Kicking off the top ten is an unexpected figure to the list, the Silver Samurai. I bought the comic pack with him and Wolverine specifically for him but I didn't expect to like him so much right off the bat. Unlike most Marvel Universe figures he is an all new and highly detailed mold. If he reuses parts I am hard pressed to figure out where (maybe top legs and arms is the only thing I can imagine) and on top of that the details in the figure are astounding (rivets all through his armor are just great). It does beg the question why can't all Marvel Universe figures be this detailed, but I digress again.
We will probably see much more of Samurai soon as he has been listed as the bad guy for Wolverine Origins 2. While Hasbro passed on X-Men First Class (a very foolish choice IMO) I doubt they will pass on a chance to make yet even MORE Wolverines, and they do need to put the villain in there somewhere too LOL.
The Wolverine he comes with is pretty ok too, but not great. He at least has separated claws which is something most Wolverines from Hasbro don't have. Still the Silver Samurai is the star of the pack.
What I was surprised to see was this pack actually peg warmed. However it was packed 3 per pack verses less amounts for Deadpool/Taskmaster, which is one possible explanation (Although why that case ratio might have been is beyond me). Fans are also burned out on Wolverine which could be another. Despite some designers wishes I think this pack proves Wolverine RP's have run their course and needs to be cut back.
When the 25th anniversary line first hit I bet no on thought it would take over 5 years to get an updated Sci-Fi. For whatever reason updates seemed to stall after a bit in the 25th line. However the 30th line has brought us plenty of updates at last. What makes these updates great (beyond the fact they are updates) is that Hasbro has taken the basics of the figures and gone a step further with them. With extra helmets and add-ons that just takes a character like Sci-Fi and pushes him into the modern era.
In the long history of GI Joe, the modern era has been plagued by Hasbro finally getting it right and then taking a step backwards. Sci-Fi (along with his wave mates like Airtight, Lifeline, ect) really put GI Joe back on the map. While many times I don't love updates that are exactly like the originals, in the case of Sci-Fi changing him too much almost makes the character unrecognizable. This version is incredibly cool and retains the elements of the original figure that worked and adds new ones that make the figure shine.
He has two helmets which work great and his rifle is just dynamic, even more so than the originals.
I often wish that many Joe Characters could have their essence transferred over but be changed up. The Pursuit of Cobra line did some of this well, but not on every figure of course. In this case, as I've said, the original hit the mark totally and there was no reason to change him too much, but still update him to fit the modern figures. A win to say the least.
When I was younger I really enjoyed Power Man & Iron Fist. The odd couple of the Marvel Universe just had some great adventures. When we had the first release of Iron Fist and Luke Cage I had given up hope of ever seeing the duo in classic form in 1:18th scale. Boy was I shocked when we got an awesome Power Man and Iron Fist comic pack.
Iron Fist has been mentioned further down the list, but it's Power Man that really shines in the set (although both of them might be my favorite Comic pack to date overall). What makes Luke so much cooler than Iron Fist is one little additional point of articulation in the waist. While I know people tend to talk about how mid-torso joints are more realistic, they do leave a big line across the chest that detracts from the mold. Ok so Luke here still has that, but the waist joint is well hidden and accomplishes the same thing. BOTH give a real range of motion though and allows the figure to REALLY move realistically (as humans turn with the spine in many different places, not just one).
With this Luke can manage some pretty dynamic poses, but more than that I really love the Power Man outfit. Sure it's bright and dated, but there is something about it that is classic as well as Super-Hero-ish. Most modern costumes fail to capture that on many levels. Artists and designers are afraid of color since it's often really garish, but we often forget how cool it is on the comic page (just look at Wolverine and the yellow outfit on the comic page vs. real life).
Cage is fun though and part of me misses this era's version of him. I know some people call him exploitative, but is he really any less or more so than the modern version. Still it's just a design I have enjoyed for years and will continue to do so.
Frank Miller said that most heroes are defined what they can do but Daredevil is defined by what he can't do. Kevin Smith said that most people view Daredevil and either love him or hate him. Can you guess which side of the fence I land on that subject.
DD has been a favorite of mine since I was little. It's hard to describe why, but much of it has to do with his cool radar sense. I know in later years it was many of Frank Miller's stories that brought me around to the character as well. Later, I admit the latest stuff being done with DD (like most modern comics) just leaves me cold, but nothing will shake my love for DD, even if they try to make him a demon.
When the first version of Daredevil hit in the Marvel Universe line I was disappointed beyond words. He was one of the first figures I bought and was one of the first MU figures I was disappointed in. He deserved better than a skinny and frankly inferior mold. When the comic packs debuted at SDCC I noticed DD and Bullseye in the back. NO ONE took a good picture of them and most were obscured by Juggernaught. However, I could tell these figures were different even though there was also a Shadowlands Daredevil that used the old and tired mold from Wave 1. I literally stayed up all night searching for a clear picture of DD and Bullseye. There are very few characters in the world I would do that for, but I hoped this version really was done with the new Cyclops body. The next day the diorama went up and within it was a clear shot of both. HALLELUIAH! both of them were done with the Cyclops body and just looked phenomenal.
Now DD has a great body that works for him rather than one that can't even hold his hands next to his body. Even more he gets a two piece club that just rocks.
He's a favorite of mine, and he's a great figure, where else could he have gone on this list.
"Off the rails" is the first thing I said when I saw Zombie Viper. He's so insane he's cool. I kept thinking if such a figure was ever done I wouldn't like it cause not EVERYTHING needs zombies, right? However this time GI Joe (or rather Cobra) has them and they rock.
I'm not really following along with the whole "Compound Z" idea changing current troops into Zombie-Vipers though. My idea is Mindbender was working on something else and a Toxo-Viper fell into the vat, creating the first Zombie-Viper. From there Mindbender discovered the substance could bring dead soldiers back but they were uncontrollable. For the most part these function like the BAT's. Point them in a direction and they take down everything in front of them (or try to) and yes they can only be stopped by a head shot. No they don't eat flesh but instead just beat the ones in front of them to death (much like the classic Nazi zombie horror movie Shock Waves).
Yes, I've seen too many zombie movies, not cause I love zombies but because I am determined to see every movie ever made at least once.
Yeah everyone has been kind of doing their own interpretation of Zombies for the Zombie Vipers, but they rock any way you cut it.
Many people count out the massive power of Dr. Strange. Strange could possibly be the most powerful character in the Marvel Unvierse. He fights creatures that are one step below godhood every time he does battle (ie Dormammu, Mephisto, Dweller in Darkness, In-Betweener). He actually nearly killed Galactus himself (with an assist from the Thing, but Big G was on the ropes when Thing gave the KO blow. Seriously check it out in Fantastic Four #243. Making this even more impressive is the powerhouse characters like the aforementioned Thing, Thor, Iron Man, ect. couldn't make a dent in Galactus, although some do claim they softened big G up for Strange, it sure doesn't read that way).
Often in western society we view spell casters as weak (due to the amount of supposed study involved I suppose). Yet there are plenty of examples of Wizards who also had a strong physical presence (Lord of the Rings had Gandalf, Star Wars often referred to Obi-Wan as a wizard, Dungeons and Dragons also had many Non-Player Character spell casters who were the last people on earth any role-player would mess with such as Elminister and Rary). Strange unfortunately tends to be sold short do to this misconception (I guess you can't be smart and strong). Many writers have reflected this stereotype too when tacking Strange (which only serves to perpetuate the stereotype as well). However, the animated Dr. Strange movie really worked to avoid this stereotype.
Strange himself is often at the center of huge events but is often regulated to a support role for the main characters. His knowledge and lore are often the few things brought to bear even though he has faced many beings much stronger than the adversaries the current crisis requires heroes to face.
The other problem with Strange is he is a bit hard to relate to. Not only the magic but his catch phrases are strange (pardon the pun). When Strange utters "by The Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth" it doesn't relate as easily as when Power Man shouts "Sweet Christmas" or Thor exclaims "By Odin's Beard." Add in to the fact that having such a powerful character as the star of his own series is a arduous task. How does one create a threat that is credible without the fate of the entire universe being the stakes (A problem faced with other powerful characters like Superman, Thor, ect). Not that such epic tales can't be good but every issue gets a bit heavy.
Of course there is the aspect that much of Strange's earliest stories were influenced by LSD or something. Doubtful that is the case, but the surrealistic aspects of Strange himself do lend themselves to such comparisons.
Strange is a great character though, even with his overwhelming powers. His design and demeanor beg for a cool action figure and he defiantly got it.
Airtight is often a very hated GI Joe character. I'm not really sure why. Some have said they don't know what to do with a hazardous materials expert in a combat situation, which is a fair assessment. I have heard some claim his bright yellow outfit cause a bunch of problems too, fair again. To me though it was Airtight who made me realize GI Joe can be whatever you wish just because you can make it anything you want.
Basically it began when I got the original Airtight and (like many kids at the time) I asked "How do I use this?" At first I just used him for cleaning up chemicals, but eventually I began getting a bit creative with him. Essentially what I used to do was come up with ideas that would not only get rid of most hazardous compounds but also apply them to real combat situations. At his core Airtight became a combat engineer with a specialty on hazardous materials and disposal there of. In my review of Airtight I mentioned his explosive fire gas and it's application for combat. That is just one of many ideas and applications I had out of Airtight.
The point being is that Airtight really brought out a great deal of creativity for my toy collecting. I liked also that I could change up Airtight because his scant appearances in Joe Media left a lot of room to be creative with his character and specialty. Since the cartoon and comic contradicted each other so often it made for no real "canon" as was the case with Star Wars. Thus, you could take what you liked, dump the rest and make up anything you want from there, a pretty free flowing way of looking at those old characters and why so many different fans have their own version of a "Joe-verse."
Taskmaster is probably my all time favorite Marvel Villain but ironically he really has never had a major storyline to date to warrant the love I give him. Really I tend to think of Taskmaster more in the realm of potential rather than what he has actually done. Sure, he's had some great fights with Cap, Hawkeye and others but to me he really has only scratched the surface of what he can do as a character.
One of my main ideas is one where he gathers a group together to combat various heroes. I call the group Antithesis, and Tasky gathers his group based on who he thinks they might face. In other words if facing the Avengers he would gather the likes of Juggernaught or Ulik (For Thor) and Crimson Dynamo or Spymaster for Iron Man. If facing the X-Men he would get Dakkan or Sabretooth for Wolverine and Prisim for Cyclops. The point being something opposite from what he is facing. Something like a villains version of Secret Defenders.
So, as some love pointing out to me, in the comic with the comic pack containing Tasky and Deadpool Taskmaster does get defeated by Deadpool. For one Taskmaster has said several times that Deadpool's chaotic nature makes him difficult to combat. This is especially true if you consider Tasky's nature of Photographic Reflexes.
Taskmaster uses parts from both Hawkeye and Captain America, which is quite natural. Taskmaster fights both men and copies their moves but also the combination works to make a unique looking figure. Add in some weapons from Cap and Hawkeye and you have really awesome Taskmaster.
This version of Captain America Was a piece of cake to grab, in fact I think he is still in some stores near me. But often good figures hang around for a bit. When the WW2 Cap came out for SDCC some claimed it was Action figure perfection. I was utterly disappointed when I finally got that Cap and saw so many huge flaws in it. But this one, it was much closer to what I expected. For functionality the WW2 Cap is great, but for both form and functionality the movie Captain America wins hands down.
Of course, Cap is one of those heroes that is constantly in my top ten favorites and with this figure I have a great looking and great articulation. He is one of the few Captain America figures with wrist articulation (A mystery yet to be revealed about the Captain America line). Sure the SDCC Cap does win on articulation, but it also makes some extreme sacrifices in form. This one gives us great form while giving great articulation (Hear that Hasbro, it's a combination of the two not one or the other).
If I were to gripe on the figure, I would have to say the shield is a tad small, but that is something I can live with to get such a cool rendition of him. He looks like he jumped off the movie which isn't a bad thing at all. Hasbro really dropped the ball with the Captain America line overall (Too many Caps and a few that weren't Cap looked just like him like US Agent and very few movie inspired figures). It's kind of sad and to be blunt the Avengers line, which held out a great deal of hope doesn't look to be fairing much better.
Still just cause a line doesn't go to the place we want doesn't mean there is no good figures there. Sure this guy is still pretty easy to find but he also rocks which it is refreshing to find an awesome figure that's easy to find. He was the second Cap I got when I found the movie line and I don't regret it for a second.
Easy to find is the exact opposite of the #1 favorite this year though. He was a tough grab, but at the same time he was worth it. The #1 figure is:
Storm Shadow was short packed in a wave that was very hard to find and it's a shame too. I always say that there are great action figures and that NO figure is perfect but with this rendition of Storm Shadow I have to concede that there is not a flaw at all with this figure. Sure he has the lame Renegades head, but that is easily tossed aside and there is plenty else to compensate for it. What really amazes me about this figure is the way the hands are AND he can still hold his accessories. If you read my review of him, you know he can also do many actual martial arts moves with his increased articulation. The best part of the improved articulation though is that none of his form is sacrificed for it. Hasbro has a slight reputation of killing a mold with too much articulation, but in the past few years they are getting that mold part down better and better and this is probably the best example to date.
As I said earlier he was short packed, and it must be pointed out that the last 4 or so Storm Shadows didn't perform well at retail (Often they were the pegwarmers of the line) but to also be fair they were all less than desirable figures as well (Thus who would grab them). This is a far superior figure but for whatever reason Hasbro apparently noticed all the SS's lingering in HTS and decided no one liked him any more. No big H, its that people won't buy lame figures, quite simple really. So as such this incredibly awesome figure got tossed into a bidding war on ebay and hit highs of around $40. I consider myself fortunate to have grabbed him for $15 shipped. The Irony of the purchase is at the time I was trying to get Blaista Shan and kept getting outbid so after three tries I went for Stormy and got him first try. Weird, ironic, but part of me thinks this might have been payback for all the frustration I suffered with Star Wars this year, who knows.
I knew Stormy was going to be cool but to be honest he blew me away, and in a way that is frustrating. As I write this the new Retaliation figures have been revealed and (in a move I feel is totally foolish) Hasbro is cutting back articulation. I look at this figure and really I have only two or three times called a figure perfect, and wonder if they at Hasbro even understand what they did with this figure. I have said it before but it bares repeating, nowhere in history that I am aware has a reduction in quality ever worked out well for the business. I mean even the Facts of Life tried to teach us that one when Joe had a pizza business and she started using frozen ingredients.
And I'm sure some are trying to fan the flames of these revelations and will also do so in response to these statements, but I wonder when the smoke clears if those same people will look back and say "Yep, that was a bad move." Look at Rise of Cobra, same thing happened, look back to Sigma 6, same thing happened, look at Spy Troops even, same thing. I find it funny in a way to be honest, but also sad in many other ways.
Am I trying to be pessimistic, of course not. It is just disheartening as a collector to see something that borders upon perfection only to see the next step in the journey is a step backwards. A friend said to me the other day "Will there even be 50 figures worth putting on your list next year?" and I have to admit with the ruors of lower quality that this does become a possibility.
BUT, as we stand on the edge of Toyfair and such questions will be at least partially answered I have to say that on the off chance there are not 50 figures next year worth my liking enough to put on this list-well-I'll just do 40, or 30, or whatever amount there is to put here. Either way I love action figures too much to give up so easy on them. While some scream and some make excuses I will be pouring over pictures of upcoming Joes, Marvel, Star Wars and whatever else happens to be in 1:18th scale. I will make decisions based on my likes for characters, ideas, concepts, execution and whatever. And most importantly I will like (and dislike) what I do which is what I've done since I was 5 years old and will probably continue to do until I either die or action figures are no longer made.
Point is, I love this stuff and I will continue to love this stuff. I don't love everything put out there but such is life. The journey is still ongoing and I will continue to travel it come what may.