- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 27, 2010

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 building in Zad’s Toy Vault.

Construct-A-Buzz

One of the most popular computer-animated films of all time has teamed with a block-building powerhouse to deliver Lego Toy Story construction kits. Current sets include Army Men on Patrol ($10.99, 90 pieces), Woody’s Round Up ($49.99, 502 pieces) and a Bionicle-size tribute to an interplanetary visitor traveling “to infinity and beyond.”

Figure profile: From online Disney archives (http://disney.go.com) Buzz Lightyear is simply the coolest space action figure ever made. Complete with voice samples, laser beam, karate-chop action and pop-out wings, Buzz is a boy’s dream come true as a toy but a pain in the neck to his fellow toy, Woody. Buzz suffers from the delusion that he is not a toy, but the actual intrepid defender of the galaxies, sent to save the universe from the evil Emperor Zurg.

Accessories: The 7.5-inch-tall space ranger is adorned in purple, green and white armor and includes 10 points of articulation, a retractable helmet visor, flickable laser missile, movable jet-pack wings, and a Little Green Man block figure (assembly required, of course). Don’t forget to grab Construct-A-Zurg (118 pieces, $24.99) for maximum play potential.

From the 10-year-old builder’s mouth, paraphrased: The set has 205 pieces and took around 15 minutes to build. I really liked how it looked like the older action figure.

Price: $24.99

Read all about it: Boom Studios’ children’s line includes plenty of Disney-licensed sequential art. Check out the trade paperback “Toy Story: The Mysterious Stranger” ($9.99), which compiles a four-issue series from last year, and look for the ongoing monthly series ($2.99 each) filled with the film’s characters.

What’s it worth? Lego grabs a crucial license that fits right in the wheelhouse of its young-builder demographic. Look for the partnership to continue this May with more sets, such as Western Train Chase (584 pieces, $79.99) and Trash Compactor Escape (370 pieces, $49.99) inspired by the new movie “Toy Story 3.”

Halo Wars: ODST

Mega Brands continues to translate Microsoft’s popular first-person-shooter video-game universe into three dimensions with its Halo Wars construction sets. In addition to building kits featuring vehicle and micro figures, an Authentic Collector’s Series delivers 9.5-inch-tall versions of a green-and-red UNSC Spartan II along with a soldier from the latest Halo 3 game.

Figure profile: From the package The Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODST) are an elite special-operations division of the UNSC. The ODST are at their best in the most difficult situations performing high-risk orbital drop-and-infiltrate missions against key Covenant targets across the galaxy.

Accessories: Fans will appreciate the flashy helmet visor, which looks like the ones troopers wear in the game; a massive UNSC assault rifle; and mingling of camouflage bricks in the build. A set of rubber wedges fits into the joints to make them sturdier and tighter and helps keep the soldier standing tall and in position. The container’s lid also converts into a rough-terrain-encrusted display stand with a cardboard landscape to attach and place behind the figure. Collect all three figures for a continuous display.

From the 10-year old builder’s mouth, paraphrased: The set has 201 pieces and took around 20 minutes to build. I really liked the helmet detail and the way the assault rifle connects to the back of the figure. People who like Halo will get a kick out of this. I just wish it were a bit sturdier to for play.

Price: $19.99

Read all about it: Marvel Publishing offers a hardcover of its five-issue limited series Halo: Helljumper ($24.99) which presents writer Peter David’s take on the ODST trooper.

What’s it worth? The kit is not really collector-quality but still looks pretty slick sitting on a desk or display shelf. The odd twist in the mix, though, is that it’s the perfect sort of buildable figure for the male tween in the family but he can’t play the mature-rated Halo video games.

Pop bytes

A look at more toys for the pop-culture builder in the family.

Halo UNSC Gausshog vs. Covenant Locust (Mega Brands, $39.99, 480 pieces) The highlight of this construction set is not the 7-inch-long UNSC 4x4 reconnaissance vehicle, complete with rear M68 Gauss Cannon and wheel suspension, nor is it the 10-inch-tall four-legged purple Covenant vehicle, but a selection of highly detailed, articulated 2.5-inch-tall warriors from both sides of the conflict.

Builders get a mini Covenant Elite figure with translucent plasma sword, a very tiny Grunt and two UNSC Spartan II soldiers with assault rifles. The set maintains detail authentic to the Halo universe while giving owners a sturdy collection of play-friendly pieces. War lovers in the family also will seek out the Halo Combat Unit packs ($9.99), which include six figures mixing UNSC and Covenant forces.

Fans can look forward this fall to a UNSC Gremlin ($19.99, 226 pieces), UNSC Pelican Drop Ship ($59.99, 920 pieces) and UNSC Shortsword bomber ($39.99, 449 pieces).

ARC-170 Starfighter (Lego, $59.99, 396 pieces) The Force is still very strong for block heads caught up in the legendary Star Wars universe, as Lego offers a variety of sets in 2010.

One of its latest masterpieces challenges a young builder to construct a heavily armored fighter/bomber seen in the later days of the Clone Wars, a precursor to the Rebellion’s X-Wing. Nineteen inches from wing to wing, it features three opening canopies, a knob to fire missiles, rear swiveling laser cannons and retractable foil wings.

The included minifigure collection includes Jedi Master Kit Fisto with green light saber and rubbery face, an R4-P44 Astromech droid that fits in the ship, a Clone Pilot and Captain Jag (the trooper who shot down General Plo Koon, thanks to Order 66).

After spending about 90 minutes to complete the detailed ship, fans will want to consider buying the TIE Defender ($49.99, 304 pieces), the perfect complement for space battles in a galaxy, far, far away.

* Visit Zadzooks at the blog section of The Washington Times’ Community pages (www.washingtontimes.com/communities/zadzooks) or on Twitter.

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