Before we begin, we would like to apologize to you, our OAFEnet reader, for the lateness of this review. We actually intended to post it eight years ago.
As you saw if you clicked that link, these figures have been rescued from NECA's unreleased prototypes. They were designed at the same time as the other TMNT figures, but Playmates had a death-grip on the license, and wouldn't allow NECA to put the toys in mass market stores, even if they were in a different aisle. So they went into storage, never to see the light of day.
And then the two SDCC sets happened, and the response was so overwhelmingly positive that it led directly to this exclusive box set at New York Comic Con.
The star of the set, naturally, is Shredder.
Had these figures been released individually in 2008 as intended, probably the only thing that would have kept Shredder from out-selling the other Feet (Foots?) would be the army-builders who bought up the extras to stage their giant battles. See, you can maybe forgo Foot Soldiers, but if you have the Turtles, you must get a Shredder to menace them. It's the law.
Of course, this is the Mirage Comics Shredder, which means there are a few differences from the more familiar versions. For one, it was his older brother, Oroku Nagi, who had a beef with Hamato Yoshi, not Oroku Saki himself; when Nagi was killed by Yoshi, Saki swore revenge. So that's one difference. Another is that he was (as Poe once taught us) killed in the first issue of the comic, so it was really more his lingering influence that caused trouble for the Turtles, not the man himself. Of course, later in the series he appeared to come back to life, so maybe this toy represents that.
Whichever Shredder it is (spoiler: the resurrected version was a clone made by [and of] magical Foot Clan earthworms), the costume was the same. He wears a simple samurai helmet, with a two-piece neck guard hanging down the back, a smooth faceplate, and three undetailed horns curving back over the sides and top. He has no real face, just white eyes on black.
For those of us used to Shredder wearing black and purple, seeing him in maroon and brown may be shocking - of course, the original
1990 movie used a similar shade, so it's not like this is without precedence in pop culture. He has bladed silver armor on his shoulders, forearms and shins, and things on the back of his hands. His arms are bare. He wears a tunic that's tied around the waist with a thick sash belt, and there are similar wrappings around his forearms and lower legs. Despite claims to the contrary, the sculpt on this figure is the same as the Arcade set - or rather, the arcade set is the same as it. There was some talk that the Arcade figures didn't use the '08 sculpts, but that clearly isn't the case. His spikes are soft PVC, and get warped by resting in the tray; fortunately, a quick dip in hot water helped fix that.
Next we have a pair of plain Foot Soldiers,
and I promise you, that name was not a joke I understood as a kid. It was the Foot Clan, they were Foot Soldiers, and dumb little yo took that at face value. Eastman and Laird created Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to cash in on the biggest fads in '80s comics, with the "ninja" part of the equation coming from Frank Miller's work on both Wolverine and Daredevil - so while the Turtles themselves pay homage to that origin in the form of the goop that mutated them, the franchise also honors it by turning Marvel's Hand ninjas into the Foot.
In-universe, the Foot was accidentally founded by the Turtles themselves. While traveling through time, they ended up in feudal Japan; there, Raphael befriended a pair of locals and taught them the basics of ninjitsu. After the Turtles returned to their own time, the men decided to continue their studies, growing "step by step" - thus the name "Foot."
The soldiers dress much like their master, just without the bladed armor. They wear maroon tunics and gray pants, and leave their arms bare. They've got the belt, hand wraps, and bands around their forearms and feet/shins. The two are differentiated by their heads: one just has a plain gray mask, while the other tops that with a headband.
All four figures in this box set move at all the same 32 points: balljointed ankles and head; swivel shins, thighs, waist and biceps; double-hinged knees and elbows; and swivel/hinge hips, wrists, shoulders and neck. Many of the joints are stiff, particularly the swivel/hinges. That's across all the figures, by the way: lifting Shredder's arms is just as tough as lifting the ninjas' (and in some cases, they break right off, so be careful). Getting the joint at the bottom of the neck to move is particularly difficult. All four figures come with alternate hands, open to hold weapons instead of closed fists.
The fourth figure in the set is another Foot ninja, but not a plain one. In fact, when these were first shown off (with their promised release date of "Fall 2008"), I thought it was an alternate version of Shredder or something. Although, in a way, that's not too far from the truth.
This guy is a member of Shredder's Elite Guard. Comprising the best ninjas the Foot Clan has to offer, the Elite serve as Shredder's personal bodyguards and field commanders, leading missions in his absense and controlling small groups of ninjas on their own. After Shredder's death, while the rest of the Foot Clan broke down to an internal war for control of the city, the Elite remained dedicated to taking revenge on the Turtles.
Like their master, all the Elite Guard wear a metal faceplate for protection, though theirs has an angle down the front, rather than being smooth. They also get a cloth drape to protect the back of their neck, and top it all off with a large jingasa hat. Like Shredder, he doesn't get an actual face - just black "skin" and blank eyes.
Most of the body is the same used for the two plain Feet -
tunic, belt, leg wraps, etc. It's easier to appreciate the details on these toys than it was on the Arcade set, because this time the paint aligns with the sculpt. Like the Turtles, these figures are painted in a "cel shading" style meant to evoke the original comics. So we get big swaths of flat color, then thin black lines following the contours of the sculpt to create outlines and shadows. It's a very stylish look, and it really suits the Elite Guard well, since he wears extra armor on his hands and forearms. The shading in the comic makes it look like metal, but here it's painted brown. So be it. The prototype had a lot more squares than the final version, but since it's just paint, you could fix that if you want. He also wears a tattered cape, same that was used for Arcade Shredder.
As we mentioned, the figures all come with alternate open hands to hold weapons - so what weapons do they have? There are two swords,
two knives (one straight, the other curved with a spiked pommel), a naginata, a throwing star, a punching dagger, and a kusarigama with a real metal chain. Since the Foot Clan don't have assigned weapons, the way the Turtles do, you can give any of the gear to anyone you want. The prototype images showed the figures coming with more of those cool sidewalk bases, but that didn't make it to the final set, sadly.
However! The other thing shown back at SDCC '08 looked,
to those of us who only knew the TMNT via the cartoon and everything that came after, like a weird version of Krang. It's actually an Utrom, the alien race upon which Krang was based. In the comics, they were the brains (no pun intended) behind TCRI and the mutagen that created the Turtles. They were mostly good guys, or at least not actively evil, so its inclusion here has to be a reference to the relationship between Shredder and Krang. It's painted with the same comic-style outlines as the other figures, and has a swivel joint for each of his two "arm" tentacles.
While it would have been preferable to get these figures individually (and also eight years ago), the fact that they got released at all is yet another NECA coup. We've said it before, but this probably will be the end of NECA's TMNT line: they released all the Turtles, they released the Mousers, they released April O'Neil, they released the Foot Clan... unless they have a Splinter and Casey Jones that they put together and never showed anybody, they're out of 7"-scale characters to do. The toys have some really stiff joints, but the fact that NECA never gave up on getting these made shows their love for the line.