Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ultimate Spider-Man Issues # 1-7 Review

  I’ve got to admit after how big of a flop Ultimate Daredevil & Elektra and Elektra: Devil’s Due both turned out to be for me, I wasn’t exactly eager to jump into Ultimate Spider-Man.  I don’t know what it is but my entire life Spider-Man hasn’t ever really registered with me. I’d watch reruns of the old cartoons and while they were decent they never offered me much more than a way to pass 30 minutes.  The cartoon in the 90s was better so I guess there was that.  When I was younger I couldn’t have cared less about the comics (I was all about X-Men and Superman back then) and when I was a kid I’d always pick up the X-Men toys in the store and not even give any thing with a Spider-Man logo a second glance.  Don’t even get me started on the three live action movies.  The one good thing is that while I would never have willingly picked Spider-Man I didn’t have the same unnatural level of anger and revulsion that I do with Iron Man.

I know I’ve been doing the Ultimate Marvel reviews in a way that seems like I’m just going by the way the trade paperbacks are collected, but that’s not the case.  One thing I don’t ever enjoy is while I’m reading something and then out of the blue the writer decides to Retcon in an entire story that happened within the timeline previously but didn’t actually exist until the writer needs it as a plot device.  So I went into the Ultimate Marvel Universe with a promise I made not to read the stories in publishing order, but event order instead.

I like the idea of updating well established characters and making them more relevant to current times (but in my opinion DC Comics has done it better so far) Ultimate has been hit and miss so far.  However with a character like Spider-Man there are some things that have to be set in stone.  Peter Parker’s parents must be dead, he has to be raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben.  Peter has to be bitten by a spider in order to get his abilities, Peter has to have Uncle Ben taken away from him in a manner that Peter feels responsible for.  Peter has to work for the Daily Bugle and he has to be a freakishly smart geek.

That being said the first few issues of the series are basically a wash.  There are so many events that have to be set up before any writer can re-imagine Peter Parker’s universe it almost becomes pointless.  Sure there are a few things that can be changed but not enough to give it any real weight.  Like I said with the Elektra reviews this is another case of a writer using a plot that has been used time and time again only to just put their own spin on it.  Ultimate Spider-Man’s origin issues aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, but at the same time they’re not trying to turn him into something it was never supposed to be.  I want to be fair though because this is Brian Michael Bendis that we’re talking about, I just wish that we can see more of him unrestrained and that we can move away from the issues being credited as “Writer Brian Michael Bendis from original material by Stan Lee.”

While I’m willing to stick this out because I trust Brian’s writing ability the art on the other hand….  I know that Mark Bagley was with the series for a long time, he was onboard until issue #111; his style just isn’t my cup of tea.  I don’t mind it so much when he’s drawing Spider-Man, but when it comes to the unmasked characters like Ben, May, Mary Jane, Liz, Peter and Harry they all seem just a bit off.  It’s not a lot, but there’s something about them that’s just different enough to look funky, and not the good kind of funky.  The one good thing about the art style is that this is one of the few times that we aren’t treated to a rendition of Mary Jane Watson that looks like she belongs on the cover of a low budget porno movie.  I’ve never been a fan of the over sexualization of female characters in comic books; if I wanted nothing more than sexy women doing weird things to fight mutant space aliens I’d just set my dvr to record everything that airs on Cinemax after 2am every night.  But as weird as it sounds I’m kind of afraid of how The Black Cat will be represented once she finally makes her debut considering that she was always supposed to be the ‘overtly sexual bad girl.’

Rating this isn’t going to be simple since it is 7 stories overall just to tell the origin.  The pacing is a bit odd because some issues drag out a lot more and there’s so much focus on certain events that do nothing but bloat the story arch.  It could have been told in 4-5 max, yet it’s 7.

Issue #1 – Powerless: C -
Issue #2 – Growing Pains: C+
Issue #3 – Wannabe: B-
Issue #4 – With Great Power: C+
Issue #5 – Life Lessons: B-
Issue #6 – Big Time Super Hero: B+
Issue #7 – Secret Identity B
Overall Rating: C+

Saturday, May 15, 2010

DVD Review: Hulk VS

Alright, the power kept going out again all day today so I didn’t even bother to try to catch up on TV and review the recent finales or Doctor Who, but I thought I’d take a shot at a DVD that has been sitting on top of my player for over a week now Hulk VS (Thor/Wolverine.) These two shorts aren’t really covering anything new here, but they’re not trying to either which is refreshing. You’re meant to go into this knowing that you’re going to get roughly two 40 minute pointless fight sequences between The Hulk and popular Marvel Universe characters.

I was a little nervous going into this because I’m not really a fan of Thor, and while I like action The Hulk has always seemed too pointless for my own tastes, there’s no real plot to him other than he gets angry, he breaks stuff, I need to be more intellectually engaged in something than that for me to enjoy it. And I know I’m going to catch a lot of flack here but I’m not the biggest Wolverine fan out there, he’s decent and all, but honestly he’s been managed to inconsistently over the years that it’s hard for him to have any real depth. The only times I ever really liked him in the comics were the times that he was mentoring Jubilee, Shadowcat, Cannonball and X-23.

Hulk VS Thor:

I’m not up on Thor at all so I went in essentially blind. This is supposed to just be an action movie so there’s no real room for plot; character development isn’t the driving force of what story there actually is. The movie starts with Loki bringing Hulk to Asgard to kill Thor while Odin is forced to rest and regain his strength. Loki is aided by The Enchantress who is holding a grudge against Thor for not returning her love for him. Amora/Enchantress does a spell to separate Hulk from Bruce Banner and give Loki control over him so he can act out his plan. Long story short, huge fight scenes, Thor almost dies, Amora suddenly decides to not be evil/love scorned and bring Thor back from the brink of death. The rest of the plot is a little bit better; once Bruce Banner dies The Hulk is left on Asgard while Bruce’s soul has been taken by Hela to remain trapped in the underworld. Thor manages to force Loki into traveling to the underworld in an attempt to either steal Bruce’s soul and/or convince Hela to let it go. Loki manages to convince Hela to bring Hulk to the underworld and we have yet more fighting between him and Thor all the while Bruce watches knowing he can end this but too afraid to take the Hulk back into his soul. Eventually Hulk and Bruce’s souls merge yet again and Thor convinces Hela that Hulk’s soul is to dangerous to keep, she demands a soul in trade, Thor vows never to stop fighting her so instead she takes Loki. In the end Odin is rested and all powered up, Hulk/Bruce get send back to Earth and Loki remains trapped in the underworld frozen in what looks like a giant red gem by Hela.

Personally I think Hulk VS Thor was good for what it was, but I would have much rather it have been turned into a full length movie and develop more of Loki and Thor’s relationship, a little back story for Enchantress and her slowly falling under Loki’s influence once Thor turns her down, and a more drawn out journey through the underworld in order to save Bruce’s soul.

Hulk VS Wolverine:

One thing that surprised me about this particular story was that they actually showed blood in this one. When Wolverine cut The Hulk, Weapon X scientists and doctors with his claws there was blood, when he was running through the snow, there was blood; however in Hulk VS Thor there was a scene where Hulk was cut and stabbed repeatedly with a sword and there was nothing… It didn’t really make sense considering that they’re on the same DVD. But along the same lines there’s more human violence (cutting off of body limbs, Deadpool shooting Logan at point blank range in the face) and some adult language in this feature (Deadpool says ass, but that’s pretty much it.)

The story here isn’t really anything new it’s a mixture of Wolverine VS Weapon X, Hulk, Omega Red, Lady Deathstrike (who is massively underused here if they didn’t want to give her a larger role then I would much rather have had them use Domino or Mystique); and Sabertooth. All of these have been used several times in almost every animated incarnation of X-Men: The Animated Series, Evolution, Wolverine & the X-Men. Also like Evolution and Wolverine & the X-Men this is also another way to once again give us a semi-retelling of X-23/Laura X’s origin. I know Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost created Laura and get royalties every time she’s used but the fact that they include her in almost every single Marvel property they touch is becoming overkill. However this does make sense because Hulk VS Wolverine is pretty much a prequel to the episode of Wolverine & the X-Men and that they reference this ‘movie’ battle in the show and also an ‘older’ version of Laura exists within the future on the show.

I like nods to the TV show, and to Laura, I wish she would have had an actual role in this movie, I wish Lady Deathstrike was featured more and this plot has been used several times but the major saving grace of this movie is the inclusion of Deadpool. I can’t really harp too much on the plot here since this is essentially the plot that they wanted to use with the episode of Wolverine & the X-Men, only now that it’s a direct to DVD release they don’t have to worry too much about censors or the fact that it would air on morning TV because it’s not marketed for children.

Special Features:

Each feature/short movie has their individual special features. Hulk VS Wolverine has a first look into Wolverine and the X-Men, an audio commentary for the feature/short movie by Craig and Chris and a series of trailers: Wolverine & the X-Men, Iron Man the video game, The Incredible Hulk video game, Ultimate Avengers: The Movie, Doctor Strange The Movie, Speed Racer the Complete Series DVDs, and Shaun the Sheep Off the Baa! Hulk VS Thor also has audio commentary by Chris and Craig, all of the same trailers and a first look at the upcoming animated feature- Thor: Tales of Asgard.

I’ll be honest I didn’t listen to the audio commentaries since I had just watched the two short features, I didn’t want to basically do it all over again just to hear the commentary. The trailers get annoying and that’s mostly because of the fact that they all play when you first start the DVD anyway, there’s not really a point in re-watching them.

The First Looks though are interesting and worth watching. Wolverine and the X-Men pretty much explains a little bit why they wanted to shake up the universe as much as they did: Charles stuck in the future, Scott being more like the Logan of old while Logan is basically acting like old school Scott Summers. The first look at the Thor feature is good; you get to see a lot of the story boards and a few quick scenes. It actually made me want to see it, even though young Thor pretty much reminds me of the 200X MYP/MVC Adam from the Masters of the Universe series from a few years ago. We do get to see some fabulous covers from previous Thor issues by Jo Chen. Seeing those covers alone made it worth watching the roughly 5 minutes of a first look at the feature. The only downside to this is that this particular feature was pushed back until 2011.

So as a DVD how does Hulk VS stand up? Well it doesn’t have quite as many special features as we’ve become accustomed to over the years when it comes to comic book animated films, but this is essentially two films for the price of one. Personally I would have liked them separated and a more fleshed out Hulk VS Thor when it came to the plot, but I love that Hulk VS Wolverine served as a sort of semi-retroactive prequel to Wolverine & the X-Men. The art is decent, I actually like the overall look of Hulk VS Thor more than Hulk VS Wolverine, but HvW is a little bit more geared to adults visually so that makes up for Wolverine looking just a bit off somehow.

I actually liked this a lot better than I thought I was going to which surprised me to no end, and honestly in my opinion it’s right up there with the best of the animated Marvel films – they do have a trend, it’s either good, horrible, or watchable and this falls on the ‘good’ side. Would I buy the DVD? I’m not sure; I can see myself watching these two features in the future, but not frequently enough to buy it. If in the future Marvel re-released a two-disc version of this with each movie on a disc and additional special features then yes I’d buy it, if for nothing more than Hulk VS Wolverine.

All in all I’m going to say that this is solid RENTING material. It’s a fun watch, maybe on a rainy day when you’ve got nothing to do, but it’s not meaty enough to warrant it being a must have in order for it to be a buy.

Rating: RENT
Special Features: Hulk VS Thor: watch Hulk VS Wolverine: skip
Hulk VS Thor: B-
Hulk VS Wolverine: B+
Overall Rating: B

Friday, May 14, 2010

MotUC: King Randor: Action Figure Review

So today was going to be rapid-fire DVR reviews but there was a power outage so I didn’t have any access to my DVR, instead I spent some time taking pictures and doing some other reviews. I’ll post one today, and then the other one tomorrow if possible. The only reason why I chose King Randor as the first male figure review was simple, I had all of his accessories already on the figure and with the power out I really didn’t feel like digging through my closet in the dark looking for pieces to other figures that I don’t display everything with.

Randor is pretty much the personification of the Burger King mascot and this figure isn’t really an exception. It’s based off of the toy from the late 80s only updated with more articulation that is pretty much standard with any of the Classics figures released so far. The only hint of 200X comes in Randor’s sword which is pretty much a re-colored less detailed version of the 200X King Randor statue that was released a few years ago.  The Four Horsemen did a good job of tying it together though; the hilt of the sword matches the re-imagined spear, which is now more a staff than anything, along with the symbol on the armor. There were a few other tweaks to the 80s design most noticeable in the chest armor, it only goes halfway down the torso, and the crown, the original figure had a removable crown but the Classics figure doesn’t.

I’m kind of glad that the FILMation design was off the table when it came to Randor, it would have looked too comical compared to even the most outlandish looking of figures (I’m talking to you Mer-Man!) The good thing about this figure though is that there have been a lot of villains released so far and the good guys are seriously lacking in numbers, especially considering that Zodac doesn’t really ‘fight,’ Zodak isn’t really ‘active’ and that King Grayskull, He-Ro, Tytus and Wun-Dar are all dead, it seems like Green Goddess and Moss-Man are also ‘dead’ but it’s not specifically said, and Adora is on Etheria. So that just leaves Teela, Man-At-Arms, Stratos (who is kind of useless anyway) He-Man, Battle Cat and Randor against Skeletor, Beastman, Merman, Evil-Lyn, Faker, Scare Glow, Trap Jaw, Tri-Klops and Webstor.  That’s 5 against 9, 10 if you count Hordak, 11 if you count Marzo. So Randor’s presence alone helps to bulk up the Masters side just a bit more.

Now on to the bio:
Real Name: Randor of the House of Miro
King Miro's second-born son, Randor, came of age during the Great Unrest, a time when conflict returned to Eternia following the Count Marzo Uprisings and the subsequent betrayal of his half-brother, Keldor. After the disappearance of his father, Randor was appointed Captain of the Guard and lead Miro's troops in battle against Keldor's growing rebellion. Randor eventually ended the battles by fatally wounding Keldor, and locking him and his evil warriors behind the Mystic Wall. For this act, he was appointed King by the Council of Elders. King Randor raises his staff, exulting in his rule over all Eternia!

I don’t see much that they could have done with the biography so for what it is, it’s good. They can’t really touch on if Randor knew about Adam and Adora being destined for greatness, but it would have been nice to explain if Randor’s bloodline is what is tied to Grayskull’s bloodline. The only thing ruled out is Keldor because his biological mother has nothing to do with Adam and Adora, but it’s a possibility that Marlena’s heritage could be tied to Grayskull. This I find odd too, there is NO mention of Marlena whatsoever in Randor’s bio, or He-Man’s, or Adora’s or She-Ra’s yet she’s Randor’s wife and Adam and Adora’s mother, she needs to be mentioned if for nothing more than to tied fans over until if and when we get a Classics version of Marlena. Another odd thing is the mention of Miro, I don’t remember much of the early mini-comics that came with the 80s figures, but I do rewatch 200X and FILMation series’ off and on and he was featured in both the 80s cartoon of Masters of the Universe and Princess of Power, but as much as I remember at best he was only in once in 200X. I get that they need to mention him because of the fact that Keldor is Randor’s half-brother, so at some point they would need to address their biological father, but still.

The package is the same as the ‘non faction’ figure packages so there isn’t much to talk about here. But the back is something that bothers me a little bit. The figures pictured on the back are supposed to some how be connected to the character. Pictured are: He-Man, Teela, Man-At-Arms, Scareglow, King Randor and Webstor. You can justify Teela because she’s the captain of the royal guard, and Man-At-Arms because he’s the weapons master, He-Man obviously because we don’t have a Prince Adam yet and he’s Randor’s son, but I can’t figure out why Scareglow or Webstor. I can see why they don’t put Adora on the package because she wasn’t released yet but why not Skeletor? He’s Randor’s half-brother after all, he should be pictured instead of Scareglow, and Webstor I don’t get why he’s on there at all other than the fact that he came out a few months previously, it should have been Hordak since he tried to steal Randor’s children and kept Adora from him.

The articulation is a little different than the females of the line so since this is the first male figure review I’ll list them all here: swivel biceps, ball heck, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel wrists, hinged elbows, hinged abs (not on the females), swivel waist, swivel/hinge hips, swivel thighs, hinged knees, swivel calves, hinged ankles but it doesn’t have the rocker ankles like the females of the line.

The bone of contention has been the ‘half armor.’ Mattel said they wanted to do the half armor in order to keep the abs articulated but it kind of doesn’t work with Randor considering the cross sculpted onto the armor hangs well below the end of the actual armor making it almost impossible to bend the abs while the armor is on without the possibility of warping. It does work a little better than with Hordak though because the painted abs that match the color of the armor doesn’t really look as odd as Hordak’s black painted torso. The cape limits the articulation a little bit also, but that’s mostly due to the length of the cape than its bulk so I can’t really fault that because capes are supposed to be long.
Like every figure with Classics there are quality control issues which is a shame considering when you ad taxes and shipping the minimum a classics figure bought through will cost you would be around 30-31 dollars. There aren’t that many paint errors, there’s some gold on his left wrist and a spot of darker blue on the back of the cape. The one thing that looks really odd tome though is that his cheeks are really red, it almost looks like he’s trying out for a Cover Girl commercial or something, and his cheeks have more red on them then all of the females cheeks combined.

Figure Rating: B

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ultimate Elektra: Devil's Due Issues 1-5 Review

I continue my journey through the Ultimate-verse today and it brings me to Elektra: Devil’s Due; which serves as a sequel to Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra. While the second outing into Ultimate Elektra’s history is a lot better than the first mini-series the follow up isn’t without its faults; some of which are intentional some aren’t, and some are just victims of the plot device.

Most of the cast from the first mini-series is back, obviously Elektra, her father and Matt return for this run. Foggy is back too, this time with a little more to do than simply being Matt’s college roommate and tag along, on the flip side Phoebe is back only to be reduced to a brief cameo like appearance in which she serves as a decoy for all of two seconds. Trey is no where to be seen or mentioned and neither is Melissa which I find odd considering the events surrounding those two characters were the catalyst for Elektra’s actions as well as the conflict between her and Matt.

While I complained in the first mini-series about Melissa and Trey having too much time and energy devoted to their plot I actually found myself wanting to read a little about what happened to them. Even if I didn’t agree with the plot you just can’t build something up then never bring it up again. They sort of did the same thing with Phoebe, at the end of the first series she was furious with Elektra and now all of a sudden she had apparently gotten over her anger enough to be willing to risk her life for Elektra. This wouldn’t be as big of an issue if they simply stated how much time passed between the first mini-series and the second.

Another victim of plot devices happened to be Elektra’s father. In the first series after Trey had their dry cleaner shop and the home they lived in above it destroyed by arsonists they had to go to Elektra’s Sensei because they had no where else to go. Now to move the plot along in the second series Elektra and her father are suddenly flush with family, and not just family but ‘Family.’ So we’re stuck going through the motions with her father getting money from their family and the store being used as a front for the mob, nothing new here and it wasn’t even written in a way to make this particular point exciting.

Elektra continues to throw herself onto grenades for people she cares about and tries to work off a deal in order to work off her father’s debt. Eventually she meets Benjamin Poindexter aka Bullseye who was sent by the Kingpin to murder a man who was going to testify against her cousins and the Kingpin. Naturally the man was tied to the case Matt and Foggy were working on, so this causes Elektra to interact with him, more as Daredevil than Matt though. Elektra ultimately goes to the Kingpin and is forced to face off with Bullseye. As part of her deal since she defeated Bullseye the Kingpin will produce evidence that clears Elektra’s father’s name while implicating her cousins.

The series ends with Matt and Elektra more at odds than ever. He still wants to follow the law, and actually found a way to clear her father’s name that wouldn’t have involved her coming in contact with the Kingpin and now it appears that Elektra has earned a place inside the Kingpins organization.

I’m not sure what to think about this run. The pacing was a little better, but that’s because it had an extra issue to deal with that the first series didn’t. The writing is good, but considering they’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here, just rehashing more overused plots and preexisting plots being sacrificed or simply thrown away just to move this new story arch along; the writing could be considered average. The art is okay, but a lot of the times the proportions seem a bit off, especially on the women in the issues, they seem to be pinched and bloated at the same time, but it’s not the overtly sexualized unrealistic art that’s quickly becoming the normal in comics. I don’t mind a bit of retroactive continuity but considering the first series ran from 2001-2002 and the second one ran in 2004; add to that the fact that anything in the Ultimate universe is sort of a combination of retcon and reimagining I think it’s a bit too soon to be changing the fact that Elektra and her father had no family in the first series, and suddenly is overrun with family in the second.

Devil’s Due was by far better than Daredevil and Elektra, but so far D&E has been the worst I’ve read (which is sad considering she’s my favorite character out of Elektra, Daredevil and Iron Man) the fact that Devil’s Due was better is kind of like saying it’s the best of the worst.

Rating: B -

Thursday, May 6, 2010

'A Nightmare on Elm Street' (2010) Review

Note: Spoiler free review on top. For in depth analysis, including spoilers, scroll below the rating.

Let me start by saying I am not one of those people who hates horror remakes. There are many out there who either watch and despise or refuse to watch the remakes altogether. No matter how great the revamped story line is, no matter how engaging the actors are, most people generally cut them to pieces in their reviews. While I am, again, not one of these types of people, the remake of 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' was absolutely dreadful. The original, although not one of my favorite old horror films, featured so much life, vibrancy, and camp, yet it still held to the horror aspect and rose to become one of the most iconic genre films of all time. The newly formed version was dark, dreary, and down right repulsive at times, with its core cast giving little redemption. The violence of course was amped up, which I had no problem with by the way, but the movie suffered so much from its lack of intriguing characters, its numerous disgusting pedophilia remarks, and not to mention the fact Freddy looked like a charred rabbit. The biggest problem the movie suffered from was it took itself far too seriously. I understand completely their need to revamp the original, make it a movie in its own right, which they should do, but the movie they made was far from a master piece. Again, I want to reiterate the fact of liking revamped horror movies, as I am being pretty hard on this film. I was a fan of remakes like The Hitcher featuring Sean Bean and Sophia Bush, as well as The Hills Have Eyes with Aaron Ashmore and Emily de Ravin. Both of these films were depressive, especially the latter, so it's not that I have a problem with dark seeded movies, as long as they have some redemptive qualities. Jackie Earl Haley did well for what they needed him to be, again his make up was atrocious, but he fit the darker Freddy Krueger they were shooting for. The cast of heros left a lot to be desired with only one or two quality actors in the bunch. When I say one or two I literally mean Katie Cassidy, who is no stranger to the horror genre with television shows such as Supernatural and Harper's Island, and the film Black Christmas, another remake of which I am not a fan. So all in all I will sum up to say, if you've always wanted a darker Freddy, who talks of nothing but raping small children, then this is your movie, if you cringe at the sound of him talking about children having wet dreams and wanting to sleep with them (and believe me, he didn't put it so nicely in the film), I suggest you wait for the next remake.

Pros: Katie Cassidy
Cons: Everything else

Rating: D+

***************** SPOILERS *****************

I did want to go slightly more in depth for those who have seen the film, to better explain my opinion. First of all the editing of the story lines was just bad. It was basically meet this person, follow them for a small period of time, they die, move on to the next. Eventually showing our actual hero 40 minutes into the movie. While I could be exaggerating on the time frames here, the movie had very little flow. The characters, being friends, should have been a bit integrated with their story lines. We first see Dean (Kellan Lutz) in the diner, obviously being the first to die. Kris (Katie Cassidy) comes in long enough to see what appears to be his suicide. We then follow Kris for the next 15-20 minutes, almost appearing to be the lead of the film, only to watch her die. Of course, before she bites it, her ex-boyfriend comes into the picture long enough to see it and get killed 10 minutes later his self. Again, this type of story telling was just odd. It almost felt like 3 or 4 completely separate story lines, although all the characters knew each other enough to find someone right before they died. The biggest problem I had with the film, mentioned earlier, were the pedophile aspects. While the original was in fact a child molester, this film pushed it too far. The writers at one point wanted you to feel sorry for the villain after being accused and burned alive with no trial. Of course I didn't believe that for a second, especially after the remarks made to the once little girls while trying to kill them. Comments on how he remembered their smells, while licking someone's face, wanting to have sex with Nancy as his claw slides between her legs, even as she is dressed in children's clothing. Not to mention the pictures taken or the wet dream remarks. I know you will say I should have expected this coming in, but this film took it to a whole new level. I just wish they had offered a bit more levity to the project or at least given our heros a little more depth.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

MotUC: Adora: Action Figure Review

Well since Evil-Lyn’s review turned out to be so popular with the blog’s readers I’ve decided to continue the reviews of MotUC. Since there are so few ladies in the line so far it will be easier to knock them out so for now we’ll continue with them. In the history of MotU and all of its various incarnations Adora has pretty much always gotten the shaft. Technically she never received a figure in the vintage Princes of Power line, which is a shame since she was the *star* of the series. Sure She-Ra got a figure but both He-Man and Adam got figures in the Masters line so I don’t understand why it was acceptable to just remove She-Ra’s cape and headdress and that was Adora. When the 200X line was in full effect She-Ra was a convention exclusive, unfortunately the TV series that went with the line was cancelled after the second season. To add insult to injury it’s now common knowledge that introducing She-Ra and Adora into 200X was always the endgame. So now we’re up to 2 lines that should have had an Adora figure yet were cancelled before we received an official one. I think that Mattel knew how much of a sore spot this was with the fans so they surprised us by having an official Adora figure be the first Princess of Power figure in the line. After 20+ years she finally has a figure!

Now it’s common knowledge that FILMation based character designs are off limits, at least for now so imagine everyone’s surprise when the prototype images were released and Adora was sporting her signature FILMation look, which just so happened to be identical to the PoP style guide from back in the ‘80s.

Just like Evil-Lyn we’ll begin with the bio:

Real Name: Adora of the House of Randor (Leader in the Great Rebellion)
When Adora and her twin brother, Adam, were born, the Sorceress recognized they were the twins prophesized to wield the Power of Grayskull. She magically cloned the Sword of He, enhancing it with the Stone of Protection so that each twin could have a key to unlock the Power. But Hordak also learned of the twins and arranged for his Eternian pupil, Skeletor, to abduct the infants. Man-At-Arms prevented Adam from being taken, but Adora was stolen away to the planet of Etheria, deep in the Dimension of Despondos. There, she was raised by Hordak, until the day her brother returned, handing her the Sword of Protection, which she held aloft to become She-Ra — The Most Powerful Woman in the Universe!
This particular bio is one that they really couldn’t do much with to begin with. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe had already been well established by the time Mattel decided to expand the line so by default there is no way to have Adora or She-Ra without her being a retcon (a piece of retroactive continuity meaning they just inserted her in there like she had existed all along, like Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch or Dawn on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) so all they could really do with her bio is flesh it out to make it a little bit more believable. In this case it works because there are certain things that are a given anyway: Hordak always has to be the one to raise her, The Sorceress and Man-at-Arms must always try to save her before it’s too late and Adam must never know his sister existed until he gives her the sword. We get a few answers too, we know how there are two complete power swords out there and it officially becomes canon that Etheria is in the dimension of Despondos.
The package is a little different; since Adora is a new faction within the line the front of the package has a PRINCESS OF POWER sticker on the bubble similar to the logo on the original packages back in the day. The back of the package is what’s kind of off. I like that they used the style guide picture, but I’m not particularly fond of that picture in general, but if that’s all they could use then that’s all they could use. The back, like the other figures shows previous figures – this is where it gets a little odd. The figures they show are supposed to be connected to the character, so everyone on here should have had some previous (or implied) interaction with Adora. The three good guys pictured are good, King Randor, Adora herself and Man-at-Arms; so father, daughter, man who tried to save her as a baby and knows her secret. But I would much rather have had He-Man be pictured instead of MAA, maybe when they eventually release a Queen Marlena figure they’ll have the entire royal family on there. I’m lost with the villains on the package though. Webstor never interacted with Adora, and the same can be said for Tri-Klops. Scareglow you can almost get away with, it would be easy to write in that he knew about the prophecy but they leave him untouched.  What verges on inexcusable is the fact that both Skeletor and Hordak are mentioned in Adora’s bio, and they’ve both had figures produced by this point yet they’re not pictured on the package.

Just like Evil-Lyn the articulation is the same because once again it’s the same buck, only this time unlike Teela/Goddess, Green Goddess and Evil-Lyn we actually get a different set of clothing with Adora In case you forgot the articulation is: ball neck, swivel wrists, swivel/hinge shoulders, hinged elbows, swivel biceps, swivel/hinge hips, swivel thighs, hinged knees, swivel calves, hinged ankles, and rocker ankles. Like Evil-Lyn Adora’s outfit is made of a softer plastic which allows for the waist and hip/thigh articulation to work much better than on Teela/Goddess and Green Goddess.

Like all of the female figures so far Adora’s leg has that weird looking muscle on her right leg that well, it’s just odd looking. One good thing is we actually get quite a bit of new sculpting to the basic buck. Obviously the outfit is different, now it looks a lot better in person than it ever does in pictures, but she’s not wearing her normal bottom. Instead Mattel and the Four Horsemen opted to keep the hip joints hidden and in order to do that they had to turn her bottom into more of a ‘skirt.’ Though the problem is they kept full articulation so it’s not a standard skirt it’s more of a wide ‘u’ shape which actually comes off looking more like a diaper. We do get new boots and boot cuffs that are different entirely from all of the other boots we’ve seen through the line to date and new wrist gauntlets. Of course Adora’s head is a brand new sculpt too, and she’s sporting her trademarked hairstyle, funky bangs and all. There are a few problems I have with the hair that detract from how beautiful the work actually is. The hair style comes off looking like she’s got a rather large head, seriously, turn the figure sideways and look at it, its huge man. That creates a problem on its own, it weighs the head so much that she is forever looking down, and with the way the hair is sculpted in the front of her face that also limits how much you can use the neck articulation. I do wish they also threw in a different hand that was open, it would have given a great option for a ‘spell casting’ hand like the vintage Evil-Lyn and Teela figures had, and it just looks funky when you pose your Adora in the stance she assumes when she’s mid transformation and she’s got the sword up in the air and the other hand out on the side with the slightly closed fist. Mer-Man, Beast-Man and Stratos all got open hands; they could have thrown Adora a bone with an alternate hand, especially since it wasn’t included in Teela and Evil-Lyn when their vintage figures had that open hand.

Adora comes with the Sword of Protection, obviously. Now we do get a little something extra here, we get a removable belt with a holster; she also comes with a pistol/laser gun. This is obviously a nod to the ‘off limits’ FILMation gun Adora used when she was Force Captain of the Horde back in The Secret of the Sword movie. There really isn’t that much else that they could include with Adora so I guess I’m okay with the lack of extras, or substantial accessories.

Like every figure with Classics there are quality control issues and oh boy did I have my share of mine. I’ve gotten a few paint application errors in the past but Adora was by far the worst, there was different shades of red slapped on her boot, on her back side and other areas, the red ‘shading’ that they put on her thighs was so off color that it actually looked like she had a rash – kind of funny considering it was right below her ‘diaper.’  The Sword of Protection was bent, and I mean really bent, on top of that the heel of one of her boots was practically severed from the rest of the foot. It was holding n but barely, you could see through the gap. On top of that one of Adora’s legs were actually longer than the other one, it made it so she couldn’t stand up on her own unless I posed her in a way to make her slightly bowlegged. Thankfully replaced her for me.

Over time Adora has grown on me, and now I actually like her a lot. Over time the diaper just becomes something you’re used to and it doesn’t stand out as much. It will be interesting to see how they handle the sculpt of characters like Marlena, Sorceress, Frosta, and Catra specifically since she actually had a skirt in the style guide. As much as I don’t want to see the return of the diaper, I don’t want it to look out of place either. I hope down the line that they release a toy accurate version of She-Ra/Adora (since we know that they’re going to make a Style Guide accurate version of She-Ra), I would love to see how they handle the skirt being off to ne side and intentionally not even.

So now we come to the rating, this one is hard for me because I wanted to love this figure so much it’s not even funny and it seems like it just wasn’t in the cards for me. The replacement is a lot better than the original figure I received so that took care of the QC issues, but the diaper and the head leaning down take away from the figure.

Original Figure Rating: D
Replacement Figure Rating: B

Saturday, May 1, 2010

MotUC: Evil-Lyn: Action Figure Review

For the first of our double, and possibly (if time allows) triple reviews today I’m going to step away from comics for a minute or two to talk to you about Action Figures. Most people call them dolls, or toys but any self respecting geek worth his salt will be quick to correct you – they are action figures. I’m not going to lie I’ve always liked them, they remind me of my childhood where many a day was spent setting up huge battle grounds on the coffee table with either my father or brother on the other side of the ‘battle.’ We would take turns with this missile launcher I had from a G.I.Joe playset (the name escapes me at the moment) trying to knock the other guys down and obviously who ever had the last guy standing won. It didn’t always have to be that complicated either; I remember a huge He-Man and the Masters of the Universe figure poster I had up on my wall and me and my dad would sit on the other side of the room with one of those plastic dart guns that shot the sticky darts and shoot at the characters on the poster. They were fond memories of an all too short age of childhood innocence.

Anyway over the years I’ve dabbled in toy lines here and there, some times G.I.Joe, Masters of the Universe (even Princess of Power – thankfully my dad was just as O.C.D. about it being a ‘continuation of the series. So at the tender age of 5 I learnt the art of the TV franchise Spin-Off, no wonder I’ve got this blog right?) Thundercats, X-Men; I never got too much into the DC line of toys or transformers. I grew up and moved on to more ‘mature’ things and occasionally I would pick up something from Moore Action Collectables like the Witchblade line or Fathom and I was ecstatic when they launched the Buffy the Vampire Slayer line of action figures. However the was always one franchise I always went back to: He-Man and almost in every incarnation: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra: Princess of Power, Masters of the Universe (the Movie), The New Adventures of He-Man and finally the most recent: Masters of the Universe, or as it is more commonly referred to: 200X. Thankfully Mattel and the Four Horsemen are feeding my fix with: Masters of the Universe: Classics, which is actually combining all five of those lines (as well as a few new things and characters from other source material.) So basically this line is a MotU fan boy’s dreams come true. So without further ado, on to the review!


For the first figure review for the line and the first figure review I’ve ever done I’m going to pick someone who has always been a favorite of mine – Evil-Lyn!  She’s had many incarnations over the years: the yellow skinned vintage figure, her FILMation appearances, her look in the Masters live action movie, and a more updated pale skinned gothic look of 200X. Like previous Classics figures they went with her vintage toy look with a few updates and tweaks along the way; however Mattel did say that they would release a more 200X inspired look down the line.

For now we’ll begin with the bio:
Real Name: Evelyn Morgan Powers
Raised alone by her father in the ruins of Zalesia, Evelyn left her home in a fit of teenage rebellion. Taking the name Evil-Lyn, she traveled Eternia, learning from many of its great masters the ways of magic and the dark arts. While searching for new ways to increase her power, she met and fell in love with an ambitious alchemist named Keldor and agreed to join his cause. After Keldor was transformed into Skeletor, he lost all emotional attachments to Evelyn and she began to scheme against him. In a series of miscalculations, she helped release both King Hssss and Hordak from their interdimensional prisons. Evil-Lyn uses her crystal ball to foresee the evil future!

The bios are a point of contention for me, and quite a few fans actually. This is actually one of the better bios that have been released so far there are only two parts that I have a problem with and they’re sort of big things so it’s not just me being picky. Adam and Adora’s bio both have them listed as _____ of the house of Randor, Randor and Keldor’s bios have them listed as _____ of the house of Miro; however Evil-Lyn is given a full real name (granted it was in the FILMation bible, but it’s still weird) of Evelyn Morgan Powers. The problem with this for me is, well the whole thing. It’s just a dumb name; it would have better just to have her name be Lyn or even Ev/Eve. On top of that her father The Faceless One was the ruler of Zalesia so it should have been _____ of the house of _______. We know that they’re going to be releasing a Faceless One figure so they’ll already have to give him a name. The other problem I have is that this bio basically takes away all of Evil-Lyn’s power and reduces her to a rebellious teenager that ran away and joined the ‘bad crowd’ the second her father didn’t give her what she wanted. Evil-Lyn is too much of a bad-ass to be a rebellious teenager with daddy issues. Another thing that bothers me, but it’s just a personal thing, is that they don’t explain how she turned yellow! If we’re going to get a pale skinned version of her when they release the 200X version they need to explain the change in her skin color.

The articulation is the same as all of the female Classics figures which makes sense considering that they all use the same buck, only the outfits are different (well not really but I’ll get into that in a bit.) This review isn’t even half way done and it’s getting rather long so I won’t touch too much on the articulation here, I’ll just list it: ball neck, swivel wrists, swivel/hinge shoulders, hinged elbows, swivel biceps, swivel/hinge hips, swivel thighs, hinged knees, swivel calves, hinged ankles, and rocker ankles.

Given that Evil-Lyn is essentially a repaint of the Teela figure (the only thing new is her head) they really went overboard with the accessories here. She comes with a translucent wand that is interchangeable, a staff, wand/short stick, her 200X knife, Screeech, Screeech’s armor, Screeech’s perch. The accessories really make this figure here, Screeech and all s/he comes with are amazing, I love the translucent crystal ball and the ability to switch out the wand that her vintage figure came with and the longer staff that she sported in 200X. The 200X knife is good but in this metallic blue color it makes it look almost childlike and not as ‘dangerous’ as it should.

The sculpt, a bit overused now; but is still decent. Teela came with two heads so she could be displayed as Teela and The Goddess, then we have Green Goddess, Adora and Evil-Lyn all share the exact same body sculpt, which would be fine but there’s something about the leg muscles that look really warped on all of the figures, specifically the right leg, so the left as you look at it. Just above the knee it looks like there’s an extra muscle, or just that the mold was warped or something. To make matters worse Teela/Goddess, Green Goddess and Evil-Lyn all have the exact same dress/skirt/armor sculpt. So out of the four figures three of them are pretty much exactly the same. This won’t be a problem once we get She-Ra and some of the other PoP ladies down the line, but right now it’s just a little too much. The outfit on Evil-Lyn is possibly the best out of the three since it is made of the softer plastic which allows better movement with her articulation.

As always with MotUC there are paint issues. The most common one is that her irises aren’t fully painted. Mine had a special little flaw, lucky me, her back looks like it has been melted and the plastic is warped and severely discolored with huge burnt spots that have turned the yellow orange and brown.

I’ve never been a fan of the yellow skinned Lyn and this isn’t really an exception. I know in my collection as soon as the pale skinned 200X version comes out the yellow Lyn is going on a different shelf. I will say one thing though there’s something about this figure that is absolutely stunning, to me she looked horrid in the early pictures that we’ve seen but she is stunning and eye catching and next to Teela your eyes will always go to Evil-Lyn first.

Would I recommend this figure to someone wanting to get into collecting, or into MotU in general, yes and no? She is beautiful but I just can’t get over the yellow skin and that this is essentially the third time we’ve gotten this figure within 8 months, add to that the fact that these figures pretty much are only available for a maximum of ten minutes on and the miscalculations in the bio Evil-Lyn’s got a lot going against her. But I keep being drawn back to the fact that the issues with my figure aside she is the most well constructed out of all of the female figures in this line released to date, and as much as I hate the yellow skin my eye always goes directly to her whenever I look at my display.

Rating: B-