By Miguel Acuña
Johnny and Vaughn have done incredible articles about their top games of 2017. I, however, have purchased about 5 games this past year, 2 of which are current gen. While my compatriots are enjoying Super Mario Odyssey, Breath of the Wild and Destiny 2, I was finally getting to play Injustice 1 (for the PS3) and trying my hardest to enjoy Mass Effect: Andromeda. So when it came time for me to come up with a top list of 2017, I had to go with my area of expertise…toys. What I lack in current game experience, I make up for with toy purchases. The 2 requirements to be on the list are that the figure must have been released in 2017 and have been actually purchased by me in 2017. The criteria for the choices were broken down into three categories:
Detail / Paint Job – This refers to the amount of effort put into capturing small aspects of a character that could have been easily overlooked but the inclusion made all the difference. As well as the execution of these details in their respective paintwork.
Uniqueness – This can be considered the anti-Deadpool/Harley Quinn factor. Certain characters have simply supersaturated all markets due to their popularity. There’s nothing wrong with providing so many different versions of the same character, but it does not help the figure stand out amongst an army of themselves.
Fun Factor – Most collectors do not actually “play” with their figures and toys, but this does not mean we don’t appreciate and want a ton of articulation and accessories. You could have a great figure but when its packaged with a stand and nothing else, it feels like a letdown.
That being said, let’s start the countdown!
10) Star Wars Black Series: Darth Vader (#43) – “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” The Black Series has done incredible things with both mainstream favorites and lesser-known fan favorites from the Star Wars universe. Darth Vader was originally released in 2014 with a removable helmet gimmick. Unfortunately, the figure was overall disappointing. The more iconic masked head had the infamous “sad puppy” look and the articulation and cape were also letdowns. Most collectors picked up this Vader because it was the only one released. Walgreens did have an exclusive “Emperor’s Wrath” version which featured a far better sculpt but an odd translucent head to recreate the scene in Return of the Jedi when Vader receives a hit of force lightning. The Dark Side came through this year with a new sculpt and paint job based on Vader from A New Hope. The paint job is spot on and even includes a slight red tint in the lenses of the helmet/mask. The articulation was also upgraded and the lightsaber has a removable blade. There’s not much else they could have included but alternate hands would have pushed it much higher on the list.
9) Funko Pop! NYCC Exclusive Glow In The Dark Balrog – “The dwarves delved too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of Khazad-dum…shadow and flame.” I’m a huge Lord Of The Rings fan and have become a huge Pop! fan in the past year, so it was merely a matter of time before I started collecting these figures. One of my favorite creatures/characters from the series was always the Balrog. I went to great lengths to acquire the original Balrog that was released with the initial line and was thankful I finally had the entire set. Then NYCC brought along not only an exclusive (which alone is appealing to me) but made him specifically in a glow in the dark translucent plastic, which magnifies his awesomeness by the power of the One Ring. Prior to the Pop! figure of the Balrog, the only other Balrog figure made was done by NECA around 2002 and currently goes for over $300. The Pop! has a new paint job to make the most of the glow in the dark plastic and still features the details from the first release. Funko took a great 6-inch Pop! and simply made it more bad-ass.
8) Marvel Legends Colossus – “Then comrades, let us end this battle…once and for all.” Aside from the comics, my main education about the X-Men came from the 90’s animated series and the X-Men 6-player Arcade game. Between these two sources, Colossus made an impact on me as a personal favorite mutant. We’ve had a few Marvel Legends Colossi over the years. There were low points with the tiny headed Toy Biz version and high points with the Marvel Select. However, this was the first time we’ve gotten a great updated look and an alternate head. Though that may not be much in the world of action figures, it makes a big difference when you’ve seen the same outfit over and over. His bearded head sculpt is a really nice touch and gives the figure a much older regal look. It’s almost like this should be Czar Colossus version. And it brings us one step closer to recreating the cabinet arcade game in figure form.
7) Star Wars Black Series: Darth Revan – “This is the way of the dark side, Malak — all things end in death.” This is one those figures that just barely makes the cut for this list. While released at the end of 2016, most major markets didn’t receive it until the beginning of 2017. As I mentioned in my review, this figure represents so much that I love about Star Wars. They included the Sith, the Jedi, and the Mandalorians into an incredible figure that many fans were dying for. While Vader was a necessary figure and was bound to get a new sculpt, getting Darth Revan was a blessing that many of us never thought would see the light of day. The figure could have definitely used some more articulation and perhaps some additional accessories, but overall, it’s a great figure and one of my top Black Series picks of 2017.
6) Funko Pop! SDCC Exclusive Luna Lovegood (with glasses) – “All my shoes have mysteriously disappeared. I suspect the Nargles are behind it.” I’m a sucker. I know this. You put an exclusive or chase sticker on something, I’m interested. Similar to the Balrog, when you add that to a franchise I’m already a fan of, then you have guaranteed my money. So when you take a favorite character like Luna Lovegood, make her an ENTIRELY new mold, and make her an exclusive; I could not have bought this figure any faster. The first Luna Pop! is in her Hogwarts outfit and certainly reflects the character well. However, such a unique and amazing character definitely deserved an equally unique incarnation. There’s so much detail that it can be easily overlooked. This figure included a new hair sculpt, her signature radish earrings, spider ring, a very distinct print dress, a copy of the Quibbler and the most amazing accessory of her red and blue glasses with a shimmering frame. The figure shows off the amazing things that Funko can do with such a small package and is one of my favorite Pops! in my collection.
5) Funko Pop! SDCC Exclusive Occamy – “Occamies are choranaptyxic. So they grow to fill available space.” Continuing the Harry Potter-verse love train, the next top figure of 2017 is the SDCC exclusive Occamy Pop! Most of the Pops! from “Fantastic Beasts” line were actual people, the highlights were the beasts. We got a great bunch including multiple versions of the Niffler and a couple of Demiguises. The best representation of this fantastic world was the Occamy Pop! Aside from being a ridiculously unbelievable sculpt which shows off the actual body of the Occamy, this figure has possibly the greatest paint job I have ever seen on a Pop! The iridescent color scheme shines in such a way that makes me actually consider that the figure might be imbued with magic. Funko definitely made the right call in making this figure a 6-inch Pop! as opposed to the regular 3.75 inches. Considering the magnificence of this creature in the movie, only a Pop! of this size would do it justice.
4) Marvel Legends Cyclops – “Energy blasts, huh? Here’s one from a pro!” I remember waking up on Saturday mornings to watch the X-Men Animated series and thinking “Cyclops is such a dweeb.” Despite his boy scout-ness, he was a natural leader and the face of the X-Men and mutants as a whole. His distinct reimagined look (thanks to Jim Lee) was as iconic to the X-Men as it was for the 90’s. In today’s world it might be a bit too flashy for the gritty realism of comics, but for that era, it was the epitome of coolness. There have been a few Cyclopes in the past but they either had the older costume or they had very off proportions. This Scott Summers features the great costume with way too many straps and updated articulation to get a ton of poses. The nice addition of the two pointing fingers, on one hand, makes it possible to get those “optic blasts” shots to recreate almost any move from Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Now I just need to get some Capcom figures to complete the scene.
3) Star Wars Black Series: Sabine Wren – “Everything I did was for family! For Mandalore!” I love the Mandalorians in the Star Wars Universe. It was this love that inspired me to get my mythosaur tattoo. From Jango to Boba to reading about the Mandalorian Wars, my appreciation has always run deep. When Sabine Wren showed up on Rebels, my geeky heart was over the moon. However, her appearance on Rebels made me question if she would ever get the Black Series figure she deserved. My faith in Star Wars was rewarded when we not only got a figure of Sabine but a wonderful figure at that. She comes with her airbrush as a shoutout to her artistic ability, dual pistols, and a removable helmet. Her face isn’t as well done as other figures, but the armor designs more than makes up for it. She even has paint splatters on her boots to add that extra detail to make this figure stand out. She definitely could have used some more articulation and the inclusion of the darksaber would have been perfect, but overall this was definitely a great figure and translation of a character in a very different universe than the movies.
2) TIE – Funko Pop! Hot Topic Exclusive Halloween Town Sora / NYCC Exclusive Halloween Town Goofy / NYCC Exclusive Halloween Town Donald – “This sure is a spooky place.” I tried very hard to give this list a definitive 10 in order to make sure the weight of the figures on this list hit. The only wiggle room I allowed myself was regarding the #2 spot. Sora was a Hot Topic Exclusive while Goofy & Donald were NYCC exclusives (making them much harder to get). The reason I grouped them together is that, not only were they from the Kingdom Hearts franchise but were all made to represent their forms in Halloween Town. Kingdom Hearts and Halloween, in general, are very close to my heart so when the Kingdom Hearts line was first announced, I hoped non-stop for these variants. When my prayers were answered, I could not have imagined the love and detail put into them. Sora has a deep matte black finish to his clothes, silver, and gold detailing, and the perfect set of wings on his back to complete the look. Goofy and Donald include spot-on paint jobs but wonderful bonuses such as tattered clothing, a jack-o-lantern nose, the deadest of eyes ever put on a Pop!, and specifically in Donald’s case, a clear mid-section to show off his eerie undead form. While these Pops! may not compare to something like a Figuarts or Play Arts figure, currently, they are the reigning kings of my Pop! collection.
1) Transformers Masterpiece MP-36 Megatron – “Peace through tyranny!” When I started my countdown, my #1 spot was never in question. The real battle was between the other 9 spots while Megatron ruled at the top. I will admit that it is slightly unfair as the Masterpiece series of figures are completely in a league of their own. The larger size allows them to include a lot of articulation and detail. However, many Masterpiece figures have fallen short of expectations. Not only does Megatron NOT fall, but he completely rockets past everyone else. His original Masterpiece figure was released 10 years ago and was one of those infamous letdowns. Between disappointing articulation, lackluster accessories, and almost non-existent details, the first Megatron was a regrettable purchase for many collectors. MP-36 Megatron is completely show-accurate, highly articulated, and an overall gorgeous Transformer. He includes a stock, silencer, and scope for his gun-mode. In robot mode, he has three face sculpts, damaged chest, the key to Vector Sigma, blaster, energy sword, an energy mace with different length chains, and his mind-control helmet. He is perfectly scaled with other Masterpiece figures and completes my collection for the ultimate Decepticon team or the greatest battle against the Autobots ever created. Finally, to reiterate why he deserves this spot, we’ll take a look at the 3 main criteria for the countdown. He has an insane paint job and details which help distinguish this figure from all Masterpieces. Whether it’s the detail in the damaged chest or the almost pearlescent quality to his grey body, everything is outstanding. As there had only been 1 other version of Megatron which had a vastly different sculpt, it’s almost like this is the first time we are TRULY getting a figure deserving of this Megatron’s history and infamy. And lastly, the fun factor is so high, I know I will definitely spend a lot of time posing him in different stances to recreate scenes from the cartoon show and first movie. Megatron is so well done, his mere presence is awe-inspiring. This figure is “patience paying off” incarnate. In the years while I waited for MP-36 to be released, I was tempted by many 3rd party companies and their knock-off Megatrons. Figures such as Apollyon and Despotron were much closer to the Megatron we deserved. I was nanometers from giving in and purchasing one of these as I had lost all hope that we would never get an updated Megatron in the Masterpiece series. However, Primus is good to those who keep the faith and I feel my Masterpiece is truly complete with the addition of this amazing figure and there is no doubt he is the top toy I bought in 2017.