Review > Nathan “Rad” Spencer (Bionic Commando, NECA)


It’s rare that I’ll buy an action figure based on a movie, TV show, comic, or videogame unless I’m already a fan of that property. Sometimes I’ll become a fan of the property because of the action figure, but it’s quite rare for me to buy a licensed figure with no intention of getting to know the property at all.

Yet, that’s what I did last week when I picked up Nathan “Rad” Spencer, based on the upcoming videogame Bionic Commando, a sequel to the 1987 Nintendo classic. To be honest, the main reason I got him was that I had a gift certificate at TRU that could only be used on that day from 6-9 p.m. (weird, I know), and there was just nothing else I wanted. Rather than waste the gift certificate, I decided to grab “Rad,” reasoning that he might at least make for a good extra in shots of my various NECA figures of the Alien, Predator, Terminator, and so forth.

As it turns out, I almost wish I were a fan of Bionic Commando.

Once a decorated soldier and hero of the FSA, Nathan “RAD” Spencer was wrongly accused of treason and sentenced to death. Now temporarily reinstated after the destruction of Ascension City, Spencer must reunite with his Bionic Arm to swing back into action, and go behind-the-lines to fight for the people who hate him.

bc_2Packaging: Rad comes in the same slender clamshell packaging as all of NECA’s product of late. While they seem to have cut down on the twisty-ties, I still fret about bending or breaking figures when pulling them out of the plastic tray, which is molded pretty tight.

I do like that the packaging includes a run-down of the figures’ features:

  • Detachable claw with cable
  • Cable extends to over 12″ in length
  • Authentic weaponry

Like all NECA packaging, it credits the company and designers. Rad was sculpted by Jason Frailey, who has done a number of NECA’s figures bc_3including the popular Kratos. Rad’s paint work was done by Jon Wardell and Geoffrey Trapp, and the fabrication was done by Oliver Brig.

Sculpting: While I don’t require much realism of my toys, that’s not to say I can’t appreciate it, particularly when an effort is made to work real articulation into the figure. When I first saw Rad at TRU, I was arrested by how realistic and lifelike his sculpt was.

There’s a lot to admire here. First there’s the face, which looks like a real person–this is as good as you find on those McFarlane sports or military figures, perhaps even better. Then there’s the work on the muscles of the right arm; Rad doesn’t look like some overstuffed bodybuilder but like a soldier who keeps himself (very) fit. Even the dreadlocks, while a bit cheesy in terms of the character’s design, have been sculpted well and hang naturally off the head.

bc_4The clothing is amazing as well, from the lines on the tank top to the tiny stitching on the camo pants. Frankly, the most “unrealistic” parts of the sculpt are the bionic arm and the futuristic boots; they remind one of countless 1990s-style Spawn figures with cybernetic parts. However, they’re still very detailed, especially on the tubing around the left bicep.

Plastic & Paint: A beautiful sculpt like this could easily be spoiled by poor paint applications, but as good as NECA has been in the past, they’ve outdone themselves here. Rad features the first successful application of a five-o’clock shadow I’ve ever seen on an action figure; unless you’re looking very close, it looks like a simple change in color tone rather than a splotch of wash. In terms of skin tone, Rad is even more bronzed than He-Man, like he’s spent quite a bit of time in the tropics. It comes close to looking almost too orange, but it works.

The tampo work on the tank top logo and the shoulder tattoos are flawless. The silver used for the bionic arm looks a little more toy-ish and less realistic than I might like, but it works. Again, though, the best work is reserved for the pants, where the paint manages not to seep too deeply into the stitching.

bc_8There is one glaringly bad paint application: Rad’s armpit. It’s just a splotch of brown paint. While I appreciate the hint of armpit hair in the sculpt–that is some serious commitment to detail!–the paint ruins it. I don’t understand how this happened, particularly when the five o’clock shadow was done so well.

Articulation: Another thing that led me to pick this figure up despite my ignorance of the franchise was his articulation. NECA has shown an increasing commitment to offering collectors more articulation, and Rad is one of their best efforts yet (aside from TMNT, of course).

bc_6Rad has a great ball jointed head, ball jointed shoulders, and swivels at the elbow, wrists, waist, lower thighs, and ankles. The elbow cut doesn’t look great when moved, but it’s passable, and the wrist and shoulder articulation help make up for it.

Rad has hinges at the right elbow, knees, and ankles. He also features a modified version of the double-hinged joints used in DC Universe Classics and Marvel Legends’ Beast, giving him a ball joint-like range of motion.

But the real surprise is Rad’s famous robotic claw. Each of the five fingers features three fully functional hinges, meaning he can grasp just about anything. The joints are tight and work well, and I feel confident moving them without fear of breakage.

bc_5Action feature: Rad’s claw is detachable, and is attached to a black thread on a winch just inside the wrist (apparently the character does a lot of swinging around in the games). The thread can be pulled out to about a foot. To wind it back into the wrist, NECA has cleverly designed the “thumb” to spin, turning the winch and drawing the thread back into the arm.

My only problem with this set-up is that it can be difficult to get the hand to sit properly on the arm. There appears to be a couple of grooves on the inside of the claw-hand designed to fasten the hand to the arm, but they don’t work well on my figure. To keep the hand still, I just wind the winch in tight.

Accessories: Rad comes with a pistol of some sort. Not knowing anything about the game, I can’t vouch for whether the weapon is “authentic,” but my hunch is that it is. Nonetheless, it’s a cool pistol.

bc_7Quality control: While I’ve had issues with NECA figures in the past, Rad is about as solid as they come. I can see there being some problems with the winch if you mess with it too much or overwind it, but the figure should easily stand up to the usual collector fiddling.

Value: I picked up my Rad at Toys ‘R Us, where he cost $13.99 (I got two bucks off with the discount, so he cost me about $12). That’s a pretty good price for a figure of this quality.

[raven 4.5]

Despite my lack of interest in the property, I must say this is a great action figure. I envy diehard Bionic Commando fans. If only NECA could make me a Evil Dead II Ash like this.

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  1. Dark Angel

    I won't go into the multi-paragraph rant that I went into on Hawkman. I just want to say that, yes, this is cool figure that should be bought, that the armpit hair sculpt and paint make me feel a bit nauseous, and that I do wish they'd done a bit more to work with the sculpt on that cut elbow. The cut elbows on Simon Belmont are an excellent example of how this style of cheap and easy articulation can work very well…this is less so. Still, excellent figure overall!

  2. orionpax636

    I can't say enough about NECA as a company these days. Great customer service, and they're churning out awesome toys. While I'm not a fan of this particular character, from Poe's review it seems that NECA did a bang-up job with this one as well.

    Poe, did you get a chance to check out the Ninja Gaiden figure? I highly recommend it and would dig seeing you review it.

  3. PresidentJuggernaut

    I was already struck by the great look of this figure, and all these glowing reviews have me on the hunt for him.

  4. Mark

    I used to have it for the original Nes. Great game. Great review.

  5. Darn, Poe, I wasn't ready to be sold on this figure, but yo said this was awesome too, and I loved the old game as a kid. (In fact, I still play it on a Capcom PS2 collection.) I've seen him around, so definitely maybe.

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