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MONDO: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Donatello (MONDO Exclusive)

As promised in my feature from Wednesday, I am keeping the unofficial TMNT theme going this week with a look at the newly released, but long overdue, 1:6 scale Donatello figure from MONDO. I have a very different relationship with these figures than I do with the NECA movie turtles, and things are a bit more complicated here. So, while I am glad this figure is finally out and it looks good on the shelf, there are definitely still some issues with this line.

If you took in my look at the previously released MONDO Leonardo figure, you probably know that “disappointing” is the word that best describes my experience with that figure. Disappointment is actually a harder pill to swallow than outright dislike when it comes to an action figure because when something is just plain bad, it is easier to compartmentalize and eventually write off. With Leonardo, though, the sculpt and design of the figure pretty much make for an amalgamation of all of my favorite versions smashed together to possibly be my favorite overall design take on the turtles ever. Seriously, I LOVE the look of these things.

Unfortunately, Leo was much maligned with production and construction issues, and at the very heavy price tag, it makes those things even harder to take. Well, while Donatello is an overall improvement over his brother, he still has issues. I will give MONDO the credit that the nagging left-arm-is-always-wanting-to-fall-off problem present in Leo is not carried over here, but some of the other joint construction issues, and overall articulation choices still remain, but even with the most recent delay to “fix stuff,” I was still expecting those things. What is wasn’t expecting was a bit of a backslide in the paint department, as well as some new plastic issues that highlight some general inexperience in action figure manufacturing MONDO might still be carrying. So, overall, Donatello is an improvement over Leo, but I do want to highlight the remaining issues because these things pretty pricey.

But let’s start with the good because I am still a big time TMNT fan, and I still really love the overall look of these figures. That is really the big selling point with Donatello here (aside from being my favorite turtle). Overall, he looks great. I mentioned how these figures are kind of an amalgamation of several different takes on the turtles, and Phil Ramirez (the awesome dude and awesome artist who handled the sculpting on these) really brought it all together. Overall, these figures have the form and feel of the original Mirage comic designs (Laird, but I would LOVE to see some good Eastman figures, too), but with bit of vintage toy/cartoon influence to help set them apart from anything else you probably have in your collection at this time.

The vintage Playmates line was my lead-in to TMNT as a kid, and the cartoon followed soon thereafter. However, by the time I hit college, I was able to go back to the original comic runs and developed quite the fondness for those as well. So the overall comic design, coupled with the purple mask from the old toy/cartoon (you get the red one too, of course), and the skin tone from the old toy captures a lot of love for me, spread out over various stops on my nostalgia timeline. The varying skin tones from turtle to turtle helps set them off from each other, and since I love the different colored bandana, but always though the knee and elbow pads were a bit much, I really dig the choice here.

It is that design that makes the not so great parts of this figure even more egregious to me, because if everything was clicking, these would be some of my favorite things. As it stands, though, this isn’t even my favorite TMNT thing that I am reviewing this week. With the exception of some paint issues, this figure looks great, but from a production and engineering standpoint, MONDO is still on a pretty sharp learning curve. Like I said, I think Donatello is and improvement over Leonaro in that regard, but when you ask 150 bones for a figure, it comes with some basic expectations. So this figure is better in that Don’s left arm doesn’t easily fall off at the elbow, and the red bandana head can be swapped in without using the strength of Gregor Clegane, but the engineering is still wonky.

I appreciate the articulation scheme, but for many of the points, the joint design and sculpt work against good fluidity and/or range of movement. This is a pretty heavy figure for its size, so the joints need to support that heft, but I find the range and smoothness of the joints to be widely variable depending on the joint. Where the double knees work fairly well good range, the ankles’ forward movement is stymied by the sculpt, but do have good side-to-side movement. Additionally, the hips are a bit of a bugger and are pretty stiff, even with the soft material used for the front of the shell. Like, you can generally get the pose and position you want, but they are finicky because the hip balls have to be rotated and the extension of the leg plastic, while aesthetically pleasing, hinder the joint, too. The neck joint continues to be a bit of an odd thing here as it not really a joint per se, just a rounded top that holds the head on via friction. As I said above, the Mirage head actually fits this time, so I am just going to with it.

The paint is a bit spotty in places too, but again, overall, it isn’t too bad. First, there isn’t a ton of paint to begin with, but the lines on my figure are mostly clean. I do have some bleed here and there, especially around the knee and elbow pads with the brown getting onto the skin, but it’s not terribly egregious. I do count myself lucky, though, because a have seen a few other examples of some slop bleed being worse on some figures, especially into the white of the eyes. That one little spot could bring down the entire figure.

Where I do have an issue with the paint is in a lot of the wash, and if I am being honest, it looks like they took a page from 1990s MacFarlane when it comes to the black paint wash in some places. The front of the shell, while needing a certain dingy quality to it, had a giant spot on it right out of the package. I was able to actually buff it out so it did not look like a paint drip, so it is fine now, but I can see some wide variation from figure to figure when it comes to this. The skin has a bit of an inconsistent wash as well, but since Donnie’s skin tone is darker than his brethren, it is not as noticeable. The wash is really heavy on the Gravitic Equalizer (more on that later), though, and it gives it a surface aesthetic that does not really match the rest of the figure.

Speaking of the Equalizer, it highlights a group of accessories that are mostly good, but some not. First, I do not like the final execution of the GE much at all. It is made of a rubbery material in order to accommodate fitting over the forearm, but the sculpt is softened because of it, and makes the form a bit clunky. Additionally, as I touched on before, the paint is not great here with a very heavy wash, and some sloppy applications. I get it, it is from the gritty comic book, but it LOOKS like it has been painted with a wash, rather than the wash looking natural in adding to the details.

For the rest of the accessories, I mostly like them. The two heads are good, the bo is great (though it is tough to get it into the holster), and the C-grip hands hold it well. The “vertical thumb of affirmation” (that is, the “thumbs up”) is cute, but the claw hands carried over from Leo will likely never be used by me. The Utrom Blaster, baby turtle, and grappling hook are all carried over as well, and are fun accessories. The four Shuriken are nicely sculpted, but the 8-points are useless as none of Donatello’s hands can hold them (he can hold the 4-pointers), and there is not a spot on his belt to store them. I have no idea what to do with these other then put them in the bin. Whereas Leo got an un-mutated Splinter, Donnie comes with an Utrom Commander, and even though mine has a wonky eye (which, adimittedly, kind of works), I prefer over the rat, so points to Donnie there as well. So, you do get a good number of accessories here, even if several are not unique, but I have say, other than the signature bo and Utrom, I likely won’t be displaying the rest.

Overall, Donatello is an improvement over Leonardo, but still just a good (not great) figure overall. For most part, he looks great, and I am very fond of the character design, but as an action figure, there are a lot of construction and paint issues keeping me from giving my full “vertical thumb of affirmation.” None of the issues are terrible, but with these, price matters due to the high cost, and for $150, it is hard to say the figure is worth the asking price. I know it is not necessarily fair to make the direct comparison, but the NECA TMNT movie Leo I reviewed earlier in the week has much better overall quality, is much bigger, and cost me 50 bucks less. Standing in that shadow, it is hard not to notice the issues.

I am already in for Mikey and Raph (I paid for them up front in 2015), so I will be finishing off this collection, and while I am sure they will look neat together in the end, after lots of delays and production issues stood up against a high price tag, I am kind of looking to be done here. I hate that feeling, especially since Phil Ramirez did a great job with the sculpts, and I REALLY want to like these more, but so it goes. Hopefully MONDO will continue to improve with their toys, especially if they are going to continue to charge top dollar.

If you are interested in picking this figure up, you can get the standard edition (without the Gravitic Equalizer) at Big Bad Toy Store.