Author Archives: Joe

NECA Gargoyles – Ultimate Goliath

2021’s most anticipated figure release is here!

It was nearly 6 months ago that NECA unveiled one of its newest licenses for 2021: Gargoyles! I was incredibly pumped at the time to see that NECA had acquired Gargoyles because the license had so much potential. The show was basically a cult hit in the 90s often characterized as Disney’s answer to Batman: The Animated Series, but Gargoyles truly was its own thing. Rooted in Shakespearian lore with a fantastic backstory, the time-displaced clan of mythical creatures found themselves the protectors of New York City from enemies both current and from the past. And if you’re going to start a line of action figures based on Gargoyles, well, who else are you going to start with other than Goliath?

When NECA unveiled the license acquisition they showed off Goliath with it. The midnight post on Twitter showcased the fearsome creature and the direction the line would head. He was available to preorder the next day with a July release date attached, which slipped to August, to September. That’s 2021 for you, but after a really not so long wait all things considered, I’ve finally managed to secure a Goliath action figure from my local Target.

He lives again!

Goliath is a big boy and he comes in a big box. The Ultimates styled packaging from NECA is bigger than even the Chrome Dome box. It has less to do with the figure’s height and everything to do with those wings. The front of the box features some artwork of Goliath which I believe is stock as it looks rather familiar while product shots can be found on the back and interior. The back also has a bio of the series that surprisingly is not the same as the narration from Keith David that was attached to the second season’s intro, though it’s in the same vein.

That’s a lot of man…stone beef.

The packaging is fine, but what I’m after is that figure inside. Freeing Goliath from his confines is rather painless as there is not an abundance of ties on him. Once out he’ll need to have his tail and wings attached. Figuring out how tall he is isn’t straight-forward since gargoyles have unique lower, leg, anatomy. With his knees bent in his natural standing posture he’s about seven and a half inches tall. His anatomy is sculpted in a more realistic manner than the cartoon. His flesh features veins and thick muscles. It’s cast in a very light shade of purple, almost gray, with a darker purple paint wash over it to really bring out the musculature. The wash is used more liberally on the face to darken around the eyes and lips. His default expression is a stern one with visible pupils that definitely reads as “Goliath.” The belt and loincloth he wears are cast in a soft plastic so they’re quite flexible. The only place the wash isn’t visible is on the tail which is done in a rubber material so that it can bend. It looks rather plain in comparison to the rest of the figure, but it’s always going to be behind him so it’s not something I take issue with. The finer painted details, like the eyes and claws, are all clean. Overall, this is a striking figure in-hand.

I think most will be happy with the scale here.
The wings can go really wide, or really deep, with nothing in between.

Let’s talk about those wings though, for a second. They’re huge! They measure 20.5″ from tip to tip when spread out so this guy will need a big shelf. They’re made of a very rigid plastic, likely ABS, and painted purple and black. The membrane inside the wings is well-sculpted and the detail shows in natural light. Even though the plastic is a bit lighter than some others, they still add considerable weight to the figure and, combine that with their size, will just be a constant battle when posing the figure. In terms of making wings that look good, I’m not sure NECA could have done much better. Bendy wings would have probably too resembled one of those Halloween store rubber bats, and fabric wings would have clashed with the looks of the rest of the figure. What people will miss with these though, is just an alternative. They’re great for dramatic posing, but not for casual or even hand-to-hand combat poses. Goliath could use some partially folded wings, though what I see most requested are the folded, “cape,” styled wings the character would often sport with the two claws at the peak of the wings crossed under his chin and clasped together. NECA likely knows this, but didn’t want to jack up the cost too high on a new IP. Hopefully, something like that follows in the future, and when it does, may I suggest they use the same material that they used for the cape on Shadow Master Super Shredder?

Disc stands help with posing.

Okay, wing talk is complete, for now, so let’s talk articulation. Goliath’s head sits on a ball-peg. It’s not a particularly large ball though, and he doesn’t have articulation at the base of the neck. Combine that with his long, sculpted, hair and wings and you end up with a head that can’t do much. He can look forward and straight down okay and there’s a little tilt too. Rotation is a challenge due to the hair which will interfere with the wings, but if you work at it you can get him to look to either side. It just may require removing a wing, turning the head, and reinserting it. At the shoulder we have ball-hinges and he can almost raise his arms to a horizontal position. The shape, and slope, of his shoulders prevents him from raising his arms out to the side any higher, but he can rotate forward and back just fine. Past that is the biceps swivel and double-jointed elbows which all work fine. The hands peg in and feature hinges, though the right hand on my figure is very loose. The hand hasn’t fallen out, but it takes minimal effort to do so. In the diaphragm is a ball-joint that gives the figure some tilt and rotation. He can even crunch forward a decent amount. There’s a waist twist below that and the new styled double-ball leg joints sit below that.

He can make a scary fist.

In the legs, things get interesting. Goliath has the usual thigh twist, but below that is a single-hinged knee. It can bend back to about 90 degrees, but it can also swivel. It looks to just peg in to the thigh, and I like how the knee cap is sculpted over it. At the ankle, we get the usual hinge and rocker and then beyond that is a toe hinge. Gargoyles have interesting anatomy in that they basically stand on their toes. There’s some slight twist, or rocker, action to the toes, but I can’t tell if that’s intentional or just some play in the joint. They need to be tight though, and they pretty much are, though nothing was overtight on my figure. At the tail, there’s a peg and a hinge so you can move that thing all over the place. It can kind of help with getting the figure to stand, though it’s not really strong enough to help out as much as I’d like. The wings peg into the figure’s back and they’re actually hidden a bit by the hair, which is nice. They can rotate and also feature a hinge that’s ratcheted. It makes an awfully scary noise when positioning it, but they seem fine. Because they’re wide open, there isn’t a whole lot of versatility to them, but at least you have some options, particularly if you go with a flying pose.

If you prefer, you can have your Goliath be studious.

Achieving such a pose though has proven to be a challenge. Standing Goliath is not easy. There’s just enough looseness to his thighs and knees that the weight of his wings pulls him back and the tail doesn’t help out much. I did have some success using two NECA disc stands as each foot has a peg hole. What I hoped to use though was a flight stand. I only have tried two, a SHF stand and a NECA one, and neither worked. The SHF stand features a crotch piece which just doesn’t fit Goliath while the NECA one was rather frustrating because there’s very little range in the actual “grabber” piece. I at least got him into that one, but he looked stupid. What I didn’t try was the stand that came with the video game Baxter, but since Goliath can’t look straight ahead for a true flying pose (technically, gliding, as Goliath would remind me) I didn’t bother. I have a MAFEX stand and a Bring Arts one, but I feel both won’t be able to handle the weight. I’ll have to look elsewhere for something that works, or hang the figure from the ceiling with fishing line or something.

Clearly, the book is a prop to make him look smart because no one is reading that.

Goliath, likely owing to his size and NECA’s desire to keep the price down as much as possible, comes with just a handful of accessories. He comes packaged with two, open, style-posed hands that he can swap for fists. There’s also another left hand that’s more of a gripping hand which works well for his included book. There’s no title on the book, but it appears to match the one he read on werewolves from the series. He also has a jalapeno pepper, which is basically an in-joke for fans. Lastly, there’s a second head. When I first saw this figure unveiled, I figured NECA would go with a faceplate system to change expressions, but he actually has a whole, new, head. The hair is the same, but the face is a more fearsome, yelling, expression with blank eyes. I think, given the limited wing options, I’ll display Goliath with this face instead of the calm one, but both look great. The alternate head is well-painted and well-sculpted with each individual tooth brought out.

Snack time!

The accessory count is low, but Goliath isn’t really a character screaming for a lot of accessories. The optional left hand works just fine with the included book and pepper and he can be positioned with it in a fairly convincing manner, should you wish. He’s a bit limited in terms of more fearsome posing. Take the picture on the front of the box, that crouched pose isn’t really one he can do. He also can’t do the on-all-fours pose the gargoyles sometimes assume in the show. At the very least, he would need some neck articulation to pull that off. This isn’t terribly surprising though as NECA always prioritizes the aesthetics of their figures over posing. And I’m largely in agreement with that approach, though I do think they can do better here. I would like to see them figure out how to get a true gliding pose as well. They could possibly do so with neck articulation, or with different hair-shapes or even a hinge in the hair.

I look forward to getting some friends for this guy, and some foes.

Goliath is a good first effort from NECA for Gargoyles. I don’t think he’s quite the homerun that I had hoped he would be, but I think some of that will be addressed in time. The limited wings makes him feel like he’s not really an “Ultimate” edition of the character, but if I’m right and that’s a product of NECA keeping costs down, then maybe that will change in the future. NECA indicated the response to Goliath was beyond their expectations so the fanbase is there and I’m willing to bet its willing to spend a bit more to get more. The only real issue is, with costs soaring across the industry, will NECA be comfortable charging $40 or $50 for a figure in this line? That remains to be seen. For now, we’ve only seen the next two releases: Demona and Thailog. Both appear to have one set of wings so it may be awhile before we see something else. Finding a home for this line is going to be a challenge, but it’s a challenge I’m ready to welcome. I’m all-in on Gargoyles, so NECA, keep ’em coming!


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The Last Ronin #4

“Blood in Snow”

The wait was a bit longer than originally anticipated, but the fourth issue of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles flash-forward story The Last Ronin has arrived. If you are not familiar with this story, The Last Ronin was a concept first kicked around by TMNT co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird back in the late 80s/early 90s about a final story for the turtles. One, last, ronin, makes a final stand against the Foot with the memory of his family burning in his heart. It’s in some ways a parallel to the original story where the turtles set out to kill the Shredder to avenge their master, only their master was still alive. With the success of films like Logan and their comic counterparts, it made sense for the creative team to adapt this story now especially after Waltz and Eastman concluded their run on the main comic.

The first issue of The Last Ronin told the story of the last ninja turtle. The unnamed ronin infiltrated New York City, now under the control of the Foot Clan, on a suicide mission to avenge his family. The final panel reveals who the identity of this character is, and in my reviews of each so far I’ve not revealed that spoiler so I don’t plan to now. We’ll just call him Ronin. It almost doesn’t matter anyway as this turtle is like an amalgamation of all four as he wields all of their weapons (and then some) and has become consumed by his quest for vengeance. All trace of his normal personality is basically gone. Since that issue though, the following two took place in both the present (which is the future) and the past and showed how one of the turtles met his end. As a result, not a whole lot of plot has moved forward in the present timeline.

Issue #4, subtitled titled “Blood in Snow,” has what feels like a shorter flashback to reveal the fate of the final turtle and moves things forward in the present timeline far more than the others. When I read issue #2, I actually found it a bit challenging because it basically bothered me to see one of my childhood heroes fall. Issue #3 surprised me in that I didn’t get the same feeling, and as a result, it disappointed me a bit. Issue #4 is more of the same. It’s not that I expect these to be gratuitous in their depiction of death and violence, it just doesn’t do much to tug on the heart strings. There was a lot of room especially in this issue for some tragic drama, but the writers and artists chose not to lean into it giving the flashback more of a procedural feeling than an emotional arc.

Let’s not do this.

The plot that takes place in the present is, unfortunately, no better. It’s very cliché with its plotting. One moment had me rolling my eyes as our Ronin has taken on a protégé. In this issue, the characters are assaulting a fortress that is a key to breaking into the main Foot headquarters and Ronin goes ahead telling his pupil not to follow. Of course, he gets into some trouble and his protégé does indeed make the save leading to this exchange:

Ronin: I thought I told you to stay put!

Protégé: You did. I didn’t.

Ronin: Terrible discipline, excellent initiative. DON’T do it again!

How many times has such an exchange taken place in movies and comics? The characters also just march along with not much of a climax. There’s a villain from the past at the end, but the villain receives no development and is entirely dependent on the reader just being familiar with them. And the showdown really doesn’t land. I get the sense that more energy has been put into telling the story of how the turtles were defeated with little regard for this current timeline. We don’t even know how New York ended up in such a state, you would think the US government would have some issues with it, but I can at least understand the creative team not wanting to tell that story. What is unfortunate is that their main story just lacks drama and excitement. I fully expect the next issue will just feature Ronin leading a last ditch attack on the tower where the leader of the Foot waits. All or most of his allies will fall, but it will end with the two facing off at the top of the tower with likely both falling. And I’m not saying that can’t work as an outline, but they really need to land on some of the bigger moments to make it work.

The future stuff looks good, but I found myself really enjoying the setting of the flashback portion.

What hasn’t been a letdown though is the artwork. The Escorza brothers handle the majority of the work and they continue to do a good job. There’s plenty of good action panels and they really do a terrific job with the flashback sequence which features some characters in rather resplendent armor. Eastman does contribute 4 pages as well and continues to handle the portions where the Ronin character narrates his own flashback. His pages are done in black and white and feature his own, unique, artwork. For fans of the original Mirage line, these panels are a delightful throwback. A novelty, but a fun one. Newer readers might see them as weaker since Eastman’s art is not and has never been as polished as many of his professional peers, but that was part of the TMNT charm back in the day. And it was good enough to make him quite wealthy.

I’m guessing we’re not quite done with flashbacks as we need some Eastman art in Issue #5.

The trajectory for The Last Ronin appears clear with issue #4 concluded. With only one issue left in the mini series, and the flashbacks seemingly complete, we’re ready to see this revenge story come to its conclusion. I do feel like The Last Ronin began with tremendous momentum and spark, but each issue to follow has been weaker than the one preceding it. I’m hopeful they’ll rebound and stick the landing. It’s possible the story just wasn’t necessarily big enough for five issues and maybe that’s the problem, but we’ll see. I don’t expect Alan Moore writing or anything from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but it could definitely be better. As such, I began this series giving it a strong recommend, but at this point I might suggest to newcomers to wait for the trade paperback edition at this point. We’re also in for a bit of a wait, it would seem. Issue #4 was delayed about a month and the fifth and final issue has yet to be solicited by the publisher. That means it’s probably slipped to 2022 at this point. This year has been one of delays so I’m not surprised by any at this point. Hopefully the extra time allows the team to do something special. I want this story to succeed, and I am eager to see how it concludes.


NECA TMNT “The Colossal Chrome Dome” – Deluxe Chrome Dome

Chrome Dome – he’s bigger than you think.

Many television shows have what is sometimes referred to as “event” episodes. These are often episodes that complete long-running arcs, have an extended runtime, and might even be featured in a more prominent timeslot. It’s usually something for shows that take themselves rather seriously do. A show that featured very little of this sort of thing was the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. Like many 80s properties, that toon was developed with the main purpose of selling toys. Sure, the writers, artists, and directors who worked on the show probably tried to do their best to make something worthwhile, but for the most part, each episode was a self-contained story often introducing a new hero or villain that Playmates Toys wanted kids to run out and buy. Especially after the second season when the show really took off.

All right, he’s not quite as big as the box would lead you to believe.

One of the few moments where the show aimed a little higher was with the season five finale “Planet of the Turtleoids.” This one was hyped a bit by the network the show aired on as a one-hour special which aired a little over 30 years ago on August 31, 1991. It still kept the turtles in their usual Saturday morning timeslot, but it at least felt like something that was more important. The episode brought in the villains Groundchuck and Dirtbag as well as featured a golden Technodrome – how’s that for fancy? The most memorable villain introduced in that episode though, was Chrome Dome. Chrome Dome was a colossal robot created by the Shredder and Krang to, what else, destroy the turtles. And he was indeed colossal as he was basically the same size as the new Technodrome. This was quite different from the toy version which, like basically every figure in the series, was around four inches tall. If my memory serves, the toy preceded the episode so we as fans had no idea just how big the character was supposed to be. The card back didn’t list a height, but it did list a weight of 600 pounds. A giant, metal, robot would probably weight tons as opposed to pounds, so safe to say we were surprised and we should have been.

Seriously though, this box can barely hold him.

In order for NECA to do Chrome Dome properly and have him scale with the rest of the line, he’d basically have to be the same size as the quarter scale Raphael or maybe as tall as the diorama itself. Lucky for NECA, Chrome Dome returned in the season seven episode “Night of the Rogues.” In that appearance, he was still a big boy, but not to the degree he was originally. He was more like 9 or 10 feet tall in that appearance. This works perfectly for NECA’s deluxe line of TMNT figures. Recently, we looked at both Muckman and Mondo Gecko, characters that were forced into the deluxe line due to their unique tooling and accessories and not so much for their size. Chrome Dome brings both and it’s actually a little surprising he matches Mondo’s retail price of $40. This dude is a beast as he towers over the previous biggest figure in the line, Krang, and he has the beef (steel?) to match. For collectors, this guy is the new centerpiece for NECA’s cartoon line as anyone who sees such a collection will probably immediately have their eyes drawn to Chrome Dome.

I love weapon storage on a figure.
Here come a bunch of pictures to illustrate how big this figure is. First up, we have Android Krang and Metalhead.

Just how big is NECA’s Chrome Dome? About ten inches tall. Even telling you that, and showing you all of these pictures, can’t properly convey how big of a figure he is. The box he comes in, lovingly illustrated by Dan Elson just like the other deluxe releases, is pretty heavy and it barely holds Chrome Dome. He uses up the entire inner blister. The box is the same height as the one that housed Krang, but it’s deeper by nearly an inch. Once extricated from his paper and plastic confines, Chrome Dome is immensely impressive. NECA adjusted its cel-shading paint to go with something that feels more accurate to what they’re going for. Rather than bisect the figure with light shades on the front and dark on the back, he simply has embellishments all over. His chest is white with black piping and NECA added angular gray swaths of color to create the illusion of light falling over him just like the actual cartoon would have done. The same is done on his face and abdomen and the white patches on his arms and legs have gray added as well and the blue kneepads utilize a darker blue to accent that. It looks phenomenal and I hope more figures down the road present an opportunity for this sort of approach. He really pops like no other release in this line and the closest comp in terms of paint is the rock soldiers. This sort of approach probably wouldn’t work for every character to come, but maybe if they do a robot Bebop and Rocksteady? I’m suddenly excited to see them attempt such a figure!

Did you think Super Shredder was large? Hah! Chrome Dome laughs at Super Shredder!
Super7? Bandai? None can match Chrome Dome!

The paint is terrific, in terms of how it’s stylized and in application. There’s a lot of room for things to go off the rails, but for the most part it’s clean. Upon closer inspection, there are a few problematic spots, but the only true drawback is some smudges on the white of the chest and rear of the “dome.” It’s something that can happen when a figure uses a lot of matte white, but it’s not noticeable from a shelf and wasn’t even something I spied through the box. There appears to be some missing gray on the right shoulder disc as the left one is painted gray all along the edge, but the right is not. Also of interest is there appears to be some lubricant in the same area in the biceps swivel. There’s none present on the left arm so maybe this side just got a little extra “juice.” I’ve wiped it off a few times, but it’s still a little shiny. Needless to say, it’s good to see NECA using lubricant though to reduce over-tightness at the joints.

If you want Chrome Dome to look small you have to bring in another scale.

The sculpt for this bad boy is basically just as nice as the paint. He looks just as he did in the show with his samurai inspired head and various ridges and vents sculpted into his body. Every black line painted on this guy is also sculpted, same for the black rivets. He has these big, wing-like, appendages on his back that are quite sturdy. I always thought it was an odd part of the character’s design, but it does give him a bit more presence. What I find myself really liking is the sculpt of the hands. His fingers have this boxy shape to them, very robotic in a sci-fi way, and they just look so cool. The open, style-posed, hands he comes with in the box are quite fun and that boxy aesthetic is also apparent in the other hands. The old cartoon wasn’t known for great designs or cool looking characters, even a lot of the characters that looked great as toys were downgraded for the show, but Chrome Dome stands out as just being a really bad ass looking robot.

He kicks too.

And NECA made sure this beast could move. NECA managed to get the standard articulation into this guy even though he’s so big, and they did it without the need for ratcheted joints. The most limited part is right at the top. His head can’t really look up thanks to how large the helmet is and the ability to tilt is limited. The good thing is, he doesn’t need to look up at anyone. At the shoulders, we have standard ball-hinges with a biceps swivel just past that. His elbows are double-jointed, and the lower hinge is pretty tight on my guy. I should note, however, I did not have to heat any of his joints. At the wrist, he can rotate and swivel. In the abdomen is a big ball joint. It’s tight at first, but he can crunch forward and back a bit and tilt side-to-side. There’s a lot of paint there though so I would advise to be gentle so there’s no paint rub. At the waist is a twist and below that are the ball and socket legs we should all be getting used to seeing at this point. Chrome Dome’s have a nice tolerance there though, where some of my figures have been overly loose. There’s a thigh twist past that and double-jointed knees. There’s a sculpted “boot” line, but no twist there so don’t try. At the ankles he has hinges and rockers plus a toe-hinge. I don’t think you’ll need that toe hinge for anything, but it’s there.

Lets do some martial arts poses.

It’s a standard allotment of articulation for Chrome Dome, but it’s always a little surprising anytime a big figure like this comes around packed with this much. That’s because bigger figures mean more weight, and any articulation point is a chance for the stability to falter. I am happy to say that Chrome Dome stands just fine. His legs have become a little looser since removing him from the box and breaking him in, but he’s yet to fall over or anything. With the aid of a simple NECA disc stand, I was even able to get him into a one-foot pose. The only shortcoming I’m finding with the articulation is just with the shoulders and the lack of a butterfly joint. I don’t know if NECA could have pulled it off without breaking up the sculpt on the chest, but if Chrome Dome could reach across his body to grasp a the handle of a sheathed sword that would have been cool. Even without that though, the combination of his size and what’s there for articulation should be plenty to find some dynamic poses for your shelf.

Because he really needs two swords.
The belt clasps at the back, but I’m not brave enough to remove it. Plus, I like the look of it anyway.

Chrome Dome probably doesn’t need any weapons to crush his foes, but his figure still comes with some anyway! Chrome Dome has not one, but two, belts. In the show, I believe he just had the sculpted blue belt while the Playmates toy had the second belt with sheaths for his swords. NECA replicated that with the outer belt being pretty true to that old toy as it even has a clasp on the back if you want to remove it. There are two, blue, sheaths on the left side for his twin katana. The katana have this neat, techno, design to them. They’re mostly white and gray with blue on the handles and they very much stylistically fit it in with the other weapons Shredder and his minions wield. They slide into the sheaths rather snugly, but they can fit all the way. The only drawback is you will most likely experience some paint rub with a little blue getting onto the white portion of the blade. The same is true on the handles when fitting them into his hands as it’s a tight fit. To wield the swords, Chrome Dome comes with a set of gripping hands. They have vertical hinges and swapping hands is painless. There was a bit of paint on all of the hinges of the spare hands so breaking them in is a bit of challenge, but the plastic is also black so once that paint flakes off it doesn’t leave behind an eyesore.

Bang!

If swords aren’t your thing then there’s a blaster too. Chrome Dome is a big boy so he needs a big gun and this thing is quite large. It’s painted in a white and gray scheme and NECA included a right, trigger, hand to wield it. The hands on this guy are very stiff with almost no give, so if you want him to hold this gun you will almost certainly need to heat the hand first. I just used running, hot, tap water and that worked just fine. His trigger finger fits in exceptionally well too and it’s quite satisfying to look at. If you prefer he store the weapon, there’s a peg on the right side of the floating belt. Now, I am not sure how NECA intended for this to go on. Some have been able to get it to peg on as there’s a hole towards the rear of the gun. It’s a shallow hole though, so it doesn’t peg in very well. What I have done is utilized the rear of the gun which has what looks like a molded hinge. The peg on the belt is like rubber, and I simply stuck it through this hinge which works fine. It keeps the gun low so it’s not up in his armpit and it hasn’t fallen. I’m probably going to display him with gun in hand though, but if I wasn’t this is how I’d store it.

“Oh, Shredder, come on! I am the superior machine, come push MY keys!”

In addition to the weapons, Chrome Dome also has an assortment of hands and a computer. He has the open, style-posed, hands in the box, plus a pair of fists and a pair of “chop” hands. It’s honestly more than I was expecting and it presents a conundrum in terms how to pose him on the shelf. I love the style-posed hands, but I also love having him hold his swords and gun. I’ll probably never use the fists or chops, but I can see how others might. The computer is an interesting inclusion. If memory serves, it’s from “Night of the Rogues” and Zach, the “Fifth” Turtle, uses it to retrieve some information out of Chrome Dome. I don’t remember if it’s his computer or Donatello’s. Zach is featured on the box though, so expect a figure of that lame, little, dork some day. The accessory is well done though, and it even features a floppy drive. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it in the near term, but I do know it would look nice in a lair set, or maybe even inside the Turtle Van.

“Ugh, Mikey, I don’t think now is the time to whip out your little hook.”

Chrome Dome is a spectacle of an action figure. He’s so big, and so well detailed, that he commands attention. If it wasn’t already clear in this review, I am in love with this figure. I think it’s my new favorite in this line. He has to be! It’s just so impressive from every aspect that’s important for an action figure. And at an MSRP of $40, I don’t know how NECA does it! I don’t want to sound like a corporate shill, but I sometimes don’t know how NECA does what it does. Mondo Gecko might have seemed a touch underwhelming at 40 bucks, but Chrome Dome is the opposite. And I compare him to some of the other stuff I get and it just blows me away. The Super7 Michelangelo I reviewed recently is more expensive than this guy, and so is the comparatively massive Rocksteady. I know it’s a whole different release strategy, but it’s hard not to compare these things as a consumer because at the end of the day I am getting a figure of a certain quality at a certain price. I don’t care about production numbers and parts reuse, and it’s hard not to see how NECA is putting everyone to shame with such a release. And it’s shocking because this guy features no parts reuse and I don’t see how NECA will benefit from these molds again. Maybe they’ll do a video game variant? I’m definitely not expecting another release in this line that is this much of a value though so get him while you can, because it’s possible future runs won’t be $40.

I love this figure. Settling on a pose is going to be a challenge, but that’s a good problem to have.

And if you do want a Chrome Dome of your very own, he can currently be found at Target. I got mine direct from NECA as they made some available online a little over a week ago (he thankfully shipped a lot quicker than Mondo and Muckman), but he appears to be arriving in large numbers at stores right now. This line is getting easier to obtain as I’ve seen Mondo and Muckman with some degree of frequency, so hopefully Chrome Dome is the same. He is the type of release though that could entice casuals because he is just so neat looking, so if you want him for your collection I would suggest not sleeping on it.


S.H.Figuarts Bulma

Bulma’s back and packing a bigger gun.

It was a little over a year ago that I took a look at the S.H.Figuarts release Bulma – Adventure Begins. I believe I mentioned in that review that the figure I was reviewing was the second Bulma released by Bandai/Tamashii Nations for the SHF line of action figures based on the classic manga/anime Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama. It was that version of Bulma that I was interested in because it depicted her as she appeared in the very first episode of the anime. The previous version of Bulma had not interested in me as she was in her Mad Max-like outfit from the show’s ending credits and some promotional art. For whatever reason, that version of Bulma has apparently appealed more to companies looking to make collectibles based on the show. When Irwin launched their own line of Dragon Ball toys in the early 2000s, they too went with that look. A lot of statues and other collectibles have gone with it, and I guess it’s just because these companies view their clientele as mostly male and males want to buy the rugged version of Bulma with the machinegun, not the one with the ponytail and pink skirt.

I’d wager most who buy this figure will pose her exactly as she appears on the box.

As someone with a fairly modest Dragon Ball collection, I definitely do not need versions of characters that didn’t even make it into the show. However, the past year being what it is, boredom and clearance pricing has led me to make some purchases I otherwise would not which is why I’m about to tell you all about the first version of Bulma released in the S.H.Figuarts line. Simply titled “Bulma,” this is that biker/raider/whatever iteration of the character. I believe it’s based on artwork by Toriyama, but otherwise those ending credits are where I know it from. It appears about 30 seconds into it and is preceded by quick shots of Bulma putting on her gloves and loading her gun. She’s positioned with a dirt bike too, and the Irwin release included the bike as a stand, while this version is just the figure. It’s certainly an interesting look as she’s covered in bandages and for some reason her pants are missing a leg. Her hair’s in this side ponytail and her name is emblazoned on her shoulder pad. She looks cool, a bit of a rugged cute, she just never looks like this in the actual anime.

“Is that ME?! What am I wearing?!”

The figure basically matches that art to perfection. About the only difference I notice is she has a little grime on her exposed knee in the picture that Bandai didn’t bother to paint on. She’s about five inches tall, which makes her a little taller than Kid Goku, but doesn’t really put her in true scale with anyone in the Dragon Ball line save for maybe Tao. It’s basically a choice Bandai had to make when doing the kid characters for they’d have to be really small to be truly in scale. Bulma comes with her goggles which are basically just intended to be held or draped over her neck as they are in the image. To do so, you just pop her head off and that’s how you complete the look. A lot of the details in her sculpt are done with separate pieces like the satchel at her hip and the shoulder pad on her left arm. I’m not sure if the pad is glued on or just pegged in, but the satchel is pegged and it can be lifted up. The straps across her back and left thigh are sculpted in and painted and the paint application is very clean. The only paint issue I can find concerns some of the hands where the blue rectangle isn’t perfectly lined up with the sculpted-out area for it, but it’s very minor. I really like how her boots turned out and even the little clasps on those are painted silver without slop which is kind of incredible. My only real criticism with the sculpt and paint of this figure rests with the hair. I wish there was a wash or something added to the figure’s hair to reduce the very plastic look it has. It’s matte, but that shade of blue comes out looking a little like Play-Doh.

Look! She can put her gloves on!

This figure likely shares parts with the other version of Bulma and her articulation is essentially the same. Her head sits on a fairly large ball-peg and can rotate, tilt, and look down quite a bit. Her hair prevents her from being able to look up though. At the shoulder she has ball-pegs with a small butterfly joint. She can raise her arms out past 90 degrees at the side, though you have to work with the shoulder pad on her left arm, and rotate all around. The arm swivels basically at the shoulder and above the biceps. At the elbows, she has the SHF disc joints which aren’t my favorite, but it’s what Bandai seems to go with when it’s sculpting characters with thin arms. She can bend past 90, but the joint is rather funky looking when the elbows are not bent. At the wrist she has ball joints with great range and the joint isn’t as awkward looking as it is on some figures because her hands and wrists are fully gloved. In the torso she has a ball joint just below her bust. This allows her to tilt and crunch forward and back with really no gapping issues. It works in conjunction with a ball-joint at the waist resulting in her being super flexible. At the leg, she can lift her legs out to the side a fair amount, but can’t pull off a split. She kicks forward and back to about 90 with a thigh twist up by the ball-joint. The knees use the same disc system as the elbows so they’re single-jointed, but allow the figure to go a little past 90 there as well. The joint here works a little better from an aesthetic point-of-view as the disc is only visible from the back. Below the knee, she surprisingly doesn’t seem to have a boot-cut, but she does have ball-joints at the ankle. They’re a bit limiting though, likely due to the sculpt, so she can’t go forward and back too far and the side-to-side “rocker” action is a bit limited as well.

Dragon Radar: don’t leave home without it!

Bulma is sort of like a tale of two figures when it comes to the articulation: great on top, so-so below the waist. She can still do whatever you need her to. She’s more than capable of hitting the pose from those ending credits, as well as the other product shots on the box. And when it comes to her accessories, there are no problems there as well. Her main accessory is that machinegun she’s seen casually holding in the art. It has a sling that pegs into the rear and side so she can wear it over her shoulder, hold it by the top, or hold it in a more conventional firing position. The gun has a very long stock which makes it a challenge to position properly if you want her to look like she’s actually firing the gun. Not impossible, but it’s definitely not the position Bandai prioritized when developing it. She has those goggles I mentioned which are well-painted and look nice wherever you choose to put them. They just can’t actually fit across her face. She also has the Dragon Radar that the other Bulma comes with. This one has a different decal that doesn’t show any Dragon Balls. Just like with that Bulma, this one comes with a special right hand for the Dragon Radar to peg into since it’s such a small accessory. Definitely try not to drop it on a carpet. She also has an assortment of other hands and most seem like they serve a specific purpose. There’s a set of curved, open, hands that appear intended for holding the Dragon Ball or possibly handlebars. There’s a right, trigger, hand, a right fist, and a right, open, hand. That open hand appears to work in conjunction with a left hand that’s almost a fist, but her thumb is forward in a pinching position. Based on the rear of the box, it appears to be to simulate her pulling on her right glove (the open hand) which is certainly specific. There’s also a left, pointing, hand and a left gripping hand for holding the gun by the top of it as she is in the art. Lastly, there’s a five-star Dragon Ball and I think I now have all seven, plus the “pearl” one that came with Jackie Chun.

One flaw with this line is that Bulma basically scales with no one.

To go with all of that stuff are two additional portraits. Bulma comes with a standard smile in the box, plus an open mouth smile and a winking face. Swapping them is simple as her hair comes off granting access to the face-plate. What’s kind of neat is she can also use the face-plates from the second Bulma release. The smile expressions are basically the same, except this version has a band-aid on her cheek. The open mouth on this Bulma has her looking to her left, while the other is looking straight-ahead. The main difference between the two is the winking face for this figure, and the terrified scream on the other. I can’t see myself swapping faces between the two releases, but it’s nice to have that option. If you wanted to, you could also place her on the SHF Bulma’s Motorcycle accessory, though she doesn’t fit as well as the other Bulma. That’s due to the crotch piece limiting the legs at the hip so it’s a bit tricky to get her all the way down onto the seat and have her feet where they’re supposed to be. It can be done, but that bike definitely works better with the other Bulma since she has a new skirt piece specifically designed to get her properly seated.

It’s a bit of an awkward fit, but if you want to, Bulma can ride the motorcycle.

This is a solid release from Bandai for the SHF line. Despite this version of Bulma never appearing in the anime proper, it’s still associated with an iconic image of the character so it’s not as if it’s unwanted. It’s different enough from Bulma – Adventure Begins that it serves a purpose. It can do the pose that it needs to do, but it also has a range of other possible poses that all look good on a shelf. The only changes I’d make to the figure would be to improve the grip on the trigger hand and apply a wash or something to the hair. Otherwise, I’m happy with the sculpt and paint and the articulation is sufficient for what this figure needs to do. This wasn’t the version of Bulma I decided I needed to have for my Dragon Ball collection, but now that I have it I’m certainly glad it’s here.


Dark Phoenix (2019)

What is it with the X-Men film franchise and its aversion to simple titles? We couldn’t just have X-Men 2, we had to have X2. The third film was billed as X-Men: The Last Stand in some places, but the theatrical poster seemed to imply it was X3: The Last Stand. At least the reboot films seemed to rectify this with X-Men: First Class followed by X-Men: Days of Future Past, but now we have just Dark Phoenix. Not X-Men: Dark Phoenix, but Dark Phoenix. Just in case you were confused though, at least the theatrical poster circled the “X” in Phoenix, but why not just keep things nice and simple?

Dark Phoenix is the 2019 film that marks the end of the X-Men film franchise as we know it. It’s been an interesting, confusing, frustrating, and sometimes thrilling ride. The franchise took off in 2000 with X-Men, and arguably peaked with the sequel. The third film was a let down, and then we had some solo Wolverine outings with one being terrible and the other acceptable, plus a sort of prequel, reboot, in 2011. X-Men: First Class turned me off initially, but once I finally gave it a chance I was forced to concede it was at least a fun film. I just didn’t really like how it tried to be both a reboot and a prequel to the original film and felt it would have been better to just commit to one. Apparently, the studio saw this as an issue too so Days of Future Past in 2014 basically served as the sequel to First Class and as the true reboot for the franchise as the time-traveling original heroes changed history and likely inadvertently erased basically everything that happened in the original trilogy. Confused? I suppose you should be, but at the end of the day, it just meant we were truly were dealing with two distinct sets of films that just both happened to be about the X-Men.

The sequels/reboots ended up being a lot of fun, but things took a turn in the third film, X-Men: Apocalypse. That one was a mess and was a textbook example of what not to do when telling an X-Men story. The villain was just an all-powerful being with no subtext. I likened Apocalypse to a natural disaster in my review of that film and I stand by that. He was a foe that just was; there was no getting away from him or around him or reasoning with him, he just had to be endured. The cast basically exploded which meant we had a bunch of new faces and not enough time to get to know any of them. It was almost as if the film depended on people knowing who these characters were and establishing a connection based off of that and not by what was presented onscreen. Given that, the obvious next step was to tell a story entirely dependent upon the audience caring about these new characters – what could go wrong?

The original story of Phoenix unfolded over several years and was anchored by characters introduced 20 years prior, this film is counting on viewers caring about characters introduced just a film ago and given minimal screen time at that with only 2 hours to tell the story.

Apocalypse made enough money that a fourth film was commissioned: Dark Phoenix. The Dark Phoenix Saga is perhaps the most famous X-Men story ever told. Crafted by writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne, The Dark Phoenix Saga unfolded in the pages of Uncanny X-Men spanning 8 issues in 1980. Some would argue the story began earlier with Uncanny X-Men #101 which began the story of Phoenix way back in 1976. In essence, this was a story that unfolded over parts of 5 years, so is it any wonder that other versions of the X-Men have struggled to match the original story?

Probably the best adaptation of The Phoenix Saga and Dark Phoenix Saga is in the animated series X-Men. That show devoted basically 10 episodes to the event and had given us multiple seasons before that to develop a connection to the characters in the show. When the X-Men originally went to film, we had at least had two films to connect with characters Jean Grey and Cyclops, only Cyclops was basically written out of the sequel and quickly killed off at the beginning of the third. Oops! At least The Last Stand had the Wolverine/Jean dynamic and the Xavier/Jean relationship to fall back on, but it was sloppy with the Phoenix character taking a backseat to Magneto for large stretches of the film.

This film is not good, but that’s not because of the performance of actress Sophie Turner.

In the waning moments of Apocalypse, the film started dropping hints that Phoenix was next so I was not surprised to find out that Dark Phoenix was in development, but I immediately expected failure. Once again, a film was jumping over The Phoenix Saga and going straight to Dark Phoenix, only this time, the title character was one no on cared about. The film had a lengthy development cycle due in the part to director/screenwriter Bryan Singer getting fired for being a sexual predator and the studio having enough issues with first-time director Simon Kinberg’s final act that they sent the whole crew back for reshoots. The release date got kicked around as the film would basically become akin to a lame duck president since rumors were flying, and would later come to fruition, that Disney was purchasing 20th Century Fox which would bring an end to the X-Men film franchise. The film was finally released in June 2019 and it bombed. If Wikipedia can be believed, it would eventually make more than its budget, but that probably doesn’t factor in marketing costs so it’s possible the studio lost money, though it’s certainly likely that it did not realize a substantial profit.

The poor reception to the film is why my review has taken more than two years to arrive. I’ve simply been unwilling to spend money to watch it, so I waited for it to finally show up on a streaming platform I was already subscribed to. I will come right out and say it: this movie is not good. I was hoping that maybe for a longtime fan of the X-Men, it would work on a basic level for me and I could have some fun with it despite its flaws. Instead, I found little to enjoy.

For starters, the script and screenplay are poor. Characters are given lines riddled with clichés. One can practically predict every word about to come out of a character’s mouth in a given situation and it just feels like amateur hour. Despite the poor script, some actors are able to rise to the occasion. Sophie Turner, who plays the title character, received poor marks for her performance in Apocalypse, but here she redeems herself. Yes, the movie does her few favors, but she performs as well as could be expected. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender continue to be pleasant as Professor Xavier and Magneto, respectively, though the latter’s appearance felt especially shoe-horned this time around. Just like with Apocalypse, Magneto is basically just to hear to clearly demonstrate that another being is more powerful than him. Nicholas Hoult is fine as Beast/Hank McCoy, but that’s basically it. Jennifer Lawrence continues to underwhelm as Raven/Mystique which is partly due to the character being underserved by the role while Kodi Smit-McPhee (Nightcrawler) and Alexandra Shipp (Storm) are treated more like tools than characters. Jessica Chastain, who reportedly turned down numerous offers to appear in a “superhero” film before, plays the villain Vuk and it’s truly puzzling that this is the role she finally accepted. She must have owed someone a favor or just really likes Kinberg because the role is terrible.

A space rescue leads to an encounter with the Phoenix Force, setting the wheels of the plot in motion.

The plot of the film basically tries to adapt portions of both The Phoenix Saga and Dark Phoenix Saga. When the film begins, Xavier is basically a celebrity with direct access to the President of the United States and things are going well for mutants. It’s supposed to be set in the early 90s, but the period is not utilized in the least. When the X-Men are called upon to save a stranded space shuttle in the outer rim of Earth’s orbit, Jean Grey is exposed to a supernatural force and is forever changed. This causes a rift between Raven and Xavier, with Beast caught in the middle, over Xavier’s willingness to place his student’s in harm’s way to further his agenda while Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) is left to worry about his girlfriend, Jean, who is acting different. Things take a turn as Jean essentially becomes the Dark Phoenix character as we know her leading to tragedy and her fleeing the team. In the process, it’s discovered that Charles had used his own powers to hide traumatic memories of Jean’s when he took her in, and now those barriers are failing causing others on the team to question Xavier’s judgement and Jean to basically go out of control.

Vuk (left) basically plays the role of Mastermind this time around as she attempts to forge a bond with Jean to gain control of the Phoenix.

Complicating things further are the D’Bari, a race of shape-shifting beings made extinct by The Phoenix Force before it ever encountered Jean. Their leader, Vuk, wants to take control of the Phoenix which now rests in Jean, and in order to do so needs to become her ally. Along the way Magneto will be pulled in and Xavier will be forced to reassess what the X-Men stand for. It’s a mess of a plot that both asks us to care about characters we barely know and is also afraid to actually put a lot on the shoulders of these characters. A lot of what happens, particularly with Magneto, feels like the film just padding out its length. Once again, Magneto is presented as being in a state of peace, but then immediately goes back to being a tool of vengeance. It’s ridiculous what the past two films have tried to do with the character and the only silver lining is that Michael Fassbender continues to be terrific in the role. The presence of the D’Bari is essentially taking the place of the Hellfire Club from the comic, and not the Shi’ar, as Vuk tries to coerce Jean into being an ally in order to take control of the Phoenix Force. The film isn’t really interested in explaining this cosmic entity; does it just function like a power amplifier or is it in control? It’s basically just there to give Vuk a motivation and a reason to exist, albeit a flimsy one. The film would have functioned in the same fashion if Vuk just wanted to use Jean like a weapon, as Magneto had done in The Last Stand, and the Phoenix entity was just something that existed inside her character.

I love Fassbender’s Magneto, but he did not need to be in this picture.

Dragging the film further down into the mire are the special effects and action pieces. The effects are not bad, just not interesting. It’s a lot of characters just putting their hands up and CG taking over to add in some flames or lightning. The only interesting moment involves a subway car crashing up through a street, but it’s also a head-scratching moment as the character responsible didn’t really need to do that and it just looks like the film trying to show off. There’s no moment that made me say “Wow” and there’s no signature fight scene either. The final battle is one of the film’s most underwhelming moments. The costumes at least look okay. Beast still looks kind of dumb, but a lot of that has to do with the character’s design and not the makeup effects being utilized. This one, like the previous film, does draw attention to how the franchise loves blue characters as we have the blue Beast, Nightcrawler, and Mystique making up half of the X-Men. The franchise is finally confident to give the team a comic-inspired uniform, but still not willing to give other characters a cool, fun, look. Jean, as Dark Phoenix, just wears street clothes throughout this one and Magneto apparently lost his threads between films.

Dark Phoenix is not a good film and a whimper for the franchise. Technically, the final X-Men adjacent film is last year’s The New Mutants, another film fraught with delays and reshoots that ultimately did not pan out. It’s a shame that a cartoon in the early 90s is still the best depiction of a classic comic story like The Dark Phoenix Saga and I wonder if the repeated failures will cause Disney to bypass it when X-Men finally enters the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s a shame, because it’s really not a hard story to adapt, it’s just one that needs time. It’s not a one-movie deal, it has to be cultivated across films and, most importantly, they need to be films that actually respect the characters. Marvel has proven it can create a team and have the audience care about it, and I don’t mean The Avengers. That was obviously a different animal where most of the characters got stand-alone films first, but Guardians of the Galaxy did not go that route and found a way to make us love the characters on that team. I do suspect that when it comes time to onboard the X-Men that we’ll meet someone like Xavier in a different film before being properly introduced to the full team. And it’s possible we’ll meet other characters prior to that as well. It wouldn’t be hard to slip Storm into whatever comes next for the Black Panther and Wolverine can fit in almost anywhere. That’s a whole other subject though. For now, the X-Men film franchise that began in 2000 is over. It had its ups and downs, but it’s also a big reason why we have the superhero genre today. It was immensely important and I’m glad it exists even if it has many flaws. It’s unfortunate it didn’t get a better send-off, but I think of Days of Future Past as the true bookend and that film is great. And if not, well Logan is possibly the best superhero movie ever and also would be a fine end. Dark Phoenix just happened to be the movie that came last.


Blackacidevil is Coming to Vinyl

The preferred medium for music has changed quite a bit in my lifetime. When I was born in the 80s, the vinyl LP was still king, but 8-tracks were still tolerated for their portability and cassette tapes were taking hold. It wouldn’t be long until the compact disc, or CD, started to take over. Portable like a cassette, but with crystal clear audio even surpassing vinyl, made the CD very desirable. It was also really cheap to manufacture, though actual players were quite expensive at the onset (as is the case with most new technology). A CD player in your home stereo was a status symbol that quickly became ordinary, while players in the car or as part of a PC tower would remain expensive and uncommon into the 1990s. Other formats would attempt to overthrow the CD, but nothing took hold. What finally knocked the CD off of the mountain is what would eventually crush the DVD and Blu Ray: digital. People realized they liked the convenience of just downloading music. Audio compression techniques were perfected throughout the 90s and into the 2000s to the point where only the snobbiest self-proclaimed audiophiles could claim to tell the difference. Once massive sections of CDs at record stores dwindled and some multi-media stores have abandoned them all together.

With the era of physical media essentially over nostalgia has been allowed to take hold. And one of the main benefactors has been the old school vinyl LP. Listening to a record on vinyl is a different experience from that of a CD or digital one. There’s an imperfection and variance to the audio experience as variations in the player’s needle or something as mundane as a little dust on the record itself can alter the experience. It’s also an active experience as the listener has to physically flip the record over after 20 minutes to a half hour or even change the disc all together if the album is a long one. The package has to be physically bigger to accommodate the medium’s size which affords ample opportunity for oversized artwork, liner notes, and pictures. Cheaper records are released in little more than a slipcase for the record, while most feature a gatefold design that opens to reveal a more dramatic image. The medium is popular enough that most new albums are released on CD and vinyl today. The pressing numbers are far lower than what they were 10 or 20 years ago, but there’s enough demand out there that bands and labels see a benefit to producing them.

Back in 1996, that was a rarity. Vinyl was all but dead and most new releases ignored it. For the band Danzig, it was an era of new beginnings. The band’s founder and namesake, Glenn Danzig, had served out his recording obligations to American Recordings, the first major label he had worked for. The first four Danzig albums, plus one EP, had done well, though not exceptionally so. The band wasn’t that far removed though from it’s first of two top 100 hits, “Mother,” so there was some appetite for the band’s services. Hollywood Records came calling and offered Glenn Danzig what was reported as a 9 figure deal to join the label. Danzig took the money and promptly replaced every member of the band that had played on the most recent record and produced the band’s fifth studio album Blackacidevil.

The record bombed. Danzig ditched the heavy metal crooner persona he had refined at American in favor of an electronic/industrial mix. The vocals were often buried under a thick layer of distortion and traditional instruments were sometimes left out all together. Alice in Chains axeman Jerry Cantrell contributed to a few tracks, and the album did have its moments with the fuzzy blues number “Come to Silver” and the morose album closer “Ashes,” but it’s hardly a controversial statement to refer to Blackacidevil as Danzig’s worst album to date. To complicate matters further, when some parent groups found out that Hollywood Records had signed the “satanic” Danzig to its label there was some public outcry. This was a problem for the label’s parent company, The Walt Disney Company, and the controversy combined with the album’s poor performance caused them to cut bait. Danzig was again a free agent, but a wealthier one, and he even got to retain full distribution rights to the album.

It’s taken 25 years, but Danzig V is coming to vinyl.

Because of the timing of the album’s release and poor commercial performance, Blackacidevil never saw release beyond CD and cassette. The album would be reissued a couple of times as a website exclusive and as an enhanced version through E-Magine music in 2000. The enhanced version featured new artwork by the late Martin Emond as well as three additional tracks, none of which did much to elevate the poor original release. Ever since, the album has been mostly ignored by Danzig. The songs are never played live any longer and the band even ignored it for the chronological 20th anniversary setlist that featured songs from every release except Blackacidevil. There seems to be little enthusiasm for the record from both the band and the music community. The album still has its share of defenders amongst the diehard fanbase, but even those defenses have become more muffled over the years. As the years have gone by, Blackacidevil has never shaken off its status as the black sheep of the Danzig catalog. Driving that point home even further is the fact that the album is the only Danzig release to not be released on vinyl. All of the American Recordings releases received a vinyl release, though some were exclusive to certain regions of the world. Even the post Blackacidevil albums received sporadic vinyl editions. The follow-up album, Satan’s Child, was released in Europe in small numbers and it’s follow-up received a curious one-off release as well that was apparently licensed by the band, but not overseen. After that, vinyl started making its comeback so Circle of Snakes, Deth Red Sabaoth, and even the covers records received vinyl editions. And in the case of the most recent, they received numerous special editions of varying colored vinyl and picture discs.

Even though Blackacidevil is not an album I much care for, it has been a hole in my Danzig vinyl collection for some time. I am, by no means, a completist, but I have at least one vinyl edition of every Danzig release. The only ones I’ve passed on were some of the singles and the Glenn Danzig release Black Aria II, quite possible the worst thing he’s ever put his name on (well, until the movies). I even used to have a dedicated room for my collecting, before I had kids, in which I had my Danzig vinyl collection arranged on the wall in special LP frames. It always bothered me that Blackacidevil was not represented, but now that era is coming to a close.

I am happy to report that the band selected the superior artwork of the reissue for this release.

It was years ago that Glenn Danzig indicated he was looking to re-release some of his work on vinyl. Blackacidevil was mentioned along with his first solo release, Who Killed Marilyn?, but nothing came of it. Then pretty much out of no where, solicitations for a Blackacidevil vinyl release started appearing online. They started at smaller places on the web, but soon even Danzig’s current label Cleopatra Records put the record up for sale. It’s to be released in October and the album will have two pressings: black and silver colored vinyl. The jacket features the updated Martin Emond artwork from the reissue while the track list features just the original ten from the Hollywood release. It looks to be a gatefold release and even though it’s referred to as a “deluxe” reissue I don’t see anything new attached to it. Some places are also selling a CD reissue as well.

If you have read my review of the album then you already know that it isn’t something I recommend. This is a release for the diehard fans that either do actually like the album or are like me and just see this as a missing piece to their collection. With the amount of editions Cleopatra pressed of the more recent Danzig Sings Elvis I guess I shouldn’t be surprised they’d give this album a look. It gives me some hope that maybe more reissues are on the way. I don’t have that much interest in rebuying albums I already have on vinyl, but with Blackacidevil getting a release that just leaves one, last, grail item in the Danzig catalog: Final Descent. Yes, the fourth and final Samhain release is the only one from that band to not see release on vinyl. It was a hastily thrown together effort as it came out after the band had been dissolved and turned into Danzig, so it was only released on CD and tape. The entirety of the Samhain catalog is long overdue for a re-release of some kind and is far more worthy than Blackacidevil. Hopefully that’s something being actively discussed. As for Blackacidevil, I have no intention of doing a review of just the vinyl when I have it in my possession. I ordered a silver copy since I’ll likely never actually listen to it. It’ll come in, I’ll look it over, and file it away in my Danzig record collection where it likely will go untouched for years, but at least the catalog will now feel complete.


NECA Turtles in Time Baxter Stockman

“Big Apple, 3 AM”

When NECA finally received access to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles license to release product at retail, the company decided to focus on three pillars: cartoon, movie, video game. The cartoon product, being the most sought after, was exclusively sold at Target stores in the United States. The movie line, probably nearly as desirable as the cartoon, but not as deep, was to be sold exclusively at GameStop and has since been moved to Walmart. The third pillar, and probably the least desirable, was the video game brand. Those figures were to be sold across various comic and specialty shops. Basically, anyone who sells collector-grade action figures can place an order for these. Which, incidentally, made it possible for a retailer like GameStop to at one point sell both movie and game figures based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The design of the original cabinet was so bizarre. This odd Baxter fits right in that.

The video game line was always going to be the lease desirable because it’s the most gimmicky. All of the figures feature a pixelized deco to create the illusion that they came out of a video game. Only, this sort of thing is basically impossible to properly replicate since pixels, by their nature, are arranged in a very strict fashion and any three-dimensional object that can bend and move in the third dimension is going to break those rules. It also was a line designed primarily for repaints and re-releases. The turtles themselves had been originally released as a comic con exclusive already along with Shredder and the Foot. They were based on the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game, but NECA’s line for retail was to be based on Turtles in Time. Still, the turtles didn’t change enough from one game to the next to warrant new sculpting, so instead the pixel deco was modified slightly and each figure came bundled with a surf/hover board based on the bonus level Sewer Surfin’. As for the rest, well most could just be repaints of the cartoon line or re-releases with slight modification. Shredder, for example, had his shoulder pauldrons adjusted while Slash received a new head to differentiate him from his toon counterpart. And since these were priced under the usual NECA Ultimates price point, they tended to just come with a few extra hands and a weapon or two.

It seemed like that was all the line would be. NECA also expressed interest in winding it down in favor of a new line based on the original Mirage Studios source material, even though there were still a few boss characters missing. NECA didn’t want the line to just fizzle out though, so it decided to do a couple of special releases. One is a two-pack of Bebop and Rocksteady which is due any day now, while the other was the line’s first Ultimates release: Baxter Stockman.

The video game version of the character always struck me as a great deal more creepy than the cartoon one.

Baxter, like many characters from the game and this line, have a cartoon counterpart. NECA released Baxter alongside Splinter in early 2021 so NECA double-dipping with a game repaint was not a surprise. The only thing was, it didn’t make a ton of sense. Baxter in the cartoon is a diminutive, mutant, fly. He’s a pip-squeak. In the video game though he’s pretty beefy. Maybe because he’s a boss Konami felt he needed some presence because he’s as big as the turtles, if not a little bigger. He also looks just a little different. His head is a bit more grotesque and he has this one, ugly, tooth that makes him look like an old man. NECA could have just faked it and did Baxter up in a different color scheme and called it a day, but most probably would have called them out on it.

Two different interpretations of the same character. I do love how that toon one turned out.

Rather than make Baxter a lesser release, NECA did the opposite. They upped the price to an Ultimates tier which gave the company the freedom to do a new sculpt. Now, some of his parts are probably sourced from other, non-Baxter, figures, but some is also unique. He also got his own, unique, packaging in the Ultimates styled box with the fifth panel for product shots and artwork (and the front of the box is basically NECA’s interpretation of Baxter in the same style as the turtles were presented on the original arcade cabinet). It also meant more accessories! Baxter comes with the usual assortment of extra hands, but he also has two guns, a flight stand, and an effects piece with a stand of its own! It’s quite the package, and it’s nice seeing NECA sink a little extra love into the video game line.

Thank goodness his union kept their dental plan.

Baxter stands at around six and a quarter inches, making him nearly two inches taller than his cartoon version. He has shaggy, red-orange hair, and bulbous pink eyes and a hideous grin. He has a purple sweater vest and red bowtie to go along with some tattered, white, dress sleeves and blue pants. It’s tough to get a good look at a sprite in a 16-bit video game, but this looks pretty consistent with the arcade game. His flesh is a fuchsia or hot pink which also includes those extra arms on his back. The wings are just lightly sculpted and feature a powdery, pink finish, that are ever so slightly transparent, but functionally not. The pixel paint job seems less intense than some of the other figures released. It’s mostly on the front of his vest and sides of his pants while the gray shading on his sleeves is given a boxy edge. They really didn’t attempt anything on the head, save for the diamond pupils in his eyes, nor is there any on his wings or extra appendages. I think it looks fine and I prefer the pixel effect to be underplayed as opposed to overplayed, and the paint application in general is quite clean. In terms of parts sharing with the cartoon Baxter, I can’t see any. I thought they might have the same pincer arms, but those are different as well. The hands, feet, arms, torso, even the bowtie are all different. He probably shares legs and arms with Vernon from the toon line, and whatever is under the sweater vest as well, but this guy is largely unique.

He’s trying to look tough, but he really could use some more meat on his bones.

All of the ingredients are there for Baxter to be a visual splendor, but I do think he has one obvious flaw. He’s just not chunky enough. The character model in the game was about as tall as the turtles, but noticeably thicker. This Baxter has the height, but he’s pretty thin. I’m sure some of this perception is magnified by the fact that he’s kind of hunched over in the game and squat. Even if I try to scrunch him up though the effect still isn’t achieved. Is it a deal-breaker? Well, almost. I really waffled on this release for a bit as I liked it, but just didn’t think it was a terrific likeness of the video game art. I really only gave in because of availability and my own desire to just get a new toy. Plus, even with the likeness issue, it looked like a fun toy because of all of the stuff. Anybody interested in this figure will just have to decide for themselves if the likeness is good enough or not. I think NECA brings it on themselves here since a lot of their toon figures look like they stepped right out of the television so that’s a standard we’ve come to expect for their TMNT figures, whether they’re based on a cartoon, movie, or video game.

Baxter, I told you not to try to swallow a fistful of sugar cubes.

In the game, Baxter attacks from the air and land so such a character needs to be able to achieve a variety of poses and this Baxter is more than up to the task. He’s pretty loaded when it comes to articulation. His head sits on a ball-peg and has some solid functionality there made even better by the fact that his head sits on a rather large neck with a hinge at the base. This does help him achieve that stooped look he has in the game when on his feet, and if in the air, he’s able to look down at his target just fine. At the shoulders, he has the usual ball-hinges and they have a terrific tolerance for moving around and out to the side. For this guy, NECA used their slightly unusual double-elbows that the cartoon Baxter had. When these elbows are used on a sleeveless character like the movie Casey Jones they look really bizarre, but on a character in a dress shirt like Baxter they look fine. He can bend well past 90 and the arms swivel above the elbow as well. And since you can point that hinge wherever you need it, Baxter can basically bend almost as well as a character with a butterfly joint at the shoulder. He can reach across his chest, achieve two-handed, gun holding positions, or even choke himself! At the wrists, he can rotate and hinge, but all of his hands have in-out, horizontal, hinges which is unfortunate as vertical ones are better for handguns. He has some articulation under his shirt, but it’s not particularly functional as the shirt doesn’t feature a cut anywhere. He can crunch forward slightly, but mostly his waist is available to swivel. At the hips he has ball-joints underneath one of those soft, “diaper,” pieces. I’m happy to report that the diaper appears structurally sound with no cracking or flaking present on mine, though the hips are too loose for my liking. He does have a slight thigh twist there and the standard double-knees. On the rear of the figure, his wings and pincher limbs are the same as cartoon Baxter. They swivel and hinge where they meet the body, but there’s no “elbow” or pinching articulation which is kind of a bummer. Lastly, he has a hinged jaw which I always love on NECA’s figures. They just add so much personality without hindering the sculpt and with Baxter the same is true.

He didn’t like my mocking his toughness earlier, so now he’s got a gun.
Make that two guns.

Baxter’s articulation is pretty impressive. The pincher limbs lacking a little more is basically a nitpick. My only real criticism rests with the loose hips. I’m able to get Baxter to stand, but sometimes the legs kick out to the side and he tumbles over. It’s less an issue with this figure than it was with the frogs because he’s made for a flight stand, but he should still be able to stand on his own without fear of falling. He can definitely achieve basically any pose from the game, be it standing, hovering, or even his damage pose. Beyond that, he can achieve any sort of flying pose you could want. He has no problems lifting his head and looking straight-ahead when flying parallel with the ground. And since virtually none of his joints came stuck and his joints are all cast in the proper colored plastic, he’s really a joy to mess around with. I said the likeness gave me pause, but I’m happy to say my assumption that this guy would be fun was definitely the correct one to make.

Sorry Leo, you’re the sacrificial lamb today.
This is fun, but damn, does it require a lot of space. The surface of my deep freezer is definitely not a permanent solution.

And Baxter is made fun because he has a nice assortment of accessories. In terms of optional hands, he has three sets: fists, open, and trigger/gripping hands. For weapons, he has two guns: a submachine gun, and a revolver. These are taken from the game as the boss fight begins with Baxter wielding the machine gun and then he loses it and switches to the revolver-styled weapon. Of course, that one doesn’t fire bullets, but a gigantic hand thing. When flying, it comes out like a yellow, goopy, slap while on the ground it would form into a fist. NECA provided this hand effect weapon, though it doesn’t match the game. Rather than use a slap or fist, they went with a grabby hand as they likely felt that would work better with the turtle figures. I do wish they had included a fist part to swap as the hand can swivel and probably separate there, but I’m mostly fine with this artistic license the company took. It pegs in rather snugly to either gun, so if you want the machinegun to fire the hand it can. The guns and hand have the same pixel deco as the figure and look fine. NECA also did what they should have done with the toon Baxter and tossed in a flight stand. It’s similar to the one they sell at retail and it’s functional. It’s not my favorite flight stand, but it works. This one has an added hinge which make it better than the retail version so maybe they plan on replacing it with this new model. There’s also a second stand for the hand effect since it’s pretty hefty. It just clips onto the “body” of the effect and helps to keep it suspended in the air. It works for straight-on poses and for angled, flying, poses. The only thing that sucks is the hand is so heavy it doesn’t work great when it’s actually clipped onto a turtle. That makes it even heavier so you have to account for that somehow in how the turtle is positioned, but it’s also so high off the surface that it makes it hard to do that. You almost need a third stand for the victim. It can be finagled, and the accessory is still fun and welcomed, but it can get frustrating trying to achieve the “perfect” pose.

The added functionality to the stand plus Baxter’s excellent head/neck articulation means he can achieve a variety of flying poses.

The Turtles in Time Baxter Stockman is a figure that looks great, even though it doesn’t perfectly match the source material, that’s also a lot of fun to pose. NECA put the effort into this release to make sure it came with everything it needed and the results speak for themselves. I was very close to passing on this one, but I’m glad I changed my mind. Now, my only regret is not having the actual video game turtles to pose with him. I should have them eventually, but for now I basically have a collection of gaming villains ganging up on one electrified turtle. I don’t know which turtle that is, but it sure sucks to be him. As for Baxter, the only other downside is trying to decide how to pose him. I like the two-handed weapon pose, but the hand effect is too fun not to use. On the other hand, pun intended, utilizing that attachment means dedicating some serious shelf space to this one figure as the hand is about seven inches long, not including the gun it has to peg into. These are good problems to have though and I’m very happy with my purchase. Baxter Stockman ended up being a worthy first video game Ultimates release for TMNT and now he’s got me hoping that he won’t be the last!

That poor, poor, turtle.

S.H.Figuarts Piccolo: The Proud Namekian

A real proud one.

When the S.H.Figuarts line was launched years ago and Dragon Ball Z was at the forefront, it wasn’t Goku who got to be the first figure out of the gate. Nope, it was Piccolo. That figure caught my attention when it was announced even though I had not purchased a Dragon Ball figure in quite some time. I came close, but ultimately never did pull the trigger. The line originally adhered very close to the original Dragon Ball manga so Piccolo sported a light purple gi with yellow, puffy, things (whatever that portion of Namekian anatomy is), and a red sash at the waist. An event exclusive version would follow that depicted an anime color scheme and by all accounts it seemed like most people really liked this figure.

Piccolo looks like a fun guy…

Of course, time being what it is, Bandai has had numerous opportunities to improve upon that original figure. The mechanics of the average SHF release have been altered to create more articulation and better sculpting. As a result, the figures released more recently tend to look quite a bit better than the original ones, even though when those first ones dropped few could imagine a DBZ figure looking any better. Many of the original figures have received updates, but it took awhile for old Piccolo to finally get his. Released towards the end of 2020 though was Piccolo: The Proud Namekian. This figure is a complete do-over with basically nothing retained from the original figure. For longtime collectors of this line, this figure was overdue and just judging it based off of promotional pictures seems to indicate it’s a superior product, but how much better is it really? Well, time to find out!

I don’t think he really wants to come out.

Piccolo comes in the standard SHF window box, but he comes a bit different from what some may be used to. Piccolo has a lot of stuff on him right out of the box. I suppose it’s not surprising to see him with his shoulder pads and turban/helmet thing, but I was a little surprised to see that he has the crossed-arms pose in the box. That look is probably the signature Piccolo look so it’s not that surprising that they would go with that pose, it’s just surprising because usually that crossed-arm piece is an included accessory and not the default pose. Instead, Piccolo’s arms are just kind of chilling right there beside him since the crossed-arms pose is one piece.

Let’s cast this stuff aside for a minute.

Anyway, I’m going to start off discussing Piccolo without all of that stuff. He stands around 6.5″ which puts him on the taller side, but he’s probably not as big as he could have been. His size does kind of vary at times in the anime and the character literally can grow to any size, though that’s a seldom used power kept in his back pocket. Out of the box, he has a big, missing, chunk in his back and that’s because his cape is going to peg into there as well as some other pieces. When not wearing the cape, he has a filler piece that’s made to look like his purple gi and it plugs right in. Mine isn’t quite flush on the right side and I wonder if that’s intentional to make it easier to remove? Either way, it looks good to my eyes and it’s on the figure’s back so it’s not something I’m terribly concerned about.

Bandai included a plug to hide all of the ports on the figure’s back, which is expected of a $60 action figure.
I’ve had this Piccolo animation cel on my wall for 20 years so I’m very accustomed to his face. This scene takes place right after Piccolo’s fusion with Nail on Planet Namek.

Piccolo’s default expression is a stoic one. It looks okay, but something about the face seems a touch off to me and I’m not sure what it is. I think his eyes maybe too small and there’s too much “face” below them. The angle of the jaw is probably off too as it should come in tighter towards the center of his neck. I do not like that they painted his mouth red since he does not and has never had red lips so that choice is odd to me. He has his antennae though and they can be pulled out and if you really wanted to you could reposition them. Do be careful though as I once dropped an antennae from my King Piccolo figure and it was a pain to find in my very shallow carpet. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been had my carpet had more volume. Piccolo is depicted in his anime color scheme so purple gi, a very saturated green flesh tone, pink musculature or whatever we’re calling those, with red trim and a blue sash. He’s the “proud Namekian” as we’re calling him so I guess that makes this figure a late Frieza saga version or perhaps a Cell saga version of the character. Prior to that, he was a straight-up villain who wanted to avenge his “father” by killing Goku and then take over the world. He gradually turned to the side of good, thanks to his bond with Goku’s son, Gohan, and by the time he arrives on Namek to confront Frieza and see his home world for the first time he’s very much a good guy. Piccolo doesn’t really change much visually throughout the course of the show, so it’s not that important. In Dragon Ball, he had slightly different anatomy that included pink kneecaps, but otherwise he’s been pretty consistent ignoring the whole height thing I mentioned. Which is good, because this guy can fit in wherever you need him to. If you want him fighting Frieza that’s no problem or maybe you want to put him up against Android 17? That should work too.

This is a figure that definitely benefits from some effects parts.
Obviously, this is the more appropriate charging pose for Piccolo.

From a sculpting perspective, the figure is pretty solid. The gi he wears is sort of nothing new as a lot of characters wear something similar. And in the case of Piccolo, he looks like a scaled down version of King Piccolo and even a lot of the hand options are the same. He has a decent amount of paint since the red and pink portions of his body needed to be painted and it’s all quite clean. His gi looks to largely be unpainted though, likely because it’s a very dark color to begin with. I do wish it had more of a matte appearance because it’s quite shiny. That sheen does help to accentuate the folds, but it doesn’t help to create the illusion of realism. The only other critique of the overall sculpt and paint I have is that his upper body looks a touch undersized. Piccolo is a pretty beefy dude, or alien, whatever, and I feel like his shoulders could be a little broader and his chest a bit more pronounced. I’m guessing, they had to find a happy medium that worked with both the shoulder pads and without since it’s not as apparent when he has those on. I still think he looks good, but if I could improve something that would be it.

I much prefer this face to the more stoic one.
This figure is very stand-friendly.

Of course, if I was unimpressed with the basic, combat, look of Piccolo I could switch to his default look which includes the shoulder pads and cape. In order to put them on (or take them off) you simply pop the head off of the figure and slide the shoulder pads over it. There’s an opening on the back for the cape to peg into and the peg rotates so you can position the cape however you see fit. You can technically use whatever portrait you want with the cape, but Bandai included two heads that work with the turban: a stoic one and a yelling one. The expressions are both duplicated without the turban piece so I dislike the stoic one here, but the yelling one looks great. It just doesn’t work as well with this look since Piccolo usually ditches his weighted clothing when fighting, but he does engage in some fisticuffs with this on here and there. It’s a good look though and if I liked that stoic expression more I’d have a hard time not displaying the figure this way, but I think I’ll go in a different route ultimately.

If I liked this portrait this would be a hard pose to resist.
Though if you want that cape flowing out behind the figure you’re going to need a lot of shelf space.

Piccolo comes with plenty of things, though there’s at least one thing absent. For starters, he has five heads: stoic, stoic with turban, yelling, yelling with turban, and a teeth-gritting looking to the side expression. The heads intended for the turban don’t have a skull-top, but a chunk of plastic with a key on it so the turban can only go on one way. The other three heads have a full top and antennae. The yelling and teeth-gritting feature added veins and both look quite nice. The open mouth on both yelling heads are fully sculpted and the paint is pristine. For as much as I dislike the stoic expression, I love the other two. Piccolo also has the crossed-arms piece mentioned earlier. To use, you disconnect the arms just below the should and plug that piece in. It’s a bit tricky, but it can be done if you make good use of the butterfly joints. Just be careful about putting pressure on the shoulder piece because it has a cap that kind of just floats on it which can slide down and pop off on you. For hands, Piccolo has the usual assortment: fists, style pose, open palms, and a Special Beam Canon right hand. He also has an arm stump that clips on the left shoulder and features some sculpted, purple, blood dripping off of it. This is great if you have a Raditz figure and want to recreate that scene, though we sadly don’t have a barefoot Goku to go with it. Lastly, there are two plugs for the rear of the figure intended to be used with a Tamashii Nations stand (not included). It adds a port for the stand to plug into under the cape, and the larger of the two plugs is intended to help the cape stay up. The best application for this is so Piccolo can achieve his floating, meditative, pose. I do wish they had included an eyes closed portrait to really sell this, but oh well. The only big, missing, item is, of course, a blast effect. This guy is crying out for a Special Beam Canon effect piece and I really wish it could have been included. Seriously, if it means another 5 or 10 bucks added to the MSRP then just do it, Bandai!

I love that they included an arm stump!
This looks pretty bad ass, but it would be so much better with an actual effects piece.

Piccolo has plenty of stuff, but what good would it all be if he can’t be positioned well with it? Worry not, for he’s about as articulated as anything in this line. The head is on a ball peg with another joint at the base of the neck, and since Piccolo is bald, he has no restrictions in looking around. The shoulders are quite impressive as he has a butterfly joint, ball-hinge, and another hinge that allows the arms to drop down. This is to better accommodate the shoulder pads. The butterfly joint can swing out extremely far, which I believe is to make it easier to get the arms-crossed attachment on and less for actual posing, because it would look ridiculous to pose him like that. He swivels just past the shoulder at those ports where his arms come off and has the usual double-jointed elbow and the spacer piece looks quite lovely. The wrists are ball-jointed and the red trim helps hide them without hindering the range. In the diaphragm, you have a ball-hinge so he can rotate and pivot, but also crunch forward and back. There is some gapping if you go too far, and as usual, you want to be mindful of the parts rubbing against each other. At the waist he can twist and pivot and at the hips he can kick forward and back about as far as you need him to and swivel at the thighs. The knees are double-jointed and look okay when going past 90 degrees and the ankles are ball-jointed as well. They aren’t the best, though it could be due to the shape of the character’s shoes, but I don’t have problems standing him. He has a toe hinge as well, but it’s not particularly useful. Lastly, the cape is articulated so the ends can slide out for a more dramatic pose. It can also pivot up and down and you could turn the peg at an angle if you wished. It’s kind of funky because it’s in 3 pieces, but I think it works better than a wired, cloth, cape for this aesthetic. The superior option would probably have been to just do two capes, one just hanging and the other blowing, but maybe this was the more affordable option.

I brought in one of the effects pieces from my Yellow Power Ranger figure and it works okay.

Piccolo has all of the parts and articulation to really achieve the bulk of his signature poses and looks from the show. He can bring his hands together for his Cell saga energy blast, and his range of motion on his arm is perfect for the Special Beam Canon charging and blasting pose. The open hands work as a Masenko attack or if Piccolo wants to steal Tien’s Solar Flare he can do that as well. In terms of just posing, I like the style posed “claw” hands and the fists. The grimacing expression really adds a lot of personality to the figure so he can look angry or desperate with a touch of worry too. If the box included the stand and a blast effect this would be the total package as far as I’m concerned. One thing I also like about the figure, is you can use the “claw” attachment on the stands to support the figure if you want to, but I actually prefer to just peg into the figure either via those included adapters that work with the cape, or with the port on his back for the actual cape. He’s a very dynamic figure, which is what most want and expect from this line.

We have to do the father-son picture!
A time paradox!

Bandai’s 2.0 approach to Piccolo is a very good attempt. He’s definitely an improvement over the original, which is over 10 years old at this point, and does a good enough job of capturing the character’s likeness from the anime in certain poses. I do wish his default expression looked better and I feel like the character could have been bulked up a touch in the shoulder area. Also, the shiny-ness of the pants is a bummer. And there’s the lack of a blast effect of some kind, but that’s a criticism for the entire line as so few figures come with that. Even so, this figure has a lot of display options at his disposal which is great for collectors like me who enjoy changing things up every so often. I’m going with a wounded, Special Beam Canon, charging pose for now, but who knows what Piccolo will be doing 6 weeks from now? If you’ve been holding out for a better Piccolo from this line, this will probably get the job done for you, even with the obvious room for improvement.


NECA TMNT “Shred, Mondo, Shred!” Deluxe Mondo Gecko

You gotta be pretty confident to call yourself Mondo.

When we took a look at NECA’s Muckman from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon line of action figures, I mentioned how Muckman was supposed to be released in a two-pack with Mondo Gecko. That obviously didn’t happen and it’s because the figures just got too expensive for the two-pack format. Rather than release a 60 dollar or more two-pack, NECA split them up to be a pair of deluxe releases. Muckman was on the larger side and required entirely unique tooling to create, Mondo Gecko though is more average for the line in terms of size and he probably shares at least a few parts with other figures. And yet, when both figures were released Muckman came with the MSRP of $35 while Mondo is up at $40. What gives? Well, NECA decided to make this one a little different, and I’ll tell you how.

More awesome box art from NECA.

Mondo Gecko was one of the more popular ancillary characters associated with TMNT when I was a kid. He was created for the Archie Comics series The Mighty Mutanimals, but most kids knew the character from the Playmates Toys action figure. That one came with a skateboard and a bunch of stickers and he was just very much a product of his time. A skateboarding, party, gecko? Hell yeah, kids loved that shit! He was a natural companion character for the original party dude, Michelangelo, and since so many kids loved Mikey it’s hardly a surprise they enjoyed Mondo Gecko too. It would take a little while for the character to show up in the cartoon, and when he did he actually started off as a bad guy. He’d flip by the end of his debut episode, and he was one of the few characters who really didn’t change much in going from toy to toon. He basically just lost a lot of the little details like the scaled texture to his skin, blue ridges around the eyes, and even his braces. The toon also dropped the skull from his shirt either because it would be hard to animate consistently or maybe they thought it was too scary. The only thing I wish the cartoon had been able to keep was the lone roller skate the figure had on the end of his tail.

Hey, it’s Mondo, but who is the little guy in his bathrobe?

Mondo Gecko comes in the usual deluxe packaging. He gets the smaller box treatment like the Ultimate Foot Soldier and, like all of the other releases, the package is adorned with f.h.e. inspired artwork by Dan Elson. The figure itself is about 5 and 3/4″ tall putting him on par with the turtles. I haven’t watched the episode he first appears in recently, but I remember him being just a little taller than Michelangelo so this checks out (if my memory is correct). His tail is not attached in the box so some assembly is required. It’s a snug fit, but I got it on without having to resort to heating up the ball or the tail. His attire matches the cartoon well as he lacks the skull on his chest, but has the skull kneepad and spiked elbow pads. He has the overbite the cartoon depicted and his face is in a bit of a smile. That smile is accentuated when you open his jaw, which is a really nice touch. The slits in his eyes are striking and I like that they sculpted a new torso for him rather than try to get away with an overlay since they went that route with his tattered, yellow, shirt. He has the two-tone cel-shading paint job as well with a light green on the front of the figure and a darker one on the rear. Perhaps most impressive are Mondo’s sneakers. NECA sculpted the laces and everything and the paint application is quite clean. That’s not easy to pull off since there are three colors on the shoe alone.

Red, half-closed, eyes seem to indicate this guy could have come with one other accessory.

It’s interesting the shoes turned out so well, since my one contention with this figure from a presentation aspect is the paint. NECA’s application of the paint is remarkably clean for what is a fairly busy figure, but the shortcuts the company took (likely to save money) are what hurt it most. And it’s a problem we’ve seen before that apparently got cleaned up, only to resurface with Mondo. And that is NECA choosing to paint some of the joints rather than sculpt them in the proper base color. Much of the figure is sculpted in a light green that’s close to the skin-tone featured on the front of the figure. NECA even had the thighs and biceps peg into the upper thigh and shoulder and cast those pieces in the proper color, purple and yellow, respectively. Where they took a shortcut is with the hands, and in particular, the right hand. Mondo wears a red glove on one hand, and rather than mold-inject that hand in red, they kept the green plastic and tried to paint over it. This creates an ugly situation as once the hinge in that wrist is moved even once, the red paint flakes off leaving an unsightly green piece. They painted the fingertips green and yellow (for the claws) anyway, why not cast the part in the red? Maybe there was an issue in getting the paint to properly cover the red, though my guess is it’s just a cost issue. It’s one, small, piece that needs to be in red and rather than switch out the plastic they just had the factory roll with it. It’s unfortunate, because this figure looks really good and it deserved better, but I’m forced to basically ignore the articulation in that hand because I don’t want a random blob of green to show.

Mondo’s pride and joy.
This is probably how I look on a skateboard.

That brings us into the articulation. Mondo is pretty standard for the line and is quite familiar when compared with the punk frogs we’ve already taken a look at. For starters, he has that hinged jaw which adds a lot of personality to the figure. Seriously, a hinged jaw does wonders for pretty much any figure it makes sense for. His head is on a ball-joint and there’s also a ball-joint at the base of the neck which is entirely hidden by the shirt. As a result, his head has a terrific range of motion with the only hindrance being his ponytail which prevents him from looking up. At the shoulders, we have standard ball-hinges and he can raise his arms up just fine and rotate all around. At the biceps, the arm just pegs into the sleeve affording swivel articulation. It can be popped out rather easily too, which I consider a plus since I don’t fear anything breaking. At the elbow is a single hinge and swivel and he can’t bend past 90 degrees. I’m guessing they didn’t want to do a double-hinge since he has elbow pads like the turtles, though they also bypassed that with the frogs so who knows? There’s no pin so at least it looks nice. At the wrist he can swivel and he has those hinges we already talked about. I would avoid engaging them with the gloved hand. In the torso, he has a ball joint in the diaphragm under his shirt so he can rotate and pivot and crunch forward and back a little which is great for a skateboarder. At the waist he can swivel, and the hips feature the new style ball joints and are much tighter than the frogs, which is welcomed. The thighs swivel where the shorts connect and he has double-hinged knees. The plastic is on the softer side and bending his knees isn’t as “creamy” as I’d like them to be. At the ankles, there are hinge joints, but the shape of his shoes really limits how far they can go. If he has a rocker, I can’t tell, because again the shoes prevent his feet from really going anywhere. Since they look great, I’m not really disappointed by that, but your mileage may vary. Lastly, the tail connects via a ball-peg and it can move a bit, but like the Triceratons and Leatherhead, it’s range isn’t impressive.

Now that’s more like it!
Let’s shred!

Mondo’s articulation allows him to do some pretty cool things. He is a skateboarder, so his articulation should reflect that and if there’s anything missing I would say a true ball-joint at the waist allowing for more ab crunch motion might have been the way to go. Otherwise, I think he can do enough and I’ve certainly seen plenty of images online that support that. Obviously, if he’s going to do some kick flips and grinding he needs a board, and NECA included his oversized, motorized, skateboard. It’s nearly 5 inches long not including the tail pipes and features some flames painted on the surface. There’s one peg placed on the edge of the board and it seems NECA took care to not put it on the flame where it would need to be painted. Both of Mondo’s feet have peg holes, though I think the peg works best when used with his right foot. A second peg towards the front of the board would have been welcomed, but I think the company was trying to preserve the aesthetic of the board as much as possible and didn’t want a peg in a high visibility area. Since most are likely to display Mondo on his board, I don’t think it would have been a big deal to include a second peg, but it still works fine as-is. The wheels are actual wheels so the board can roll and the paint-job is well done so it’s good to see NECA nailed the look of Mondo’s signature accessory. About the only thing I wish NECA had been able to include or done with the board was a display stand like what the Turtles in Time figures came with. That would just make it a lot easier to display the figure in a more dramatic pose. Instead, you’ll have to get creative (and his tail can be helpful in that regard to prop him up) or provide your own stand.

He does have a gun, if you think he needs one.
“Cool armband, dude!”

As for the rest, Mondo comes with one extra set of hands. They’re gripping hands, to go along with the open hands he comes packaged with, and they’re here to work with his accessories. NECA included the rounded, blue, rifle we’ve seen with the Foot. I think he did wield a gun in the show, though I don’t recall the specifics of it. Regardless, I probably won’t display him with a gun so I’m not particularly bothered by the reuse. Mondo also comes with a loot sack and a timebomb. The timebomb is a bunch of bricks and six pieces of dynamite and looks pretty cool. The time on it is “09157” and if that’s a reference to something I haven’t figured it out yet. Mondo also comes with the compliance cuff from the Dirk Savage episode. It slides onto the wrist and looks kind of neat so I’ll probably use it in my display, even though wearing it means Mondo is being mind-controlled. There’s also a little green gecko representing Mondo before he was mutated. The paint looks good and it’s kind of fun to have another little creature to add to the rest like the frogs, gerbil Mike, and Pigeon Pete.

Kerma is pretty simple, but he gets the job done.
He’s rather fond of the gecko.

The big accessory though, literally and figuratiely, is Kerma. Kerma is an alien turtle from the Planet of the Turtleoids who appeared a few times in the show. He has no connection to Mondo, but to dress-up this release and really make it feel like a deluxe one he was inserted into the box. It makes sense to see Kerma released this way as he’s a little guy who really doesn’t require much articulation. He stands at approximately 3 and 1/4 inches and his sculpt is quite nice, though his sash is just painted on. He has a big smile on his face which is suitable for the rather good-natured character. His head is on a ball-peg so he can rotate and look down. Unfortunately, he can’t really look up which feels like something a short character would need to do. At the arms he has ball hinges and the wrists rotate. That’s it, since he’s a robed figure and a turtle at that. I wish they had snuck a ball into the base of his neck to allow him to look up, but otherwise the shortcuts don’t bother me all that much. He has peg holes in his feet should you want him to skateboard and he stands well on his own. Kerma is not a super-important character, but this is about the best way to release him which is to make him a glorified accessory. And assuming he’s the reason for the extra five bucks tacked onto the MSRP then I’m fine with that. Five bucks for a Kerma feels right.

Another banner release for NECA as this line just keeps chugging along.

NECA’s deluxe Mondo Gecko is yet another release in this line that feels like a homerun, or close to it. NECA is so good at nailing the aesthetics of the figures in this line that it’s almost become boring. It’s hard to blow the customer away when the line is so consistently good. That’s obviously a nice problem to have though, and while I have one major nitpick with the paint on the gloved hand, I’m still largely satisfied with how the figure turned out. I’m not going to pass on a toon Mondo, and while I didn’t need Kerma, I’m not disappointed in having him either. I’ll find a home for him in my display, while finding one for Mondo is going to be tricky because I’m running out of room! As usual, this figure is exclusive to Target in the US, though I got him from NECA’s online store as he was made available last month in limited quantities. The quantities that made it to Target seem plentiful, so he’s definitely one of the easiest releases to find, so hopefully anyone who wants him is able to get him.


S.H.Figuarts Nappa – Event Exclusive Color Edition

Here comes Nappa!

When it comes to my S.H.Figuarts collection, I’ve been able to largely keep to just Dragon Ball. And by Dragon Ball, I mean the original anime and manga that centered on a young boy named Goku. Even though that’s my favorite edition of the venerable series, it doesn’t mean my favorite is the one shared by millions across the globe. Most fans prefer Dragon Ball Z to any other iteration of the anime (the manga just kept the name Dragon Ball until Dragon Ball Super became a thing) so there is ton more merchandise for those fans than there is for me.

Now, just because I have a preference, does not mean I dislike Dragon Ball Z. Like many American viewers, I saw DBZ way before I ever saw Dragon Ball. I saw it briefly when it was on a broadcast network in my area really early in the morning, but I became a fan when Cartoon Network started airing it. The popularity of the show led the network to center a whole block of action cartoons, most of which were anime, around it and Toonami was born. During those early days, only the first 56 episodes or so were dubbed in English (it’s confusing because there was enough material cut that the English dub had a smaller episode count for awhile), and since the show had failed to catch on initially, there were no plans to dub more. Those same episodes then aired over and over so we American fans came to know those characters and arcs rather well. And one of the early villains of the show was the Saiyan warrior: Nappa.

I hope you like yellow and black.

Nappa arrived with Vegeta following Raditz’s defeat with the idea being to get vengeance for his fallen comrade. Even though he viewed Raditz as weak and pathetic, there was enough Saiyan pride in the grunt to want to seek revenge. His comrade and superior, Vegeta, had other ideas though. He cared nothing for Raditz and only wished to find the Dragon Balls so he could wish for eternal life. Unfortunately for Nappa, Vegeta’s lack of affection for Raditz extended to him as well, and when Goku delivered a devastating blow to the warrior that left his back snapped in two, Vegeta decided to put the beast down rather than help him rehabilitate.

Yeah, I know, it’s the wrong Vegeta.

As a result, Nappa’s presence on the show was fairly brief. He shows up, beats up the lesser fighters, and then gets to be the sacrificial lamb to Goku in a bid to demonstrate how far the warrior has progressed in his training. Still, I always thought he was a really effective bad guy. A remorseless killing machine who just loves to fight. His design is simple in that he’s just a massive piece of man-beef with a bald head and moustache. He wears the giant Saiyan armor that was still rather new to viewers at the time, but has shown up in a myriad of places since, and just really looks the part of a guy you wouldn’t want to mess with. So many villains in the show are intentionally drawn small and unimposing as series creator Akira Toriyama seemed to enjoy toying with expectations. Nappa was different, though also kind of the same since the much smaller Vegeta was considerably stronger than him.

I love that scouter look.

A few years ago, a version of Nappa was released in the Bandai/Tamashii Nations S.H.Figuarts lineup that was really tempting. A comic book store near me had one on display in a glass cabinet, but I never could bring myself to bite on it. He even got marked down eventually, a paltry 10%, but a discount nonetheless, and I still passed. That version of the character had more of a manga appearance. His armor was basically black and brown, but he still looked cool. In the anime, his coloring was slightly different which happened from time to time. His shoulder pads were more of a yellow and the black portions had a blue hue to them. That was my Nappa, and when Bandai unveiled a version of the character that matched that appearance I finally gave in.

“Hands off the tail, Namek!”

During the virtual San Diego Comic Con in July, Bandai put what would have been its exclusives on its Premium Bandai webstore. The whole thing was a shit show, and getting from one screen to the next was incredibly tiring as the website was just overrun by collectors looking to buy one of the five Dragon Ball exclusives. It took me over an hour, but I did get an order in for Nappa. I had to wait over a month for delivery though, which funny enough, makes Nappa the first SDCC exclusive I have received in 2021. Either because the global shipping crisis delayed release, or because manufacturers expected they wouldn’t need to have product on hand for a physical con, most of the exclusives ended up being pre-orders. My NECA purchase might arrive in October, or it might arrive in December and my Mondo purchase is dated January. My guess is the reason for the delay is actually a combination of both reasons spelled out, but ultimately, it’s a case of “it is what it is.” You want this stuff? Cool, you got it, but you’re going to have to wait.

These chop hands really draw attention to how massive his hands are.

Nappa arrived in the usual SHF window box only this one features a black and yellow motif to accentuate that it’s an event exclusive. My event exclusive Kid Goku was packaged similarly, though I never did post a review of that figure since he’s the same as the other Kid Goku, just with a blue gi instead of orange. Nappa is a chunky boy. He’s not the tallest SHF figure I own, but he’s probably the heaviest. He stands just a tad shy of 7″ and really fills out the package he comes bundled in. He’s a great figure to hold as he looks and feels like a collector grade action figure. The plastic is firm and each, individual, piece has a lightness to it, but the sum of its parts results in a nice heft for this guy. All of the musculature is well sculpted and the anatomy and design of such really echoes the source material well. As is the case for most of the figures in this line, there’s not a ton of paint, but what’s there is clean. Nappa actually commands more paint than usual as his gloves and boots feature some gray piping with mustard braids around the wrists and ankles. The mustard yellow of the abdomen, shoulder pads, and skirt pieces are all painted and there’s even a slight wash on his muscles. The painted portion of his upper chest area matches the sculpted flesh color of the neck well. The only paint application that looks a little odd to me is the moustache on his smirking head because it doesn’t follow the crease of his smile on the right side. I don’t think it’s supposed to though, it’s just one of those things that looks odd. I’d have to closely inspect the source material to see if I’m wrong, but it only looks odd when the figure is placed right in front of your face. Otherwise, I have no complaints about the aesthetics of this guy.

He’s a bit of a ham for the camera.

Where the SHF line rises above most is in its ability to wed these impressive sculpts with a ton of articulation. Nappa has a whole bunch at his disposal and it’s all of the stuff you would expect. He has a ball joint at the head plus another at the base of the neck so he can look all over the place including up and down. At the shoulders, he has a ball joint plus a butterfly joint. Because of the bulky armor, he can’t bring his arms out and across his chest as well as some figures. The shoulder pads are on hinges so they can be moved out of the way, but the bicep hits the edge of his pec. There’s a biceps swivel and double elbows, but his arms are so thick that he can’t bend past 90 degrees. On the plus side, none of the plastic joiner pieces are over-exposed to accommodate a truly wide range of motion so his arms look pretty nice in whatever position you place them in. His hands are attached via ball pegs, and even though they’re recessed in those gauntlets he’s wearing, he can still move them around pretty well. In the abdomen, he has a ball-joint that I don’t think is hinged. At least, mine won’t go up. He can bend back okay, but not forward very well and you definitely have to be mindful of the upper chest area rubbing on his abs and ruining the paint. At the waist, he has a very small ball-peg that basically just affords swivel rotation. There’s a little tilt there, but nothing game-changing. At the hips, he can kick forward and back about as far as you would ever need him to. There’s a thigh twist and double-jointed knees that go just a tiny bit past 90. At the ankle I believe we have a ball-joint. It’s nice and tight, which is what a big figure like this needs, but doesn’t provide a huge range of motion. There’s also a toe hinge, but it’s not very good and is kind of ugly because the joint is too far forward.

I couldn’t really get him into a kneeling pose to sell this one better.

Nappa moves reasonably well. Obviously, there’s no getting around that armor he wears. It’s big and bulky. The hinges on the various flaps help to some degree, but there’s only so much they can do. While I wish he could reach out in front of himself better than he can, I wouldn’t want to put any cuts in the armor to facilitate that so I’m happy with the choices Bandai made. It helps that Nappa doesn’t really have a signature energy blast like a Kamehameha or Special Beam Canon that he needs to mimic. He’s more of a brawler, and if Bandai ever did want to do a more articulated version of him they could also do a battle damaged one that doesn’t have the armor. As I mentioned in the prior paragraph, the lesser articulation means his joints mostly look really good. His elbows and knees look pretty great whether bent or out straight and there’s not a lot of gapping issues on him. The only area, besides the useless toe hinge, that I think looks a little unsightly is the neck. He’s always going to have a small gap there and since his neck is bare there’s no way to hide anything. The trade-off for the neck articulation is one I’d make though. He is an action figure, after all, not a statue.

Time to fly!

There’s a lot of plastic in Nappa, so it’s probably not surprising to see his accessory count is on the smaller end. Nappa comes with four, distinct, facial portraits. He comes with a smirking face, a yelling face where he’s looking straight-ahead, a yelling face where he’s looking down and to the left (or like he’s trying to look behind himself because there’s a guy grabbing onto him) and a smirking face with scouter. The scouter is non-removable so you only get one display option if you wish to use it. I always think of him as having the scouter on so that’s my preferred look, but I like the others as well. The head where he’s trying to look off to the side is definitely present so you can recreate the scene where Chaoz blows himself up why clinging to Nappa’s back. It’s even illustrated on the back of the box. I don’t have that figure though.

The base of the stand looks pretty cool, it’s just that Nappa isn’t the best figure for such a stand.

In addition to the alternate heads, Nappa also comes with 3 sets of hands. He has fists in the box, but also has grabbing hands and a set of hands that are in a “chop” position. I’m assuming he does some chops in the anime, though I really can’t recall specifics (maybe when he’s smashing up the jets) and the product shots on the box are of no help as none feature them. He also has a seventh hand which has two fingers extended. It functions like a cool, style, pose sort of thing and he may have done an attack that utilized such a gesture, or I could be mistaken. I think it’s present because that’s how he makes holes in the ground to plant the Saibamen. Of the sets, I definitely prefer the grabby hands, but all of them feel like they have use and I’ll likely switch them up, though I don’t know that I’ll ever display him sans scouter. That’s it though for accessories. As usual, there’s no blast effect which would have been nice. A big, mouth, blast would have been pretty fun and unique. I think the standard version might have come with a small one? Or the shop I used to see him at just happened to display him with such. That blast effect wasn’t the best, but I’d still take it over nothing.

Goku, on the other hand, works just fine. The third stand (not pictured) uses Whis’ symbol for the base.

That’s not all I have to talk about though. For SDCC, Bandai had four figures available plus a fifth set which was a box of action stands. They’re personalized to coincide with the figures they did and I grabbed a set. I think it was 40 bucks, but it got you 6 stands, 2 each of the following design: Goku, Whis, and a Saiyan Space Pod. I grabbed it because I really did need more stands and I thought they looked pretty slick. Unfortunately, when it comes to Nappa it doesn’t work too well because he is just so thick. The stand is designed to grab the figure around the waist and has some added crotch support, because even action figures need crotch support. The clasp really can’t get around Nappa’s waist, but he can at least be position on the crotch piece. You will likely need to tighten the screws in the stand as far as they’ll go to accommodate his bulk or else it will just topple. I like that the pack came with two of each style though since anyone who has the previously release Saiyan Saga Vegeta will likely want to use one with him. I do not have that figure, though if he ever gets a re-release I’ll probably grab one now. I was able to finagle a flying pose for Nappa with the stand, though I don’t think I’d trust it on a shelf. That means it’s more like a base for Nappa, and having the space pod as a base is kind of cool in its own way, but it would have been nice if it had been specially engineered to work better with the bulky Nappa.

This figure has some shortcomings, but ultimately it nails what it needed to the most and that’s the look. This looks like Nappa from Dragon Ball Z and he looks fantastic. It would have been awesome if they had found a way to make him move a little better, (and at least one of the product shots on the back of the box must be a render because he can’t wipe his mouth with the back of his hand) or stuck in a cool effects part, but he can definitely can hit all of the important poses for the character. Really, the biggest negative about him is now I want more figures that display well with him. A Saiyan Saga Vegeta is the most appropriate, but it did cause me to look at the recently released Kid Gohan, but I don’t think I need him. I considered Kaioken Goku, but he squared off with the unarmored Nappa so that doesn’t feel necessary. I did grab one figure, and I’ll tell you about him soon enough, and I also pre-ordered the new Krillin so Nappa should have a few guys to play with in due time. This is a guy that enjoys being violent, so I definitely need to feed him.

This dude looks good and he knows it. He’s not quite as tall as King Piccolo, but definitely chunkier.

This action figure is an event exclusive from Premium Bandai. Other retailers did buy some stock, but they tack on a sizable surcharge. Even with that surcharge, it looks like most have sold out so if you want him you may have to go to the secondary market. Some people are probably looking to flip him, and Bandai did open a pre-order window since their website was so terrible so some people (and possibly retailers) will get him in Q1 2022 so if you don’t like the prices right now you can wait and see if they improve next year. Bluefin Brands has also been hosting a pop-up shop that will be selling the con exclusives. They’ll probably only hit major cities like LA and New York, but maybe you have a buddy who can get to one for you or something. If you prefer the older version, maybe the release of the more anime-accurate Nappa has knocked the price down on that guy a bit. I’m pretty happy with him, even if my Saiyan Saga collection is rather light, and I don’t think any DBZ collection of S.H.Figuarts should be without a Nappa.


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