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.
Lego's buildable-action-figure universe expands with the release of the Bionicles' Glatorians. These 7-inch-tall warriors from the planet Bara Magna battle in the traditions of ancient gladiators as a way for their tribes to settle disputes.
The lineup includes Tarix (representing the water tribe), Vorox (of the sand tribe), Metus (of the ice tribe), Gresh (of the jungle tribe), Raanu (of the fire tribe) and a black-armored fighter named Skrall from the rock tribe.
The new series also offers 5-inch-tall assistants to the Glatorians called Agori ($6.99 each, 13 pieces). These feisty fighters protect the gladiators and will gladly sacrifice themselves for the heroes.
Figure profile: From the Glatorian Web site (http://bionicle.lego.com/en-us/default.aspx) - Skrall Glatorians are arrogant, vicious, brutal, fear nothing and care about even less. They are just waiting for the opportunity to start taking whatever they want, whenever they want it. They are incredibly skilled fighters, with and without weapons. What they may lack in technique they make up for with sheer bludgeoning power and strength.
Accessories: Owners get 50 plastic pieces to build a biomechanical menace resembling what artist H.R. Giger might have created had he designed the Micronauts' Baron Karza.
Skrall's weapons, emblazoned with Roxtus tribal designs, include three chain-saw-style blades, a rotating-saw-blade shield and launcher that fires a spiked piece of Thornax fruit.
New to this Bionicles series is a life counter attached to each of the Glatorian figures, used to play a game. The instruction manual offers lame rules involving shooting the Thornax at an opponent or his container. Points are deducted on the counter for every strike.
A better game variation is found on the Lego Web site (http://bionicle.lego.com/en-us/default.aspx). That variation also uses the Agori figures in the battle and incorporates multiple Glatorians for lengthier contests.
Read all about it: Papercutz is publishing a pocketbook-size quarterly version of Bionicle comics ($7.95 each), reprinting DC Comics' past series. A new Glatorian comic titled Sands of Bara Magna is available in the January issue of the official Lego magazine and drawn by Pop Mhan.
What's it worth: The Glatorians blend a rich back story with easy-to-build figures and provide plenty of role-playing potential.
This year's group is not as menacing as last year's Phantoka and Mistika, but the slick, multicolor molding designs, touches of glow-in-the-dark elements and introduction of an actual game should capture younger imaginations.
DC Direct continues to bring the Fourth World characters of legendary sequential-art creator Jack Kirby to action-figure collectors with a second series of 6.5-inch New Gods. Now standing alongside such powers as Darkseid, Lightray, Mr. Miracle and Orion come Metron, Superman, Big Barda and a fierce foe in need of an eyebrow plucking.
Figure profile: Paraphrased from the packaging - One of Apokolips' most brutal and fearsome warriors, the firstborn son of Darkseid is both deity and supervillain. Hatred of his half-brother Orion is fueled by Darkseid's preference for the former. Trained in Apokolips' Special Powers Force, Kalibak leads his band of Parademons in a swath of destruction to the far reaches of the known universe and beyond.
Accessories: The powerful brute has 12 points of articulation and stands with his green soft-plastic cape flowing. He wields a laser-beam-shooting Beta Club that looks suspiciously like a cross between a night watchman's flashlight and a karaoke microphone. He also gets a translucent yellow base splattered with black blobs.
Kalibak also exists in a more beastly form as a build-a-figure character in Mattel's recently released DC Universe Classic Collection: Series 6. Figures of Shazam, Killer Moth, Superman, Hawkman and Dr. Impossible all contain parts of the villain in their packages.
Read all about it: Kalibak first appeared in DC Comics' New Gods No. 1 back in 1971. A gorgeous hardback compilation called "Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus, Volume 1" ($49.99) contains a reprint of the issue as well as a chronological assortment of early issues from Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, the Forever People and Mr. Miracle.
What's it worth: Sculptor Jonathan Matthews' very authentic version of Mr. Kirby's Kalibak won't do much for youngsters wanting to roughhouse with a familiar action figure, but it will more than impress an older comic-book fan. I also would direct attention to the Superman in the set, a sculpt of a Kirby interpretation rarely seen in print.
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