Monday, June 13, 2011

Toy Reviews: GI Joe, Marvel Universe, and Vintage Star Wars

I was never a big toy collector. I always dabbled, getting a figure here or there, but not collecting an entire series of anything. Then I saw advertising (I’m not sure where) for the GI Joe 25th Anniversary box set and I couldn’t wait.

As a kid I was a huge GI Joe fan and had a lot of the figures. As I got older I didn’t know what to do with the figures so I sold them to a friend. Over the years I’ve seen the vintage figures at comic stores, yard sales, and on eBay but haven’t wanted to reacquire them. But the 25th Anniversary figures were different – the sculpts were light years better than the originals. I have all of the figures (not variants except the Wraith variant) from each basic wave.

That was the start of my addiction to 3 ¾ figures.

I’m not as big a collector of the Pursuit of Cobra line of figures but I now have every figure of every basic wave of Marvel Universe figures (with the exception of some variants) and I get a few figures from each 3 ¾ series so I thought I’d review a few of those toy lines.
In the pictures are (from left to right): Cobra Shock Trooper (from GI Joe Pursuit of Cobra), Dial-Tone (from GI Joe 25th Anniversary (GI Joe Collector’s Club Exclusive)), Hal Jordan: Green Lantern (from Green Lantern movie), Captain Jack Sparrow (from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), and Battlefield Captain America (from Captain America: The First Avenger)

GI Joe 25th Anniversary
This is the series that started the 3 ¾ revolution for me. When I was a kid I collected the figures, comic books, and eagerly watched the cartoons. As an adult, I don’t like the cartoons too much, the comic books aren’t that great, but the characters themselves have made an indelible mark on my life that these figures perfectly embody.
Good: A good portion of the figures I had as a kid were redone with new sculpts but the same great accessories and even greater articulation. Matt Tracker as a GI Joe figure rocks! Bring back MASK!
Bad: There were a few lousy characters – anything from “Tiger Force” sucked. Matt Tracker seemed to sell really well so why not release more GI Joe-style MASK figures?
Available: The availability really depended on the wave. There were waves I never saw so I had to get them from or
Dabble/Collect: At the time I would have said “Collect” but it’s been a while and prices are high and they aren’t sold in stores anymore. Still, if you had a chance to get any of these great figures, congratulations.

GI Joe Pursuit of Cobra
After the success of the “25th Anniversary” and “Rise of Cobra” lines, Hasbro gives us the most accessorized and detailed GI Joe figures I’ve ever seen.

Good: From these figures’ all-new sculpts, their jackets, to the assortment of gear stuffed in the bubble, these figures are incredible.
Bad: Only 5 waves have come out and we already have 3 different versions of Snake Eyes. There are characters in here that are obscure or have never had a figure before while I want characters like Roadblock and Scarlett to get the “Pursuit” treatment.
Available: I have had to get almost all my figures through Stores continually have 3 or 4 sad figures hanging (most of them the Arctic Destro).
Dabble/Collect: I dabble. I only have the first Snake Eyes they came out with and all of the Storm Shadow figures have sucked. Figures like Firefly, Lowlight, and Beachhead are my favorite action figure versions of those characters. But figures like Croc Master and Blowtorch look just like their 25th Anniversary counterparts.

Green Lantern movie
This is DC’s first foray into 3 ¾ territory (I think their other figure lines were 3” and I don’t count the animated style figures) and they’ve based the figures on the upcoming Green Lantern film starring Ryan Reynolds. I got swept up in Green Lantern fever and purchased the Toys ‘R Us Early Bird figure.

Good: It’s Green Lantern along with other members of the Green Lantern Corp. The figures have cool “construct” accessories like Green Lantern has a huge green fist and Sinestro has two green swords.
Bad: The sculpts are a little thin and figures like Kilowag don’t tower over the other figures like he should. There is limited articulation and they’re just as expensive as much better figure lines like GI Joe: Pursuit of Cobra and any of the Marvel lines.
Available: All of the figures have been very available and no figures seem to be more popular than others.
Dabble/Collect: I only have Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Kilowog, Sinestro, and Abin Sur. If a figure comes out based on Blake Lively, I’ll pick that one up and then I’ll have all of the main cast.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
PotC is here again and with it, a new slew of toys. I don’t know if this is the first time Jack has been 3 ¾ because I wouldn’t have been paying attention back then.

Good: Great detailing and no glut of Jack Sparrow in different uniforms. Even Gibbs gets a figure in this series. The accessories are a cool rubber material which makes their hats go on easily but help them to stay put. The swords have scabbards attached to the figures and are easy to get in and out.
Bad: Lack of articulation and they’re just as expensive as much better figure lines like GI Joe: Pursuit of Cobra and any of the Marvel lines. I haven’t seen any indication that they’re going to come out with a Philip and Syrena figure (they were a major part of the movie).
Available: I haven’t noticed a shortage of any one figure.
Dabble/Collect: I dabble very little in this collection. I bought a Toys ‘R Us exclusive three pack with Jack Sparrow, Angelina, and Blackbeard because it was $20 for three figures and I wanted all three figures. I will also get Philip and Syrena figures if they become available as they were the best part of the movie for me (aside from Jack’s antics of course).

Captain America: The First Avenger
The Avengers film is less than a year away but Captain America is coming to a theatre near you next month. Marvel has a tradition with its X-Men Origins and Iron Man 2 figures of giving you three categories of figures: Movie, Comic Book, and Concept. Captain America: The First Avenger action figure series is no different.

Good: Captain America costumes from the movie to the Heroic Age of comics along with villains like the movie version of Red Skull and the comic book version of Crossbones make this line diverse enough for movie and comic book lovers.
Bad: In the tradition of X-Men Origins and Iron Man 2 figures, the women in the film and in the comic book have been ignored. I don’t know who the girl is shooting at Cap in the trailer of the film but it’s a good bet she won’t have a figure. Also, I hate some of the bladed and separating shields - I want the figures to have the regular shield (I have to get a figure with a regular shield to replace the stupid looking ones that come with the Heroic Age or Ultimates version).
Available: My guess is that this series will follow in Iron Man 2’s footsteps. There will always be three or four figures only released one to a case in one wave while six of the various Captain America figures will always haunt the toy shelves, never moving until there is a sale that frees up some space. That shelf space will be taken by another 5 cases of figures that collectors have already cherry picked which will leave the same six various Captain America figures clogging the shelves. Ugh.
Dabble/Collect: Collect…eventually. I only bought the Battlefield Captain America and I’m waiting until the movie is released to see if I can find a Red Skull figure to see how much trouble finding figures is going to be. If I can’t find Red Skull, I might have to spring for a case of figures on If I spring for a case, I’ll be assured that all I have is one figure that I might end up with more than one of.

In the pictures are (from left to right): Stormtrooper (from Vintage Star Wars), The Hulk (from Marvel Universe), Logan (from X-Men Origins: Wolverine), War Machine (from Iron Man 2), and Black Guard (from Tron Legacy)

Vintage Star Wars
I liked the vintage announcement that said we were celebrating Empire Strikes Back’s anniversary with action figures on vintage-looking cards. With the vintage figures came a mail away offer for a vintage Boba Fett with the rocket-firing accessory he was supposed to have when he first came out in the 80’s. It also came with the largest AT-AT in the history of the toy.

I’m not a Star Wars collector but I wanted the AT-AT badly. I didn’t get to have one as a kid and have been eyeballing it whenever it has come out in the past. I couldn’t resist it. I also couldn’t resist the mail away Boba Fett figure so I had to get five figures and ended up with about 10.

Good: Great articulation, the figures are detailed with great paint jobs, and the accessories were movie/character specific.
Bad: The price: $9-$10 per figure. There are characters in the vintage line that no one wants (the no-name aliens and things like Senate Guard) and no one is paying for. The figures look great in the packages but they’re basically figures you’ve gotten in other series (except the R2-D2 on Jabba’s Skiff – I’ve never seen that one before and I collect R2-D2s).
Available: All of the figures are available – I do look through them still looking for anything new and flip to the back to see what other figures are out and can find all the figures at different times. But that first wave with Boba Fett and Luke in Bespin outfit is gone and I haven’t seen that in a while.
Dabble/Collect: If you’re a Star Wars fan, you already are collecting these in some form or another. I just dabble in the figures that I thought I’d need to stage a scene with the super-huge AT-AT.

Marvel Universe
When I found out there were 3 ¾ Marvel figures that were just as detailed and articulated as the Legends line, I thought that sounded awesome. At first I was hesitant to get any because the good Legends figures were always really difficult to get and showed up on eBay for 2 – 3 times retail. The first time I saw the first wave at Toys ‘R Us was the first and the last time I was able to grab every figure in a wave. I was hooked. I loved the figures.

Good: Great diversity in the line from Avengers to X-Men to street-level heroes, no corner of the Marvel Universe is untouched. The detailing is great, the paint is great, and I like that the figures come with a stand like the GI Joe figures do. I like that figures like Juggernaut and Hulk are enormous while Spider-Man is appropriately thin in comparison.
Bad: Some of the figures have been…stupid. Wolverine in the Jim Lee blue & yellow costume without his mask on? Some two packs have a figure you already have (Deadpool) with a new figure you don’t (Taskmaster). And the upcoming three packs have a Fantastic Four pack with two figures we already have and one figure we don’t (Invisible Girl). There is an X-Force silver & black Wolverine, Warpath, and Deadpool but the only way to get the Archangel version is to pay $100 because it was an exclusive at the New York Convention. Speaking of X-Force, female characters are virtually ignored in this line as well – no Psylocke or X-23.
Available: Most figures are tough to get here in San Diego. The racks currently have three versions of Iron Man, AIM soldier, Winter Soldier, Iron Spider-Man, and Jim Lee Wolverine. I order most of my figures from but I have never seen a Cable, Thanos, Archangel, Mystique, etc. in all of my Target/Walmart/Toys ‘R Us toy searches.
Dabble/Collect: Collect them all! This line will probably end before it gives us all the awesomeness it can and I’ve been able to make some diverse teams with the figures (like the New Fantastic Four with Spider-Man, the Gray Hulk, Wolverine (classic yellow & blue (not Jim Lee uniform)), and Ghost Rider (I know it’s the wrong version but it’s the only one they’ve come out with).

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
The movie was garbage. In the cannon of X-movies, I pretend this one doesn’t exist (X-Men First Class is much better if you do the same thing).

Good: The toy line was amazing – movie and comic book versions of the Wolverine cast and various X-Men. There was a Toys ‘R Us exclusive Wolverine with a motorcycle and the comic book version of Sabertooth, there was comic book versions of Maverick, Gambit, Deadpool, and Iceman. The tan and brown version of Wolverine was awesome.
Bad: No movie version of Blob. There was no comic book or movie version of Wraith, Silverfox, Agent Zero, or Emma Frost. The movie had the Hudsons and, although Marvel Universe put out Guardian, could have put out a comic book version of Heather as Vindicator. It also would have been a good reason to put out the comic book version of the original Alpha Flight.
Available: Everything was available until the later waves. I found out after all the figures had disappeared off the shelves that Colossus was available in one of the waves and is the only figure I didn’t see.
Dabble/Collect: For Marvel Universe figure collectors, this line is a gold mine of X-Men characters and just about every version of Wolverine is presented here. Whether you dabble or collect you can’t go wrong.

Iron Man 2
Whether you liked the movie or thought it was a 2 hour advertisement for the Avengers, the toy line had a lot of variety. I was pretty sick of Iron Man figures because the Marvel Universe line already had Iron Man in a variety of armors. The Iron Man 2 line brought a lot of great Comic Book version movie armors and some cool Concept armors too.

Good: There is no stone left unturned as just about every comic book version of Iron Man’s armor is offered in this collection. The Mark 1 from the first movie and the original armor from the comic book is a great touch. A Toys ‘R Us exclusive set gives us the movie version of Nick Fury. And the movie and comic book versions of War Machine are awesome.
Bad: The Ultimate armor is a concept armor but it would have been awesome to have the Ultimates version of Iron Man. I also would have liked movie and comic book versions of Petter Potts and Happy Hogan and Tony and Rhodey as civilians.
Available: The later waves are hard to find. I have only one of each drone because I’ve only laid eyes on them once.
Dabble/Collect: Dabble only. There are some armors that are beyond stupid (I’m looking at you Inferno armor).

Tron Legacy
How cool were the uniforms in this movie? There wasn’t an enormous amount of characters in this film so there wasn’t a lot of depth to the movie line. And because of the light-up features of each figure, they were expensive.

Good: The light-up features were cool. The figures all had stands and could actually hold their identity disks.
Bad: They were expensive. While the Tron Legacy figures were cool, there was an opportunity to do figures from the first movie. I wish the light on the light-up feature would stay on – that would make it cool to display. The areas where the figures light up are dark and make it look like the suits are all black when not lit up. It would have been cool to have figures without the feature so the suits could have bright colors like in the movies (and they would have been cheaper).
Available: I’ve seen all the figures and right now most places are only charging about $5 per figure to get rid of them.
Dabble/Collect: Dabble for me. If you’re a huge Tron fan, pick them all up because there aren’t that many of them.

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