of those reading this. Part of it is time but also I only play games I enjoy and while I like a good game that lasts I hate a game that takes forever to play as well. Still I have to be upfront in saying I have never been a huge fan of the Assassins Creed franchise. I played the first one once, and after about an hour of playing I felt like I was spending most of my time watching a movie rather than playing a game. It felt like I spent only 5 minutes of play time and the rest watching a ton of dialogue that I couldn't skip. I don't mind cut scenes but after a while I get bored with them and the first Assassin's Creed seemed to be loaded with them. Now maybe I am exaggerating a bit but that is how it felt and I never picked up the game or it's sequels ever again. BUT I will say that I did like the look of the main character and I honestly wanted a figure of him right at that moment.
Well, it took a few years but he is finally here and I have to say I am happy. As I said I haven't played the games much but the look of Ezio Auditore da Firenze and this is a great representation of his look in Assassin's Creed Brotherhood. There are other figures in the line, but I ended up avoiding them for the most part. I just had no attachment to any of them beyond Ezio.
Many have pointed out that Ezio invokes thoughts of Storm Shadow which I suppose is true. There aren't many assassins that are decked out in white really. Still he is unique enough to be his own character despite the resemblance in colors. He has a really cool set of swappable hands that simulate his wrist daggers as well. Overall a very cool figure.
Still there is some points that are easy to poke at, like the fact that Ezio hails from Italy. My mom grew up in an predominantly Italian neighborhood and when she asked me about Assassin's Creed couldn't help but point out that it had to be fiction since no Italian could ever master stealth. A fact I had to poke fun at in Scale Wars and any figure I can get an instant joke from gets plenty of points in my book.
It used to be that hazardous materials were handled by the "leaky suit brigade" know as the Toxo-Vipers. For whatever reason Hasbro skipped the Toxo-Viper and decided to go with a new figure, Hazard Viper. Hazard Viper is mostly a straight repaint of the Volcano Viper from the Rise of Cobra Lava Pod. The only real difference is the arms. Still somehow the designers have managed to make a straight repaint into something unique. It's a real testament to what Hasbro is capable of if they try. There is not an original part or accessory with this figure and yet he seems to be something cool.
Part of it is the color, orange is the last thing one would expect for a Cobra trooper of any specialty. However, with a Cobra hazardous materials trooper it somehow works. I suppose that the idea of orange being a color for a trooper who is unlikely to be out on the battlefield is part of the ease of acceptance.
Hazard Viper also recycles some accessories, specifically the case from ROC which contained canisters (now colored blue for the "compound z" formula) and Artic Destro's water gun. Both of these work well with Hazard Viper.
Hazard Viper is a figure that on paper probably shouldn't work, yet he does and works great. He is kind of fun while not being totally unbelievable. The GI Joe line really put something special on the table this year and this is a big part of the reason. Really, as you read on, this was the year I think GI Joe finally brought it to the table and I have to say I am pleased. Hazard Viper is just one element that I feel made GI Joe worthwhile this year.
As I said with Tygra, I am not a huge Thundercats fan, so you know when I add one to my favorites list there is something up. Well of the old Thundercats Panthro always stuck out to me. I remember him pretty fondly from the old cartoon and his move up to the current was pretty good I think. The new cartoon isn't a favorite of mine but I don't hate it either and of the elements of the cartoon I have seen Panthro is one of the best.
His translation into figure form is pretty good too. His articulation is strong but not overdone and his sculpt is pretty impressive. One aspect I love is the spiked gauntlets, thankfully they didn't wuss out on the spikes like Hasbro did with the Destroyer from the Thor movie line. He does suffer a bit of a pinhead but with a figure that is so cool it's easy to overlook.
I suppose Panthro sticks out to me cause he is kind of different from the rest of the Thundercats. Tygra and Lion-O do seem kind of interchangeable at times and while Cheetra is noticeable she is also the only girl. The kits seem to mirror one another as well. As such Panthro does come off as unique among the rest. His color is different as is his personality. I suppose that's why I have no trouble remembering him unlike many of the others.
I won't say his figure is perfect, but it's a pretty good representation and I enjoy it, thus he is here on the list.
Since Marvel Universe started one of my big wants was a Red Skull. Granted this wasn't really what I had in mind but he isn't a bad figure at all. His movie look does leave a bit to be desired but it's not bad overall. A huge part of me wishes that the rumored repaint of the SDCC Invaders set had come to be, unfortunately the comic rendition of Skull turned out to be a repaint of this figure in brighter colors. Still this version of Red Skull is pretty good, but I think if he were more comic accurate he would also be much higher ranked.
Red Skull does have a major distinction of being one of the very few movie inspired figures in the Captain America movie line. The line was inundated with many renditions of Cap (which were welcome but got a bit tedious after a while). Skull was also one of the few non-Cap figures in the line as well. His Nazi background was replaced by Hydra for some unknown reason, but still he is pretty much the same major bad guy he has been in the Marvel Universe.
Skull is, of course, one of the Major Villains of the Marvel Universe and deserves representation in the line somewhere. To me he, Magneto, Dr. Doom, Ultron, and Mandarin are probably the biggest of the villains that have appeared in Marvel. Skull was really the last of those to make an appearance for some unknown reason (although many suspect his Nazi background could have been a contributing factor. Still Toybiz did a really well done Red Skull in Marvel Legends without any major issues about it, so you have to wonder if the excuse isn't a bit of worry over nothing).
Sadly, I think this might be the only stab at Red Skull we get. Hasbro seems very hesitant to even attempt a modern update to Skull, while the Nazi background could be a factor for an older version of Skull, I don't see how that effects the idea of a modern one. Whatever the case maybe, at this point it finally feels like we have the big bad guys of the Marvel Universe and for that I am happy. Now to get some BETTER renditions.
As I said with Hazard Viper, it's kind of amazing what the GI Joe designers have done with existing parts and suck is the case with Crazylegs. Crazylegs was never a favorite of mine in the older days of GI Joe. His specialty seemed redundant (as Ripcord had pretty well covered it) and his code name was a bit weird and confusing. Still I tried to justify his existence by saying GI Joe needed more than one paratrooper.
Like many of the best figures from GI Joe this past year, Crazylegs hasn't had a gazillion versions over the years and this is just his 3rd incarnation in action figure form (the last one appearing way back in 1988). But what makes this figure truly amazing is the fact he has no original parts whatsoever. He is a mix-match of previously used parts that combine to make a very original looking figure. In a way I am reminded of Karmakura from the Rise of Cobra line who utilized a similar idea and combined them into a truly unique and different figure from used parts.
Once again I have to say this figure is a real testament to what Hasbro designers are capable of if they try. An original looking figure of a character that hasn't been seen in so long that he appears fresh that utilizes already used parts. Really if Hasbro insists on constant reuses this is how it should be I think.
The 1990's was a funny time for comics. It seemed the whole of the world was being redefined and on the forefront of that was Cable. I'm not really sure what it was that made Cable so popular back in the day and to be honest I don't think anyone who thought he was popular ever knew why either. I didn't hate him at all but his meteoric rise in the Marvel Universe left me and everyone I know scratching their heads. He came in and filled a very vital role for the kids of the New Mutants as mentor but really there wasn't anything super-unique about him. We had seen mutants who were also cyborgs before and gun packing future characters almost seemed the norm after Days of Future Past.
Still I kind of admit that Cable was likeable but his popularity waned as quickly as it came. Again no one is really sure why other than he just wasn't as popular anymore. Still he finally got a figure in the Marvel Universe line and it was a really well done figure to boot. Not at all perfect but far from bad and was a solid representation of Cyclops's long lost son (Yeah, it was kind of weird when that came out considering Cable appears to be much older than his dad at the time).
Cable also had a variant that came with Hope to represent his appearance in The Messiah Complex. One can't help but to poke at the baby armor (Since Hope is right on Cable's chest which puts her in the worst spot if a fight breaks). Cable apparently died at the end of the story but of course he is coming back now as well, see no one stays dead for long in Marvel, it's kind of what you do there.
Hopefully (Pun semi-intended) we don't get a big bunch of Cable figures coming out of the wood work now like we did with the early Toybiz Marvel Figures. I could see a few maybe, but after about 2 or 3 I can see fans getting very bored. Personally I would probably only grab a first appearance version other than this one anyway. This one is pretty cool on his own merits and a replacement would be unnecessary.
1987 was a tough year for GI Joe. There was an odd transition from the GI Joe animated movie which kind of complicated a great many things. There was a lot I really hated that year but one of the figures I just loved was the Techno-Viper. He looked interesting but not out of place in the Cobra Troops, he had a unique color that wasn't blue but also didn't clash with the established Cobras, and he had a specialty that was necessary. I have often wondered why the Joes never attempted at a Battlefield Technician as well, but I digress.
Techno had a bunch of interesting accessories too. His tools and laser welder all fit his specialty perfectly and all these accessories have been updated and brought forward with the new figure. The figure is a cool update to a figure that some have had issue with in their Joe collections but he retains those classic elements perfectly while bringing in a good chunk of uniqueness to the figure too.
Some have complained about his vest being too bulky and I actually think it makes it look like he has some body armor myself. This is perfectly logical when you consider he would probably be running out into the battlefield to fix broken tanks and such, I mean he needs some protection.
Overall though it's just nice that Hasbro finally remembered one of my favorite army builders from the old line that I felt was a necessary component to the Cobra Forces.
So many things make Balista Shan very cool to me. She's a Jedi with a double bladed lightsaber, and a female Jedi on top of that. A little known fact is that also she was originally intended to be the daughter of Naomi Sunrider all grown up in the Knights of the Old Republic Game (apparently though there was an issue with copyrights of the name Sunrider at the time). Just a note Naomi was one of my favorite characters from Tales of the Jedi. She is also one of the very few figures made from the KOTOR game which includes Darth Revan (another favorite of mine) and Darth Malak.
This figure was really hard to find as distribution was hell this year. I literally found her at the last possible moment for her to make it on my favorites list. I literally just found her alone on the shelf. Ironically, trying to find her helped me land the figure that ended up on my #1 spot (more on that in the #1 spot).
Balista has some very cool card art, and to be honest I wish the figure resembled her picture more. That combined with the fact her articulation could be better keeps her from being higher on the list. Still she is a grand figure.
While I have tried to stay off the soap box this year, I really have to say something about distribution of the Star Wars line. Literally of the 20 or so figures I wanted this year I may have gotten five (I got more figures but not the ones on my "must have" list). It seemed that Hasbro couldn't get product to the stores this year as I saw empty pegs and no new product. Unlike previous years where Obi-Wan's and Anakin's clog the pegs, this time I saw plenty of room for more. Vintage was the same way and yet I saw nothing past the General Lando wave until the needless Revenge of the Jedi wave hit. Why? who knows but I know I got sick of it around October, really if you are going to make product please get it to the stores. I know some are blaming retailers ect as they read this, but all it takes to see through that is to look around and realize this stuff just isn't getting out to the stores in sufficient numbers. You can deny it until doomsday but that won't make it any less true.
Off the soap box for now ;-).