Grunts, foot soldiers, cannon fodder, it seems like almost every toy license has some sort of basic enemy for the heroes to hone their skills
against. But when it comes to the toy lines, they always seem to pose a problem. Often they get overlooked entirely. And even if they do produce
these rank and file baddies, it's rare that companies help fans to build a suitably sized squad to face off with their heroes. But every so often,
a company will recognize this gap in the market and attempt to fill it. Many years ago ReSaurus and later Plan B Toys gave us generic 1/12 scale
soldiers with the Special Forces line. But that still leaves martial artist heroes like Daredevil and my favorite mutant teenagers without any
generic ninjas to cross swords with. But two years ago, a group of fans at the Fwoosh web site decided to try this void. And so the Articulated
Icons project was launched via Kickstarter in September of 2015 with plans to produce a whole range of figures based on feudal Japan including numerous
ninjas, shinobi and assorted martial artists. While the process of getting the figures manufactured proved more eventful than the organizers had
probably hoped. But despite the delays, the figures did finally ship to backers earlier this summer, including the small assortment of figures
which I ordered. Now it's time to see if they were worth the wait. (It's worth noting that I was primarily interested in these as generic background
enemies for both the Turtles and possibly for some of my Marvel Legends figures. So I only ordered the more generic figures.)
Packaging - 5/10All of the figures in the Feudal Series that I ordered come in the same basic packaging. The boxes measure roughly eight inches by five inches wide and two inches deep. The boxes have a large window on the front which show off the figure itself well. But it doesn't leave any room to display the accessories. That would have been nice since some of these figures come with a lot of additional accessories. The packaging doesn't have a lot of graphics on it. All of the backgrounds are plain white. The entire back panel is used for a written back story and photos of all of the figures in the series. There is individual character information on one of the side panels and a character photo on the other. Overall the packaging design is very simple and a bit generic. If these were normal figures that were being sold at retail, I'd be fairly disappointed. But since these were all sold as preorders through the Kickstarter campaign, the packaging design doesn't have to sell the figures. (Afterall, you'll never see them until you have already bought the figures.) But if you happen to favor keeping your figures in the packaging, the packaging will allow you to see the figure well enough, but are otherwise extremely generic.
Sculpting - 8/10I ordered five different figures: the basic black ninja, the deluxe white ninja, the deluxe black ninja, the basic smoke ninja and Solitaire the modern ninja. But four of those five figures use the exact same body sculpt as well as just two head sculpts. (There are alternate heads included as accessories. But I'm going to judge them based on their default appearance straight out of the packaging.) The basic ninja body which is used by both of the basic ninjas and deluxe ninjas is exactly the same for all four figures. They do dress up the deluxe ninjas a bit with longer belts and a scarf on the black deluxe ninja. That works fine for me, I wanted an army of generic ninjas. There is a decent amount of detail. But they still have a nice, generic, just one of many look to them. The modern ninja reuses the same legs. But he has new boots, torso, arms and head. I like the torso and arms which give the figure the look of a turtle neck sweater. The only gripe I have with the figure, which is minor, is that I would rather see a pair of modern boots or at least feet with a sole on them.
Paint - Smoke Ninja NA, deluxe white ninja 8/10, others 6/10For the most part, each of these figures is fairly monochrome. So there isn't a lot of paint work on the figures. But with so little paint work, what is done becomes much more important. The smoke ninja is the only figure without paint work, the entire figure is cast in translucent grey plastic which gives the figure a semi-transparent appearance. The only drawback is that the connecting pins are cast in plain black. And those pins do become partially visible in the thinner areas such as the arms and ankles. The black ninja, deluxe black ninja and modern ninja all have paint washes over most of the outfits. Viewed extremely close up, the washes can look a bit messy. But at a more reasonable distance (twelve inches or more) they look really good. The white deluxe ninja has a similar grey wash to add shadow to the outfit details. But they also added some grey paint for the ankle wrappings. That little difference in color along with the black belt makes him a much more interesting figure to look at. They could have gone just a step further and add a little color for his shirt under the gi at the neck. The heads for both deluxe ninjas are beautifully painted as well. I'm a bit disturbed by the default head for the basic ninja as they painted his eyebrows, but the eyes themselves seem to be either unpainted or painted a shade of red that is barely discernable from the skin tone. Either way, the end result is that they seem to lack eyes. I would much rather see a well painted set of eyes glaring at me from the narrow slit in their mask.
Articulation - 9/10Each figure in the series sports thirty six points of articulation:
Accessories - Modern Ninja 6/10, Basic Ninja (black & smoke) 7/10 Deluxe Ninjas (white & black) 10/10Lets face it, without his or her weapons and tools of the trade, a ninja isn't much more than person wearing pajamas. So it's a good thing that all of the ninjas in the Articulated Icons line come with their own arsenals. Of the five figures I bought, Solitaire the modern ninja has the least number of accessories. He comes with a pair of swords, sheaths to hold them and a piece that allows you to connect the sheaths to his back or the back of his belt. He also comes with a pistol with a removable silencer (both of which can be stored in the holster on his hip) and two pairs of goggles. Compared to your average figure, that's quite a few accessories. But when you compare it to the other figures in the line, it seems like he should have at least a little more. Throw in a weapon or two extra or an extra pair of hands. As it is, Solitaire just seems like he got the short end of the deal.
The basic ninjas, no matter what color they are, all seem to have the same accessories. each one comes with the same two swords, sheaths and mounting bracket as the modern ninja. They also include a strap to go across their shoulder so the swords look more natural if you mount them to the peg hole in the back. They also come with a kunai throwing knife, two extra sets of hands, a spare head and an optional hood with the choice of displaying it up, covering the head, or hanging down around the neck. It's great that they give you so many options for the figures so that even if you bought multiple figures as I did, you can vary them up a bit.
The deluxe ninjas are where they really pulled out all the stops as far as accessories though. Both come with everything included with the basic ninja figures, including modern and traditional masked heads along with the default unmasked head. But on top of all of that they also add another set of hands, a demon mask, a scarf, a bow, an arrow, a quiver with room to store the arrow, a bo staff, a bladed staff, a sai, a sickle weapon and three types of throwing stars. And then, just in case all of that wasn't enough, each one also comes with a section of rooftop that can act as a display base. The display bases can be used on a flat surface or mounted to a wall. And if you have more than one base, they can be pegged together to form a longer roof. I believe that there was also suppose to be an option to connect then back to back to make a complete roof as well. But neither of the ones I have included the pegs to do that. There is also a minor issue with the bases in that one seems to have a glossier finish than the other. So depending upon how the light hits them, they often don't seem to match even if the color is the same. Even with that minor issue, all of the included accessories are more than enough to earn these two figures the title of deluxe ninjas
Value - deluxe ninjas 3/10, basic ninjas & Solitaire 4/10These are impressive figures. There's no question about that. But unfortunately they carry a hefty price as well. The basic ninjas and modern ninja sold for $30 to $35 during the Kickstarter campaign. The deluxe ninjas were $50. There were options to buy the basic figures in bulk which is what I did. But even that didn't reduce the price very much. And the price tag was only part of the cost of getting these figures. You also had to have a lot of patience. The campaign ended in the beginning of October of 2015 but the figures didn't start to ship out to people until this summer, over a year and a half later. And not everyone has received their orders yet. So even though I have to give the people credit for coming through with the figures in the end, the cost and long wait was probably more than most people would want to endure if they knew what they were getting into in advance. Of course now that the figures are completed and shipping, there is also the option of buying them from the secondary market. While there are a number of people already trying to sell the figures for a huge mark up ($100+ per figure), it does appear that a fair number of them have been sold for a much more reasonable price (under $50 each for the basic figures).
Happy Hunting:The Articulated Icons figures were sold via a kickstarter campaign. And thus far, that has been the only means to get them other than the secondary market until now. As of Labor Day weekend, they have begun selling extra stock online. The selection and quantities are limited though. And the price is a bit higher than it was through the Kickstarter campaign. But if you didn't have the chance to order them originally, it's nice that you have a second chance.