Saturday, 29 February 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Power Rangers Lightning Collection Magna Defender

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Release Date: August 2019
RRP: $19.99/£19.99

Hasbro's first wave of Power Rangers Lightning Collection figures immediately turned heads by including the perfect assortment characters to show a dedication to the franchise's long and illustrious history. You got the obvious Mighty Morphin representation with the White Ranger, a red ranger and more recent entry with Dino Charge Red, a highly desired fan favourite with the SPD Shadow Ranger and then a much-needed villain to round the wave out with Lord Zedd. By kicking off with such a strong array of figures the heat was on to match that level of quality with wave two, and as far as the fan favourite character goes Hasbro couldn't have done much better than the Lightning Collection Magna Defender. The sixth hero of Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, the Magna Defender was a once noble warrior consumed by vengeance following the death of his son, butting heads with the rangers in his mission to destroy Scorpius. Eventually returning to the light and renouncing his hateful ways, the Magna Defender makes the ultimate sacrifice and passes his powers down to Mike Corbett. On top of being a firm fan favourite, the character's appearance in the Beyond the Grid storyline of the Boom! comic book series means this figure couldn't have been timed any better.

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Like the first wave of figures the mainline (i.e. not exclusive) figures feature the standard Tom Whalen (@strongstufftom on Twitter) character art against a solid white background, which might sound rather plain but really helps bring out the colours of the art. This is particularly true in the case of the Magna Defender, not just because of how the black opposes the white so perfectly but also how the green and gold accents stand out all the more vibrantly. That front art is extended onto the right spine where you'll also find the series-specific Power Rangers Lost Galaxy logo, and then repeated outright in the same provided on the left-hand spine. The back of the box features a computer render of the Magna Defender in a signature pose (note that said image also has slightly more paint apps than the figure itself, though nowhere near to the extent of the Shadow Ranger one). Inside the figure is stored on a moulded plastic tray, with the cape fed through a hole in the back of the tray and the arms tied in with some thin clear elastic bands.

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If there's one thing Hasbro know how to do it's how to nail the look of a character, and that's exactly what they've done with the Magna Defender. The sculpting of the figure is extremely impressive for a line that sits at the $20 price point, not only capturing all the details from the onscreen suit but also doing so with a range of different textures as well. While that particular aspect may not be completely accurate to the show it does make the figure more interesting visually, and the metal-esque texturing certainly fits the whole black knight aesthetic the Magna Defender has going on. Despite some teething problems with it comes to QC and paint apps everything on the Magna Defender is beautifully applied, but as always if you can buy these figures from a physical source it's good to check them over first just in case. The only real colouring missing from the suit itself is the black on the belt, but it isn't glaring obvious and looks reasonably good in unpainted grey plastic. The metallic green on the chest and head look especially good though, as do all the metallic gold sections. 

The cape however is a little disappointing. All of Hasbro's collector lines are run by different teams so have their own way of doing things, but in general the Lightning Collection has felt more in line with Marvel Legends than it has with the Star Wars Black Series. And that comparison couldn't be any more clearer than with the decision to use a solid plastic cape on the figure. Why the Black Series is the only one that properly goes down the soft goods route I don't know (and even they opt out sometimes), but it definitely would have benefitted this figure. While a fabric cape would have lacked the billowing effect the plastic one has (and to their credit Hasbro have done a great job on it), it's just so heavy that it makes the figure noticeably heavier. While the cape is fixed to the back of the figure, it also plugs in at the top on either side of the collar - with neither tab staying in firmly. It might not be so bad if the tabs were black, but because they're red to match the inner-lining it's really noticeable (and frustrating) when they pop out. This might be Hasbro's first attempt at a caped figure in the Lightning Collection, but they have more than enough experience with their other ranges to have pulled this off a little better.

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In most cases a bulkier body doesn't usually means good news for articulation, so while the Magna Defender is certainly far from a static figure there are a fair few more limitations at odds with the poseability here. Altogether the figure sports swivel hinge joints for the neck, wrists and hips along with a swivel hinge/butterfly joint combo for the shoulders, a ball jointed upper torso, single hinge lower torso and bicep, thigh and boot swivels. The shoulder pads are also connected to the torso via hinges, so can lift upwards in tandem with the arms. However because they're connected the arms can't really raise much higher than a 90 degree angle, and then even when they do those pads will sit rather awkwardly on top of them. The way they work may be accurate to the show, but it would have been far more benefit to the arms if they just sat on top of the shoulders so could move properly along with them. The shape of the suit also means that the head doesn't have a whole lot of movement to it either. Finally of course overall quality is something that can differ wildly between figures (and you don't have to look very far on the internet to see some the QC problems the Lightning Collection has in general), but all of the joints on my Magna Defender were really stiff and took some working before they'd move as fluidly as they should. The stiffness didn't really help balance either, which certainly isn't terrible but does have to contend with that heavy cape.

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The Magna Defender comes packaged with two additional pairs of hands, the Magna Sword, scabbard, the Magna Blaster (the combined form of both the Magna Sword and scabbard) and a translucent blue blast effect part to be used with the blaster. The additional hands are an open right hand and a second left weapon-holding hand with a slightly wider grip. The additional gripping hand is a little odd since the default hands can comfortably hold both the Magna Sword and the Magna Blaster, so an open left hand for the Blaster's handgrip would have worked much better here. But then, there have been some fairly odd hand choices across the Lightning Collection line in general so this is pretty much par for the course. Both weapons are really well done though, and despite missing a few of the paint apps seen on the box render are both detailed enough that you really wouldn't notice unless you compared the two closely. Both the Blaster and scabbard also have pegs on the side so that one can be clipped onto the belt piece when not in use. The blast effect part is a little smaller than the one included with the Dragon Shield Black Ranger, but the colour and general execution are the same. The problem is that the barrel shape of the blaster is very specific, and although Hasbro have tried to cater for this the piece doesn't clip on all that firmly. It's not so bad that'll always slip off, but it does need a good bit of force to latch on securely.

Of course the glaring omission from this release is a civilian Mike head. It feels like a big loss given that this is the first "ranger" figure in the line to omit a civilian head, but when asked about it Hasbro's stance was that this figure is meant to represent the original Magna Defender rather than Mike. This could potentially mean a Mike version could be released somewhere down the line that does include that extra head, but with all the characters still left to do in the line even if that were the case it doesn't feel like it would happen for a good while. The Magna Defender is a much bulkier figure than your standard ranger as well, so combined with that heavy plastic cape it was probably a necessary sacrifice to keep the figure in-budget. So while it is a bit of a blow, especially for all those Mike fans among us, at least there is some reason out there for why it isn't included.

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Both the Magna Defender and Power Rangers Lost Galaxy are firm favourites among Power Ranger fans, so much like the SPD Shadow Ranger in the first wave there was a lot of hype surrounding the Lightning Collection Magna Defender figure. While this release certainly does the job when it comes to supplying what is easily the best Magna Defender figure on the market, based on what Hasbro have done in some in similar lines this figure could have definitely been much more than what it is. Even ignoring the Mike head issue, the heavy plastic cape is unwieldy and certain areas of articulation (particularly the shoulders) lack the polish that previous figures in the line have had. Given the popularity of the character the Magna Defender is definitely one to consider adding to your collection, but the Lightning Collection still has far more to offer.

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