Tag Archives: rock soldiers

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 TMNT Cartoon Traag and Granitor

Reinforcements from Dimension X have arrived!

After I posted my review of NECA’s take on Metalhead from the classic cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I thought I’d have a little break based on the upcoming release schedule for the line. Turns out, that break ended up being almost exactly one month as while I was out toy-hunting for my kids I happened upon the latest two-pack from NECA: Traag and Granitor!

And when I say it was a chance encounter, I mean it. This set started rolling out maybe a week or two ago in parts of the country. Like all of the NECA product based on the old TMNT cartoon, this set is exclusive to Target and a pain to find. The sets usually start showing up in California first and then gradually make their way east. As a denizen of the north east, I’m used to waiting a bit for them to show up in my area. Though in the case of Wave 3, I never saw a damn thing and had to purchase product from Canadian retailers that were willing to ship to the US. Well, either NECA or NECA’s vendor squashed that going forward so I was back to the old-fashioned way, since these guys have yet to appear on Target’s website (despite indications from NECA it was supposed to happen last Friday).

My kids love the show Bluey and a set for that toyline was supposed to release on the 4th. I went out looking for it locally, but while on my way my wife texted me to say she just scored a set online at Walmart. Since I was already out early on a Sunday, I decided to take a drive. While browsing Target’s app I had been keeping an eye on this set since it was supposed to go up any day now. I noticed when I looked at the stores in my area, there was actually one store across the border in New Hampshire that listed the item as in stock. I couldn’t do store pick-up though, and I have found it’s hard to get anyone at Target to answer the phone before 9, so I made the half hour drive to the store. Sure enough, the little inventory machines they have in some aisles indicated there were two sets in stock, but they weren’t on the shelf. I asked a clerk in electronics and he didn’t think they had anything since they never show on the app, but that he’d check in the back. Lo and behold, they did indeed have a set! It seems the store did its monthly inventory the night before, and someone actually scanned the sets into the inventory. This is unusual as a NECA rep is the one that stocks the section, not a Target employee, but in this case it worked out for me. It was especially surprising as I had yet to see anyone in the region on social media or even eBay list a set so this store may be one of the first in all of New England, maybe even including the tri-state area, to receive stock. Needless to say, after feeling rather snake-bitten with the last wave, I’m feeling quite fortunate today.

And it was a great set to get lucky with because Traag and Granitor are practically all new. Traag did receive a figure in the vintage Playmates line, but he looked nothing like his cartoon counterpart while Granitor never received a figure. And this was despite the two appearing in the first mini series as they debuted in episode four “Hot-Rodding Teenagers from Dimension X” when they crossed over into the dimension of the Turtles in pursuit of those pesky Neutrinos. And being made of stone means these guys are pretty unique looking to begin with so there’s little opportunity to reuse parts from already released figures. They’re big, dense, and chunky. I want to say beefy, but that doesn’t seem appropriate for beings made out of stone. And to top it all off, these guys have been a long time coming as NECA unveiled them years ago as part of the video game line, since both appeared as bosses in the original arcade game, but soon moth-balled them for the release we now have.

Traag and Granitor come in the standard window box format you should all be familiar with at this point. You get a nice look at the figures from the front with some licensing art beneath. The backdrop for the two has actually been changed from the sewer one we’re accustomed to and replaced with the Technodrome in Dimension X, which is very appropriate. The side and rear panels feature product shots of the figures in action while the rear also includes the series bio (sadly, not character specific) along with promotional shots of two of the sets to come as well as the previously released Metalhead. Since these boys are on the larger side, this is the oversized box previously used for Bebop and Rocksteady so if you’re a mint-in-box collector you’ll need to plan for a little extra room on the shelf for these guys.

Buns of stone.

In terms of likeness, Traag and Granitor are like a lot of this line – damn near flawless. Traag stands around 6 5/8″ while Granitor is slightly taller at 6 7/8″. Both feature a ton of sculpting to capture that rock appearance. They share some parts between the two in particular at the hands and basically from the abdomen down. The upper body is probably the same as well, but with different parts glued onto each to differentiate the two as they were quite different in the show. The plastic is very rigid and not that pliable, rubbery, stuff we’ve seen in some of the figures (in particular, the human figures like Casey and April) which really enhances the feel of the pair in-hand. Traag has very rocky shoulders while Granitor possesses a rock collar at the base of his neck and these huge shoulders and biceps. Of course, their heads are where they differ the most. Both are helmeted, but Traag has a flatter face and his open-mouth expression is a dead-ringer for how I continue to picture the character in my head. Granitor has this huge nose and these triangular eyes that make him look a great deal more evil than the general. If I have any criticism of the sculpt, it would be that Granitor’s head probably could be a little smaller as he was quite the pinhead in the show. I think the prototype head from a few years ago was a little better, but you’re not going to mistake this guy for someone else. The legs also probably should be longer, but I’m guessing these guys are just so big that NECA was limited to what it could do there and it was certainly more important to capture their massive upper-body.

General Traag seemed to always be making this stupid face in the show.
Meanwhile, Granitor looks ice cold! He’s not planning on playing nice with those Neutrinos.

Where I can’t render a single complaint with these two is with the paint app. This line just keeps getting better in regards to the paint and these guys look amazing. Traag, in particular, is an almost perfect recreation of a difficult deco to capture from the show. He’s mainly a red-orange, with a softer orange used for highlights that imparts a volcanic glow quality to the texture. Granitor is a bit cooler with shades of gray and both feature a lot of black line-work where appropriate. It’s all been applied in a very neat and clean fashion, which is especially impressive considering how much is here. There’s a little badge on the chest of each and both feature a belt complete with ammo and a holster for their gun. The belt is soft plastic, which has been the case with a lot of this line, so you do need to be a bit careful with the accents on it as they’re just glued on.

As far as articulation goes, these two are not quite as robust as some of the other figures in this line. That has a lot to do with the sculpt which only allows for so much. In terms of the points of articulation, it’s fairly similar with past figures. There’s a ball-joint at the head which affords the typical range of motion and both heads are on a neck with articulation at the base. Traag can look up, but not much down. Meanwhile, Granitor’s neck is quite long and thin and reminds me of an analog joystick on a video game controller, only without the tension that pulls it back to center. As a result, his range of motion feels a bit more dynamic and it’s a satisfying joint to play with, though also a bit scary since it’s so thin. The shoulders are on ball-joints and here Traag gets a bit more use as he can raise his arms outward, while Granitor’s massive shoulders are a hindrance, though his ball-joints are extended from his body more to at least provide for some functional range of motion. The elbows are double-jointed, though the top joint doesn’t have much range due to the bulky nature of the bicep. You still get close 90 degrees out of both. The triceps area swivels at that second elbow joint and the hands swivel and are on hinges. The hinges are pretty tight on mine, so a little heat goes a long way. The upper torso is on a ball-joint and you get a lot of twist there and it’s also nice and tight. The waist does swivel, but it was super tight on both of my guys to the point where I haven’t bothered to get it moving so be careful there (edit: I got it loosened up with just some added effort). The ball-joints at the thigh allow for some forward and outward motion, but nothing really backwards. There is a thigh swivel, but it doesn’t offer a ton. The knees are single-jointed at the hinge, but there is a tiny bit of swivel articulation at that point. The ankles are on hinges and have some outward, rocking, motion. Watch out for paint-flaking though as the entire boot and foot is painted over the base color. It’s not as visible as it was with Leatherhead at least, but still disappointing to see NECA isn’t casting the feet in the base color of the boot still.

“Lord Krang, please forgive us for our posture.”

The articulation is a bit less than what maybe some were expecting, but all in all I think it’s fine. These are big, bulky, rock creatures and they’re not looking to strike much in the way of dynamic poses. They basically lumber around, shoot their guns, and that’s about it. The upper torso is what really helps give them some posing options, and despite the fact that they’re rather top-heavy, they’re still fairly easy to stand. The only pose I wish I could pull-off that they just can’t do is to have them on one knee paying fealty to their lord Krang. Their arms are so long that they can even mostly pull off the ability to two-hand grip their pistol as they do in the show which is pretty cool as most NECA TMNT figures can’t do something like that since they lack a butterfly joint at the shoulder and chest.

“Can I interest you in the finest retro-mutagen Dimension X has to offer?”
“Traag! You must eliminate those radical teenagers before they start a rock concert! No offense…”
“Have you seen this boy?!”

Since these guys are so big and mostly new molds, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the only true negative here is the lack of accessories. It’s a business, so it’s to be expected, but still a bit disappointing. Both figures have a trigger finger right hand and an open, stylized, left hand. There are no optional hands to switch in and out, but I’m honestly not really missing them. Maybe a pointing finger for Traag, since he is a general after all, would have been fun, but it’s not a big loss. Their main accessory that both feature is a pistol. It’s a new sculpt and it’s painted up in a dark and light blue scheme that I find really appealing. It honestly probably has a bit more flourish to it as far as the paint is concerned when compared with the show, but that’s for the better. The only drawback is the hands of these guys are very rigid so you may want to heat up the hands before placing the gun in to avoid any paint scraping, which would be tragic. The pistols also fit into the holster on their belts in a snug manner. They also come with the Dimension X communicator many of the villains have featured in this line. In this case, the sticker decal is of Krang, but it appears to be the new Krang that’s expected to be released in November with the android body. The final, plastic, accessory is a mutagen canister. This time it’s painted gray instead of blue. It’s fine, though not really applicable to these guys and I think it’s just included because it was cheaper than doing a new one, like the weather bomb Traag unleashes. I was expecting that to come with them so it’s a bit disappointing to see it excluded, but again, I get it, it all has to do with costs. Lastly, they do come with three wanted posters each featuring one of the Neutrinos. They’re printed on a transparent plastic giving them a holographic effect which is pretty neat. They’re in a little bag taped to the underside of the blister so don’t throw it out by mistake!

Pictured with fellow big boy, Leatherhead.

Traag and Granitor are yet another addition to the many rogues of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It’s great to see them as part of Wave 4 since, even though they appeared infrequently in the show, they felt important. That’s probably owing to their debut appearance in just the fourth episode and those early episodes just feel a lot more important to the show than what followed. It’s especially great to finally have a Granitor since he was overlooked back in the day. I’m very happy with how these boys turned out and my only real issue is trying to find room for these bulky beings on my shelf. I’m really going to need that street diorama, NECA!

Poor Raph, he’s really going to need a few more allies.

Traag and Granitor is just the first two-pack in Wave 4 of this line. They’re being rolled out slowly across the US at Target, though considering I found my set in New Hampshire I would expect them to be in every state this week so start looking! There should also be an online release at some point, but that can be a real shit-show as product usually goes fast. Follow NECA on twitter (or me @samhainsgrim) with alerts switched on for your best chance to land them. This looks like it’s going to be a pretty awesome wave as up next on or around the 15th is the Triceraton Infantryman (Infantry-dino? Infantry-reptile?) and Roadkill Rodney (2) set followed by a big one on the 29th, Master Splinter and Baxter the Fly! The Triceraton officers, Zarax and Zork, finish things off on November 12th alongside the deluxe Krang with his android body. This line is hotter than hell right now so don’t go to sleep on it. NECA also isn’t offering any more made-to-order sets in 2020 so if you can’t get these guys at Target over the next couple of months the wait will only get longer. Plug yourselves into a toy community, stay vigilante, don’t feed the scalpers, and good luck!

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