- The Washington Times - Friday, February 2, 2007

Thanks to the proliferation of film, comic-book and cartoon characters, companies are bombarding consumers with an incredible selection of action figures. With tongue in cheek, let’s take a peek at some of the specimens worthy of a place in…

Zad’s Toy Vault

Elder Predator

The Hong Kong-based production house Hot Toys offers American collectors an incredible line of pre-finished action-figure model kits of some familiar movie characters in a 1:6-scale format. In addition to familiar icons such as Ellen Ripley (“Alien”) and Robocop, part of its Hollywood Masterpiece collection focuses on the 20th Century Fox property “Alien vs. Predator” and offers multiple versions of the famed sci-fi film icons.

Figure profile: The humanoid species called Yautja have become the most feared warriors in the galaxy. These highly technologically advanced predators live for hundreds of years and use a cloaking device, body armor and sophisticated weaponry to track prey in ritualistic hunts that serve as both sport and rites of passage.

Considered the greatest Yautja of all, the tribal elder Predator is the most respected and honored of the clan. Its intelligence, strength and use of multiple types of fighting techniques have allowed it to survive countless hunts against the most ferocious of foes.

Accessories: Owners have some work after they open a massive box decorated with metallic foil and film images; they have to remove roughly 25 main Predator pieces from three tiers of plastic packaging.

This 14-inch-tall vision requires the assembly of a pre-painted body, a process that begins by attaching appendages and very carefully putting on a handmade body-netting suit. It concludes with the installation of about two dozen fine follicles for the face and forehead.

During this 90-minute construction odyssey, the Predator also gets body armor; a red fabric cape with metal clasps; a removable helmet to cover his ugly, crablike face; a ceremonial necklace; tribal trinkets; a chain of skull trophies of defeated opponents; two pairs of interchangeable hands; a display stand; and a full arsenal of weaponry such as the sharp combi stick (with telescoping poles), retractable wrist blades, a self-destruct device mounted to a wristband and a twin-bladed sword with leg-mountable sheath.

Additionally, owners need to read the instructions carefully and take great care not to force the pieces or crush or break off any of the intricate design work. They will be rewarded with a figure that boasts more than 20 points of articulation and an authentically detailed costume that would make Hollywood production studios proud.

Price: $129.99

Read all about it: I suggest a look at the hunters at their most challenged. Dark Horse Comics’ trade paperback “Aliens vs. Predator: Omnibus Vol. 1” ($24.95) delivers the goods with almost 400 pages of action compiling the original Aliens vs. Predator series from 1989 along with the classic AVP: War sequential-art confrontation.

Words to buy by: It’s a pricey amount of work for the hard-core fan. Not only does he have to shell out a huge chunk of change for the best Predator action figure ever produced, but he has to spend a chunk of his life bringing the superstar to life. Only the most courageous of collectors will take the challenge.

Darth Maul

Sideshow Collectibles continues to corner the market on 12-inch-tall Star Wars action figures through highly detailed gems with more than 30 points of articulation, authentic face sculpts and accurate designs. One of the latest additions to the company’s Lords of the Sith line only saw about 30 minutes of screen time in “Episode 1: The Phantom Menace,” but he left his mark with fans as an unstoppable servant of evil.

Figure profile: Here’s how the package describes it: “Trained in secret as a merciless killing machine, the diabolical Darth Maul is the perfect counterpart to his lord’s subtlety. Where Darth Sidious is shadowy and elusive, his scarlet and pitch-tattooed apprentice is a vivid manifestation of Sith rage. Sharpened horns curve, scythe-like, from the skin of his shaved head, and the fiery red of his double-bladed lightsaber is matched only by the blazing intensity of his venomous stare.”

Accessories: The representation of the former Sith (killed by Ben Kenobi near the end of Episode 1) is dressed in a black tunic, undershirt, pants, hooded robe and boots. He comes with a display stand, a belt, electro-binoculars and three versions of his famed light saber — one with dual blades, a version with a single blade and simply the hilt. He also gets a pair of interchangeable gloved hands for holding the saber or using a Force gesture.

Price: $54.99

Read all about it: Dark Horse Comics’ Star Wars: Darth Maul ($12.95) combines the four-issue miniseries from 1991 into a trade paperback and is illustrated by my favorite chronicler of a galaxy far, far away, artist Jan Duursema.

Words to buy by: Sideshow delivers its best 12-inch-scale Star Wars character to date. Sculptor Oluf W. Hartvigson decisively captures the head, intricate makeup and vacant stare of actor Ray Park, who portrayed Darth Maul, and Mr. Hartvigson’s support team perfectly assembles a cloth outfit for his creation.

Strange but cool

A short look at bizarre products with a pop-culture twist.

Spider-Man Origins: Operation

(Hasbro, ages 6 and older, requires two AA batteries, $15.99)

Although it’s still the same old classic board game born in the 1960s, the box-cover art is slightly disturbing: It shows Spidey dazed on an examination table with his archenemy, Doctor Octopus, removing parts of his innards.

Children not creeped out by the vision can take a turn as the evil doctor as they use tweezers to extract such internal growths as a costume wedgie (shaped like a golf club), A-Rack-Nid Ribs and Mary Jane Jitters (a heart) to collect cash for their efforts.

‘Smallville: Season 5’ Premium Trading Cards

(Inkworks, $2.29 for a 7-card pack)

A cardboard homage to the 2005-06 season of the popular Superman-themed show on the CW Network offers a 90-card set for the serious fan. This series of “Smallville” cards contains color photos on one side and such information on the back as character biographies, episode synopses, guest-star appearances and news on the emergence of General Zod.

Additionally, randomly inserted premium cards include autographs (1:36 packs), parts of costumes (1:36 packs) and foil puzzle pieces (1:11 packs).

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