Lets end 2020 on a familiar topic for the year: looking at another set of NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! Wave 4 of NECA’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line of action figures based on the vintage cartoon brings to us the most obscure release of the line thus far. Here today is Captain Zarax and Zork, officers in the Triceraton army who appeared in one episode of the show. It was one thing to receive the Triceraton infantryman in the previous two-pack release since that character’s design was based on the Playmates action figure many are familiar with, while these two guys are pretty much their own thing. Yes, they’re still space dinosaurs and triceratops at that so their design is pretty familiar, but their overall look is unique to the show.
Given that, some may be wondering why NECA chose to release these two guys relatively early in the line’s life. Well, the simple reason is cost. Both Zarax and Zork should feel very familiar as they’re essentially the same figure as the infantryman. They arrive in the same styled window box as the rest of the line, only now it’s bigger than ever since these guys are pretty beefy. I didn’t bother to include a photo this time around since the packaging should be rather familiar at this point. NECA was able to likely save quite a bit of money by not needing to create new molds. The only new parts are the individual headsculpts, feet, and the soft, rubber, armor that fits over the torso. Some collectors look down on flagrant parts reuse, but it’s hard to argue it’s not good business and it helps keep the price consumers pay for the product down. Plus, these two guys impart enough personality that it doesn’t feel like a disservice to reuse the same mold. Helping that is the fact that both characters feature articulated jaws. I criticized the infantryman for not featuring that, since that figure was considered an “army builder” and an articulated jaw is a simple way to add variety to a display, and I am at least happy to see it here.
Aside from the jaw articulation, these figures are the same as the previous one as far as articulation goes. The head features terrific range of motion for what one would expect to be a bulky figure. These guys do have shoulder pads which can get in the way a bit, especially with the yellow one, Zarax, but it’s still quite good. The shoulders are on ball-joints with double-jointed elbows and bicep swivels. The hands are hinged and can rotate while the upper torso has good play due to what is likely a ball-joint underneath the armor. Zork does feature a shoulder strap that goes across his chest and abdomen that you’ll want to watch out for when rotating his upper body. The tail is ball-jointed, but doesn’t afford much range of motion as it sits quite far inside that joint. It basically just hangs out. The legs can go out, forward, and back pretty freely and swivel above the thigh. The knees are double-jointed and the feet are on ball-pegs and can swivel and rock side-to-side. It all works quite well for such big brutes and is pretty typical of this line as a whole.
Not only is the sculpt for these guys familiar, but so are the accessories. They come with the same layout of hands as the infantryman which is a pair of open hands, a pair of gripping hands that also work as fists, and a single, right, trigger hand. The weapon loadout is also familiar as they come with the rocket launcher, machinegun, and rifle to share between the two of them. The only difference are the blades for Captain Zarax. Pop off his hands and you can slide his bracers off and replace them with the bladed ones which he featured in the cartoon. It’s a cool look for him and I assume many will pose him with his blades and Zork with the guns.
The two dinosaurs looks pretty nice and mix well with the infantryman. The quality control appears to be satisfactory as well as the joints were all pretty free and easy out of the box and the paint is largely clean. There’s a little bit of slop on Zork’s armor and around the horns, but nothing egregious. His horns also aren’t level with each other with one pointing lower than the other. I have no idea if that is intentional or if they’re suppose to align, but it’s barely noticeable. Zork has a curious feature too where his hands are the darker shade of green used for the shading on his body. The other two triceratons have their hands cast in the lighter shade of their flesh and I’m not sure why Zork is different. The prototypes that NECA showed off back at Toy Fair featured the lighter green for the hands, so my guess is this was either a late change or a factory error that NECA decided to run with. Both characters also feature the same paint short-comings with the feet as other releases where the hinge is a different color than what is painted over it. In this case, both have these booty things over their feet and when you bend the foot forward the flesh colored hinge becomes visible. It’s the one consistent complaint about this line that I have, but it doesn’t appear like one that is going to be corrected anytime soon. My Zork also has the green of his flesh peeking through the foot covering along the inside of his ankle and handling the two figures will produce a lot of yellow and green paint flakes. Don’t eat them. Zarax’s bladed gauntlets are also a bit tricky to get on, but it wasn’t too bad. There’s a notch cut into them so they go on properly. I am left wishing the blades were a bit longer though. I saw numerous comments about their jaws being hard to work with, but I guess I lucked out because I’ve had no issue there, but buyer beware.
These guys may not have been high up on anyone’s “wants” list from the show, but it’s hard to argue they didn’t turn out well. Both have a pretty mean presence on a shelf as they’re big, dinosaur, men. I wish that NECA had changed up the weapon loadout a bit, especially considering the other set was meant to be an army builder so we’re really swimming in these weapons now. On the plus side, if you want to pair Bebop and Rocksteady with their weapons (the rifle and machinegun were both handled by the pair in the cartoon) you should have plenty of extra laying around if you got this and multiple versions of the prior set. And you get yourself a little Triceraton squad.
Wave 4 of NECA’s Target exclusive Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon line continues with its second two-pack release: the Triceraton Infantryman and Roadkill Rodney. The Triceraton has been adapted for basically all iterations of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles save for the live-action films. The Triceraton frequently appeared in the collections of kids in the early 90s as it was a somewhat early release in the Playmates line of figures. Despite that distinction, it was a late addition to the cartoon universe not showing up until the Season 7 episode “Night of the Dark Turtle” where the character took a backseat to a crazed Donatello who basically fancied himself as Batman. As for the Roadkill Rodney, it was an early addition to the cartoon universe as it appeared in the original mini series that got the whole TMNT craze kickstarted. Despite that though, this tiny robot went without a figure entirely until now.
The Triceraton basically looks like a mutated triceratops, as the name would suggest. In the cartoon, they’re a race of space reptiles looking to conquer and enslave Earth. In order to make that a reality, the Triceraton Empire sends a whopping five units to Earth to get the job done. You can probably guess how that turned out. Among those numbers was Captain Zorax and his attendant, Zork. If you prefer those two to what we have here then you’re in luck as they should be released soon as a two-pack of their own. What is contained in this two-pack is the lowly infantryman (infantry…dino?) whom the Playmates figure was based on. The major distinction between the three is in the color of their scales as this fellow happens to be mostly orange with an armored onesie. Being a soldier, he’s packed with weapons and this two-pack is being advertised by NECA as an “army builder” set as many fans may want two or three of these brutes in their collection as opposed to one. Never mind the fact that many Target stores limit these sets to one per customer.
The Triceratons are a rather brutish race of reptiles and therefore are rather large. This figure from NECA captures that reality as it’s one of the largest in the series thus far standing at roughly 7 and a half inches tall which puts it on par with the likes of Leatherhead and Granitor. Being that he is a big dude, there’s a lot of parts reuse at work here and I suspect that will be very true of the other Triceratons to come. The arms and legs are likely shared with Leatherhead, as is the tail. It would not surprise me at all if the torso is as well, but it’s impossible to say given the presence of the armor in place. I don’t mind parts reuse at all, especially since it keeps costs down, but there are aspects where it’s a negative here as there are sculpted folds on the back of his leg that don’t make a lot of sense. They’re there because these were previously meant to be pants, but the Triceraton has decided to forgo such a restrictive garment. They’re on the back/side of the thigh, so it’s not super noticeable, but worth pointing out. The other shortcoming with this direction rests in the tail. In the show, the Triceratons have smooth tails, but since this guy is using Leatherhead’s tail, it has a dual fin running down the top of it. Again, reuse is par for the course with figures, but it does harm NECA’s credibility when they claim to be making the definitive versions of these characters when they’re not entirely screen accurate.
The obvious new pieces of plastic rest with the head, hands, and feet. And it’s the head that really needs to shine and indeed it does. While I prefer basically every version of the Triceratons to their cartoon counterpart (the Triceratoons?), I cannot argue that this figure doesn’t look the part. The shading and line work that has become a staple of this line are at incorporated here and the figure very much looks like it originated from a cartoon source. It’s pretty clean, though there’s some paint build-up at the base of one horn on mine and it’s a little messy around the eyes, but not too bad. If you have always longed for a cartoon version of the Triceraton, then this should satisfy that hunger, tail be damned.
In terms of articulation, there are no surprises here. The Triceraton is basically articulated just like Leatherhead before him, with the only difference really being the lack of a hinged jaw with this guy (a real missed opportunity, to be honest). The giant “fins” on the back of his head (I’m sure a paleontologist would be able to tell me the proper term for that part) are surprisingly not a deterrent to the head movement as this guy can look much higher than basically every other character NECA has done so far and can also tilt his head side-to-side quite well. Ball-joints at the shoulders and thighs allow for proper rotation, and double-jointed knees and elbows have become standard for basically everyone in this line except the turtles themselves. He has swivels and hinges at the wrist and the ability to swivel at the bicep and thigh. His feet are on ball-and-socket joints so they can rotate and rock a bit side-to-side. There’s articulation in the upper torso which is probably on a ball-joint, but the armor limits the movement here to basically a swivel. It’s soft plastic, so you can kind of force the character into the desired positions, but at risk of possibly marring the paint on that armor. He’s got plenty of range though for a behemoth who is mostly just going to blast away at his enemies and if you are able to army build these guys you shouldn’t have a problem finding a variety of styles and poses for your display. The only thing missing for me, and I say this a lot with this line, is a butterfly joint at the shoulders so he could properly two-hand hold his weapons. The way NECA does their torsos though, often layering rubbery plastic over a harder base to distinguish characters, basically makes such a joint impossible.
The Triceraton may be a large hunk of plastic, but he also comes packed with a vast assortment of weapons and accessories. This is an improvement over Traag and Granitor and I suspect it’s due to those rock boys not lending themselves well to parts reuse. The Triceraton has five hands; a set of gripping hands (which work as fists as well) and a set of open hands. He also features a trigger hand (right) and if I have one, small, complaint it’s that NECA didn’t just go ahead and give us two trigger hands since now all of your Triceratons are expected to be right-handed. As for weapons, he has the rifle/bazooka the Triceratons were shown wielding in the cartoon, plus two additional guns that appear to match what Bebop and Rocksteady were wielding in their debut episode. And yes, I am definitely giving those to my Bebop and Rocksteady for my display.
The only downside with the Triceraton arsenal, is he can’t really wield the majority of his weapons convincingly. The trigger hand basically just fits his bazooka, and it’s a unique handsculpt for the Triceraton which features a larger opening and two fingers (as opposed to the three of Bebop/Rockstead/Leatherhead). The trigger hand works great with the bazooka since they were literally made for each other. It, and the open hands, are fairly soft and pliable which helps in getting the hand into his hand. The trigger hand is too big though for the other guns. You can kind of fake it with the rifle, but the shorter machinegun looks silly. The gripping hands he comes with are much harder and quite restrictive. You can get the machinegun into it, but it sits high and really calls out attention to the fact that the trigger is well above his hand. The rifle is harder to get in and if you’re determined to do so you’ll want to soften those hands up with some heat lest you want orange paint scraping off of the hands and onto the handle. The guns were definitely designed for Bebop and Rocksteady, and for them, the rifle works well. The machinegun is a bit loose in their trigger hand, but a great deal better than the Triceraton.
With this set you get not one, but two, Roadkill Rodney robots. That makes sense since the machines always showed up in pairs in both the cartoon and video games and because they’re rather small (about 3 1/4″) compared with most figures. Don’t let their size fool you though as there’s a lot of personality baked into these suckers. For starters, the sculpt is perfect and these guys look like they were pulled from the show. That’s to be expected, but it had to be stated as well. Since they’re armless, legless, robots there’s really very little articulation to speak of, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some clever engineering going on here. The “arms” rotate and bend, and there is a swivel above the wheel. The wheel itself can also spin like a proper tire would, though it’s rather stiff as it’s meant to hold its position once set. The front of each unit opens and a blaster can be pulled out. It appears to work exactly as it was depicted in the show, which is both a compliment to NECA and to the animators of that original mini series who could have just fudged it. It’s almost stupidly satisfying to open and close that portion of the figure, and best of all, it doesn’t feel super fragile.
Since these guys balance on one wheel, they need a way to stand. NECA included a smoke trail base that clips into a hole on the wheel to accomplish that feat, but that’s not the only thing NECA packed into this box. There’s also a pair of rock formation bases, but these aren’t intended for the main figure, just the heads! Yes, that’s right, you can remove the head from the figure and clip it onto this formation. Remove the top plate of the head and you even have a drill attachment that can be placed on the unit to make it look like it’s coming up through the ground. And for your figure proper, you have a battle damaged dome with three holes in it to accommodate one sai from Raphael. The only drawback is that NECA made the top of the head swap-able for the battle damaged portion. If they had made it a whole separate headsculpt then we could have effectively got four units out of one box. And doing it that way would also have eliminated the largest shortcoming with these robots which resides in how difficult it is to remove those headplates from the figure since NECA declined to sculpt an opening. Instead, you have to choose between displaying the figure proper, or just the head if you want to take advantage of the rock base. I suppose if you do add the rock base to your set you could use the rest of the body as just some discarded carcass on the battle field, but given the choice, I’d rather have two functioning robots. To sum it all up, since there’s a lot here, you get: two robots, two battle damaged domes, two drill bits, two smoke cloud stands, and two rock formation bases.
Lastly, the Roadkill Rodney robots (holy alliteration) also come with their signature weapons: the metal coils. The figures come equipped with short, bendy, coils on each side and a much longer pair to share. It was smart of NECA to make the long ones bendy so you can stretch them out and wrap an end around another figure, be it a turtle foe or a misbehaving Bebop and Rocksteady. It’s not fully poseable though, so while you can uncoil the tentacle it will immediately try to recoil itself. It makes it tough to pose with a turtle since those figures are so light and it’s also not quite long enough to wrap around their waist. You’ll probably prefer to wrap it around a forearm or something. That said, i’m quite eager to pair these guys with the upcoming Electrified Turtle figure featured in the next release from Loot Crate. That figure is intended to be from the classic arcade game, but I think an electrified turtle at the end of a cartoon Roadkill Rodney tendril will work fine in any TMNT display.
Being that this is an army builder set, this one has a bit of a utilitarian feel to it. The characters are a personality-less grunt and a pair of faceless androids, but they’re still pretty fun to look at and handle. It’s a bit surprising to get the Triceraton this early in the line since it came at the tail-end of the original cartoon’s run (the following season was the start of the redesigned “Red Sky” era), but I view that as a testament to how recognizable the Triceraton is to the entire TMNT franchise. For what he is, I think the Triceraton turned out well. He’s not really threatening to become my favorite in the line, but I’m happy to have him. The Roadkill Rodney, on the other hand, is a clever little design. Both figures though, feature unfortunate and preventable shortcomings. The Triceraton has all of these weapons, but only one works well. The Rodneys have a bunch of effects pieces, but the coils could have been done better and those little plates are really frustrating to swap in and out.
NECA is hoping collectors will want multiple sets, but I don’t know how successful that will be. In the cartoon, there were three Triceraton grunts so some devoted to having an accurate display may want 3 for that reason. There won’t be much variety in the display though since every Triceraton will be right-handed and will probably feature the same weapon since the other two aren’t a great fit. Having some extra Rodney robots popping out of the ground will add some character to any display, but is that worth another 52 bucks? I’m not sure. I was lucky enough to find a pair of these sets in-store. I bought both and sent one off to a fellow collector. I also was able to order one from Target that hasn’t arrived yet and I’m not sure if I’ll keep it or send that one along to another collector too. What’s tempting me most about keeping it is the chance to have another set of Bebop and Rocksteady guns in the event the Easter Bunny versions coming via Loot Crate do not have weapons.
As has been the case, this set is a Target exclusive and is profoundly difficult to find on shelves. It was sold online, briefly, on October 28th and is unlikely to be offered online again. Since it is an army builder, I’m cautiously optimistic that NECA will make the set available again sometime in 2021 as a made-to-order pre-order like it did with many of the sets released during the summer, but there’s no guarantee of that at this time. For now, your best bet is to stalk your local Target stores and figure out the local rep’s stocking schedule. And definitely ingratiate yourself to an online community of collectors who help each other out. A very helpful resource is the #CollectorsHelpingCollectors hashtag on Twitter as it’s literally just fellow collectors picking up the most sought after items and passing them along at cost to fellow collectors. And as always, don’t feed the scalpers!