Friday, July 6, 2018

The Best of 2018: Second Quarter

So this is where the fun starts. Another 3 months have passed and a whole new batch of toys have joined my toy shelf. Now it’s time to go over some of my favorite purchases of the last quarter and and see where they fall in my ongoing top 10 list of 2018.

As always, before we get to the main event, here are some toys worth mentioning that didn’t quite make the top 10.

Studio Series Leader Blackout and Grimlock
As a way of maybe properly “sending off” the Bayverse movie Transformers, Hasbro launched their Studio Series line this year featuring more screen accurate toys of various Transformer characters featured across the 5 live action movies.

While I am still “on the fence” on whether to go all in on this line or not, there were a few characters I could not resist from the start, specifically their leader class Blackout and Grimlock. Both of these guys are definite upgrades from original versions of Blackout & Grimlock so it was a no brainer to go for the upgrade. Even if I don’t push through with the rest of the line, these two are good enough to stand on their own.

Black Series Gamorrean Guards
I really don’t know what it is about these guys but I have always been a fan since I first saw their ugly mugs in Return of the Jedi all those years ago. Definitely one of the best things to come out of Episode 6 (after the Ewoks of course!). Anyway, slowly but surely, I am building up my Black Series Jabba’s throne room lineup and a couple of these pig faced gents are a definite requirement.

Wei Jiang Armor Inspector (Oversized AOE Hound)
In my opinion, Hound was one of the most memorable characters from the Transformers movie franchise. Although he was a far cry from the original G1 Hound, I really liked this reimagined version voiced by John Goodman. Anyway I wasn’t quite happy with any of the officially released versions of the guy so I opted to go with the oversized version produced by (in)famous Chinese KO company Wei Jiang.

While KOs are generally known for their inferior quality to the original, Wei Jiang has actually redefined that, releasing products that for the most part are actually better than the original. Such is the case with their Hound, who aside from being more appropriately sized, features additional transformation modifications to make him even more screen accurate as well as a really detailed paint job. He’s practically a masterpiece.

X-Transbots Andras (MP Scourge)
Scourge has always been one of my favorite Decepticons introduced in the 1986 movie (there really weren’t too many to choose from though). This was mainly due to the fact that he’s widely believed to be the reformatted version of my all time favorite Decepticon, Thundercracker. So getting a masterpiece version of this guys has always been in my grand collecting plan, it just wasn't too big of a priority, until the right opportunity came around. It finally did when 3rd party company X-Transbots released a Sweeps 3 pack this year. The Sweeps are basically Scourge’s army and they look pretty much identical to him. So I was able to do a deal with 2 other fellow collectors and split the 3 pack each getting a “Scourge” for a pretty good price.

So now with all that out of the way, let’s get to the main event. Let’s start with the 1st quarter Top 10 list which is as follows:

10) Marvel Legends Spider Punk
9) Power of the Primes Battleslash & Roadtrap
8) Marvel Legends Cable
7) Marvel Legends Songbird
6) Amazing Yamaguchi Revoltech Captain America
5) Marvel Legends 2 pack Vision & Scarlet Witch
4) Marvel Legends BAF Sasquatch
3) Super7 Comic version Trap Jaw
2) Bandai Movie Realization Captain America
1) Gigapower Graviter (Masterpiece Sludge)

Right off the bat, we say goodbye to HALF of that list and *spoiler* we have a new number one! So let’s get started with my first new entry to the top 10.

10) Power of the Primes Terrocons/Abominus
The Terrorcons were probably the most blatant omission from Hasbro’s 2014 toyline Combiner Wars. Considering these guys transformed into beasts requiring pretty unique individual molds, it was pretty much understandable why they were left out but it was still disappointing.

Fast forward 4 years later and we finally have our official Terrorcons & Abominus as one of the main featured releases of their current Power of the Primes line. Although they have some engineering improvements (most notably improved feet and hands) learned by Hasbro from previous the Combiner Wars releases, these guys are completely compatible from anyone from that line. With great robot modes and even better alternate beasts modes, these guys are just FUN.

Finally, Abominus himself if pretty solid as well with proper proportions since the main torso bot Hun-grrr was impressively based off the Combiner Wars Silverbolt mold which in my opinion produced the best looking gestalt type in the line. Whoever saw Silverbolt’s concorde alt mode and decided he could turn that into a two headed dragon is a genius!

9) Marvel Legends Vision & Scarlet Witch
Barely sticking in the top 10 is this pair of Avengers. While they’ll probably be gone in part 3, Vision at least will still be noted as one of my most significant boxes checked off my most wanted list in 2018.

8) Unique Toys Ragnaros (MP Bruticus)
Unique Toys made quite a splash last year when they announced and released the first 2 members of their “Stellar Warrior” line, their version of a Masterpiece Combaticons & Bruticus. Their first two releases, the oddly named Gahz'ranka (MP Swindle) and Archimonde (MP Brawl) were well….stellar! They had a good mix of the toy and cartoon aesthetic and had pretty innovative transformations.

Then came their leader Kalecgos (MP Onslaught) which while still good was a little more fiddly. And finally this year, the final two members, Rage Winterchill (MP Vortex) and Broodlord Lashlayer (MP Blastoff) made their debut. Unfortunately it seems Unique Toys really rushed to put these two out because they are noticeably lacking in quality compared to the first three releases. They don’t look as nice and are even more of a hassle to transform. Reports of these two shipping out with missing parts are widespread, in fact, my Blast Off came with no wings!

Anyway QC issues aside, once I got them combined into Ragnaros (MP Bruticus) all those shortcomings were almost forgotten. Ragnaros looks fantastic. Despite a little bit of a stability issue, he can stand and hold a number of pretty good poses. While the individual team members are a mixed bag, the combined Ragnaros is good enough for me. And definitely good enough to have a place in the Top 10 for now.

I did some research and apparently these guys are all named after characters from World of Warcraft? I have no idea though if each name has any specific connection to each Combaticon since I never played that game. Oh well, now I know.

7) Marvel Legends BAF Sasquatch
My favorite furry orange Alphan remains in the top ten dispute sliding down a few spots.

6) Super7 Comic version Trapjaw
Despite looking sickeningly yellow, he’s still Evil & Armed for Combat.

5) Fans Toys Rouge (MP Arcee)
This was one of the most highly anticipated toys for me ever since it was announced by Fans Toys some time last year. Unfortunately when she was finally released, the reviews were not kind with people going as far as saying she was the worst thing Fans Toys, a company best known for their high quality products, ever released.

Just like anything Fans Toys though, she looked great in both robot and alternate mode. And unfortunately just like most of their stuff, the transformation between the two modes was not fun. Personally or maybe luckily on my part, my Arcee turned out OK. Maybe it was the lowered expectations resulting from all the negativity but I don’t think she’s THAT bad. In fact, I quite like her. Being one of the main characters from the 86 movie, I’m really happy that I’ve finally got a proper masterpiece version of Arcee on my shelf.

4) Unique Toys Buzzing (MP Blurr)
Blurr is another integral member of the 86 movie Autobot crew that I needed for my collection. Unique Toys Buzzing had been around for quite some time, in fact he was already going on his second run. While I had heard a lot of good things about this guy, I held off from getting him because I felt he was a little too tall and his alt mode looked a little too chunky. I decided to wait for a better option to come along.

Then earlier this year Fans Toys announced plans of releasing their own Blurr which seemed to be everything I ever wanted...he was the right height and had a more streamlined alt mode. I felt I made the right decision in waiting. Then after I got Arcee I realized that the only character missing from my 86 movie Autobot display was Blurr and that got me thinking. Given Fans Toys’ track record, and the amount of other projects they have announced, their Blurr would most likely be released sometime next year so I thought what the hell…I decided to give Buzzing a shot. I also figured that when the Fans Toys version is released I could check him out too and just sell off the one I liked less. At the very least I wouldn’t have to wait til next year to complete my 86 movie lineup.

So that’s what I did and it turns out that Buzzing lived up to the hype. He really is a great toy. Quality is top notch and the transformation is fun and not too overly engineered. In hand, his height and clunky alt mode don’t bother me at all. So while originally meant as a placeholder, Buzzing looks like a keeper. Fans Toys have got their work cut out for them if they intend to take the place of Buzzing on my shelf.

3) Bandai Movie Realization Captain America
The Amazing Yamaguchi Revoltech Captain America may have lost his spot on my list, but the Movie Realiziation version of my favorite superhero is a strong contender to last for the entire year.

2) Gigapower Graviter (MP Sludge)
As far as Dinobots go, Sludge is probably my least favorite. But this masterpiece version is so good, there was no question that he would be my number one toy for the first quarter. It wasn’t a given that he would stay there til the end of the year though. It would however take something really big to dethrone Graviter. Unfortunately for him, something came along and did just that.

1) Toy World Constructor (MP Constructicons/Devastator)
When it comes to the top spot, actual size of the toy doesn’t always matter, but in this case, it definitely does. When Toy World first announced that they would be making a masterpiece class giant Devastator I scoffed. Yeah he looks good I thought but there is no way I’d get that...he’s just too big I thought.

Fast forward a few years later, with an almost complete G1 Decepticon season 1 masterpiece lineup on my shelf, the need for a suitably large masterpiece Devastator became a reality, and no the Hasbro Titans Return version would not cut it.

By this time Toy World’s Constructor was recognized by most collectors as the king of all 3rd party combiners. He was the biggest and ironically the most stable thanks to the use of an extra dedicated lower torso and thigh piece. While others didn’t like the idea of a “parts forming” combiner, the trade off was a giant that would NOT fall over from its sheer size and weight.

When I finally decided to get this guy last year, he was only available as a re-released box set. With a hefty price tag attached to it. I hesitated and tried to sell off other stuff so I could justify such a huge purchase. Unfortunately by the time I sold enough stuff, he was out of stock. I had to wait for a second run of the box set which finally came out this year surprisingly at an even slightly lowered price. This time I didn’t hesitate and bit the bullet.

Yes the individual Constructicons are great but the real prize here is the massive combined form of Devastator. This is the most I ever spent in one shot for a toy, but as cliche as it sounds he’s worth every cent. A truly epic buy that deserves to shoot straight up to the number one spot on my list.