Thursday, 19 March 2015

DAM Toys - Spetsnaz FSB Vympel.

Std. armaments:
Tactical glove x 2.
Altyn helmet.
Atyln helmet visor.
Sailor shirt.
SPOSN Gorka suit.
SPOSN Gorka S pants.
Tactical belt.
COBRA assault boots.
VM armour vest.
SPOSN Partizan harness webbing system.
SPOSN double mag pouch x 2.
Stechkin / APS (Avtomaticheskiy Pistolet Stechkina) machine pistol double mag pouch.  
SPOSN mid pouch.
SPOSN buttpack.
SPOSN Vertex VX radio pouch.
Vertex VX radio with PTT (push to talk).
VOG-25 frag grenade pouch x 2.
KO-3 pistol holster.
Stechkin / APS (Avtomaticheskiy Pistolet Stechkina) machine pistol.
Pistol mag x 2.
Avtomat Kalashnikova Skladnoy AKS-74 assault rifle (plum polymer furniture).
RIS (Rail Integration System) tactical mount.
 Red dot reflex sight.
Avtomat Kalashnikova AK-74 mag x 4.
GP-25 40mm grenade launcher.
VOG-25 frag grenade x 3.
VOG-25P bouncing grenade x 3.
Avtomat Kalashnikova Skladnoy AKS-47 hider.
Avtomat Kalashnikova Modernizirovanniy AKM-47 tactical sling.
Avtomat Kalashnikova AK-74 6H3 bayonet.
Avtomat Kalashnikova AK-74 6H3 scabbard.
Kneepad x 2.
SPOSN buttocks pad.

Spetsgruppa "B" (Cyrillic for V), often referred to as Vympel (pennant in Russian, originated from German wimpel, and having the same meaning), but also known as KGB Directorate "B" , Vega Group is an elite Russian Spetsnaz (Special Purpose Forces/Voyska spetsialnogo naznacheniya) unit under the command of the FSB (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation/Federal'naya sluzhba bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsii), the principal security agency of the Russian Federation and the main successor agency to the USSR's Committee of State Security (KGB).
Vympel is the sister unit of Spetsgruppa "A"(Alpha Group), a KGB/FSB unit, specialised in counter-terrorism missions and covert operations.
The exact lineage of Vympel is not known but the unit was formed in 1981 by the KGB Maj. Gen. Yuri Ivanovitch Drozdov within the First Chief Directorate of the KGB, as a dedicated spetsnaz unit specialised in deep penetration, sabotage, universal direct and covert action, protection of Soviet embassies and espionage cell activation in case of war. Most of the Vympel operatives mastered two or three foreign languages since they were intended to act in foreign countries, deep behind enemy lines.
Vympel quickly gained the reputation of being among the best Soviet special forces units, surpassing its GRU (Main Intelligence Directorate/Glavnoye razvedyvatel'noye upravleniye), the foreign military intelligence main directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and MVD (Ministry of the Interior of the Russian Federation/Ministerstvo Vnutrennikh Del) counterparts. However, after the collapse of the USSR, Vympel was decimated by endless re-organisation and re-definition. It passed under the aegis of the Security Ministry before being receded to the GUO (the two institutions were short-lived offspring of the ex-KGB during the Boris Yeltsin era) and finally passed to the MVD. However, the militsiya had no use for such a unit. The bulk of the Vympel operatives could not stand the humiliation of being subordinated to the police, and duly resigned. Out of 278 officers, only 57 chose to remain within the MVD. The unit was renamed "Vega."
In 1995, the FSB Special Operations Center (TsSN FSB) was granted control over Vympel. The group regained its original name and was reintegrated into the Intelligence Service structures. The emphasis shifted from covert and clandestine sabotage operations to counter-terrorism and nuclear safety enforcement. Vympel operatives undergo special training related to improvised or special explosive devices, permitting them to use "terrorist-like" tactics to carry out their operations. Physical training includes close hand combat, parachute training, diving, underwater combat techniques, climbing, and alpine rope techniques. Regional groups of Vympel were deployed in cities with especially important nuclear facilities.
Vympel (i.e. the Directorate "V" of the TsSN FSB) is still a classified and secretive unit. It took part in Russia's Chechen campaigns and in storming of the Supreme Soviet building during the 1993 Russian constitutional crisis. Little is known about its current operations and activities, the exception being the capture of the Chechen militant leader Salman Raduyev in March 2000, the Moscow theatre hostage crisis in 2002 and the Beslan school siege in September 2004.
Vympel training is the same as Alpha Group. All Vympel operatives are trained in tactical operations, parachuting, driving various vehicles, trained in methods of intelligence gathering, and other specialized skills.
- from Wiki.
Spetsnaz, one of favourite reference to be used in recent action movies (apart from their Amerikansky counter-part), is an umbrella term for Russian special forces. DAM Toys recently taken the lead to release a number of Russian military/special force figures and it is a great news. It took awhile (more like over three days) to put it all together, with reference to a YouTube video on this figure pertaining where goes where and how. The single instruction leaflet doesn't help much, if not at all. And this is my first DAM Toys military action figure. The figure is sturdy, articulate finely, and the accessories are great with no breakage. Usually when it comes to putting a military figure together, there is bound to be some breakage caused by meself. Not this time 'round, regardless of how many manhandling I did while assembling it. The only time I used glue is to put on the helmet. However, the eyes and mouth opening of the balaclava seems to  fray at the edges. I passed on the Alpha version and missed the Russian Airborne but looking forward the Spetsnaz at Dagestan and Beslan versions, the latter which involved the notorious and controversial Siege of Beslan school.

Kaustic Plastik - Fantasy Warrior / Conan The Barbarian.


KNOW, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars—Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen- eyed,sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.
- The Nemedian Chronicles.

Hykarnia warlord: We won again! But what is best in life?
Hykarnia warrior: The open steppe, fleet horse, falcons at your wrist, and the wind in your hair.
Hykarnia warlord: Wrong! Conan! What is best in life?
Conan: Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women.
Hykarnia warlord: That is good! That is good.

The secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery. You must learn its riddle, Conan. You must learn its discipline. For no one - no one in this world can you trust. Not men, not women, not beasts. This you can trust (point to the sword).
- Conan's father.

Suffer no guilt, ye who wield this in the name of Crom.
- Cimmerian writing on Conan's sword.

For us, there is no spring. Just the wind that smells fresh before the storm.
- Conan.

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.
- Friedrich Nietzsche.

A (mis) interpretation:

The Hyborian Age. Conan was a Cimmerian, a race of northern barbaric tribes whose ancestry could be traced back to the Atlantean survivors from the Great Cataclysm. The Cimmerians are primarily hunter-gatherers, with knowledge of iron-workings. There are no centralised government, and different clans or tribes often fought each other as well as races from their neighbouring, equally inhospitable regions of Vanaheim and Asgard. Conan was conceived after a night of drunken stupor between his father, Corin, a master blacksmith of the tribe and Greshan, one of the daughters of the tribe leader. During a fight by the tribe against a Vanirs warband incursion, Greshan went into labour and Conan was born on the battlefield.
Conan grew up in Cimmeria rugged wilderness, heavily forested with mountains and hills, the weather cold with bleak overcasting grey clouds. Like all Cimmerians, Conan was thus forged by the very harsh conditions of the land. From a pre-teen age, Conan had great martial prowess, as well as many other impressive skills. He could easily climb seemingly unscalable cliffs, track humans and animals with ease, and stalking them without a sound. Despite the Cimmerians primitive state of living, they pride themselves as warriors with a straightforward sense of justice, noble savages contrary to the general corruption of the civilised nations and races. Conan worshipped only to Crom, thought to be a merciless, unforgiving god whom valued only strength and bravery.
Conan matured quickly to youth, and by the age of fifteen, he was already a respected warrior whom participated in the raiding and subsequent destruction of the Aquilonian outpost, Venarium at the border of the region by the Cimmerians. Aquilonia, one of the most powerful kingdoms of the Hyborian Age, retaliated for the massacre of its officials and citizens at Venarium by sending a massive army deep into Cimmeria, destroying many tribes and clans before being repulsed back to the border. Amongst the casualties were Conan's father and mother.
Shortly after, Conan, struck by wanderlust, left Cimmeria and began to explore the lands beyond his birthplace. He roamed throughout the Hyborian Age nations as a thief, outlaw, mercenary, and pirate. During his adventures, Conan encountered skulking monsters, evil wizards, tavern wenches, and beautiful princesses. His journey often result in him performing heroic feats, though his motivation for doing so is largely to protect his own survival or for personal gain. As he grew older, he began commanding larger units of men and escalating his ambitions. In his forties, he seized the crown of the tyrannical king of Aquilonia, King Numedides by strangling him on the steps to the throne. During his reign as the king of Aquilonia, Conan survived numerous coup attempts against him. He married Zenobia, a former Nemedian king concubine whom Conan was indebted to and eventually fell in love with, and made her the Queen of Aquilonia. She bore Conan a son, Conn or Prince Conan the Second. Through Conn, a dynasty was established which lasted five hundred years.
As a king, Conan initially adopted defensive stance against assaults from Aquilonia's neighbouring kingdoms of Nemedia, Ophir and Argos. He also established an uneasy truce with his former kinsmen from north. The Bossonian mercenaries army, whom swore loyalty to Conan and the kingdom of Aquilonia, kept the savage Picts in check from crossing the western border. Eventually Conan was forced to engage the attacking forces by raising a massive army and led them into a war to expand the kingdom's empire, successfully annexed Zingara, Argos, Ophir, and western Shem, and forced other kingdoms to pay tribute. Nemedia, which had resisted its powerful neighbour for centuries, drew Brythunia, Zamora and Koth into an alliance against Aquilonia. Conan's Aquilonia army succeed in defeating the alliance, breaking the back of the Nemedian forces. Concurrently, the mighty riders of  the Turan empire from the east, led by the great King Yezdigerd, and reinforced by their Hykarnian kinsmen, swept to meet the Aquilonians on the plains of Brythunia. For the next few decades, these two empires would fought repetitiously with no clear victory for either forces. At the age of seventy, Conan, still robust and active, led the Aquilonian army against the Turan empire, where both Conan and Yezdigerd died in a personal duel against each other, on the battlefield just as Conan was born on it. After Conan's death, Conn ascended to become the new king of Aquilonia and continued his father's legacy.
Conan is a physically imposing individual, heavily muscular, broad and tall with tanned, bronze skin covered with scars from numerous battles and combats. He possesses immense strength, endurance and stamina as well as highly dexterous, with agility and reflexes akin to a panther. Conan could travel several days without sleeping, and had fought armed men greater in numbers until he was overwhelmed and captured. He was once crucified under the order of the mighty Stygian priest, Thoth-Amon, deprived of water and food for a day and night, yet possesses enough strength to free himself by pulling out the nails.
Despite his brutish appearance, Conan is highly intelligent, has a heightened degree of cunningness and deceptive to a certain level, an opportunist with excellent escapism skills. He always have a keen sense to  continuously improved himself with curiosity to seek out the unknown and adventurer. The Cimmerian was an incredibly formidable combatant with both armed and unarmed skills, and some of his hardest victories had come from fighting single opponents of inhuman strength, such as Thak the Ape Man or Baal-Pteor the Strangler. His travels have also given him vast experience in other trades, as well as a survivor. Conan was a talented commander, tactician, and strategist, as well as a born leader. Conan also spoke many languages, a fine orator in his later years, and this include his advanced reading and writing abilities. To the astonishment of some scholars, he was able to recognize, or even decipher, certain ancient or secret signs and writings. He possesses a sense of humour but often grim and ironic. Conan is far from untouchable and had been defeated and captured numerous times. He is a loyal friend to those true to him, with a barbaric code of conduct that often marks him as more honorable than the more sophisticated people he meets in his travels.


Billed as The Fantasy Warrior, this is Kaustic Plastik, which is awesome for its museum like quality Roman era stuffs and accuracy, "interpretation" of the most famous fictional barbarian warrior out there, Conan the Barbarian (or the Cimmerian). Created by Robert E. Howard way back in 1932 through a series of fantasy, sword and sorcery stories published in the pulp magazine, Weird Tales, Conan has since been adapted to books, comics, films and various other media. When the '82 movie directed by John Millius came out, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in his breakthrough role, and with the "Anvil of Crom" primary musical theme, composed and conducted by Basil Poledouris, it has a big impact for me. Then coupled with Marvels' reprint of the Savage Sword of Conan under the title Conan Saga, I am hooked. The stories are written by Roy Thomas but personally it is the art that played the primary role, of which are by John Buscema. And co-incidentally that was also the time when I discovered Frank Frazetta and his awesome works. All these took place in Penang, at the bookstore, Times. After moving out from Penang, my interest in Conan stories and arts waned, but the barbarian continues to lurk within the sub-consciousness. When I started 1/6th or any other scale figures collection, I found myself always on the look out for a Conan figure. Having purchased The Complete Chronicles of Conan collection of stories by Robert E. Howard and Roy Thomas's encyclopedia, I realised there is no way to put these stories chronologically. 
I am pretty happy when Kaustic Plastik announced The Fantasy Warrior even though it is sold as carded separate components and I would need to purchase the Heroik Muscle Body KP02XXL-A. I bought the set but later, Kaustic Plastik announced the expansion set, based on Conan the Destroyer, the '84 sequel. Now, the sequel and the 2011 version are not so memorable, but personally from aesthetic point, it captures the closest look of a "barbarian", so I bought it. But that made the first set kind of redundant, except for the headsculpt. The body is great, tanned to match the headsculpt skin tone but I feel it could be improved with slightly greater height, musculature, and bulk. Something like Kids Logic's Akuma body details i.e. veins etc but obviously not to the extent of being a caricature or cartoonish. Or something like those bodies used by Storm Collectibles. Perhaps it is because I grew up on Frank Frazetta's artwork and my mind's eye would always be on the details of the body. I reckon that if there's no costume for a figure, then the details would have to be focused on the body itself.  The muscular body is alright but not impressive. Though the tight muscle is better compare to say, a Hot Toys Advanced Muscle Body, for a character of this nature, the chest muscles could be redefined better. For lack of better wordings, it looks like man boobs, kinda saggy. The headsculpt is so-so. But hopefully Modern Life would execute and push through their version with rooted hair but I have a feeling it is not coming as words around the campfire that Modern Life is in some sort of "trouble". So I got meself a recast headsculpt from Ebay, which looks smallish comparatively but since it is a...uh..."custom" headsculpt, I don't have high expectation of its quality. The edges of the hair chipped off the moment I tried to swivel the head around for posing. Sigh. Glue time. As for the Kaustic Plastik head sculpt, I curiously couldn't slot it onto the neck post, so would just sit on top, giving it a giraffe like neck. I decided to stick with the recast headsculpt because the Kaustic Plastik one is a tad too "modern" looking personally. Also, the recast one gives a better proportion to the overall size of the figure. The overall quality is nice but watch out for the leg pegs of which Kaustic Plastik included a pair of extras due to possibility of breakage which is very good of them to pre-empt customers. Also, the left arm kind of loose and pop out at one point but could be popped back. The torso tightness and knee joints are also a bit loose but not floppy. it seems that these two areas to affect not only ThreeA but other brands as well...or it is just a case of random bad luck? The accessories are nice, particular the metal sword. So until the next one, if any at all, this is the one which represents the barbarian of all barbarians.

Hot Toys MMS 242 - Captain America Stealth S.T.R.I.K.E. Suit Version.



Confidence... thrives on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection and on unselfish performance. Without them it cannot live.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt

All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.
- Winston Churchill

Dr. Abraham Erskine: No, it is not the exams I'm interested in. It's the five tries. But you didn't answer my question. Do you want to kill Nazis?
Steve Rogers: Is this a test?
Dr. Abraham Erskine: Yes.
Steve Rogers: I don't want to kill anyone. I don't like bullies. I don't care where they are from.

Col. Chester Phillips: General Patton has said, "Wars are fought with weapons but they are won by men." We are going to win this war, because we have the best men. And because they're gonna get better. Much better. The Strategic Scientific Reserve is an allied effort made up with the best minds of the free world. Our goal is to create the best army in history. But every army starts with one man. At the end of this week, we will chose that man. He'll be the first of a new breed of super soldiers.

Col. Chester Phillips: You're not really thinking about picking Rogers are you?
Dr. Abraham Erskine: I am more than just thinking about it. It is a clear choice.
Col. Chester Phillips: When you brought a modicum asthmatic onto my army base I let it slide. I thought what the hell, maybe he could be useful to you, like a gerbil. Never thought you'd pick him up. Stick a needle in that kid's arm, it's going to go right through him. Look at that. He's making me cry.
Dr. Abraham Erskine: I am looking for qualities beyond the physical.

Dr. Abraham Erskine: So when he has found my formula and what it can do, he cannot resist. Schmidt must become that superior man.
Steve Rogers: Did it make him stronger?
Dr. Abraham Erskine: Ja. But it has other effects. The serum wasn't ready. But more important, the man. The serum amplifies everything that is inside. So, good becomes great. Bad becomes worse. This is why you were chosen. Because a strong man who has known power all his life, will lose respect for that power. But a weak man knows the values of strength. And knows compassion. Whatever happens tomorrow, you must promise me one thing. That you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier. But a good man.

Steve Rogers: This is my uniform? Where is the one I worn?
Col. Nick Fury: At the Smithsonian. Star spangled banner  pattern isn't exactly "in" for 21st century. Practicality in battle is definitely out. Snipers could spot you from the moon. We've done some upgrades and modifications. Durability, stealth anti-detection coating. The shield couldn't be replicated due to shortage of vibranium even though Stark said he could reproduce it. Well, he said a lot of things but he delivers. You've to stick to the existing one for now. A bit of discolouration but short of a true adamantium, nothing in existence could penetrate it, be it the Asgardian's molecular bond breaking hammer or that jolly green giant's earth shattering, Tsar Bomba strength punch.
Steve Rogers: What about the "A" then?
Col. Nick Fury: Disco.'re the Captain after all. The Captain. A lot of people looks up upon you. Hell, even me when I was a young pup wet behind the ears. Movies and songs were made about you. A living legend. Motivation, hope and inspiration to rise up in the face of adversity. I think that "A", and let's not forget the star, would represents exactly that. With a little bit of retro thing thrown in. You know how much those trading cards Coulson bid and bought for? These are different times Captain. A lot of bad things had happened, some of it due to our own mistakes, but it is going to get worse. A lot worse. Maybe a little old school symbols  and values are just what we needed right now.*
*own addition.
A (mis) interpretation:

Name: Steve Rogers.
Age: 92 years old (as of 2010).
Codename: Captain America.
Designation: Weapon I.
Affiliation: U.S. Army - The Howling Commandos (former); 1st Special Service Force "The Devil's Brigade (former); S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) - The Avengers Initiative (current), S.T.R.I.K.E. (Special Tactical Reserve for International Key Emergencies) - Team Delta (current).
Abilities: Artificially enhanced physiology; high intelligence; master hand to hand combatant; slowed aging; fast healing; master strategist and tactician; leadership skill, expert marksmanship; weapons expert.
Std. armaments: vibranium shield x 1; carbon nanotube reinforced Kevlar/Nomex hybrid combat suit x 1; various weaponries.

1944. Steve Rogers manually override the controls of the Horten H.XIX "Valkyrie" flying wing superfortress. Its payload is a nuclear bomb with a blast yield equivalent to 500 kilotons. An automatic timer is ticking away. Attempt to stop the timer has failed. Johann Schmidt, more infamously known as the Red Skull, and founder and overall commander of HYDRA, the clandestine extremist splinter group of the SS, lays on the floor, bleeding and dying. He gives out a final mocking laughter at Rogers before giving out his last breath. Seeing there is no way out, Rogers steers the craft towards the Artic. Before that, he bids farewell to Peggy Carter, the British agent of the SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve) of whom both have a mutual love affection for each other though not openly expressed and confess. A massive detonation occurred mid-air over the icy wasteland. London, New York and other global major cities and its populations are saved from a nuclear holocaust. Rogers is declared deceased at the age of 26 years old and with him, the original formula of the late eugenicist, Dr. Abraham Erskine, whose real identity is Dr. Joseph Reinstein, which creates the world's first successful genetically enhanced super soldier is lost forever. Rogers, a former sickly and skinny young kid from Brooklyn born in 1918, is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by the President, received on his behalf by Col. Chester Phillips as Rogers has no next of kin since the death of his parents in his teens. A year later, World War Two comes an to end, marking the beginning of the Cold War.
2004. A Russian oil exploration team discovers a circular object with faded red, blue and white motif. Eighteen hours after they reported their findings, a group of researchers from S.H.I.E.L.D. arrive on the site and cordon off the area. Beneath thirty metres of ice, they find Rogers, whom is still alive due to his superhuman physiology which keeps him in a natural cryogenic, induced coma-like hibernating sleep. Rogers hasn't aged a single second from the time he bailed out of the aircraft and hit the ground moment before the atomic detonation. Rogers is brought to an undisclosed S.H.I.E.L.D. facility in New York to revive him. A week later, he awakes from his 60 years sleep. Suffering from temporary amnesia, Rogers only remembers that he has a date with Carter should the siege on the Red Skull's primary HYDRA base at Norway is successful. He looks around the room. The radio is on, broadcasting the World Series final between Yankees and Dodgers. Yet, his intuition tells him something is not right. The broadcast was from 1941, and he heard it before. Rogers flee from the room, which is an anachronistic mock up set of a 1940s hospital room. Out in the street, he is shocked to see a different world. The people, buildings, cars and the city itself. Several cars surround him. A man walks up to him and reassures him that it is alright, introducing himself as Col. Nick Fury, the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., an espionage, law-enforcement, and counter-terrorism agency established during the Cold War by Col. Chester Phillips, Peggy Carter and Howard Stark from SSR after it was shut down. Rogers is briefed about what had happened back at the S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarter, The Triskelion, at Washington D.C. on Theodore Roosevelt Island. The man out of time, as he is sometimes referred, struggles to adjust to the modern world. Rogers read up as much information as he could, inquires about Peggy and have an emotional re-union with her, by then a frail elderly woman, occasionally confine to the bed due to old age ailment. Peggy, married with grandchildren, finally finds closure knowing Rogers is still alive. She advises Rogers to adapt to the new world and move on with his life but stay true to whom he is and what he is meant for. She passes away two months later with Rogers by her side, with families and friends at the funeral. As he mourns her passing, the last person from his era to talk to him, Rogers questions whether his slow aging is a curse or a gift. He later forms a close friendship with Peggy's granddaughter, Sharon or Agent 13, a fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. operative.
2010. The stealth aircraft flies silently across the airspace of an Eastern Europe country. Steve Rogers sits quietly, deep in his own thoughts. He recalls what the late Dr. Abraham Erskine said to him the night before the experiment which changes him forever. Not to be a perfect soldier. But a good man. 'Twenty seconds, Captain,' said the co-pilot. 'The entire area is rigged. It's gonna be hot down there,' he adds. 'I'll do the best I can,' replied Rogers and puts on his helmet. He pushes the button. The ramp opens. 'You've got 15 minutes with the camo-signal on and then we're outta here, with or without you,' said the co-pilot. 'U2. Joshua Tree. 1987. Nice song,' muttered Rogers. 'What? Yo Cap! Don't forget the Falcon flight pack!' said the pilot. 'Not necessary, son' and Rogers jumps out from 30,000 feet in the air. Since he joined S.H.I.E.L.D., Rogers has steadily embark on numerous covert operation involving rescue missions and neutralising hostile forces with 100% success rate under the S.T.R.I.K.E. sub-division force. He doesn't question his orders yet he couldn't help but feel conflicted. Rogers is a soldier and field commander, not a spy, nor assassin. He had been at odds with Fury when Rogers questions the objective of certain missions. The intricate, interwoven complexity of the world of espionage and political, vested interest makes him want to bail out sometimes. Rogers wishes it could be much straightforward and easier. From a certain perspective, Nick Fury is right, of whom Rogers reports directly to. These are times of which there is no clear cut black and white moral absolutism. Fighting the Nazis, you would know which sides you're on. These new breed of opponents are different. They are so deeply embedded, your neighbour might not be who you think he or she is. Eyes are constantly watching everyone. There are sensitive grey areas to consider before an action could be taken. And you wouldn't know where the allegiance truly lies upon. Everyone seems to have an interest or stake in everything. Particularly when HYDRA has been active all along, secretly sowing their own twisted objectives. Trust is no longer something you take for granted. And he is no longer alone. There are others the likes of him, enhanced from blood samples extract taken from him prior to the suspended animation in the Artic. But there are missing puzzles to the entirety of the formula. Some become outright sociopaths, others learnt of Erskine incomplete formula and experimented upon themselves and test subjects, becoming what is known as meta-humans. But the basis of the formula still holds true; it is the nature of a person that determines the outcome. Nevertheless the implication is serious and results in an ongoing debate with highly polarised opinion regarding the proliferation of these super-powered humans with extraordinary abilities. He has been ordered to take down some of these rogue meta-humans, some much to his reluctance. Others S.H.I.E.L.D. succeed in recruiting them, such as Natalia Romanova. After the Battle of New York, Fury is tasked to form a second Avengers Initiative clandestine immediate response team, commandeered by Rogers once more to keep rogue meta-humans and other threats in check. But just when trusts are gained, they borne the burden of the Ultron Incident, and the trusts become paranoia once more. There are talks of implementing legislature requiring revelation of all catalogued meta-humans identities and activities, and means to control them. From the Battle of New York Rogers learnt that mankind is not alone in this universe. And if Peter Quill, the  self-styled Star Lord, a member of the galaxy roaming mercenaries known as The Guardians and the Asgardian champion, Thor were right, there are greater threats out there, with powers to wipe out Earth and its entire inhabitants. Maybe this would unify humankind towards a singular goal instead of inflicting atrocities upon each other.
Rogers splashes into the water without a sound. And he takes 10 minutes to neutralise the 50 hostage takers within the school and releases the 300 captives with zero casualties. 
Steve Rogers is the most successful test subject of the Weapon Programme. His genetically enhanced five senses, physical strengths, endurance, stamina, speed and reflexes, coupled with the newly learnt and mastered martial art, made Rogers one the most formidable meta-humans in existence. Although Rogers is officially catalogued with near superhuman physiology, since his revival from cryogenic suspended animation and sleep has advanced his current physiology to that of a  superhuman level within his absolute control. His heightened intellectual capacity allows him to have polymath-like ability, capable of learning complex and complicated subjects above the normal learning rate. It also enables him to process multiple information quickly and perform multi-tasking with ease. His analytical, tactical and strategic mastery are without comparison, allowing him to mathematically deduce with accuracy his opponent next moves three steps ahead as well as tactically respond rapidly to any changes. With a natural leadership skills, Rogers possesses natural oratory skill capable of making others listen to him, inspiring loyalty and motivating them. Members of the Avengers Initiative carry out his orders without any question and with surety, including those whom are considered stubborn and uncontrollable. Rogers' current superhuman metabolism rate and immune system protect him virtually from any forms of diseases and poisons, and allows him to heal simultaneously from any wounds. This also slows down his aging process tremendously. His mastery in using the vibranium shield as both defensive and offensive melee weapon is at its peak. The shield composition protects Rogers by deflecting any form of projectile or reflecting any energy based weaponries. But for the all the abilities he possesses, Rogers is still a man. He is not immortal nor invulnerable. Bullets doesn't bounce off him. Not omnipotent nor omnipresent. Yet Rogers doesn't feel jaded but accept it with positivity. Atrocities are being committed at every hours around the world but as man he is committed to do his best in all assignments and saves as many lives as possible. Rogers believe in progress, not perfection. And more importantly, he would not compromising his absolute faith in morality, righteousness and conscience, helping those in needs and defend the weak from the oppressors, whoever or whatever they are. While his staunch principle and moral code sometimes put him at odds against Fury, both men ultimately works toward the same goal, albeit with different methods.
I used to have Hot Toys Captain America: The First Avenger version but has since sold it off. But like the case of the recently acquired Black Widow from the CA:Winter Soldier movie version, I just like this version from the sequel. Cap's uniform is sometimes too "bright" for me personally. In comics, its ok but if in, say, Nolan-verse sort of setting, of which I kind of lean towards in term of design and personal preference, I would love a more tone-down look. Which is why I decided to get this version. The movie is great, particularly the action sequence of which instead of being subjected to blurry, fast editing "what is going on" combat, I watched with excitement the fighting scenes. Now this figure is great, no QC issue but it is very statuesque due to the design of the uniform. There is almost zero, okay, limited articulation. No power pose for this one. The shield is, well, a shield and made of die-cast. I noted that the blue tone on the helmet and the chin strap have different colouration from the uniform. This is not the case when I re-check the box art. That is something I guess Hot Toys overlook. Comes with minimal accessories, just like Black Widow. There would be more versions to come since Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have been announced until 2019 (Thanos, not the recent announced one, but with Infinity Gaunlet?), I guess right now I am planning to assemble my own version of The Avengers, a more darker, gritty version. I am thinking about getting the Winter Soldier as well but maybe Wolverine first. Yeah, he is from another studio but he fits in, and maybe even Spidey, the Sam Raimi version of course which I have in hand from years ago but those tights would sure stands out.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

ThreeA - Adventure Kartel : Handsome Wu.

Wu-Tang Killa Beez, we on a swarm
Wu-Tang Killa Beez, we on a swarm
Wu-Tang Killa Beez, we on a swarm
Wu-Tang Killa Beez, we on a swarm
- Wu Tang Clan, Clan In Da Front.

Way back in history three thousand years
In fact every since the world began
There's been a whole lot of good women sheddin' tears
For a brown eyed handsome man
It's a lot of trouble was brown eyed handsome man
- Chuck Berry, Brown Eyed Handsome Man.

大懶堂嫡系掌門人 我係第十八代
要打出個名堂 唔覺意又打出個袋
寶刀出鞘 師父出馬
打交出事 又馬交出火
唔係好識耍羅漢拳 但係就成日食羅漢果
五十五重天 薄荷冰火
練女心經唔怕走火 又射歪
睇住兩個麻甩佬 又入埋同一格廁所
咪耍我 話匿埋入面 拆迷魂鎖 有無攪撚錯
豪放北派四味賓泰 呢頭跳完茶舞轉頭 又話有Coupon派
- LMF, 詠春拳.

A (mis) interpretation:

Name: Wu Wei (無爲).
Alias: Handsome Wu (靚仔無).
Age: 23.
Affiliation: The Eight Pandas (八 熊 貓).
Rank: Panda Merc One (傭兵熊貓).
Abilities: "Boundless Fist" (太極拳), "Eternal Spring" (永春), "Iron Shirt" (鐵衫), "Iron Palm" (铁掌); "Touch of Death" (點穴) - martial art;  "Good Luck" (好運) - tychokinetic combat; peak physical condition; cunningness; charisma; allure; physical attractiveness; self-healing.
Std. armaments: "Wu Hah" (嗚啊) -  .25 semi-automatic pistol x 4; "Strike Rich Panda" (發達熊猫) - cosplay battle suit x 1; "Thunderclap" (霹靂) flash bang grenade x 16;  "Panda's Paw" (熊貓爪子) - lightning claw x 2.

The Eight Pandas is a group comprise of specially selected eight individuals whom are martial art masters and mercenaries. They are part of the Wudang Sect (武當派) based on a fortress monastery of the partially destroyed Wudang Mountains, Eastasia. The Wudang Sect is a secret organisation which has been in existence for several thousand years and recognised as one of the originators of wushu (武術). During the Great War, the Wudang Sect is politically aligned with the ICG (Independent Countries Group) and are amongst those whom  covertly rises against the ruling Terra government as part of the May Fourth Movement sponsored by MARSA (Mars Advocate). The sect is a major power with considerable influence in the jianghu (江湖) or wulin (武林), as the martial artists' community is referred to in Eastasia. The current leader of the sect is Grandmaster Wu Dalang (武大郎), whom once fronted an industrial rock band, The Three Inch Nails. Wu Dalang may be  a dwarf physically but the old man is a ferocious warrior whom was once on the run from the authorities for killing his adulterous wife. His students call him Yoda on acid behind his back. Male and female members of the Wudang Sect are known for their prowess in martial art, exemplary conduct and deeds of gallantry. They follow Taoist customs and practices in addition to training in martial arts.
Wu Wei is an orphan adopted by Wu Dalang at the age of three. He turns out to be an exemplary student. After an accident which caused severe facial damage, Wu Wei was sent to a non-descript, illegal plastic surgery clinic for facial reconstruction. The surgeon was quite committed as he is both indebted to and reveres Grandmaster Wu very much. Once the surgery is completed, Wu Wei's face is a work of art whose handsomeness would become a much discussed topic amongst members of Wudang Sect. The Merciful Iron, a cyborg member of the Eight Pandas, once remarked that Wu Wei's good look would rival even the Four Great Beauties of Eastasia. Female members of the Wudang Sect have to be segregated from Handsome Wu, as he is nicknamed thereafter, upon an incident bordering on scandalous nature. During the journey to New Andria, Handsome Wu is tasked with securing food for the group. He comes across an untainted pond, abundant with fishes. It is said that the fishes stop swimming and sank the moment they saw Handsome Wu. A flock of pheasants stood still when Handsome Wu capture them. The Eight Pandas announce their arrive with exclamation of '嗚啊! 啊! 啊!' Handsome Wu participation in the Robot Islands War causes some minor incident amongst the belligerent as well. Lil' Shadow could not take her eyes off him, resulting in a distraction which causes her to be injured. Tommy Mission becomes incredibly jealous of Handsome Wu as a result of this, making him unable to focus and is strafed by a dirty bomb. Cherry Shadow abandoned The Golden Dolphin amidst a battle to get Handsome Wu's vid-vox, resulting in the nut case being overwhelmed with berserker insanity and had to be calmed by his sister, Peppermint Groove. Baron Seth von Sydow is slack-jawed upon seeing Handsome Wu and suffered from a slight case of "bromance". Johan the Undefeated tried to pursue Handsome Wu and upon rejection, cause some tension between them.
Handsome Wu is a master of "Boundless Fist", also known as taijiquan. He primarily uses this technique in defensive or neutralising stance before launching a counter-attack or reactive stance upon his opponent. It is a martial art revolve around the concept of taiji, a philosophy representing the contrast in opposing categories, or the interplay of those categories usually termed as yin and yang or dark and light. It focuses on the use of "soft and gentle" techniques to overcome opponents who rely on brute strength and force. Wu would not directly fight or resist an incoming force, but to meet it in softness and follow its motion while remaining in physical contact until the incoming force of attack exhausts itself or can be safely redirected, meeting yang with yin. Handsome Wu has been observed to be able to re-direct a projectile or energy based weaponries and exhaust much stronger opponents using this technique.
Handsome Wu is also a master of another form of martial art, "Eternal Spring" or Wing Chun. It emphasise on correct body structure follows by balance. The martial art basis is said to be akin to a piece of bamboo, firm but flexible, rooted but yielding. This structure is used to either deflect external forces or redirect them. Wu, whom uses this martial art form for assault, rarely compromises structure for more powerful attacks because this is believed to create defensive openings which may be exploited. The "central axis" stance is important because it allows Wu to be effectively "rooted" or aligned. Braced against the ground, the force of a hit is far more devastating. Additionally, the practice of "settling" one's opponent to brace them more effectively against the ground aids in delivering as much force as possible to against the opponent. Apart from the "central axis", the "vertical axis" or "centre line" stance is equally important because attack within this central area allows Wu to transmit force more effectively, since it targets the "core center" of an opponent as well as striking closer to the centre transmits more force directly into the body of the opponent. Due to the emphasis on the centre line, the straight punch is the most common strike in Wing Chun. The punches may be thrown in quick succession in a "straight blast" or "chain punching". Wu would used this technique as a disorienting finisher. He would typically thrust his full body weight towards his opponent with the fist as the "nail" and his body as the "hammer". With each successive punch, Wu would step in closer and closer to the opponent, driving the fists forward as a hammer drives a nail. Wu would use this to pulverise his opponent, akin to The Phalanx apply by The F-Legion Cyborg 0024491.
Wu's neigong (內家) or inner energy and qinggong (輕功) or lightness skills are also amongst the best in the wulin. Wu could move swiftly and lightly at superhuman speed, and perform gravity-defying moves such as gliding on water surfaces, scaling high walls and mounting trees. He also possesses a powerful qigong (氣功) or life-cultivtion energy, involving the balance of body, breath and mind, leading to increase strength, vitality and quick healing. Chanelling this energy, Handsome Wu could withstand heavy strikes through "Iron Shirt" technique and break superhardened alloys through "Iron Palm". Force sword or blade, with its molecular disrupting field, could not slice through Handsome Wu nor a ceramic cutter. Handsome Wu other skill include dianxue (點穴) or the Touch of Death. He uses various acupuncture techniques to kill, paralyse, immobilise or control opponents by attacking their acupressure points with his bare hands or weapons. The N.O.M. Legion's Panzer Kunst is said to have been originated based on the same principle and evolved further by The Supreme Mother.
Another Handsome Wu ability is "Good Luck". It allows him to utilize probability manipulation in combination of physical combat. A form of tychokinetic fighting, Handsome Wu is able to utilize probability manipulation and merge it with physical combat, making him lucky, or induce bad luck on others, making absorbing the opponents luck or make the most unlikely things happen. He could heightened his chance of striking an opponent and conversely cause the latter to miss. Handsome Wu often invoke this ability when facing opponents far more formidable than him. However, the ability may cause unintentional effects to happen that could not be beneficial to Wu and those around him. This ability is based on the same principle as Tommy Mission's Hand of Fate but at lesser degree and affect.
Like all members of the Eight Pandas, Handsome Wu wears a Panda cosplay battle suit to hide his identity while travelling. The cosplay suit is armed with a pair of "Panda's Paw", a form of force weapon in the form of a lightning claw which could tear through any object on molecular level. Wu carries four .25 semi-automatic pistols and up to sixteen flash bang grenades as additional protection.
It has been a while since I gotten any new characters/figures from ThreeA's Adventure Kartel line, so when Handsome Wu, member of the Lucky Eight Panda Merc from Sichuan (according to the one page short comic) drop, I am quite excited. ThreeA continues the cosplay themed figures, which is not bad. And kind of fitting the eccentric universe of the AK line. This is another "chapter/phase" of AK, called "F***in' Family Coup", after the "Robot Island War". It took awhile for this figure to arrive. In hand it is great, no loose and floppy joints unlike the earlier figures. I did not take off the Panda suit all the way but from the images seen online, Handsome Wu sports a standard combat trousers. Handsome Wu is reminiscence of Tommy Mission but with a smirk. It also has the same gnarly large palms. The drop includes a two set pack, called The Three Fat Tarts Panda Mercs set. It include Handsome Wu and another F-Legion Cyborg look-alike call the F-Legion 6023. I maybe wrong but I recalled that F-Legion Cyborg would be the last of its kind. It doesn't matter as the official storyline or background is fluid and keep ret-conned/changing in terms of ThreeA major lines. The surprise drop of the day are Soot Wu, which I guess would be all black, and comes with a different/additional handgun, and Snow Panda F-Legion 6000, an all white with a RPG. I decided to go for just a standard version of Handsome Wu, which is just fine and at this point wanted to keep the 3AA membership F-Legion Cyborg exclusive in the collection. The official story is that after Lil' Shadow engaged The Dead Astronaut Gangsta to take out Tommy as his birthday gift, she changes her mind and contacted Handsome Wu and the Pandas, whom are engaging in a guerrilla warfare against robots, to save Tommy. Based on the one pager comic, there seemed to be animosity between Handsome Wu and Tommy and..."the adventure continues with you." Of course, as usual for fan fiction mis-interpretation part, I hadn't had any clue so again I used information from Wiki, the worlds of wuxia, a bit of WH40K and Battle Angel Alita.