Friday, September 25, 2020

The Best Of 2020: Part 2

And just like we’re over halfway done with 2020 and it seems like 2021 still can’t come fast enough. First of all I’d like to apologize for the obvious lack of updates to this site. Adjusting to the “new normal” has definitely taken its toll on many of my usual extracurricular activities which unfortunately includes this blog. Still I have been getting “some” new stuff these past few months, so I figure it’s time once again to revisit my top ten list of the year for the second “third” of the year.

It was a little more challenging to do a top ten for the first 4 months as there weren’t many “big” additions to get overly excited about. These next 4 months brought a wider variety. Technically half of the list are new entries but for some reason, I also missed out on a major purchase done in January that definitely “should” have been in the top ten. Well it’s been rightfully included on this updated list so we actually say goodbye to six out of the original ten.

Anyway as usual let’s start with some new honorable mentions:

Marvel Legends AOA Dark Beast & Sunfire

I was a big fan of the Age of Apocalypse storyline and so I was really excited that Hasbro was finally giving it some love with an entire AOA wave of figures. While not every character design has aged well over time, (Dark) Beast & Sunfire have always been favorites of mine, easily surpassing their “regular” mainstream versions. So it was great to finally have plastic representations of these two. I’m fully expecting to have at least one more AOA wave in 2021 so we can have that display fully filled out soon. 

Marvel Legends Crossbones

Captain America is my favorite superhero and so I am fairly familiar with most of his classic adversaries, especially Crossbones. He made his official debut during the obscure “Bloodstone Hunt” storyline which was basically when I was at the highpoint of my comic collecting hobby. I missed out on the older release of Crossbones which reached quite a high price in the secondary market, so this updated one is a very welcome addition to my shelf. 

Black Series Count Dooku

Ever since they started using photo realistic face printing, Hasbro has been slowly catching up with SH Figuarts in the 6” Star Wars race. And I think this Black Series Dooku is the first figure that actually surpasses its SH Figuarts counterpart...and it isn’t even close. The only reason why this one isn’t in my top ten is that because the SH version was in last year’s list. And that was mainly because it finally filled up a gaping hole in my Prequels display. That excitement isn’t here with this one even if it ultimately is the superior Dooku.

Fans Toys Sheridan (MP Warpath)

For the longest time, Bad Cube’s War Dog served as my “MP” Warpath. And while it was a pretty good figure for it’s time, as more minibots joined him, the more he looked outdated and out of place. His overly bulky and realistically detailed body just stood out more and not in a good way. Fans Toys Sheridan definitely looks better and is surprisingly not a nightmare to transform like War Dog is. He *would* have been the absolute perfect update/replacement for my MP Warpath slot, but unfortunately I find him just a tad bit too lean and tall for a “mini” bot. And that bothers me enough to just keep him out of my top ten. 

And now we move on to the updated Top Ten list for 2020:

10. Marvel Legends War Machine

OK this one took me by surprise. I’m not the biggest War Machine fan and I just viewed this purchase as checking off another missing piece in my Marvel Legends/Avengers display. Now while all the extra accessories are nice, it’s really the figure itself that is the star (as it should be). I feel that Hasbro really went up another level on their Iron Man figures with last year’s 80th Anniversary classic version. And with that mold as a base, War Machine simply ups the ante. This has really gotten me excited for more future Iron Man based releases in the near future.

9. Earthrise Seekers

Now some may view this as a little bit of a cheat. Earthrise Starscream was already part of my top ten list. This time around he is joined by his fellow seekers Thundercracker and Skywarp who arrived a few months later. I decided to just lump all three together since they’re essentially the same toy and they pretty much go together as a trio. As I said in part one, it’s about time we got a properly sized classic seeker mold in the “chug” line, and now that I have all three, everything is right with the world. I would have ranked these guys higher if not for some major mold degradation from Starscream to Thundercracker and Skywarp. As a result the latter two have some seriously loose wings that don’t properly lock in place in jet mode. This kinda tempered down my excitement for this set.

8. Marvel Legends Monster Venom

Still holding on to a spot in my top ten is this guy. He’s one of those figures whose best...asset is the fact that he’s so gruesome and ugly. Unfortunately, this time around, he’s been soundly unseated as the ugliest toy on this list by a new entry….

7. Marvel Legends Sugar Man BAF

As I mentioned earlier, I was a huge fan of the Age of Apocalypse storyline way back in the 90’s. And one of the main AOA titles I followed was Generation Next, which told the story of a group of young mutants led by a very jaded and battle weary Colossus and Kitty Pryde as they tried to rescue Illyanna from a slave pit run by this lovely guy, the Sugar Man. So I was very familiar with this x-villain and while his reveal as the BAF for the AOA wave may have left many bummed, I was quite over the moon. And Hasbro definitely didn’t disappoint with an exaggeratingly gruesome sculpt. My wife normally doesn’t really notice any new additions to my collection but this guy definitely got her attention. She freaked out when she first saw this guy standing on the shelf exclaiming “what the hell is THAT!!???” and beaming with pride I excitedly introduced her to the Sugar Man. 

6. Fans Toys Hunk (MP Brawn)

Brawn has always been one of my favorite minibots from the original Transformers cartoon. I just love the idea of a small dude who is apparently one of the strongest of all the Autobots. He was also one of the few original Transformers toys I had as a kid. Maybe it’s because his original toy looked nothing like his cartoon self (his lanky frame and tiny hook hands definitely didn’t give off the vibe of a strong robot), I found myself being pretty obsessed with getting a proper Brawn toy. For the longest time, I thought I had that with Bad Cube’s Brawny, and while he was a pretty good representation, he just looked a little off. Thankfully Fans Toys finally gave me a Brawn that I could be happy with in their version dubbed “Hunk”. While admittedly I would’ve preferred him to be a little shorter, his height doesn’t bother me at all compared to Sheridan/Warpath. He’s also surprisingly not too difficult to transform which is a rarity for Fans Toys. For me he’s pretty much an upgrade over Brawny in every way.

5. Black Series Teebo

You either love them or hate them, but back in 1983, I was the exact target audience that George Lucas had in mind when he introduced the world to those little fuzzy carnivorous teddy bear dudes in Return of the Jedi. I LOVE ewoks, always have and always will. And I have an entire custom ewok village to prove it. 

Anyway, it seems a bit odd that after 7 years in existence and hundreds of characters later, it’s only now that we are getting an ewok in the 6” Black Series line. But I guess it’s better late than never. And ultimately, it really is a good thing that it took this long to get our first ewok. Teebo really benefits from all the modern figure engineering, for a little guy, he is quite articulated and poseable. He also has a very nice photo printed face. It’s pretty obvious that Hasbro wanted to get their ewok figure perfect right out of the gate. 

As an added bonus, Teebo happens to be my favorite ewok as he wasn’t as cutesy wootsy as Wicket (some would say he’s one of the uglier ewoks) but still stood out in the vintage line with his grey striped fur and his pig skull head piece. So it was really cool to get him first. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for the rest of his buddies…..I’ll be happy with the original vintage four of Teebo, Logray, Chirpa and Wicket. But if they wanna give us more (Paploo is up next!) I’ll also take Kneesa, Warok, Romba, Flitchee, Nicki, Chukha Trok, Lumat, Widdle, Wunka, Nippet, Leektar, Graak, Corpsey….. 

4. X-Transbots Gravestone

This was one of the first major releases for the year. I can’t believe that we’re almost done with 2020 and we STILL don’t have his trailer that is needed to form Menasor. Come on X-Transbots! 

3. Honey Badger KO MPM-08 Megatron 

This guy was actually the first toy I bought for 2020 and was weirdly forgotten when I set out to do part one of this list. So to set things right, here he is in his proper place. One of the little collections goals I had this past few years was to complete the original Decepticon lineup from the 2007 live action Transformers movie in mastepiece form, and so this guy was a must. 

Now you may be thinking, why the knock off version? Simply put, this guy cost half the price and actually has major improvements over the official version. This “knock off” uses better materials (no soft bendy plastic), has more accessories (extra arm extensions) and sports a more screen accurate and detailed paint job. So it really was a no brainer. 

Megatron was basically a different character, both visually and personality-wise through all the live movies. But it was only the first movie in my opinion that got it right. Megatron was a ruthless and powerful Decepticon that would literally rip Autobots in half (RIP Jazz). A far cry from the cowardly lackey and later comedic loser we got in the later films. 

2. Black Series Zeb Orrelios

This one was a bit of a puzzle for me ranking-wise. On its own, as a figure this guy is just….OK. Don’t get me wrong, Zeb a great figure and it’s obvious that a lot of love was put into its design, but he’s not “blow you away” amazing. 

I guess the reason why he is ranked so high is because he was easily one of my most anticipated figures of the year as Zeb finally completes my Star Wars 6” Rebels Ghost crew. This was something that Hasbro officially set in motion when they unexpectedly released a Kanan Jarrus figure way back in 2016. While they slowly but consistently gave us more characters here and there, it always seemed like just a pipe dream to actually get the complete Ghost crew on my shelf. And now we have it! 

To be fair, as I said earlier, on his own, Zeb truly is a pretty great figure, he’s got all the right details and is properly sized, plus his “real world” face is quite good. So this just makes completing the set even sweeter.

Finally having the main cast of Rebels on display is definitely one the the highest of highpoints in my entire collection as I was a huge fan of the show. Now if they would only give us an Agent Kallus and an old man Rex it would be just PERFECT.

1. Earthrise Optimus Prime

Nothing much else to say here. He’s still got the Touch, he’s still got the Power. This mini masterpiece manages to hold on to the top spot. Lets see if he can make it three for three in the final installment of this series.