Sunday, 19 June 2016

POP! Heroes: Supergirl

Series: POP! Heroes
Year: 2016
Company: Funko

Poor Supergirl. Her backstory isn’t as convoluted as Hawkman’s, but she comes with far more baggage than the casual reader might ever imagine. Debuting all the way back in 1959 as Superman’s cousin, Kara Zor-El, from Krypton (who had apparently been sent on a different rocket from the doomed planet), she quickly established herself as a popular character in her own right, if never quite escaping her more famous cousin’s shadow.

All was well for a few decades, but then came Crisis On Infinite Earths in 1985. The DC Universe had grown massively convoluted in the decades since it had begun, and by extension off-putting for prospective new readers. The editorial team wanted to streamline the DCU, and so a 12-issue series was commissioned to wrap things up and press a reset button. This isn’t really novel to modern comic readers, now that characters die and resurrect all the time and soft resets happen every few years, but it was revolutionary (and from a logistics standpoint, a pretty smart idea) back when it debuted.
Supergirl wouldn’t be the only casualty in the story, by any means, but she’s the one who’s stuck in public consciousness. Marv Wolfman, who wrote the series, said this:

“Before Crisis it seemed that half of Krypton had survived the explosion. We had Superman, Supergirl, Krypto, the Phantom Zone criminals, the bottle city of Kandor, and many others. Our goal was to make Superman unique. We went back to his origin and made Kal-El the only survivor of Krypton. That, sadly, was why Supergirl had to die. However, we were thrilled by all the letters we received saying Supergirl’s death in Crisis was the best Supergirl story they ever read. Thank you. By the way, I miss Kara, too.”

Within a couple of years of the new DCU though, Supergirl had an ersatz version in the form of Matrix, a shape-shifting alien who took up the mantle. Then there was Linda Danvers, who as far as I can tell was Matrix merged with a human, and later with some kind of angel? Yeah, things got pretty weird there for a while, and I’m pretty sure none of it was obvious to the casual observer that it was a distinct character from the same Supergirl who’d been killed off years before.
Eventually the Real McCoy would return in 2004 in a Superman/Batman arc drawn by the sadly now-deceased Michael Turner. And she was back to being plain old Kara Zor-El, Superman’s cousin from Krypton. Sometimes the simple origins really are the best.  

So why mention all of this? Well, mostly because the moniker "Supergirl" being attached to the box doesn't actually clear up who this POP is meant to be. It's definitely not Linda Danvers, but it could be Matrix, though it's definitely not the New 52 version. And not really the 2004 Kara Zor-El one, either. While the original Kara Zor-El has worn a costume like this, it's probably not her most famous one. Basically, my review boils down to this -- it's a good, iconic image of Supergirl in Funko POP form, but who is it actually meant to be? Please spare us all some confusion next time. 

Till next time, Lupine Book Club out.  

"Even the Lasoo Of Truth can't sort this one out."

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Lego Superheroes: Avenjet Space Mission (76049)

Set: 76049
Pieces: 523
Build Time: 1.5-2 hrs 

Now I've mentioned elsewhere that I'm more of a DC fan than Marvel, but Marvel has been absolutely crushing it in the cinematic stakes since 2008. So I've ended up reading a few more Marvel books over the last couple of years than I might have previously, and I've gained a newfound appreciation for offbeat characters like She-Hulk, Spider-Woman and the soon-to-be-the-big-bad-in- the-movies, Thanos. So when I saw this set, it instantly became a must-have. Was it a good investment? Read on to find out more...


The set includes an impressive five figures -- Thanos, Iron Man, Captain America, Captain Marvel and Hyperion. Thanos is of course a bigfig, not a minifigure per se. He's been rendered in a pretty impressive style, though I'm definitely in two minds about his floaty boot attachments with missile launchers. Sometimes characters don't need silly accessories to force a play pattern. But the only real disappointment is that he doesn't have the Infinity Gauntlet, though with the impending release of Avengers: Infinity War Parts 1 & 2, I suspect we'll see more of the self-proclaimed ultimate nihilist in Lego form -- and the Infinity Gauntlet will probably be released as a clip-on piece to avoid molding an entirely new arm or hand.  

Iron Man is an Iron Man figure. The astronaut-style colour scheme is novel, but I already ended up with a regular Iron Man minifig when I bought the Hulkbuster last year. He's fine, but I'm not a major Iron Man fan -- I would have preferred to see another character instead, but considering it already includes the impressively obscure Hyperion  (see below) I should probably quit my whinging. He's got two Tony Stark faces beneath his mask, one with a smug smirk and the other angry.

Similarly, Captain America sure is another Captain America, but I didn't have this character in collection as yet, so he's a welcome addition. The movies have really made me a fan of ol' Cap. He was never a big presence in my comic-reading youth, but the Ultimates and the movies both helped put a more...ah...human(?) face on him for me. Non-essential if you already have a Cap, though the addition of a space air-tank is pretty fun.

Captain Marvel comes with two heads, both masked and unmasked. I like both about equally, but when I bought the Marvel Legends figure about a year ago, I ended up primarily going with the unmasked face. Here I've gone the opposite route, possibly because her unmasked face is identical to Wonder Woman's. The paint app works well, but it would be nice to see Lego mix it up a little more.


Hyperion is a character I know virtually nothing about, save that he seems to be some kind of evil Superman parody (in fact, I'm pretty sure the tampos on his faces are taken from Superman) -- but in some continuities he's a good guy, heading up Squadron Supreme. The box art depicts him as a villain, but is he under Thanos' control against his will? The fact that he also has a sedate face in addition to his "laser eyes" one would seems to suggest so. It's your set, so play as you wish -- Thanos is certainly a match for these guys combined. If nothing else, it's impressive that Lego have delivered such an obscure character in such a mainstream format.  



Lego's space-based sets have been a major contributor to its international success, though they have let them fall of the radar a little bit over the last few years. But it's good to see them return to it here, even if it is in a somewhat roundabout way. Y'see, this is a classic 80s Lego spaceship that just happens to have been released under a Marvel Comics theme. The shape sort of reminds me of a Klingon Bird of Prey, though it's obviously a lot smaller in size. The front cockpit can be angled in a variety of different ways, but the correct way is to have it pointing downwards just slightly. The wings are similar, giving it a very modern and cool -- if perhaps not entirely aerodynamic -- look. Though of course in space you don't have the same issues affecting drag, wind resistance, etc.

The upper cockpit is detachable, and can turn into a nicely swooshable spacecraft on its own merits. It's reminiscent of the Galaxy Squad sets from a couple of years ago, which were almost entirely based around having a core build, which then had removable elements. It was a a decent theme, but the villain sets were pretty weak, which may have been part of the reason it didn't turn into Ninjago 2.0 success-wise. It's good to see the mechanic revisited here though.

Iron Man can be stashed underneath this cockpit, by clicking him onto a stand that swivels down. It works slightly better in theory that practice; some protruding bars mean that he bangs his head when you swivel him up, which could lead to some paint or figure damage in the long run. But as a longer-term storage position, it's not a bad idea.


This set came out quite a few months ago -- I think I picked it up around March or April, but didn't actually get around to building it until now. However, it still seems to be reasonably readily available from Kmart, Target and Big W.


The Avenjet really is a thing of beauty. It's not terribly complex in design or execution, but these shouldn't be seen as strikes against it -- rather, it's a great way to introduce younger kids to Lego, while still providing them with a challenge. And the final result is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. I wish Lego would build Space sets along these lines again -- and perhaps they will someday -- but in the meantime, this is a great substitute. Builders more capable than I could no doubt replicate the set in more traditional Space colours too, which would be fantastic. 
For adult collectors, it's well worth purchasing for the impressive selection of characters -- Thanos in particular is a must-own -- and the retro feel of the Avenjet itself is great. Hopefully we'll soon see Adam Warlock make his Lego debut too!  

Monday, 13 June 2016

Transformers: Combiner Wars – Devastator

"Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" Air Raid included for scale. Look how big this guy is!
Company: Hasbro
Series: Generations – Combiner Wars

Year: 2015

I have been putting this particular review off for quite a while. The better part of a year in fact. Not because I thought it was going to be a bad one – not by any means – but because I just didn’t quite know how to approach it; it was going to be a massive one whichever way I sliced it. This quite possibly the biggest figure I’ve ever reviewed, and certainly the most complex. This is a childhood dream come true – DEVASTATOR!

The Devastator toys I knew as a kid were in G2 colours – yellow and purple. I liked this, and still do; real life construction vehicles tend to be yellow, so it makes sense that the Constructicons would be too. I never owned all six figures, but at various stages owned Long Haul (who met his end in a urinal trough in Kindergarten) and Bonecrusher (who I still owned until somewhere round late high school).  After doing some research over at TFWiki, and considering the timeframe of owning these guys, I suspect that they may have even been part of a European release of the Constructicons that were cast in yellow and did not actually combine (heresy!) – but with the passage of time and the original items lost, I just can’t be sure.   

(Incidentally, at this stage, I don’t think I’ll be doing individual reviews of his component bots – there are plenty out there online already, though. OAFE’s are particularly comprehensive)   

But enough about my own, disappointingly limited encounters with the character. Suffice to say I’ve come to love the original green and purple look, and when I discovered this release was happening, Devastator immediately went on my must-have list. It took a couple of months of waiting, as I waited for stock to actually arrive, and then having to pay the thing off – but eventually, he was mine. And I was thrilled.  

Now at this point, I should mention that I bought the regular Hasbro release, which some people will no doubt tell you is for chumps. I buy enough Transformers to know that the Hasbro vs Takara wars are likely to rage until the sun burns out and takes Earth with it – possibly even longer, to be honest. From a more neutral perspective, though, there are three different versions of Devastator doing the rounds. The one you see in pics here is the “vanilla” one, which I believe was the only one that released in Australia. There was also a version released for SDCC 2015 and sold on the Hasbro Toy Shop website – this utilised the same sculpt, but came in a different box, incorporated a number of additional paint apps, had some vac-metallised parts and also featured a visor-less head sculpt. Pretty cool! But SDCC Exclusives come with a premium…and I’m not huge on vac-metallised toys, so it was never really an option for me. However, the Takara version – released under the Unite Warriors banner – may be worth springing for if you can get it at a reasonable price. The paint apps are different, and arguably better, as tends to be the case with Takara releases. But perhaps most importantly, the individual bots have been slightly retooled from their Hasbro incarnations to include additional articulation. The combined form has also been given ratchet joints in the shoulders, which is a nice additional source of stability for the figure. Each individual bot also gets its own gun, as the original figures did.  

Now to the combined form of Devastator itself/himself. This is one big toy. It’s not as big as Metroplex, granted, but it’s no slouch in the height department. Scale may be relatively non-existent when it comes to Transformers of any vintage, but you can rest assured that he will appropriately tower over any of your other figures – as he should. He totally dwarfs the original Devastator too, and makes it look terrible by comparison. I understand nostalgia very well and everything, but if you think Transformers toys from the 1980s were better than the ones we have today, you need to get with the program.  

That said, he takes a lot of cues from the vintage toy and the G1 cartoon. He’s still made up of six robots, and clicks together in the same formation – though obviously attaching everything together is a bit more convoluted. And he actually stays together this time, too! What a world we live in.
I mentioned earlier that I didn’t plan to do individual reviews of his components, and the G1-ish nature is partially why. The individual bots are very cool, but as someone who doesn’t have a strong attachment to the cartoon, I think they should have opted for a slightly updated look to their head sculpts, rather than going for cartoon accuracy. It wasn’t a deal-breaker by any means, but I was slightly surprised, given the primarily more modern aesthetic of the Combiner Wars figures. While the core design of Devastator’s head is definitely pretty 80s-tastic (those sunglasses!), it’s been given enough detailing to bring it into the 21st century.  

More importantly, he now has articulation. Though not as agile as some of his smaller brethren, his ratcheted hips and knees, combined with a good centre of gravity mean that you can get him into plenty of awesome poses. There’s even some neatly concealed ankle articulation, though be careful when you access it – you don’t want to pull it the wrong way and accidentally break something. His shoulders feel a little flimsier, but they won’t pop off without you meaning them too or anything; you may just need to do some rearranging of the treads that make up the “sockets” after you move the arms. I would note here though that every time you move the ratcheted thigh joints, it sounds and feels like it’s going to break. It won’t – at least mine hasn’t yet – but I try to be pretty gentle. If this bad boy broke I would be furious.

Amazing as a collector’s piece or kid’s toy, Devastator is an essential addition to ANY Transformers collection – or a great excuse to start one! I bought a bunch of toys in 2015, and Devastator here is easily one of the best toys I bought during that time. Possibly the best, even.  Having been out for in Australia for almost a year now, you may need to do a bit of legwork to track him down – but he’s well worth it.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Funko Mystery Minis Sci-Fi Series 2: Godzilla

Company: Funko
Series: Mystery Minis Sci-Fi Series 2
Year: 2015

Well, I actually picked this guy up about 6 or so months ago, but then promptly got sidetracked from reviewing him for various reasons. So let's recap about the character with some stuff I stole from the review I wrote of his 6" POP counterpart back in December.

Few movie monsters are as iconic as Godzilla. Debuting in the 1954 Japanese filmゴジラ(Gojira), he has since gone on to star in dozens of movies, becoming emblematic of an entire genre of films – and in some ways, of Japan – in the process.

There have been countless items of Godzilla merchandise released over the decades; Funko is just the latest in a long line of licensors to take a crack at him.

Back to present day, and I've since reviewed a few mystery minis on the blog. Perhaps most notably Cthulhu -- every time I post anything about that guy, pageviews go gangbusters for several days afterwards, so hopefully the mere mention of him here will set SEO results aflutter for the LBC. 

Nuclear Cthulhu vs Godzilla? Now THAT's a team-up movie worth making.

But Godzilla is the subject of today's review. You may recall that the POP was pretty cool, but I think this Mystery Mini is actually even better. Controversial, hey? Well, I'm not afraid to make the big calls here.

Though Godzilla's Mystery Mini incarnation can't expect to possibly compete on size, it has the edge in the style stakes. Specifically, the face -- I have some mixed feelings about the semi-squished face on the POP, but there's none of that here; Godzilla has a nice, elongated reptilian snout which does the character better justice than the POP did. 

Skin texturing is similar, with both POP and Mystery Mini resembling an avocado. As a food, avocados can mostly go in the bin, but the use of the similar skin texture is a nice touch that adds some essential but not aesthetic-ruining detail.  

Paint? Pretty good, not perfect. There's a shock for you. His teeth have a few gaps in the black paint, which I could easily fix but haven't, and there's been some scraping on the claws of one of his hands. Again, easily fixable with some Citadel paint, but I haven't gotten to it. Will I ever? Stay tuned and see. Some of the spines could do with slightly better coverage too, but they're mostly fine.

There's some good news and some bad news for those seeking to track one of these bad boys down for themselves. First, the good news: Godzilla seems to be the heaviest figure in the series, and so he's pretty easy to pick out of the box. But the bad news is that he's only packed 1/24 -- i.e. 1 per every two cases. Now that's nowhere near as terrible as Pinhead's 1/72 ratio, but it still kind of sucks, considering he's easily one of the more desirable characters in the series. Still, you may get lucky, as I did. Despite an interesting character mix, this series doesn't seem to have flown off the shelves at the same rate as Sci-Fi Series 1 or the two series of Horror Classics, so you may even be able to rifle through a previously untouched box. 

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

POP! Heroes -- Black Manta

Series: POP! Heroes
Company: Funko
Year: 2016

It's been quite a while since there was a new wave of DC POPs -- at least, ones that weren't based on the burgeoning DC Universe movies, or the Arkham series of video games. There have been a few Rainbow Lanterns, Batman variants and other randoms like Swamp Thing, but it's been quite a while since there was an entire wave of new characters and sculpts. It's a pretty good one, too -- Cyborg, Firestorm, Power Girl, Supergirl and the subject of today's review, Black Manta.

I must confess, I'm only really familiar with Black Manta through his appearance in the Justice maxi-series, which I believe differs a little from his mainstream incarnation. He was revealed to be an African-American in the 1970s, but he didn't actually have much of a fleshed-out backstory until around the turn of the millennium; there have been a couple of different versions of it, but they basically amount to Black Manta some kind of abused or traumatised kid who developed a hatred of Aquaman, and then sought to dominate the ocean and Atlantis when he grew up. Yep, in spite of the deceptively robotic appearance, beneath that mask is a human head. It looks a little odd when you consider it next to a regular POP. But it is a cool design nonetheless, and those eyes shoot lasers!

The body itself isn't too dissimilar to the basic body that characters like Superman were built on. But it's a new sculpt; one hand is raised and holding his gun-blade thing. He's also been given a backpack, which has wires attached to his headgear. This is quite a unique feature for a POP but does have the effect of making his head virtually impossible to turn from side to side. So it's not ideal, but it's definitely not a deal-breaker either.

Given that villains are in pretty short supply through just about every POP line, it's great to see another one get a release -- let alone one who's relatively obscure in comparison to the Lex Luthors and Jokers of the DC Universe. In fact, I'll go further and say that it's a great all-round wave.
The only character I don't really want from this wave is Cyborg. If we had a New 52 version, I might have considered it (and it would be good to get some of the other Teen Titans eventually) but I have just never cared for the metal leotard look that was his signature look.

Whether or not you care for Aquaman, Black Manta is a nicely designed and well-executed POP. He's got a very retro-futuristic sci-fi look, so entirely apart from his villainous origins, I'd recommended him on that alone. Great fun!

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Funko Mystery Minis Horror Classics Series 2: The Creature From The Black Lagoon

Company: Funko
Series: Mystery Minis Horror Classics Series 2
Year: 2015

It's no secret that I love Creature From The Black Lagoon. It's one of my favourite movies, and Gillman one of my favourite monsters, but I'll spare you my gushing on this occasion. Today, we're here to talk about his recent conversion into Mystery Mini form.

Given that Mystery Minis are by their nature meant to be quite simplified, Gillman here has quite a detailed sculpt, with lots of little ridges and (strangely enough) gills sculpted all over his face, back and limbs. Even the palms of his hands are textured! Yet it never looks excessive, or distracts the eye. He still looks right at home with his Mystery Mini companions.

Paint isn't perfect, but it's pretty solid given the scale. He's been given some brown/grey dots over his body, which complement nicely with his dull green skin. His teeth and claws have been picked out in a colour we would have called "Bleached Bone" back in my Warhammer days, and the stomach's a nice yellowy-brown. It doesn't pop quite as much as the POP (ha!) did, but given the differing style and the fact that no one really seems to be too sure what colour the original suit was anyway, I think it works just fine.

There have been a few Gillman POPs from Funko already, which were excellent, so I had high hopes for this guy. After the slight letdown of Frankenstein's Monster I was a little concerned, but upon his arrival in the post I was extremely pleased. This is a great piece to add to the collection for Gillman fans -- now I just wish they'd extend the cast slightly. A Mystery Mini Julia Adams to accompany Gillman would be awesome!