Category Archives: Comics

Hasbro Power Rangers x TMNT – Tommy and Raphael

Well here’s an interesting pairing.

When Mighty Morphin Power Rangers arrived on Fox Kids in 1993 it quickly became a ratings juggernaut. It was the hottest property around aimed at kids and seemingly everything got knocked down a peg as a result. By contrast, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was embarking on its downturn. The third film wasn’t nearly as successful as the first two and the toyline was starting to show its age as it went into a lot of wacky offshoots. The Power Rangers formula became the new thing to imitate. Footage of martial arts shows from Japan edited into something American kids could identify with was both cheap and effective. And given that TMNT had already been successful in live-action before, it’s perhaps not surprising that Saban made one of the first attempts at reinvigorating the franchise with The Next Mutation.

The Next Mutation ended up being a flop. Either kids were sick of TMNT, disliked the cheap costumes, or failed to gravitate towards the new characters. No one can be certain, but during the show’s lone season it did cross over with Power Rangers. Of course, by then the Mighty Morphin era was over so kids who loved TMNT and then jumped to Mighty Morphin had little reason to enjoy the crossover. It wasn’t their preferred take on either franchise, and it seemingly failed to do much to boost either property.

Looks like we have ourselves a Foot Soldier, or do we?!

Eventually the turtles would come back to animation, and now more than 30 years removed form the cartoon’s debut it’s a supremely nostalgic, and profitable, property once again. Power Rangers, for its part, has never truly gone away though it has changed hands a few times. Now a Hasbro property, the Power Rangers can still be found on television and there’s always rumors of another movie. And in the pages of Boom! comics, the Mighty Morphin team can seemingly live forever! It was in those comics that the crossover fans wanted to happen finally did. The turtles, basically as seen in the pages of IDW, met-up with the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. I don’t know why or what the big threat was that caused it to happen, but it did lead to some slick designs which are now being immortalized in toy form by Hasbro.

No way! It’s Tommy!

Hasbro has been around for ages, but it’s never been able to get its hands on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’m not sure if the company has ever put forth a strong bid for the property when it has come up for sale. It seems most times this happens the franchise is in a dry spell which has probably made it easy for Playmates to retain ownership. That ownership has been tested over the years though as we’ve seen TMNT product from NECA, Super7, and even DC Collectibles. Now it’s Hasbro’s turn, but they’re giving us something pretty different.

Ninja Tommy!

Released as part of its Lightning Collection, the new Power Rangers x Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line is being released as three two-packs and a single carded figure. Each two-pack contains one or two of the turtles as they appear in the comics when morphed. Yes, the turtles become Power Rangers and the end result is pretty cool. Their limbs are pretty much the same as the regular rangers, just beefier, but they seem to all gain the Dragon Shield in the form of a gold shell. The front of which contains the signature white diamond, while the rear looks almost like a sunburst. The helmets are largely the same though, just form-fitted for a turtle head. They also gain red eye-slits in the visors for some reason.

The first two-pack I was able to get my hands on is the Tommy Oliver as Foot Soldier with Raphael as the Red Ranger. When it came to crossing the two franchises, Boom! had to decide what was more important: color or weapon of choice. If going by weapon, Leonardo should have been the Red Ranger since both wield a sword and are the leader, but you can’t make Leonardo red. Instead, Raphael gets the nod here and his sai are just given a Power Sword makeover. As for Tommy, it’s my understanding he goes undercover as a Foot Soldier in the story, but the figure basically doubles as a generic Foot Soldier as well. It’s just a shame he’s sold in a two-pack since some collectors would likely buy multiples. Instead, it’s Shredder as the Green Ranger that gets the solo treatment.

Cool sword, bro.

I think most are going to be interested in these sets for the turtles, but lets get Tommy out of the way. He’s basically a standard Lightning Collection release. I believe most of this body is reused from the Putty figure, but I don’t have that figure to say for certain. It’s fairly similar to the Ranger body from the Lightning Collection and contains all of the same articulation points. The Foot Soldier head is obviously new and contains some nice, subtle, details on it to show how the mask separates. I wish there was some dry brushing on it to bring it out, but Hasbro isn’t one for paint. Most of the figure is just cast in colored plastic: purple and gray, with some shiny, steel, bits on the forearms and rear of the hands. It’s a new look for the Foot Soldier, but it’s also pretty obviously a Foot Soldier to anyone familiar with TMNT. It’s solid, though a bit underwhelming. The alternate Tommy head appears to be the same one that came with the Green Ranger figure, but with the bandana tails coming straight off the back of the head and painted purple. There’s also very little paint on it so it doesn’t have the more matte appearance of the Green Ranger release.

The man…turtle of the hour.

Raphael, on the other hand, is basically all new. His body is of the pinless variety, so no pins in the elbows or the knees which is definitely welcomed. The red is basically all colored plastic so there aren’t any harsh variances like there were with the Jason figure I looked at. The joining pieces for the elbows and knees do appear to be a slightly paler red. I don’t really notice it on the knees, but I can see it on the elbows when inspecting the figure closely. It’s no where near as bad as it was with the Jason figure, but still a bummer. The ends of the gloves are painted white with the red diamonds which are pretty clean, but there is some chipped paint near the wrist on mine. The hands, which are cast in white plastic, are also a touch more off-white than the paint which is a little annoying. There’s also some chipped paint on the gold armbands. It’s pretty standard stuff for a Hasbro figure, but still worth pointing out.

A Power Ranger that actually looks intimidating.
The rear of the shell is pretty neat.

The sculpt on Raph is pretty cool though. He’s quite bulky and his limbs are longer than usual. He stands a full six inches putting him on par with Tommy so this is definitely a taller turtle than we’re used to seeing. The change in proportions does give him an undersized head as well. It doesn’t bother me with the helmeted look, but it stands out when swapped with the turtle head (which we’ll get to). I do like how the shell was designed, and since these proportions are more human, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that the rear of the shell is a bit more sleek than usual. The white belt is still a floating piece and it has the morpher on the front and a place to store his sai. He doesn’t have a power blaster, but I don’t know if they used them in the books.

Raph passes the old one foot test.

As for articulation, both figures are the same, but different. Tommy, as noted, is pretty basic Lightning Collection stuff. He’s got a ball peg in his neck that lets him look up, down, swivel, and tilt. The Tommy head has less range due to the hair, especially if you add in the cowl. The shoulders are ball-hinges with butterfly joints. They go back pretty far, but not forward much which is weird as one would prefer the range be reversed. The elbows are double-jointed and go past 90 degrees. There’s a biceps swivel and the wrists swivel and hinge. The hinges are vertical, which earns Hasbro a big thumb’s up! In the diaphragm is what’s probably a double ball peg. It doesn’t go back really at all, but it does allow the figure to crunch forward a bit, rotate, and tilt. Combine it with the ab crunch though, and you get a lot more forward and back. The legs are on ball pegs and allow the figure to almost do a full split. He can kick forward too, but not back because his buttcheeks get in the way. The thigh can swivel on that ball peg and also below it as there is a thigh cut. The knees are double-jointed and go past 90 there and there’s a boot cut and hinged ankles with good rockers.

Tommy can also serve as just a generic Foot Soldier for Raph to beat on.

As for Raph, he has all of the same including the vertical hinges on his gripping hands. The only differences are his butterfly joints are basically useless and he has a joint in the base of the neck so his up and down range at the head is quite good. He also has no diaphragm joint given that he’s a turtle and all. Hasbro did give him a waist cut which splits the shell in the front. It’s basically just what you see below the belt, and while it does look a little funky to have a turtle in a pose that results in his shell not lining up, it’s worth it to have that extra articulation. Likely owing to his more bulky design, Raph also doesn’t get much out of his double-jointed elbows. He can basically just do 90, and go no farther whether you’re bending with the top hinge or the bottom one. On the plus side, nothing was stuck on my figures and they seem to pose reasonably well. Raph is a bit harder to stand, likely because of the shell, but with a little patience I’ve been able to get him into some dynamic stances.

Yes, they do come with weapons.

On the accessory front, things were a bit surprising. The few Hasbro figures I buy seem to be of the bare bones variety, but maybe since half of this release is an in-house brand it helped to get more accessories into the box. For Tommy, we get the Foot head and the Tommy head. The Tommy head also has two extra pieces, a cowl to go around his neck and a facemask that can slide over his chin and mouth creating a cool look. He has gripping hands equipped in the box and a set of fists to swap to. He has a katana which can slot into his belt or be gripped in either hand. There’s also not one, but two, effects pieces. A translucent, blue, punch effect and a translucent, yellow, lightning effect for the sword. You could give the lightning effect to Raph too, if you prefer, though the blue punch is tough to get on Raph’s hands.

I suppose you could display him like this if you want to.

As for Raph, he has three sets of hands: gripping, fists, and open. The open hands are great for posing or for holding his helmet and I do wish Tommy had a set as well. The gripping hands have the correct hinges, as noted before, and are also just barely wide enough for Raph to grip his sai with the center blade through his fingers. If you’re worried about paint rub, warming Raph’s hand first makes it even easier to achieve such a pose. As for the sai, they’re pretty cool and look just like mini Power Swords, but with extra blades. They slot into his belt just fine and the sculpt and paint look pretty terrific. There’s a yellow slashing effect piece that can fit onto the center blade of one which looks decent. If you wish, you could give that to Tommy, but it looks a little silly on his much longer blade. Lastly, we have the unmasked head which features a battle ready expression from Raph. On its own, it looks fine, but on the figure it creates a real pinhead situation. It’s not as bad looking as the promo images made it seem, but I’m still never going to use it. I want to display these guys in morphed mode so even if I loved the alternate head I likely still would never use it.

Group shot! I used the flash to accentuate the contrast between Raph and Jason’s chosen shade of red.

Overall, this is a pretty solid two-pack. Admittedly, I don’t care that much about Tommy and if Hasbro had just paired the turtles up across two two-packs then I’d probably skip Tommy (and April, who comes with Michelangelo). Having him in hand though takes away some of that sting as he’s a solid release. It would have been awesome if he could have been given pin-less arms and legs, as the elbow joints are my lone sore spot with the figure, but it’s not a big deal to me. Raph is the real star though and I’m pretty happy with how he turned out, which is definitely a good thing since the other turtles figure to be the same figure just in different colors. Better yet, I got these guys from GameStop where they were on sale for $42, which is a very nice price in 2021 for an action figure two-pack. Now my real problem is figuring out where the hell I’m going to put these guys until the rest show up.

A little too Raph?

Hasbro Pulse Con Exclusive Marvel Legends Series Venom

“We are Venom!”

When I was a kid, my dad took me to some local convention or trade show. I have no idea why because my dad wasn’t the type who would go to such an event. He liked car shows, but from what I can remember this was more of a hobby show. It was early in 1993 and that was a moment in time when I lived in Virginia. My family only lived there for about 9 months so even trying to remember where this place was located is basically impossible. Anyway, I mostly just remember seeing lots of individuals selling old toys, comics, and baseball cards. That sort of thing. It’s possible my dad was trying to nurture my just emerging interest in model car building, or maybe my mother and sister were doing something together that day and he was just looking for a way to kill some time. It was while there though that he offered to buy me a comic book. I was newly interested in X-Men and always had a fondness for Batman, plus a comic book was probably the cheapest way to send me home with something. When we started looking at books, my eyes were immediately drawn to one comic: a red, foil, cover of the newly released Venom Lethal Protector #1. To a kid, anytime you see the number 1 on an issue it immediately screams “value,” and the red foil spider-webs behind this giant image of Venom just looked awesome. I wanted that one and my dad bought it for me. It was the start of my love affair with the character Venom.

Who wouldn’t fall in love with a face like that?

Prior to that fateful day, I knew who Venom was. I mostly knew him as a Spider-Man foe and what little I knew of the character’s lore came from the back of the Toy Biz action figure card. Lethal Protector would be like my first, proper, introduction and I was smitten. Mark Bagley’s interpretation of the character would forever become my preferred one. He was drawn to be this massive dude, but not as chunky as the McFarlane original. He had this huge mouth with an insane amount of pointy teeth and that tongue was always flailing about with green slime dripping off. He was cool! And I loved that book though strangely I never bought another issue from that story.

When Toy Biz launched a Spider-Man line of toys to coincide with the 1994 release of the cartoon, Spider-Man, Venom followed. I actually didn’t like the inaugural jaw-chomping Venom released with the first wave, but I made it a point to collect every iteration of the character to follow. And I was pumped to see Venom make an appearance in the show. The wait for that felt excruciating at the time, but it was only the 10th episode when Venom appeared. Still, a weekly show for a kid is bad enough between episodes, 10 weeks (not including the weeks the show took off for reruns) probably felt like an eternity. And when he finally did show up it was for just one episode, and then old Eddie Brock found himself powerless and in jail. What a tease.

The outer box is quite lovely, and I feel bad opening the blister inside, but it must be done!

I mentioned it in my recent post about the upcoming X-Men animated line of figures, but the Spider-Man line from back in the day was similar in that it wasn’t exactly a reproduction of the show. It was however much closer than Toy Biz’s X-Men line and basically every major villain from the cartoon would make the jump to toy. The card backs also utilized the show logo and artwork from the show of each character so there was an obvious synergy with the cartoon. As the line went on it would move away from the cartoon a bit, especially with the Venom subline, but for the most part fans of the cartoon had the toys they wanted. Now though, we’re in an age where those who grew up with that cartoon are adults and have a certain fondness for it. And while the toys were close to the toon, they weren’t exact which just leaves enough room for a company like Hasbro to step in.

The rear of both is supremely nostalgic as well. I think I would have burst with joy if they had recreated the cross-sell from the 94 Venom with modern action figures.

This year, Hasbro celebrated itself with its own virtual convention. Pulse Con took place on October 22nd and 23rd and it was an event with some reveals of Hasbro’s upcoming product and also a time to sell some exclusives. One of those exclusives was a special edition of Venom. And not just any Venom, but a Venom from the Spider-Man animated series. That version of the character is pretty unique as far as Venoms go. He had to be simplified in order to properly animate him, so the artists couldn’t give him rows of teeth or go too nutty on the tongue. Instead, he has just some obvious sharp teeth and they even gave him some thick, blue, lips. Venom’s eyes, always something that seems to change with the artist, were also simplified to a more definite shape. A little jagged on the edge, but also now with a more pronounced middle portion that included a large point cut-out of the white of the eye giving off the appearance of pupils. He has almost a reptilian quality to his face as a result, a little bit crocodile, but his mouth also sometimes took on a duckbill quality too in some of the less flattering stills. And foe whatever reason (and you can see it on the card art) sometimes he had a “butt head” where it curved into the center slightly before rounding out again like the top of a heart.

The blister has been cut. What is done cannot be undone.

The feature of this Venom most likely remember though is the odd approach to shading the show took. When you have a show that takes place mostly at night, a big, black, monster of a character is tough to do. He needs to pop when on screen, so he basically needs to be outlined. Often times in comics or in cartoons blue is used to shade black. It makes no sense in the real world, but in the comic one it’s basically a rule of law. The show did use blue when it came to Spider-Man as he had to wear the black costume first. And when Eddie Brock took control of it they used blue again, but only for about half the body. The other half used red which didn’t make any sense in the real world or in the world of comics and cartoons. Why did they do that? I have no idea. Maybe it was just to differentiate him from Spider-Man? Red has a bit of a malevolent reputation, so I guess it makes him look more sinister. Then again, the giant mouth of sharp teeth accomplished that fine on its own. Maybe it was foreshadowing the Carnage symbiote? His dominant color is red, so it’s possible. For what it’s worth, when Carnage did show up the red on Venom had become even more saturated and bold, but that was probably just a variation in production. Maybe someone on staff felt the blue and red combo illustrated Venom’s anti-hero persona. He’s not a villain in the classic mold, he’s more like a guy who just hates Spider-Man and wants to make his life miserable. That’s probably a pretty far-fetched assumption though. Instead, it’s just an odd peculiarity with this version of the character, and it’s not the last! For his second appearance in the show, the artists added these web-like veins to his forearms which just seemed to draw even more attention to the red and blue thing. Of all the villains in the show, Venom definitely feels like the one who was the most unique as far as comparisons to his comic counterpart go. Similar to how Apocalypse had a completely different color scheme in X-Men versus the comics.

I paid 10 dollars for the Toy Biz Venom on the left back when it was released, a princely sum at the time because a local comic shop got it before I ever saw it at a big box retailer, but I had to have it!
More retro goodness! The Venom on the right is from the Toy Biz Marvel Super Heroes line which preceded the Spider-Man one.

Because of that reality, and because Venom has remained a very popular character, is likely why Hasbro saw fit to do a cartoon version of the character. Hasbro has been releasing Spider-Man figures on retro card backs for a little while now with more planned. All of them feel more like an homage to the old toyline or just a fun way to release new Spider-Man figures. Venom is the only one that seems to be deliberately based on the cartoon. And the action figure does a pretty good job of capturing that likeness. First of all, he gets his own special box with his beautiful mug plastered on the front. The eyes are the dead give-away that this is animated Venom as opposed to one based on comic art. Inside that box is just a standard, retro, blister card with the figure inside. The card art matches the original jaw-chomping Venom from 1994 while the back has been updated for the new wave. If you have not bought one of these retro card releases, they’re a little different from what was sold in stores 30 years ago. The card itself is thicker and oversized. The blister also isn’t glued down over the artwork, but the artwork is actually laid over that. I wish Hasbro had invested in something resealable (especially since this release is about 10 bucks more expensive than a standard retail one), but as best I can tell the only way to remove the figure is to cut through the blister. Or you could just tare it apart.

I basically only bought Web-Man to have a modern Spider-Man to pair with this Venom.

Once freed from his confines, Venom stands a tick over 7″. He’s pretty beefy, especially compared to the Web-Man figure I looked at recently. The main body of this figure is apparently repurposed from Hasbro’s Omega Red release which was part of a Wolverine five-pack. It works well as a Venom body, though one could argue the shoulders could stand to be beefed up a bit. They sit low, which is a thing Hasbro has been doing for awhile, so in certain poses it looks a little off. The Venom from the toon had a really large upper body with a comparably small head. This Venom has more standard proportions and might actually be closer to the show’s model sheets than the character was on screen. The animation definitely wasn’t great and there are some pretty funky pictures of Venom out there. This figure most looks like Venom as he appears at the end of the opening credits. The other big drawback to this sculpt though comes from Omega Red having oversized shoulder pads. They apparently peg into the shoulders because Venom has a pair of holes in his traps. They’re basically right in the top of the figure, which also stinks because if they were more towards the figure’s back they’d be less visible. Or better yet, Hasbro could have spent a few cents more to inject some plastic into those holes or even fashion plugs. Either way, it sucks that this figure has random holes in its upper body.

Well, that’s a shame.
The spider on the back had to be squished to fit it inside the articulation, but it’s for the best.

Complaints about the holes aside, the rest of the figure looks quite lovely. The face looks dead-on for this version of Venom with light blue accents on the right side of his face and red on the left. In the show, the shading was usually of a bisected nature, though one color wasn’t specifically reserved for one side. It just depended on which way the character was facing. They would also do both colors on the limbs with one on the outside and one inside. As funky a design choice as it was, it’s pretty fun to see it replicated so well here. He also has the big, white, spider on his chest which properly wraps around to the back of the figure. To fit it inside the joints though, the spider on the rear of the figure is a bit squished, but it’s not as noticeable as it would be if they did that on the front. And they did to a point as the spider’s legs purposefully avoid the butterfly joint, but I don’t think it really harm’s the figure’s aesthetics. He does have his unique, forked, tongue which I’m not certain was ever supposed to be a true forked tongue in the show or if the animators just failed to paint the slime most of the time. Either way, this looks the part. The forearms of the figure also have the web-veins as seen in the character’s second appearance on the show, though Hasbro declined to paint them which is disappointing. What’s more disappointing is the absence of the white portions on the back of Venom’s hands. He had those in the show, so it’s bizarre to see them excluded here and it truly does bug me. Those are all design flaws though, the actual execution on this guy is pretty good though. The paint looks clean and it’s even well done around the teeth, where things could have certainly gone off the rails. The spider logo is sharp and neat and they definitely nailed those eyes. The sculpt, outside of the head, doesn’t have to do much since this is just a muscle dude in a skin-tight suit, but what’s there is well done.

Two heads are indeed better than one, though it would have been cool if the second head was different from the first in more ways than just the tongue.
The fists are a nice option, though they look a little undersized to me, but I think it has more to do with how deep in his wrists they sit.

Despite the premium price, Venom doesn’t come with a whole lot. We’re likely paying for a head-sculpt that will never be utilized again and for the special paint job, because Venom comes with just three accessories: a pair of fists and second head. Out of the box, Venom has open, style-posed hands. His right hand is more open than the left, but if you don’t like that look for your figure then Hasbro included some fists. They’re just fists, but they have the blue and red shading on them. They seem undersized to me, and that might be the way the forearms are sculpted on Venom which just causes them to sink into the arm. I don’t really care for the look as a result, but maybe that’s just me. The second head is the same as the the one that comes on the figure, only this one has a smaller tongue. The eyes, teeth, and expression are entirely the same, Hasbro was just able to glue a different tongue piece that’s contained inside the figure’s mouth rather than one that’s flailing about. It’s cool for anyone who dislikes the tongue, but I feel like that’s probably not many people. I would have preferred a closed mouth with a big grin, but again, this is a head-sculpt that probably won’t be repeated so I understand why we’re essentially just getting one.

Time to play!
“I keep trying to tell you, I’m not Spider-Man!” “And we keep telling you, you web-heads crack us up!”

Hasbro may have gone light on the accessories, but at least they didn’t when it comes to the figure’s articulation. The base body is pretty well loaded with a lot of functional articulation. Perhaps the only shortcoming is right at the top. The head is on a ball and hinge, but sits pretty low on that ball so the range isn’t very good. He can look up and down just a bit and rotate. Some neck articulation would have helped him look down further, and since he towers over Spider-Man that would be beneficial, but it’s passable. The shoulders are ball-hinged and the way the sculpt of the shoulder area slopes down does prevent Venom from raising his arms out to the side, but he gets close. The rotation is fine and there is also a butterfly joint in each one that lets him reach across his body. It moves well and only gets a little chunky looking when Venom rears back, but on the whole it looks fine and works better. After the shoulders we have biceps swivels, double-jointed elbows that achieve about 90 degree bends, and wrists that swivel and hinge horizontally. It all works fine, but the red/blue shading might drive you nuts if you’re intent on making sure the various swaths of color line up. In the torso, there’s an ab crunch that’s done quite well. Only when bending him all the way back does a hint of a gap start to show. There’s also a waist twist and ball joints at the legs. He can’t come close to pulling off a split, which is a little disappointing as Venom is quite limber despite his bulk, but I don’t consider it a deal-breaker. There’s a thigh cut and double-jointed knees that allow Venom to bend past 90 and he has hinge and ankle rockers down below that work great. Nothing really is missing. A lower neck joint would have been cool to see, but at least there’s nothing breaking up the sculpt. Everything is at a nice tolerance and no joints were stuck on my figure. Nothing is floppy and there are no joints that breakup the sculpt in a way that isn’t worthwhile.

Web-Man was enjoying his time on the shelf before Venom showed up.
“Ahh, we’re just messing with you, web-head!”

Hasbro’s attempt at a cartoon accurate Venom is pretty damn close to a homerun. Any issues I have with the sculpt are what I consider nitpicking on my part. The only real issues I have with the figure is the missing paint on the back of his hands and those two holes in his traps. The hands might be an oversight or a design choice since they did put blue and red shading on the back of the hands, but the holes are just Hasbro getting cheap on us. Considering this guy was priced at $34, I feel like they could have fixed those and still made a tidy profit. Oh well, that’s Hasbro for you. Beyond those two issues though, this is a really attractive and fun piece to have on your shelf. The red and blue shading, as odd as it was back in 1994, is an attention grabber and makes this Venom design and figure feel truly unique. I didn’t even particularly like the character’s look in the show when I was a kid, but as an adult this does get my nostalgia juices flowing.

My new Venom with what I once considered my favorite Venom (and most recently purchased Venom?) along with a parachute Spider-Man from the early 2000s Toy Biz Spider-Man line.

If you’re looking to get a Venom animated figure of your own, I’m afraid you’ve already missed the boat. Hasbro sold this one exclusively via its Pulse website following Pulse Con. It was up for about a day, but is now sold out. I would bet on a retro card Venom to follow at some point for a regular retail release, but it probably won’t have this head nor will it have the red and blue shading. That means if you’re really into this look for the character you’ll probably have to turn to the secondary market where it’s presently selling for 70-80 bucks. It’s hard to predict where the prices will go from here as it could climb, or maybe when Hasbro does a comic accurate Venom on this card-back it depresses the value of this one. It’s also hard to say if more characters in this style will follow. Venom is one of the more unique designs from the show, but there are a few others like Morbius and Punisher. And with Hasbro launching the X-Men line based on the cartoon it certainly could be a door-opening moment for Spider-Man as well. Whether or not this potential line is one and done, I’m quite happy with my purchase and I don’t know what I’d pay had I missed out. Best of luck to any who are trying to get him.

Venom rules.

Marvel Legends Web-Man

Who the heck is this guy?!

No, this is not bootleg Spider-Man, this is Web-Man! Who is Web-Man? I actually had no idea until I just looked it up. It would seem Web-Man is a copy of Spider-Man created by Dr. Doom. Not only are his colors inverted from the real thing, but so is most everything else. And since Spidey is basically a genius, Web-Man is quite stupid. As far as I know, he appeared in just one issue in 1977 and has never been heard from again. Though this being a comic book character, it’s entirely possible I’m wrong about that last part as comics have been known to recycle characters here and there. Even obscure ones.

I’ve mentioned in posts before that I used to collect Marvel Legends. And alongside Legends, I also collected the offshoot Spider-Man and X-Men lines produced by Toy Biz and later Hasbro. I stopped though around 2007 and really haven’t looked back aside from a lone Deadpool acquisition last year. So why on Earth am I doing a Web-Man review? It’s kind of a funny thing. I’ve been aware of Hasbro’s retro card releases of the past year or so which seek to emulate the 1994 Toy Biz Spider-Man line. I loved that line as a kid and I had a bunch of those cards (and probably still do) and the figures that were once stuck to them. It definitely tickles my nostalgia bone to see these things in stores, though so far not enough to get me to bite. When it came to Web-Man though, I just loved the colors. He’s this light shade of blue juxtaposed with a very bright red. It’s not the true inverse of Spider-Man, who trends darker typically, but there is something so aesthetically pleasing to me about this color combo. I loved it the moment I saw it in product shots online, but not enough to buy it. That is, until, Amazon just happened to have the thing in stock and I grabbed one. I did want to add at least one Spider-Man to my collection because I snagged a Pulse exclusive Venom over the weekend (he has yet to ship), and now I have one. Sort of.

These cards are indeed glorious.

Being that I haven’t purchased a Spider-Man figure in quite some time, this figure is probably a bit more exciting for me than it is for longtime Legends collectors. I think the last Spider-Man I bought was Iron Spider-Man, which I think was released by Hasbro, but was one of the last figures Toy Biz was working on when it was dissolved. I’d dig it out if it was easily accessible (I might have even sold it) to compare, but other than that my last Spidey might have been the Marvel Legends Series 6 First Appearance Spider-Man. Either way, this is quite different. Now, my understanding is this Web-Man uses the same body as Hasbro’s Spider-Man 2099. I was actually a little surprised when I got him because I had just assumed this was a repaint of the classic Spider-Man released on the retro card. That one was pretty well-received, from what I understand, and ended up being hard to track down because everyone and their mother apparently wanted at least two: one to play and one to keep mint-on-card. The main difference between this body and that one is a diaphragm joint which takes the place of the waist twist on this one. There are pros and cons to each, one major pro of the other Spidey is that he can crouch down into a 3-point stance, but it’s more of an interesting observation for me than anything. I just assumed that all Spider-Men would be produced on that body going forward.

I love this blue, it’s just beautiful.

As mentioned before, this guy comes on a retro card back which looks lovely. He has a one sentence bio on the back with no cross-sell below. The card itself is thicker than the old ones and the blister is attached in a different way. It would have been awesome to see Hasbro invest in resealable blisters, but they also appear to be trying to phase plastic out of their packaging as much as possible (and that’s a good thing). Once extracted, Web-Man stands at about 6 1/4″ when placed on a flat surface. Immediately, my eyes are drawn to this guy. That blue is just beautiful and it contrasts so well against the bright red. The black web-lining is bold and striking and just serves as a reminder that this is one of the best designs of all-time. Superman, Batman, Captain America – all take a backseat to the classic Spider-Man design. I love the shape of the eyes which remind me of Ditko’s Spider-Man, but bigger. The webs on the mask form a little pentagon in-between the eyes and it’s so clean looking. The reference art I found on the guy doesn’t feature that detail, but I don’t care. I like the look of it. His head is a bit more square than most Spider-Man sculpts I’ve seen, but it’s not something I mind. The color matching between the blue, plastic, head and the blue paint on the torso is pretty well done. If anything, the head is just ever so slightly darker, but I don’t think most will notice it unless they’re putting this figure under intense scrutiny, which I am.

There’s a bit of ugly here, like that red line above the shoulder and a little missing blue near the front elbow pin.

The torso is a little more of a mixed-bag, but certainly not a disaster. Web lines are hard, and with this figure I would say it passes the eye test when on a shelf. When right in front there are a few blemishes. The outer, black, line on the right hip is a little off on mine and there’s a little bit of blue paint over the center line right around the belly button. The right pectoral also has some blue slop and it’s probably the ugliest error on the front of the figure as the black webbing doesn’t extend to the outer line as a result. Up by his left trap is some missing paint resulting in a red line that’s distracting. It’s right on a seem where the plastic was fused together and if I was confident in my ability to match this paint I’d probably cover it. The back of the figure also features some messy spots along the edge, and he has an awful hole in his back. I don’t think Hasbro still uses those old peg stands, but I could be wrong. I’m guessing this hole was needed for Spider-Man 2099’s cape or something. It is an unfortunate eye sore though, as are the pins in his arms. If ever a character cried out for pin-less engineering in the arms, it’s Spider-Man, because you’re always going to run into this with his classic (and inverted) costume where you can only match the outer or inner color of the arm. Hasbro always opts to match the outer arm, which is the right move, but it means the inner arm has a circle of color that shouldn’t be there. In this case, it’s blue above and below the elbows. At least with the knees it’s not an issue. It would be nice if they just put a dab of paint there, but this is Hasbro and they’re quite focused on making low cost figures which is why their figures often are priced lower than everyone else.

I do wish he didn’t have a giant hole in his back.

Aside from the blemishes here and there, I do really like the look of this figure. This is a solid sculpt for a Spider-Man adjacent character. The only sculpting issue I have is that his shoulders are really small. Hasbro likes to almost recess them in the torso which just gives them an odd look. It’s really only noticeable in vanilla poses, but given this is a Spider-Man, you’re not likely to pose him in such a manner on your shelf. The musculature looks good otherwise as this is a lean dude and I like that he seems to have a unique spider logo on his chest. He’s just a very pleasing figure to look at, all in all.

I wish I could get that left hand on the ground, otherwise the articulation is pretty good.

Now when it comes a Spider-Man figure articulation is going to be super important. This figure may lack the updated configuration of the new Spider-Man body, but he’s no slouch in the articulation department. For starters, his head sits on a ball-hinge. This gives him very good up and down range, but little tilt. At the shoulders we have a butterfly joint that works very nicely. The inner pieces are painted though, so hopefully paint rub doesn’t become a major issue over time. For now, it seems okay. The shoulders are on standard ball-hinges and you do get that mismatch color issue here too as the hinge is blue plastic so he has a stripe of color in his armpit that shouldn’t be. Like the pins, this is just a trade-off on where to put the offending color and Hasbro did the best it could. And in this case, if they had tried painting over it the paint would likely just flake off rather quickly. The weird way they sculpt the shoulders does make it difficult to get his arms horizontal, but you can get close. There’s a biceps swivel past that and double-jointed elbows which bend past 90, but not much past. I was a little surprised with that part. At the wrists are swivels and hinges which might be a little gummy out of the box. At least mine were. In the torso we have an ab crunch and Web-Man can crunch forward pretty far and back a little bit, but without any ugly gapping issues. There’s a waist twist below that and the legs are on ball-pegs. He can kick forward rather well and almost do a split. There’s a thigh cut past there and double-jointed knees. We also get a boot cut and hinges at the ankles to go along with excellent pivot action.

Thwip!

Really, the only complaint I have with the articulation is the inability to get the figure into a classic, Spider-Man, three-point stance. Aside from that, he moves well and I didn’t have any stuck joints on my figure. Almost better, there are no loose joints either as everything is nice and tight. He’s a lot of fun to mess around with and probably would be even more fun with an action stand or some web effects. Sadly, he’s rather light on the accessory front, a common thing with Marvel Legends. He comes with fisted hands in the package that can be swapped with web-slinging hands or wall-crawling ones. They’re pretty standard Spider-Man hands, though he lacks gripping ones so even if you make your own web he won’t be able to grab them. It’s certainly decent, but does beg the question would collectors be happy to spend another buck or two to get more stuff? I’m used to buying NECA and Super7 figures which retail for a lot more than Legends so it’s probably no surprise where I come in on that question, but Hasbro exclusive collectors are definitely more price sensitive from what I’ve seen.

“I don’t think this is the New York I’m used to.”

Web-Man is what I wanted him to be. I saw a design that looked really pleasing to me and the finished product didn’t disappoint. Yes, I can pick over this thing and find little blemishes and imperfections here and there, but that’s true of pretty much any mass market retail action figure. Especially one with as demanding a paint job as Web-Man. It definitely would be preferable to find a vast assortment of these guys at retail rather purchase online sight unseen. That way you can hopefully find the one with the least amount of imperfections. This is admittedly an odd figure to have as the lone Spider-Man representation so to kind of make up for that I’ve pre-ordered the upcoming black costume Spidey. Even so, I love how this guy looks and it doesn’t bother me at all that I don’t have a traditional Spider-Man figure right now. Maybe when Hasbro eventually does a pinless one I’ll bite, but for now this is great. If you’re like me and you find yourself just drawn to this color scheme then this one’s for you.

“Easy there, big fella! You’re a little out of your league here.”

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.


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.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The Last Ronin #3

IDW recently dropped the third issue in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mini series The Last Ronin; the flash-forward, what if, story about the last of the turtles and his quest for revenge. I have so far enjoyed this series and have shared my thoughts here. The first issue was like a big introduction as it was largely about the hero infiltrating a future New York controlled by the Foot on a suicide mission that wasn’t successful, in more ways than one. In that issue, we saw that our hero is haunted by the ghosts of his brothers, possibly literally, but likely not as he interacts with them like they’re still alive. Issue number 2 was the first issue where the story is only partially in the present, and largely took place in the past as the writers and artists on the book started to peel back the layers of what happened to get us to this point.

In that second issue, we saw the death of one of the ninja turtles, as well as the death of a major villain. When that happened, I hypothesized that this would be the format for the next few issues. Plot developments in the present would be kept to a minimum, while much of the books would be devoted to showing us the death of a turtle. Sure enough, issue three is more of the same as we see a little bit more of what happened following the death of the first turtle and how we ended up where we are.

Seeing one of my childhood favorites killed off was actually a lot harder than expected. Even though the story begins with three of the four turtles deceased (and other allies unaccounted for), I didn’t really consider how I felt about these characters being dead. Nor did I really think about what it would be like to see their last moments, and it turns out, it’s hard! As such, I had a slight feeling of dread walking into this one as I pretty much knew what was coming. In some ways, I guess I’m happy to say it wasn’t that tough a read after all, but that’s also disappointing as well.

Our hero has a new problem he needs to deal with: teenagers.

The confrontation we see this time around concerns a character’s rise to power in the Foot and how that individual orchestrated this whole thing. Much of the book is spent in the past showing what happened, but when it gets to the “hard” part, the story takes an easy way out. I was left holding the book and saying to myself, “That’s it?!” as I flipped back and forth to see if I missed something. Everything leading up to the moment was fine and compelling, but the payoff just wasn’t really there. I don’t expect to see any of the turtles brutally murdered on the page, but this death was a bit confounding and the presentation almost Saturday morning cartoon-like. Some additional mileage is spent on the present time, and the story there moves a bit further than it did in issue #2. Things are moving, but the end game isn’t in sight yet, which is fine as I like the pace this story is setting.

As was the case with the first two issues, the artwork here is great. Esau and Isaac Escorza do a fantastic job bringing this world to life. The colors are muted and dingy befitting the subterranean setting throughout. I like the look of the turtles as they’re uniquely designed for this story. The human characters are a bit ho-hum by comparison, but it all looks fine so I’m not complaining. As was the case with the previous issue, there is a layout done by Kevin Eastman. It’s another flashback presented in black and white which is just a fun throwback to the original Mirage issues. I suspect that will continue at least into the next issue when we should see how the third turtle was dispatched.

We get to check-in with another villain from the past in this issue.

The Last Ronin #3 is a minor stumble for the series. I am enjoying the overall story, I was just less satisfied with this entry and less moved by what transpired within the pages. I still have high hopes and great expectations for the fourth issue, and I’m genuinely curious to see how this is all wrapped up. That conclusion is still many months away as I’m not even sure if the goal is to finish it before 2021 ends. The fourth issue is scheduled to ship in August, and I’ve got it on my pull list at the local comic book store. With the world coming back to life, I heartily recommend you not only check this series out, but support your local comic book stores in the process!


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The Last Ronin #2

As covered here about a month ago, The Last Ronin is a lost Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles story from the late 80s/early 90s that has just now been finally realized in the pages of IDW’s ongoing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic. Conceived originally by TMNT co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, The Last Ronin tells the story of the last ninja turtle and, as a bit of a callback to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1, his quest for revenge. The fully realized story is not shaping up to be some sort of Kill Bill clone, but as a referendum on vengeance and its fleeting nature. The story is one I compared with the classic X-Men plot Days of Future Past as it does contain a dystopian future where hope is either lost or nearly gone and most of the characters we know and love are either dead or in a position to envy the dead.

It should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway, that if you have any interest in the The Last Ronin then you should definitely read the first issue before even sniffing the second. I will not spoil anything in this mini review, but it would be easy to be spoiled even with just glancing at this book or by reading other reviews as I’m sure many are only concerned with spoiling the contents of this book, and not the preceding one.

And the main thing that can be spoiled is what was revealed on the final page of issue #1: the identity of the last turtle. In that first issue, we saw our hero infiltrate New York and have a tough go of it. Along the way we realized he’s possibly just clinging to sanity as he constantly talks with the spirits of his dead brothers. In this issue, he’ll even argue with them and debate strategy going forward. He is aware that this behavior may be off-putting to others, as he tries to hide it from his allies. And who might those allies be? Well, that’s kind of a spoiler too, but let’s just say some are familiar, and some are not.

Much of this book is devoted to showing how we got to where we are.

The main purpose for this book is to advance the story of our hero ahead just a little, while also fleshing out what brought him here. In what is likely to be a theme going forward, this issue primarily tells the story of the death of one of the ninja turtles via flashback. In doing so, we learn the catalyst for what created this current reality while also seeing what the hero has been doing ever since. As someone who grew up watching the cartoon and movies, seeing the death of one of my childhood heroes is definitely upsetting. It’s not gratuitous, but it is visceral. When I was a kid, I so much as never even saw the turtles bleed and thus I never could comprehend them befalling a gruesome injury or death. I’ve been exposed to the more violent side of the Mirage books since, but it’s still quite a thing to bare witness to.

Pictured: not Elektra.

As I said before, the main plot for the last turtle does not advance much in this book. The time spent with him is more quiet. It’s a time to reflect, recuperate, and ultimately regroup. I’m curious how the next book balances the flashbacks with the current period arc. The flashback is so full that nothing feels like padding. Even though the story doesn’t advance much, I don’t get a sense that the writers and artists are stalling because they want this to hit a specific amount of issues. It’s just a story that has taken 30 years to tell so it’s not going to rush anything.

A familiar art style for those who read the early stuff.

As was the case with issue #1, the artwork in this book is fantastic. The Escorza brothers are on top of their game and the fight scenes are drawn really well. They don’t hold back, but they also do not do a disservice to the quiet scenes or the more distressing scenes. Kevin Eastman breaks out his pencil to illustrate the flashback sequence of the last ronin character and his original escape from New York. It’s a fun touch to see Eastman’s rougher art juxtaposed with the super slick work of the Escorzas and it’s an appropriate part of the story for Eastman to add a personal touch. I’m curious if we’ll see more from him in issue #3.

Something about them seems familiar…

The third issue should be arriving around the end of the month, and based on the cover, it looks like we’re going to learn the fates of a few more important characters. I think that is going to be the formula for at leas the next pair of issues before we get a big blow-off in issue #5. It’s been an interesting, if a bit uncomfortable, ride through these first two issues so I am looking forward to the next, and yet dreading it at the same time. I also appreciate though that I’ve been made to care about these characters enough over the decades that a story like this both entertains and upsets me. If you’ve ever loved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you owe it to yourself to hop aboard this runaway train.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The Last Ronin

I don’t read a lot of comics these days. Actually, I suppose I never truly read a lot of comics even when I was very much into X-Men and Spider-Man. Back in the 90s, I received most of my comic lore from trading cards. They were cheaper and fun to collect. When it came to actual books, I was rarely allowed to get one though I certainly would try to get my mom or dad to buy me one when at the grocery store. The most comics I read probably came when I was in college and I had the money to buy trades of all of the famous stories I had heard about growing up: The Dark Phoenix Saga, Watchmen, Death in the Family, etc. I also got into modern stories and for awhile I kept up with Marvel’s Ultimate Universe until I either ran out of money or grew bored with the hobby.

One of the last comic storylines I really dove into was the inaugural Mirage Studios Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. IDW Publishing started handling the property following the sale of the franchise to Viacom and the company put out these massive, hardcover, collections of the original Eastman and Laird run on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I blogged about all five volumes here, if you want to search for them, and I mostly jumped into them because I grew up a big TMNT fan and I had never really checked out the original books. I certainly knew of them, and I think I had read the inaugural issue on more than one occasion, but I had never gone deep. It was pretty fun, though when I was finished checking those out I found I had little curiosity in the other TMNT stories, be they more older ones like the Archie comics or the new ones published by IDW.

Late last year though, a lot of TMNT fans started singing the praises of a new TMNT story titled The Last Ronin. It’s basically a future “what-if?” styled story that could best be described as the TMNT version of the classic X-Men story “Days of Future Past.” I really didn’t know much about it, only that there was some really cool artwork based on the story being circulated online. I decided it was something worth checking out, though by the time I had done so the first issue had sold out. Thankfully, it was still attainable via online shops with only minimal markup. I eventually ordered a copy, and I also subscribed to the rest and even grabbed the Director’s Cut reprint of the first issue recently and I’m glad I did.

The Last Ronin tells the tale of a lone turtle in the future. He’s bundled from head to toe in robes and armor and is outfitted with the weapons longtime turtle fans know and love: katana, sai, nunchaku, bo. He sports a black mask and he’s a bit paunchy compared with other versions of the TMNT I’m used to, but that wasn’t something I read much into beforehand. Once I had the first issue in hand though, it was obvious this was an older turtle and when we meet him he’s sneaking into New York City which is now a Hell hole because this is a dystopian future story. High walls surround the city and massive skyscrapers have created a dual class system where the wealthy live above the city and the poor are left to fend for themselves at ground level, and below. The Foot run the show, though we don’t know who leads them, while our protagonist narrates to himself (and the reader) what’s about to go down.

Things get pretty heavy for our nameless friend.

It would seem this is a turtle on a suicide mission. He wants to sneak in and cause trouble in hopes of taking down whoever leads the Foot now. And as he talks to himself, he talks to the dead. It becomes obvious that this turtle is one of the four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the rest are dead. We don’t know which one (that’s saved for the end of the first issue), but it almost doesn’t matter as whoever this is he’s undergone a lot of trauma and has changed considerably.

And things get bloody too.

I really don’t want to say anything more about the first issue as I don’t want to spoil anything. It’s a very action-packed issue as our turtle friend encounters trouble pretty much from the onset. It’s in-line too with the Mirage comics of old as there’s a considerable amount of violence and this turtle clearly plays for keeps. He also gives as good as he receives as this isn’t a superhero type of character capable of being a true one-man army. He’s plenty capable, for sure, of causing a ruckus and fending off multiple enemies, but he’s no Superman. It’s a bit of an uncomfortable read for someone who grew up adoring TMNT as it’s really not fun to think of them as dead, but here we are.

The Director’s Cut of issue #1 shows off a lot of the original treatment for this story. This plot originates from the 1980s when TMNT co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird dreamt up a finale of sorts to what they started. It never got made until now, and a lot was changed in the interim, but it’s pretty cool to see the original vision. Some of the writing can be hard to read, as it’s just scanned notes from 30 years ago, but it’s definitely worth a look. There’s also a look at the concept art for the series with annotations from Eastman that are pretty informative. I wouldn’t call the Director’s Cut essential for those who want to experience The Last Ronin, but if you’re interested in getting a copy of issue #1 I’d recommend it over the standard release.

The story for this one is shared amongst Eastman, Laird, and Tom Waltz with Eastman and Waltz handling the actual script (Laird’s credit appears to stem from the original story and I didn’t get the impression he had much involvement with it beyond that). Layouts were done by Eastman and pencils and inks were done by Esau and Isaac Escorza and the art in general looks terrific with colors by Luis Antonio Delgado. The team does a great job of evoking some of that rough Mirage art from the 80s but with a more refined touch. The colors are mostly muted which suits the grim atmosphere of the story with some of the flashbacks featuring a soft, glow, to them. There are several variant editions out there if that’s your fancy all with different covers. The main cover is by the book artists and the Director’s Cut cover features art by Eastman. The book is printed on thick paper as this is a special release. The cover is also thick and durable and it comes with a slightly higher retail cost of $8.99 per issue with the Director’s Cut coming in at $10.99.

The Last Ronin is off to a great start. It definitely seems to hit the tone it’s going for as this is a downer of a story. There’s a lot to uncover as this five part series moves along and issue #2 is already out with #3 expected in May. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in reading, I definitely recommend checking it out as I think it’s going to be an interesting ride. Of course, you could always wait for the inevitable TPB edition but that may not come until 2022 so why wait? And if there are any action figure makers reading, we need a Last Ronin figure!


The Batman/Superman Movie – “World’s Finest”

Original Air Date: October 4, 1997

Directed by: Toshihiko Matsuda

Written by: Paul Dini, Stan Berkowitz, Alan Burnett, Rich Fogel, Steve Gerber

Animation: TMS – Kyuokoichi Corporation

Running Time: 61 minutes

Also Known As: Superman: The Animated Series episodes 39, 40, 41 “World’s Finest: Parts 1, 2, and 3”

When Warner Bros. launched its own network, The WB, in 1995 it had a bit of a conundrum on its hands. Warner had been in the business of producing hours upon hours of content, but it was all aired somewhere else and would be tied down by licensing agreements for yet a while longer. And in the 90s, most of those properties were airing as part of the Fox Kids Network and included the likes of Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, and Batman: The Animated Series. Warner needed to focus on parts of its portfolio that hadn’t already been licensed to Fox and it sure is nice to have a character like Superman to utilize as a fallback. While Fox held the broadcast rights to Batman, Warner essentially ceased taking episode orders for that show and instead tasked the team of Bruce Timm and Paul Dini that had done so well with Batman to do the same for Superman. Superman: The Animated Series was born, and unlike Batman, it was a brightly lit, modern styled, depiction of the classic hero. It was not quite as successful as Batman, but for a generation of comic book fans, this depiction of the man of steel is about as definitive as it gets replacing for many the character we saw on the big screen played by Christopher Reeve.

Following the successful first season of Superman, Warner once again had the broadcast rights to Batman and commissioned a new season. Re-titled, The New Batman Adventures, the caped crusader and his comrades would receive a makeover to bring it in-line with Superman while also accomplishing the goal of simplifying the models for overseas animation. The WB, which had launched its own children’s programming block called Kids’ WB, would air these new episodes of Batman alongside Superman creating The New Batman/Superman Adventures, an hour and a half block typically consisting of one Superman, one classic BTAS, and one New Adventures of Batman. To commemorate the union of these two titans of comics, a three-part episode was created for Superman called “World’s Finest” that would take-up the whole Batman/Superman block on October 4, 1997. These episodes would then be collected and released on VHS and DVD as The Batman/Superman Movie.

Fans had to wait a long time to see these two pair-up, it would seem Batman was not looking forward to it though.

Given how long these two heroes have been around and in Warner’s portfolio, it’s actually rather incredible the two weren’t paired-up for a movie until 1997. This one is a bit of a cheat since it’s three episodes of an animated series, and Batman and Superman have shared space on the small screen for decades. They have since shared time on the big screen as well in one of the most love it or hate it film universes imaginable. In 1997, and even today, there is still a neat “geek” factor to the two teaming up, though I personally wish it could have happened sooner as come 97 I wasn’t watching much network television. I can recall catching bits and pieces of this story, but I don’t think I ever sat down and actually digested it. Since concluding the years long look-back at Batman: The Animated Series, the cross-overs with Superman were basically the few remaining missing links I had yet to look at, so I figured I would rectify that with a look at this pseudo movie.

“World’s Finest” is anchored by a pretty simple premise: How would Batman and Superman work together when their arch enemies team-up? It’s the type of thing any young, comic book, fan probably would have dreamed up as a starting point for a team-up as we have Joker (Mark Hamill) offering his services to Lex Luthor (Clancy Brown) to kill Superman (Tim Daly) for the not unreasonable sum of one billion dollars and it’s Batman (Kevin Conroy) who first sniffs out the scheme. It’s an interesting premise to see Joker turn himself into a hitman-for-hire, and especially interesting that he would be so arrogant that he would think he can take out Superman when he’s failed to do the same with Batman for years. Perhaps it owes to him not viewing Superman as his great rival as many have wondered if Joker really ever aimed to kill Batman, instead preferring to play with him like a cat and a ball of yarn, only in this case the ball of yarn always comes out definitively on top. There’s also a bit of shock factor to see Joker so nakedly offering to kill someone for money, but it is a nice callback, intentional or not, to Joker’s roots in this universe as a mob hitman as seen in Mask of the Phantasm.

Joker has a very big reason for his overconfidence.

Why is Joker offering to kill Superman for Luthor? For the simple fact that he needs money on account of Batman always foiling his plans and because he’s come across a rather large sum of kryptonite. Early in the film, Joker pulls off a heist in which he and Harley (Arleen Sorkin) snatch a dragon idol thought to be made of jade, but Batman knows otherwise and makes the move to Metropolis. It’s there he masquarades as Bruce Wayne, who has a business venture underway with Luthor, and makes acquaintances with both Lois Lane (Dana Delany) and Clark Kent. Lane is quite smitten with Wayne right out of the gate and the two start seeing quite a lot of each other, much to Clark’s disappointment.

The film wastes little time in establishing that Batman and Superman are going to be uneasy allies. Batman is setup to be Superman’s opposite. When we first see Batman inspecting the crime scene following Joker’s theft, Detective Bullock (Robert Costanzo) puts up a minor protest when Batman takes a piece of kryptonite left behind as tampering with a crime scene, but Commissioner Gordon (Bob Hastings) somewhat jokingly laughs it off suggesting to Bullock he be the one to stop Batman from doing what he wants. It’s played for laughs, but it’s kind of scary that Gordon essentially revealed he feels helpless when it comes to telling Batman what to do. Of course, we know he welcomes Batman’s aid in an unofficial capacity, but this scene seems to exist to remind the viewer that Batman operates outside the law. When he eventually crosses paths with Superman for the first time, Superman refers to him as a vigilante and that there’s no place for such in his town. Superman is our goody-two-shoes, the one who operates within the confines of the law, while Batman happily exists outside it. He’s also played as a jerk, as Batman introduces himself to Superman by arm-tossing him over his shoulder. It’s definitely beyond what we’re used to seeing out of the character previously in BTAS, that very patient detective working alongside Ra’s al Ghul and tolerating his subordinates slights is long gone. It’s somewhat in-line with the character we’ll see more of in The New Batman Adventures, but it’s definitely a change.

Batman is such a dick to Superman that I half-expected him to torture the guy for fun here.

The Batman/Superman dynamic is the main anchor of the feature, but also entering the fray is the Lois Lane situation in which it’s clearly spelled out she’s attracted to Superman and Bruce Wayne, but turned off by Clark Kent and Batman. There’s also multiple scenes in which Joker and Luthor are pitted against each other, mostly via tense negotiations or dealing with the fallout of a Batman or Superman encounter. They’re actually quite entertaining and this is the best Joker we’ve seen in awhile. It would seem the time off between the end of the second season of BTAS and this feature did Dini and his crew well as this Joker feels fresh and exciting. As does his main squeeze Harley and the two actually work quite well together in this one with less signs of abuse on the part of Mr. J. It does mean the story basically ignores how we left off with the pair and we’re just left to assume that Harley eventually came crawling back. It’s a pretty entertaining story, albeit one that only runs a mere 61 minutes. It does follow a predictable arc, and I dislike that the ending basically has zero consequences long-term, but I definitely had a good time following along. There were some segments that were a bit too liberal with the notion that every bad guy in these shows is a terrible shot. Batman should have probably died ten times in this thing, but it’s just accepted that our hero is never going to get shot no matter how improbable the situation.

Being that this movie exists within the Superman show, it follows the same visual style as that show and The New Batman Adventures. There are no additional effects applied like we saw with a true feature in Mask of the Phantasm, but that doesn’t mean this one doesn’t look nice. Warner at least opened up its wallet for TMS to handle the animation. TMS was once upon a time a semi-regular in Warner animation, but come the mid-90s the studio’s reputation was beyond reproach and their services were essentially beyond Warner’s television budget. The studio wasn’t even called upon to handle the second BTAS feature, SubZero, so it was a bit surprising to see them utilized here. It certainly pays off as “World’s Finest” looks terrific. The animation is so smooth and so consistent frame by frame and it pays off as there’s plenty of action. There’s even a classic “Superman saves an airplane” segment probably just so they could have TMS animate such a sequence, because it’s otherwise a scene that’s completely unneeded for the plot. It’s certainly fun though, so I’m not complaining! The only drawback the film possesses from a visual perspective rests with the character designs. I really don’t like the redesign on Joker, and it’s so apparent in the scenes he shares with Luthor. Luthor looks like a person, while Joker looks like he belongs in a different series, something far more toony. That’s a problem I have with The New Batman Adventures as a whole though, not one unique or born from this arc.

I think the writers want us to think Bruce has legitimate feelings for Lois, but it’s not convincing and you may exit this movie with a new opinion on the guy.

The Batman/Superman Movie is probably not the spectacle the pairing deserves, but if I’m being honest, I’d rather watch this than the live-action one that would follow years later. Despite the short duration, it doesn’t cry out for additional material. If it had been a true feature we probably would have just been treated to more of Wayne and Lane’s romance which does move quite fast in this one (she appears poised to move to Gotham at one point) so that’s probably not realistic, but billionaires certainly have a knack for getting their own way despite logic and reason. I suspect some might not like the portrayal of Batman in this one as he really is just an asshole towards Superman. One has to wonder if he’s only interested in Lois to stick it to Superman. And given that their relationship progressed far enough for Lois to talk about moving, I’m going to make the assumption that she and Bruce slept together and if Bruce slept with her just to make Superman jealous or angry then that’s some pretty lowlife behavior on his part. Even without that piece of head-canon on my part, I felt pretty bad for Lane at times in this one as she’s just being used left and right. Bruce uses her to get info on Superman, Joker uses her as Superman bait, and all the while she thinks she’s met someone she’s ready to run away with. It’s quite a ride for Lois, and I wonder if Dini contemplated tossing Barbara Gordon into this whole mess, but thought better of it.

“World’s Finest” was just the first cross-over event between Superman and The New Batman Adventures, and not the last. There were two more in Superman, “Knight Time” and “The Demon Reborn.” There was only one in Batman, “Girl’s Night Out,” which I covered some time ago. Since I’ve covered so much of Batman: The Animated Series here, I would like to some day talk about those additional crossovers, but I also have no plans to at this time since I don’t own Superman: The Animated Series. Perhaps that will change one day, but the availability of this movie is what made this possible. If you want to check it out for yourself, you can do so either via Superman which is available on DVD and streaming on HBO Max, or you could buy the stand-alone movie which is quite affordable. I picked up a copy at a secondhand media store for a mere $2.97. For less than 3 bucks, this is a rather nice piece of entertainment.


MAFEX No. 105 – Batman: Hush

Enter The Dark Knight and his massive cape.

You may have been wondering why I decided to devote an entry earlier this week to a nearly twenty year old action figure of mediocre quality, and if so, now you know why. I wanted to take a look at the DC Direct Batman based on his appearance in the Jeph Loeb written, Jim Lee illustrated, story Hush in anticipation of a look at what should be a much better figure based on the same Batman. The MAFEX Batman should be everything the DC Direct one was not as MAFEX action figures pride themselves on being highly detailed as well as super articulated. They’re also super expensive so they should be awesome.

My only experience with Medicom prior to this was nearly 15 years ago. Back then, Medicom was known to me for vinyl toys which were often stylized and often pretty expensive. Medicom did a deal with musician Glenn Danzig back then, and if you have not noticed that’s a favorite subject at The Nostalgia Spot, and I grabbed one. Medicom issued three figures, one based on each of Danzig’s bands, and I grabbed the one based on the band Danzig. The figure is basically a vinyl doll, it swivels at the arms and fists, but nowhere else. It might have swiveled at the head if not for the hair-sculpt. It was stylized though with its own unique look featuring an oversized head and fists with a somewhat round nose and underbite. It was cool, but also around $75 in 2006 money so it was hardly cheap and the reason why I only grabbed one.

I am very excited to open this guy up.

My experience with Medicom is not at all applicable to its MAFEX line of figures. The only comparison is that both are expensive. I have seen plenty of MAFEX offerings over the years that looked pretty good and were thankfully not attractive to me since they do a lot of superhero stuff. I’ve also had some reservations as I’ve seen and heard many complaints about the MAFEX quality control over the years. Joints breaking, paint applications iffy, and so on. Often times reputations are earned, but it’s also important to remember not everyone’s experiences, or expectations, are the same. I’ve certainly seen a lot of complaints about NECA’s quality control online recently and yet I own somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 NECA figures and have yet to have one break. The worst I encountered was my toon Slash which arrived with a detached backpack strap which was easily fixed with a dab of glue.

I feel like his thighs look bigger here than they do on the figure, but it could just be perspective messing with me.

Even with that reputation starting to build for MAFEX, it wasn’t the thing still giving me the greatest pause, it was the price. And it’s not necessarily the idea of spending around $100 on a figure. When I saw this Batman unveiled I was very interested as I felt this was THE Batman for me and I’d never need another and that has a pretty high price for me. It’s more what you get for the price. Each MAFEX figure is 1:12 scale which is fancy for six inch scale, for the most part. They’re not identical, but most people won’t notice the difference. You’re getting a figure with a good sculpt and a lot of articulation to go along with numerous extra parts like hands and heads, as well as character appropriate accessories and often (always?) a stand. It’s a good assortment of stuff, but the fact remains that quality figures in this scale just don’t carry this high a price. Bandai’s SH Figuarts are very comparable in terms of scale and quality and they usually retail for $60, at their high end (up until recently, of course, as we’re currently seeing a rise across the industry in prices). What is MAFEX doing to justify the added cost? It’s possible the licenses they go for just plain cost more, but Bandai has done Marvel and kept the price down, so that leaves me largely with one conclusion.

Here he is!
And here’s that cape!

And that conclusion is “because they can.” We’ve been seeing a lot of boutique style collectibles start to crop up that really push what is expected in terms of price. And I think some manufacturers have realized that collectors are willing to pay a lot, and some are now willing to charge a lot as a result. Action figures are not known for having fantastic profit margins, but they do exist and most companies figure out a price that works for them. And then we have other companies that want more. It’s basically just capitalism at work, and if collectors buy it then producers are going to charge it. Did I want to contribute to making it acceptable to buy a 1:12 figure at $100? The short answer is, “No,” but I am both making an exception here and I felt I should have some personal experience with such a product before forming a final opinion, so here we are. And maybe I’m just ill-formed and Medicom pays its employees way better than the competition and thus, has to charge more. I doubt that’s the case, but since it’s a possibility I figured I would mention it.

Sculpted bat logo – good. Paint not quite lining up with the sculpt – bad.

I am going to keep this review objective, because that’s what I always do, and because subjectively I’m almost guaranteed to enjoy this action figure. The version of Batman depicted in Hush is fantastic, as far as I’m concerned, and this figure need only capture that. Price is a factor though, so I have to keep that in mind. This figure by itself might be great, but it needs to justify its cost. I can overlook some lazy sculpting or iffy paint in a Marvel Legends and still declare it’s pretty awesome because that figure costs around $25, but such things are not so easily overlooked when the price is quadrupled.

Good elbow clearance.

Well, for starters, MAFEX presents a good figure. The figure comes packaged in a collector friendly window box with appropriate colors and artwork. The rear features numerous product shots to demonstrate how the figure can be posed, and unlike a Lightning Collection release, I suspect all of these potential poses are actually achievable. I do wonder if these are actual product shots though as the colors are a bit different and the figure looks a bit beefier, especially the legs. It’s likely they’re just edited post photo, or the figure depicted is a final test sample that turned out a little differently. The figure comes in a blister tray with some actual Jim Lee artwork serving as the backsplash. The tray has a plastic overlay to keep everything in place and the included stand is taped to the back. I recommend removing that stand before removing the tray cover because that cover is the only thing securing all of the accessories and figure. Don’t do what I did and remove the cover and decide now is a good time to take off the stand and accidentally dump all of your parts on the floor. It’s not a fun time searching for batarangs on a carpeted floor.

I have real mixed feelings about this cape.

There is no tape or tie-downs inside the box, so once that tray cover is removed you are free to pull your Batman out. He is pretty light to the touch and your first reaction is likely going to be, “Wow, that’s a big cape!” It’s massive and made of some kind of cotton, I assume. It’s well put together, but it will arrive wrinkled. Had Mafex used spandex or something more rubbery it likely would not wrinkle so easily. The stitching is clean though and I don’t see any fraying, so that’s a plus. It’s glued under the cowl and it’s a little messy and I worry about that piece eventually lifting off of the torso. Holding and moving Batman feels a lot like handling a SH Figuarts release. The joint system is pretty familiar and just the overall build quality feels pretty much the same, and that’s a good thing. The only negative for me right out of the box is that one of the blades on his left forearm came out bent and curled over, which you’ll see in virtually all of the images in this post. Since taking all of the pictures I was able to apply some heat to that curled blade and straighten it out a little. It’s not where it needs to be and it’s something I’ll have to keep at if I want to straighten out completely, or just learn to live with.

I’m actually a little surprised at how well the old figure looks next to the luxury model. If only he didn’t have the paint blemishes on his face.
Here the Mafex figure shows off its superior head-sculpt, but the DC Direct one still gets to brag about its massive chest.

Once placed on a surface, Batman stands right around 6.5″ to the top of his ears, probably a little less. He’s shorter than the DC Direct figure I looked at who was around the same height to the crown of his noggin. The Mafex version is also less substantial. He’s a leaner Batman in comparison, which is not really page-accurate if we’re being technical. His chest could use a bit of beefing up as well as his thighs, though his biceps and shoulders look pretty good. The head shape is much better on this version and more reflective of the art, as is the color palette utilized which is a pale blue, almost a gray-blue, for the cape, cowl, gloves, boots, and trunks. The yellow belt is also pale and a little dingy. I think a touch of brown might have better achieved the effect they were going for, but in checking the source material this looks pretty close. The paint on this figure isn’t terrific. The head-sculpt must have been cast in blue because it shows through the flesh-colored paint around his mouth. There’s even a blue line under his lip, which isn’t great. It also shows through the teeth of the alternate head. On a shelf, it’s probably not a big deal, but this is a pricey figure so this shouldn’t be an issue. The paint around the bat emblem on his chest doesn’t fill the sculpted-out symbol giving it a gray outline, which is irritating. There’s a gray speck on one of the belt pouches and the paint around the boot cuffs is bad. It’s frustrating because there’s not a lot of paint that needed to be done, and what little there is wasn’t done particularly well. At least, the eyes came out well and there does appear to be a wash on the gray parts that looks good and brings out the musculature of the figure, though there is some paint slop on the left thigh of my figure.

Sad bat blade 😦
Lets see what this guy can do!

The overall presentation of the figure is a mixed bag. The sculpt is good enough, even factoring in the price, but the paint is not while the cape size is going to be more subjective. I think the cape could have been smaller, but it could also work at this size with some improvements. I think the bulk of the cape, in particular how it bunches up at the shoulders, contributes to my feeling like this Batman seems undersized. If I flip the cape over a shoulder and just look at how it compares to the head and width of the upper body it looks pretty good. The cape in the books is certainly large, but it’s illustrated rather thin and heavy, almost leathery in behavior like a, you know, bat! There’s not a lot of material around the neck area as there is with this figure so that’s what’s throwing things off for me. If it wasn’t glued under the cowl way up inside the shoulders and on the pectorals, it would look so much better. They just brought it forward way too far.

Lets see the 03 model pull this off!

I definitely have some nits to pick when it comes to the presentation of the figure, but I also haven’t talked about the articulation, so lets get to it. His head is on a ball peg which sits inside a neck piece that also connects via a ball peg in the torso. He can turn his head and look down pretty well, but the range going up isn’t great. What also isn’t great is that neck wants to turn with the head most of the time, and sometimes it doesn’t, and you may end up with Batman’s adam’s apple on the side of his neck or something. Something inside it also kind of chewed up the edge of the neck on mine as it rotated. It’s not a big deal because it sits far enough down in the torso that it can’t be seen unless you’re looking for it, but it’s something to watch out for. The shoulders are on ball-hinges with a butterfly joint that allows Batman to reach all the way across his chest. There’s a swivel at the biceps and double-jointed elbows that go well past 90 degrees and don’t look terrible. The hands are connected via ball pegs so they have pretty good range of motion, but they do pop off a little easily, which is better than the alternative. In the torso we have a ball-peg in the diaphragm so he can rotate and tilt pretty well. There is a waist swivel, but it’s a little tight. The belt is a separate piece that has a little give, but it’s either glued down or pegged in somewhere. The trunks are also a separate piece, but they’re pretty small and stay out of the way. The legs are on ball hinges so they can kick forward and back and raise out to the side far enough, but not a full split. They also can drop down for a little extra mobility and swivel at the thigh. The knees are double-jointed and molded at a slight angle so they look a little funky, but the joint is pretty clean. At the ankle we have a ball-hinge so they can raise up a little, go back a good amount, and rock side-to-side, though it takes a little finagling. There’s also a toe hinge.

Time to fly!
Is that your grappling hook or are you just happy to see me?!

The articulation is quite good. I like that Mafex avoided creating any real ugly joints on this guy. The clumsiest area is probably the shoulders where that giant cape works to the figure’s advantage. And speaking of the cape, it too is articulated. There are four, metal, wires running through it that connect at the cowl. Two wires run along the outer edge and then two more are inside. The wires on the outer part work very well to help pose this massive thing, while the two inner wires do very little. They basically help the cape to hold its shape, but what is missing is a center wire which would have aided this figure a whole lot. It certainly adds a fun dynamic to the figure since you can do a lot with that cape. And if you find it looks too bunched up at the shoulder, I recommend taking that outer wire and just sort of folding it back as opposed to trying to tuck the whole thing behind a shoulder.

We’ve got a lot to talk about.
Extreme close-up!

We’ve talked about the sculpt, and we’ve now discussed the articulation, so really the last place for this figure to justify its cost rests with the accessories. And it’s a good thing that this figure has a boatload of accessories. For starters, he comes with a fairly neutral head and can swap to a teeth-gritting one. Both are pretty effective at evoking the Batman persona and which you display may come down to which has the better paint application. There’s also a Bruce Wayne head which has its own neck piece. The paint on that head looks much better since it’s probably not molded in blue and it’s fine, though who is going to display this figure as Wayne? Swapping heads is not terrible, but that neck joint is guaranteed to give away before the head so don’t be surprised when that neck releases the first time. Joining the three heads are seven sets of hands! Ready for them all: fists, fists with tiny tracks sculpted in them, fists with batarangs poking through from between the fingers, open hands, slightly open hands, curled hands (batarang hands), and grapple gun hands. That is a lot of hands, and they all actually seem viable. The fists with the tiny channels in them might stump some initially, but the opening is just wide enough to slide the cape edges into them and I think that’s their main function.

Do you prefer the figure be in focus…
…or the hook?!

Those channel hands can also handle the grappling hook wire, which is another accessory. There are two hooks: one with a short cable and one with a long cable. Both peg into either grappling gun hand rather easily and look pretty cool. The wire on the longer one is metal and it does not appear to be bendy, so don’t snap it! It pegs in fairly gently too, so don’t force it, but it’s in snug enough for posing. I love that they used metal since it’s unlikely to sag or loose its shape. It’s also light enough that it doesn’t cause the arm to slowly drop. The grapple gun hands also look nice and are page-accurate as far as the placement of the trigger goes. I half-expected the paint job to be lacking with these hands, but they turned out well. Swapping hands is a bit of an exercise in patience. The hands pop off easy enough, but every hand except for the fists he comes packaged with are rather snug. You can even see that the diameter of the peg hole is smaller on the extra hands versus the fists. Nevertheless, they will go on, just be patient and don’t try to jam them on there. The ball joint that the pegs are on will fight you, but it’s manageable. I did not feel discouraged from swapping hands, which I sometimes do with other figures.

Swing!
Locked and loaded.

What would Batman be without some batarangs? Not much of a Batman, I’d argue. This figures comes with four: two bat-shaped ones and two more rounded ones. Both work well with the curled, style-posed, hands that I referred to as “batarang” hands before. They can slide in between the middle and index finger, or even wedge between the thumb and index finger. The channel fist hands can also work with them, though I don’t know how natural it looks. It’s hard for me to decide how to eventually pose this figure on a shelf as I like the batarangs, but the grapple gun attachments are also really cool and unique to this figure. Decisions, decisions…

Old reliable.
For those who prefer a more moon shaped batarang.

Lastly, Batman comes with an included stand. I think all Mafex figures come with this particular stand and it’s pretty straight-forward. It comes in three pieces: the base, the articulating arm, and the claw. Snap it together and you’re good to go – or are you? If your stand is anything like mine, it will be way too loose to support the figure. He stands fine with out it, but if you want a swinging pose or something a bit more dramatic then you’ll need to grab a small, phillips head screwdriver and tighten each joint. Once you do then you should be fine as I had no problems getting the stand to support the figure’s weight, so long as I didn’t throw off the center of gravity too much. I wish there was a pre-drilled hole or something on the base to support a wall mount, but oh well. I suppose nothing is stopping me from adding one myself.

And then of course we’ve got these hands with a rather nasty application of the batarang.
I’m guessing he doesn’t use these on your garden variety hoodlum.

In terms of accessories, this figure came out quite well. There isn’t really anything missing. The only thing I would have liked to have seen included was yet another fist that had his Kryptonite ring sculpted onto it for battles with Superman. Apparently, that’s been included though with the Mafex Superman so that’s cool since you wouldn’t pose Batman with it on unless you have Superman, which I obviously do not and do not plan to get. That’s pretty much it though, these accessories are great, they’re easy to work with, and the only throw-away one really is the Bruce Wayne head. It looks fine, I’m just never going to choose to display a Batman figure without his mask.

I should probably show you the Bruce Wayne head since it did come with the figure.
He is rather handsome.

As expected, I do like this figure. I have some quibbles about the overall aesthetics, but I think it looks like Batman and it’s easy to tell this is the version of the character from the Hush books. The articulation is great and I very much enjoy the accessories, but I’m still not sold on that price tag. This guy came out last summer and can still be purchased at various online shops and probably in some local comic book stores. No matter where you buy him, he’s going to end up costing right around $100 which is a lot for a figure in this scale. Some places will have him for around $80-$85, but they’ll likely have steep shipping charges while a place like Big Bad Toy Store has cheap shipping, but prices this guy at just under $95. Comparing him to my SH Figuarts Vegeta, which I paid $50 for not on clearance, and there’s just no comparison when it comes to value. That figure is physically shorter than this one so there’s less plastic involved, but the articulation is there, the sculpt is there, he has a ton of extra hands and faces, and is also an import figure of a popular licensed character. I can accept this Batman costing more than that figure, but nearly twice as much? No way.

“WHERE’S THE MUTAGEN?!”
“Help! Krang!”

That’s what it comes down to with the Mafex Batman figure from the pages of the Hush story. He’s a nice figure and if you like that version of the character you will like this action figure. What you are unlikely to enjoy about it is the sticker price. There are plenty of collectors out there who will convince themselves they’re getting an item that is definitely worth a hundred bucks and be fine with it – whatever floats your boat. I just, objectively speaking as someone who likes this figure, don’t see a justification for that kind of price here. And I especially don’t considering the iffy paint and slight inaccuracies when it comes to the source material and the sculpt. At this price and at this scale this figure should be objectively flawless in those areas, and it’s not. However, I still enjoy it and I’m happy to have it. It’s possible for an action figure to be both good and overpriced. I’m just not going to make a habit out of buying Mafex action figures.

“Nice costume, dude! Who’s your tailor?”
I bet you would like some comparisons, so here’s a couple: NECA Shredder and Super7 Raphael.

Lastly, if you like this figure and feel like it’s worth adding to your collection, then by all means do so. However, I do want to point out there is a new version coming out any day now. It changes the color scheme of the figure swapping out the blue parts for black ones, but it also looks like Mafex did some adjustments with the cape. I think it’s still the same material and still features four wires, but the promotional images make it look like they adjusted how it’s glued to the figure and basically did it in the same manner I suggested in my review (this isn’t me taking credit for that since that figure was obviously designed way before I posted this, just in case anyone were to think I was trying to do so) which looks a lot better. They’re just promo images though in which the figure is supposed to look awesome, so maybe seek out some reviews or something. It does look like some people already have it. Mafex also swapped out the Bruce Wayne head, and maybe some hands, in favor of a gargoyle base for the figure which looks fantastic. I’m actually kind of mad at myself that I can’t be happy with a black and gray Batman as that edition honestly looks better than this one. I’m a blue boy though, so here we are. Whichever version you decide to get, or don’t, will result in you having a pretty nice Batman figure. Your wallet may just disagree on how valuable that is.

And a final comparison with the Hasbro White Ranger and SHF Vegeta.

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