Just in time for Halloween, a new set of Playmates Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures are hitting shelves. The "Monsters and Mutants" series are toys based on the current "Tale" airing on Tales of the TMNT on Nicktoons. For those not up-to-date on the Nickelodeon series, the current series is in its final season, has been re-branded "Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and has moved to the Nicktoons channel. The season is also broken up into longer story arcs. The current, Halloween-themed arc is the "Monsters and Mutants" tale for which these toys have been made. This week, we'll be reviewing each of the "Monster" themed turtles and comparing them alongside their classic counterpart from 1993.
Before getting started into the individual review, I'd first like to say that this entire set is pretty awesome. These are the kinds of Turtle toys that I LOVED when I was a kid. Back in the late 80's, early 90's, Playmates had a ton of sets of, essentially, the turtles "playing dress up." There were cowboys and clowns and army men and magicians and all sorts of crazy stuff and I think that added a lot of the charm and personality to that highly regarded line of classic toys. For the 2012 series, while there have been many variants, there have been only a few lines of toys that give you that tingly nostalgic feeling with just plain silly and fun outfits. That being said, this set of Monster turtles gave me by far the greatest feeling of nostalgia that I've ever felt in this line. Not only are the turtles "playing dress up," but this line is an updated version of a classic line from 1993, where Playmates released a set of turtles dressed as Universal movie monsters. For the updated version, in a very cool way, Playmates has used the same four monsters from the classic line and assigned them to new turtles, giving us something new and yet wonderfully nostalgic. Way to go Playmates, glad to see this line of toys is ending with a real tribute to the classic fans.
That being said, let's go into my review of Vampire Raph.
The sculpt on Raph is okay, though much of it reuses parts of other figures from the 2012 line. The legs, forearms and hands are recycled, but it’s forgivable for the most part. I would have preferred him in long sleeves, just to make him look more unique and the fact that he has no pants below the knee makes it seem as though he’s oddly wearing shorts with his suit. The central body sculpt is new, but the shirt and tie design you see is only paint, no sculpt, so it looks more like one of those cheesy tux t-shirts than any kind of suit. His head sculpt is excellent, I just wish the rest of the figure measured up to that.
These toys are all articulated to what would be expected for the 2012 TMNT line. You can get a lot of dynamic poses out of them since they are articulated at the knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, wrists and head.
Paint design is good on Raph (though it doesn’t compensate for a lack of sculpting). He has the bright coloring from the 2012 series which you would want, giving him a bold appearance. Annoyingly, his arms have unpainted wraps and wristbands. Additionally, while I'm doing a classic comparison below, I would like to say I really wish these toys glowed in the dark like their predecessors did. I don't know how much that stuff costs and perhaps that would have made it cost prohibitive, but it was such an iconic part of the classic toys, that I wish we'd seen it here.
Raph’s accessories are quite good. He has a cape, bat and two wooden stakes. The stakes are okay. Nothing special, but welcome given the monster theme. The Sai-stake is a nice touch. He also comes with a Bat-Raph, which was featured in the cartoon and a cloth cape. I don’t love the cape, as it restricts his poses big time. All accessories unpainted which should be expected from any TMNT Playmates toy.
Long gone are the days of really impressive box art from the Turtles line. The early figures in the late eighties had awesome, individualized cards which were just awesome artwork in and of themselves. Even in the classic line though, that would eventually go away and never return. That being said, Playmates has made a nice effort to create unique card art for each "Tale" this season, from the Monsters and Mutants saga to the Usagi crossover and their Bebop & Rocksteady story. This card features the four brothers in their monster costumes, which is pretty cool.
Despite my overwhelming feelings of nostalgia for the classic toys, which are among my very favorites of the literally hundreds of toys I have from the classic line, I will try to be objective in each of these reviews, which I have decided to do monster-by-monster instead of by character.
Don as Dracula in the classic line I think was a much better figure. His sculpting featured a full suit and a really dynamic head sculpt, making him one of the very best Donnies in the classic line. Paint, which they would occasionally skimp on in the classic line, was awesome, hitting every point you’d want, plus everything white glowed in the dark, making it just awesome. The new accessories probably have an edge, if only because of Bat-Raph, but the classic toy had a stake, staff, shield and a bat wristband thing. I do prefer the classic cape too. While it’s not removable, I can’t conceive of ever wanting to remove it; it also restricts movement, but at least Donnie can put his arms down.
Finally, for each of these, I'd like to address the PERSONALITY of the character and their respective monster. For a vampire, though I prefer the Donnie figure, Raph is much better suited to this monster. In the final volume of the Mirage series of the comics, Raph becomes a vampire for a time and it was cool to see Nick incorporate anything from that rather obscure source material.
The new Vampire Raph is good, but not great. I think he is the weakest of the line but still good enough to buy, certainly if you want the set. He isn’t so bad that he stands out, but he’s just slightly less impressive all around.