Back from travel and back to store shopping where I found a slew of good things, as well as more Minimates I'm not crazy about but compulsively bought in order to support the format. We'll also look at a couple awesome Lego sets and some incredibly rare Tron Legacy figures that I still can't believe I was able to find. Round it out with some Green Lantern figures and what do you get? This weeks installment of "Spoils"!
DST - Sony Playstation: Jak and Daxter Minimates
Hoo boy... just keep telling myself, "gotta support DST, gotta support DST." I'm not into videogames really at all so I only have the most tangential of knowledge of any of these characters. These figures are fine for what they are but they do answer a question I've had for a while: no, cartoon characters do not translate well into Minimate form. Daxter is kind of neat in that they used forearms for his thighs to get skinny legs.
DST - Sony Playstation: Ratchet & Clank Minimates
Like above, when proportions are exaggerated to begin with it becomes even harder to make them "fit" in the Minimate style so a lot of concessions are made which end up with a weird and uninteresting figure. Ratchet and Jak feel very similar, both with their oversized ears, and Clank just... there's something weirdly off about him. I think it's the darker colors. But hey, at least they found a way to use the smaller head from the Halo aliens for something else (or is that a new, small head?). Probably the best thing in this set is the collapsed, mini-Clank that plugs in Ratchet's back, though that just serves to remind you how over-sized the Clank Minimate is.
DST - Sony Playstation: Resistance, Nathan Hale & Advanced Hybrid Minimates
Ironically this is probably my favorite set of the series, but when I say "favorite" I mean more "least disliked." It's ironic, of course, because my hate of highly detailed Minimate sculpts is well documented throughout this column's history. It's a nice companion set, in look and tone, to the Halo Minimates and is welcome for that. Nathan's left foot will not stay on him though. At least these guys can hold their weapons.
DST - Sony Playstation: Uncharted, Nathan Drake & Chloe Frazer Minimates
This should be my preferred set because these are just simple, classic 'mates, but that's almost expressly the problem. Much like we complained about when McFarlane made toys from Lost, no matter how cool the property is, the toys are still just "people in clothes," and that's just what we have here. Not being familiar with the game I see nothing special or unique to these, beyond maybe the accessories, to differentiate them from being "just people." I guess they'll make fine background fodder for generi-displays once we get more MAX releases.
Lego - Castle: Blacksmith Attack
Last year Lego put out a direct market set for the Castle theme featuring a couple buildings for creating a Medieval Village. This caught a lot of people's eyes but I steered clear from the $100 price tag, so it was with great relief that they unveiled a similarly themed small set for this year, and of a cool profession - Blacksmithery! This is the one sentence I'll use to acknowledge the evil Green Dragon hoodlum figure. The Blacksmith is a pretty solid figure though I have to say I'm not crazy about the hood. Forget the figures though, we all got this for the Smithing! Its broken into two pieces - a display for some of his metal wears (a metal Bow?) and the Forge, which actually works! There is a big fire place but its "openness" strikes me as inaccurate, maybe they hadn't perfected enclosed ovens by then. Next to that is a small hovel which holds an anvil and mechanized hammer. I love being able to build a familiar thing out of unfamiliar parts, but I would have preferred a new, unique sculpt for the anvil rather than it being built out of various pieces (much like this set has a new sculpt of a chicken as opposed to the constructs version from the Medieval Village set). The hovel has a water wheel which just looks cool, but it actually serves a function! As you turn the wheel, a peg on the interior knocks against a shaft with a hammer at the opposite end, causing it to hammer down on the anvil! How cool is that! I'm wondering if there is some way to build a conveyor belt to mimic the water and turn the wheel. Seeing as this set 1) is pretty awesome and 2) is only $10 I'll probably end up buying a second one in order to build out the hovel and give the Blacksmith a second Anvil to work at personally.
Lego - Pirates of the Caribbean: The Cannibal Escape
So... I am strangely obsessed with the PotC franchise and its subsequent merchandise, but I've pretty much actively hated every film after the first one, with Dead Man's Chest being probably the worst of them all to me (mainly in that it is so dumb in logic and so thoroughly undermines most of what was great about the first film). Chief among my most hated sequences is segment with the Cannibals. However, when I saw this set open and on display at the Lego Store I just couldn't resist. There's three elements: Hut with Bone Cage, Cannibal Throne, and Man-Cooking Spit. Working backwards, the Spit is pretty neat and works pretty well. I would have liked a more pronounced fire, but what're ya gonna do? Jack's hair piece is a smidge too tall for the pole to turn correctly without him bent at the waist alas. The Throne is really cool and a surprisingly good recreation of the set piece in the film, all things considered. The real star is the Bone Cage and Hut, the latter is probably three times more complex than it looks. The hut has a fully realized interior with two different stashes of weapons and goodies. The Cage is complex in a simple way and plenty fun to build. The real star though is the hoist feature which works shockingly well, and indeed there is enough change too lower the cage below "ground level" so this a great on the edge of a table or what have you. This is truly one of those sets that's fun to build and moreso to play with. Plus with so three set pieces and four figures it's an great deal at $30! However, with only one Cannibal Jack, it's kind of pointless to have both the throne and the spit.
Mattel - Green Lantern: Green Man
Mattel's next "Grand Experiment": can they augment a retailer line with fully unique sculpts on mattycollector? Apparently, the answer is "yes" so far, in terms of sales. Green Man is a good sculpt, plenty of detail and good paint. I don't quite understand why he has "natural" amphibous spots over his GL costume, though... Isn't that kind of like Hal having body hair over his uniform. Just odd. Green Man is much larger and much more Frog-ish than in the comics, but such is the design aesthetic of the film. But here's the point - lame figure. Why? The articulation. Much like my problems with Hal Jordan, none of the joints have the range of motion to justify their inclusion. What's more, the figure is so top-heavy that the balljointed ankles, knees and torso make him hard to stand. Note, the head is only a swivel joint, though it easily could have been a functional balljoint like the four-inch scale Rhino figure from Hasbro's Spider-Man line. Mattel is like being in a relationship with someone who is "good enough" - they keep making the product, so that keeps me around, but there's nothing special about it so I'd happily move on if someone else came along. For how much bitching and whining Neitlich has always done about the cost of tooling, I just don't understand why they bother doing so much articulation that moves so little.
Mattel - Green Lantern: Naut Ke Loi
A neat redesign of the comic character, his figure features internal articulation that presumably paved the way for the upcoming SDCC Swamp Thing figure. The holes in the plastic suggest bendy wires but indeed both arms and the tail have plastic rods with two ratcheted points of articulation each. Its pretty neat and definitely better than wires, but for whatever reason (probably thickness of the available rubber) the joints are pretty close to one another so posing isn't super great. The worst thing about this figure, though, is that he has no legs and comes with NO base! Leave it to Mattel to innovate but still undercut the "cool factor" by leaving out a crucial elements. Crucial why? You have to tripod this guy to keep him upright which means A) limited poses and, moreover, B) guaranteed warping as all the weight is put on the soft rubber fin tips. Be it a notched plastic stand his tail would rest in or a plastic rod stuck up a whole in his torso - anything would be better than the warping fins. He also comes with the same Parallax arm as the other three "Wave 1" figures. So... they better start moving on to new pieces cause this whole "biggest Collect'n'Connect" hullabaloo is loosing its "excitement" fast.
Spin Master - Tron Legacy: Black Guard & Sam Flynn
Target carried this exclusive series of little 2.5 inch PVC figures meant to provide some more "flashy" interpretations of the characters each with their own translucent color "swoosh." Like most rookie companies they shot themselves in the foot as series 1 included six two-packs with a lot of the same characters in relatively similar poses that didn't really harken back to anything too memorable from the film. This line was more "inspired by" the film than "taken from" it. Such is this set. Two neat figures, but not terribly great.
Spin Master - Tron Legacy: Black Guard & Vintage Light Cycle
One neat thing was the inclusion of Light Cycles in the series which brings us the opportunity to get the cycles with light trails, limited though they are. As a result this piece is neat, and especially appreciated in that its not yet another Sam, Blackguard, or Rinzler. However we don't ever see the Vintage Cycle with trail engaged so this would have been a much better slot to do a Light Jet with a cool, possibly spiraling, light stream. Now that would have been truly unique and cool. As it is, with the light trail connected this piece doesn't fit on one tile and gets pretty lopsided and front heavy. Oh, and then there is like the third or fourth Black Guard figure in the line. At least this one is in a totally unique, though not-accurate-to-the-film character pose. But be ye warned, its really hard to keep him connected to the light-leap swoosh.
Spin Master - Tron Legacy: Clu & Castor
Series 2 of the 4" figures shows a Castor on the cardback but I've never seen him at retail and am pretty confident he was never released. To verify I did a search on eBay and thus is how I discovered this third series of minis. This set became my most desired Tron piece as I LOVE Clu in his Light Robe costume and this is the only collectible representing it. Not to mention it's characters standing, and in a pose they actually use in the film while wearing the costume they're in. Castor is pretty cool, and though I'm not crazy about the White-Face I can accept it as a conceit of the line's style. And yes, his cane is removable. Words can't express how elated I was to find this series and especially this set. Most Targets never got it in because the line is just a pegwarmer and if these show up on eBay they go easily for $30 or $40 (retail is $4.99). So... awesome set, major score, and a thoroughly happy collector!!!
Spin Master - Tron Legacy: Sam Flynn & Siren
Next to the Clu/Castor set I wanted this the most, partly for the simplicity of design and primarily for the Siren, who has no other collectible. The great thing about this line is that the figures connect to a universal hexagon base via a peg which fits in any of the 13 peg holes, not only can you change up the figural interaction, you can also rework the number of figures per base, hence I have Jarvis with Robe Clu on one hex and Castor with the Siren on another. The bases also connect via a separate black plastic piece with two holes that plug into pegs behind the open spaces on the side. Do note that the connector piece is used to hold the plastic bands in place in the blister's tray so they look like "trash." Indeed I lost a couple to the recycle bin before figuring out they were the connectors. This Sam is really cool, cause it's the iconic Tron pose, but he didn't have a helmet on in that scene! Why are Castor and Siren the only characters from Spin Master to get a face sculpt!?