- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 17, 2009

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.

Spartan EOD and Mongoose

McFarlane Toys continues to transform the popular Halo video-game franchise from pixels to plastic with its latest Halo Series 6: Medal Edition. The 6-inch-tall selection of action figures offers characters and creatures well-known to the loyal Halo gamer. They include a Flood Pure Form Stalker, the Rookie from Halo 3: ODST, a Brute Bodyguard, Elite Shipmaster Rtas ‘Vadumee and a cuddly Grunt. The set also presents a warrior in stunning blue armor along with his speedy form of transportation.

Figure profile: Built by UNSC’s Damascus Materials Testing Facility on Chi Ceti 4, EOD armor is specifically designed to protect Spartan supersoldiers from explosive ordnance. Its shoulder pads and Storm Trooper-style helmet also cut down on incidents of dismemberment and decapitation.

The Mongoose, an ultralight, four-wheeled all-terrain vehicle, carries a driver and passenger. It is designed to move UNSC soldiers quickly to unoccupied battle sectors for reconnaissance.

Accessories: This slick boxed set offers a Spartan driver in baby-blue battle armor with no weapon, but a whopping 26 points of articulation and some slick battle-fatigued paint detail.

The in-scale olive-green Mongoose ATV feels like a completed Monogram model kit. It offers turning handlebars, spinning tires, windshield, adjustable foot stirrups, a muddy paint job and a rear seat that folds down for a fellow Spartan to ride on the back.

One big warning for the collector: The wrist joints on McFarlane’s Halo Spartan figures are about as fragile as glass and will snap with very little force. Also, shoulder armor pops off when you breathe on it, so be careful when setting up the UNSC Vs. Covenant diorama.

Price: $22.99

Read all about it: Marvel Publishing offers the latest sequential-art odes to the video-game franchise through either the hardcover Halo Uprising ($24.99), written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Alex Maleev, or the five-issue series Halo: Helljumper ($3.99 each), written by Peter David with art by Eric Nguyen.

What’s it worth? These delicate gems will look great on a display shelf or in an office cubicle, especially with a couple of Grunts and a Flood Stalker in position. However, they will perform disastrously in real battles wielded by a youngster enamored with his big brother’s Halo collection. The package recommends them for owners 14 years old and older for a reason - but they’re going to be hard for the younger action-figure lover in the family to resist.

Cobra Commander

Sideshow Collectibles expands upon its 12-inch doll collection to envelop the G.I. Joe pop-culture franchise. Its lineup of highly articulated, accessory-laden, authentically dressed characters includes Duke, Firefly, Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Cobra Sniper and the mysterious foe and archenemy of Joe who has been causing havoc since 1982.

Figure profile: From the box - Bent on world domination, Cobra Commander leads the force of COBRA, a ruthless terrorist organization that has become a thorn in the side of the G.I. Joe team and a threat to the entire world. He has legions of soldiers, millions of dollars and an arsenal of state-of-the-art equipment at his disposal, yet the man remains a mystery. Cobra Commander is as arrogant as he is ruthless, and if there is a face of evil, it lies under a blue shroud.

Accessories: It’s almost a shame to remove the figure from the collector-friendly packaging, as the package is just as cool as the doll. The box opens up into a wraparound with two compartments, which are held together via a magnetic clasp (just like Sideshow’s Star Wars 12-inch line) and designed with a nod to Hasbro’s (the master licensor of G.I. Joe) familiar packaging, including the well-known biography card.

Now for the real show. Our fearless leader appears to be an amalgam of the comic-book, cartoon and movie designs. He sports more than 30 points of articulation and comes adorned in mostly black with real cloth pants, shirt, a pleather trench coat (with red cloth inlay), shiny boots and a hard plastic head sculpt sporting the blue-pleated balaclava. He’s packing an MP-7 with short and long magazines and silencer, a COBRA pistol and a dagger tethered by a chain.

More extras include three sets of interchangeable hands, a display base and COBRA insignias on the belt, lapel and headgear.

A limited edition (1,250 pieces) is also available and includes a staff that doubles as a sheath for a golden cobra-handled sword.

Price: $99.99

Read all about it: IDW Publishing reprints Marvel Comics’ classic 1980s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero series in 10-issue trade-paperback chunks ($19.99 each). Start with Volume 1, which collects the first issues of the series, and appreciate the surprising depth of stores by Larry Hama.

What’s it worth? I can’t get past the plastic hooded head sculpt. Not only does it not blend well if you take the jacket off, but I’d love to see the disfigured maniac behind the mask. Although it’s essential to the serious G.I. Joe collector’s lineup, the average fan looking to spend that kind of change might appreciate the COBRA Trooper ($99) or COBRA Officer ($99) a little more.

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