Friday, July 26, 2019

The Best Of 2019: Second Quarter

So it’s that time of year again to revisit my ongoing top ten toys for 2019. Admittedly, there weren’t too many major toy acquisitions during the start of the year, which led to a relatively weak first quarter list. This second quarter though has brought in quite a lot of good stuff. So let's see how much my top ten has changed after three more months.

As always, I will start off with some honorable mentions. Stuff that didn’t manage to crack the top ten but are definitely worth talking about.

Black Series Darth Maul

I’m not really a mint on card collector, I prefer to open my toys. But there are a few exceptions. Way back in 1999, I made my very first toy purchase as an adult. At this point I wasn’t collecting toys and this was a purely speculative buy. I just bought into the hype and excitement of the first batch of new Star Wars figures in years. I got myself a Darth Maul figure from the new Episode I line. I had no intention of opening it and I kept it sealed all these years. Anyway to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Phantom Menace, Hasbro re-released their Black Series Darth Maul in packaging reminiscent of the original release as an exclusive. Even though I already had a Black Series Maul, I knew I needed this version as well.

Marvel Legends BAF Caliban

Caliban is definitely one of the more obscure characters in the X-Men universe. While there wasn’t much excitement over his announcement as the build-a-figure for 2019’s first X-Men Marvel Legends wave, I was ok with it, since I was fairly familiar with the character. In hand though he was a pleasant surprise. This powered up Hellhound Caliban is definitely his most visually interesting version and it comes out perfectly in the toy. I had quite a lot of fun getting shots with him and Sabretooth as well as his master Apocalypse.

Gigapower Gaudenter (Masterpiece Swoop)

This was easily one of my most anticipated toys for the year as this was the last MP Dinobot I needed for my shelf. But as spectacular as Gigapower’s previous release Graviter was, I found Gaudenter a little..underwhelming. For starters, I feel that his proportions are a little off as I find his arms a tad bit short. Of course it also didn’t help that he came with missing parts out of the box (they have since been replaced). But overall, there’s just something about him that is rather...meh. Still, as I said, he does complete my Dinobots so that in itself is enough to get him a special nod.

Fans Toys Hoodlum (Masterpiece Hot Rod)

Sure this one took over three years to actually be released. And it seemed like a redundant toy since an official Masterpiece Hot Rod has already been out for some time already. But for many others, including myself, Hoodlum simply looked better and fit in better size-wise with all the 86 movie Autobots released by Fans Toys as well. The longer wait time only made his actual release even sweeter. Sure he’s not perfect, but he’s still pretty pretty pretty good.

Black Series Doctor Aphra, BT-1 & 0-0-0

Admittedly, I’m not the biggest Doctor Aphra fan, but I do enjoy her ongoing series. So I was looking forward to this release. The fact that her two murder droid companions Bee Tee & Triple-Zero were also included in the same wave of figures made this even more of a must have for my shelf. Now all we need is the wookie bounty hunter Black Krrsantan to round off the motley crew.

MPM 5 Barricade

OK so this actually isn’t the official release but a KO version (shhhhhhhh). Anyway, I've always had a nice soft spot for this Decepticon, the first Transformer we actually hear speak in the live action movies. Granted his actual design is a little odd, I’ve always been a little frustrated with all the Barricade toys we’ve gotten through the years. There was always something a little off about each one. So this is the first Barricade toy that I feel finally gets his design right. And it’s a pretty solid toy to boot.

And with that we move on to the main event. We have 5 new entries to the top ten, which means we say goodbye to 5 toys from the first quarter list.

With that out of the way, let's get started.

10) Marvel Legends Professor X

Hanging on to number 10 is Professor X. I mean how exciting can a toy of a bald man in a suit be? Granted, he does come with a pretty cool hover chair. Xavier manages to remain in the list due solely to the importance of his character as the founder of the X-Men. No true merry mutant shelf would be complete with him.

9) Fans Toys Hydra (Masterpiece Six Shot)

As the only actual “masterpiece” six changer in my collection that manages to pull of 6 fairly decent modes, Hydra is still one of my favorite purchases of the year.

8) Club Grayskull Mantenna

And now we have our first new entry. The original toy of Mantenna was quite the monstrosity, fitting in perfectly with the whole horror theme of the Evil Horde. This Mantenna is the opposite. Based on the Filmation version of the character where he was often used more as comedy relief. Still, for many, including myself, this is how I remember Mantenna so I was quite thrilled when I finally got my hands on this perfect plastic representation.

Oh and he also gets plus points for being the first toy on my shelf to genuinely freak out my 3 year old daughter. How could he NOT make the list?

7) Black Series Ezra & Chopper

I know these are technically 2 toys, but I’m counting them as one since they came together in the same wave and well...this is my list so what I say goes.

At the pace of about one new character a year, Hasbro has been slowly completing the Ghost crew from the Rebels TV series in their 6” Black Series line. This year though, we got two major additions in Ezra Bridger and the cranky old droid Chopper. And both are fantastic figures. Ezra benefits from the new digital face printing technology being used by Hasbro. And Chopper is just plain fun complete with his arm appendages that can be neatly stored in his head and a blast effect to make up for his lack of height on the shelf.

This leaves just one more member of the main crew to go in Zeb. Fingers crossed that we will get him later this year or early next. And if Hasbro is feeling extra generous, I wouldn’t mind an Old Man Rex, AP-5, Kallus or any of the Inquisitors as well. More Rebels please!

6) Dream Factory Steel Claw (Masterpiece Bonecrusher)

This is still the best representation of Bonecrusher you can find anywhere. A visually unique design, quality build and not too overly complicated transformation (once you get used to it) keeps him pretty locked in the top ten list for now.

5) Siege Shockwave

At its core, this is a no frills, perfect plastic representation of the iconic logical Decepticon. While others may consider all the extra parts he comes with merely throwaway pieces, I find that they significantly add more to the toys appeal and fun factor.

4) Zeta Kronos (Masterpiece Superion)

Literally the biggest new entry on my list. My very first third party combiner was TFC’s Uranus which was their attempt at a Superion. While he made my top ten list of 2013, time was not kind to him. Through the years, his poor design started showing through to the point where he could barely stand. Anyway when new 3rd party company Zeta announced plans to release an updated Superion dubbed Kronos in 2017, I promptly sold Uranus to make room for this new behemoth.

Kronos surpasses Uranus in pretty much every way. With each Aerialbot transforming into a jet matching in size with a Masterpiece seeker, Kronos is a huge robot measuring almost 2 feet tall! He definitely scales better with my other MP Transformers as he is meant to. Despite towering over his predecessor. Kronos is way more stable and more solidly built.

True I could nitpick that the designs of the individual Aerialbots aren’t perfect, it’s the combined form that is the real selling point of this set.

3) Wei Jiang Hide Shadow (OS Blackout)

When Hasbro started their Studio Series line featuring updated and more accurate versions of the live action movie characters, one of the first ones out of the gate was the Decepticon Blackout. While his original toy first released in 2007 was a fair representation, it wasn’t perfect and worst of all was extremely undersized. This new Studio Series version was a definite improvement but was still too small compared to some of the older movie toys which still comprised the majority of my movie Transformer display.

Enter 3rd (or 4th?) party company Wei Jiang, who for the most part have made a name for themselves by producing oversized versions of official Hasbro & Takara released toys. And so less than a year from the release of the original Studio Series Blackout, we got the oversized Hide Shadow from Wei Jiang. Not only is he considerably bigger than the original, Wei Jiang improved on the original design adding more detail and transformation tweaks to make him even more screen accurate and articulated. Now THIS is the Blackout that every Bayverse collection needs.

2) Marvel Legends Series Power and Glory Captain America

Avengers Endgame was quite possibly the biggest and most anticipated movie of 2019. And one of the most unforgettable and jaw dropping moments was in the third act when *spoiler* Steve Rogers finally picked up Thor’s hammer Mjolnir and used it to battle Thanos.

After the movie, I already had my wishlist in my head of new Endgame figures I wanted on my shelf, and a hammer wielding Captain America was right there at the top. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait long before Hasbro announced the release of what has since been nicknamed by fans as “Worthy” Captain America.

Now Hasbro could’ve easily gone the cheap and easy route by repackaging their already awesome 10th Anniversary Captain America figure with a hammer and called it a day. But they didn’t. Worthy Cap is an almost completely new sculpt and they pretty much nailed it.

One of my gripes about the previous Cap figures was that they mostly felt a little lean and undersized. Not so with Worthy Cap who looks properly beefed up, like he’s got that super soldier serum pumping through his veins. He’s also the first MCU Cap figure to have his iconic scaled armor with every scale beautifully sculpted.

I may be a little biased since Captain America, sorry Steve Rogers is my favorite superhero, but all I can say is the hype is real with this figure. He was *almost* worthy of my top spot.

1) Transform Element TE-01 (Masterpiece Optimus Prime)

Staying strong at number one is TE-01 “Optimus Prime”. Iconic character? Check. Fantastic looking robot & truck mode? Check. Quality build? Check. Involved but not overly complicated and unique transformation? Check Check Check!

It’s not just that this is an awesome and almost perfect toy, it’s also the fact that this guy seemingly came out of nowhere from a 3rd party company that no one had previously heard of, that makes him even more impressive. TE-01 “Optimus Prime” was one hell of a debut product for Transform Element.

To be honest, this is a very strong candidate for my toy of the year. But only time will tell.