Saturday, August 29, 2015

World of Nintendo: Fox McCloud Review

The World of Nintendo line has been a mixed bag. While it's great to see a well-known property finally getting some figures, the character selection and actual quality of the figures has left a bit to be desired. Nevertheless, I can't turn down the chance of finally owning a Fox McCloud figure, so here we are.

Fox is packaged in the standard 4 inch packaging but has a distinct, navy blue color. This causes the figure to stand out on the store shelf among the many other Mario figures.

Out of the package, Fox looks good. He is based off the N64 appearance of Fox, and the figure itself is very close to the 3DS model of Fox in the N64 remake (the original model has the same features, but the blockiness clearly would not translate to a well-sculpted action figure). In fact, if you compare the promotional art for the game to the figure, Fox looks like he jumped out of the screen.

The sculpting is also very good where it needs to be. Most of the figure is smooth, replicating the simplistic nature of Nintendo models. The most detail is found in the robot legs (or metal boots) and the headset, and the lines are sculpted in very well.

The figure falls short in the articulation department, however. On paper, it sounds decent. Fox has:
  • A swivel head
  • Swivel/hinge shoulders
  • Swivel/hinge elbows
  • A swivel waist
  • Ball-jointed hips
  • Single-jointed kneese and ankles
  • and a tail hinge
However, most of his articulation below the waist is limited. The farthest he can get his hips outward is this:

and the knee joints don't bend very far either. Additionally, the lack of ankle pivots, combined with Fox's large head, makes it very hard for him to balance in any dynamic poses. 
This is the best running pose I could get out of him
The paint detail is fine for a $10 figure. While there is some smudging in the jacket area and the lining of the boots, most of the figure's paint is clean. Fox also has his name printed on his chest, a detail I didn't recognize was on his character model.

Fox comes with one "mystery accessory" in a Star Fox-themed box.

If you didn't already know, it's a mini Arwing. It's nicely sculpted and only has a few paint details. 

The underside is completely unpainted, despite having some nice sculpted details. 

While the Arwing is a nice accessory to have, it's much too small to actually do anything with. Fox can't hold it because he's sculpted with two fists, and I'll probably lose it by the end of the day. 

I would have much preferred for Fox to be sculpted with one open hand and to have him come with the blaster he uses in Smash Bros. instead. The Arwing doesn't do much for me, but if the upcoming Falco and Slippy come with a mini Landmaster and a mini Arwing-with-legs (featured in Star Fox Zero), then I could see a small ship collection being nice for display. I'd still prefer a blaster, though. 

Scale is weird when we're talking about the World of Nintendo line. Fox doesn't seem to be in scale with the Mario figures, but he's in decent scale with Link and Samus, who are also done in a similar 4 inch scale. Looking at screenshots from Smash 4, Link should be taller, but Fox and Samus are in the correct scale. 

Minor scale errors aside though, they look fantastic fighting each other.

So, for $10, it's nice to finally have a Fox figure on the shelf. Because of his shortcomings in articulation, I wouldn't recommend buying him for aftermarket prices, but he's definitely worth having for the character alone.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Mother Russia by Jeff McComsey Review

"I can't imagine anything closer to true Hell on Earth than the city of Stalingrad in 1943 with an army of countless flesh-eating monsters thrown in" 
-Introduction by Chuck Dixon

Mother Russia is a mini-series of comics by Jeff McComsey and the first standalone graphic novel by FUBAR Press. It was initially funded by Kickstarter, released in individual issues, and will be available in a completed edition (which is the one I will be reviewing). 

As part of the FUBAR universe, Mother Russia continues the premise of the undead being involved at various points in our history. This time, it's the Battle of Stalingrad, a battle usually not focused on in America-centric retellings of history. Nevertheless, the premise complements a strong story, mixing elements of desperate survival and war. McComsey is able to convey a sense of hopelessness, combined with the confusion that would naturally occur when zombies appear suddenly on the battlefield.

The plotline of Mother Russia is fairly simplistic, which was beneficial to the graphic novel as a whole. The book never slows down to accommodate convoluted aspects of the plot, as some science-driven zombie stories have done, instead focusing on the situation at hand. Character-building moments are selective flashbacks that give enough to create a vibrant characters but not enough to detract from the driving force of the main story. 

Speaking of the characters, Mother Russia has only a few, but they are all developed and memorable. The main protagonist is a female Communist, a background that is rarely (if ever) used in media. The book does a fantastic job of implementing various aspects of her character, from her inherent compassion to her hardened survival instinct. She finds a fellow survivor in an old military leader, who is both a clever device to introduce the political atmosphere that created the undead and a vivid character showcasing the harsh trials of war. These two characters form the main cast of Mother Russia, though the inclusion of a child and a dog are welcome as well, adding a much-needed brightness to an otherwise dark story. 

The art in Mother Russia is wonderful (and gruesome), conveying the bloody battles that inevitably take place between soldiers and hordes of zombies. The art style was befitting of the novel, properly conveying the desperate expressions of the characters as well as the vast landscape of battle. 
In addition to the main story, the completed edition of Mother Russia includes a few spin-off comics using the same characters, but from different comic book creators. "The Sniper" was a well-done additions of character background that enhanced the main story. "The Child" was a heartfelt tale of love in the midst of a horrific world, emphasizing the emotional bonds between humans despite the need for survival. "Kindern" was a completely horrific look at the world of war and zombies, not unlike those featured in FUBAR: Declassified. These were all welcome additions to the main story, and if you haven't already bought the individual issues, it's worth getting the completed edition for these extras. If you're a fan of the FUBAR series, these extras might even be worth buying Mother Russia twice. 

However, in terms of the main comic alone, Mother Russia is fantastic. A great, engaging story built on a fascinating premise involving vivid, unusual characters creates an enjoyable graphic novel. 

Mother Russia is available (in its completed edition and as a special blank cover variant) in the September Previews. Thanks to Alterna Comics for sending this review copy out early!


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Funko Legacy Evolve: Goliath Figure Review

I have never played Evolve. However, when I saw that this figure's huge box and $19.99 price tag, I knew I had to bite. Even if I had no idea what a "Goliath" was, there's always room for a cool monster figure, and that's what this is.

Goliath comes in a huge box for the packaging, reminiscent of NECA's new deluxe kaiju boxes. The other figures in the series come in smaller, Black Series-size boxes, but somehow Goliath, in his giant box, has the same price tag.

Right out of the packaging, Goliath looks like a very good representation of the in-game model (judging from pictures online). Though some liberties were taken in order to add joints, particularly in the head area, any fan of Evolve should be able to recognize on-sight what this is supposed to be. 

The sculpt and paint on the figure is much, much better than you'd expect from a mass-market figure. Goliath has some dark grey shading throughout his body, while his claws and spikes are also given some paint detail to highlight the sculpt. My favorite area definitely has to be the face though, with the eyes given some very good red and yellow paintwork. The inside of the mouth is bright pink, but it also has some darker red shades to simulate the inside of a mouth, and it's fantastic. 

While most of the sculpt is very well-done, some areas seem a bit soft, as if Gentle Giant stretched some areas of the digital sculpt without adding in any sharper details. However, this is hardly noticeable, and it is still miles ahead of any Marvel Legend, reaching NECA territory. 

Goliath's articulation is also surprisingly good. He has:
  • a limited balljointed neck (making it more of a swivel)
  • an articulated jaw
  • swivel/hinge shoulders
  • single-jointed elbows
  • swivel/hinge wrists
  • a functional ab joint, allowing for forwards and backgrounds tilting as well as rotation
  • ball-jointed hips
  • a thigh swivel
  • two bends in the leg to accomplish a "chicken-leg" stance
  • and Hasbro-style ankle rockers
While his size may prevent some extreme poses, all the joints are there, making Goliath one of the more poseable monster figures I've handled in a while. The articulated jaw in particular is quite fun, though there isn't THAT drastic of a difference between his open/closed mouth. 

Goliath has no accessories besides his spiked tail, which attaches to a hole in his back. This is where the gripes with this figure begin. Firstly, the tail doesn't like to attach all the way, leaving an unsightly gap. The tail on my figure tends to fall off as well. 

In fact, the quality control issues are what prevent this figure from going from great to perfect. He uses the clear peg joints that are widely feared by buyers of Funko Legacy, for these will break incredibly easily. I haven't had any issues of breakage, but it's definitely something to watch out for. 

Also, on my figure and some other samples, the thigh joint has been stuck out of the package. A fix can be found here, and it would be helpful to boil and pop before proceeding with the figure. 

The final quality control issue is in the shoulders. These are incredibly stiff, metal joints, so it would be wise to boil/use a hair dryer to loose them up before using them. Also, after I tried to loosen them up, the paint started wearing off, as seen in the picture above. 

Once you fix all the issues and take the proper precautions though, Goliath is a wonderful figure. Although I don't have any of the other Evolve figures, Goliath is right at home with Gipsy Danger. 

Another thing to consider is also the value of this figure. He stands taller than a standard 6-inch figure, and is much heavier than any others at his price point. If Goliath had been a "deluxe" figure at $30, he would've been a harder pill to swallow, but at the same price as a Black Series figure, it's a no-brainer. 

In fact, this is one of the best offerings of the Legacy line I've seen so far. With stellar sculpt, paint, articulation, and value, the only thing holding this figure back is the quality control, and even that is manageable if you're willing to work for it. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

FUBAR: Declassified Review

Zombie stories are everywhere. Movies, TV shows, books, and more, the idea of the undead has always been a popular trope to draw from for interesting horror stories. Today, I'll be looking at FUBAR: Declassified, an anthology of stories written by Chuck Dixon, Jeff McClelland, and Jeff McComsey and the follow-up to FUBAR: Mother Russia.
The stories contained within FUBAR: Declassified all center around zombies existing in political conflicts throughout America's history. From the Cold War to the War on Terror, this universe establishes that zombies exist and have played a role in various historical events.

The premise sounds oddly specific, and at times, it is restrictive. The first 2-3 stories within the anthology are repetitive, focusing on the military taking on zombies in combat. By the third story, the elements (zombies, soldiers dying, the desire of the government to keep everything under wraps) are told over and over again through the exact same structure. However, these stories are far from boring, containing gruesome battle scenes and the tragedy that occurs when a comrade falls to the undead. Props to the writers for their portrayal of a warzone as well, making sure that the dialogue between the soldiers felt authentic. The characterization is also expertly done, the writing able to convey the commitment to the mission and the adaptability of soldiers in the battlefield. When you add in the gritty art style of the first few chapters, FUBAR: Declassified becomes a very engaging war story, despite the repetitive elements. Nevertheless, for those who aren't into horror or war stories, the first couple of stories in this anthology will seem like a drag.
The highlight of FUBAR: Declassified to me was (surprisingly) in the politics. When you add the incredibly powerful "biological weapon" (zombies) into a divisive global conflict, the story cannot help but become more and more interesting. FUBAR: Declassified recognizes this, and it does a stellar job in exploring all aspects of the politics behind the involvement of zombies. One story focuses on border control and how ordinary civilians' lives are affected by the involvement of the higher-ups. Another brings to light the underhanded techniques political officials dirty their hands with in order to gain leverage. My favorite story involving the assassination of Kennedy cleverly implemented zombies into a story of government cover-ups, questioning what should and shouldn't be kept from the public eye. Though the first part of the anthology was a fairly enjoyable war story, it was the political tension and thought-provoking themes that kept me engaged.

In terms of the artwork, I have already spoken about the grittiness of the first part of the anthology. However, the rest of the novel is characterized by various art styles from the different artists who worked on this project. There are some instances of iffy panels, but most of the artwork can be described as very fitting. Although I am not usually a fan of hyperrealistic artwork in comic books, that particular style fit very well into the drama and tensions of the story it was used. Similarly, another story has a Pixar-esque vibe in its artwork, conveying the tranquility of civilian life. The thoughtfulness behind the stylistic choices should be applauded, despite the minor imperfections in some of the artwork.

As a whole, FUBAR: Declassified was a well-made anthology, as expected of any Alterna Comics release. While I enjoyed this collection, and would recommend it to any horror-loving friends, it did not exactly fit my personal tastes as Metaphase or the recent IF Anthology have. This particular one seems targeted towards a specific audience, so it would be wise to take a look at the preview pages before picking this title up.

FUBAR:Declassified is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

*Thanks to Peter Simeti for providing the copy used in this review*

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Metaphase Review

Continuing this week of comic book reviews is Metaphase, a graphic novel with a story by Chip Reece, art by Kelly Williams, and letters by Peter Simeti. Unlike the past two graphic novels I've reviewed, Metaphase takes on the superhero genre. However, to remain distinct from the flashy, popular comics of Marvel and DC, this Kickstarter-funded Alterna Comics release features a main character with a disability thrust into a world of superpowered beings.

I absolutely adored this novel. From the very first page I was hooked (of course, it helps that the first page features a heroic depiction of the Sentinel). The character Ollie, a child with Down Syndrome, was instantly likable, and the book evoked a surprising amount of emotion in his attempts to become as strong as his father. Although I have never had any experience with disabilities, the way the comic portrays the tragic situation of Ollie and the pursuit of his dreams was incredibly heartwarming, an unexpected turn from what is labeled a "superhero" comic. Moreover, the novel does spend some of these emotional moments on the father, reflecting the sorrows of a superpowered parent with a child with Down Syndrome. Ultimately, the comic's strength lies in the portrayal of Ollie's relationship with his father. 

The plot centers around a very standard superhero story, with most of the distinguishing attributes left to the characters themselves. However, the comic does a fantastic job in establishing this new world for the characters to exist in. Yes, we've all seen supervillains terrorizing the city before, and we've all seen the evil corporate businessman trope, but the characters that occupy these roles are at least unique and memorable, driving what is essentially an origin story for a different kind of superhero. 

I do have some slight issues with the artwork. Though the colors and the visual presentation of the novel is fantastic, some of the stylistic choices in the facial expressions are a little strange to me. However, once you are immersed in the novel's story, you hardly notice it, and it's a very minor fault to an incredibly story. Besides these instances, the novel's art is done well, with the action scenes throughout being the standout moments of fantastic art. 

Honestly, I don't know what else to say about this novel that wouldn't be repetitive. It's a very hopeful novel, one that tugs at the heartstrings while balancing the pure enjoyment of a superhero comic. I have hardly any complaints, other than I wish there were more adventures to be told beyond the 80-page volume. If you're a fan of comics, great stories, superheroes, or anything that is great art, I would definitely recommend spending some time with Metaphase

Metaphase is available on Comixology, and my copy was provided by Peter Simeti for review purposes. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

All My Ghosts by Jeremy Massie Review

With a title like All My Ghosts, you'd expect this graphic novel to be a creepy horror featuring some sketchy dude in a broken-down office building. What you get from Jeremy Massie's 106-page comic is a surprisingly engaging story involving some heartwarming elements and a strong, overarching theme.

The graphic novel is characterized as Slice of Life, a genre that I wasn't aware spanned beyond the generic Japanese manga adored by the otaku fanbase. All My Ghosts features a middle-aged man working as chief of his family's cherished newspaper company, a job that he has become less and less enamored with by the beginning of the novel. The novel explores various aspects of his life, including his personal relationships and the rumors of supernatural activity in the workplace. 

As a Slice of Life comic, All My Ghosts has a fairly simple plot structure, having no need for any dramatic twists or turns. Instead, the comic focuses on the various problems of the main protagonist, Joe, as if they were the realistic problems people pile on themselves on a daily basis. In fact, the novel's central conflict isn't necessarily a huge battle but an issue that weighs down on the main character, lurking in the background as he tries to make his life functional again. 

Despite the main character having a routine job, the elements of the story are visually interesting. When the reader follows him through his day to day activities, the comic never slows down, maintaining a comfortable pace so that the ride is still enjoyable. If I had any complaints with this novel, it'd be that the tone shifts can be quite jarring at some points as the setting shifts from one place to the next. However, this is consistent with the common perception of life, a chain of events that don't necessarily have to "fit" next to each other. (This may also have been because the comic was told in separate issues before it became a complete graphic novel). 

The graphic novel's other strengths lie in the world that Massie creates, one that we explore from Joe's perspective. Each character and aspect of the small town is memorable, making the reader feel as if he's been living in this Appalachian town for as long as Joe. 

At first glance, the story may seem to have a generic "Carpe Diem" message about freedom and the release from the boredom of daily life. However, one of my favorite aspects of All My Ghosts was the way the theme was manipulated. For example, when Joe begins pursuing escape from his routine lifestyle through a "fuck it all" attitude, he is slapped across the face with the consequences of freedom, an aspect that isn't usually brought up in motivational posters. The progression of the story is partly driven by this question of freedom, and it made All My Ghosts a thought-provoking read. The novel also incorporates the conflict between tradition and individual freedom, though it does so with an emphasis on reverence for the past, which I personally enjoyed seeing. 

Finally, a couple words about the art style. Massie's style is not overly complex, but it definitely works as part of the novel and was visually engaging. Moreover, the comic has some fantastic moments where Massie somehow incorporates movement and feeling, evoking different senses through unique choices in the comic's art. These creative choices ultimately contribute to the wonderfully immersive experience of reading All My Ghosts

If you are looking for the awe of action and adventure, this graphic novel may not be for you. However, the focused emotions and the portrayal of real life, as well as the incorporation of an intriguing theme, make All My Ghosts worthy of a pick up. 

Speaking of which, All My Ghosts goes on sale August 19 on Comixology.

*Special thanks to Peter Simeti for the review copy, making this review possible!*

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

DEADPOOL Trailer Review/Reactions

Today, Fox decided to release their Deadpool trailer for everyone, even those who didn't attend Comic Con, to see. Even though there isn't much new footage from the trailer that debuted at SDCC, it's very nice to see the trailer in HD and not phone quality. Check it out:

A couple notes. First, there is a green band version of this trailer, most likely made to play with Fantastic Four this weekend. If you were a good little nerd and didn't watch any of the leaked SDCC footage, then you were probably blown away. Did Ryan Reynolds just take a jab at Green Lantern? Yes, he did. Is that COLOSSUS? Yes.

If you've been following the project since the original leaked test footage, then you'll probably recognize the "red suit, brown pants" joke. While I think the comedic timing and delivery was a bit better in the original footage, I'm glad to see it return nonetheless. The rest of the humor is great, including the exchange with T.J. Miller's character that is just comedic gold.

"You look like an avocado had sex with an older avocado" 

It's also nice to see that Deadpool is fully asserting its hard R rating, with tons of F-bombs and big boy words. The action is still over-the-top and very fitting of Deadpool, because seeing three dudes having holes blown through their brains is just what every comic book fan wanted.

"Oooooh...I'm touching myself tonight"

In terms of changes from the SDCC footage, there was an extra scene in this trailer featuring an old lady informing Deadpool of the presence of a male reproductive organ in his oral cavity. However, I'm sad to see that they cut Deadpool's exchange with Negasonic Teenage Warhead, one of the more memorable parts from the fuzzy SDCC footage.

Nevertheless, this trailer did its job very well, showing us a perfect film adaptation of Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds' voice!) and generating all the buzz. Props to the marketing department at Fox for knowing how to sell Deadpool, correcting all their mistakes for the completely botched release of Fantastic Four.