Tag Archives: action figures

Marvel Legends X-Men Animated Series Morph

It’s everyone’s favorite mutant back in plastic!

This is it! This is the big one! Back on Halloween of 1992 Fox premiered X-Men and we were introduced to a character named Morph. For comic readers, it was a bit of a re-introduction as Morph was based on the character Changeling, but for copywrite reasons, had to undergo a name change. Changeling wasn’t a popular character and was only briefly considered a member of the X-Men, but he was somewhat famous for basically one reason: he died. Comics, like soap operas, tend to feature death that is rarely permanent. Characters either die or appear to die, but often return and usually with some new threads! Changeling was a bit unique because he died and stayed dead and that’s what made him appealing to the writers of the show.

When the team headed up by writer Eric Lewald got settled in to write X-Men they really keyed in on the social commentary that was present in the story. A group of individuals are outcast due to no fault of their own while one of their chief villains is a survivor of the Holocaust. It was very easy to draw a straight line from the civil rights movement to what was going on in X-Men. Because of that, even though they were writing a TV show that would primarily be watched by children, they felt it needed to be grounded and also needed some real stakes. Taking a character and killing him off in the second episode was a way to create such stakes. In hindsight, the death of Morph should have been easy to see coming. He was modeled on a dead character from the books and he wasn’t even included in the show’s intro. We don’t learn anything about him during his brief stay on the show, he’s just there to be likable and make others laugh via his unique shape-shifting powers.

“Wolverine! Fall back!” (I had to do it)

And yet, we loved him. When you present something to a child and then tell them they can’t have it, it tends to create even more desire for it. That was the case with Morph. He seemed fun enough, but had he been a character like any other it’s quite possible he would have been one of the least favorites on the show. Because he was killed though, it’s totally different. We may not have known him very well, but we did get to see how his death impacted those we would get to know which made it resonate even more. The network would go on to claim that he ended up being the stated favorite character of the majority of kids who chose to write-in and share their thoughts on the show. There was enough of such letters that the network convinced Lewald to bring him back, even though he had intended for Morph to die and stay dead. He eventually agreed, but on the condition that he come back as a villain. You can’t just have someone die and come back all sunshine and flowers, they’re going to be pretty affected by such a traumatic thing, which is how we got Evil Morph in Season Two.

Because Morph is viewed as a unique creation for the show it was assumed that he would show up in this line of action figures from Hasbro eventually. And apparently some of those child letter writers from the 90s are still among us as there’s been a lot of support for a Morph figure based on his toon appearance for years. As a result, it was expected that this figure of Morph would have appeal outside of the line and those who aren’t interested in cel-shaded X-Men would cave for a Morph figure. Which is why it was hardly a surprise to see Morph unveiled as the line’s sixth release. We knew he was coming, it was just a matter of when. I thought maybe they would save him for a convention or maybe even as a tie-in for the show’s 30th anniversary, but he was just tossed out there in May and made available for pre-order shortly there-after. I have not been shy about my displeasure with the quality of this line and the shortcuts Hasbro has been willing to take. My hope has always been that the budget on some figures was lower than others so resources could be put towards a proper Morph because, perhaps more than any other, this figure needs to be good because this is THE character from the show and unlikely to see another release. And in some ways, my faith was rewarded, but in others not so much. Reader beware, I have a lot to say about this figure and it might come across as nit-picky so if you just want a fluff piece this won’t be it.

No one left you behind this time, Morph. And take that Cyclops, Morph is here before you!

Morph comes in the same VHS styled packaging with art by Dan Veesenmeyer as the rest of the line. It looks nice and we have a joyful looking Morph running from the Mutant Control headquarters just as he did in the show before tragedy struck. The figure itself is contained within and comes in a little bag. Many collectors hate this approach, but I can’t say it’s really done any harm yet as all of the figures I’ve received have been fine. Once free, Morph stands around 6.5″ and is depicted in his blue and yellow costume with the flight jacket. Morph is a slightly tricky release because for a character with just a handful of appearances in the show, he did have some different looks. We saw him with the jacket and without as well as with yellow gloves and without. He also switched from black to brown hair in his later appearances which is what the old Toy Biz figure went with in the vintage line. He’s probably a bit oversized as represented here, but not egregiously so.

Why can’t his face just look like the reference art?!

Let’s first talk about this head. Like most figures in the Marvel Legends line, we have a lot of reuse here, but the head is unique. For it, Hasbro tapped the excellent Paul Harding to sculpt it. Harding is one of the best out there and we’ve already looked at some of the stuff he’s done for NECA’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line. A sculptor can only do as directed though, and for this figure Harding was instructed to do Morph, but make him in the “Marvel Legends style.” That style is to take a character from a comic, or in this case cartoon, and up the realism. Make them look believable. Unfortunately, I strongly disagree with this approach. You’re making a line of toys based on a cartoon specifically to match that look. We have Wolverine, Storm, Jubilee, etc in these costumes already in Marvel Legends, why do animated versions of them if they’re going to just be in the same style? It’s pointless! And it’s confusing, because we already received Wolverine and Hasbro gave him a new head that looks like the cartoon. Hasbro has done figures based on properties like Into the Spider-Verse within Marvel Legends which took a screen accurate approach, why not here?

Let me be clear, cel-shading on action figures is a good thing. It can really capture a certain aesthetic. Hasbro’s attempt at cel-shading is not. Why does the shading just stop at the shoulder, but pick up again after the bicep? Make it make sense!

As a result, this head-sculpt that comes on Morph leaves a lot to be desired. He’s very square-jawed when the show Morph had a very pointed chin and sunken cheeks. The extra detail on the face and painted lips (again, something Hasbro didn’t do with the animated Wolverine) further take away from the animated aesthetic had it been allowed to exist. They also did his hair in a dark brown. It’s too light to be the black-haired Morph we saw in seasons one and two, but too dark to be the brown-haired version we saw in “Courage” and later appearances. His expression is also very bland. It’s stoic, when anyone who has seen the show thinks of Morph in the same way he’s presented on the box art: with a smile. He’s a goof, that’s his defining characteristic. Practically every line out of his in the first episode is intended to make someone laugh, and if no one is around, he’s trying to make himself laugh as we saw when he’s watching TV. This head is so inappropriate for this character and release that I find it almost completely useless.

“I found your lifeless body…”

The rest of the figure is a mix of old and new. As far as I know, the entire upper body is recycled from a prior Cyclops release in a flight jacket. The main portion of the jacket is a soft plastic and features sculpted pockets and a zipper which looks fine, though the zipper is unpainted. The sleeves are molded, hard, plastic so the jacket is non-removable. The legs are new, and the floating X-Men belt might actually be new too. The legs are new so that they could make the thigh straps part of the sculpt which is a good move because they looked horrible on the old Cyclops figures. Some feel Hasbro placed them too high on the thigh, but I think they look fine and they’re obviously there to hide the thigh cut. The knees are pin-less, and the straps above the boots are also sculpted. The body looks okay, maybe a little too thick for Morph, but not horribly out of place or anything. His hands do seem really large, but that’s a minor complaint. The neck is also inaccurate as there’s no end to Morph’s costume. Pretty much all of Morph’s neck is visible in the show, but here he has a turtleneck. Hasbro just had to paint the neck, but chose not to. And the paint in general is not great. The cel-shading is barely present on the jacket. There’s a swath of dark brown starting on the figure’s right collar going to the shoulder where it just stops for some reason, bypasses the biceps area, and then resumes at the elbow. On the figure’s left arm, it just starts at the biceps. There’s no shading on the front of the jacket at all and just a little under the pecs underneath. There’s a little hit of it on the belt which carries down to the trunks and one minor hit on each thigh and boot. Once again, Hasbro is using a mustard color to shade yellow which doesn’t look great, and for some reason the shading on his right boot is in a wavy line and mostly looks bad. Hasbro, if you’re going to do this bad of a job with cel-shading then why bother doing it at all?

“You will listen to me, Morph!”

It was my hope that Hasbro would go all out with Morph and really make him feel like an “ultimate” version of the character because how likely are we to see future Morph figures? Hasbro could have done so with accessories, but Hasbro declined to do much in that area. Morph comes with two heads: standard and evil. The Evil Morph head turned out rather well. He has a more gaunt appearance and the hair is a little darker. It’s also a little messy and he has the dark shading around his eyes as he has a hit of purple under the eye and black over it. Technically, his skin should be paler with a touch of yellow, but I’m not surprised to see Hasbro ignore that since then they would have had to do good and evil versions of his hands. Even ignoring that inaccuracy, it’s so much more livelier and on-model when compared with the standard head that I suspect most are going to display him as Evil Morph. Aside from that though, we get just two sets of hands: fists and open. Why not do a third head so we can have a brown haired option and a black haired one for standard Morph? Or a “Wolverine! Fall back!” expression? Why not a set of gripping hands, or at least one, so he can wield a gun like he did in the show? And how about said gun?! I personally would have loved a second set of arms to do a coat on or off look, but I didn’t actually expect that. I did expect more though and it’s a shame this is all we received. I really wanted Hasbro to go all-out for Morph, even if it meant tacking on a higher cost to purchase him, but they barely did half-ass.

Yeah, evil head all the way.

The articulation for Morph is basically what you expect out of Marvel Legends. He has the ball-hinged head that provides for good range, though looks “broken” from some angles. Even with the collar on the coat, he can still look up pretty well and range isn’t an issue. The ball-hinged shoulders let him get his arms out to the sides and rotate. There’s a biceps swivel, and single-hinged elbows that also swivel plus wrists that swivel and hinge. The torso features an ab crunch that works fine though you have to work around the coat when bending backwards. The waist rotates and the hips go out to the side better than 45 degrees, but short of a full split. The legs kick forward to not quite horizontal and only kick back a touch since he has a sculpted bum. There’s a thigh swivel above the strap, so it’s well-hidden. The knees are double-jointed and work fine. There’s a boot cut below the straps and the ankles hinge and rock side-to-side and also work fine. It’s all pretty standard stuff and one of the things you can count on with Marvel Legends, be it the good parts or bad. I would like to see double-jointed elbows, but even without them his elbow can bend a little past 90 degrees and the aesthetic does at least look fine.

I don’t have any Marvel Legends hands to source, but a NECA TMNT Foot Soldier hand can work for Morph if you want him to wield a gun. The tone is slightly different since NECA paints it’s hands, but if you don’t pose it by his head like I’m doing here it probably looks fine on a shelf. The gun is from the Marvel Legends MCU Deadpool.

Morph is not the homerun I was hoping for, but he’s also not the dud that Jean was. The things holding him back are Hasbro’s direction and cheapness. I wish his standard portrait looked more like the show. I understand why it doesn’t, but I don’t agree with the approach. I don’t know who is responsible for the choice of expression on that head, but I also dislike that aspect of it. I also wish he had more stuff and that the cel-shading was better applied. One of those things is dictated by cost, the other by effort, and that’s a shame. No gripping hands is borderline unforgivable though. How much would that have cost? Twenty cents? Molds already exist for un-gloved gripping hands so it’s literally just the cost of plastic. If you don’t want to give us a gun, fine, but at least give us the hands so he can hold one from another figure. Mystique is on-deck, after all, and she has two guns! I could easily give one to Morph if he could only hold it. That’s less of an issue for those who are deep into Marvel Legends since they likely have some extra hands at their disposal, but I am not so lucky. If you’re collecting this line or have affection for the cartoon, you’re probably getting this figure no matter what I say. It’s an okay release, probably not worth the price Hasbro is charging these days, but most will be reasonably satisfied. It’s a shame that’s all we can seemingly hope for with this line, but it is what it is.

“Leaving without saying ‘goodbye?'” “Goodbye.”


NECA TMNT x Universal Monsters Michelangelo as The Mummy

Grrr….pizza….

As the toyline and cartoon series started to go long, Playmates Toys turned to other ideas to keep the good times rolling on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Long thought to just be some quick fad, the turtles outlived all expectations into the 90s spawning multiple films and video games and a cartoon series that would total nearly 200 episodes. Such longevity was basically unheard of for such a blatant kid’s property and I have to think some of it is due to the creativity of Playmates. There were lots of variants of the turtles starting with different costumes and the introduction of action features into the toyline. Playmates would double-down on wacky variants with some featuring action features, like the sports turtles, or different gimmicks all-together like the beach turtles that could spit water. Talking turtles, mutating turtles, boxing turtles – basically everything was on the table. And when that started to run dry, Playmates turned to another tool: the brand mash-up.

In 1993 Playmates introduced the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as Universal Monsters line. It featured Michelangelo as Frankenstein’s monster, Leonardo as The Wolfman, Donatello as Dracula, and Raphael as The Mummy. It was apparently successful enough that Playmates would come back with a second wave the following year. Playmates would also combine TMNT with Star Trek and make an effort to cross-brands with various properties at Lucasfilm including Star Wars and Indiana Jones. In later years, there were other mash-ups with the likes of Ghostbusters and WWE so there is apparently an appetite among TMNT fans to see their favorite heroes combined with various other brands. It’s become a recognizable aspect of the IP to the point that when NECA announced it had acquired the Universal Monsters license basically everyone and their mother started asking “So, are you going to do TMNT X Universal Monsters?”

Mummy ninja pose.

NECA initially responded to such questions in a non-committal fashion, but it’s now clear that was always on their mind because it didn’t take long for NECA to unveil Raphael as Frankenstein’s Monster. Other reveals, and releases, have followed and NECA’s approach to the famous combination has become clear. It should be noted, that when both NECA and Super7 were awarded a license for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the two individuals most in-charge of the direction of the lines, NECA’s Randy Falk and Super7’s Brian Flynn, got together to get a sense of where each company was going with the line. When NECA said it wanted to do toys based on the cartoons and movies, Super7 was delighted because their aim was to basically re-create the vintage toyline. It could be that gentlemen’s agreement between the two that is the reason why we’re not seeing the same turtle and monster combinations in NECA’s line as Super7 also has a Universal Monsters license and might recreate those old toys. Or, it could simply be NECA’s desire to do their own thing that is driving the creative process with this line.

Mikey found someone to help him strengthen his impressions.

And that process is to take the designs and likenesses from the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film and combine those with the film depictions of the Universal Monsters. It’s a great idea on paper as it takes a realistic depiction of the turtles and combines them with a realistic depiction of the monsters. The past versions of these figures (and Playmates revisited it in the 2012 line) were all cartoon-based and the realistic visual fits NECA’s strong suit when it comes to their Ultimates line of figures. It also opens the door for a version of April to feature the likeness of actress Judith Hoag and if any other human characters are featured it’s assumed they too will feature an actor’s likeness. NECA also seems to have deliberately avoided the past turtle and monster pairings. For the first time Raph got to play Frankenstein, Leonardo is Ygor the Hunchback (a character previously unexplored by Playmates), Donatello will be the Invisible Man, and Michelangelo the Mummy. Splinter is also onboard to play Van Helsing, and April has the distinction of being the only repeat pairing as she is once again the Bride of Frankenstein. More figures are expected and it will be interesting to see if NECA doubles-down on the turtles and gives everyone a repeat release as a different monster. There are certainly plenty of unexplored monsters by NECA and plenty of opportunities for more figures.

Now I personally am not a big fan of the Universal Monsters. I never bought any of the Playmates figures, and I wasn’t sure with this new line. When NECA announced Raph, I did pre-order it immediately, but I would eventually cancel it. I didn’t have an obvious place for it in my collection and I was certainly helped by my favorite turtle, Leonardo, having an unappealing mash-up. I have seen all of the released figures so far in stores and I think they look fantastic for what they’re going for, it just wasn’t something I felt I needed. Until I came across Michelangelo.

There’s some nice sculpt work on the shell, though the turtle glyph on the right is unpainted and I have to assume it’s a factory error.

I already said I’m not much of a fan of Universal Monsters, but if I had to pick a favorite it would be The Wolfman. That was the only figure I was tempted by back in the 90s since it was my preferred monster with my favorite turtle, but ultimately I decided I could do without. I don’t know where I’d rank The Mummy amongst the other monsters, but definitely more towards the bottom than the top so it’s a bit of a surprise that this is the one figure that moved me to make a purchase. It’s also just a testament of how good it turned out. Taking the 90’s costume for Michelangelo and dirtying it up with a mummy aesthetic is surprisingly brilliant. This figure looks amazing.

For starters, the textures achieved by sculptor Tony Cipriano looks incredible. The many wraps that adorn Mikey look like they could be soft goods to the point that it’s almost jarring to actually handle the figure and feel that they’re made of plastic. The texture of the skin on Mikey’s head has this very dried out and weathered appearance. His lips are cracked, there’s creases in the forehead, and various warts mar the skin. The bandana has a dark wash over it making it appear dirty and old and he has one eye that’s closed, or possibly missing, and another looking off into nowhere. It’s important the face capture an unsettling expression since Michelangelo is typically the comic relief and least threatening of the four turtles. The shell of the figure has more of a wood look to it as it’s washed out. It’s also adorned with various carvings like a couple of turtles, a Foot logo, ninja stars, and what might be a reference to the ooze canister. What’s visible of the plastron on the front is very cracked and weathered, but it’s mostly covered in wraps. The belt has a nice leather look to it with a gold scarab on the buckle. It’s sculpted throughout with more glyphs and weathering and looks terrific. The elbow and knee pads from the film are present and look as good as ever. They look a little bigger and bulkier when compared with the movie releases, but it’s also possible these will be on the Secret of the Ooze figures to come.

How ’bout a kiss, cobra?

Michelangelo looks amazing. I can’t get over how well this figure came out. If this were a 60 dollar boutique release I think I would still be satisfied, but it’s a $36 or $37 figure from Target which is mind blowing. There’s really nothing for me to complain about when it comes to the sculpt and overall look for this figure. What nitpicks I can come up with are basically paint-related. There’s a spot at the top of the wrap on the right thigh where the beige paint bled over to the skin. There’s a little of that down by the knee of the same leg as well. In the hands or around the heel there are small spots where the paint for the wraps was missed, but it’s all in areas that are only noticeable when you’re looking for such things. Since there is a wash on basically every spot of this figure there may be some figures where that’s missed or too heavy. There’s one glyph on the shell that’s missing the wash, but from what I have seen around the web, this is an error on all of the figures. The wraps inside the shell don’t feature a wash, but they’re areas that really aren’t visible unless you’re holding the figure in-hand and really inspecting it. The small paint imperfections seem acceptable to me at this price-point. The only cause for concern I see is that this is a complex figure and paint job so it might suffer from inconsistencies from figure to figure, but that’s not something I can predict with any degree of certainty and it’s personally not something I would be concerned with. Plus, that’s what window boxes are for!

“Whoa dude, I’m going to have to recommend you don’t smile.”

The Mummy is basically known for one pose: a shuffling walk with arms outstretched. Because of that, it would have been reasonable to assume NECA would not prioritize the articulation on this guy, and while NECA definitely does indeed prioritize aesthetic, this figure still moves pretty well. The head is on a double-ball and has good range in basically all directions. The bandana knot just pegs into the head so you can rotate it if need be to help the figure look up. The default head is a little loose fitting on mine, but holds a pose. The neck is independently articulated as well, but mostly just helps the figure look down. The shoulders are ball-hinged and can raise out to the side just fine. The shell is going to get in the way a bit with rotation, but that’s nothing unfamiliar for TMNT fans. There’s no biceps swivel, and instead the figure has NECA’s double-jointed elbows with the hinge and swivel above and below the elbow. Because of the elbow pad, he can just barely bend the arms 90 degrees, but the swivel works fine. The hands swivel and hinge horizontally. At the waist, there is a twist, but it barely does anything. The hips are ball and socket joints and come out to the side for splits, but kick out and to the side when coming forward because of the plastron. The knees are double-jointed, but because of the knee pad, can’t quite hit 90 degrees. There is a swivel above the knee and the thigh also swivels, but just barely. At the ankle we have a hinge and rocker which works fine. It’s basically the same articulation as the movie figures, only with the double elbows. It’s not the thing the figure does best, but if you want your mummy in more “ninja” poses it’s certainly feasible.

You may think a mummy doesn’t need much in the way of accessories, but NECA apparently feels differently. For starters, Mikey comes with three sets of hands: “mummy” pose hands, gripping hands, and fists. The default, mummy, hands are basically posed how one would associate the mummy when it’s walking and reaching out towards a victim. They’re kind of curled and misshapen and since the thumb is under the fingers they can be considered loose, gripping, hands if you wish. As for what he has to hold, we have a set of nunchaku. Only now, the handles are gold-painted ankhs with brown tape around the handles. They have real chains, and there’s a gap on each side of the shell between the belt and shell they can be forced into if you like weapon storage. Mikey also has two pre-posed wraps that can be clipped onto a leg or arm for a little added effect. There’s a giant cobra which has a bendy wire through it that Mikey can hold, or have draped over his shoulders, or just have hanging around nearby. It’s in a hissing pose like it’s ready to strike.

The cobra makes me think of the Playmates figures and their “buddy characters” that can with so many figures.

Lastly, we have the best accessory: Mikey’s decaying, alternate, head. An image of a decaying Leonardo mask from the third TMNT movie has been floating around online for years, if not a decade. I believe it originated from an auction and it’s pretty damn hideous. Other images of decaying turtle costumes have followed, but that one is the most memorable and widely seen. Mikey’s alternate head is a clear homage to that one as the lips have been rotted away revealing two rows of big, flat, teeth. The flesh around the eyes has also receded leaving the face wide-eyed and a bit crazy looking. There are also chunks missing from other parts of the head and the bandana tails are a bit more wild looking. I don’t know if you’re supposed to be able to swap the knot between the heads, but as far as I can tell, they just peg into the head so it’s theoretically possible. The alternate head fits a little more snug than the default one and swapping them is pretty painless. It’s really hard to settle on one, though I feel like this alternate head captures a little bit of that Mikey humor inherent in the character and it might be the look I go with.

This figure actually presents a lot of display options. Classic Mummy pose? A Mikey nunchaku pose? Something with the snake? Default head or crazy, rotting, head? I’m planning on making Mikey a Halloween decoration that may live in his box (which I didn’t even talk about, but it’s beautiful) 10 months out of the year so it will be impossible to get all of these display options into one season. Maybe I’ll just need to find a place for him a little out of the way for the rest of the year. If you can’t tell, I love this figure and I absolutely recommend it. I don’t think it’s convinced me to buy the rest of the line, but if they hit clearance maybe I’ll reconsider. I think this guy displays just fine on his own, and if anything I’m more likely to invest in the accessory set for The Mummy than more TMNT x Universal Monsters figures.

Now the only thing left is to figure how to pose this guy on the shelf.

This figure was part of the Fall Geek Out event at Target. It was online as well, but I’m guessing that by the time this post goes live it will no longer be available there. This is the one and only Mummy Mike I saw in-store so it doesn’t look like he’s being shipped in the same vast quantities as the Leonardo figure from this line, but I could be wrong. If you missed the Target release, don’t fret. This figure is available to preorder in many of the usual places online and should be showing up in those same places eventually. Hopefully in time for Halloween.


NECA Cartoon TMNT Zach the Fifth Turtle and Smash

A bit of an odd duo today.

It happens often with children’s programming where someone, somewhere, gets the idea that the show needs an audience surrogate. That is often true of a show where the main cast is older than the target demographic, which was the case with the cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As the name implies, all of the characters are at least teens or older where as the show’s audience was probably something like ages 4-10. I don’t know if that’s why we got a character like Zach, but it seems like a pretty safe hypothesis. What kid watching didn’t want to battle the forces of evil alongside their heroes? What would that look like if a random kid from the audience dressed up like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle with stuff they found around the house and ran off to fight crime? Zach is the answer to that question and he’s profoundly lame.

This kid’s a total geek.

Yes, even when I was a kid, I did not have any affection for Zach, the so-called fifth turtle. He showed up for the first time in the season 3 episode “The Fifth Turtle” and I thought it was preposterous. Sort of how I had a negative opinion of the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang, I felt like I was watching a very serious confrontation when I tuned into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles every afternoon. If it weren’t for the turtles and the events I was seeing on television, Shredder and Krang would be ruling the world! I’m supposed to accept some dumb kid with a hockey stick could render aid to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? I don’t think so.

Cool man, you got a rock.

Unlike my feelings for the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang, my feelings for Zach haven’t exactly softened over the years. He’s a dumb part of a mostly dumb cartoon that I liked as a kid. He was a character I had no intention of ever purchasing, but lo and behold here we are. NECA bundled him with Smash, the leader of the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang, a figure I felt the opposite about. And my collection of toon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures is pretty damn complete so I’m not going to pass on a new character. I’m just going to have to find things about Zach to like.

I can’t imagine this sight frightens Shredder all that much.

In truth, the general aesthetic for Zach is not unpleasant. He really does look like a cosplay any kid could come up with. He’s got the bandana, and since he’s not a green-skinned turtle he could go with the color green for his mask, though he’s got a red sweatband over it. To simulate a shell he’s got a green trashcan lid which is about as good as a kid can do there and it’s attached via a belt and also goes over his backpack, which is just plain useful to have. Oddly, he went with a turtleneck for his shirt. Well, the choice of a turtleneck makes perfect sense, it’s that he went with yellow instead of green. Maybe to simulate the plastron of turtles? Also, he’s from a season 3 episode and the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang was already a thing so a green shirt with something on the front would have probably looked too similar. After all, when I was a kid I had a DIY Halloween costume that was a green turtleneck with a plastron crafted out of brown paper bags, which is basically what the CNT Gang rolled with. For pants, Zach’s got olive drab cargo pants which is as good as anything, plus some fashionable red and white sneakers that are pretty similar to the ones Bebop wears. Maybe they shop at the same place?

Hockey stick users – unite!

For the figure, NECA basically nailed it once again. To the top of his head, Zach is about 4.75″ and to the top of his hair around 5.125″ which feels pretty good for the line. I actually wish Baxter Stockman had this kid’s legs. They did a good job of reproducing Zach’s “costume” and even preserved the ability for the figure to wear the backpack with the trashcan lid over it. It’s a little tricky getting it all on, but not too bad and the belt on the trashcan lid feels very sturdy. He’s got his big, goofy, flock of blond hair which survived the transition from 2D to 3D just fine. I like how there’s a sweatband texture to his sweatband and the shirt and pants feature the usual two-tone approach to the paint. In terms of criticisms, I really only have two. For one, his face looks a little too full to be Zach. It’s really distracting because he looks like a kid I used to know. It’s not terrible or anything, it could just be better. Also, the paint on his bandana could be cleaner, though my other main criticism resides with the sneakers. The bottom of the shoe is cast in white, but painted red, so when that paint inevitably flakes off of the hinge it leaves behind white plastic. I hate when NECA does that and it’s something they’ve been better at avoiding of late, but apparently not here.

Nobody wanted to be Zach back in 1990, but we all wanted to be Kid Vid.

The aesthetic is good enough, and the articulation is pretty much as expected, though not without its flaws. Zach’s head sits on a little double ball peg and I’m happy to report the peg stays in place when popping off his head, unlike Usagi. He’s got good range there and there isn’t really anything to get in the way, which is nice. There’s no joint at the base of the neck. At the shoulders, we have hinged ball joints and he can raise his arms out just past horizontal, so that’s good. At the elbows, we have the controversial NECA double elbows with a hinged ball joint above and below the elbow. NECA likes these on sleeved arms and they’re okay. The range allows the character to bend past 90 degrees, but it looks awkward. I still prefer this to the single hinge and swivel though. No biceps swivel and the wrists rotate and feature a horizontal hinge. Again, vertical hinges would be better on the gripping hands, but that hasn’t been a priority for NECA. At the waist is a ball-joint that largely lets the figure swivel with little else. The hips are ball and socket joints and Zach can almost do splits, which is enough. He cannot kick back, and kicking forward causes the leg to want to go out to the side because the “diaper” piece gets in the way. There’s a slight thigh twist there and at the knees we have standard double-hinged joints. On my figure they are super gummy to the point where the joiner piece wants to flex as opposed to the hinges actually working. Definitely be very careful as you don’t want to shear that piece. No boot swivel, but the ankles hinge and have an ankle rocker, just be careful if you like that red paint on the hinge.

Considering how cool a flip phone could make you in 2000, this thing must have done wonders for his popularity in 1990.

The articulation is largely acceptable and Zach can do what he needs to do. The only sore spot for me are those knees as they shouldn’t be that gummy. I wish they would use a firmer plastic for the joining piece because what’s there just feels too soft. The range though is pretty standard stuff for this line which is to say it’s adequate, but not impressive, and that’s okay. NECA clearly prioritizes the aesthetic when it comes to this line and I’m more than okay with that.

Zach is one of those figures that comes loaded with accessories. I’m surprised by the volume here especially because Zach appears to be mostly new tooling. He shares hands with the Neutrino men and some of the internals on the torso could be the same as well, but I think that’s it. The only place they saved some money is in some repeat accessories, but even they’re slightly different. Zach has his blue backpack which is a soft plastic that fits over his arms. It unfortunately does not open, but it has a tiny peg on the back of it that is removable and almost will surely be lost by many who own this figure. The peg is removable so that the trashcan lid can plug into it. The belt is glued to the lid and I found sliding it over his legs to be the easiest way to get it on. I don’t think it necessarily needs to plug into the backpack, but it does secure it a little better. I just wish that pack could open.

You will lose this peg. Just accept it.

Zach also has his Turtlecom, one opened and one closed. It has a hole in the bottom of it and a purple, plastic, hose that plugs into it. The other end is intended to plug into the bottom of the backpack because it did that in the show for some reason. If you want that look for Zach on your shelf, definitely plug that sucker into the backpack before putting the trashcan lid on because it’s a pain otherwise. Zach also has a big, blue, diamond that I only vaguely remember from one of his episodes and a shard of a crystal, again, something I only vaguely recall. He also has his hockey stick, which is painted gray and actually is different from the one that came with Casey Jones. He also has an assortment of hands including gripping, fists, open, and an extra right gripping hand. The two right gripping hands appear to be exactly the same. Maybe the factory was supposed to duplicate one of the other Neutrino hands and messed up? Or NECA just tossed in an extra since they’re so small and could potentially be lost. Zach also has a second, mask-less, head and a pair of goggles that can be worn with it. The goggles make him look like Burger King’s Kid Vid, but he was the best member of the BK Kid’s Club so I get why Zach would want to look like him.

A look at the new Chrome Dome head compared with the old one. Note the different paint job on the eyes to indicate that the new one is powered down. The jumper cable doesn’t work very well, but you get the idea. Good look with that dumbbell joint, it sucks!

Perhaps the oddest accessory is Chrome Dome’s head. It looks just like the head that came with the figure only now there’s a hinged piece on the forehead that can be flipped up to expose some of Chrome Dome’s “guts.” The eyes are also painted differently to indicate that the unit isn’t turned on. There’s also what looks like a jumper cable as there are two, white, alligator clips on each end of a gray-black cord. Unfortunately, the clips do not function and are just frozen in place, but in the episode “Night of the Rogues” Zach was able to hook up to Chrome Dome to reprogram him. You’re basically intended to use the cable with the computer that came with Chrome Dome, though there’s no place to clip it to so you have to just finagle it somehow. The clip can kind of attach to the innards of Chrome Dome’s head, but it’s prone to popping off. The head can also be swapped with the original head if you have the figure. I actually had two Chrome Domes so this was ideal for me. Unfortunately, Chrome Dome’s head probably wasn’t designed to be removed with ease because getting it off sucks. It’s connected via a double-ball peg and I couldn’t get the head to come off with the peg staying in it. It took me awhile to get it out of the head utilizing a couple different sets of pliers and a lot of hot water. As a tip, the old head is hollow so when you get it nice and hot you can basically squeeze it which helped me get the ball-peg out. I was also lucky in that I didn’t necessarily care if I damaged the head since I have two. That crown piece is definitely fragile so be careful. It would have been nice if NECA just included a second dumbbell joint with this one since that would likely cost pennies and save some aggravation. And if you’re thinking of just replacing the old head, note that the hinged piece doesn’t quite sit flush on the head so it’s definitely not seamless, plus the hinge is visible. Neat idea, it’s the execution that could be better.

The leader of the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang has appeared!

That was way more words than I ever though I’d devote to a character like Zach, so lets now pivot to his box-mate: Smash. Smash is the leader of the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang and runs the Slash for Cash dojo. He’s depicted here in his CNTG attire which is the same as the goon, minus the paper bag hat. Smash instead feels secure just going with the red bandana and feels no need to cover his face. The body here is largely reused from Burne, which we most recently saw repurposed for human Rocksteady. The torso is definitely different though as Smash is noticeably taller than both. The upper arms are the same, but needed different forearms to account for the elbow pads and wrist straps. The thighs are probably the same as Burne’s, but the lower leg is different since Smash has pants that end above the ankles (he ready for a flood?!). He then has the same style shoes as the goon, but bigger. The head is obviously different and since he’s much bigger, and stockier, than the CNTG goon the overlay is different too so it’s actually surprising how much new tooling is here. I was expecting Smash to be much more in-line with the prior figures.

“Who’s the blond pipsqueak?”

And it’s good that NECA did that. I felt they should have with Rocksteady because he is just so small. Smash looks much better as a result, though he still has one issue in common and that’s those elbows. The hinge is above the elbow, so it looks stupid and I don’t know why they did it that way since his elbow only bends 90 degrees anyway. Just put the elbow pad where it should be. Aside from that, the aesthetics are solid here. The proportions for this body are still a little odd. I think maybe the head could be smaller or the shoulders broader, but it’s good enough. The paint is nice and clean on my figure with the only area being a little iffy is the mask. Some of the linework could be better there, but it’s still what I would consider good enough as that’s a delicate area. I still really like how this goofy costume turned out and Smash looks great with the rest of the gang.

The articulation isn’t great, but Smash can balance on one foot.

As for articulation, we already know that isn’t the strong suit of this base figure. Smash does at least one thing better, but for the most part he’s as expected. His head is on a double-ball and works great, no complaints there. The shoulders are ball-hinged and they’re okay. He can’t quite do horizontal, which is a bummer, but rotation is fine and not hindered by the shirt. The aforementioned elbows are not great, they swivel and hinge to about 90 degrees, and I already said what I said about the aesthetic. The wrists rotate and hinge and, again, all of the hinges on the various hands are horizontal hinges which is a bummer. There’s a ball-joint at the waist for swivel and he gets a little tilt in all directions as well. The hips are ball and socket joints and Smash can nearly do a split, but kicking forward and back is not a strength and he only gets a little rotation at the thigh. The knees are double-jointed and can bend past 90 degrees. The feet have the usual hinge and rocker combo and the one thing this figure does better than Burne/Rocksteady is that his feet are big enough to allow for one-footed stances. There are no surprises here, good or bad, so Smash is as expected. He’s not one of the better articulated figures in the line, one could argue he should be better, but it’s not terrible. We pretty much know what we’re getting at this point.

Mostly, Smash is likely to just be posed in a battle ready stance.
For those who prefer their Smash unmasked.

Like his underlings, Smash comes with a variety of weapons at his disposal. For hands, he has fists, gripping, and chop hands. He also has four different melee weapons: a hand axe, a knife, a kama, and a crooked dagger that looks pretty wicked. He also has a grappling hook with a yellow rope attached to it which is pretty neat. There’s also a second head included that features a yelling expression and no mask. It’s nice to have, but I can’t see myself ever using it. Swapping heads is at least easy as the double-ball is buried in that neck and isn’t likely to come out.

He does have a grappling hook, in case he ever wants to be Batman.

The Zach and Smash two-pack ended up being a pretty solid release. It’s a no-brainer if you grabbed the previous set, and if you happen to like Zach well then you have to get him. And if you’re like me and have a dislike for Zach, you can still talk yourself into it given that it’s a pretty well done set. This set is currently hitting Target stores as part of the Fall Geek Out event and should be available online as well. If you’re like me, then you preordered this sucker directly from NECA so no hunting required. Because it was already offered on NECA’s website, it’s unlikely a restock will happen anytime soon so get it now if you want it. I doubt it will be a much in-demand set, but you never know. And for now, this actually closes out the NECA preorders slated to arrive in 2022 for me. It’s kind of a weird feeling to have the year be “over” already. Other figures and sets have been revealed that I assume are coming later this year, but for now, I’m all caught up and it feels odd.

At long last, the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang lives again!

NECA Cartoon TMNT Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang and Rock Soldier Two-Pack

They’re a bit of an odd couple.

When NECA launched its line of action figures based on the 80s-90s cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I had no idea how deep I’d want it to go. I’m pretty sure I even made an offhand comment regarding the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang as a jumping off point, because who has been sitting here for the past 30+ years yearning for action figures based on those guys? Well, here we are. I long ago lost count of how many figures I have in this line and my list of wants is pretty damn small at this point so it’s time for me to tell you all about the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang. Oh, and we have some rock soldiers too.

The Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang debuted in the first episode of the second season, “Return of the Shredder.” In the episode, a gym leader named Smash is hired by Shredder and trained in the ways of the Foot and then sent out in the city to commit crimes. While doing so, Smash and his goons were to dress-up as the Ninja Turtles which meant green t-shirts and red elbow and knee pads. Smash wore a red bandana mask and positioned himself as the leader, while his various lackeys wore green paper bags over their heads. The imagery was ridiculous, but it worked, and the citizens of New York City actually confused this gang of ninja thieves with the Ninja Turtles. As a kid, it was not a favorite episode of mine. Season 2 was repeated a lot so I got to see it a lot and to me they just looked like lame villains. Of course, they were supposed to and the absurdity of the situation should have been read as comedy, but I was a kid and I took my turtles seriously. Now I look at these guys and they make me laugh. They’re ridiculous, so of course I want them on my shelf!

They’re proud representatives of the Slash For Cash dojo.

Last spring, NECA made the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang and the Rock Soldier two-pack available on their website for pre-order along with another two-pack (don’t worry, I’ll get to it). They have now started shipping out while also showing up at Target as part of that store’s Fall Geek Out event. Previously, all of the preorders NECA sold on their website were basically guaranteed to arrive in the hands of collectors well before showing up at Target. These ones technically hit Target first, but for most the difference is about a week. I literally found them last Friday, and my order arrived Saturday. That’s fine, but I know some were a little irritated that the orders they prepaid for weren’t given more priority and I’m not going to tell people how they should feel about that: you’re either bothered by it or not. We can talk more about that when the Secret of the Ooze turtles start shipping.

They’re ninjas. Not particularly good ninjas, but ninjas nonetheless.

This two-pack is the line’s third “army builder” set. Army builder sets feature figures that were just generic fodder for the turtles to beat on. Collectors can be happy to have just one figure to represent the design from the show, while others are able to buy multiple sets to create an army just like on television. As such, I ended up buying three of these so I could have a full Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang of four once paired with Smash. It’s definitely cool to be able to do so, but like the Deluxe Foot Soldier, it also means ending up with a ton of accessories. It makes me wish they did different SKUs where you could buy a set of just figures and hands because there are enough weapons in one two-pack to outfit the whole gang. I guess it’s better to have too much than too little, so I’m not complaining, but if I could shave off 5 bucks or something I’d have been interested.

Those bag heads are pretty damn amusing to me.

Since this write-up has been so Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang focused we might as well start there. The CNT goon, or just goon from here on out, stands at around 5.875″ and is a mix of old and new parts, but appears to largely be new. The head is obviously new as he has the sculpted paper bag with the bandana sculpted on as well. He has a classic TMNT gritted teeth look painted on and the green is done with a more saturated green on the front and a paler green on the back. I love how these two shades of green play off of each other and it makes me wish the turtles followed this scheme. The bag is his actual head so there’s no portrait underneath it or anything and I think that’s fine as the proportions look terrific. His shirt is an overlay and the plastron on the front and shell on the back is sculpted in and it looks so good. I love the depth it adds and this costume basically looks better than what was worn on the show. The shirt is in two pieces with the bottom being like a skirt piece. The belt is sculpted onto that and this guy has his own unique feet as he’s basically wearing turtle slippers. He probably shares parts with Vernon, such as the neck and whatever is under the shirt. The thighs could be the same too, but I’m not positive. Either way, it doesn’t matter as what’s present is appropriate and what’s new looks excellent. The paint on all three of my figures is also very well done with the only blemish being a paint chip on the rear of the right elbow pad of one of the figures.

“Get a load of these clowns!”

It feels like the figures we’ve looked at of late haven’t had to do much as far as articulation goes. This guy is a ninja, be it a poorly trained one, but a ninja nonetheless so he needs to move. Thankfully, the articulation here is solid and for this line even good. The head is on a double-ball peg and the neck is on a ball peg as well so you get lots of range up there. He’s a little limited looking up and down, but that’s due to his head being a literal box shape. There’s a ton of nuance up there though and I think most will be pleased. The shoulders are ball-hinged and not restricted by the shirt as his arms can come up to a horizontal position and rotate around. The elbows are single-hinged with a swivel, but thankfully NECA sculpted and painted the point of the elbow above the joint, which was an issue with the SDCC four-pack reviewed recently. He can bend slightly past 90 and it’s acceptable. The hands swivel, and my one main complaint with the articulation is that all of the hands have a horizontal hinge when the gripping hands, at least, should feature a vertical one. That is an area NECA could stand to improve upon. At the waist there’s a ball joint that really just allows for rotation. The hips go out to the side quite far and there’s a thigh twist there as well. The knees are double-jointed and bend past 90 degrees. There’s a twist in the shin where the pants end and the feet have a hinge and ankle rocker. The rocker doesn’t work as well here as it does on some other figures due to the shape of the foot, but it provides for some nuance. Overall, probably adequate by the standards of modern action figures, but for this line it’s better than average.

All right, now we move onto accessories and this guy comes loaded. For starters, we have fist hands, gripping hands, chop hands, and splayed hands. There is a sword that appears to be a new sculpt which has a nice, wide, blade. There’s a spear weapon that looks like a longer version of those pokers some use to pick up trash. It’s just gray with a white tip, but it’s new so that’s cool. There’s one set of nunchaku and another flail type weapon that has a gray ball on one end. The handles of the nunchaku and flail are new pieces and not reused from Michelangelo, which is a surprise. There are also two shuriken weapons, one that is seven-pointed with a hole in the middle and another that has four points and has the silhouette of a fireball or something. As I said before, you basically get enough weapons in just one box for an entire display, but having multiples does allow you to display someone dual-wielding the swords or nunchaku. I’m quite happy with the selection here, I just wish there was a way to store weapons on the goons since there’s just so much.

We’re going to need some ground support, here.

Ok, time to talk about rocks. The rock soldiers were Krang’s army of bad guys from Dimension X. Mostly, we just saw General Traag from time-to-time, but there were a few episodes where Krang had a full-on army. Sometimes those armies just looked like Traag, but gray, and other times they were unique. They were more slender, possibly taller, and had an “X” on their chest. There was a red version and a gray one, and I honestly can’t remember if the turtles ever had to fight them or if they were just shown as some threat about to enter a portal that was ultimately closed. For me, they’re definitely not as memorable as the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang and I did not even recall the specifics of their design until re-watching the show as an adult. I remembered there being generic rock soldiers, but I couldn’t have drawn one from memory.

They come with more mutagen canisters because you can’t have enough of the stuff.

The rock soldier included in this set is the red/brown version. It stands at about 7″, maybe a tick over, and certainly looks the part. The sculpt and paint scheme is very similar to Traag with the dominant color being the pale red-brown that was used for shading with Traag. The figure doesn’t follow that bisected approach of most figures in the line instead relying on patches of different colors to simulate the cel-shading which honestly is the better approach. There’s a dark brown and a more red/brown in use with a lot of black linework to help really give this one some pop. Curiously, there are parts where the black linework just seems to stop, but it appears to be deliberate given that it’s present on all three figures I own. The “X” on the chest is raised and the whole body has a nice texture to it. The paint application being more complex than usual does mean there are more blemishes here and there, but nothing egregious. About the only thing I wish NECA did differently is put some shading on the head and helmet as there’s none. Even Traag and Granitor have some on their helmets. To my surprise, there’s almost no parts reuse from that set. Just the lower torso and maybe the elbows, otherwise this is an all new sculpt.

This pistol is one of the few things reused from the past rock dudes set. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work too well with this trigger hand.

Given that we have a big, chunky, guy here this is definitely a figure that doesn’t call for as much articulation as the goon, but what we have is again pretty solid. The head is on a double-ball peg with a ball-peg at the base of the neck. Since he’s basically a pinhead, he gets fantastic range. The shoulders are just ball-hinges and the boxy nature of them means he can’t raise his arms out to the side completely, but probably enough for most poses. The elbows are the weird NECA double-joints, so you get a swivel and a hinge above and below the elbow. Since it’s sculpted for the rock aesthetic, it looks just fine and provides for great range, he just lacks a true biceps swivel. The hands rotate and hinge horizontally. The diaphragm features a ball joint which mostly allows for rotation as there’s very little tilt in any direction. The waist does swivel and it was stuck on all three of my figures, but a firm twist is all it took to loosen it up. At the hips, we have the ball joints with a swivel point. The legs don’t go out to the side very far, but he can kick forward all the way and go back a touch. The knees are surprisingly single-jointed and can’t quite hit 90 while the ankles feature a hinge and rocker combo that gets the job done. There is a swivel point at the knee to make up for that, but it barely moves given the sculpt. To my surprise, one of my figures has a stuck, left, hip. I have never encountered a stuck joint there since NECA switched to the ball and socket hips, but that sucker does not want to move.

Excluding the hip issue with one figure, I would say the rock soldier articulates well enough. He can hold a rifle with two hands, assume walking poses, and there’s enough adjustment areas to create some variety. His proportions are also much nicer than Traag and Granitor who are a bit too short for my liking. I’m definitely glad they did not reuse those legs. There is one instance of a painted joint on this figure that doesn’t match the base color, but it’s on the rear of the knees so it’s not much of an eyesore. The paint will flake off there though, so be wary if that’s an issue for you.

I honestly can’t recall if the turtles ever had to actually fight the rock soldiers.

The rock soldier also has some accessories for us to talk about, but not as many as the goon. This guy has just four hands at his disposal: a set of fists, a trigger right hand, and a half open left hand. The partly open left hands is almost like a loose, two-finger, trigger pose and I think it’s primarily in this shape so that the figure can handle the included weather bomb accessory. That’s the accessory I wanted Traag to come with way back when and it’s from the show’s fourth episode. It’s just a little, black, ball with gray indentations on it. There’s a sculpted button and what would be the screen. I wish we had an effect to make it look like it was active, or that it could split in half, but oh well. It can be held in that left hand though and is fairly sturdy. For the right hand, we have a pistol that’s the exact same mold as what came with Traag and Granitor only now it’s painted gray and black. Unfortunately, the rock soldier does not have a holster for it and the trigger finger is extended too far to actually rest on the trigger. We also have two rifles. It’s painted gray with dark gray parts. The eyepiece on the scope is painted purple while the muzzle has some red in it. It’s fine and it fits snugly into the rock soldier’s trigger hand. I’m guessing we get two in case you want to give one to Traag or Granitor. Lastly, we have a blue mutagen canister. It’s the updated two-piece version and the contents are painted green. This one is only painted in one shade of blue with black linework and doesn’t feature the shading of past versions, but it’s cool to get a blue version of the two-piece one.

Traag seems happy to have an actual squadron at his command.

All in all, this isn’t a two-pack of characters people have been begging for nor is it the type that’s going to knock anyone’s socks off. It is, however, very good for what it is and it’s hard to imagine NECA doing a better job with either character. What complaints I have are pretty minor, and I’m quite impressed by the amount of new sculpting in place here and the amount of paint is typical NECA, which is to say it’s a lot and it’s impressive. This line continues to be a tremendous value and anyone looking to amass a small army of rock soldiers and get the gang together should be plenty satisfied with this one. The one stuck hip in my set is slightly concerning, but it is one of three figures and it’s not an issue I’ve seen with that style of joint so I feel pretty confident that I just got a bad one and it’s not giving me much pause for concern. I would say buy with confidence. This set is presently being shipped out to Target stores and should be on shelves now. As of this writing it’s also available online at Target’s website and retails for $55 making this one of the easiest sets to acquire yet.


NECA Cartoon TMNT Premonition of a Premutation SDCC 4-Pack

Straight from San Diego Comic Con 2022, it’s another NECA 4-pack of action figures from the classic cartoon series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

It was a little over a month ago that San Diego Comic Con occurred, in person, for the first time since 2019. This was cause for a celebration, even if for those of us who take in the convention from the comfort of our homes saw little change. Even without the event taking place the past two years, it didn’t stop most companies from saving announcements for the summer time to get all of those who are into the sort of subject matter featured at the convention worked up into a frenzy. It also didn’t stop those same companies from making convention exclusives.

NECA has been in the business of making con exclusive sets for years now. And unlike some companies, they have always made sure to include those who couldn’t make it in on the fun. This would often mean selling the exclusives on their website during the convention, or shortly before, which was often quite successful, but also lead to sell-outs and some hurt feelings along the way. With the convention getting cancelled, the exclusives were shifted to retail, but this year marked the return of the NECA webstore sale. And going back several years now, one of the pillars of con season for NECA has been Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. With the brand becoming the most popular thing NECA makes product for, the company has made sure to make a lot of stock available when it comes to these exclusives. And just like with 2021, NECA has turned to its toon subline of TMNT for another convention four-pack: Premonition of a Premutation.

It’s the figures you always wanted as a kid! Okay, well maybe not every body. Left to right: Baxter Stockman, Hamato Yoshi, Bebop, and Rocksteady.

As the name implies, this is a four-pack of popular characters from the show in their less celebrated pre-mutation forms. They are: Baxter Stockman, Hamato Yoshi, Bebop, and Rocksteady. Fans have been asking for these versions of the characters for years now and most knew it was only a matter of time given how popular the line is. Plus, the company already unveiled Scrag, one of the seldom seen gang members associated with Bebop and Rocksteady in the show’s earliest days, as a figure for Loot Crate that NECA swears will see the light of day some day. Obviously, even as a limited release item, NECA isn’t going to make Scrag and not the more popular punkers. Hamato Yoshi also felt like a given and we saw Baxter teased via the packaging on the Turtles in Disguise set last year. The only real surprise is that they were reserved for a convention exclusive four-pack, but given how easy it was to secure a set, this doesn’t seem like a bad thing. It only stinks for those who were only interested in one or two figures in the set and not all four since it wasn’t exactly cheap at $150 plus shipping. We also had to pay upfront and wait awhile if ordering online. I paid for this item on June 3rd and it was supposed to ship after the convention concluded on July 24th and I didn’t end up receiving it until August 24th. That was definitely a longer wait than usual for these convention exclusives, but it’s here now so let’s talk about it.

“Has anyone seen my glasses?!”

The set comes housed in the now standard NECA four-pack setup. It’s a long box with a front flap that’s secured by Velcro. All around the box is new artwork based on the cartoon featuring the characters and likely a few hints here and there about what could possibly be on the way. There are product shots on the rear, and the front flap lifts up to reveal the figures inside. They’re packaged all in a row with some of their accessories visible, and more behind them (basically just the optional hands). My box arrived in good shape and would have been suitable as a mint-in-box item, thought I did have one issue which we’ll get to momentarily.

He may have a net, but what he really needs is a fly swatter.

For me, and I think most collectors, the character I most wanted from this set has been Baxter Stockman so I’m going to start with him. Baxter made his debut in the show’s second episode as the inventor of the Mousers which would soon terrorize the turtles and especially their master, Splinter. It was fitting he debuted in the show’s second episode since he made his original debut in the second issue of the comic, though he looked much different. Baxter would become a lackey for Shredder, sort of a right-hand man, and he remained in that role into the show’s second season where he underwent his mutation into a fly at about the midpoint of that season. As a kid, I remember waiting for that to happen since I knew there was a mutant fly toy with the same name as the character I was seeing on television and I was pretty excited when that day finally arrived. NECA delivered the fly version of the character awhile ago now, which is kind of funny when one considers that the human version of Baxter appeared in the show more often than the fly one, but we all remember and love the old toy so it’s easily the dominant image when one conjures up the name Baxter Stockman. Baxter is also the only figure in this set to not get a figure in his human form back in the old Playmates days. The other 3 were all featured in the Mutations subline, so while not stand-alone figures, their human forms were at least represented in some fashion.

“Baxter! You’re of no use to me at this height!”

Let’s get it out of the way upfront: this figure is too short. A lot of this set contains reused parts from previously released figures to keep costs down. That’s fine when the reuse makes sense, but in the case of Baxter it really doesn’t. NECA reused most of the parts from the fly version, but when Baxter was mutated he also shrunk. In the show, he was shorter than Shredder, but about as tall as the turtles. Scale was not the show’s strong point, but it was fairly accurate in those first five episodes where Baxter debuted and I maintain that, whenever possible, that original mini series should be the go-to when it comes to character designs and scaling. Unfortunately, Baxter is about 4.25″ tall to the top of his head, a little taller when factoring in the hair, and when placed beside Shredder he looks ridiculous. He looks like some sort of goblin or something. He barely looks human because the scale is just so goofy and it really does drive me nuts. It’s probably not something that will bother everyone, but it does me. My figure also has another big problem: no glasses! They’re supposed to be attached to his head in the box and when I got my set I was surprised to see them missing, but figured they must have fallen off during transport and were in there somewhere. Nope, no glasses to be found. I emailed NECA right away and around 24 hours later received a response that said a replacement head will be shipped to me as soon as possible. We shall see, but I’ll certainly update this post should that happen.

I wish they had gone with the same grin he’s sporting on the box. This expression is just puzzling.

Aside from the height and glasses issues, the figure does do a decent job of recreating Baxter’s look. He has the same torso as the fly version which features the now black vest and yellow bowtie. The lab coat has been added and is fairly flexible and he has his sneakers instead of ugly, purple, feet. The head is okay, though a little oversized for the body in some respects. He has a somewhat neutral expression though his mouth is contorted in such a way that maybe he’s a little angry or in thought? He has his wild hair and it’s well-painted and fits the character. The face looks off-model from certain angles and might be due to how his nose angles up a bit. I think he looks better from the side than the front, but it’s not as-if he’s unrecognizable. It’s a decent depiction of the character, just not the homerun some of other figures in this line have been. Of course, mine has some ugly holes in the temples where his glasses should plug-in, but hopefully that’s only temporary.

“Good boy!”

As for his articulation, it’s about what one would expect. His head is surprisingly not impacted much by the hair. He basically can look in all directions and the only one that’s limited is looking up. The shoulders are standard ball-hinges and they raise out to the side almost horizontal and rotate. NECA used their controversial double-elbow with this guy which they do a lot for human characters in jackets or sleeves so you get rotation above and below the elbow and the bend goes past 90 degrees, it just looks weird because the piece in the middle is fairly long so rather than the elbow coming to a point when bent, it’s squared-off. The hands rotate and feature a horizontal hinge. The waist is connected via a ball-peg, but it basically only offers rotation as the torso is covered up by the plastic overlay for the shirt. The legs are ball-sockets and come out to about 45 degrees and he can kick forward enough and kick back just a little before the “diaper” piece gets in the way. The knees are double-jointed and work fine while the ankles feature the standard hinge and rocker combo. The cuffs of the pants get in the way a bit, but this isn’t a guy who will be doing much posing and what we have here is fine. The left foot on mine falls off frequently as I think they missed some glue at the factory, but that’s probably not a common occurrence.

Baxter has a tiny set of turtles that may be sparsely painted, but are still pretty cool nonetheless.

As for the paint, Baxter looks pretty good. The lab coat is a mix of white on the front and a light blue on the read and inside. There’s a lot of black linework and I really like how the front pockets turned out. The line work on his face is very clean, as is the black on the shoes. There’s a very light scuff on part of the jacket and some parts where the paint came out a touch thick, but that’s only noticeable upon really close inspection. Some of the joints will flake, but they all appear to be painted in the appropriate color so it’s just a mild annoyance. Overall, the paint application is easily the strong point of the figure and I have no complaints with it.

Wise human Hamato Yoshi.

Our next figure is Hamato Yoshi, the man who would one day become Splinter the rat and mentor to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (he seriously calls them that in the first episode, it’s so silly). Unlike Baxter, Yoshi does not reuse any parts from his previously released mutated form. Even the kimono is new as NECA chose to sculpt it rather than utilize soft goods. He stands a tick under 5.5″ to the top of his hair and basically looks the part. NECA did a good job with the facial likeness as Yoshi had a fairly unique look to him in the show. He wears his kimono more like a shirt in his human form with it tucked into some striped pants and fixed in place with a black belt. Curiously, there’s no shading on the pants, but the black lines are painted very well. There’s still shading on the top, but that’s it aside from the shading in the hair (which looks really good). I’ll just say the paint is well done with him, rather than devote an entire paragraph to it, and he definitely looks more on-model than Baxter.

“Life as a rat isn’t so bad, you get used to eating out of the trash.”

As for articulation, we would like a ninja master such as Hamato Yoshi to move better than Baxter and he does in some respects, but not in others. His head is on a double-ball-peg and gets good range of motion. There’s no joint at the base of the neck so he doesn’t look down super far, but far enough. The shoulders are ball-hinged and he can raise his arms out to the side okay while the shoulders of the kimono piece need to be worked around when rotating. It’s at the elbow where NECA made an odd choice to go with a single hinge and swivel. The biceps piece is cut at an angle and it makes it look like his arms are slightly bent all of the time. The puffy nature of the sleeves must have convinced NECA to do it this way, but he can just barely hit 90 degrees at the hinge and the swivel only works a little bit as it throws off the sculpt in most, non-neutral, positions. The wrists rotate and feature horizontal hinges and he has the same limited ball-joint at the waist as Baxter. At the hips, he can almost do full splits. He can’t really kick back though and kicking forward only goes so far until the legs want to shoot out to the side. The knees are double-jointed and NECA continued the paint on the top piece so they don’t look bad when bent, not on the bottom. He can bend his knees past 90 though and it looks okay. Above the ankle is a swivel point and below that we get the usual hinge and rock combo which works fine. One thing I wish he could do better than he does is sit, but otherwise he moves around fine.

Bebop sure had style back before he got mutated.

Next up is the tallest figure in the box and it’s Bebop. Bebop is also the first black character in the line and might end up being the only one as I can’t recall many others from the old show. He too also doesn’t reuse anything from his mutated counterpart, but he does appear to share some parts with Vernon. He stands around 6.25″ to the top of his head, and nearly a full 7″ when you factor in the mohawk. He’s pretty lanky looking, which seems close enough to the source material. He has the big red jacket and purple mohawk and matching glasses and the paint is all really well done. There’s shading on the torso, but not on the pants as they’re all black. I think I like the facial likeness on this guy the best out of all of the figures in the set and he may be my favorite overall.

Bebop looks pretty good, but these elbows are weird.

The articulation with Bebop is a bit similar to Yoshi in that I’m not crazy about the elbows. The head and neck are articulation via ball pegs and they work very well. He can even look up quite far with that mohawk of his so long as you turn the head first to avoid his giant collar. The ball-hinges at the shoulders allow the arms to be raised out to the side, but again NECA went with a simple hinge and swivel for the elbows. Bebop’s arms basically can’t be positioned straight and will always have a slight bend to them. When bent, you basically get 90 degrees out of it, but it looks odd because the actual hinge is above the elbow, which is sculpted and painted. They don’t make visual sense when bent and I wish I could say it was less noticeable than it really is, but he basically always looks “off” to a certain degree unless his arms are left in a neutral position. He has the same waist joint as the others and the hips are fine as he has the most range of anyone kicking forward and back in this set. He can almost do splits too, not that he needs to. This is also as good a time as any to say the hips are all nice and snug in this set, which is a noted improvement over some past releases. The knees are double-jointed and they work fine while the ankles are hinged and rock. There’s no boot swivel so don’t try to crank on those parts.

We might as well call him Mr. Big Head.

Lastly, we have Rocksteady who features a lot of parts reuse, but not from the rhino version of the character. Like Bebop, Rocksteady gets his parts from a member of the Channel 6 News Crew, in his case it’s Burne. This means Rocksteady is pretty short coming in at 5.5″. He’s probably a bit undersized compared with his character model, but not as severely as Baxter. His proportions are also a little odd as Burne featured a pretty big melon so Rocksteady does as well. His head was not this massive compared with his body in the show, but he’s at least still clearly Rocksteady and wouldn’t be mistaken for someone else. And since he’s based on Burne, he has another oddity in that he has two belts. The overlay on his torso features a belt sculpted onto the bottom while the pants on Burne featured a sculpted belt on the hips piece. It’s only noticeable if you’re looking for it, but it is odd. The paint on him is pretty good though with the pants and vest both featuring the usual shading, though the sleeves of his t-shirt are not shaded. There are some scuff marks on the rear my figure concerning the pants, but the front looks fine. The linework is all done really well, but overall I think he might be the weakest of the set. The giant head just bothers me more than Baxter’s shortness (I’m disregarding the missing glasses since that’s likely a me issue) and he’s another one I’d consider acceptable, but definitely not a strength of the line.

“Hey! Don’t even think about touching my soup, Ugly!”

Burne is possibly the worst articulated figure in the line so unfortunately that’s going to extend to Rocksteady as well. The head is on a ball-peg and that’s fine as he’s not restricted by the sculpt at all and can look in all directions. The shoulders are ball-hinged and they can get out to the side, but his elbows are terrible. They’re always bent a little bit, and more-so than we saw with Bebop. There’s just one hinge and when bent fully gets to about 90 degrees, but since the neutral pose is already bent you’re only getting a range of motion here of about 45 degrees. He also has the same issue as Bebop where the elbows are painted and shaped to be below the hinge and it just looks really weird. The hands rotate and hinge horizontally and the waist joint is a ball-peg that just basically allows for a twist with very little forward and back or side-to-side. The legs do not kick out very far, but he can almost do a split. The knees are double-jointed, but very tight. I can get the top hinge to work okay, but the bottom is fairly stubborn. Ideally, if only one worked you’d prefer it be the bottom so the kneecap stays in place. He can bend past 90 degrees though. There’s no boot cut and the ankles do the same thing all of the others do. Overall, he might be the worst articulated, though Baxter does have the long coat to contend with, but the only part I’m really disappointed with are those elbows.

Rocksteady’s elbows might be worse than Bebop’s.

Okay, that was a lot of words on some figures so now lets spend some more on accessories! Each character comes with a set of fist hands in the package and some additional ones to swap to. Baxter has a set of gripping hands with the left hand being looser than the right. He also has a more open, but still clenching, left hand and a right pointing hand. Hamato Yoshi has a set of gripping hands, karate chop hands, and a loose gripping left hand. Bebop has a gripping right hand, an open, but clenchy right hand, and two left loose gripping hands. Those two look almost the same, but I think one is slightly more closed than the other. Functionally, they’re almost the same though and I don’t understand why he doesn’t have a tight, gripping, left hand to pair with the right one. Rocksteady has a set of gripping hands and a set of open hands. The open hands are the same ones that Burne came with and they’re oddly shaped like maybe to be used as typing hands with the computer he came with? They’re weird and probably useless with Rocksteady.

“Hey Bebop! Get a load of these pipsqueaks!” “Yeah, they sure are ugly! Not as pretty as we are.”

In addition to hands, we have a whole bunch of other stuff too. Baxter comes with another Mouser and its the same as the one from the set released earlier this year. He also has the jeweled tracking device for some special crystal from a Season Two episode and there’s another tracking device that almost looks like it has a turtle shell in the center. They’re both painted very well and give Baxter something to hold onto. He also comes with a net for catching tiny turtles which are also here and come housed in a jar. The turtles are removable, but they’re one piece sculpted together and the only paint is green and yellow. They still look pretty neat and it’s certainly a fun accessory. The sculpt on the tiny turtles is also pretty damn impressive, as far as I can tell. The net is fairly basic and the actual net portion is soft plastic. I’m surprised they didn’t go for the real thing, but maybe that would have cost too much. Baxter Stockman is definitely well-stocked, pun intended, though and about the only thing missing is the remote for the Mousers. I’m seriously shocked that hasn’t been included with something yet.

These baby turtles are pretty damn great.

Hamato Yoshi is comparably much lighter in the accessory department than Baxter, but he has a few things. For one, he has a bo staff to arm himself with. It has some sculpted lines to simulate wood grain, but is otherwise very basic and just painted brown. He also comes with a translucent fishbowl and four baby turtles. They’re pretty damn cute and painted rather well considering how small they are. The only thing that stinks about them is it’s really hard to get them to stand on all fours inside the bowl. I’d probably have to get tweezers to do it properly. It would have been nice to get just a blob of mutagen for them to stand on outside of the bowl, and maybe one to go on the back of a shell, but this is fine.

Sometimes you just need some good tunes when committing acts of vandalism.

Bebop and Rocksteady essentially have a bunch of stuff they can share. Rocksteady has his stick that sort of resembles a baseball bat, but not quite. It’s a light brown with some black linework and certainly looks the part. There’s also a baseball bat if you prefer the real thing and it’s a very light brown with white tape painted onto the handle, but surprisingly no wood grain. It’s also not the same bat included with Casey Jones as this one is slightly smaller, so that’s also a surprise. There’s also a gray crowbar and an actual chain since I think it was Bebop who did sport one in the show. They also come with two cans of spray paint and the sculpt on these is really fun. It would have been cool if they could have attached the nozzles via small ball-pegs similar to the controls in Krang’s body, but they look cool. One is painted blue with a green, wavy, line across the center while the other is purple with the same green line. Rocksteady really can’t hold them though, but Bebop’s slightly wider clenched hand holds them well. Lastly, we get a new boom box which is different from the one included with the Turtles in Disguise set. It has a fairly simple design, but it’s painted well enough. The accessories are often a strong point with these four-packs, and with this set, that’s pretty much the case. What’s missing amounts to nitpicks, and it’s great to be able to add yet another Mouser to the family.

These two feel right at home in a darkened alley.

Overall, this a solid release from NECA. Compared with last year’s convention exclusive, I might like this one just a little bit more because we’re getting four, distinct, characters where as last year’s included another Vernon and Cat April wasn’t particularly high on my wants list. Plus, I can only get so excited for the news crew, even if I did want all of those characters on my shelf. With these four, I did want to add them all. The one I was probably least interested in is Hamato Yoshi, but a TMNT collection should include him so it’s not like I’m disappointed. He also arguably turned out the best out of all of the figures in this set. It’s really between him and Bebop, who would be perfect if not for the elbows. Baxter and Rocksteady are the two most off-model, and my Baxter obviously has the missing glasses which is a real bummer. I’m not one to complain as everyone makes mistakes and all products have a fail rate, but it does irritate me that two out of the past five shipments I’ve received from NECA featured an obvious defect readily apparently to anyone who would have looked at it. A missing accessory stored under the tray would be one thing, but the glasses are supposed to be right on the figure’s face! Does anyone inspect the product before shipping it?

Criticisms aside, this Rocksteady is certainly an improvement over the old one. I don’t have Bebop from that line, but if memory serves they made him white and I’m fairly positive the new one is an improvement. Same for Yoshi.

Frustrations aside, if you wanted human versions of these characters in your collection then this set should scratch that itch. Yes, two out of the four figures could have been better from a likeness point-of-view, but they’re not hideous or anything. They just aren’t as good as some of the other releases we’ve seen of late. None are threatening April for worst in the line, but none are challenging the likes of Chrome Dome for the top spot either. They’re merely adequate, but they didn’t really need to do much more than that. If you missed out on the web sales or the convention itself then you may be out of luck when it comes to this set. The after-market will definitely have some and it might not be the type of set that’s super sought after. There is no retail release planned though, but convention exclusives from NECA’s past have shown up recently on costumes.com so maybe keep an eye out there. It’s entirely possible that NECA didn’t sell every set and the extra will show up there or maybe even at Target? In other words, it might pay off to be patient, but it could also mean missing out completely. If this is a set you think your collection will be incomplete without, then it might make more sense to act now rather than chance it. Hopefully, your Baxter will have glasses.


Gundam Robot Spirits The 08th MS Team Option Parts Sets 1 and 2 (Ver. A.N.I.M.E.)

Like weapons and things for your figures? Well have I got a recommend for you!

We’re back with another look at a Robot Spirits release in the Mobile Suit Gundam – The 08th MS Team line of products. Only this time we’re not technically talking about a new action figure, but a pair of accessory sets. It would seem Bandai intends to supplement this line with additional accessories like weaponry and vehicles that it can’t pack into the general releases. What kind of value collectors derive from each will largely depend on how many figures they plan to purchase and what their preferred weaponry is for the Gundams and Zaku units. I was on the fence with these sets, but ultimately decided to take a look so I’ll tell you about them here.

Not quite like the anime.

It didn’t seem like each set needed its own entry, so I’m going to talk about the first two option parts sets that have been released thus far. A third one is planned for early 2023. And we might as well talk about set one first which is largely a set of additional weaponry for the Gundam Ground Type. The main Gundam of the 08th MS Team had a few different loadouts when it came to weapons, though mostly we would see either a beam rifle or machine gun. It was in the intro to the show that we saw the RX-79 wielding the much larger 180mm rifle with the Gundam on one knee and the massive rifle propped on a shield that had been jammed into the ground. This set seeks to allow collectors to replicate that look on their shelf by including a blast effect for the rifle that came with the figure and an insert for the shield. The blue portion of the shield pops off and the new insert is just shorter with a peg on the bottom so it can fit into an included base. It looks fine, and I like getting a blast effect for the weapon, but the figure can’t actually crouch low enough to have the gun rest on the top of the shield. The box art appears to suggest otherwise, but upon looking closer it appears to be a trick of the camera and the shield is in the foreground and Gundam in the background. It’s kind of a bummer, because it doesn’t work for a shelf, though the new base for the shield at least provides an alternative way to display the shield when not on the figure’s forearm. It also works fine with the Desert Spec release.

Looks cool, but the weight basically means the elbow on my figure has to be bent as far as it will go to support it as the wrist just can’t do it.

Our next weapon is the rocket launcher. It’s a large weapon meant to rest on the Gundam’s shoulder. There are some moving and sliding parts to make it a bit easier to position, though they can pose an annoyance as things slide around. The magazine is removable and the neat part of that is they actually sculpted the rocket inside. There’s basically no paint though, which makes it a lot like other weapons we’ve seen. It also comes with a blast effect that features a plume of smoke with a rocket emerging out of the front. It looks really cool, but it also adds a lot of weight to the weapon. It’s not the easiest thing to pose especially if any part of your figure is a on the loose side, such as the right wrist with mine. There’s also an included adapter for the rear of the figure. You have to remove the backpack frame to access it, but the adapter allows the Gundam to stow the bazooka if that’s your preference.

The left arm works a little better, as does the missile launcher in general since its stockier design and rear smoke trail helps distribute the weight better than the rocket launcher.
Frontal shot so you can see the plastic tabs that come off to accommodate the effect parts. This weapon is rather delicate, but if you get it positioned right, it does look pretty cool.

Our next weapon is the missile launcher. This is another weapon intended to be shoulder mounted and it includes some blast effects. The actual gun is in four pieces: a frame, and three chambers for the missiles. For some reason, the chambers are removable which might sound neat, but it’s a bit of a pain as the thing constantly comes apart in the hands when trying to position it. There is a panel on the front of each chamber that needs to be removed if you want to attach the blast effect. And that effect is pretty cool as it contains multiple missiles blasting forth. There’s another smoke effect intended for the rear of the gun to complete the effect, and this added weight on the rear of the weapon helps make this one far more stable than the rocket launcher. It looks pretty cool, but I don’t know if I like it enough to actually use in my display.

“The filthy Feddies blew off my arm!”

The last item in this first set is an accessory for the Zaku. In the first encounter between Shiro and Norris, the Zaku gets damaged and loses an arm. If you want to recreate that battle, Bandai included a little nub to be plugged into the Zaku in place of the figure’s left arm. It’s a simple thing and it looks cool, but is another one of those accessories that might make more sense for those who are buying multiple Zaku units, and at around 75 bucks a pop, I don’t know if I’m going to be one of those collectors.

Set #2 is more focused on a pair of vehicles to add a little life to the display. Here we have the Hover Truck and Dop ship.

The second set of option parts are a little different. This one is more focused on support vehicles for those wishing to create more of a diorama with their collection as well as a few pieces the figures can utilize. The main draw for me was the Hover Truck. In the show, the 08th team consists of three mobile suits and the Hover Truck helmed by Eledore and Michel. The included Hover Truck here is to scale with the mobile suits so it’s pretty small, kind of like a Hot Wheel, but all plastic. It has some paint where needed and mostly looks the part. It’s modular though in that it can be presented as if it’s moving or if it’s stationary. The ground sonar probe on the right of the vehicle can be popped off and replaced with a deployed unit and the antennae on the right side can be removed and replaced with a tall, deployed, version. The cover on the back is also removable and the ramps on the front and rear of the tank are also functional. The turret on the top also can move a bit. There’s also an awning that can attach to the side and there’s a little table and chairs set (all one piece) that can be placed underneath it. Lastly, we have three unpainted character figures of Shiro, Michel, and Kiki. I initially thought it was odd they didn’t include Eledore, the actual driver of the tank, but this release is clearly aiming to recreate the scene from the sixth episode which Eledore wasn’t a part of.

This is the Hover Truck in travel mode while on the Dop I have the broken right wing attachment. Note the peg holes for thruster effects and the slot on the top of the dome is intended for a blast effect to simulate the Dop being hit by enemy fire.
It’s neat that Dop comes with landing gear, but I suspect most will want to put it on a stand for a flying pose. Note that the front guns can also receive effects parts for simulated firing.

To balance things out, there’s also an included Dop ship for the Hover Truck to take aim at. This one has a little weight to it and looks rather good. The windshield is transparent and there’s clearly some sculpting inside the ship that can be seen through it. Like the Hover Truck, there is a modular element at play as the ship can be displayed with the landing gear deployed or without. It also has a few slots for blast effects, damage bursts, and can make use of a flight stand. Sadly, there are no blast effects included for it, be it the guns or the thrusters. The ends of the wings can also pop off and be replaced with damaged ones, but I feel like Bandai could have done a better job of making the damaged wings look damaged as it wouldn’t be clear to someone unfamiliar with the Dop’s design. It’s well done though and all of the parts are engineered so that it’s basically impossible to put a piece in the wrong spot. Again, I just wish we got some effects for it.

If you prefer gray to yellow/gold, Bandai has you covered.

The last parts we have to talk about are for the Rx-79. First, we have a new “crown” piece for the head. The standard one is yellow, but in the final episodes the pilot Sanders was depicted with a gray piece on his mobile suit rather than the yellow. I always assumed this was an animation error, but it is what it is and if you prefer that look now you have the option to switch it. It’s also helpful for those who get multiple versions of the RX-79 to add a bit of variety, especially because we also get another head! In the anime, Karen’s mobile suit got its head knocked off and replaced with a head from the GM mobile suit for the final episodes. To complete that look, there are also two blast shields that clip over the shield included with the figure release. These shields looked more reinforced and it’s kind of cool to have the option. There’s two of them too so you can have a Karen and a Sanders in your display from that last arc if you so wish.

Now you don’t have to cannibalize another 70 dollar figure to achieve this look for Karen. Also pictured is the assault shield attachment.

Both of these sets exist just to provide more options for any 08th MS Team display. Option Parts 1 is definitely more as described since it’s weighted towards weaponry. If you like the weapons, or want to display a damaged Zaku it makes sense to grab. I do wish the weapons were easier to work with, but they can be finagled to create what I consider to be a worthwhile display. The second set is all about the two vehicles: the Hover Truck and Dop. Both look the part, but also do feel a bit underwhelming since they don’t do much. The extra parts for the RX-79 are fine, though I don’t think I’ll ever choose to go with the GM head, but maybe I’ll change my mind once the Ez-8 gets released. Both sets cost 50 bucks a piece from US retailers so it’s not as cheap as I’d like. If both were 30 then I’d feel a lot better about it. Instead, I’m more lukewarm here, but again I only have two Gundam RX-79G figures. If I had three or more then I’d definitely be more interested in using these. As for the second set, I felt I needed a Hover Truck so I’m more content there and the Dop adds a little something too. At the end of the day, I don’t regret either purchase, but it’s also hard for me to give either a true, glowing, endorsement. This is one of those classic cases of “your milage may vary.”


S.H.Figuarts Dragon Ball Super Son Goku Super Hero

Wait! Don’t go! I swear this is a Goku worth talking about!

Back in the early 2000s I was a collector of Irwin Toys’ Dragon Ball Z line of action figures. When I started collecting that line, I just focused on my favorite characters which were primarily Vegeta, Trunks, and Piccolo. Gradually, the collector impulse took over and I started buying entire waves as they came out even if I never would have imagined I’d buy a figure of Yakon or Yamcha in a yellow suit. Anyway, what happened is my collection was surprisingly light on DBZ’s main character: Goku. Irwin was also pretty bad at keeping popular figures in circulation, they basically made a wave of figures and then moved onto the next one so late adopters were pretty screwed (and maybe that’s partly why they went out of business during the line’s life). I would eventually get the Series 4 standard Goku, but only because I found it on clearance for 4 dollars at a KB Toys (it was a pretty bad likeness), but I never got a Super Saiyan Goku or others. I did get some of the later Goku figures that Irwin and Jakks Pacific (who bought the license from Irwin when it went bankrupt) released, but my collection was definitely light on the legendary Saiyan.

I lead-off with that nugget of info because I’m partly amused, and partly shocked, that Goku dominates my collection of S.H.Figuarts based on Dragon Ball. This latest release based on the new movie Dragon Ball Super – Super Hero brings my total of Goku figures to 5, which isn’t a ton, but it’s amusing to me because I have only 1 Vegeta, 1 Piccolo, and zero Trunks. I’m also not including in my total of Goku figures my Goku Black and the two Kid Goku figures. Perhaps more amusing to me, the only other characters I have multiples of are Krillin, Master Roshi (one as Jackie Chun), and Bulma(!). I’m pretty sure the me of the early 2000s would be quite surprised that I would have more Bulmas than Vegetas, but that’s where we are. This obviously wasn’t deliberate on my part to make up for my lack of Goku 20 years ago. It’s largely the result of me getting into this line very slowly. I initially only intended to collect the figures from Dragon Ball, but they’re so few and far between that I started branching out to Z and Super and event GT! There are figures of Vegeta and Trunks that I’d like to have, but they’re no longer in circulation and I’m just not willing to go secondhand on them. Maybe one day, but for now Goku gets to dominate.

I wouldn’t normally advocate for buying a figure just for a new face, but I might for this one.

So why am I adding another Goku to my collection? Well, I didn’t have a base Goku having passed on the Saiyan Raised on Earth release and when this particular figure went up for solicitation I just happened to like it. The color palette for the new movie is based on the manga and the promotional images just made this figure look nice. Rather than a red-orange gi, this Goku is sporting a much lighter shade of orange. The promo images did a good job of making the figure look like it had more of a matte finish, and the portraits looked really sharp. And since it was being solicited at the bargain price of $35 I figured “why not?” And I’m happy to say the figure is more or less as expected. This is a Goku after all and it’s on a body that we should all be plenty familiar with and those promotional images ended up being honest about some parts of the figure, and less so about others.

The yelling expression is also on point. Whatever Bandai did differently with this one, keep it up!

First of all, the portraits for this Goku look terrific. In comparing them with past releases, I’ve narrowed it down to a few things that seem to make them “pop” better than before. For one, Bandai painted all of the lines including the ones under the eyes. They also used black instead of that brown shade they often use on the faces which helps to better reflect the anime. The eyes also look to be larger and the eyebrows have a little more shape to them. That’s pretty much it, which isn’t much, but the end result looks so much better. These are the best portraits of any Goku I have and it’s also helped by the selection. There’s the usual smirky face, plus a side-eye smirk that’s a little redundant. Then we get a yelling face which looks great because they made sure to round off the eyes, as Goku is often depicted, and the paint is so sharp that it really feels like Goku is screaming at me when I look at the thing. The fourth portrait is more of a frightened or surprised look which we’ve seen out of Goku plenty of times, usually in more comedic moments. It’s my favorite of the bunch and since it’s so different from the other figures I have it’s likely I go with this look in my display.

I’ve expressed my displeasure with this butterfly joint in multiple reviews, but I don’t think I’ve ever photographed it.

Aside from the faces, this Goku is pretty much like all of the others. There are actually subtle differences among the Goku figures I had before this one. Super Saiyan God Goku has a slightly leaner mold in places while the absurdly long named Goku had a different torso due to some battle damage while Super Saiyan 4 Goku is very much its own thing. This figure though is exactly the same as the Super Saiyan Blue Goku I reviewed a while ago. That’s both a good and bad thing. On one hand, the figure is a solid representation of Goku from the anime. It looks pretty good, the proportions are okay, and it mostly moves well. It’s just getting long in the tooth. There are some things it doesn’t do well, like move at the hips out to the side or much at all in the torso. If you wanted this Goku to be positioned in a true flying pose where he’s parallel with the ground it wouldn’t work because he can’t bend his head back far enough. The butterfly joint also isn’t the greatest and this figure has the same problem as that prior Goku in that the inner portion of the butterfly joint was molded in a flesh color instead of orange so it looks like his shirt is ripping. He also has the old shoulders which seem to be getting phased out and they feature the sleeves pinned to them which I have never liked. The ankles are also still on ball-pegs and they’re not great either. That’s what it doesn’t do very well, but what it can do is allow for enough posing that someone with many Gokus on the shelf can still find variety here.

A sampling of Gokus. This figure and the one on the right (the figure’s left) are pretty much the same.

I don’t feel the need to dive into the articulation anymore than that given this is a reused figure covered before. The only other thing to talk about are the rest of the aesthetics and accessories. Given this is a $35 release, it’s probably no surprise that the accessories are limited to the face plates and hands. It’s always a bummer when we don’t get something extra, but thems the breaks. The hands are fairly standard: fists, open, martial arts pose, Kamehameha, and one right two-finger Instant Transmission posed hand. The gi is sculpted in that lighter orange and I like how it turned out. There’s still a bit of a glossiness to it, but it seems to be less severe than usual. The same can be said for the other parts of the figure like the flesh tones and blues. The painted bits are color-matched well and applied cleanly. The undershirt and sleeves are painted better than my other Goku figures and the boots are nicely done. There is some shading, but it’s limited to the lower parts of the legs. I’m not sure I quite understand what Bandai was going for here. Do they think it works best for an aura type effect? You basically have a darker orange at the shins that gradually blends into the light orange by the time it reaches the upper thigh with little shading anywhere else. There’s a hit of it on the orange part of the sleeves and maybe a tiny bit on the abdomen, but it’s so subtle that I’m not sure if my eyes are playing tricks on me or if it’s really there. Aside from that, the only other criticism I have for the paint is the opacity on the symbol on both the front and rear of the gi could have been increased. What looks very nice though is the hair which has a matte finish to it. I don’t know if they hit it with a clear finish or if the plastic is a little different as it feels softer than the black hair on Kid Goku. Whatever they did, keep it up because the hair turned out wonderful.

Goku is at least a character worthy of multiple releases. If you want a base Goku, this is the one to get.

The Super Hero version of Goku is likely a figure most fans will know if they want it or not the moment they see it. If you have a standard Goku already, it’s probably something that can be ignored. However, at $35 it’s quite cheap for a Figuarts release and that might get people to double-dip on base Gokus just for the new portraits. If you’re like me and don’t have a version of Goku like this, I think this is the superior release when compared with the Saiyan Raised on Earth version. That is largely a subjective opinion though as I prefer the more orange gi and I like the faces better. You may have the opposite opinion. At the end of the day, it’s certainly nice to have options.


Marvel Legends X-Men Animated Series Jean Grey

Another teammate has arrived for the animated X-Men.

For some reason, Jean Grey has never been treated well by toy makers. Back in the Toy Biz days, Jean had to wait several years to finally show up in the X-Men line of action figures, and once she did, it was in some gimmicky line in a costume that looked made-up. Her first, good, figure came in the Onslaught subline which was like a precursor to Marvel Legends. The scale was different, the sculpts were better, but preposed, and she was featured in her Jim Lee costume. By then, I had checked out and when Marvel Legends brought me back Jean was again left wanting. Seemingly, Toy Biz felt collectors only wanted a Jean Grey figure if she was in her Phoenix costume. Was it the gender bias working against her? Maybe, but then why did Storm, Psylocke, Rogue, etc. seem to have no trouble getting figures? Has Jean just historically been less popular by some metric with Marvel? I don’t know, but it bothered me when I was a kid that my team of X-Men was always missing a Jean and Phoenix just wasn’t a suitable replacement.

I haven’t been doing this with this line, but for this figure I feel like I have to. Here is Jean from the show. Note how she is NOT ORANGE!

Hasbro’s latest release in its line of action figures based on the animated series X-Men introduces a new hypothesis: maybe Jean is just hard to produce in plastic? I don’t really think that’s true, but it would be an understandable take for anyone who picks this figure up. Yes, we have yet another subpar release by Hasbro. When the line was announced, the fear on my part was that Hasbro would just grab a previously released figure, add a touch of cel-shading to the paint, and call it a day. With a figure like Mr. Sinister, that was the approach, but it worked because that old sculpt was suitable enough for the show version of the character and the paint job was pretty good. It was not without its problems and disappointments, but at the end of the day I felt like Sinister was a worthy addition to my shelf. With Jean, that’s not really the case.

She can’t even put her hands to her head for her traditional pose.

Hasbro finally did right by Jean and released her in her Jim Lee attire a few years ago. In a three-pack with Wolverine and Cyclops, that version of Jean came with two heads and four hands and had a decent enough sculpt at least. Perhaps to no one’s surprise, this release is exactly the same. That’s fine in some respects, and not in others. For one, Jean’s costume in the show and comic is basically the same excepting the colors. In the show, she had a tan and blue scheme instead of yellow and blue. I’m not sure why that change was made, maybe they just felt tan would look better on TV than yellow, but that’s a pretty easy thing to correct for. The other change is Jean went with a ponytail instead of wearing her hair down. This was likely just to differentiate her from Storm and Rogue and it’s basically her defining trait in the show.

“See the woman in this picture? You’re not her!”

So how did Hasbro screw this up? For one, she’s not blue and tan, she’s blue and orange. And when I say orange I mean very orange. Why couldn’t they cast her in the right shade? Beats me, but it looks terrible. Hasbro also chose not to retool her ponytail head from the previously released 3-pack. That head was meant to work with her long hair, except just tied back, only Jean in the show did not have a huge swath of hair that went all the way down her back. Her ponytail is huge and ridiculous looking, and I suppose just to annoy me a little more the part in her hair is off to the wrong side. Those inaccuracies are annoying, but to add to it her face just doesn’t look like Jean. The face might be re-tooled from that old release, or maybe just better painted, but either way it’s not good. She’s duck-mouthed with this weird smile and her eyes are really narrow. At least they’re green, but the paint job is also messy. It looks like they cast her head in blue and painted her face on and you can tell there’s a darker shade of plastic behind it. Usually the figure is cast in the lighter color and painted with the darker, but not here. The figure also has the same problems as the first release, and many of the Legends women, in that there’s little shape to the figure’s body. Yes, like most super hero women, she is pretty well endowed, but the silhouette is off. The body doesn’t taper much from the shoulders, to the bust, to the abdomen, and hips. She almost looks like a tube when viewed head-on. Hasbro is also seemingly afraid of letting their women have some muscle-tone in their arms and calves. These ladies are superheroes, sculpt them like superheroes!

No effect parts (big surprise) so I gave this Power Rangers one a shot. Meh.

Is anything done well? Aside from the box (and it looks like Hasbro supplied artist Dan Veesenmeyer with a sample or something to base his art on), the only compliment I can give this one is the cel-shading on the torso looks good. It’s probably the second best after Sinister. It’s easy to find reference art for how the black was applied and it works here. The shading on the legs is less successful as the orange paint is too close to the color of the plastic so it barely stands out. It’s limited to just two, thin, swashes on her thighs and doesn’t stand out on a shelf. I wish they did some around the textured portions on the sides of her legs or something, but someone must really like the Creamsicle look of these legs. The paint on her hands suffers from the same issue as the paint on her face, and the edges of the blue on the torso aren’t as crisp as they could be.

Why is this so hard?

Hasbro tends to short-change its female figures when it comes to articulation and Jean is no exception. She’s not going to do a whole lot and is very similar to Storm. Her head is on a ball-peg and it can look in most directions except up because her hair gets in the way. The ball-hinges at the shoulder work fine, though the shoulder pads are a hindrance going up. There’s no biceps swivel, just a swivel at the elbow which is a single hinge that only provides for about 90 degrees of bend. The hands rotate and hinge and need to work around the gauntlets. They should have sculpted the padding for the back of the hand to the hand itself, but chose not to. There’s a ball-joint in the diaphragm under the figure’s bust. It basically just lets her rotate with a little tilt. She can bend back a bit there, but not forward at all. There’s no waist twist and the legs only come out to the side about 45 degrees. There is a thigh cut, but like with every release in this line, it breaks up the shading so for me it’s kind of useless, but then again, the shading is barely visible so maybe it won’t bother me. The knees are double-jointed and really gummy, but they work. The ankles hinge and pivot and they’re the only joints I have no issues with. The others stuff is either too limited, gummy, or poorly engineered.

She can wear her down, if you wish. I don’t know why you would though.

Accessories have not been a strength for this line and that continues with Jean. We get open hands on the figure in the box and a set of fists since Jean is known for punching people. There’s also a second head and it’s recycled from the 3-pack and features her hair down. She has a neutral expression that I think is supposed to look mildly seductive, but it’s not working for me. It’s a totally useless addition though since Jean never looked like this in the show. The only time she had her hair down in costume was in the very last episode of the show when her costume was yellow and blue like the comics. Her hair was still not that massive and the figure isn’t colored properly for it to matter anyway. A completely wasted accessory. Why not junk that and toss in some effects parts instead? Or maybe spend a small amount of money to sculpt a Cerebro helmet for her to wear, since she was seen wearing that in the show on more the one occasion. It’s just as if the people working and designing this line don’t give a shit about the show or never watched it.

To the back with you, Jean!

Jean Grey is a phoned in release that Hasbro assumes you will buy because it vaguely looks like the character and you’re all-in anyway. And they might be right since I bought this despite it missing the mark by a wide margin. She might be the line’s new low point since it at least feels like some effort was put into that Jubilee figure, even if she doesn’t look like the character in the show and features an awful paint job. I only have this figure because I want to tell Hasbro there’s money in doing figures based on the cartoon, but if I wasn’t buying it for that reason there’s no way I would have bought this one. It’s not good, and I can’t recommend it especially at the price Hasbro is charging.


The Robot Spirits MS-06JC Zaku II Type JC ver. A.N.I.M.E.

Now you face the Zaku!

After talking about two different versions of the Gundam Ground Type from Mobile Suit Gundam – The 08th MS Team it’s about time we talk about the bad guys. That’s right, the Principality of Zeon has their own mobile suits, and in true bad guy fashion, they look pretty cool. Arguably cooler than the good guys and their Gundams. I say arguably because it’s definitely not as cut and dry as it was with say G.I. Joe in which Cobra always had the better looking vehicles and uniforms. The Gundams are mostly refined with a touch of elegance despite their rather beefy and cumbersome appearance. The Zeon and their Zaku are even bulkier with less flash, but they have a certain menace about them not present with the Gundam mobile suits. I think the distinction is captured rather well in the choice of melee weapon for each, the futuristic, Jedi-like beam sabers of the Gundam vs the violence of the axe-like Heathawk.

Weapon storage – the stuff that excites me.

Bandai has sunk its teeth into me with its Robot Spirits collection based on The 08th MS Team anime, so I basically had to get that show’s interpretation of the Zaku. The Zaku is, like the Gundam, featured in various series of Mobile Suit Gundam and it usually looks fairly recognizable to anyone familiar with the franchise. They’re usually green or olive drab and armed with that aforementioned axe, the Heathawk, and feature a single camera in the head that appears as a red, glowing, “eye” that makes the suit resemble a cyclops. They usually have some heavy artillery as well, maybe some spikes here and there, as well as tubes around the head or encircling the torso. They’re basically never not cool looking, and while I actually do prefer the look of the Gundam to it, that’s by no means a slight upon the Zaku.

This line runs small, but the scale from mobile suit to mobile suit is quite nice.

The Robot Spirits version of the Zaku from The 08th MS Team looks about as expected. It stands at approximately 5″ in height and is composed of mostly colored plastics of differing shades of green. There’s plenty of sculpted detailing on the body of the beast with a spiked shoulder pauldron on the left arm and a spiked shield on the right shoulder. This version of the Zaku appears to be based on the second episode of the series, and a spare part that comes in another set would only seem to confirm that since its a reference to a battle in that very episode. The main torso of the Zaku is a deep, forest, green while the limbs and head are a lighter shade of green. The hoses connecting the thigh and the lower leg as well as the head and torso are a gray, almost purple, color and in that head is the menacing red eye. Pop off the top part of the head and you can even spin that eye just like in the show to have the Zaku’s focus elsewhere.

Like the Ground Gundam, the Zaku is pretty beefy and tank-like, but it moves and poses well enough.

The Zaku, like the ground Gundam, is well-articulated for such a beefy design. The head is on a ball and hinge combo that lets it look way up as well as down a bit. It’s neat because as you force the head up the coil that is the neck becomes more exposed. There’s a butterfly-type joint in the sides of the torso that let the Zaku’s arms come forward a bit and an ab crunch that allows a generous amount of range forward, but little to none back. The shoulders are a bit limited, especially the left one, due to the presence of the pauldron and shield, respectively. The left arm can almost be raised to a horizontal position, while the right can achieve that and a touch more if you spin the shield around. There’s a biceps swivel and another swivel above the first elbow joint. You may want to make sure the upper elbow swivel is in the proper spot as mine was not out of the box and I thought it only had one elbow hinge. It does not, there are two, and the Zaku can bend its elbows well past 90 degrees. The wrists are the standard ball pegs and there is a waist twist, but it doesn’t seem to want to go very far to either direction so I’m not going to force the issue.

The last thing you see before you die.

At the hips we have the usual skirt armor and on the Zaku it blends really well when in a neutral pose. There’s something satisfying about kicking the legs forward and watching the skirt piece come apart. Anyway, the Zaku can kick out to the side at 45 degrees or better, and can kick forward a fair amount with almost nothing backwards. There is a thigh twist and the knee is double-jointed to bend past 90 degrees and it looks good. At the ankle, the feet can rock side to side a bit and the foot bends forward a surprisingly amount, but not back very far. There is a toe hinge that you have to pull out on first before it will bend back. It’s odd, but it works. All of the joints on this guy work very smooth and there’s a nice tolerance to them. He can wield his heavier weapons with little issue and overall I’m very happy with how the articulation turned out.

That’s a pretty big gun.

For the accessories, we have the usual load-out of hands plus a little “tree” to clip them onto. There’s gripping hands in the box, plus another set of tighter gripping hands, trigger hands, relaxed hands, and open hands. For weapons, this guy is pretty well stacked. There’s a collapsed Heathawk that can clip onto either hip plus a deployed Heathawk that’s longer and features a golden blade to simulate it heating up. He has his 120mm machine gun with circular magazine that can be held or stored on the rear of the figure with an adapter. He also has the Zaku bazooka which has an adapter for the rear of the figure and a second one for a shoulder mount meaning this guy can store all three of his main weapons without issue. The bazooka features a removable gravity-fed magazine that even has a little sculpted missile in it. Both weapons feature moving parts to help facilitate with posing, but feature little in the way of paint aside from the cameras on them. No effects parts are included for them either, but they can take them. The machine gun uses the same effect part as the ground Gundam’s machine gun while the bazooka uses a rocket effect that, as far as I know, has not been included in any 08th MS Team release. There’s also an interchangeable plate for the arm shield that replaces the spiked portion with a flat one as some Zaku in the show carried such a shield. Lastly, we have two effect parts for the Zaku’s rear thrusters, though these ones are not ball-jointed like the ground Gundam Desert type. The Zaku’s thrusters are on ball joints so you can at least adjust them there.

The figure holds this bazooka reasonably well, though the front handle is useless in a firing pose. Of course, with no included FX part it’s hard to say how well it truly works since those tend to add a lot of heft.

It’s a solid assortment of accessories, though as seems to always be the case with Tamashii Nations releases, I’m left wishing we got some more effect parts. This guy has spots on the figure where gunfire blasts can be affixed, like on the shield, to make it look like it’s under fire. And of course there’s both weapons that can use some. I really wish the bazooka came with a missile effect because the one included in the Options Set doesn’t fit. There is a part in that set though intended for the Zaku and it’s a battle damaged one. It’s basically a stump that can replace the figure’s left arm. It pops off and on pretty painlessly and it’s cool. It’s meant to allow for a recreation of the Shiro vs Norris fight in that second episode. The Zaku also has the usual peg hole for a Tamashii Nations stand, but does not come with one.

War. War never changes. Except when it does and includes light sabers and hot axes wielded by giant robots.

Overall, I’m really happy with this release from The Robot Spirits line. I might even like this Zaku more than the Gundam Ground Types I’ve reviewed as it’s real easy to work with. There’s plenty of options for a display right out of the box, and more if you have some additional accessory parts. It doesn’t feel as overwhelming as the two Gundams which almost have too many options that I can never settle on anything. And then when I do, I usually wind up feeling like my posing is way too vanilla for what they’re capable of. Nevertheless, that’s a “me” problem, and so is my desire to add another Zaku! If anything, I’m disappointed I only got one, but at around $70 via US retailers, it’s not really the type of release one should army build. Like the Gundam Ground Type, there is at least a variant of sorts on the way in the form of the Gouf Custom that I plan to get so I will have another Zeon unit to join this one. It’s just do I want to make it an even 3 on 3 some day? We’ll see.


NECA Cartoon TMNT The Neutrinos

Far out dude, a rare NECA three-pack!

Check it out, daddio! The totally frozen trio of Zak, Dask, and Kala have joined NECA’s line of action figures based on the cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! The Neutrinos come straight from Dimension X, having debuted during the original mini series of the show now referred to as season one, in the fourth episode overall: Hot Rodding Teenagers from Dimension X. Even though they share a dimension with Krang, these kids abhor war and prioritize having fun above all else, which is the antithesis of what Krang and Shredder stand for – so they must be eliminated!

The Neutrinos are a wacky premise in a fairly wacky cartoon. Perhaps created to give the kids watching at home an audience surrogate, they would return a few times after their debut and often with some wild antics taking place. Even though they’re supposed to appeal to kids of the1980s, they talk like beatniks with goofy 50s slang – maybe they just assumed kids were watching a lot of the Fonz on Happy Days? Because of their rather extreme personalities, the Neutrinos are something you either love or hate. I lean more towards the “love” side as they don’t particularly bother me and I’m pretty sure I was excited to see them return when I was a kid. Plus it doesn’t hurt that “Hot Rodding Teenagers from Dimension X” might be my favorite episode of the show. It’s the episode where Donnie invents the Turtle Van and we’re introduced to the rock soldiers Traag and Granitor. It’s also the episode most responsible for making Leonardo my favorite turtle who already had a head-start in that department by virtue of wearing my favorite color and my favorite weapon of the four.

The Neutrinos and their stuff. If you need a refresher on who’s who, left to right we have Zak, Kala, and Dask with the Grybyx and Baby Tribble in front.

Like Usagi, the Neutrinos were put up for preorder on NECA’s website back in March and both sets arrived at the same time, which is pretty cool and pretty fast in this day and age. They represent the first 3-pack (unless you count the Triceraton and Roadkill Rodney set as a 3-pack) in the line as they couldn’t be split up since they always appeared as a trio. Since they are a 3-pack they’re priced accordingly at $75, which I assume will be the MSRP on this set when it hits Target stores later this year. We’re essentially paying $25 for each one which is actually lower than the usual two-pack pricing. And if you think that’s because there’s a ton of parts reuse among the three well then you’d be wrong. To my surprise, these three are fairly unique so lets get to it.

“You dudes like pizza?!” “Yeah, but not that kind, daddio!”

First of all, the Neutrinos are comprised of Zak, Dask, and Kala. Zak has the blue outfit, Dask the yellow, and Kala is the lone female of the group. This is their first appearance in NECA’s line, but all three actually were featured in the vintage line from Playmates with Zak getting a release in the standard line followed by a repaint in the Toon subline where he was joined by Kala and Dask. I had all three as a kid, though I passed on the Zak repaint when he got re-released, and I remember them rather fondly. Too bad I don’t still have them for comparison’s sake, but I remember them being surprisingly accurate when compared with the show, especially Dask and Kala. I also liked how Playmates did Dask’s unusual hair with two shades of blue, light blue on the inside and dark blue on the outside.

At least the Neutrinos being on the small side works well with their primary antagonists, the rock soldiers Granitor and Traag.

These three are fairly show accurate. Zak is the tallest at about 5.5″ to the top of his hair while Dask is a little bit shorter at 5.25″, but he also doesn’t have a ton of hair sticking straight up preferring to have his going forward. To the top of their foreheads they’re basically the same height. Kala is the shortest, though to the tip of her hair she’s about 5.25″ as well. Some were a bit disappointed when these figures were shown off because their proportions appear to be more in-line with some of their later appearances in the show. All three have pretty large heads relative to their body and are a lot smaller than the turtles. It’s show accurate, but not to their debut episode where I personally think they looked their best (as the show basically looked its best during that initial 5 episode run). In that, their proportions were fairly normal for a human on the show and they basically stood eye-to-eye with the turtles. Of the three, I’d say Dask looks the most on-model when comparing him to that specific episode. Kala would be rather close if she had a longer neck (she basically looks neck-less from the front). Zak is a bit more “toonified” by virtue of his giant ears sticking way out. Their proportions here are probably more representative of their other appearances in the show, but I’m of the mind that NECA should rely on those first five episodes whenever possible so even if there are more episodes with them looking like this, the debut is still the best way to present them.

Even though it’s 3 against 1, I wouldn’t call this a fair fight.

All right, aside from my nitpicking of the proportions, the overall looks is pretty good. Paul Harding was the sculptor on this set and he captured all of the intricacies of each character’s outfit. Dask has the giant shoulder pads, Zak his massive popped collar, and Kala her skirt and rounded shoulder pads. The only places NECA could reuse parts are largely in joiner pieces like the lower torso, knees, and hips on Zak and Dask. Those two might share thighs as well as I can’t tell if the fins on Dask are glued on or part of the same mold. It must have drove NECA nuts that the characters of Zak and Dask are reveresed when it comes to the legs with Dask having the fins on his thighs and Zak on the calves. Both also feature different feet. All of the pieces are fairly hard-sculpted too with few, soft, rubbery, overlays. It’s basically just the “diaper” piece over the hips that’s soft.

My Zak had a paint flaw out of the box, but nothing a Magic Eraser couldn’t solve.

For the paint, we get the usual NECA toon shading with bright on the front and darker shades on the back. On Dask, there’s a paint chip right on his chest which is a bummer as well as some excess at the tip of his left ear. Some of the linework on his left sleeve is also inconsistent with the line being thinner in places. On Zak, we have a figure that’s pretty clean with the only issue I have being the white paint on his ankles showing as not quite opaque enough. Obviously, they were painted white over blue here and sometimes that happens. Zak also came out of the box with an ugly blob of black on his left wrist that sort of looked like a tattoo or something (I had to go to the source material to make sure it was a defect). It was very unsightly, but thankfully it came off with a magic eraser. With Kala, there’s a spot of dark green on her torso that’s a bummer because it’s in such a prominent place, but otherwise she’s mostly fine. NECA uses a ton of paint, so the small imperfections are going to happen. There’s at least no instances of wrong color hinges or anything like that so overall I’d consider the paint applications here to be acceptable. They’ll certainly pop on your shelf.

The tiny feet and big heads make these guys tricky to pose. They’re not going to be able to do too much on your shelf without some help.

Now if you’re looking at these outfits and thinking “That can’t be good for articulation,” well then you would be correct. All three figures feature the same points of articulation. They ball joints at the head, neck, abdomen, and hips which also swivel. The shoulders are ball-hinges, the elbows single-hinged with a swivel, the wrists swivel and hinge, the knees are double-jointed, and the ankles hinge and rock side-to-side. That’s pretty standard for the line with the only thing missing being a waist twist and double-joints at the elbows. What doesn’t work too well are the shoulders, especially on Zak because of his odd setup. He can’t really raise his arms out to the side unless you first rotate them 180 degrees. Once you do that you can raise them about 45 degrees and then rotate them back which allows the shoulder pads to slide under the softer plastic on his torso. I’d be cautious about doing so though as you’re rubbing painted white plastic on blue and that could go bad. Dask and Kala don’t have this problem, though Dask’s shoulder pads won’t allow his arms to stick straight up, but that’s not much of a loss. Dask is the most limited when it comes to kicking forward and back as his “diaper” is rather tight and constricting with Kala’s skirt being the least constricting and Zak sort of in the middle there. All three feature really tight, slightly gummy, knees and it’s probably due to all of the paint. Their limbs are very thin, especially at the forearm, so if your set feels stuck definitely air on the side of caution with them.

More often than not, this is the end result. Especially if you try to use those hoverboards.

The actual range of articulation is a bit mediocre by the standards of more, highly, articulated lines, but not a huge surprise for this particular line. What is less enjoyable is the looseness of some joints. These figures are all top heavy by virtue of their big heads and that torso joint. Zak’s torso is pretty floppy, while Dask is a touch loose and Kala is fine. All three also feature tiny feet and weak ankles which makes all three a chore to stand up. Zak seems to stand the best because he has the largest feet, but he’s still a pain to keep upright on a surface. Dask is by far the worst though because he has skinny feet and the ankles on mine are very weak. Kala’s are tighter, but her feet are the smallest of the three so she’s no better. NECA foresaw this issue and included a small, transparent, plastic, disc stand for each figure. The problem with that is it’s very light so there’s no weight holding them down and it does nothing to solve the issue of the weak ankles. About the only way they work is to position the figures with one foot forward to help better distribute the weight and leave the disc on the rear foot. This seems to work with Kala. Zak is almost better off without the disc as it makes his base uneven and it’s too small to put both feet on it. I can get Dask to stand if I pitch his head forward as if he’s looking at his toes, but that’s hardly a good look. In short, don’t position these three close to the edge of a shelf.

If you have the vintage Playmates versions of these characters then these boards should feel familiar.

Also included to perhaps help out with the standing issue and the lack of a hover car are three hoverboards. These were never in the show, but are a callback to the Playmates action figures. I assume Playmates included them since the Neutrinos are known for driving a hover car, but that would be big and expensive. Playmates actually did release a hover car, but as a vehicle for Shredder and his minions which was strange, but a fun toy nonetheless. NECA may one day do a car if there’s demand for it, but for now we have the boards. Each one is fully painted and unique to the rider and comes with a stand similar to the ones included with the Turtles in Time turtles. They’re cool and all, but have the same problems as the disc stands in that there isn’t enough weight to them to really help in getting these guys to stand. They look cool and all, but I have no confidence in the figures remaining on them when I walk away since they have yet to last 15 minutes on my shelf.

In addition to the hoverboards, we do have a handful of other accessories and two mini figures. Our first accessory is this little, chunky, gray, box that reminds me of portable televisions from the era. It’s a communicator that Donatello uses in the show to contact the Neutrinos all the way in Dimension X, if I’m not mistaken. There’s a handheld device that looks like Egon’s PK Meter from Ghostbusters that I think was called a spectral analyzer. There’s another handheld device that’s a tracking one used for another accessory in this set which I’ll get to it. There’s yet another one that looks like a mashup between a flashlight and a microphone and I have no idea what it does in the show. Lastly, there’s a ray gun or something that resembles a bullhorn. Sometimes NECA includes a list of the items in these sets, and sometimes they don’t, and this is one of the sets where they didn’t. We also get an assortment of hands. For the boys, there are two sets of gripping hands and fists, and one set of open hands and a loose open hand that almost looks like a devil horns gesture. Kala gets open hands, fists, a gripping right hand, and a right “Peace” sign hand. Kala’s hands are a little smaller than Zak and Dask’s, but she could use one of the boys’ hands if she wants and vice versa without it looking too ridiculous.

These two don’t do much, but they are pretty cute.

In addition to all of that are two mini figures. First up, is Princess Tribble from the episode “Four Turtles and a Baby.” For some reason, every show during this era needed to do an episode with a title that was a pun on Three Men and a Baby. The Neutrinos are not featured in that episode, but she is a Neutrino child so it makes sense to include her. She’s in a seated position and her head can rotate and her arms are on ball hinges. She’s also looking up given how her eyes are painted so she can resemble a baby with its arms up expressing a desire to be picked up by an adult. It’s cute. The other mini figure is the Grybyx, Kala’s pet which escapes from Dimension X and arrives on Earth in the episode “The Grybyx.” In that, he gets mutated as he’s basically the show’s version of a mogwai and becomes a rampaging beast, but here he’s in his much smaller and cuter form. He’s positioned in a crouch and his only articulation is a ball-jointed head, but he’s well painted and rather cute so it’s all good. The tracking device I mentioned earlier is from the same episode and was used to try and locate the Grybyx.

Mikey certainly looks happy to have his favorite gal join the party.

That’s all, and it’s a pretty solid collection of stuff. I don’t know what half of it is, but it’s not like the Neutrinos were associated with many accessories in the show aside from their kick ass rides. This set from NECA is yet another solid addition to the collection. My only gripes are that I wish these figures were based more on their appearance in the first season and that they weren’t such a pain to stand. It’s nice that NECA included the disc stands to try and help, but these three need something more substantial unfortunately. I have so far been able to get them to stand only for short durations, and that’s with and without the aid of the stand or hoverboard. I’d love to have Kala holding her pet, but that seems unlikely. In the meantime, I’ll keep them away from any edges and sort of on their own as I don’t need them taking anyone else out during one of their falls. If you want to add these guys to your display keep your eyes on Target as they should show up there eventually, possibly as part of a collector event scheduled for September. Yeah, I hate those things, but sometimes we have to deal with them. Also keep your eyes on costumes.com as NECA has been randomly dropping stuff on there lately including old exclusives and new ones like the Mousers. Hopefully everyone who wants this set can eventually get it.


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