I didn’t intend for so many TMNT reviews to hit one after the other, but Christmas pushed a bunch of stuff into the final week of December and then some surprise difficulties with another review has moved this one up. So be it. 2020 had a final surprise in store for collectors of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. NECA had previously announced all of Wave 4 of its cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figure line would release in the fall, before having a change of heart. The two most anticipated releases of the wave were pushed to 2021, the deluxe Android Krang and the two-pack of Master Splinter vs Baxter Stockman in his mutated fly form. In addition to being some fan-favorites, these two releases were important to collectors as they represented for many the last essential release of the line. Everyone’s mileage is a bit different, but I think all can agree that the most important characters in the show are (in some order): the turtles, April, Shredder, Bebop, Rocksteady, Krang, and Splinter. You could certainly make a strong case for the generic Foot Soldier, and maybe some would push for Irma considering she was in a lot more episodes than you may recall. No one would argue though that those 10 previously mentioned characters are not essential.
Well, as I said, 2020 had a final surprise and it’s that both the deluxe Krang and Splinter vs Baxter two-pack arrived early. They first popped up in California Targets in the middle of December and gradually worked their way east before the end of the year. I actually found my Krang on New Year’s Eve, but had to wait on Splinter vs Baxter until 2021. While it’s always nice to get something earlier than expected, I definitely wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of running out to stores and hunting for action figures during the holiday rush, COVID or not. The whole pandemic thing just added another layer of anxiety, but I suppose there’s enough fool in me that I did go out. I masked-up, armed myself with a ton of hand sanitizer, and went through stores as quickly as possible until I found what I was looking for. In the case of this particular set I’m reviewing today, I never actually found it myself and was helped out via the CollectorsHelpingCollectors hashtag on Twitter so a special shout out is reserved for user og3 (@OG_mulch) for helping a fellow collector out!
Splinter vs Baxter comes packaged in the standard NECA window box. It’s a thinner box than some of the more recent releases as these are two of the smallest figures in the line so far. The only one smaller is the Roadkill Rodney. Not that we’re going to hold their size against them as these two boys more than make up for their small stature. And perhaps to compensate, there’s a ton of stuff included with this release, most of which belongs to Splinter. Some of it should be very familiar, but some of it is pretty obscure and I’m not even sure where it all comes from, but I’m happy to have it! More than accessories though, I am just thrilled beyond belief to finally have cartoon accurate depictions of both of these characters. The old Playmates line featured a Splinter that didn’t really resemble any version of the character. There was a slight resemblance to the Mirage Studios depiction, but he was kind of his own thing. And there weren’t a ton of Splinters to follow, and none really resembled the cartoon look. As for Baxter, his Playmates version was close, but like a lot of that line there was a lot more detail and grotesqueness with the figure that the cartoon chose to ignore. Playmates also wasn’t that concerned with scale so even though he was a fly he was the same size as basically everyone. For the cartoon, they took the already short Baxter Stockman (he was the same height as the turtles, pre-mutation) and shrunk him further when he was mutated resulting in a rather diminutive villain. They also gave him a sweater vest, but kept the bowtie, which just further separated him from the action figure.
I get the sense that Splinter is the figure fans are most excited for, but I want to talk about Baxter first. I touched upon it a bit in my review of the Super7 Baxter Stockman, but this character was one of my favorites in the cartoon. And since I never got the original toy, it actually made me drawn to him more. He was used sparingly in the show, and he was able to be a sort of perfect villain for the show because he could be threatening, funny, and even sympathetic. He was as much a villain for the turtles as he was for Shredder, whom he blamed for his transformation into a fly. And I love the design! He’s got that big fly head with tiny wings and those purple appendages coming off of his back. He’s just a fun design.
For this figure, NECA absolutely nailed it. First off, I love his size. Like a lot of characters in the show, he could be inconsistent in how he was portrayed, but generally speaking, Baxter should be shorter than the turtles. And he is here as he stands around 4 3/4″ when standing upright. The proportions also look pretty good with Baxter having a rather large head given that he has those big fly eyes. The paint though is where this thing shines. The way NECA painted the eyes is especially striking. This line does a great job of really giving the impression that these characters stepped out of a television set, but Baxter might be a new highwater mark as far as that goes. And I think it’s partly due to the fact that Baxter is basically fully clothed as the shading NECA has utilized for this line works really well here. NECA also matched all of the hinged pieces to the appropriate color this time around, so no paint-flaking that reveals the wrong color underneath as we saw with Leatherhead and the Triceratons. Oh, there’s still plenty of flake though as NECA continues to paint over joints, but at least once removed it doesn’t leave behind an eye sore.
Little Baxter comes packed with an impressive array of articulation. Mine did feature some pretty stiff joints out of the box. Some of that is likely due to arriving rather cold since it did come by mail to the north east in January, and some of it is just the usual assortment of stuck joints this line is known for. Strangely, the joint that gave me the most trouble out of the box was the head which is just a simple ball-joint. I held him under running, hot, tap water for a bit and was able to get it to move. It sounded like there was some paint or something just holding it fused and once broken his head spun just fine. He has good rotation up there with a little ability to look up, but he can look down quite far which is useful if you intend to place him on a flight stand. His shoulders are pretty standard, ball and hinges, but at the elbow he features NECA’s somewhat unique double-joint. There are two hinges at the top and bottom and the arm can swivel at the top joint. He can bend well past 90 degrees as a result, but be a little careful as after the head this was the part that was toughest to free up. The hands are pegged in and can swivel. There’s also a hinge, but the hands sit fairly deep into the cuff of his dress shirt so it doesn’t do much. There’s what seems to be a ball-joint at the waist hidden under the vest that allows for some rotation and a little pivot. The legs are secured via a ball-joint, but they lack the usual amount of swivel we see in this line. He can swivel his thighs maybe 45 degrees or so, it’s not much. The knees are double-jointed and his feet are hinged and can rock side-to-side. The feet are also stuck pretty well on mine, so be careful. Lastly, Baxter has those wings and extra limbs on his back which are all attached via a ball-joint and hinge. I wish NECA had added additional hinges to the purple “arms” and some pinching articulation at the claws, but they’re largely just decorative.
Baxter is able to move around quite well which comes in handy since he has plenty of stuff he can be posed with. For starters, Baxter comes packaged with fisted hands, but he also has a pair of gripping hands and a pair of trigger finger hands. I’m glad NECA gave him trigger finger hands since it could have been argued he didn’t need to come with them since his main weapon, the trans-mutation ray, doesn’t have much of a trigger. You may recall this weapon from the cartoon as it allowed Baxter to mutate Shredder into a fly and Michelangelo into a gerbil. It’s mostly white and features a dial on the rear of the gun by the sights that allowed Baxter to select what animal he wanted to apply to his victim. It’s well-painted and looks great, though I wish that dial could actually move. Mine has a black blemish across the top too that I hope to rub off. Baxter’s hands are painted purple and are pretty stiff so it’s probably not a bad idea to heat his hands before trying to insert this gun into them lest you want ugly purple smudges on it. Baxter also comes with his computer buddy who helped him escape Dimension X. I don’t remember if he had a name, but he’s basically a computer monitor with attached keyboard. The screen is a lenticular image so he can display different emotions and it’s pretty cool. He has an opening for a socket underneath, so I’m curious if NECA will sneak a body into another pack for him, even if it’s non-articulated. The doku flower is also included, which poisoned April in the same episode Baxter debuted his fly form. I’m actually not sure if this is a Baxter accessory or a Splinter one, as it could be the gazai plant which was used by Splinter to cure April. Both plants looked identical in the episode. What will likely entertain people the most though is the included fly Shredder and gerbil Mikey. Both are non-articulated, but they look pretty great. The paint is applied well and Mikey is actually quite cute.
It’s an impressive haul for Baxter, and like I said, I appreciate NECA including proper trigger hands with him so he can also wield any of the other guns from the show (like the small handgun that apparently belongs to Splinter, but kind of looks like the gun Baxter used in “Enter: The Fly”) with ease. Maybe some wanted a goofy accessory like a stack of sugar cubes and I know people are aching for Mousers, but I suspect those will be included one day with a human version of Baxter. I’m happy with this loadout and it’s cool that his computer buddy could even just function as a computer in a display for someone like April, if it’s so desired. The inclusion of the trans-mutation ray also makes it more fun to compare this figure to the Super7 version since that one came with the same weapon, albeit, unpainted.
Baxter is impressive, and his box-mate Splinter is much the same. He stands basically at the same height as Baxter with his ears taking him up to approximately 5″. This is a depiction of Splinter from early in the show when his fur was a lighter brown and his kimono a deeper magenta. In later seasons, his fur would change to a much darker brown and his kimono lightened to a shade of pink, or maybe it just looked lighter by comparison. This is my preferred look though and it makes the most sense since the main turtle figures we have feature that olive flesh-tone from the show’s early seasons. Splinter has a rather stern and serious expression on his face which is appropriate for the character. NECA’s toon shading they utilize is blended really well with the sculpted fur which is different as it’s usually more pronounced. I think it works quite well. There’s a minor paint imperfection on my figure where a blob of the light brown is present on the back of his neck, but it’s partially hidden by the kimono. His body doesn’t have the toon shading on it and is painted the darker brown as it’s hidden by the kimono. His hands though are cast in the light brown so it looks odd when his wrists are visible. The kimono itself is a soft goods addition which I think is the way to go with this figure. I just wish NECA had done something different with the belt as it’s just a black ribbon tied in a knot. It sits too high on the character’s chest as his lower abdomen is very round making it hard to put it in the right place. A plastic belt like the old Playmates toy or the more nylon one Super7 used might have worked better. Or they could have sculpted a channel for the belt to fit in. It would have made the figure look a bit ugly when disrobed, but who is going to display Splinter without his kimono? They also could have just made the figure less round which probably would have worked the best.
The articulation on Splinter comes largely as expected. He has articulation at the base of the head and where the neck meets the torso. It’s very stiff on mine even after heating it multiple times so I’m not sure if this is just my figure or if the articulation is doing what it’s supposed to. He can look down, but I can’t really get him to look up and turning his head is also a bit challenging. It’s hard to get just the head to turn without the lower joint trying to as well. And that one is sculpted fur to fit over the body so it’s a bit rough and definitely not a fun joint to mess with as it feels like it’s rubbing quite a bit on the torso. His jaw is articulated, but mine looks miss-aligned. It’s like he has a cross-bite and I’m tempted to see if I can get it into a better position with a heat gun, though I’d probably have to remove the soft goods lest I want to set them on fire. The arms are standard joints at the shoulder and feature double-joints like Baxter’s. They move very well considering you have to contend with the soft goods. My only concern is that the top pin holding the elbow joint together on the left arm of my figure looks pretty jacked up like it was damaged during insertion and pushed in too far. I’m only pointing this out because it seems to be rather widespread with this figure. He moves fine right now, but I’m definitely being careful there. The wrists are the same peg and hinge joints we’re accustomed to. There is a diaphragm cut and the legs are joined with standard ball-joints. The shape of his rump prevents him from kicking back, but he can kick forward and balance on one foot so ninja kicks are still on the table. His knees are double-jointed in a very rat-like manner as they angle backwards. There’s a hinged joint at the ankle and also a toe hinge. Thankfully, that ankle joint is cast in white so no paint blemish down there, but the toe hinge is a bit ugly as there’s a gap between the wrappings and toes. Lastly, Splinter’s tail is connected via a ball-joint and moves much better than any of the other tails we’ve seen in this line. It’s also a wire with plastic sculpted over it so there is some bendy quality to it. It’s not a lot, but better than the movie Splinter from NECA.
Splinter probably won’t demand a ton of posing ability from most collectors, but he is a ninja and should be able to move like a ninja. I think NECA did just okay in that respect. I really wish they could have figured out a scheme that allowed him to cross his legs in a meditative pose or got some more torso articulation into him as well. I feel like they could have taken advantage of the fact that this is a robed figure, like they kind of did with the movie version, to fit torso articulation into him that may not have been super aesthetically pleasing, but would have been covered up. He looks the part, which is most important, he’s just not quite the homerun I was expecting after seeing the promotional images.
Even more so than Baxter, Splinter is loaded with extra goodies. He comes with gripping hands instead of fists, but also has five extra hands to work with. I should clarify they’re more like relaxed gripping hands as he has a set of tighter gripping hands he can swap for. He has a set of what I would call martial arts posed hands, or maybe even meditative hands. One even looks like Bart Simpson’s infamous Touch of Death. The other is a two-finger pointing hand. And lastly, he has a right, single-finger, pointing, hand. All of the hands are painted light brown and feature sculpted fur and claws, though the claws are unpainted (which is consistent with the show).
Splinter has all of those hands because he has a lot of stuff to hold. The relaxed gripping hands work great with his books and scroll. He has two books, one is open and features depictions of the artists that inspired the names of the turtles and the other is closed. The scroll, which is from an episode of the show and did something, is unfurled and he can hold it via either end. He also has his walking stick which the relaxed hands can fit over for standing poses. The tighter gripping hands come into play with the sword and gun. The sword is the Sword of Yurikawa taken from the episode of the same name. It looks a lot like one of Leo’s non-stylized katanas, which is to say it doesn’t really look like an actual katana. It has a yellow-gold hilt and short blade, but best of all, it comes with a flaming effect piece which is cast in translucent orange plastic and slides over the blade. It’s pretty cool and if you prefer your Splinter to be less of a pacifist this should work. If you think that blade is too elegant though, there’s a gun. I don’t recall where this gun came from, but it’s a small pistol. Splinter also has a Yin Yang medallion that he can wear and a dojo mat to meditate on. The mat is kind of cool as it’s made of a springy, foam-like, material instead of paper of cloth. Lastly, we have a little rat. It might have made more sense for a Hamato Yoshi to come with a rat, but I’m not complaining. The martial arts pose hands can even allow the rat to sit in Splinter’s palm.
That’s a lot of stuff, and there was so much in the box that NECA had to put the extra hands on their own, separate, tray and tape it to the underside of the main bubble tray. It’s something I really appreciate about NECA and this line as when figures seem to come in under budget they fill the set with extra stuff until they hit their standard baseline. They could have just shipped a set with a larger profit margin than usual, but didn’t, and that’s cool. I give a lot of credit to brand manager Trevor Zammit for spending probably far too much time with this cartoon to find all of this stuff and to director Randy Falk for encouraging him. Of the two figures, I think I prefer Baxter as he both looks fantastic and has the articulation needed to make him wonderful. I do wish he had a little more articulation in those purple appendages he’s got, and I wish NECA in general would start supplying vertically-hinged hands for proper weapon wielding. And I also largely like what we have with Splinter. He looks like the character from the show, and while I found more room for criticism with him, I still think he turned out well enough. You won’t hear me asking for a better version anytime soon.
This puts a capper on NECA’s release schedule for 2020 as far as TMNT is concerned. It was quite a year for the line with lots of frustration, but also lots of damn good toys. Trying to figure out a favorite is an exercise for another day, but I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s next. Next up is a Rat King and Vernon two-pack and I am super stoked to add a cartoon accurate Rat King to my collection. Also announced are the punk frogs, Ace Duck, Mondo Gecko, Muckman, Chrome Dome, and a four-pack of turtles all featuring cloth goods trench coats and new headsculpts. There’s also the cartoon city scape diorama set to ship to those who ordered it last year sometime this quarter. 2021 is going to be busy, but hopefully rewarding. Once again, thanks to those in the collecting community who helped me secure this set and good luck to the rest of you. Remember, don’t feed the scalpers! Good luck, and happy hunting!