The back half of my travel took me to the great state of Florida. This meant two things, time off close enough to Orlando that I'll have some theme park hauls coming up, and, well, just more away-from-home shopping with more away-from-home finds!
DST - Captain America Minimates: Captain America & Red Skull
Freshly released and pretty damn cool are the new Captain America Minimates. I have failed to order the direct-market set so far, but happily bought the four sets available at TRU as I wait to complete the collection. This is, of course, the trademark set and highly remarkable that it is the only Red Skull collectible to feature the Hugo Weaving face mask! (I'm sure if Hot Toys does a Red Skull he'll have it, but until that time this is your only option.) The mask a simple "slip-on" piece for the head and remarkably goes on/comes off with great ease. To my eyes it looks like the hairline is remarkably off-center but based on the sculpt it looks like the face is painted on right where it should be... He gets an all-black body with some red decoration on the arms but the bulk of the costume is a newly sculpted trenchcoat piece heavily detailed to match what's in the film. I have mixed feelings on it as on one hand it does look good, but I do get bummed out but heavily sculpted pieces on Minimates. Conversely Cap is a great mix of paint and sculpt detailing and that pretty much hits that sweet spot for me (though the upper arms are new pieces, uniquely sculpted for this costume). The mask is, of course, far more bulky than in the art and doesn't look "just right" on the head, but such is life. Both figures come with a firearm, plus Cap gets his shield and a hair piece for unmasked look. This is the first set in a while that you can comfortably double up since there are alternate looks for each character, and I thank DST for that!
DST - Captain America Minimates: Frontline Captain America & Bucky
Frontline Cap is one of the figures that I love Minimates for - its a really cool, semi-iconic (considering putting that character into "real" WWII) costume that just isn't... I don't know, "good enough" to get an action figure. The jacket piece on the torso is removable to show a fully painted "golden age" torso, though with no interchangeable arms it's kind of pointless. He also comes with the "triangle" shield, which I believe is the first time we've seen any acknowledgement of that design for the film. There are pegs for the shield on both the left forearm and Cap's back, which is pretty awesome, though with no alternate left hand you're just stuck with straps'n'peg look. Bucky comes with the sniper rifle in keeping with his re-visualization as more than just a boy sidekick. He has a new chest piece of a coat similar to the Rocketeer's, but it's just too bulky in size for my taste.
DST - Captain America Minimates: Golden Age Captain America & Dum Dum Dugan
Golden Age Cap is a delightful reference to the actual Cap costume and probably comes from his USO tour. I just pray they avoid self-referential humor ala the "yellow tights" line from the abysmal first X-Men film. The paint work here is really clean with some great stitch detailing, but the real star of this Toys Я Us exclusive is Dum Dum Dugan. I've never been a fan of the character nor the actor Neal McDonugh but this figure is just awesome. The sculpt of the torso piece the brown color palate, it all just works insanely well for me. And add to that a shotgun (wasn't it double barreled, not pump-action, in the trailer?) that can fit into a holster on his back and you have one solid bad ass. Aside from the head replacement, giving Steve Rogers a truly weak body pre-serum, my favorite moment from the trailer is when Cap and team burst through a door, Cap flanked by Bucky and Dum Dum, each in a unique costume with a signature weapon firing away with perfect confidence and teamwork, and I'm thrilled to be able to recreate that at least with Minimates. Hasbro take heed - we need a movie Bucky and Dum Dum!
DST - Captain America Minimates: Gabe Jones & Hydra Flame Trooper
To the best of my knowledge Gabe Jones is an all-new character, and in a way I suppose the Hydra Flame Trooper is as well. Gabe comes in the generically unique WWII get-up like Dum Dum and though I don't specifically recall him from the trailer he comes with a Gatling gun making him fit in with the special costume/weapon theme of Cap, Bucky and Dum Dum. Like the other figures he too has a new torso-covering piece and has no deco underneath - bummer. He's wearing the same US helmet that Frontline Cap comes with and while it seems like a minor piece it's actually a brilliant piece of sculpting/engineering. The chin straps hang down naturally but perfectly fit over the torso piece at all angles. Its actually a little mindboggling that they were able to pull off such a feat but you're able to spin the helmet around 360° with the straps having enough clearance to turn normally, but not so much as to ruin the illusion - very cool. Similarly the Gatling gun boasts a much-needed return to simple cylindrical pegs for weapon handles, which not only means he can easily hold the gun but you can actually angle it so that he can use both hands! Awesome. Contrarily there is the Flame Thrower Hydra goon - I hate the designs of all the Hydra stuff because it's so modernized, clearly designed by people today. I want a World War II Captain America movie to have the same feel as Saving Private Ryan, i.e. as realistic as possible and frankly all of the design elements are so stylized and anachronistic that it's just rubbed in your face that this is a Comicbook Movie. Alas. The actual Flame Thrower gauntlets have open peg holes at both the center and top shaft suggesting that Flame elements were meant to be included but sadly are not. Thus, he's just a dude...
DST - Halo Minimates: Emile & Jun
Ugh... sculpting on Minimates... so here's the deal - you have a format that is built around simplicity and reuse of parts, with colors and paint being the core differentiation, abut then you just start doing highly detailed sculpts that hide or replace that simplistic core but don't make any changes to that base to allow for the increased bulk or weight. I just can't express enough how fundamentally disappointed I am in just how detailed they're getting in their Minimate sculpts. It be the same as if McFarlane just started replacing their Halo figures' bodies with Minimate hands. Its a total clash of styles, and for Minimates it just totally inhibits their articulation and rendering the format of the same body totally pointless. But I'm a slut and bought in anyway. At least Jun has a face painted under his helmet. They come with the same gun which also can barely stay in their hand due to high sculptural bulk in both the hilt and the forearm - the design/engineering opposite of Gabe's awesome helmet.
DST - Marvel Minimates: Nemesis & Morph
Age of Apocalypse, what, what!!! I've never read the story but am always a fan of "alternate reality" stories/designs and have a very fond nostalgia for the original ToyBiz line. Nemesis is the big baddy, I suppose, but who gives a darn when one can have a hulking translucent Minimate! He reuses the leg armor from Hulkbuster Iron Man but the rest is all new add-ons. Morph is one of the weirdest, coolest character designs from AOA - there's just something enjoyable about the gaudy clothes in bright pastels. He is a perfect Minimate that encapsulates everything I love about the line - proper add-on reuse, detailing mainly in paint, and bright colors. This is the format at its best.
DST - Marvel Minimates: Sabretooth & Blink
Sabretooth is probably the least interesting of all the AOA designs, but I guess there always is Wolverine... Just a big, bland, mustard yellow swash. Blink, like Morph, is one of the only two characters to really survive the epic maxi-series and find a following of devoted fans, mainly due to Judd Winnick's great concept/poorly executed Exiles series. She comes with one her cool little pink plasma stakes and the little teleport burst previously seen with Magick. The bummer, though, is that Blink's loincloth is too long to really allow her to be posed in the burst. As they say auf deutsche: Schade.
DST - Marvel Minimates: Wolverine & Omega Red
Wow - talk about pointless Wolverines... didn't they just do this figure? Oh, well I guess that was the brown costume so this is totally different. I think it would have been much more "fun" to do a spin on one of those weird ToyBiz variants, like Stealth Wolverine or Space Wolverine. Omega Red is the last of the major, early '90s baddies to get Minimate-ized and he is a very welcome addition. The execution is kind of so-so for me, and his hair is pretty loose so it spins easily and comes off with little effort.
DST - Marvel Minimates: Big Time Spider-Man & Iron Fist
The one carry-over from the ill-conceived Series 38. Spider-Man variations can be fun and this one is certainly unique. It comes with the web coil from previous releases but this time is cast in translucent yellow. Iron Fist, a character I know little about and don't quite get the following of, is actually pretty cool. He come with an alternate hair piece and two normal Minimate hands, but why would you want those when he comes wearing the neat half-mask and super-cool bandaged forearms? A cool piece of engineering is that despite the bulk of the bandages the old Street Fighter hand-energy ball still fits comfortably over the hand.
Hasbro - Captain America: Captain America
So as I said earlier, I really don't like the costume design for this movie - its just too modern to possible exist in 1945. That doesn't mean they don't look cool though, and this Cap costume is pretty damn cool (just 2011 cool, not 1942 cool). They did a great job of capturing the costume at this scale, though what is visible of the face doesn't really call Chris Evans to mind. He comes with three accessories: handgun, WWII helmet and the shield, the latter of which is particularly cool in that the underside as all the detailing of the movie prop. It can be difficult to get the forearm through both straps so its easiest to just have him "hold" the first strap in hand.
Hasbro - Captain America: Crossbones
A surprisingly cool figure with one one big fault - the balljointed elbows are bulky they might as well just be mediocre hinge joints. Beyond that, though, really, really good sculpting with some of the best proportioning we've seen in any of Hasbro's Marvel offerings. The flak vest has a really great light gray wash which highlights the details excellently and adds to overall realism of the figure. He comes with three guns, but sadly they're all cast in olive green plastic and have no paint, apparently they couldn't let him get too cool. Under the vest is a torso wearing a button-up shirt, an interesting but conceptually cool idea. Really this figure is a head and bullet-proof vest (and improved elbow articulation) away from being an awesome Punisher figure, so keep your fingers crossed and eyes peeled.
Hasbro - Captain America: Red Skull
I saw a Walmart had set aside a bunch of pegs for Captain America toys so that night i did some research online discovering that the "best" figures were all in Series 2 which included Crossbones and Red Skull packed at one per case... groan and a forehead slap. WTF, Hasbro... WTF? It was thus with extreme pleasure that I found the next day that store had stocked one case of Series 2 and thus the impossible-to-find-villains were in-hand right of the bat. Sometimes all the bad luck karma pays off. Red Skull is a fairly humdrum figure with not much to boast about. He has a Luger pistol, but for some odd reason the handle is so wide it can barely be held (why not just reuse the tool from Indiana Jones line?), a missile launching rifle that's so odd and uninteresting not even the kiddies will care and a translucent blue cosmic cube, which has fire/steam/effect coming off it that looks cool but severely undercuts the simple cube design that is eery and preferable. The good news is that this figure could easily double as a comic Red Skull... which will only make him easier to find...
Hasbro - Marvel Universe: Frost Giant & Loki
Nearly impossible to find but found on a whim not far from the Tampa Airport this is certainly the best of the second series of the 12" figures, but still not particularly exciting. I think it's the dominant brown coloring that bums me out, and between the Galadrim-esque helment and Uruk Hai-esque chest armor he just feels derivative, kitbashed from old Lord of the Rings pieces. But that's fine - Silver Age Loki is the main reason I bought this set, and he is pretty darn cool. Using the standard slim male body in rotation since Series 1, Loki has relatively cleaner/crisper paint that one has come to expect from the line. Plus, I'm just a terrible sucker for the big curved horns. The comic included has a neat little Easter egg for me, its a story about Loki usurping Odin's throne and upon doing so sports the "Crown of Lies" most famous from the Marvel Legends variant figure. Pretty cool to see things like that, modern takes with classic origins.
Mezco - Cinema of Fear: Nightmare on Elm Street 4 Freddy Krueger
I've been really digging the "non-classic-costume" figure of Freddy Mezco had been doing (and of course the irony is that NECA's line of Freddy's in the standard costume is one of my most anticipated lines of 2011) but it was so hard for me to buy in based on the price. This guy originally ran for $15, but this Toys Я Us had him marked down to $10. Still though I hemmed and hawed about him. With a planned three-day trip to Disney World and a big haul in Virginia I had to be very conscious of luggage space. So I did a price scan to verify the $10 price, and you know what? $5! Huzzah!!!