Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Recent Comic Pick-Ups

Just a few words on some recent comic pick-ups:

*Batman #25 Zero Year
On with writer Scott Snyder & artist Greg Capullo's retelling of the Dark Knight's evolution- missed the whole "Court of Owls" storyline, but picked up this title at the beginning of the Zero Year. Still unsure of who is friend or foe, Bruce Wayne is betrayed by someone close in "Dark City", under the persuasion of Dr. Death, the first real supervillain Batman encountered back in Detective Comics #29.

*Earth 2 #17 and Beware The Batman #1
I've been reading Earth 2 since the 1st issue, in which Batman was killed along with Superman & Wonder Woman, sacrificing themselves against the invading forces of Apokolips. I was thrilled to see this cool new Batman show up in issue #17 to stop the mysteriously malevolent Superman threatening the new "Wonders" who now protect Earth-Two. The art in this title has been better than the story, but I like the characters. 

I picked up the first issue of Beware The Batman on a whim, and while I may not continue with the title, I did like the cast of characters I'd seen in the new animated TV show this series is based on. I enjoy Katana as the teen sidekick and a reimagined Alfred, now Bruce Wayne's bodyguard. And the art, inspired by the show, is dynamic and fun!

*Superior Spider-Man Annual #1
I cannot let go of the great, new Superior Spider-Man title, in which Otto Octavius has taken over Peter Parker's body, and hence the mantle of New York's finest wall crawler. Too good! Javier Rodriguez's art was a treat here, though this annual seems to be just an average tale among many better within the series. There is a disturbing torture scene involving a pair of pliers between Spider-Man and the vampiric Blackout, the latter on the receiving end!

*Amazing X-Men #1 and X-Men Gold #1
I missed most all X-Men books in Marvel's Marvel NOW! relaunch, but spotted these new titles and decided to give them a whirl with their opening issues. Amazing X-Men starts out bizarrely with the recently deceased Nightcrawler growing bored in paradise. Yearning for one more adventure, the swashbuckling blue elf leaps from the edge of paradise to fight Azazel! The great mix of X-Men is joined by Firestar, a new teacher at the Jean Grey School For Higher Learning, for the first in a five part series by writer Jason Aaron and Ed McGuiness- an artist I really like.

X-Men Gold is a celebration of 50 years of the X-Men, features five short pieces by legendary Marvel writers, Chris Claremont, Stan Lee, Len Wein, Fabian Nicieza, and Roy Thomas. It seemed like a collector piece to me. Something special happened with this purchase- I finally signed up with Marvel.Com to redeem the digital edition so I can keep an online library of comics in the future. I even picked up a few free digital comics for my online library! Fun!

More Later- Keep Reading Comics!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

DC Direct Super Squad Figures

Released in the spring of 2008, the Super Squad Figures are the fourth wave of DC Directs "Reactivated" Series, which seemed to be themed A-List characters, these obviously inspired by the 1940's All-Star Comics title, featuring the adventures of the Justice Society of America. While Wonder Woman's First Appearance was in the 8th issue back in '42, and Superman & Batman were associated with the team, Hawkman is the only original team member among these- perhaps my favorite of these four. I'm all for the helmeted Thangarian warrior,  but I love Hawkman's Justice Society Earth Two costume!

I'm attracted to retro-looking action figures, particularly those produced by DC Direct, who does a great job emulating the art from different comics series. After posting about my First Appearance Series figures, I thought of these. Like Marvel Select is to Marvel Legends, DC Direct is to DC Universe Classics- DC Direct and Marvel Select often lack the articulation that Legends and DCUC enjoy, but usually trump the latter in the sculpt and paint department. The Super Squad figures are simple in their deco, but so cleanly executed in their Golden-Age styling. I ordered these about three years ago for about $5.50 each- pretty good. While I'm generally all for opening action figures, I've been enjoying these MOC figures for awhile now, as I will likely continue to.

More Later- Make It FUN!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Marvel Legends Icon Series Thor

I'm a fan of large action figures, in spite of their generally inherent issues of clunky articulation and large spacial footprint. These Marvel Legends Series Icons figures came out around 2007, and we saw later releases of oversized figures released within the Marvel Universe line in the Gigantic Battles box sets, which included 3 3/4" figures. Long out of retail circulation, these can sometimes be expensive on the secondary market, but I won this one for about $30, shipping included, on an eBay auction. I don't have much interest in any of the other Icons Series figures, but this Thor appealed to me  due to his classic styling and real soft goods cape made of luxurious silken cloth. Nice! See my video for more photos!

Icons Thor has double-jointed knees, hinge/swivel joints at the wrists and shoulders, swivel at the biceps, an abdominal hinge, and a swivel waist. The left hand even has individual finger articulation, and Thor was given a toe joint at the end of his boot- pretty nifty. There's a certain chunkiness to the articulation, though the joints are tight, and the ball-jointed head  and shoulders are restricted by the hair and shoulder pads. 

The sculpt is great- he looks like Thor! Though the paint apps are lacking in the skin tone , metal parts, helmet and torso, and his mighty Mjolnir looks and feels a little cheap. But at $19.99 retail, it was a good value- even for 2007. And he really is a great representation of the Mightiest Avenger, with a stunningly beautiful cape! I saw the recent Thor: The Dark World at the matinee this past Sunday, right after shooting this footage, and will think of the fun I had with my two pals that afternoon every time I see this action figure   :)

Thor is a natural counterpart to the Savage Frost Giant I picked up a couple years ago, who shares a great deal of parts as the Thunder God....

More THOR:  Marvel Legends Modern Thor, ToyBiz Famous Covers Thor, Marvel Universe Classic Avengers Thor (below Icons Thor), Lord of Asgard Thor, and Wal-Mart exclusive Avengers Thor...

See my video for more photos!


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Marvel Select Sabretooth & Wolverine

Some action figure collectors prefer the Marvel Legends over Marvel Select for articulation, but Diamond has their own thing going on in my opinion. While it's improved with some of Diamond Select's more recent offerings, the articulation in the earlier figures are limited and/or quirky. The packaging on these figures are criticized for their size as well, but I enjoy the deluxe experience in a way, and love the side panel art. Wolverine's features a Frank Miller rendering directly from Wolverine Vol.1, one of my first graphic novels and definitive moment in the character's history, but Sabretooth's side panel inexplicably features a Todd McFarlane illustration from the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #324 instead of a John Byrne drawing, who dreamt up the character with Chris Claremont for Iron Fist #14.

The variant of this First Appearance Sabretooth is the more modern, but I like the bare feet on this more feral looking version, and I felt his unmasked head would pair better with the Frank Miller Wolverine variant. The sculpt has great detail in the fur, fabric puckers, and open fanged mouth. His articulation is a little more limited than a Marvel Legends and a little weird, but serviceable. The hinge-swivels at the ankles, knees, shoulders, neck, elbows, and wrists help a lot, and he does have a waist swivel. Not bad. 

I love Sabretooth's clawed hands, which are somewhat pointy to the touch, and is oddly pleasing when combined with the tactile similarity of the rest of the jagged fur and hair. The paint scheme is simple, but features some nice shadowing in dark orange throughout the body, and highlights in the hair. At about 7 3/4", Sabretooth isn't the biggest Marvel Select I own, but a substantial action figure with a solid heft that feels high quality, and appropriately scaled to his enemy, Wolverine. This is a great figure!

Like many an action figure collector, I have a few Wolverines, and while this one isn't perfect, they nailed Frank Miller's version of Logan in both the body and head on this unmasked variant. I love the wide, red belt on the brown costume, and his flanged boot tops and horned hairdo really emulate Miller's art. Logan's smaller frame and overall physique are a big part of the visual success as well, the figure's stature taken directly from the comic. Pretty cool!

Logan has some nice, subtle shading throughout the body, but the triangle shoulder pads are bereft of the incised detail that the costume's torso strip enjoys. The big, ugly elbow hinges look a little rough as well, and could have used some sanding. The musculature is nicely sculpted however, and his craggy face stays true to the character's historically homely looks, prior to the ruggedly handsome Hugh Jackman portrayal in the X-Men movies. I'm not crazy about the warped claws, nor the angled wrists, but the swivels at the boot tops and waist are helpful, as are the hinged ankles. We don't get a hinge in the neck, but the ball joint is pretty expressive. The swivel-hinge hips and shoulders are nothing to write home about, but serviceable. He poses quite well. but slightly tighter hinges in the ankles could have improved the overall experience.

I've been seeing a lot of  Marvel Select on the shelves in retail, but I got these from Amazon.Com at a discounted price and free shipping. Sabretooth was from 2009, and Wolvie had 2013 on the box, but I'm certain the body and base used on the 2009 release in the X-Men yellow & blue. While the oversized diorama bases included with the Marvel Select figures take up a lot of real estate on the shelf, they are often nicely done. The silver drybrushing on Sabretooth's base trumps Wolverine's some what flat gray stand, still there are great details in the mechanical minutiae on both. Wolverine has the Weapon X helmet instead of the samurai dummy and katana included with his masked variant, and Sabretooth comes with a mangled caution sign that seems appropriate to the industrial base.

I enjoy these variants individually and love them as a pair- they compliment each other visually quite well. I tend to prefer the often superior deco on Marvel Selects, others gravitate to the articulation of the Marvel Legends figures. And though these have decent articulation, Marvel Select has improved yet more since creating these. This combined with Marvel Select's more artful sculpts and paint give Marvel Legends a run for their money, mine of which was well spent on these two great figures.

I also feel like there's more variety among the Marvel Select figures.versus the oft sameness throughout the Marvel Legends collection. Case in point, a broad swath of unique Marvel Select buck types: Captain Marvel, The Hulk, and Thanos with Sabretooth and Wolverine...

More Later- Make It FUN!

Friday, November 8, 2013

DC Collectibles Katana

I was really disappointed when DC Collectibles included this Katana figure is a 2-pack with the New 52 Wonder Woman I already have. Retail on the item was too high for me to justify buying it when I already had one of the figures, and I didn't have high hopes that the figure would be released as a single, but lucked out finding it loose on eBay for the same cost of a single boxed DC Collectible figure. She arrived still attached to the chopped out  plastic cradle of the 2-pack. I read the first few issues of Katana, only stopping because I'd accumulated more comics to read than time allowed- she'd be one for me to catch up on later during a back issue sale, maybe over the holidays. I love the design of this modern samurai, very different from her classic '83 appearance in The Brave & The Bold #200...

Katana was retconned during the 4th wave of DC's New 52 relaunch. Her mystical blade, dubbed the "Soultaker" for it's possession of the souls of all the lives it's taken over the centuries. Forged in the 14th century by mad sword-smith Muramasa, Tatsu Yamashiro's katana blade contained the soul of her late husband for a time, who was murdered by his brother with it in a duel over the girl. Pretty creepy twist to the "tragic family history inspires hero" thing, huh?

Katana grips her blade well, which features a beautifully sculpted and painted handle. The sword fits neatly into the sheath affixed to the figure's back. Her right arm has a swivel in addition to the bicep and elbow joints the left arm has- this helps wield her katana more articulately. She has the typical T-hips DC Direct has used for years so there's no lateral range in the legs, but the swivels at the boot tops help with her stance. Disappointingly, Katana's head has almost no vertical range or tilt, which would have brought some life to her.

Katana's articulation is limited, as DC Direct/DC Collectibles figures are, but a skilled action figure poser can get some variety with a little patience. I bought the figure for her unique look and buck, a smaller female figure among DC Collectibles' line. Her clean, sparse color scheme is marred only by the some rough joint edges on the buttocks and huge, exposed joint in the left shoulder, the right covered by her shoulder guard. The incised lined throughout her body armor are clean though, and her dainty face is neatly painted.

As I said, Katana came only in the 2-pack with Wonder Woman as of yet, which I already had.. The Amazon Warrior is considerably larger than her with a wider stance in the limbs. I love that both these super girls are armed with swords, a favorite accessory of mine! Fun! I wonder who would win in a battle between the two...  In the Flashpoint story line, Katana joins Wonder Woman's Furies, including the likes of Huntress, Giganta,  Hawkgirl, Cheetah, and Vixen against Aquaman and the Atlanteans.  Check out one of my favorite female action figure blogs for an eyeful at ShesFantastic.Com!

In addition to teaming with with Birds of Prey, Suicide Squad, and the Justice League of America, Katana ran with Batman and the Outsiders back in the 80's. More recently the samurai appeared as a sidekick to the Dark Knight in the Beware the Batman animated television show, a refreshing twist to the two character's published history.

DC Collectibles Katana with New 52 Justice League Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, and Superman, and DC Direct Arkham City Batman & Robin...

More Later-Make It FUN!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

DC Direct First Appearance Figures

It occurred to me after posting about my DC Direct First Appearance Series Batman that I may or may not have shown the rest of my collection of this series, so here's a look at them all packaged. While DC Collectibles is making some of the most articulated and best sculpted figures ever today, I'm drawn to the simple charm of some of their earlier figures, and still hunt for them.

Characters chosen for the fourth wave in 2007 strayed from the portrayal of their original designs, the core theme of the First Appearance series, instead taking their looks from the recent, Brave New World story. Blue Beetle (Jaime Reyes), Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter are from this fourth wave, who also included Atom (Ryan Choi) and Warlord. 

The capes on the earlier waves of the First Appearance Series are a really luxurious, double-layered satin material, like Superman, Robin, and Green Lantern wear. While Martian Manhunter has a plastic cape, I like the black body suit he wore around this time period and loved The Others Among Us book from that year.

More Later- Make It FUN!