One of the highlights of the action figure market last year was the release of NECA's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figures. They were easily the best
action figure version of the original Mirage Comics designs ever. (Not that there is a lot of competition for that title.) Since their release, fans
have been anxiously awaiting the next series. While they still have not shown up, there have been two additions to the line: a set of black and white
repaints of the Turtle figures and a comic convention exclusive three pack of mouser robots.
Packaging - Mousers 7/10, box set 9/10The mouser set comes in a clamshell package similar to that of the single carded Turtles. Everything is encased in a sealed clamshell. The three mousers are positioned so that you can see one from the right side, one from the left and one from the front. NECA did a nice job of making that variation look fairly natural by placing the figures around the special San Diego manhole cover that comes with the set. This also allows the manhole cover to serve double duty by subtly marking the set as a San Diego Comic Convention exclusive. The paper background has a comic image of New York City on the front and images of the four Turtles and a photo of the Mouser figures on the back. I liked the images on the back when they were used for the carded Turtle figures. But since these are Turtles, I would have prefered that they swapped out those images with some of the Mousers from the early Mirage Comics. Even the small paragraph at the bottom doesn't really give you any information about what the Mousers are.
The box set comes in almost the identical packaging as the original box set, on only difference is that all of the images have been replaced with black and white versions. The original packaging was pretty cool so I'm glad to see it return here. I just wish that they had fixed its one significant short coming in that Donatello is still partially hidden behind the box on the right side.
Sculpting - Mouser 7/10, Turtles 9/10The sculpts for the Turtles haven't changed from the previous, full color versions. While there were some very minor issues that could have been improved such as the knee pads that don't go all the way around the legs or the length of the necks, these are still excellent figures. It will be hard for NECA, Playmates or any other company to make a better figure of the Turtles based on their first issue appearance. (And I look forward to seeing them try.) The mousers are all a single sculpt. It is a farily simple sculpt compared to the Turtles, but it is pretty close to the original Mirage design. The "jaw line" is a bit off. The teeth slightly too large and the top portion comes down just a bit too far on the sides. The hips could also stand to be tapered more so that they would match the curve of the body better. They should stick out, but not quite as much as they do. Still, those are very minor issues for what should be excellent figures. I say should be excellent figures because there is one obvious problem with the mousers; their jaws don't open. When you are talking about mechanical chewing machines, not having at least the option of an open mouth sculpt is a big drawback.
Paint - Mousers 9/10, Turtles 6/10The mousers are pretty simple. They are a sold grey color with painted panel lines and a small amount of green paint for their sensor. The panel lines are not totally consistent, varing slightly in width and darkness. But that actually works to the advantage of the figures as it imitates the drawing style of those early issues of the comics. Otherwise my one comment would be that I would like to have seen them use a base color for the Mousers that had a slightly more metallic finish to it. They wouldn't have to do anything too extreme such as a vac metal finish, but a little more sheen might have made them look more like metal robots while they look painted grey now.
The paint work is the one thing that distinguishes this version of the NECA Turtles from the original, color versions. So it is very important that they turned out well. And I have to admit that they did turn out much better than I expected them to. Creating a black and white version of the figures seemed like an ambitious idea from the beginning. But these do come pretty close, close enought that it took me a while to figure out what it was about them that I did like. Then it finally struck me, they are too white. The comics featured a lot of shading so there wasn't a lot of white areas. Plus the fact that the first issue was printed on news print paper rather than a bright white paper and you were left with the Turtles usually looking grey, not white. With a wash of black paint to darken the figures up, these would look quite a bit better.
Articulation - Turtles 8/10, Mousers 6/10The NECA Turtles have an impressive thirty points of articulation. Of course, the mere number of joints doesn't mean much if they aren't designed and used well. But that isn't an issue here. These figures can stike an amazing number of poses and will hold most of them well. My black and white Leonardo figure does have one loose hip joint though. The Mousers have four points of articulation with rotating joints at the hips and the base of the neck and a ball joint at the base of the head. Even with this simple articulation, the mousers can pull off a fair number of poses. But there is still the glaring shortcoming of the lack of a moving jaw. Ideally, they could have fully articulated the legs and feet as well. While it would have been very ambitious, if these are suppose to be a stand alone figure rather than mere accessories, they should be articulated as such.
Accessories - Box set 6/10, mousers 5/10The black and white box set has the same limited selection of accessories that the original box set had. That means a pair of katanas for Leonardo, a pair of sais for Raphael, two pairs of nunchuks for Michelangelo and a single bo staff for Donatello. The weapons are nice. But with only the basic weapons there isn't much there to impress. The mouser set isn't much better. The set does come with a street section display base as well as a special manhole cover with "San Diego" sculpted in it. The manhole cover is a nice touch, but the fact that it doesn't actually attach to the base means that it is of limited usefullness.
Value - Box set 8/10, Mousers 3/10The box set sold for around $45. At under $12 per figure, it is the cheapest way to get all of the NECA figures. Of course, this is also the only way to get the black and white versions since it seems unlikely that they will be released seperately at this point. The mousers were exclusives at the 2008 San Diego Comic Convention. I'm not sure what they cost at the convention, but they seem to go for between $20 and $30 in the secondary market. That is a pretty steep price for what is essentially a set of accessories rather than a full fledged figure.
Happy Hunting:I ordered both the box set and Mouser pack from Big Bad Toy Store. And they currently still have both items in stock. There are other web stores with one set or the other available. But few of them are going to be able to match BBTS's price or the quality of their service.