Thomas takes a deep dive into the best action figures of 2018 to reveal his top picks to improve your collection…
I think I can start by saying 2018 has been a great year in the collecting world of 6-inch figures, there have been some really impressive figures produced by MAFEX, Hasbro and S.H. Figuarts. It’s been a turning point for these three big brands so let’s take a look at what has happened this year.
The Black Series | Hasbro
2018 has been the year of changes for the Black Series line. While S.H. Figuarts and MAFEX were already using the digital face print tech for a few years now, Hasbro was still using hand paint faces which had some horrible results and were ruining some great face sculpt. But starting with their first wave of 2018, they finally made the big jump and started using the digital face print tech! The results have been really breathtaking! Hasbro’s face sculpts were always great, the problem was the paint apps and now we can fully enjoy Hasbro’s sculpts with this new print technology, just to name a few of their best work – Val, Tobias Beckett, Leia (Hoth), Han Solo (Bespin), Grand Moff Tarkin, Rio Durant.
The Black Series has reached a new level of likeness to the characters they represent. The quality is close to matching the standards set by S.H. Figuarts and MAFEX and sometimes surpasses Figuarts’ results. Hasbro is one of the big ones now. The calibre of their chosen plastic is obviously of the same quality as their rivals and that is reflected in the retail price but the work on the face sculpts and the paint apps make you forget that.
Another huge improvement this year for Hasbro was the use of a new ball-joint for the neck articulation replacing the unsightly big neck articulation. It started with the first wave from Solo: A Star Wars Story. It immediately makes the figure more beautiful visually because you don’t see the ball-joint at the neck, it’s hidden within the head and it makes the head articulation much more realistic.
Hasbro has improved a lot in 2018, it was a HUGE step in the right direction. However, it doesn’t mean all their problems are over. Bent weapons, misshapen accessories are still a problem, I have encountered a few this year but surely not as much as in the previous years. The lack of accessories is another issue but the big issues remain the selection of characters and the distribution (especially for European collectors).
In 2018, we saw the end of Star Wars Rebels and yet there’s still no sign of a Zeb figure, Ezra and Chopper will be released in 2019. Star Wars Resistance debuted not long ago and there is absolutely no sign of 6inch figures from this show. Hasbro doesn’t support the animated series’ and that’s a shame because so many collectors would like more of the beloved animated characters in Black Series. Even with The Clone Wars, so far we only have Captain Rex and Commander Wolffe. The problem also extends to the movies. The first wave of Solo: A Star Wars Story only included Han Solo, Lando Calrissian and a Range Trooper. We had to wait December to get the whole crew and Qi’Ra has only been released in her Corellia outfit while all the other main characters were released in their main attire. With Episode IX, The Mandalorian and The Clone Wars season 7 all headed our way next year, it would be nice if Hasbro could select more carefully the characters they make. For example, in the first wave of Episode IX, it would be a great idea to include Rey, Poe Dameron, Finn, Kylo Ren and Rose in their new outfits. And hopefully, 2019 will be the year we get a Leia figure from The Last Jedi.
So I have to say congrats to Hasbro for an amazing year with the Black Series, a great number of figures, now they have to look to improve their problems in 2019 for an even better year.
The Black Series | Best Figures of 2018 Are:
- Rio Durant
- Leia (Hoth)
S.H. Figuarts | Bandai
2018 hasn’t been the best year for S.H. Figuarts, I can’t say I have been as impressed with them as I was with the improvements made by Hasbro. They haven’t been very active in the Star Wars world. They only released 7 new figures, that’s a small amount and the choices of figures have been very weird for some.
The 7 figures are Darth Vader (A New Hope), Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi (A New Hope), Princess Leia (A New Hope), Anakin Skywalker (Revenge Of The Sith), Chewbacca (Solo), Mimban Stormtrooper (Solo), Luke Skywalker (The Last Jedi). Plus a vehicle – Darth Maul’s speeder. Among these figures, there was one exclusive – Luke. The weird choices I was referring to are the Solo figures. For the release of the movie, the only figures they chose to release were a Stormtrooper and Chewbacca? They could have released Han, Lando, Qi’Ra but no, they released a Stormtrooper, that was a real disappointment. They went to great lengths to produce a fantastic selection of characters from The Last Jedi and released a total of 8 figures in time for the launch of the movie and for Solo, they barely did anything. Why? It’s a mystery.
If we go beyond these weird choices, the Mimban Stormtrooper is Figuarts’s best trooper to date, I love it! It’s perfection! So far they’ve struggled with the Stormtrooper helmet sculpt but this time they nailed it! So I’m really looking forward to their Stormtroopers from Star Wars: A New Hope whenever they get released. Chewbacca was a great figure as well, nothing bad to say about this.
In 2018, Figuarts completed their line-up of heroes from A New Hope with Obi-Wan and Leia. It took them several years but they finally managed to gather the entire cast of Rebel heroes. Although Obi-Wan was an excellent figure, Leia is only a pretty good figure, it doesn’t reach the level of amazing. Hasbro produced far better results better for Leia’s face sculpt. As for the Darth Vader, it wasn’t a good figure.
Then we have Luke Skywalker, this was one of Figuarts’ finest figures if not the best in terms of face sculpt and digital face print. The only detraction was the accessories, he came with almost nothing and that was even more frustrating considering it was an exclusive! And that’s Figuarts’ biggest flaw, the accessories, they just include the bare minimum and considering we pay around 50€ for a figure, the minimum isn’t enough!
And at last Anakin Skywalker, I was so looking forward this figure as he is my favorite character but it was a huge letdown, the face sculpt was so bad that I was wondering if it really was a Figuarts figure. The problem is Obi-Wan Kenobi (ROTS) doesn’t look any better at least for one of the interchangeable faces.
If you release only 7 Star Wars figures in a year, I would expect the finest quality from these figures and sadly, that wasn’t the case for all of them, it’s such a shame. I would like to be hopeful for 2019 but it doesn’t look any more promising. At the beginning of the year, we’re only getting two figures – Obi-Wan (ROTS) in February and Count Dooku (ROTS) in April. Dooku looks phenomenal but like I said above Obi-Wan doesn’t.
The problems aren’t just with Star Wars when you look at what Figuarts did with Avengers Infinity War, it’s quite scary. They tried to release as many characters as possible for the release of the movie but they did it the fast-food way. Black Panther, Iron Man and Spider-Man didn’t have any removable helmet, MAFEX will be releasing both Black Panther and Spider-Man next year, both with interchangeable heads and without a helmet. Captain America didn’t look at all like Chris Evans. Figuarts is going down in terms of quality and it’s not good for the consumers. It worries me because if they don’t raise their game, I think I will just focus on buying Black Series when it comes to Star Wars.
Another problem is the interchangeable faces. In the beginning, Figuarts was using interchangeable heads but as time went by they replaced them with interchangeable faces and that’s actually a huge mistake for one simple reason – you can see the separation on sides of the head between the face and the rest of the head. For aesthetics alone, that’s not really good. On some figures, it’s barely noticeable but on others you clearly see it. I suppose it costs less to do interchangeable faces but once again at that price, you expect the best so it would be better if Figuarts went back to basics and restored the interchangeable heads option.
The last problem I want to mention with Figuarts is the comic-cons. They have shown more than a dozen new figures and they do that every year but every year only half of these figures actually make it to general release and that’s extremely frustrating for us collectors. Han Solo (The Force Awakens) as been revealed two years ago and we’re almost in 2019 and there is still no sign of the figure reaching retail. I’d rather see only 4 figures unveiled at comic-cons and see them being released within the same year than see 20 figures and only 3 get released.
There was one big thing happening at the end of 2018 for Figuarts – their first Wizarding World figures! They released Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley from Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone! These three figures are phenomenal, they have some problems for sure but overall they are amazing! In 2019, Figuarts will continue this line with Severus Snape and Draco Malfoy.
Figuarts didn’t have the best year in 2018, I will say that it was the worst of the three big brands. They have to work better to get back at the top next year!
S.H. Figuarts’ best figures this year:
- Luke Skywalker (The Last Jedi)
- Ron Weasley (Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone)
- Mimban Stormtrooper (Solo A Star Wars Story)
MAFEX | Medicom Toys
If you’re looking for the best brand of 6inch figures in 2018, you’ve found it – it’s MAFEX! Back in 2016, Medicom’s quality, while being impressive was not up to the standard set by Figuarts. They had many problems with articulation and the likeness wasn’t quite as good as it needed to be while since 2017, MAFEX has turned the corner with the use of digital face print technology which has revolutionised the quality of their figures. And now, they are basically the Hot Toys equivelant of the 6inch world.
In 2018, they have released their line-up from the Justice League movies and it’s an absolute feast for the eyes, the quality was out of this world and the likeness to the characters was absolutely breathtaking. Like I said mini Hot Toys! They were the first brand that managed to produce a figure that looked like Gal Gadot at least on this scale.
2018 was definitely a focus on DC Comics for MAFEX. They also greatly extended their line-up of The Dark Knight trilogy with Batman 3.0, Scarecrow, Harvey Dent, Bane, and The Joker. And they are the same quality as the Justice League figures!
In Star Wars, they slowed down and only released three figures from The Last Jedi – Captain Phasma, First Order Stormtrooper and First Order Executioner Stormtrooper. And among these three figures, they released the ultimate First Order Stormtrooper figure, that figure contains all the accessories from the movies and boasts even more than the First Order pack Hasbro had released in 2017! Phasma was an excellent figure too and the best from the three brands!
Even the best have issues, MAFEX’s main issue is the prices. It keeps going up with every year that passes. The average price for 2018 figures was 55€. The average price for 2019 figures will be 60-65€ with some going as much as 70€. That’s really expensive. There’s nothing to say on the quality and the face sculpts, it’s simply the best but 70€ is starting to be too much. So it’s a good thing they don’t release 5 figures every month because everyone would be bankrupt!
2019 looks to be just as excellent as 2018 for MAFEX, they will continue to release DCEU figures with Aquaman, Bruce Wayne and The Dark Knight trilogy figures with Bruce Wayne and Ra’s Al Ghul (hopefully Alfred and Gordon are on the way as well). They will expand with other movie franchises that include the MCU, John Wick and Kingsman. And like Figuarts, they will be producing action figures from the Wizarding World starting with Newt Scamander from Fantastic Beasts.
MAFEX’s best figures this year:
2018 has been a great year for collectors with Hasbro making huge improvements and MAFEX becoming the best brand of 6inch, we can only look forward to more awesomeness in 2019! Happy Holidays to all and May the Force be with you!
The Future of the Force. The future of pop culture writing.