While 2016 hasn't been a particularly good year for many reasons, it has been a good year for Action Figure collectors. In this review of 2016 I will be looking back at the releases we've had from the key TV and Movie licences and picking a few of my favourites.
For anyone new to the site, we cover Action Figure News across the world - predominantly in small to mid-scale (3.75" up to 7"). My reviews are based on figures I collect myself, and in the main my overall theme is mid-scale figures in 5" to 7" scale, that puts me firmly as a regular customer of Hasbro's Star Wars Black Series, Diamond's Select Series and the various 7" lines by NECA. This end of year review therefore is a few of my favourite figures from these three main properties.
Star Wars Black Series
We start, as of course did 2016 itself, with Star Wars. The Force Awakens was taking cinema's by storm, and collectors were clamoring for merchandise - sadly Hasbro weren't quite keeping up, leaving some figures highly sought after initially. Early waves of Asty and Hux didn;t even reach UK shores, and were limited in the US. There was also an initial rush on the early releases of the Flametrooper, Episode 7 Han and Jango Fett - and yet just a few months later these were shelf warming and being reduced by up to 50%. As the year progressed we moved from Force Awakens into that lovely summer period where prequel and original trilogy fans were getting giddy and picking up Jango Fett and Luke Tattooine. Rebel fans also got their hand on Kanan and Ahsoka.
As the autumn drew in, the focus switched to Rogue One and Hasbro really stepped up their game in terms of quality control and distribution.
2016 has actually been the biggest year to date for the Black Series 6" range with 36 releases including exclusives. It is therefore difficult to pick my favourites. While figures like Ahsoka and Jango were particularly impressive, it is the latest Rogue One figures that really consistently hit the mark. My first Star Wars choice therefore goes to the Hover Tank Pilot from Rogue One. Although it is an exclusive, it is at least a worldwide release. It is also a brilliant sculpt and design, whilst also having a paint job to match - something the similar Scarif Trooper failed to manage. He may get just a couple of scenes in the movie, but the Hovertank Pilot is a worthy addition to your Black Series display.
Sticking with Rogue One for choice two, and I have selected Director Krennic. What? I hear you shout, not K-2SO, not the Scarif Trooper? As much as I love most of the Rogue One output so far, I have found the human characters quite softly sculpted. Krennic, as a figure, defies this with a particularly decent sculpt at the 1/12 scale and price point of the Black Series. Krennic symbolises the ability for Hasbro to produce good looking Human figures, and also opens the door for future Imperial officers. He is one of my personal favourites and deserves a slot as one of the top Black Series figures of 2016.
Choice three goes to a very brave figure decision by Hasbro in that he really only exists in an animated series. I am of course talking about Kanan Jarrus who was taken from the Rebels series and brought to life in the Hasbro 6" realistic style. Not only did the figure work really well, it is also one of the better human sculpts to come out of the Black Series line. He also comes with a brilliantly designed light-saber which assembles like it does in the show, and when not in use it hangs neatly on Kanan's belt. The success of Kanan, and the subsequent Ahsoka has led to Hera Syndula making her way to the release schedule for 2017 - and we would hope Chopper, Ezra and Zeb aren't too far behind.
My final choice from the Black Series is controversial in more than one sense. I have picked the US Walgreens Exclusive C-3PO. I wanted to spread my picks across the new films and the Original Trilogy, but 2016 has not been brilliant in terms of Original Trilogy releases and at the time of writing this we haven't had our wave 9 figures who I am sure would have made a big impact on the results of this review. So why 3PO, and why a figure that I didn't really give a brilliant review to first time round? Well since reviewing both 3PO figures I have seen them every day, front and centre of my display. In this environment they do stand out and under lighting the slightly duller finish actually works better than the glossy version that Bandai gave us for example.
C-3PO also represents the passion, in some degree, from Hasbro's Black Series team. He had been rumored and "promised" for over 2 years before he hit stores and in that time you feel that the Black Series development team have worked to give us the best version they can in the budget. It would have been so easy for the Walgreens version just to have a swapped out arm and lower leg, but the attention to detail to adjust the tummy wiring and even the box art is testament to the love that you feel goes into this range - even if we don't always love everything that hits shelves. Now the exclusivity is a frustration, but I don't think anyone has struggled to find this figure in the US or in the UK via import, with the stinger being a slightly elevated price.
So there are my Black Series picks for 2016, remember that all our Black Series reviews and galleries can be found HERE at our new Black Series landing page.
Part two, looking at the Diamond Select output for 2016, will be along later this week.... keep a close eye on our news page or our social channels