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Review – Marvel Legends – Blade (Man-Thing Wave)

The recent Man-Thing BAF wave of Marvel Legends is also known as the Netflix Wave.  Primarily because it consists of Netflix versions of several characters, namely, Daredevil, The Punisher, Elektra and Jessica Jones.  The wave also includes some comic characters though, mostly ones that make sense.  Bullseye and Blade are both sort of in the same “street level” department as out Netflix heroes.  Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I almost wonder if this is sort of a secret preview for some possible future shows from Netflix.  Bullseye is too much of a Daredevil staple that I would be incredibly surprised if he doesn’t show up for Season 3, for example.  Could a Blade Series be int he works?  Maybe a Man-Thing movie?

Marvel Legends Blade

This iteration of Blade is particularly nice because his design works pretty well as both a comic book and a potential MCU Blade figure.  He isn’t based directly on any particular live action Blade (Wesley Snipes or Sticky Fingaz), but he looks like he’s a normal human enough to fit in with an MCU display.  Contrast this with, for example, Bullseye from this same wave, who sort of works but has those slightly exaggerated comic features that make him stand out a bit from all of the realistic MCU designs.  I only really bring up the MCU at all because this is the “Netflix Wave” and this is full of MCU designs.

Marvel Legends Blade

The figure itself is… ok-ish.  I actually have a few issues with the body design.  For starters, his chest is huge.  By chick I mean, his upper chest.  It’s almost comically oversized even by comic standards, because it looks so disproportionate next to his lower body.  Blade definitely feels like he’s been skipping leg day quite a bit.  His bare arms also look a little funky and are full of really ugly joints.  A lot of figures get away with the ugly joints by hiding those parts with armor or some sort of suit, but because it’s just bare skin, they really stick out.  His shoulders are particularly weird in places, they remind me a lot of Cable, where the shoulders are almost set too low to look human.  His sword scabbard/bandolier is also fits oddly, it doesn’t really have any good place where it feels right and it’s generally pretty loose all around.  The sword works well in it and the basic idea is there, I just kind of wish it fit his body better.

Marvel Legends Blade

These design issues are kind of a shame because otherwise the paint and sculpt are pretty great.  The heads both look really good and his chest armor and legs all are nicely done.   I feel like some better choices on the arms would have really helped this figure come off less weird looking.  I almost wonder if there was some thought to giving him a coat at some point as well, since putting the new figure int he old Wesley Snipes Blade’s coat goes a long way to hide a lot of the flaws.

Marvel Legends Blade

Overall, while Blade is not a terrible figure, he’s not without his flaws.  Blade’s time kind of feels like it’s come and gone though and he’s kind of a niche hero, so chances are there isn’t going to be another Blade release in the Marvel Legends line anytime soon.  I will say, as much as I like the old Toybiz Snipes Blade, comparing the two, the new one feels more solid and poseable overall, so he is a good upgrade.  Giving him the old coat helps as well, if you have one floating around.

Marvel Legends Blade

Review – Transformers – Titans Return – Topspin and Twintwist

Where Combiner Wars did it’s duty by giving us remakes of all of the original Combiner Transformers, it also used that opportunity to repaint all of those molds into different versions of the original G1 Autobots.  Titans Return has been moving into a lot more interesting territory.  There’s a lot more updates of Targetmasters, Movie bots and in this case, Jumpstarters.  Topspin and Twintwist were a pair of very similar G1 bots that had one specific gimmick.  Pull them back, and a motor would speed the vehicle along and eventually it would pop up and land on it’s robot feet.  The entire transformation was literally “fold in half at the waist”.

Topspin got sort of an update with the movie line, he appeared in Dark of the Moon as one of the Wreckers, as a blue Lowes NASCAR.  His toy even got a gray colored repaint that kind of worked as his buddy Twintwist.  This iteration had pretty much nothing in common with his namesake aside from a vaguely Blue and White color theme.  The original jumpstarters are more of a turquoise than a blue.

Titans Return has given us a proper update to this pair.  Topspin came first but Twintwist is a straight remold of the Topspin mold.   The new mold isn’t an exact replica of the original space ship/tank thingy, but it’s close enough, and the originals were kind of misshapen anyway to help accommodate the auto transform gimmick.  The transformation is also an actual transformation now, and naturally a lot more complicated.    It’s still reminiscent of the original.  The bulky back end becomes the legs with the sides becoming the arms and the end result looks pretty close to the original robot with better proportions as well.

Like a lot of Transformers lines, the later figures tend to be get better all around, and Topspin is no exception.  He’s definitely one of if not the best mold in the line.  The closest rival is Triggerhappy.  A lot is helped by the way his transformation does a good job of hiding a lot of the hollow bits that have been prevalent lately.  He also does a lot of interesting twists and flips that help him feel like he actually has a complex transformation.  Something else lacking in a lot of figures lately.  Particularly of note is his arms, which do this neat open up and collapse in on the shoulder and hand, often it’s a trick done on one end or the other, not both.

Both vehicles do a great job of lending itself to the Titan Master gimmick.  The space ship design is perfect for a cockpit for the small robot to sit in and pilot.  The little drill tank of Twintwist is a great vehicle for these little guys as well.  Neither was originally a Headmaster but the gimmick fits well.

Topspin and Twintwist are definitely a top notch toys for the Titans Return line.  Twintwist is slightly weaker than his mold originator Topspin.  The guns don’t work as well in the tank mold and the tank dreads kind of just hang off and look ugly in robot mode vs Topspin’s wings.  There’s been a lot of hits in this line but this mold one of the best.  It’s a solid update of a unique and interesting G1 design with a modern appeal layered on top.

Review – Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS)

The Good

  • Solid game play from a solid franchise
  • Nice little additions and changes from the original Metroid II
  • Good visuals

The Bad

  • Repetitive enemies and play mechanics
  • Bosses are disproportionately difficult compared to everything else
  • Very linear game play for a “Metroidvania” style game.

In Depth

Metroid: Samus Returns is a 3DS update and remake of the original Metroid II on Game Boy.  It’s essentially to Metroid II, what Zero Mission is to the original Metroid.  The maps in Samus Returns are a little closer to the original Metroid II maps than Zero Mission and Metroid, but there are some changes and additions.  Samus Returns adds Super Missiles and power bombs to Samus’ arsenal, for example, and there is a map revealing scope mechanism as well as the addition fo the Grappling beam.  A lot of the added items are things added during Metroid 3, that became regular staples of the series.

The entire game also has a modern overhaul.  Instead of sprites, everything is polygons and the game is playable in 3D mode, though it is a 2D platform title.  Only one new boss uses the 3D mechanics in 3D space, everything else operates in classic 2D Metroid style.  I really enjoy this style of game, so I am admittedly biased towards the play style.  The game is lacking a bit in the Metroidvania department however.  A lot of the areas have 2 or 3 main path loops that the player must traverse and there isn’t a lot of backtracking done aside from picking up items later, and a lot of this backtracking needs to be done close to the end of the game since you don’t even find the weapon needed to unlock these items until later in the game.  The game itself is broken up into 8 Areas, all generically named “Area”.  The Areas are gate blocked by special pedestals that only open the way after collecting a certain number of Metroid DNA samples.  There isn’t a lot of explanation to what these pedestals are but it’s most likely Chozo related, in classic Metroid fashion.

The core of the game is fun, and everything about the remake works well and helps flesh out the game play from the original title.  Metroid II has always been one of the weaker titles in the series and fleshing it out and giving it a bit more connection to the world of Metroid at large.  Despite taking place on the homeworld of the alien Metroid creatures, it’s always felt a little separated.  Partly because even the Metroids themselves are all mutated “mature” versions that don’t fit the usual Bubble with Claws image of what a Metroid is supposed to be.

Which leads into the core problem with this game, and with Metroid II.  The basic plot involves killing Metroids of various types, more powerful than the last, in order to proceed through the game.  There are 4 types of Metroids, not counting the Queen, and you fight each type several times.  These 40 fights end up being extremely samey as a result.  This problem is exacerbated by Alpha and Gamma Metroid being, more or less the same thing and each of the Omega Metroid battles are literally identical.  There is some variation in the fights by using different environments, sometimes over lava or damaging plants or around movement hindering water, but they all use the same general mechanics until you each the Omega Metroids.  Some of the battles have these moments where the Metroid runs off into a nearby room, which honestly just makes things even more tedious since it mostly just means passing a simple and annoying ball mode tunnel puzzle to progress the fight.

This repetition in boss fights isn’t helped by the normal level enemies either, there’s something like 6 or 7 different ones in different colors that you face… over… and over… and over…  They respawn extremely quickly as well, so sometimes just traveling back and forth a room you get to battle the same enemies over and over.  The game also introduces this gimmicky melee counter attack.  Enemies will charge you, you counter them, then you effectively one shot them if the counter hits.  If you miss, or just try to kill the enemy, you get to shoot it normally, often a dozen or more times.  The whole thing is designed around encounter, wait for charge, counter attack, kill, which itself is slow and tedious the 100th time you perform the action.

There is a new boss that’s added to the game that shows up a few times.  A large Chozo digging robot pops up early on, awakened by Samus.  It later shows up during a stage sequence where you must outrun it’s massive destructive drill arms while passing over and through obstacles.  Eventually you battle it out with the boss.  It’s probably the most difficult boss in the game, though not the final boss, and it’s a nice change of pace from the repetition of the Metroids.

Despite the repetition, it’s a fun game.  It’s not the best Metroid title but it’s a welcome update to one of the less enjoyably and probably less played games int he Metroid franchise.  The new additions do a lot of good freshening things up and the updated graphics are a great step up from the cramped old Game Boy title.

Review – Sentinel – 4″ Mega Man (Classic)

Mega Man is one video game series I have extremely fond childhood memories of.  I’ve played and finished all of the games and Mega Man 3 is one title that I played religiously back in the day.  It’s a series that just begs for a good toy line but it seems like it will never achieve the greatness I had always hoped with hundreds of Robot Masters.  Years ago Jazwares put out a short lived line and I snapped all of them up, despite their mediocre quality.  I’ve dabbled a bit in some of the model kits as well.  The newest contender in the realm of Mega Man is Sentinel Toys.  Unfortunately they seem to just be keeping the same cycle of releasing only variations of Mega Man.  There was a Cut Man but it was part of a limited 2 pack.  I don’t think they have even ventured out into the realm of Proto Man, Bass, or Zero as of this review.

Sentinel Mega Man 4"

So I opted to pick up the standard classic Mega Man, to give the line a try.  These figures of course carry an import level price, but since they are a bit smaller they aren’t too far out on the high end.  Mega Man is small to be sure, he’s quite a bit smaller than I had expected, but he is sold and advertised as 4 inches, so I don’t really know what I expected.   The sculpt and design is nice and crisp, though there are a lot of visible joint seams.

Sentinel Mega Man 4"

The seams do sort of work here, given Mega Man is a robot, but it does break up the sculpt, especially when viewed from behind.  He does end up with a really nice range of articulation however as a result of all of these joints.  He can make many classic Mega Man style poses easily and holds them quite well.

Sentinel Mega Man 4"

Mega man includes a stand as well as a couple of alternate hands, an alternate face, and a blaster arm.  These are all easily swap-able and help give some variety for posing and display.  The little extra bits for storage are nice but they don’t really do a lot to keep the pieces together.

Sentinel Mega Man 4"

Is this the best Mega Man figure available?  It’s hard to say.  It’s better than the Jazwares one by light years, but Revoltech has put out a few nice looking Mega Man figures as well.  He also isn’t quite as stylized or squat as others may want in a Mega man figure, the design is closer to the newer artwork than the older artwork and the games.  He’s definitely a nice figure though, and relatively affordable as Imports go.  He also fits pretty well with other Video Game figures like the Figuarts Mario, Figma Samus and Figma Link.

Review – Transformers – RiD – Megatronus

Megatronus was the first in a surge of Decepticons added to the Robots in Disguise line.  Poor Steeljaw would no longer have to face the Autobot army alone.  This toy has been released in a few versions, with and without a facemask and a few paint tweaks, this particular version covers the Megatronus release that was exclusive to Toys R Us.

Transformers Robots In Disguise Megatronus (TRU Version)

I have to admit, I don’t follow the show, so I’m not sure where Megatronus falls into the hierarchy of things.  I believe Steeljaw is actually the leader of the Decepticons and Megatronus is not the same character as Megatron, though the former is the namesake of the latter.  Megatronus originally, in the Transformer Mythos was one of the original 13 Primes, and is more commonly known as The Fallen, though I don’t know if that title applies here.

Transformers Robots In Disguise Megatronus (TRU Version)

Despite that he isn’t Megatron, he certainly kind of looks like Megatron, and whether or not he is The Fallen, he also feels “special” compared to the other Decepticons in the line.  Primarily because he doesn’t seem to really have an animal theme, like the other Decepticons.  He’s very much just a tank robot.

Transformers Robots In Disguise Megatronus (TRU Version)

Another sign that this guy isn’t Megatron is his complete lack of a Fusion/arm canon.  Instead, Megatronus comes with a little sword weapon, which can be weilded in a variety of ways.  It can be mounted on one arm as a blade weapon, or held like a standard sword.  The tank most also works both with and without the sword attached.

Transformers Robots In Disguise Megatronus (TRU Version)

Probably the coolest part of this toy is the transformation.  Hasbro has been doing a lot of interesting things lately with Transformations, and Megatronus has some cool tricky that keep the Transformation elegantly simple.  The legs in particular, formed from the treads, do a neat little fold over trick.  Also notable, since the entire torso is the turret of the tank and the treads are the base, he ends up with a fully rotating turret and a usable waist joint.

Transformers Robots In Disguise Megatronus (TRU Version)

The only real issue with this toy is that, given the character and design, he really just feels too small.  Megatronus really is a character who needs to be imposing, not this tiny little tank.  It’s still a nice figure, he just may pair better with the legends scale than the other Deluxes.

Transformers Robots In Disguise Megatronus (TRU Version)

Review – Transformers – RiD – Steeljaw

Like a lot of folks it seems, I pretty much avoided the Transformers Robots in Disguise line early on in it’s release.  Most of the toys seemed, and were, pretty mediocre.  There also was an extremely one sided assortment of mostly Autobots.  In fact, Steeljaw was the only Decepticon until something like wave 4, which is really annoying on a lot of levels.  One thing that Transformers always felt like it had going for it above other lines was a pretty good balance of heroes and villains.  What good is a hero with no one to fight after all?

Transformers Robots in Disguise Steeljaw

Even more annoying, the Decepticon designs on the show itself are all super interesting and unique.  There’s a neat animal theme running in the robot modes, which gives them fun heads and little design queues related to their respective animals.  Steeljaw, for example, is very obviously wolf themed.  From his wold head to his wolf tail, he’s one of the more obvious animal designs.  The vehicle itself is also somewhat wolf-like in it’s styling.

Transformers Robots in Disguise Steeljaw

While his design is pretty neat, Steeljaw is also one of the weaker toys in the line.  The main issue is the “This should have been a Voyager” problem that pops up occasionally.  The larger size would have allowed a bit better balance and a few more joints while also stopping the robot from being so small and stocky.  As he is, because of his weird joints in his legs he pretty much needs the tail as balance to keep him upright, which is a shame because it’s nicely jointed and would be great used for more dynamic poses.

Transformers Robots in Disguise Steeljaw

He also has some weird sliding arm/elbow joints that feel a little fragile and leave his arm movement options a little stiff.  I guess the point is, the robot mode is cool looking, but it’s really only usable in one or two poses, due to the awkwardness of the toy.

Transformers Robots in Disguise Steeljaw

Steeljaw is basically the physical embodiment of the early problems with the Robots in Disguise line, all wrapped up in a nice package.  The design is ambitious but suffers for it.  He should have been a larger price point, but RiD had no Voyager price point.  He was the only Decepticon for a while, and while he looks nice in a group assortment with the eventual, later, Decepticons (which are mostly pretty stellar), he’s probably not worth putting a ton of effort into tracking one down.

Review – Funko Legacy – Firefly (Malcolm, Kaylee, Jayne, Zoë, Wash)

Funko is a pretty controversial company among toy collectors, by which I mean collectors more like me and less of the “casual” variety.  Their primary line is the Funko Pop Vinyl line, which amount to small uniformed statues.  Funko has also had a few “actual” figures recently in their Funko Legacy line, which so far has mostly been Firefly or Game of Thrones related, though they did a set of Bethesda related figures for Fallout and Skyrim as well as The Book of Life and The Rocketeer.  These figures are done in a style very similar to what NECA does for a lot of their lines.  Six inch figures with mostly decent articulation and a pretty good attention to detail to the source material.  They also seems to have inherited a lot of the issues that NECA figures often have however in stiff or fragile joints and sometimes dodgy sculpt choices.

Funko Legacy Firefly, Kaylee, Jayne, Malcolm, Zoe, Wash

There are 6 total figures in this line and 5 characters.  Jayne Cobb has a version with and without his iconic yellow and orange knit hat from the show.  Having one version with a swap-able head or hat accessory would have been cool but I guess it was easier just to do two versions.  The Hat version is a store exclusive, but as near as I can tell, it’s exclusive to everywhere, that the regular figures are found anyway.

I’m going to touch a bit on each of the figures before wrapping up with some thoughts on the set as a whole.

Malcolm Reynolds

Funko Legacy Firefly, Malcolm

Malcolm, the captain of the crew, is probably the most well rounded figure of the set.  This is good since he’s probably the most desireable figure of the line up, being sort of the main characters.  The articulation is good, the sculps is good and looks like Nathan Fillion.  He has a bit of an issue in his design where his hips are a bit too wide, but it’s an issue that spans across the line and isn’t exclusive to this figure.

Funko Legacy Firefly, Malcolm

He includes two accessories, a shotgun and his pistol, both of these guns can be held appropriately and both can be stored int he holster on his leg (individually, not together).  The paint is a little spotty in a few places, but this is also an issue that runs across the line.

Funko Legacy Firefly, Malcolm

Zoë Washburne

Funko Legacy Firefly, Zoe

Zoë is almost as nice as Malcolm in terms of well roundedness.  The sculpt isn’t quite as nice in the face and head but it’s still recognizable as the character.  She has a pair of guns, one of which has holster attached to her belt.  Her hips also have some of the wideness issue that Malcolm has, but her proportions make her look less pear shaped than Malcolm, so it’s not quite as noticeable.

Funko Legacy Firefly, Wash and Zoe

Wash (Hoban Washburne)

Funko Legacy Firefly, Wash

What use is Zoë without her husband?  Wash is probably my favorite figure of the line.  The sculpt all around is pretty good, though I’m not sure why is face is so heavily washed.  His hair is a little odd, but overall, his outfit does a good job of hiding the major sculpt issues present int he other figures (goofy elbows, weird hips).  He portrays the nerdy goofyness of the character.

Funko Legacy Firefly, Wash

To just drive this home, while Wash doesn’t include any weapons, he does come with two small dinosaur toys.  Wash was shown playing with these toys a few times up on the bridge of the ship, where he spent a lot of his time.  His hands are both sculpted to allow him to hold both dinosaurs well, which also gives him some kind of fun “claw hands” for regular poses as well.  The dinosaurs themselves are very nicely done.

Funko Legacy Firefly, Wash

Kaylee

Funko Legacy Firefly, Kaylee

So, moving on to the bottom of the barrel zone, I’ll start off with Kaylee.  I want to like Kaylee, and she is so close but there’s just a few off putting things and one bad experience that has pulled her way down in my book.  First, the sculpt is a little iffy.  The face is a too puffy and mine has a bit of a derpy eye going on.  Her accessories are irritatingly light as well, especially given she is the smallest figure.  She only has her wrench, which works, but a few more tools, or maybe a chunk of machinery as a prop would have been a nice way to offset the value proposition here.

Funko Legacy Firefly, Kaylee

My main issue comes from her hands.  While across the line, I’ve had to deal with a few stiff joints, one of the hands on my Kaylee broke right off, with almost zero “effort”.  I glued it back on, so at least she has a hand, even if it’s now stuck in one position, It’s still an irritating issue.  She feels like she is more prone to this issue since her arms are considerably skinnier than the other figures in the line.  A couple fo more accessories and less fragile joints, and I probably would completely overlook the slightly off face sculpt.

Funko Legacy Firefly, Kaylee

Jayne Cobb

Funko Legacy Firefly, Jayne

Then there’s Jayne Cobb.  I debated a bit on which version I wanted but ultimately opted to pick up the one with his hat.  I don’t need two Jaynes and the hat is a fun and memorable piece from the show.  Jayne really solves a lot of the issues that the other figures had, and I suspect part of this is due to his two figure release.  In terms of “background” in the design and budget area, the dual release should have effectively double the budget for this figure’s design.  The joints look better, partially due to his larger size, but he also includes three accessories, his knife, his pistol, and his gun, Vera.

Funko Legacy Firefly, Jayne

My issue with the figure is that I can’t get him to hold Vera.  It’s a nice looking gun, and I’ve seen where other’s have gotten the gun into his hands, but the hands on my Jayne are too stiff and tight to fit the larger gun into either hand.  I also worry about breaking the gun as well.

Funko Legacy Firefly, Jayne

Which leads me into the overall line, and it’s many issues.  These are relatively cheap figures, at $20 each (less these days since they are on clearance anywhere that still has them).  Still, there are wonky quality issues across the board.  The paint on all of these figures have some issues, it’s not clear how much is just shoddy work and how much is intentional to make things look “dirty”.  There are ugly plastic seams plaguing almost every figure as well, especially on hands and arms where there is flesh tone paint.  The joint designs are functional, but very ugly, just take a look at the elbows on Jayne and Zoë, or the wrists on all of them.  These figures really feel like they could have benefited from a higher price point, put towards polishing them up.  The basic idea and execution is there, everything just falls short in some pretty major ways.  The details on Kaylee’s overalls and Wash’s shirt both are great, and the two mini Dinosaurs are really good, it’s a shame this level couldn’t have been executed consistently across the line, especially since this is essentially Funko’s “Collector” level line.

The other shame is that the line is effectively dead as near as I can tell.  We’ll probably never get River, or Simon, or Inara, or Sheppard Book.  Which is a bit of a shame because Firefly is a fun cult series that really could use a nice set of figures.

Are the figures worth picking up?  At this point they can be had pretty cheap, they aren’t the best, but if you’re a fan of the show it’s likely the only chance you’re ever going to have to get figures from the show, and at sub $15, most of the figures are worthwhile.  Wash and Malcolm are pretty fun figures to add in with say, Star Wars Black figures.  Jayne and Zoë are both allright, though flawed a bit.  Kaylee, not so much, at least the one I have isn’t great.

Review – Change Agent by Daniel Suarez

NOTE: This book was provided by the publisher for free to the reviewer in advance of release.

I should probably start off by mentioning that I am a huge fan of Daniel Suarez.  I have read all of his previous books, a few of them more than once.  He definitely has a great “not too distant” future sort of style that comes off as very plausible in his Sci-Fi Techno-Thriller novels.  While I wouldn’t rate Change Agent as his be best work yet, I still give that to Daemon, it’s certainly not on the bottom of my list.  They all rank pretty high in my opinion.

The general plot follows Kenneth Durand, who has been genetically altered via a Change Agent, sort of a DNA virus, to have the form of the wanted criminal Marcus Wyckes.  A large proportion of the story follows Durand as he travels through Singapore and Thailand to try to find a way to return to his former self.  He meets a variety of folks along the way good and bad, and must deal with some inner turmoil in the concepts of what truly makes a person who they are.  Much of the near future aspects of this revolve around the concept of genomic manipulation primarily, but other more familiar concepts such as the mass use of drones and AR/VR style interfaces for technology.

The core story is well done and there is a nice sense of urgency along the way to Durand’s mission, mostly from the constant pursuit by the authorities.  The main areas where it falls apart is the periphery.  Some of Durand’s colleagues are involved in the pursuit of Durand/Wyckes but they don’t really seem to every question the possibility of Durand being anyone except who he appears to be, despite the world around them.  There also isn’t a much done with Durand’s family, which is his entire motivation, beyond surface level exposure.  Meanwhile many of the people Durand meets later feel like they don’t really have any good reason to trust him yet they often do explicitly.  The subplot involving (the real) Wyckes’ henchman never feels quite fully explored either.

These sub plots could have been fleshed out a bit further and could have helped the story feel more complete.  The core plot works regardless, though there are some parts that felt like they dragged a bit early on and around the three quarters mark.  The real fun, like all of Daniel Suarez’s books, comes from the “what if” world that is presented.  Daemon and Freedom looked at the web and AI, Kill Decision was AI and drones, Change Agent looks at genetics and technology overexposure.

If you enjoy the writing style of Daniel Suarez or similar authors such as Neal Stephenson, John Scalzi, or William Gibson, you’ll probably enjoy Change Agent.