Monday, September 27, 2010

It's all Cherry Picking Now: DC Direct

It's been some time since I've given a review over to action figures of the 6" scale variety from DC Direct. Like the title of this post suggests, I'm no longer in the habits of buying whole waves of DCD action figure lines and down to picking up only characters (or versions of characters) that haven't been made before by either DCD or Mattel. (And of course any version of Aquaman, but that's another issue...)

The last two lines that DCD have put out were the first (and likely only) series of Batman: Battle for the Cowl and Series 5418 (oh wait, could it only be Series Five?) of Blackest Night.

From Battle for the Cowl, I purchased Batgirl and Azrael. I'm a big fan of Stephanie Brown and am greatly enjoying her run as Batgirl, so this figure was pretty much a given me regardless of quality, but I'm certainly not disappointed by the product. For starters, this figure is actually in scale with some of the older DCD Batman family figures - with DCD's scale track record I was worried that Steph would be towering over her Bat-colleagues, but thankfully that's not the case here. This is a very nicely detailed figure, from the textures on her uniform to her belts (waist and thigh) to her hair, which has been crafted with a softer plastic that doesn't completely hinder her neck articulation. Paint is also top notch here, and her accessories are well done, although her little yellow batarang doesn't fit very snugly in her hand.

Azrael isn't a character I'm terribly familiar with, but I quite like his new look, and this is it's first figure so it qualifies for my "rules". Again, there is great detail here in both sculpt and paint. The chainmail effect on the sleeves and his unusual cape are particular standouts. His swords are excellent - the flaming effect sword is great fun. Again, his smaller sword doesn't sit very snugly in his

hand, which is a minor quibble for what is otherwise a brilliant figure.

From Blackest Night 5, I only bought Nekron. I have been staying away from the Black Lanterns (except for Aquaman, refer to above) but this is Nekron's first time in plastic and it's quite a premiere. There's some amazing detailing here, from Nekron's open torso and icky insides to his flowing cape. I'm a bit bothered by the chains around his neck as they're a bit big and block your view of his headsculpt more than necessary.

Nekron also comes with one of the most groovy accessories I've seen in awhile - his wooden handled scythe... thing. It's huge and interesting and... almost impossible to keep standing up, but that's okay - it's very good looking, and it's a wooden handled scythe... thing! Assuming Nekron wins the DCUC vote for the Wave 20 Collect and Connect figure (I voted for Shaggy Man for what it's worth) we'll likely have a bigger version of him in time, but it will be hard pressed to be as nicely detailed as this one.

These aren't particularly newsworthy figures, but the reason I wanted to post about them was because to me they're all examples of what DC Direct could and should be. On it's best day, DCD beats DCUC for me hands down in terms of the ability to craft original bucks and use a high amount of detail, but Mattel has been washing the walls with DCD because of a pretty simple factor: an eclectic selection of characters including classic characters presented in a consistent style: which is all many of us ever wanted from DC Direct. I guess time will tell what the shake-ups at DC mean in terms of DCD's future output, but I'd just like to put in my vote for much more first time characters and classic lines and much less of the artist specific Superbat stuff we've been subjected to for way too long.

You can see more pics at Facebook (Battle for the Cowl / Blackest Night), discuss this at the AFB Forum, and comment on this post to enter the September AFB Comment of the Month Contest.

Until next time!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sideshow comes out in Force!

X-Force, of course! Oh, AFB is such a whacky wizard with words!!

Ahem. Forgive the excitement, but it's not every day you get a whole team full of heroes in one statue. That's what Sideshow's X-Force Diorama has brought to my shelves, with the original team line-up of Wolverine, X-23, Warpath and Wolfsbane, and I'm delighted to be able to give it a bit of a review.

First off, the box and packaging. I have to say Sideshow's box art is not the best around. Perhaps it's a cost saving thing to keep the cost down, but it's all a bit close up and fuzzy for me. At the end of the day it's the insides that matter, but it's something that's always struck me about Sideshow product, so I'm saying it. As for the statue, each character is individually packed and fits into the base (or in Wolfsbane's case, Warpath's shoulder) securely.

This is a very fun piece in terms of character selection - Warpath and Wolfsbane don't get alot of toy time, and Rahne in her human form even less! One thing you do have to forgive right away to enjoy this statue is scale - there's some pretty major licence taken here with Warpath's size in relation to his teammates in order to make him the anchor of the piece. He could have been a smidge smaller without wrecking the symmetry of it all!

The sculpting and paintwork are both excellent here. You might think that four characters in basically the same uniform and colour scheme could be a bit dull, but it's actually rather visually striking. There are some nice details here, like the sculpted belt buckles, the veins on the guys' arms, and the claws on Wolvie and X-23 which look great but are of a flexible material so they aren't likely to snap off. Another thing I really like about this piece is that it actually doesn't have a huge base and so doesn't take up a massive amount of shelf space.

I missed out on the Exclusive version of this diorama, which included a swap-out for Rahne in her wolf form, but I wasn't too fussed about that as this is the way I would have chosen to display the statue anyway. The regular version does have both a masked and unmasked head for Wolverine, as shown. For display I've gone with the masked version, but both are great.

Of course, only Wolvie remains on the team after everyone else got the boot at the end of Second Coming. All the better then that the original line-up (which I much prefer to the new) has been captured here in this fine piece! This is certainly the kind of thing I'd love to see Sideshow produce more of in the future.

You can see more pics at Facebook, discuss this at the AFB Forum, and comment on this post to enter the September AFB Comment of the Month Contest!

Until next time!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Okay, I Caved! A Piece of DCUC Wave 14

I should say upfront to my American friends that it's still to early to rush out to your local Wal-Mart and start looking for the WM exclusive Wave 14 of DC Universe Classics. This advance appearance of that wave's Collect and Connect figure, the terrifying Ultra-Humanite, isn't the product of any amazing retail find - it's the result of me caving in a moment of weakness and buying him on eBay from Hong Kong.

In my defense, I shall offer weakly that it was a very cheap Buy it Now, that I didn't seek him out but rather just stumbled upon it, and hey, I'm a pretty big fan of Superman's original arch-foe, okay??

I don't have anything to compare it with at the moment, but any concerns I had about buying what is quite possibly a factory reject were unnecessary - there's nothing I can really fault. Sculpt and paint all look top notch, and he even has his computer console accessory. Ultra-Humanite seems to share Gorilla Grodd's arms, but everything else here is new - including legs with articulated knees and ankles which makes a number of different poses possible. Perhaps the one issue with this particular figure I've bought is that the knee and ankle joints are rather loose. It's not enough to impact on him standing, but I normally find the joints on CnC parts are very stiff, so this is something different.

This really is an exciting choice for a Collect and Connect, both in terms of character selection and quality. He's a great JSA villain, an Earth Two character, and he looks great! This sort of diversity in CnC choices is very important in ensuring that the DCUC line really does cover the entire DC Universe, so I'm very pleased to see a character like the Humanite getting his turn!

This big white ape is so amazing that I have no qualms about collecting him again piece by piece as my DCUC Wave 14 collection comes together - which won't happen by paying scalpers on eBay. I'm very fortunate to have friends on a couple of forums Stateside that have banded together to help us "internationals" get access to these exclusives at reasonable prices. Collectors unite!

You can see more pics on Facebook, discuss this at the AFB Forum, and comment on this post to enter the September AFB Comment of the Month Contest.

Until next time!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

AFB is Bewitched!

I had the great fortune of traveling to Singapore recently, and amongst all of the amazing culture and unbelievable food, I discovered what I have come to call "Toy Nirvana". It was a nondescript little shopping centre called China Square Central, located on the edge of Chinatown (best place to stay and eat in Singapore, by the way). I wandered in there on my last weekend in Singapore just looking for a coffee, and nearly fell over when I walked in. The place was basically two floors of toy stores. Not Toys R Us style, but action figures and statues. Two floors of the them. Wowza!

There was pretty much everything you could want, including retailer exclusives of all descriptions. I also worked out where all the stuff goes to - It was the end of July and I saw a guy walk into a shop with two boxes of She-Ra figures and sell them to the owner. I enjoyed looking around but didn't buy a great deal as I hadn't budgeted for it and the prices were pretty much on the mark for what I'd pay in Oz. However, as I left one shopkeeper told me that there were flea markets the next day where people could pay for a table and sell their own stuff, so I decided to come back.

The flea markets were a pretty amazing scene, and I ended up at a table where a guy had a huge bunch of statues and busts he was selling for a steal. Quite I few I already owned, but I was pretty gobsmacked to walk away with the brand new Sideshow Scarlet Witch Comiquette for a complete bargain, and delighted when the hotel I was staying at told me they would send it home for me. Whoo-hoo!

This is an utterly amazing piece. The sculpt is exquisite, particularly the amazing job done on the Scarlet Witch's headsculpt and her flowing cape. I love the sense of humour that Adam Hughes infuses into his designs, and the concept of Wanda remote controlling a toy version of the Vision is just genius. This is really great fun! The paintwork on this piece is also incredibly vibrant - rich colours and a nice mix of metallic and matte paint.

The one issue I have with this beautiful piece is that the base is utterly gigantic. The Sideshow Comiquettes are on a rather large scale to begin with, and the base on this one is round - 12" in diameter, which makes it just too wide to fit in Andy's display. The downside is that I can't display it at the moment, but the upside is that Mrs AFB has stated that I'll have to get another display cabinet to show it off!

I've recently acquired the older Mystique and Rogue Comiquettes, and I couldn't be more impressed with Hughes work for Sideshow. I'm worried that it looks like the series is coming to an end with the announcement of the new "Women of Marvel" Comiquette Series starting with Sue Storm, and if that's so, that's a shame - it's great stuff!

You can see a multitude of pics at Facebook, discuss this at the AFB Forum, and comment on this post to enter the September AFB Comment of the Month Contest.

Until next time!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Marvel Select's Latest are some of the Greatest!

Marvel Select has been cranking out some great figures lately, and the two most recent releases are amongst the best in the line, and also the heaviest!

The Thing is the first member of the Fantastic Four to get the Marvel Select treatment, and he's been done proud here. His rocky skin is well done in texture and colour - great fun! I do find the head a bit small - The Thing has certainly been portrayed in many proportions over the years, but I would alter this slightly to make the head a tad bigger and the fists a tad smaller. Not much though - he's nearly perfect.

One odd thing is that Mr Grimm doesn't come with the pictured personal hovercraft accessory, but instead with a really bizarre and pointless sign / landscape thing. Really, an amazing figure like this doesn't need a pack-in to make it worthwhile - it's amazing enough on it's own!

The Hulk family now has another Marvel Select member courtesy of Abomination. If I thought The Thing was heavy, this is mammoth - five pounds! So heavy in fact that there are special supports required to keep the pack together, which could bother MOC collectors. I'm an opener, however, and this figure is really an amazing piece - the fantastic headsculpt, detailed skin and amazing claws on his hands and feet.

The level of articulation for figures this size is really quite impressive, and that's one thing I really like about the larger figures in the MS line as opposed to the regular size. The ball jointed hips of the regular male figures are the biggest downfall of the line for me. These are present in some of the larger figures but the scale thankfully makes them less of an issue.

The oversized figures are the real gems of the Marvel Select line, and I much prefer them to the smaller figures with a base, unless it's something really meaningful like the gate to Xavier's or Dr Doom's throne. It really is great to see Diamond increasing the output of the line, and joining threads together like the Hulk and X-Men families. After all, while these figures are amazing on their own, it's when you get them together - particularly the Hulk crowd - that they really come alive!

It's also great to see the line picking up some heat on the interwebs - with people discussing wish lists and wanting more. My friends at Critical Mess recently did a poll on most wanted Marvel Select figures, which you can see here. The very deserving (tied) winners were Captain America (Steve Rogers) and Nova, both of which would be great additions to this line. Bring them on, I say!

You can see more pics at Facebook, discuss this at the AFB Forum, and comment on this to enter the AFB September Comment of the Month Contest!

Until next time!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The AFB Comment of the Month Contest - September!

First off, thanks to everyone who commented on last month’s blog posts. Congratulations to "Stephen" for being our randomly selected winner! Once we hear from Stephen (you can contact me through the AFB Forum - "Andy"), his choice of either the DC Direct Nekron figure or the SDCC Exclusive 90's X-Men Minimates will be on the way when available from Mike’s Comics N’ Stuff.

Now to September’s Contest: on offer are two great prizes, either the Marvel Universe Wave 11 Thanos figure, or your choice of one the Venture Bros Retro Style figures!

A few bits and pieces:

  • every genuine comment on a post from the calendar month will be eligible for receiving the prize. I’m going to stick to my own time zone and call it at 23:59:59 Australian Eastern Standard Time – best to comment often and comment early!

    if my super scientific randomizer comment selector system chooses an Anonymous comment, I’ll skip it and go again – you need to leave a name, a link, your AFB Forum username or email addy so that I can contact you if you are the winner. Blogger comments allows you to do this, as long as your profile is not set to private – check your settings.

  • you will be given a choice of one of the two figures on offer from the month’s contest – figures will be in their original packaging.
  • figures will be sent by first class mail within the US (Mike is sending them, remember) and first class international to any overseas winner. An overseas winner can elect to chip in for Priority Mail or Insurance, but otherwise we can’t take any responsibility for a parcel that doesn’t arrive – after all this is coming out of AFB’s not dreadfully deep pockets!

Once again, thanks to Mike for making this all possible for us, and here’s to another happy month of commenting!

Until next time!

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