- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 12, 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.

Hulk and Cyclops

Hasbro helps celebrate the 25th anniversary of a legendary comic-book event with its Marvel Universe: Secret Wars Comic Packs. Each package is devoted to one of the 12 issues tied to the limited 1984 miniseries and offers a pair of multiarticulated 3 3/4-inch action figures and a full-size comic book.

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Pairings include black-suited Spider-Man and Magneto (with issue No. 8), Iron Man and Spider-Woman (with issue No. 7) Captain America and Klaw (with the first issue) and with issue No. 4, a famous green behemoth and one of the leaders of the X-Men.

Figure profile: The only thing that stands between Earth’s heroes and utter destruction is the strength of the Hulk, buried under nearly two miles of solid rock. On his back rest billions of tons - enough that even his nearly infinite strength is stretched to its breaking point. Meanwhile, Cyclops and the rest of the X-Men begin negotiations to join forces with Magneto, hoping that together they can use the power of the Beyonder to end human-mutant strife forever.

Accessories: Owners get nothing extra. Each figure has 18 points of articulation and is a decent attempt to mimic Secret Wars artist Bob Layton’s work.

Price: $12.99

Read all about it: Issue No. 4 also features dozens of legends, including Dr. Doom, Hawkeye, Wolverine, Galactus and Reed Richards. For those who can’t buy the entire set of figures, the comics have been collected in the “Secret Wars Omnibus” hardcover ($99.99), which beautifully highlights the work of writer Jim Shooter and artist Bob Layton.

What’s it worth? As I have stated previously, this is the best way to entice any youngster smitten with action figures into sitting down and reading a comic. The sculpts of Hulk and Cyclops look great, and the high-gloss reproduction of the book will impress readers. Look for equally impressive comic packs featuring the Star Wars and G.I. Joe universes.

Pop bytes

A look at more toys for the pop-culture fan.

Turbo Tank (Hasbro, $99.99, requires three AA batteries) - I wasn’t impressed with last year’s AT-TE (All-Terrain Tactical Enforcer) from Hasbro, but this year’s massive vehicle tied to the popular animated “Star Wars” series on the Cartoon Network really delivers. This solidly constructed mobile fortress sports 10 big wheels and offers a role-playing bonanza for youngsters fighting in the war between the Republic and Trade Federation.

The 2-foot-long-by-nearly-1-foot-wide vehicle features a gunner’s station that rotates 360 degrees, rotating crow’s nest, working cannon pods and missile launchers, driver compartments, a detachable back section that doubles as a bunker (complete with a pair of doors and rear gunner turret), a chute to load up and deploy a speeder bike, and enough room and pegs to hold about 20 3 3/4-inch Clone Troopers. Pretty impressive.

Also worthy of note are the five buttons that deliver a wide variety of visual effects, sound effects and vocal commands - the tank is a multimedia machine.

To complete the package, youngsters get a Clone Tank Gunner figure with rifle and a speeder bike.

Parents will appreciate an assembly time of less than 15 minutes, which includes some very minor sticker placement. The vehicle is sturdy, though a couple doors stick.

Halo Wars Aerial Ambush (Mega Brands, $49.99, 376 pieces) - The “other” brick-building kit maker celebrates a famed sci-fi video-gaming universe with a complete line of vehicles, heavy weapons and figures based on the war between United Nations Space Command (UNSC) and Covenant forces.

The Aerial Ambush features a pair of aircraft to construct, a UNSC Hornet hunter with mounted nose cannon and purple Covenant Banshee with plasma cannons. Both have a working cockpit canopy.

Besides the two ships, owners get to assemble a Covenant Battle Turret and use some blocks that offer a camouflage design.

The kit also includes 2-inch-tall, nicely detailed versions of a UNSC Flame Marine, a UNSC Spartan, a Covenant Elite and a puny Covenant Grunt, and all get their familiar weapons. Unlike the Lego miniblock figures, the Mega Brand builds are more action-figure-like.

Also recommended are the UNSC Scorpion tank with a red UNSC Spartan figure ($39.99, 278 pieces), a Covenant Ghost with Elite figure ($14.99, 72 pieces) and UNSC all-terrain Warthog with Covenant Battle Turret ($24.99, 173 pieces).

The kits are a perfect fit for the tween builder; the problem is a tween has no business playing the mature-rated video game on which the sets are based.

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

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