- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 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 Predator - The Cleaner, a specimen worthy of a place in Zad’s Toy Vault.

Hot Toys LTD, a leading designer, developer and manufacturer of high-end licensed collectibles, offers a wide range of action figures and dolls. The company’s three-dimensional tributes include “The Dark Knight’s” Joker, Rambo, Rocky, Edward Scissorhands, James Dean and even Michael Jackson.

One of its latest posable-model kits offers a 14-inch-tall masterpiece of an aptly named warrior that co-starred in “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem.”

Figure profile: From the Web site - A lone Predator is sent to Earth to destroy a crashed ship from his home world, containing deadly Xenomorphs. Before he reaches the wreckage, however, several Xenomorphs escape into a nearby town. As the Predator hunts and kills the acid-blooded aliens, a new, even more deadly creature is tracking the Predator.

Accessories: It’s an eye-watering Christmas-present-style surprise for owners who crack open the rectangular plastic cube packaging loaded with goodies for this Predator.

Start with the fabric net bodysuit, extendable wrist blade, extendable spear, skull necklace, rolled-up whip, battle-damaged mask, hand-held cannon, wrist computer, melted Alien corpse display base, and an in-scale, too-cool Alien Chestburster (Sideshow Collectible exclusive only).

Now really marvel at the detail that provides two sets of mandibles (opened and closed), a backpack medical kit that opens to contain a buildable syringe and a canister of the stuff that melts the evidence of an Alien/Predator infestation.

Every piece is meticulously sculpted and pre-painted, down to the figure’s tattoos, pleather strapping for the thigh armor and the 4-mm springs attached to the shoulder cannon.

Most impressive is the facial design, with half of the poor Predator’s mug damaged by an Alien acid bath - yuck.

Assembly process: First, I did not want to build this thing. Having worked on the Elder Predator, a multihour chore, I thought this ugly dude looked equally vexing. With about 30 delicate pieces to construct, the average collector with little patience will find a minefield of disappointment if he does not plot a strategy for the assembly.

I took my time about two hours - and here are just a few of the issues I encountered:

* Tried to get the skirt on without popping off part of the buckle (failed); pulled out the Krazy Glue.

* Tried not to bend the minisprings that attach to the helmet (failed).

* Engaged in a 30-minute struggle to attach the left leg (succeeded).

* Tried to put him in the metal jaws of the display pole (failed, plastic mount split); pulled out the electrician’s tape.

* The figure developed a loose shoulder joint, so the arm flops a bit. (Oh well.)

* The final casualty was a piece of armor with an elastic band that attaches to his right shoulder. The band, without much fuss, popped off (failed, more Krazy Glue).

I did finally get the fellow built and, although he looks impressive, he also looks as if he went five rounds with a PredAlien.

Price: $159.99

Read all about it: There is no better way to appreciate the battles between these two sci-fi horror legends than with a pair of massive trade paperbacks from Dark Horse Comics, the original creator of the pairing. Two full-color volumes, each averaging 400 pages, fall under the title “Aliens vs. Predator: Omnibus” ($24.95 each) and provide a fantastic sequential-art retrospective covering multiple miniseries.

What’s it worth: This kit is the only true way to appreciate the Predator Cleaner. The movie was shot so dimly, it was impossible to see his detailed firepower and monstrous attributes.

Although it’s posable with 22 points of articulation, this obviously is not an action figure for junior but a near-museum-quality piece, limited to 550 pieces (for Sideshow’s Alien Chestburster exclusive) and built for display under a solid case in an entertainment room.

It is tough to justify spending $160 for something I also have to put together. However, it’s a tough item to find, so there must be plenty of collector masochists out there.

Pop bytes

A look at more toys with a pop-culture twist.

Darth Vader‘s T.I.E. Fighter (Lego, $29.99, 251 pieces) One of the foremost interlocking block makers in the world celebrates a decade of association with George Lucas’ space-fantasy universe with a selection of exclusive anniversary-edition kits.

One of the first available is the Dark Lord of the Sith’s special ship used to pick off Rebel forces above the Death Star.

Once it’s assembled, owners get a Twin Ion Engine special with a cockpit that opens, dual working missile launchers and a place for Darth to hide his primary weapon. Let’s not forget the included Darth Vader minifigure (it can scrunch into the cockpit) which has a translucent red light saber and removable helmet to reveal his gray, scarred mug.

Build time for a reasonably intelligent 9-year-old is about 30 minutes, and it can withstand average impact during play.

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

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