With a few of my favorite action figure lines slowing down, I've been left with a little extra income to spend on other
lines. One of the new properties that has caught my attention over the summer has been Avatar the Last Airbender. For
those not familiar with Avatar, it is a cartoon on Nickelodeon which follows the path of Aang, a boy fated to try to bring
peace to a world that has been at war for almost a century. The story takes place in a world where select individuals
possess the ability to control one of the four elements: earth, fire, water and air. These individuals are called benders.
And in case you hadn't guessed from the name, Aang is the last of the airbenders. He is also the latest reincarnation in the
long line of avatars, the one individual who has the ability to control all four elements and is given the responsibility of
maintaining the balance of power between nations representing the four elements. An accident leaves Aang frozen alive for
a hundred years. When he is finally revived, he finds the world he knew is gone and the one that remains is in desperate
need of the Avatar.
Packaging - 8/10The packaging design for the Avatar line won't shock anyone. But it is attractive and informative. The front has a simple bubble which tappers in at the sides. The figure and accessories are neatly displayed inside with some attempt being made to avoid overly dull poses. Sokka for instance, is packaged sideways with his weapons in hand. The graphics are simple and match the show. The back of the cards show the figure along with all of the accessories. It also includes a small file card with a brief explaination of the character and what accessories they come with. The cards also show the other figures available. (The Roku, Water Tribe Aang and Blue Spirit Zuko figures are newer and therefore not pictured on the cards of earlier figures.)
Sculpting - Aang (regular) 6/10, BS Zuko 7/10, Roku 8/10, Others 9/10The sculpting on all of the figures is pretty good. They manage to match the clean and simple character designs of the show without being dull. Mattel did a nice job of using both regular sculpted bodies and softer rubber pieces to diguise as many of the joints as possible. Blue Spirit Zuko is the only figure not to use the soft rubber pieces due to the fact that his outfit doesn't require them. And while there is nothing really wrong with the figure, without its accessories, it is fairly dull and uninteresting. There are a few areas that could use some improvement such as the necks which tend to look a bit too long. But overall the sculpting across the line is very nice and also quite accurrate to the show. The only figures which I really have any quibbles are Roku and Aang. Roku is missing the rod that should run laterally through his head piece. His robe is molded so that it sticks out in the front. It is intended to drape over the legs when they are positioned in a slightly bent battle stance. But of course this also means that the figure never looks quite right in neutral poses. Finally there is Aang himself. Aang's costume design posed an interesting challenge to transfer to an action figure. He wears several layers of cloaks and robes which are open in certain areas. Mattel used the soft rubber pieces to try to recreate this layering. On the pants it works well. A soft rubber piece covers the upper legs down to just above the knees but is left open along the thighs and the back. But the cloak on the figure's shoulders doesn't work as well. It should circle all the way around the figure's shoulders and down the arms. The character design in the show actually has this cloak tied off around the arms below the bicepts. But on the figure, the cloak only covers the shoulders and down the chest and back. The arms are left bare but sculpted to try to match the rest of the cloak. But this leaves a gap under the arms where one should not exist while the arms appear to be part of the undershirt and not the cloak at all. I'm sure that this was done to preserve the range of motion of the articulation. But there are better ways to do this and still maintain the articulation. And since this sculpt has been recycled half a dozen times already, it is a shame that it has to be the least accurrate.
Paint - 6/10The paint work on all of my figures turned out quite well considering these are mass market figures. The edges are a bit rough in some areas, particularly on the rubbery material. But stray marks are few and far between.
One thing that is worth noting about the paint work is the number of variants available of Aang. The basic figure has painted, eyes as does the Battle Benders Aang and the figure which is included with the glider cart in the exclusive Toys R Us set. Then there is the basic version of Aang in his Avatar Spirit form which is painted in various shades of blue. The Airbending Aang figure which is included with King Bumi in the two pack is almost identical to the regular version, but the entire head is cast in translucent blue plastic and the eyes and arrow tattoo are left unpainted. This allows light to pass through the figure and make the eyes appear to light up. Finally the Avatar Spirit Aang figure from the other two pack is cast in translucent blue plastic and completely unpainted as is the Roku figure with which it is packed. If you can't find a paint scheme you like, I'm sure it is on the way.
Articulation - Roku 7/10, others 8/10This is one area where this line offers a real surprise. From what I had seen in stores through cursury glances, I wasn't expecting much. The slim limbs didn't seem very conducive to having much articulation. I was wrong. Aang sports an impressive twenty three points of articulation which includes:
Accessories - Prince Zuko 5/10, 2 packs 6/10, BS Zuko, Roku & Sokka 8/10, Firebending Soldier 9/10Sokka comes with five accessories, his boomerang, a pair of war clubs, a spear and a sheath for his boomerang. That does a nice job of covering all of his weapons from the first season. I would like it if the sheath for the boomerang clipped onto his back a bit more securely. But I suppose a dab of glue will solve that if it becomes a concern.
Prince Zuko comes with his helmet, two flame daggers, a flame sword and a large flame blast. I like the helmet, though I wish it also had the option of a faceplate too. But the sculpting on the flame swords and daggers look more like chewed fruit roll-ups than shaped flames. And the flame blast looks like some sort of deformed strawberry. A little paint to add some variety could have helped, but as is they are going straight to the junk drawer.
The Firebending Soldier comes with the best set of accessories of the figures I picked up. He has a flame sword and a flame blast, neither of which are much better than those of Prince Zoku. But he also has a large battle club and two types of battle staffs. That's way more than the figure can us at once. But if you want to build an army of Fire Nation Soldiers, all of those accessories give you options to make an interesting a varied display.
Water Nation Aang comes with an ice shield, an ice lance, a water pouch and a stream of water to bend. (The packaging tries to call it a whip and even packages Aang holding it as a whip. But it seems to be designed to stick out of the pouch as if being bent.) The ice shield is nice. But the lance is silly. It is suppose to fit over the figure's hand which makes it look like an icicle formed. When not on the figure's hand it looks like an olympic style torch. The water pouch and stream of water are the real standouts. Now we just need a Katara figure to wear it.
The basic carded version of Avatar Roku includes four accessories, one for each element. His earth accessory is a rock club. The accessories for the other three elements are more blasts which fit over the figure's fists. I do like the air blast. But the fire and water blasts remind me more of elaborate hats than weapons. They certainly don't demonstrate much creativity.
Blue Spirit Zuko comes with a removable mask, his two swords, a sheath for the swords and a flame blast. The flame blast is the same warped strawberry that comes with the regular Zuko figure. The swords are a pair of swords which can be weilded separately or togeather as one sword. They're nice, but there is no way to lock them into place when they are being used as one sword. And while they are made of fairly stiff plastic, even the slightest warping means they don't line up properly. The sheath for the swords is a bit oversized to allow enough room to store the swords. But when it is attached to the figure via a pair of pegs, it adds some much needed interest to the figure. Finally there is Zuko's Blue Spirit mask. It is nicely detailed and even includes cut outs for the eyes and mouth. The three straps on the back keep from coming off too easily, but they are not tight enough to keep the mask positioned over the eyes properly. The straps in the back also tend to hit the hilts of the swords when they are in the sheath. These slight short comings aside, the accessories for BS Zuko make drastic improvement to the figure.
The Airbending Aang and King Bumi two pack comes with two clubs for Bumi and two versions of Aang's staff. They recycled the sculpt for both of the clubs for Bumi. The only difference is the earth club is cast in tan plastic and the crystal club is cast in translucent purple plastic. Aang has his regular folded up staff and second one where it is unfolded into his glider. It's too bad that they didn't include Momo as well. Then you could skip the regular carded figure entirely. (Which I sure is the reason that they did not include Momo.
The Avatar Spirit two pack includes four accessories. For Roku they included the same fire and water blasts that come with the basic version of the figure. They still look silly to me. In fact they seem even stranger since they are suppose to be used with Roku's spirit form which shouldn't be able to control the physical world as far as I know. Aang's accessories are bit better: a translucent version of his staff and a scythe shaped piece to stick onto the end of it.
Value - Bumi/Aang two pack 5/10, others 7/10The regular figures run between $7 and $10 at retail while the two packs are $13. Depending on where on that price scale you find the individual figures they can be a pretty good deal. But if you are unfortunate enough to be forced to pay $10 a piece for them, their value is going to take a serious hit. At under $7 per figure, the two packs should be a good deal. But that is only if you don't still end up buying the single pack version of the Aang figure that comes in the two pack. For the Avatar Spirit two packs, that doesn't seem to bee an issue. I don't think that the single pack version of Avatar Spirit Aang comes with anything you would miss. But since the single pack version of Airbending Aang is currently the only way to get Momo, and the two pack is the only way to get Bumi, you are either stuck with a hole in your collection or forced to buy extra figures.
Happy Hunting:The Avatar line has proven quite popular this season, so finding them could be tough until stores have a chance to restock. Toys R Us seems to be supporting the line heavily and the two packs are actually Toys R Us exclusives. But you can also find the line at Walmart and some other stores. If you prefer online options or lack a Toys R Us store locally, the entire line including the exclusive two packs is also available through Toys R Us.com.