Friday 28 February 2020

Quick Crappy Review: NeMa Studios' Novatron - Deathlatron (Dethlor)

I’m pretty sure I’ve been buying from NeMa Studios since they started, I’ve certainly been buying from them since they did their first convention in London. They sell online-exclusive items from abroad in the UK (and at a stall) which is very handy and also comes with the added pleasure of not dealing with overcharging bastards like Super7 personally. I can rationalise buying stuff from a distributor like these guys much easier than I can buying from Super7 direct, after all they’ve already bought their stock - and the bloke who runs it is lovely. So I was well up for anything they might make when they switched from distribution alone to distribution and production but it turns out the thing they made was seemingly tailored just to please me, meet Dethlatron:

Monday 3 February 2020

Top 10 Marvel Legends 2019!

This feels a little late, but I didn’t think I was going to do it until I did it.
After watching a bunch of best and worst of lists on Marvel Legends and grumbling about them I thought ‘fine, can you do better?’ – the answer is no, but I can at least do a list.
I assume people clicking this know what a Marvel Legend is but just in case – they’re toys from Hasbro. Having started in 2002 (from another toy company) and still being released in 2020 they’re one of the longest running action figure lines of all time. They cover all corners of Marvel Comics including the the Marvel Cinematic Universe and they used to cover the non-MCU films too. They’re sometimes awful, sometimes brilliant and usually somewhere in-between and frankly if I buy 10 a year they’ve done well - but 2019 was Marvel’s 80th Anniversary so they had a bunch of extra releases. Because both fans and Hasbro have just given up counting what wave we’re on, each wave of figures is known by their Build-A-Figure, so if the Build-A-Figure is…the Green Goblin then that’s the Green Goblin Wave. 
Criteria for this is simple – the figures had to be on-sale and ready to ship in the year 2019 and they had to have been released for the first time so no re-releases and no pre-orders. The first releases to count are thus the Kree Sentry Wave for the Captain Marvel movie and the last is the Super Skrull Wave for the Fantastic Four which was supposed to be a 2020 release but some retailers had ‘em in by the end of the year, so sod it. I’m ranking them solely on my preference but I’ll try and make it make sense.
That’s about it really, number 10 then?

10. Iron Man
Marvel: 80 Years
Get used to seeing these 80th Anniversary figures on here, because they were almost all smashing, except Colossus, I thought Colossus was depressingly average.
This one’s nice and easy – this is the best comic-book Iron Man figure every made with the best comic-book Tony Stark head ever made, Hot Toys and the Japanese firms have produced some spectacular movie Iron Men but this, this is stepped-straight-outta-the-comic-book-fantastic and they managed to control themselves and dial back the muscle definition on the thighs so it looks like he’s actually covered in something, not a steroid freak flexing. This is one of my biggest issues with current Marvel Legends if you haven’t caught on, they tend to over-do the muscle definition, especial on the legs, so they all look super-ripped and not at all like they have anything on.
But Tony’s got none of that, so why’s he number 10? His accessories suck. The core figure and the alternate heads are all magnificent but his effects pieces are weirdly solid banana milkshake yellow, looking more like an accident in a Shakeaway and a pair of bizarre alien fruits than repulsor technology.

9. Marvel’s Thing
Super Skrull Wave
Ok, so Hasbro adds that prefix ‘Marvel’s’ for more generic named characters – like The Beast or The Thing or weirdly Invisible Woman – it’s to do with trademarks and things, don’t worry about it, I include it solely to be accurate because I have undiagnosed OCD.
It’s surprisingly hard to make a good Thing figure - or at least a Thing figure that pleases me; a big fan of Aunt Petunia’s ever-lovin’ blue eyed favourite nephew. Marvel Legends and Diamond Select – who ALSO make Marvel action figures because of technicalities – have both failed at this for their entire lifespans, with the best Thing figure as far as I was concerned being the 10” figure from Toy Biz. Then 2018 came around and Hasbro got it right for a special set of Walgreens exclusive Fantastic Four figures. BUT as much as I like the Thing in his pants – behave yourself – I do feel that he really does need a belt to finish off his look, so overall I prefer this one which is from the current FF series by Dan Slott.
Why is it so good? Well it’s not overly detailed; it’s nice and chunky; it has an excellent head; the breaks for the articulation are very well chosen, especially on the legs; it’s a nice Thing shade of orange and it hasn’t been over-done with paint washes - it looks like a real thing without looking so ‘realistic’ that it looks ugly and not at all like Benjamin J. Grimm.
But it also suffers from accessory issues too, a lack of them – it came with two heads for the Super Skrull build-a-figure but nothing else, notably no open hands – which were already tooled up for the Walgreens figure. I’m sure Hasbro has an excellent excuse for this, probably to do with balancing the cost for the whole wave which did indeed feature figures that needed a lot of new parts like Dr Doom and Hulk, but I don’t care, it’s an issue with the figure as-released so it’s affecting the placement on this list. I’m sure Hasbro are mortified.
Also if there’s a customizer out there that makes a head for this with a cigar in his mouth, hit me up.

8. Marvel’s MJ
Spider-Man: Far From Home 2-pack
It looks just like her.
That is Zendaya. Well done, Marvel Legends sculptors. I mean maybe they used scanning technology but that’s no guarantee of anything, have you seen some of the WWE figures?
While looking like the actor is very important for any figure I feel it’s extra important here because Zendaya is extra cute and thus I care far more about her likeness being right than someone I don’t fancy. They also did a superb job with her smaller body but it’s really hard for me a - heterosexual man - to talk about how well done the body of a woman playing a teenager is and not sound dodgy so I’m moving on to qualifying statements.
MJ is lower than number 7 for three key reasons 1) her alternate hands are a little big 2) I’ve noticed that her skin-colour varies which is a bit of an issue, not only because of y’know race reasons but also accuracy reasons and this is why I didn’t order this two-pack online and 3) I just like number six’s character more, petty and probably unfair but tough.

7. Peggy Carter
Marvel: 80 Years
It looks just like her.
I…just…it looks just like her and it comes with a fucking big gun.
This is another figure I’ve been waiting for a while, not as long as number 5 but since Captain America: The First Avenger came out and Hayley Atwell made me like Peggy Carter, or care about her at all actually. I couldn’t say I gave a toss either way before that, Sharon Carter was always where it was at for me as far as Captain America shipping went, but Peggy was so good in that, then she had her awesome solo tv series and all that was about was the expensive Hot Toys figure and you know what? I prefer this figure’s likeness. That Hot Toys figure is just a little bit off.
Anyway her articulation is lessened and hampered by her dress which is a genuine downside for action figures but does help the overall look of the figure so it balanced out to ‘just a bit of a downside’ for me, especially as I will never need to pose Peggy bloody Carter in any deep or extreme poses. 
This marks the end of the accessories effecting the figures’ scores by the way, this figure came in a two pack with an excellent Captain America and they’re tooled up. Peggy has the choice of two guns and a knife or, really, she could wield Cap’s original shield if you wanted and why wouldn’t you?
Oh and if you've noticed and are now confused why I'm mixing in my photos with stock photos, it's because I decided that some of my photos ah...really didn't do the figures justice (by that I mean they looked shit).

6. Marvel’s Boom Boom
Marvel Legends Wendigo Wave
AT LAST. Did you know that the only member of the original X-Force line-up Toy Biz didn’t make was Boom Boom? Feral was an exclusive. They made hundreds of bloody X-Men figures in the 90’s but not one Tabitha Smith. I’ve waited a long time for this.
And brilliantly it didn’t suck! They manged to catch that swooping Rob Liefeld hair that HE GIVES EVERYONE just perfectly and give her a genuinely attractive face despite having large glasses on. Could those glasses have been see-thru? Well they never were in the comics so no, no they couldn’t. Her belt and thigh pouches lay far flatter than a lot of Marvel Legends – that’s why the two-pack Havok and that love triangle Cyclops didn’t make the list by the way  and her accessories are wonderful - she came with two separate time bomb effects pieces and a head blowing a bubblegum bubble, couldn’t have asked for better.
The final deciding factor though is the choice of costume – it’s her first X-Force outfit which fits with Hasbro’s focus on producing figures from the very earliest days of the big Mutant Genesis X-Revamp from 1990-91 – but more importantly it’s my favourite X-Factor costume for her. Pity it doesn’t match her buddy Rictor and boyfriend Cannonball who both come from slightly later when she had the yellow armour innit? Oh well, Hasbro, you can make another Boom Boom! Or was she Boomer by then? Whatever, you can make another Tabby! And I’ll buy it! Cos undiagnosed OCD, remember?

5. Marvel’s Beast
Caliban Wave
If you’d like to know what superhero I most relate to it’s The Thing, I even look like him, but the superhero I have the most emotional attachment to is The Beast. I’m sure you don’t want to read a therapy session from me but you’re gonna get it anyway: when I was at school the other kids – or bastards to use their correct classification – used to call me ‘beast’ or ‘the beast’. Nothing to do with ol’ Hank McCoy here it’s just a term used to mean an ugly woman or a big hairy man, at least it is in Essex I dunno if it’s used anywhere else. I never minded this though because the only Beast I knew WAS Hank McCoy and he was a genius who got to bang Dazzler so how is that an insult exactly?
So I’m very attached to The Beast and there’s never really been a good figure of him, Toy Biz’s 90’s figure was about the best and that was only ok. Then Marvel Legends just decided to make a 3D rendition of him from the cover of X-Men #1, which funnily enough is the image of him I think of when I think of the character. Jim Lee’s Beast is ‘my Beast’ if you will and this figure is Jim Lee’s Beast sculpted perfectly. It’s also why I don’t share many fan’s issue with the figure’s accessories – that it doesn’t include a placid head. I get it: The Beast is thoughtful or friendly more than he is angry and roaring and so people would like another head for their Beast, it’s just not an issue for me because this is the head I’d use and the only head I’d want for this Beast, after all this isn’t A Beast but Mutant Genesis Beast, made to fit with all the other X-Revamp figures they’re putting out like Boom-Boom and there was a lot of angry Beast in those early revamp days, I think Jim Lee just thought it was cool looking.
The issue that keeps it below the top three is just that he sculpt’s very broken up by the articulation. I think it’s unavoidable and The Beast undoubtedly needs this level of articulation, plus being mostly blue reduces its effect somewhat but I mean, it’s in the top 5, I’m not saying it’s obvious or even that much of an issue and certainly not a deal breaker here, just that it’s something that the other figures in the list don’t suffer from as much.
See what I mean about those photos? This was one of the ones I felt I could use.

4. Marvel’s Kingpin
Marvel’s Kingpin Wave
Fucking hell this came out good didn’t it? I was a bit sick of Kingpin figures to be honest and his wave was a middling affair with one of the worst figures in the year in it and really disappointing Night Thrasher, Puma and Silver Sable figures, I think I only wanted Red Goblin and only then because Go Down Swinging was such a good story-arc.
But the Kingpin Build-a-Figure was an absolute triumph with the sculptors managing to keep themselves under control to make this lovely suit that isn’t too detailed – by that I mean wrinkled to fuck – and a head sculpt that manages to convey both the Kingpin’s likeness and every ounce of hatred and contempt he has for Spider-Man and/or Daredevil and/or you while still being in its own art style, even the angry head isn’t ridiculously cartoony - if only they’d manged this with Loki or Kraven. And it came with an awesome cane, that is the most Kingpin of all canes. 
I would have preferred the yellow waist-coat and purple trousers Kingpin that was used in the 90’s Spider-Man cartoon but I respect that most like the all-white suit better and it does look spiffing, but I’m so worried it’s gonna get dirty and these BAFs ain’t cheap y’know? No that wasn’t factored into its placement, I just like the next three figures more.

3. Captain America
Marvel: 80 Years
This is Marvel Legends Captain America perfected. They’ve been chipping away at the Classic Cap uniform over the years, finally getting the proportions right, finally getting the scales right, finally getting the head sculpt right – twice in fact – until we have a figure that I can not only justify spending twenty quid on but can sit back go ‘cor, that’s bleedin’ good innit?’.
And there’s the little things that just make it so good – sculpting the scales; having them be metallic; having the ab-crunch where the scales meet the stripes and making the stripes go all the way up under it; including that awesome shield-throwing hand; having an artist accurate head and a generic style head which I wish they did more often because god knows it would have saved Nightcrawler if they’d’ve included a John Byrne or Ed McGuinness head; not having a face that looks like an angry Patrick Stewart; being based on the artwork of my favourite comic book artist ever and doing it justice. Things like that.
I understand that this one might be a little too dark blue for some fans, it’s accurate to how Alex Ross paints him and these are based on Alex Ross’s art so it’s not an issue in terms of accuracy but I can understand why it might be an issue in terms of preference, it just isn’t for me, as much as I like Ron Garney and Jack Kirby’s Caps I do like him a little darker blue than that.
Jack Kirby’s number 2 by the way, on the favourite comic book artist list.

2. Doctor Doom
Super Skrull Wave
I think if judged by things that action figures – especially collector’s figures – are judged: accuracy, sculpt quality, sculpt detail – the rivets and texturing on this thing!, articulation, hiding articulation, swappable pieces and accessories, little extra things (like being able to use Iron Man’s effects pieces for his jetpack) – Doom is the best Marvel Legends figure of 2019 and a contender for the best Marvel Legend so far. Fan demand was high, he met it and exceeded it, we got a classic head, we got the hands we need, we got a Skrull leg, they didn’t mould the gun in the holster. Super Skrull Wave Doctor Doom is a brilliant figure
But he’s number two, yeah, about that…

But first, want some runners up? OK – 80 Years Wolverine – VERY nice to get a first appearance Wolverine that’s this good but really it’s only more than average because it’s a first appearance Wolverine; Molten Man Wave Mysterio – a great sculpt with all the new pieces it needed but ultimately just got bumped down by other figures I liked more; Hulk Wave Shuri – a figure I’ve wanted since the film came out with a good likeness but not as spectacular a likeness as MJ’s or Peggy’s and Molten Man Wave Molten Man – a fantastically constructed toy with a great use of see-through plastic and some really well hidden articulation, but it’s a bit small.

1. Hulk
Marvel: 80 Years
Just for being the right colour green this Hulk was gonna get onto this list – why are so many Hulks that horrible dark garden furniture green? Why can no-one colour match?
There’s been a lot of Hulk figures, have you noticed? But try as they might no-one has nailed THIS Hhulk until now. This is the 1970s Hulk, the big angry cave-man Hulk, this is the Hulk that Bill Mantlo wrote and Sal Buscema drew, this is the Hulk that was in the comics when Bill Bixby and Lou Ferringo was on the telly and this is the Hulk that informed the best Hulk toys to date: Mego’s Hulk, Funstuf’s Rage Cage Hulk and Remco’s Energized Hulk and this Legends figure has the best of all three of them – it even has Rage Cage Hulk’s ripped white shirt – only updated with modern collectors figure articulation and sculpt quality and a better colour purple (it was always darker purple in the comics than on the toys). Simply: if this is your Hulk and if you haven’t guessed it’s sure as shit mine then you don’t need any other Hulk figure, well unless you like fun then get yourself a Rage Cage Hulk too, I love that toy.
That shirt overlay piece is the shit by the way, it makes Hulky look even more hunched over and hides shoulder articulation without hampering it.
There is an issue with the figure that has come up on some other lists and that is that the butterfly joints at his shoulders don’t allow for a lot of forward movement, this means that Hulk can’t perform his Thunderclap, I assume it’s because of his magnificent pecks. This is an objective issue; blocked articulation always should be BUT this isn’t an objective list – if it was Dr Doom would have won and Boom Boom would have been nowhere near the thing. And I personally associate the Thundeclap more with other versions of the Hulk – mostly Dale Keown’s Hulk which was the basis for the original Marvel vs Capcom sprites and the 90’s cartoon – I’m not any more right than someone who associates it with this Hulk or whatever other version that’s just true for me. If you’d like a better reason then the figure doesn’t actually come with hands to perform the Thunderclap, if it did I’d absolutely hold this against the figure regardless because that would be mindbogglingly illogical. What I’m saying is: if it’s an issue for you, fine, I’m not gonna argue with it, in fact you’re actually right, it’s just not an issue for me personally and this figure is so perfect everywhere else that honestly it would only have knocked it down to number 2 anyway.

You know what, before I go – would you like to know my worst figures of the year? Just quickly? For Fun? 

I don’t really like making negative lists so I’ll just run through ‘em in no particular order.

Wendigo Wave Cannonball 
They didn’t include the lower half of the figure. Especially cheap as most of that lower half would’ve been made up of re-used parts that cost nothing to make. It’s not much of an issue for me because I would have only have posed him blasting anyway, honestly what bugs me more is that they gave him a head sculpt based on a later look for the character so he doesn’t quite match with all the other Mutant Genesis-era figures but a) that’s really pathetic and b) the half a figure missing thing is way worse, really, innit?

Wendigo Wave Nightcawler 
A horrible, far too attractive, head for the era the costume is from that they included three times; a complete lack of bendy tail despite coming with the thing he most commonly holds in his tail and no poseable toes – in short: he doesn’t look like the character and can’t stand like the character.

San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Hulk 
Just being in that horrible inaccurate garden furniture green would get it on the list, but it has paint accents that seem to accentuate the very worst parts of the Hulk body parts, a horribly exaggerated and cartoony head that doesn’t seem to sit on the neck properly and unnecessarily metallic trousers. I like his pipe though.

Target Exclusive Spider-Man Two Pack Kraven 
Winner of The Most Ridiculous Face of the Year Award, that thing is fucking awful and thoroughly laughable and it’s extra disappointing because it’s on a favourite villain of mine that’s supposed to be commemorating a favourite story of mine.

Marvel’s Kingpin Wave Spider-Man 
Oh let’s just summarize them shall we: rather than work out how to give Spidey six arms AND keep the ab and waist articulation – something amateur fans have been able to do - Hasbro just didn’t bother and cut ‘em; painting on the ripped edges of the costume onto the shoulder pieces looks silly; a bizarre shade of blue and red; not painting on the spider-web pattern in black; weirdly using the movie pieces so it’s not accurate to anything ever and if the backlash was anything to go by – killing fans’ children and pets.

SDCC Exclusive Vindicator 
AND Wendigo Wave Marvel’s Guardian 
Where we learnt that Hasbro don’t understand how Maple Leaves work! I don’t think they actually knew they were supposed to be maple leaves you know? I think they just thought they were energy bursts, but they even buggered that up, they look atrocious on the pair of them, and Guardian has a silly face that makes him look like that image of Shadow the Hedgehog, that one from Sonic Universe, y'know that one that became a meme?

^ that one.

Wendigo Wave Wendigo 
The already visually unappealing (to me at least) Sasquatch body looks worse in white where you can see every visually unappealing inch of its sculpt and then it got combined with a horrible looking head that looks like no version of the Wendigo I’ve ever seen. It’s supposed to look like the World War Wendigo look for the character but…looks like a bad 90’s fill-in artist drew it for an annual sometime.

Molten Man Wave Doppelganger Spider-Man 
You know those articulation issues with Six Arm Spider-Man? Well it’s even worse for Doppelganger because he always stands hunched over, at least Spider-Man can stand upright. I suppose you could at least argue that not painting in the web pattern makes sense as it’s actually Doppleganger’s skin that looks like that and not a suit with a pattern drawn on it.

There you go, a nice big pile of salt to end on, cheers, all.