Tuesday, January 4, 2022

The Worst of 2021

So it’s a given that I get a whole lot of toys every year, some would argue a little too much. And with all the new toys that join the collection in a 12 month span, it’s inevitable that some of my purchases will end up being disappointments. So this time around as a primer for the final list of my favorites from 2021, I thought I’d take a look at the other end of the spectrum and go over the top 10 disappointing toys that I got in the past year.

10) Black Mamba Ancient Leader

Despite a major improvement over any other live action movie based Grimlock toy released before it. In hand, the Studio Series Grimlock left me a bit underwhelmed. Aside from being a little small for my taste, he just felt a little boring as a toy, especially in robot mode. It wasn’t long before I decided to sell him off (and boy did it take quite a while to find a buyer to get it off my hands). After that, you’d think I would have learned my lesson. Instead, at the height of my Movie Masterpiece Transformer (MPM) “free for all” during the first half of the year, I decided to double down on an oversized KO version of the toy I had just gotten rid of.

I thought that it would be different the second time around, given that “Ancient Leader” by 3rd party company Black Mamba was more appropriately sized for my growing MPM collection and had some added improvements as compared to the official one. But in the end, it was the same boring toy as before…just bigger.

9) Black Mamba Corvette Assassin

Just like Ancient Leader, Corvette Assassin is an oversized version of an official Transformers movie toy, “Sidearm” Sideswipe, originally released way back in 2010. Unlike Ancient Leader, I LOVED the original toy of Sideswipe and despite being released all those years ago, is still one of the best engineered movie Sideswipes ever produced in my opinion. So it was kind of a no-brainer for me to get this new oversized version that would fit in well with my MPM collection.

Unfortunately, for some reason, this upscaled version was more of a letdown quality wise than what I was used to from 3rd (or that 4th?) party company Black Mamba. Corvette Assassin feels cheap (to be fair he didn’t cost much) and is a lot more difficult to fiddle around with and pose. And it wasn’t long before my toy’s waist joint broke. I was able to glue it back, but I won’t be transforming him back and forth any time soon.

8) Black Series Jar Jar Binks

Thanks to the groundbreaking animated series The Clone Wars, and a less than stellar Sequel Trilogy, negative opinions over the Star Wars Prequels have generally softened over the years. And I guess the same can mostly be said about everyone’s favorite Gungan, Jar Jar Binks. Even if he’s not the most loved character in Star Wars, one cannot deny the importance of his presence in any serious Prequel toy display. Which is why I jumped at my first chance to get this guy, when he was finally released in the Black Series as a premium priced Deluxe figure. To be fair, the figure is beautifully sculpted and painted. But he comes with a number of useless weapons and accessories that I guess they included to justify the higher price point. And I would have much rather preferred a whimsical looking head instead of the black stoic one that we got. I don’t need a heavily armed battle ready Jar Jar for the display. I just need him to stand awkwardly next to Qui Gon Jinn and Padawan Obi-Wan.

And just to make things sting a little more, It wasn’t long before Hasbro released a regular carded version….that eventually went on clearance. I guess not everyone was as excited as me for this guy.

7) Marvel Legends Hellfire Club Box Set

This set was originally released as a 2020 SDCC Exclusive. I passed on initial local preorders and opted to play the long game on this one, ordering it through my sister in the US on the HasbroPulse site for a significantly lower price. The catch was that it took over a year for it to finally arrive at my doorstep. Due to the long wait, this set was easily one of my most anticipated toys for the year, which basically set me up for a whole lot of disappointment.

The set consists of key Hellfire Club Inner Circle members Sebastian Shaw, Donald Pierce, Emma Frost and Jean Grey with a swappable Selene head. While Shaw and Pierce were good overall figures, the highlights were definitely the White and Black Queens. Unfortunately, these two came with incredibly gummy knees which basically made them close to impossible to stand up. And my most anticipated one of the bunch, the true Black Queen, Selene (I couldn’t care less about Jean Grey) came with just a ho hum head sculpt (with an unfortunate paint blemish) and an oddly sculpted cape which made her even more difficult to fit on a shelf.

Ultimately, key characters aside, the overall execution of this set was piss poor and a big letdown in my book.

6) Black Series Dark Rey

I hated The Rise of Skywalker. Take all the hate directed towards The Last Jedi, multiply that a hundred fold and you get how I feel about that “Episode 9” abomination. It is the only Star Wars movie that I have refused to watch a second time. But as much as I hated that movie, I will admit that there are a good number of characters in that movie who should have gotten figures at the very least to appease whoever liked this atrocity and would want a TROS display. Instead we get this, a figure of a “vision” that Rey had of herself that to my recollection only had a few seconds of screentime. What a waste. And yet, in a moment of weakness…I got it. I know I have problematic tendencies in my collecting habits….this is proof of it.

As far as the design goes…it’s bland, boring and cliche; Dark robe and hood, check. Red lightsaber…check. It’s a paint by numbers design, visually uninteresting. The least they could have done was give her the sharp toothed evil face that she flashed for a split second. And thanks to the hard plastic cloak, this “action” figure is basically reduced to a Sith traffic cone.

5) Marvel Legends Katy

And speaking of traffic cones….I give you Marvel Legends Katy. Look, I really liked the movie Shang Chi, and yes despite her rather polarizing character, I would be crying foul if we didn’t get any plastic representation of this main character for a Shang Chi display. It’s just that it’s a really boring figure. As always. The hard plastic robe severely limits the figures movement and posing options. And despite being sculpted, the robe still looks rather…frumpy, so the main advantage of having a sculpted robe over a soft goods one is basically lost. It doesn’t help that she’s incredibly difficult to stand as her weak ankles lead to her constantly falling over. The only saving grace for me is that she comes with Morris..which is probably what Hasbro was counting on making her sell. But not even a cute magical creature can keep Katy off my list.

4) Marvel Legends Black Widow

Hasbro has made quite a lot of MCU Black Widow action figures over the years. And while each one may have had their issues, I think for the most part they have all been pretty decent. So it’s extremely disappointing that the last one they did, the one for her 2021 solo movie, was pretty much the worst of the bunch. I just don't get it, Hasbro should have pulled out all the stops for this Black Widow. Instead we get a figure with a head sculpt that looks like it was done over 10 years ago. First of all, it’s not screen accurate, instead of the pony tailed beaded look, we get this mess of a hairstyle that’s not even symmetrical in length. It looks like the B-team over at Hasbro sculpted this mess. Secondly, in the age of photo printing technology, this mug just looks like it was hand painted.

I understand the very real problem in Hasbro when it comes to movie based toys. In order to have the toys released at the same time of the movie, the toy designers need a couple years head start and so they usually use early conceptual designs as the basis for their toy sculpts. But the movie release was delayed for over a year, so surely they should have had a little window to at least realize that they botched up the head sculpt. And even if they really had no time to fix it, they could’ve just used the previous head sculpt that came with the Endgame 2 pack with Hawkeye. Even that sculpt would have been better.

3) X-Transbots Menasor Trailer

If you’ve ever collected a 3rd party Transformers, you know how much of a long term commitment it is to complete a combiner team. Way back in 2018 I went all in on X-Transbots’ Berserkars or their version of the Stunticons. In 2020, they finally released the last member of the team, the leader Motormaster. Now one would think that with all five members in place you could now form Menasor, but nope, we actually needed one more part, the truck trailer of Motormaster, which would form the frame for the combined form. And due to some major redesigns, we had to wait over a year for that.

So fast forward to 2021 and we finally got our trailer…and it’s a mess. First of all, it was a lot more expensive than we anticipated….for a trailer. And secondly a whole slew of accessories that were originally said to be included in the release, were instead sold separately in another accessory pack (fortunately it’s not really necessary for the combined mode so it was easily skipped) which just left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

More importantly though is that it’s a huge nightmare to transform the trailer…which is essentially a rectangular box, into the combined form frame. It shouldn’t be this hard or this excruciating to transform. But it is. I did it once, formed Menasor, and called it a day, and I haven’t touched it since.

2) Marvel Legends Jean Grey

While technically this is based on her more recent House of X look, that look is in turn a call back to her classic Marvel Girl costume from the 70’s/80’s. That in itself should have made this Jean Grey the standout figure in her wave, instead she ended up peg warming. The problems could already be spotted in the original concept art released by Hasbro. I found her hair sculpt to be wonky and too high, like she just rolled out of bed. It just looked off. And it looked even worse in hand. Bad head sculpt aside, the real problem was that they used the wrong parts for the legs. They were too small which made her look badly proportioned and even noticeably shorter than previous Jean Grey figures. One could argue that this is a younger teen version of Jean..but it was supposed to be a modern version of her. So the parts choice just doesn’t make any sense. This is an extremely unfortunate case of a real great character and design wasted.

1) Black Series Migs Mayfeld

When I first saw Migs Mayfeld in the Mandalorian season 1 episode, The Prisoner, I immediately thought he was a pretty cool character. And I was glad that it didn’t take too long for Hasbro to announce a figure release in their Black series line. Unfortunately, instead of going with this original bounty hunter look from the first season, they went for his Imperial trooper “undercover” look from the season 2, episode, The Believer. This basically entailed plopping on a newly sculpted Migs Mayfeld head on a previously released Imperial Mudtrooper.

Now I get it, doing simple kitbashes and repaints (Jedha Stormtrooper) like this enables Hasbro to pump in the rest of their budget into other more important and uniquely sculpted characters like Boba Fett, Fennec Shand and Bib Fortuna..so I’m cool with that. It’s just that, Migs Mayfeld’s head sculpt is just so…blah and it’s really not representative of the character brought to life by comedian Bill Burr. To make matters worse, I actually bought two of these guys with the intention of using the second one for a custom Agent Kallus from Rebels. Unfortunately the end result was also rather…blah. I dunno it’s just a boring figure of what is probably one of the more interesting characters from the Mandalorian. I know it’s only a matter of time before Hasbro does a proper unique version of Mayfeld but till then, I would hardly this one a worthy space filler.

Anyway like anything in life, toy collecting isn’t the perfect hobby. There will be ups and there will be downs. While taking note of the previous year's disappointments tends to dredge up some negativity, I think it’s a worthwhile exercise to help me be a more discerning collector moving forward. And while individually these toys aren’t that great, at the very least they help round out and enhance my displays as a whole….and that should count for something.