Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Best Of 2019 part 2

As we embark on a new year, it’s always a good exercise to look back at the previous one and take note of all the blessings we received in the past 365 days. And for toy collectors like myself, that means taking stock of all the new toys that 2019 brought in to add to our shelves. As always, there were quite a lot of new additions and it was quite the task to come up with my top ten purchases of the year. But I managed. So let’s get on with the main event shall we?

Looking over the final top ten list of 2019, I noticed an interesting breakdown of my list that was definitely unintentional. The top ten is made up of four entrees from the 4th quarter, three from the third, two from the second and just one lone survivor from the first. Not that it really matters but I thought that it was cool.

Anyway let’s start with the previous quarter’s top ten list:

10) Black Series Ezra/Chopper
9) Dream Factory Steelclaw (MP Bonecrusher)
8) Marvel Legends 80th Anniversary Hulk
7) Marvel Legends Black Order
6) Wei Jiang Hide Shadow (OS Blackout)
5) SH Figuarts Yoda
4) SH Figuarts Count Dooku
3) Marvel Legends Series Power and Glory Captain America
2) Marvel Legends 80th Anniversary Captain America
1) Transform Element TE-01 (Masterpiece Optimus Prime)

And as I mentioned with 4 entrees purchased from the 4th quarter, it means we say goodbye to 4 entrees from the previous top ten.

So with everything else said and done, let’s get on with the top ten list of 2019.

10) Samurai Kylo Ren & Captain Phasma

Since Bandai only releases a few figures in their Star Wars Movie Realization line in a year, each new release is more often than not a highlight for me. I decided to place these two together since well….they’re kind of more of the same. And while that may sound non complementary, what I mean is that these guys are more of the same amazing mashup concept between ancient samurai world and futuristic Star Wars universe.

While Phasma looks a little more like the typical Samurai Storm Trooper, her size literally makes her stand apart. But the real star of this duo is Kylo Ren. His fairly plain black design from the sequel trilogy really benefits from all the added samurai stylings. From his huge menacing blood red sword, added armor detailing, to his spikey helmet, this figure is a complete win for me.

9) Wei Jiang Hide Shadow (Oversized Black Out)

One of my collection goals last year was to complete a “masterpiece” lineup of the Bayverse Decepticons from the first live action Transformers movie. Now while I am not a huge fan of the movies in general, I do love most of the character designs, especially the original baddies from the first movie.

As my top ten list for 2019 developed over the year, I’ve had a number of my movie Decepticons listed as some of my favorites. But as the year progressed they all slowly slipped out of the top ten..except for one. Hide Shadow, Wei Jiang’s oversized version of Studio Series Blackout has remained my favorite of the bunch. The original voyager Blackout toy released in 2012 while cool looking was way too small and not very screen accurate. The updated Studio Series version released recently was a definitive improvement but STILL too small for my tastes.

Hide Shadow is the first proper Black Out toy that does the hulking Decepticon any justice. While it is basically an oversized version of the Studio Series toy, it has a bunch of improvements as well that make it even more screen accurate and articulated. This guy is massive and is a fitting tribute to the very first Transformer we actually saw come alive on the big screen.

8) Fans Toys Apache & Siege Springer

OK so this one is kind of a cheat since these are actually 2 different toys. But since they’re toys based off the same character, I’m throwing them in the same spot. My list, my rules and all.

First up we have Fans Toys’ version of a masterpiece Springer, Apache. Just like Jabber before, I already had a "masterpiece” version of Springer on my shelf in Open & Play’s Big Spring. And for the longest time I had no plans of replacing him. But then I got Jabber, and all of a sudden, with about 90 percent of my 86 Transformers cast made up of Fans Toys robots, Big Spring, with it’s mostly softer plastic construction and lack of paint started looking more like the odd man out. So as much as I loved Big Spring, I decided to do a little upgrade with Apache.

Now Apache is definitely not as fun and intuitive to transform as Big Spring, but his engineering isn’t too much of a headache to get around. And while I’m still not a fan of his armored car mode, his helicopter and more importantly robot mode are fantastic.

Anyway, at the end of the day, having a beefier and more solidly detailed and painted Springer makes my 86 lineup more cohesive.

Now as for the Siege version of Springer, what can I say? Just like many of the Siege offerings before him, this guy is just a nice solid rendition of classic Springer. After messing around with Apache, I just felt the need to have a simpler version of Springer that would be fun to flip from mode to mode. And Siege Springer just fills that need in my collection. I particularly like how all his accessories can be neatly stored across all three modes. It’s just a really well thought out figure that perfectly complements his big brother Apache :)

 7) SH Figuarts Yoda

He may be small, but the Force is strong in this SH Figuarts Yoda. For such a tiny toy, this guy is so much fun to mess with thanks to his numerous swappable hands and heads. Standing this guy next to his Black Series counterpart is like night and day wherein Hasbro’s version really looks like a toy and this one seems kinda...alive, in a good way.

6) SH Figuarts Dooku

He may not be as in your face evil looking as Darth Maul or as visually interesting as General Grievous, but there is something about Dooku that gives off a sense of pure dread and danger that the previous 2 cannot match (my opinion at least). So it was a major frustration of mine that it took this long for any company to give us a 6” Dooku. Finally SH Figuarts gave us one. And despite initial lukewarm reviews, I was pleasantly surprised in a good way with what we got. It really is satisfying to finally get a character you’ve been waiting for a really long time and fill up a glaringly empty spot in your collection. So come on guys...still waiting for a Zeb and Bhodi Rook.

5) SH Figuarts Luke (Crait)

Episode 8 the Last Jedi is a very polarizing film. I belong to the side who loved it and will always defend its place as one of the best Star Wars movies ever made.

Anyway, one major point of contention is how the movie handled Luke’s character. While I agree it’s hard to see our heroes reduced to miserable people who abandon everyone to go and die in a distant island on an uncharted planet, I felt that the reason for him being there was well thought out and handled. And his character arc in the movie was really effective and a very powerful sendoff for one of pop culture’s most beloved characters.

On a side note, if you have the time, please do check out this guy’s take on Luke’s story in the Last Jedi. Agree or not, I think it’s very well laid out and pretty much sums up how I feel about this whole issue.

Anyway...back to the toy. Sh Figuarts Luke Skywalker from Crait is for me the perfect physical embodiment of my love for Episode 8. This is how I want to remember Luke Skywalker; as the Last Jedi who was able to overcome his own self doubt and disgrace to single handedly face down the entire First Order with his laser sword and re-spark the fire of the Resistance and hope throughout the galaxy in the most Jedi way imaginable.

4) Marvel Legends Power & Glory Captain America

After watching Avengers: Endgame, my one thought as we exited the cinema was that Hasbro BETTER give us a Mjolnir wielding Captain America STAT! Fortunately we didn’t have to wait long as “Power 7 Glory Cap” was announced not long after by Hasbro.

Now they could’ve gone the cheap route and repackage an existing Captain America with a hammer, but fortunately they did not. This is an almost totally new sculpt as he is noticeably bulkier and more muscular than previous MCU Cap figures (which I found to be too skinny). But while this guy came with a Mjolnir, he was missing another accessory which I felt was just as crucial to this figure, a broken shield. But thanks to 3rd party company Nota Studios, we got exactly that, including a nice charged up and spinning Mjolnir accessory.

I can’t stress how well made this figure is. I’ll go as far as saying this is the BEST action figure representation of “Worthy” Captain America. It even trumps the one put out by SH Figuarts which is usually known to produce better versions of the MCU heroes.

3) Marvel Legends 80th Captain America/Thor/Iron Man

Through the years there have been various changes to the costumes of this iconic Marvel trio. And as a result we’ve have multiple toys of all these modern and updated looks. But in 2019, Hasbro finally gave me the definitive classic versions of Thor, Iron Man and most importantly, Captain America for my collection. "Nuff' Said!"

2) Transform Element TE-01 Op Leader (Masterpiece Optimus Prime)

He’s got the Touch! He’s got the power! Unfortunately though not enough to hold on to the number one spot on my list. Still considering he was able to hold onto number one for three whole quarters is quite an impressive feat.

In the wake of the impending arrival of the very expensive Takara’s MP 43 or Masterpiece Prime version 3, TE-01 Op Leader seemed to come out of nowhere from a company that nobody had ever heard about. Which is what made this toy even more impressive. TE-01 is the Optimus Prime I never thought I needed. I never got MP-44 or held it in my hands but based on what I’ve seen and reviews I’ve watched, I’d admit that it looks to be the superior Prime (it BETTER be considering how much it cost). Still TE-01 has definitely more than just a cheaper alternative. Op Leader has a lot going for it.

First and foremost, it’s actually cleaner than MP-44 in both robot and truck modes. Secondly, the engineering and transformation is actually quite unique and different compared to all the other Optimus Primes. Look there are only so many ways you can transform a truck into a robot and back, but TE-01 actually manages to give us some new creative twists to the old formula. Thirdly, it’s got some details even more accurate to the cartoon model, specifically the Matrix chamber in his chest which no other Prime including the official one manages to do. And finally, it’s really well built with a good deal of weight to the toy. This doesn't feel like a cheap toy. And it’s built well with close to zero QC issues that I know of.

Transform Element’s TE-01 Op Leader is a true masterpiece.

1) Marvel Legends Alpha Flight Box Set

To my knowledge, I can’t think of any other toy that made me as excited as this set did when it was first announced online....ever. I know that doesn’t seem like much coming from a toy collector who always seems to have something new toy to pine over every other day but really, Hasbro literally made my jaw drop with this one.

Ever since I started seriously collecting comics way back in the 80’s I have always loved Alpha Flight. Yes I read other titles like the Avengers and X-Men, but over all of them, Alpha Flight was my #1 team. Characters like Vindicator, Northstar, Aurora and Sasquatch and all their individual trials, tribulations and character arcs have always struck and interested me more than most of the fan favorite heroes like Wolverine, Spider Man or Thor.

I think one of the main reasons why I loved Alpha Flight over the others was precisely because they weren’t mainstream. They were more on the obscure side of the Marvel Universe so they felt more like my team of superheroes. Unfortunately being an obscure team has its drawbacks and the idea of having updated Alpha Flight action figures seemed like nothing but a pipe dream….until Hasbro started slowly making it a reality.

It started innocently enough with a Sasquatch build-a-figure a couple years ago, then a lone Guardian inserted in an X-men wave last year. And then this year without warning, Hasbro just opened up the gates of Heaven and gave us this box set chock full of Canadian superhero goodness!

You can read all about how I got my box set here just in time to make this list.

Granted, this set is not for everyone, but for me, it’s everything. For many Marvel Legends collectors this year’s highlight was finally being able to complete their X-Men Gold and Blue teams this year. But for me, Alpha Flight box set was mine.

THIS was for me was the best purchase for 2019 hands down.