Explorer-ing… Spiders – LEGO Explorer Magazine, November 2022

The weird logic of magazine publishers eludes me. The latest issue of the LEGO Explorer magazine is clearly very Halloween-centric, yet at the same time it came out a week to late here in Germany. See the problem? I honestly don’t get why they don’t give themselves more of a safety margin. Even if this may work for the UK version, which comes one week earlier, it just doesn’t make much sense here. The only consolation is that Halloween is nowhere near as important a holiday around these parts, so not too many will be disappointed. Still, it’s an unnecessary oversight/ lapse of foresight.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, November 2022, Cover

In keeping with the scary theme this one is all about spiders (mostly). This will really creep out a lot of people and while I have grown to appreciate these eight-legged freaks and even find some of them quite beautiful, I’m also as arachnophobic as the next guy. I can handle “cute” jumping spiders or small ghost spiders, but I’m really put off by most bigger species. I’m actually pretty glad that in our part of the world we don’t have to put up with Tarantulas, Banana Spiders or Black Widows (usually).

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, November 2022, Info Page

The comic takes a spin on the “mad scientist creating monsters” trope and things of course go terribly wrong. Unfortunately the potential is not fully exploited and overall the comic is a bit tame.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, November 2022, Comic

The poster features more creatures that give some people the heebie-jeebies such as snakes, crocodiles and several underwater creatures like a Spider Crab or the angler fish from the Deep Sea Creatures (31088) set.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, November 2022, Poster

The back cover has a neat little extra in the form of a door hanger, but as noted in my intro it comes a bit too late for really counting as a Halloween gimmick.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, November 2022, Door Hanger

The extra is a really quite disgusting spider with big fangs, long legs and a sizeable “butt”. This is nice and to make it even more realistic they even went out of their way to include all eight legs despite the small scale. The legs are Black, the underbelly is Reddish Brown and the back Dark Brown. My cheap camera and the inadequate kitchen table lighting on an overcast day just make everything look dark.

The narrow focus of the magazine makes this a good one for me. There isn’t too much sidetracking and everything is consistently based around monsters and Halloween. Regrettably the issue does not contain a preview for the next one, so I’m not sure if this is the last one we got. I’d hate this to be a case of “Another one bites the dust.”. Recognizably the mag is struggling to attract buyers, but I’d hate to see it go just because not enough people purchase it. On the other hand they’re still offering subscriptions, so I’m a bit confused on the matter. Perhaps it will relaunch in a different form next year? We’ll have to see, I guess!

Explorer-ing… Dragons – LEGO Explorer Magazine, September 2022

There’s certainly no shortage of mythical creatures in the LEGO world, be that the good old Elves dragons, Ninjago dragons, Wizarding World creatures (Harry Potter et al)or even more generic variations on the theme in Creator 3in1 sets. Heck, they even opened up a new Mythica section in Legoland Windsor and the German Legoland is going to get one next year. They even have a dedicated promotional set for it with a winged lion (set 40556; if anyone knows a good way of getting one cheap hit me up). In light of this over-abundance of potential material, the latest edition of the LEGO Explorer magazine was an inevitability. In fact they could probably do another five issues to cover all of their own dragons alone. For now let’s see what we have here.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, September 2022, Cover

As usual we get a short editorial/ a few info pages roughly covering the most common mythical creatures. Well, at least the ones we all know rather superficially from them being talked about in documentaries on TV and in a very limited, uneducated typical European/ US American way. The old Babylonians would be upset about not even being mentioned and so would no doubt some South American, Asian and other cultures. At best it’s a course starter for kids, but not a complete meal by any stretch of the imagination.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, September 2022, Info Page

The comic follows suit and while I’m not getting much out of it, the depiction of “monster” minifigures, be that just the “guy in costume” variety almost makes me regret I started so late in LEGO and never collected minifigs. It’s really that you kind of develop a taste for it (at least the more interesting specimen from each series/ set) the more you’re exposed to it. I got the Centaur from the Collectible Minifigures Series 21 as a free gift when I bought something in the LEGO store last year, though. Go, figure! 😉

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, September 2022, Comic

As mentioned earlier, the poster could be filled with Ninjago dragons alone and that would in fact be true for every year even. I think in 2018 or so there were at one point nine dragons/ dragon-like creatures from two overlapping release cycles and if you count all the Elves dragons they, too would cover the entirety of this poster. Sneaking in the Komodo Dragon is an epic fail, though. The English name for this creature means nothing to Germans, where its correctly called a Waran (Varanus) based on its actual genus.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, September 2022, Poster

The extra unmistakably is modeled after the classic green LEGO dragon, variations of which are still prominently used in the promotional materials for the Legoland parks. The small model is done nicely enough, but does not offer any fancy building techniques and the only “special” parts are the pointed Red wedge plates used for the wings. In fact they make it look like a baby dragon whose wings haven’t fully unfolded yet.

The LEGO Explorer magazine really gives me an itch in places I cannot talk about. I always see the potential of what it could be, but most of the time we get those watered down articles that even as a kid would have bored me. You know, this could be a really fun STEM mag with a LEGO twist, but somehow it ends up being just another weird low brow effort. Well, at least the extras are good and for that I can recommend this issue. If nothing else, the little green dragon will give you ten minutes of good fun.

Explorer-ing… Treasures – LEGO Explorer Magazine, August 2022

Unlike most people I never had much interest in adventure-centric themes such as pirates when I was a kid, so I’m always skeptical or even adverse when someone is trying to play on that nostalgia. That doesn’t mean I don’t get the appeal, but it just isn’t for me (mostly) bar the occasional review of a LEGO set like the Pirate Ship (31109). Many others of course love this stuff, so the latest issue of the LEGO Explorer magazine should please them.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2022, Cover

The topic of the day is treasure hunting in the broadest sense and that encompasses everything from pirates chasing gold dublones to archaeologists searching for artifacts. This is covered briefly on some info pages, if only in a somewhat superficial way. With the target demographic in mind it’s probably okay, though.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2022, Info Page

The comic is based around a chase inside an Egyptian pyramid and since in this magazine the comics aren’t drawn out across too many pages and thus a quick enjoyable read.  Less is sometimes better!

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2022, Comic

The poster is unfortunately just another advertisement in disguise and I really wish they would stop doing this, especially when the sets are no longer on the market and cannot be obtained easily and cost-efficiently through regular channels.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2022, Poster

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2022, ExtraAll of this is of course leading up to the extra, which unsurprisingly is a little (pirate) ship. I’m not the biggest fan of micro/ nano scale stuff, but for what you can expect from a magazine freebie this is adequate enough. Interestingly it is still one of the few models to feature this inverted curved slope in Reddish Brown as it was introduced back then when I did my review of Moana’s Bot (43170). In addition, I got another extra this time. Clearly Ehapa are trying to get rid of surplus stock and stick a second poly bag on to their magazines just like Blue Ocean do occasionally. Mine was the penguin from early last year, but you may get a different one.

Overall this has been some decent value even if I’m not into the subject matter that much. Getting a second extra alone is worth it.

Explorer-ing… Monumental (?) Buildings – LEGO Explorer Magazine, July 2022

After a long six weeks the next issue of the LEGO Explorer magazine has arrived. The crooked release cycle is really driving me batty and not something I need in addition to Blue Ocean’s jumble for their magazines. It’s really getting confusing to keep track which magazine comes out when and spontaneous delays don’t help the matter, either. Anyway, on to the content of this mag.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, July 2022, Cover

This one is about “monuments”, architecture and building construction in the broadest sense, but of course you can’t expect too much depth on either here. The emphasis is on stuff that is available in some form as a LEGO set, anyway, so you’d be forgiven for seeing it as the shameless promotion that it is.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, July 2022, Info Page

I still like the comic for its clean colorful look, but the stories are getting weirder and you can see some flubs in the drawings where clearly the artist struggled to make it work.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, July 2022, Comic

In keeping with the overly promotional theme the poster depicts the model of the LEGO House in Billund, for which you’d actually have to go there to even be able to obtain the set, since it’s exclusive. More frustrating weirdness.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, July 2022, Poster

Aside from the usual small puzzles and quizzes there’s a simple board game which could be interesting for an afternoon if you throw a pile of LEGO pieces on the table and let your kids collect elements to build a house and master the small challenges.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, July 2022, Game

The extra is a small excavator which feels a bit naff, to be honest. Nobody was expecting miracles, but this just looks a bit too out of proportion., especially on the driver/ operator’s cabin. What makes this even more incomprehensible is the fact that they actually emulate the steps to climb up and even the supports, but then did not use more parts for the cockpit. This most definitely should be at least on a 3 x 3 plate and have some bulk at its rear end for counter weight. Really not great.

All in all this is rather disappointing, considering that there have been many better editions of this magazine. Even if they had shortcomings, at least some part was always convincing, but I feel that this time they completely missed the mark.

Explorer-ing… The Deep (again) – LEGO Explorer Magazine, June 2022

The wait for the latest LEGO Explorer felt extremely long and the last week I wasn’t even sure if I hadn’t missed the date and it would come out at all. But here it finally is the June 2022 issue, so let’s have a look at it.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, June 2022, Cover

This edition once again focuses on exploring the depths of the oceans, which is a bit of a repeat already, since one of the first issues already had this as a subject. Not terrible, since this is a broad topic that could fill volumes and volumes of books and in turn have me nerd out about it, but regardless it illustrates to me how the publishers are just meandering about with no real long-term concept. Similar to the issue from way back then we get a rather random selection of deep sea animals like octopuses, starfish and various fish species.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, June 2022, Info Page

There’s a dedicated section on coral reefs, but that, too, in and of itself kind of reiterates my point: They could have done a whole mag about just that. I’m sure kids would have fun learning about different coral types and getting a buildable sea anemone as an extra…

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, June 2022, Info Page

As written in the previews reviews, I have no issues with the comic’s graphical style, it just lacks in substance and feels out of place. That also goes for the various puzzles, quizzes, coloring page and other activities, which feel too much like filler where more interesting editorial pages could have been instead.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, June 2022, Comic

The poster is more or less just a shameless advertisement for the expensive Ocean Exploration Ship (60266) set, which isn’t even available anymore. This feels like just another pointless exercise by the editors “just because they can” and doesn’t even make sense as a marketing gag.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, June 2022, Poster

The extra is a small submarine. Well, at least that’s what it’s supposed to be, but it mostly looks like a barrel. Of course the biggest issue is using a flat dish instead of a proper bubble canopy, but if you still have it floating around, you could try the one from the alien UFO a few issues ago at least or another 4 x 4 dome piece from your collection. It would also have been wonderful if the mid section would have been built from two of these cylinder pieces instead of just a turntable brick. It would have extended the length and made it look less stubby. Then again, though, I guess LEGO producing pieces in a new color just for a magazine freebie is too much to hope for…

Unfortunately this is just another rather mediocre issue and things just aren’t looking well for this magazine. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if by the end of the year they announce the cancellation of the whole shebang due to insufficient sales. Cause and effect, you know…

Explorer-ing… Animal Records – LEGO Explorer Magazine, April 2022

Things aren’t going too well for the LEGO Explorer magazine from the looks of it, as they’re clearly trying to space out the publication dates. After the March issue, it’s now been a whopping seven weeks for the April issue to arrive. The next edition is pre-announced for May 20th, which is going to make this another long wait. Going from a monthly cycle to this odd six week interval can clearly only be interpreted as a cost-saving measure to bring the number of issues down to ten or nine per year. One would only hope that the extra time and budget is used to make the remaining ones better. Let’s see if this is already showing somehow.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, April 2022, Cover

This month’s edition is re-treading familiar ground in that it boasts another look at all sorts of animal records, with the occasional original twist and not just focused on obvious qualities like size, weight or running speed. Nothing revolutionary, mind you, but they try. The issue with the less than great stock photos persists and representing rare and elusive creatures for which no pictures may be available with LEGO mini builds is also a bit of a cheap cop-out.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, April 2022, Info Page

The comic is okay if you can get behind the silly story, but nothing to write home about. At least it’s drawn nicely. I’m also beginning to wonder why they keep sneaking in references and characters based on older Collectible Minifigures series. If they’d used current one it could be considered collateral marketing at least, but with those legacy figures it ends up being a bit pointless, as trying to obtain those now could end up quite frustrating and costly.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, April 2022, Comic

Another major WTF? is the poster. Everybody loves dinosaurs and I don’t mind the CG illustrations, but seriously: What peanut-brained executive selected the yellow/ blue version of the Mighty Dinosaurs (31058) set which was ever only available as a limited run experiment in the UK? That alone is massively upsetting and just shows how they don’t seem to care. Imagine the kerfuffle that would ensue if you have to explain that to your kid (similar to that thing with the minifigs in the comic). C’mon, internationalization is common as we all know, but you have to be smart about it and not piss off people with such nonsense.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, April 2022, Poster

Another double spread contains a few ideas for some simple games you can do with your LEGO bricks like quick building/ quick transformation or throwing contests. The apparent shortcoming here is of course that you can do very little of that if you a) don’t buy multiple issues, b) have some back-catalog from this magazine with all the extras and/ or c) have a decent supply of your own materials.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, April 2022, Games

The saving grace for this outing 100 % is the little buildable dino. It’s not dissimilar to the T-Rex found in one of the most recent Jurassic World magazines and a few techniques look very familiar, but it aims at a different demographic with its style and look. It’s a cutesy “bighead” version instead of trying to mimic realistic proportions. I like it and it sure will appeal to kids.

Overall this isn’t the best version of the magazine and to answer my own question from the beginning: No, nowhere does it show that more time, care and attention went into this and the production cycle has been drawn out artificially. It may well be that we’re already on a declining slope here and it won’t be before long before it get’s cancelled for good. That’s what happened to the LEGO Disney Princess mag because they didn’t quite know what to do with it, either, and just kept meandering around just like this one does. History certainly could repeat itself…

Explorer-ing… Robots – LEGO Explorer Magazine, March 2022

We live in a world full of communication artificial intelligence and automation, so of course the LEGO Explorer magazine would have to tackle some of these topics. As so often, this could be a recurring topic filling entire books, but the March 2022 issue is at least a start.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, March 2022, Cover

The info pages highlight a few inventors and inventions that have set a few milestones with their ideas. As it is, you can only feature so many on those few pages while leaving so many others out, but at least there are some hints and clues to a few lesser known people and their impact on today’s technology.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, March 2022, Info Page

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, March 2022, Info Page

The comic still doesn’t do much for me and feels unnecessary in this particular magazine, but at least it doesn’t occupy too many pages and is drawn well enough. the more I look at it I also have the desire to get the crazy professor minifigure. It was in the Collectible Minifigures Series 14 before I even got into LEGO. It would be really cool if they did an issue with two or three minifigures one day and included him as a re-issue, slightly modified of course to not spoil the collector’s value of the original.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, March 2022, Comic

There is a poster, but aside from me genuinely having forgotten to snap a shot, it doesn’t provide anything interesting. It’s basically just an advertisement depicting mostly LEGO Mindstorms/ Boost robots, a subject which won’t be that interesting to most regular LEGO builders unless you really are into programming and robotics.

The extra is another version of the magazine’s mascot robot ED, who was also the extra for the first edition. They changed a few things around, but I still find him unattractive and unimaginative in the sense that this feels like one of those student lab robots whose capabilities are limited to driving around and making *beep* noises. It also seems that they threw in those random bits as filler because they quite didn’t know 

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, March 2022, Extra

All in all this is an okay issue, just not particularly exciting. It feels like they didn’t quite know what to do with the subject matter and they shunned away from the more complex stuff this admittedly also entails.

Explorer-ing… Aviation – LEGO Explorer Magazine, February 2022

Due to the unfavorable timing of last year’s Christmas and New Year’s Eve holidays has messed a bit with the publishing dates of some magazines and I don’t know whether these changes will be permanent, but at least for the LEGO Explorer magazine a fourteen day delay feels unusual.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, February 2022, Cover

The February 2022 issue is all about aviation and as someone who was heavily into military aircraft scale modeling up to a certain point I definitely have something to say about the matter. As you likely would have expected, I find that there’s way too much content crammed onto way too few pages. For an issue that ultimately ends up showing helicopters and contemporary passenger and cargo jets going back to the first attempts with hot air balloons feels unnecessary. It could be its own issue as could pretty much any of the other sub-topics.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, February 2022, Info Page

I know I’m boring people to tears with this, but again most of the content is based on archival materials from LEGO and stock image libraries, making for a very inconsistent experience. The comic is okay in that it is bright and colorful, but I don’t get much out of the story. It’s just trying too hard to be funny without real substance.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, February 2022, Comic

The poster depicts a very random selection or airplanes and choppers with the only discernible commonality for some of them being that they are the largest types in their class. Not a stringent logic here, either, though and it feels very thrown together.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, February 2022, Poster

There’s a crafting page explaining the two most common folding patterns for paper planes, something which our grandparents taught us in kindergarten. It would probably have been more useful if they had focused on a more advanced type and explained it a cross two pages. Those two basic variants are okay, but don’t have the best flight behavior. A more glider-friendly pattern might have made kids happier.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, February 2022, Crafting Page

The extra is one of those “dime a dozen” helicopters you find in commercial LEGO City polybags or small police and fire patrol sets. It’s a formula they have been using for ages with only minor variations and enhancements added every now and then as needed. One could probably do a line-up of them all and you would see this even more. For getting it free with a magazine it’s not that terrible, but not particularly exciting, either. And not too point out the obvious, but the absence of a minifigure really makes the empty cockpit stick out even more.

This is an okay issue, but quite removed from some of the better ones from last year. It’s very average and somehow feels like LEGO Explorer already has lost all its momentum and is caught in a repeat loop where everything feels the same after a few months. From what it looks like, the next issues isn’t going to be that great, either, so one can only hope there’s something more imaginative coming down the line this year… 

Safari Time! – LEGO City Magazine, January 2022

At long last the latest issue of the LEGO City magazine has come out. It was supposed to arrive last week already and in last month’s edition they announced it even one more week before that, but I guess someone at Blue Ocean realized how muddled up their schedule is or there were genuine technical issues with production or distribution.

LEGO Magazine, City, January 2022, Cover

This mag is all about the current African safari theme and thus the comic rather shamelessly promotes the sets and has tons of references to the animals and vehicles in there. While I find this sort of over-marketing still questionable, at least the topic lends itself to interesting visuals and story lines. The comic therefore is pretty palatable  and offers quite a bit of variety.

LEGO Magazine, City, January 2022, Comic

Scattered inbetween are the usual puzzles and quizzes, but I found them rather annoying as there are some on almost every second page. I had to go out of my way to even find two “clean” double-spread pages to show here. that’s even more regrettable since the graphical fluff on these riddle pages usually far outweighs the actual content and the space could have been used more efficiently.

LEGO Magazine, City, January 2022, Comic

The posters are quite okay and would easily fit into your child’s room and blend in if it is already jungle-themed. The CG renderings still appear a bit dull, though, but that’s of course easy for me to say.

LEGO Magazine, City, January 2022, Poster

Now for the big reveal: I really had the hots for this issue because it would include one of the lion cubs from the current series of sets. Unfortunately those sets are kind of a waste in that they target the youngest of children and are very crude. I really think LEGO are squandering the opportunity here by having thrown in those nice animals into rather lo-fi sets. Since I have no interest in ending up with those superfluous road plates they use for the grass and rivers, I’ll likely have to try and get the lions, elephants and so on off Bricklink instead of buying the full packages.

Anyway, in light of this mess I’m all the more pleased to kind of get one of those animals “for free” this way, even if its just a lion baby. And what a cutie he/ she is! 🙂 The minifigure of the photographer is also quite nice, being one of the few (outside Ninjago, that is) with a head band. The scene depicted with the cub hiding under the leaf can be seen in the comic, though it’s unrealistic. Most of the time a lion’s litter would just hide flat on the ground behind grass or rocks, not in actual forests.

Funny how this also would kind of fit with the safari lodge I reviewed earlier this year. Now imagine that set actually having some dry grass bushes and the lions getting comfortable underneath the tree… And of course the coincidences don’t stop there with last week’s buildable lion from that other magazine. The universe works in mysterious ways indeed!

Overall this is a pretty good issue of the LEGO City magazine and once more wish we’d get more of them to this high standard. I’m pretty sure your kids will thoroughly enjoy it, as cute animals appeal to everyone. It’s also a cost-effective way to get the little predator cat and a good minifigure, as the combined price of both would set you back more than those 4 Euro for the magazine. I would definitely recommend this!

Explorer-ing… Dangerous Animals – LEGO Explorer Magazine, January 2022

I had hoped the new  LEGO City magazine would come out this week already so I could use it as a hook for this article for a specific reason, but somehow Blue Ocean seem to have made an oopsie and instead LEGO Explorer beat them to the punch. I guess that’s what happens when you let stuff be packaged and printed in Poland and then the transport gets stuck on the Autobahn on its way to Germany

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, January 2022, Cover

This edition of the LEGO Explorer is centered around dangerous animals of different types, some of which are large predators, some equally large otherwise harmless animals that would simply run you over under threat, others who are venomous hunters and then a few that would just kill you with their toxins if you ate them. As usual this is explained on a few informative pages and also on the poster. Without trying to get on anybody’s nerves, but it would of course all look so much better if these were dedicated custom photo sets instead of just randomly pieced together images from stock libraries.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, January 2022, Info Page

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, January 2022, Poster

As a novelty, this magazine now gets its own comic For the time being it doesn’t try too hard too look completely LEGO-ish, even though there definitely are recognizable elements and stylistic similarities to other ones, but it’s not as “in your face” like in City, Ninjago and the other magazines. If they maintain that delicate balance while introducing other characters and stories this could actually work. For now it’s just four pages, anyway.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, January 2022, Comic

The quiz is turned on the side and the shark mouth is kinda cool, but offers little real content.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, January 2022, Quiz

The extra is a male lion built from a bunch of bricks. The pose is a bit too static for my taste, but of course this is meant for kids. At least this makes it more stable and easy to handle. my only real complaint otherwise would be that they really, really, really could have included the droid arm used for the tail in Tan as well. The Dark Bluish Grey just stands out too much.