October Triangle – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, October 2020

Blue Ocean‘s release scheduling this year has really taken a hit, if not to say it sucks. they were still advertising September 12th as the release date in their other magazines when it was past that already and it became clear that the LEGO Star Wars magazine would be out only one week later.

Now these things happen – a print run may go wrong, distribution logistics may get stuck somewhere and all that – but this hasn’t been the first time. Worse yet, in a day and age where there’s Facebook and other social media and they have their own web site, too, they can’t manage to keep them updated in a timely fashion to inform customers. I certainly don’t need the unnecessary excitement and uncertainty of going to the news agent every other day and coming back empty-handed. Now that it’s here, though, let’s have a look at the October issue.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2020, Cover

The main comic is weird. Aside from being utterly non-canonical, would anyone actually believe that Vader could not be recognized posing as an imperial officer? It’s not bad from a technical or stylistic viewpoint, mind you, just not a great story. The second, shorter comic is somehow of lesser quality and displays Luke‘s original X-Wing that isn’t even available as a LEGO model currently, while on another “info” page Poe Dameron‘s fighter is shown. Confuses me!

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2020, Comic

There is extremely little in the mag in the way of activities and puzzles, with all of them being mazes/ labyrinths of sorts to find your way. It took me under three minutes to solve them in my head without even tracing the lines. Definitely underwhelming even if you account for a kid’s less developed spatial awareness and acuity.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2020, Poster

The posters aren’t good, either. the one on the back has this weird Yoda silhouette with the characters peeking through and the front one, as displayed here, fails because someone went crazy with Photoshop‘s lightning filter. Kylo Ren‘s kintsugy-style repaired mask is of course iconic and I get what they were aiming for, but this once again looks like a sloppy intern job.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2020, Extra LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2020, Extra

The highlight of the issue and its saving grace is once more the buildable model, this time a Sith Eternal TIE Dagger. Fancy names aside, it is basically the TIE Fighter that never really was, because, as I wrote in my film review back then, it isn’t even that important or prominently featured in the The Rise of Skywalker movie. Further indication of its limited relevance is that there isn’t even a concept drawing/ cutaway in one of the The Art of Star Wars… books. It really feels like an afterthought with no rhyme or reason simply because they wanted something in their movie nobody had seen before, only to then relegate it to the background.

For comparison I took a snapshot of the small version with the bigger model from set 75272 that I won in this building contest a few months ago. The value of the small model lies in the new 4 x 2 and 6 x 4 wedge plates only recently introduced. I had the Medium Azure version of the smaller plates in this Speed Champion set already, but getting a bunch of black ones may turn out much more useful. I could see them being used as spires for towers or similar pointy, sharp stuff already.

Anyway, you get eight of the smaller plates (four left, four right) and two each of the larger ones, so this is a good basis and a simple way to obtain some examples just in case you might need them if like me you are not privy to having the big set (where there’s a ton of those plates, including the red versions of course).

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2020, Comparison

This issue is not great by any stretch of the imagination. It leaves a lot to be desired and even the model would be just the umpteenth micro scale TIE Fighter if it weren’t for the new parts. Perhaps I’m really getting too old and jaded, but it seems to me that they need to shake up the formula a little, even more so considering how many adults actually read the mag. The insistence on pretending this was primarily still for kids feels more and more out of alignment with reality to me…

Explorer-ing the Medieval – LEGO Explorer Magazine, October 2020

The Middle Ages are an integral part of our European history and castles and fortresses from all periods are scattered all across the landscape, so what could go wrong with a LEGO Explorer issue on the whole matter? As it turns out, quite a lot actually. So let’s dig into the October issue and have a look.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, October 2020, Cover

First, let’s address the elephant in the room: Given what I just said, this is of course going to rub quite a few people the wrong way. In an age where LEGO seems to have all but abandoned any knights or medieval theme, the whole notion of doing an entire mag on it, pretending there was plenty for people to dig in, just seems odd. You know, awakening hidden desires vs. the reality of the market. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to envision the drama should your kid fall in love with one of the knight minifigures only to find out that the latest one was in the most recent Collectible Minifigures Series 20, sold out super fast and goes for 20 Euro or more on Bricklink. Not to speak of anything even older from the original Castle and Knights series. See what’s wrong with this picture?

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, October 2020, Poster

The content is pretty much all over the place in terms of geography and the different eras of the Dark Ages or for that matter even later times. This can only be forgiven under the assumption that little kids won’t care because they simply don’t understand the intricacies yet, but I feel a more focused effort would have helped. There’s no reason to throw in Schloss Neuschwanstein just because you have a good picture of it. It only adds to the confusion. It’s also utterly unnecessary, as it wouldn’t be difficult to draw up a very long list of castles in the area where I live alone or for that matter limited to Germany.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, October 2020, Heraldry

In the activities department there’s quite a few things to do. Aside from the typical knowledge quizzes and info pages there’s a noticeable emphasis on heraldry. Some of the symbolism and color usage is explained and then you are encouraged to design your own crest and flags. Still, I have ambiguous feelings about that as well, as some of that stuff doesn’t seem appropriate for the time period in question and on the other hand things like e.g. the Fleur de Lys that can be found as symbols on so many French flags and shields go mostly unmentioned. Sure, there are entire books about it and this is by no means meant to be comprehensive, but a broader approach to this wouldn’t have hurt.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, October 2020, Extras LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, October 2020, Extras

The included mini model is a piece of castle/ fortress with battlements and what could be the top section of a defense tower. There’s also a small finger-snap catapult to literally fling poop, rocks or fire at the castle to destroy it. It’s too finicky to have actual play value, but at least the poop piles/ sundae swirls in Reddish Brown are a nice addition. So far I only had White ones from the Disney sets I reviewed where they stand in for clam shells and that sort of thing. Generally the parts value in this little bag is excellent with the thirteen 1 x 1 slopes in Dark Tan, a number of 2 x 2 round bricks (macaroni) and some other parts, even more since they come in very usable “neutral” colors, i.e. mostly greys.

Overall the magazine simply feels overstuffed this time. It doesn’t really make sense trying to squeeze in so many topics spanning several centuries. Each of the different sub-genres could easily fill their own mag, be that medieval weapons, daily life, castles/ fortresses or heraldry. Don’t get me wrong – as far as keeping kids busy there’s enough here, it’s just that it feels too scattershot for a consistent experience. This diminishes its overall (educational) value and one would certainly hope they will revisit some of the subjects in the future with a more focused single-topic issue…

Fiery October – LEGO City Magazine, October 2020

The CoViD-19 pandemic is unfortunately reigniting everywhere and the world certainly needs some committed medical firefighters to combat that. Therefore it’s kind of fitting (along with the fact that there’s actual massive bush fires in some countries currently) that the current LEGO City magazine brings us one of those helpful dudes.

LEGO Magazine, City, October 2020, Cover

LEGO Magazine, City, October 2020, Extras The minifigure is the same you will find in the Forest Fire (60247) set, which incidentally I had bought earlier this year just for the unique owl it contains. The red slopes also came in handy for my lightsaber sharpening facility MOC, of course. Sometimes things work out in mysterious ways indeed. The little buggy is virtually just another variation on the same build found in the Jurassic World magazine where I already mentioned this. They only use different wheels and a few details deviate, but overall it’s nearly identical. Naturally there’s only so many ways to skin a cat when you have such a limited number of pieces. To my eyes the color scheme looks the wrong way round. I would have preferred red mudguards and only Bright Light Yellow accents.

LEGO Magazine, City, October 2020, Poster

The comic is pretty nice this time and overall there’s tons of puzzles and activities, which is always a good thing to keep your kids occupied. They sneaked in some animal rescue stuff as well, which makes it regrettable that none of the depicted pumas and panthers is actually in the foil pack. I know, those animals are expensive, but it would be ace to one day get them this way. One of the posters, the “No time for panic” shown above, is also pretty good.

Boombox Mechanic – LEGO Hidden Side Magazine, September/ October 2020

With the death knell for LEGO Hidden Side not being that far off, I welcome every opportunity to explore the series while it lasts and the associated magazine, while certainly not the most attractive out of all the LEGO magazines, this month certainly has some welcome goodness.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, September/ October 2020, Cover

The September/ October 2020 issue comes with a very useful minifigure and an even more useful little extra and for once I was really looking forward to it, despite my not being much into collecting minifigs. The mechanic is a different version of the one also included in Jack’s Beach Buggy (70428) and by that I mean the body/ torso is the same and the head has been substituted for a simpler version. Since I bought two magazines this time, I was actually able to display the regular and the ghost version side by side in the same picture.

Now, why would I do such a thing? The answer is also already in the image – it’s all about the boombox. This particular version in Light Bluish Grey has only been included in a handful of sets, some of them pretty expensive ones, so it’s a bit elusive. Not in the crazy expensive and rare sense, just that it may not always be readily available in larger quantities. That’s why it’s nice to get it in such a straightforward manner. You never know when it might come in handy. After all, I outfitted my prize-winning MOC from last year with the orange version and it helps to bring across that beach vibe.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, September/ October 2020, Extras

With the mechanic and his boombox being front and center they of course have to be in the comic as well along with the already mentioned beach buggy and the Paranormal Intercept Bus 3000 (70423). that and then the buggy is featured on a separate product page as well. A bit too much promotion for such a small, unimportant set, if you ask me. Regardless, the comic is done well enough to derive some fun, even though it doesn’t introduce anything we haven’t seen before.

The posters are once more pretty terrible, with some fat ugly type having been overlaid on the already hyper-active, overstuffed Hidden Side art style. The puzzles/ mini-games follow the usual pattern of “Find person X!” and some random “Ghost Hunter Practice” stuff like pointing at some crosshairs with eyes closed, so nothing new there.

Overall the main reason for getting the magazine at this point is to complete your collection of minifigures from the series. The other stuff becomes less and less relevant for this “no future” magazine and who knows, the next issue for November/ December could already be the last.

September Rabbit Escape!

In these weird times it is even more regrettable that the LEGO Friends magazine only comes out every other month here in Germany, so it feels like a small eternity since when the last one arrived end of June now that the September issue is here.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, September/ October 2020, Cover

This one weirdly enough is centered around the literal “rabbit out of your hat” theme, with cylinders and rabbits being front and center everywhere such as a quiz on rabbits, the comic and even one of the posters. That doesn’t change the fact that the Friends magazine is seriously falling behind in graphical fidelity compared to the other magazines. Next to those it really looks like it’s from the 1990s.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, September/ October 2020, Rabbits Quiz

On a positive note, in addition to the now standard coloring page in the mag they also make good use of the back cover and include a cut & glue template for a magical cylinder. This certainly adds some value in the activities department and could make for a lovely afternoon with your little ones.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, September/ October 2020, Back Page LEGO Magazine, Friends, September/ October 2020, Buildable Extra

The buildable extra represents a small magician stage also appearing in the comic. It’s nothing too fancy, but done well enough. Interestingly, while I figured the 1 x 2 x 2 slopes in Dark Purple would have been abundantly used in Friends sets, this isn’t actually the case. They are currently only part of two official sets, with all other uses dating much further back. They are not exactly rare, though, but it’s nice to get them this way without much ado. You never know when you might need them.

Despite the unusual subject, this feels like an acceptable issue and offers good enough value overall with the cutout cylinder taking the cake. Perhaps that’s even worth an excursion to the crafts shop to pick up some glittery stuff and build a bigger version and a magic wand from a wooden spoon to boot…

September Quad

The LEGO Jurassic World magazine comes out way too infrequently for my taste, being that it is one of the better ones and thus more interesting, but I guess we just have to accept that it only rolls out every 2.5 months.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, September 2020, Cover

The latest issue adheres to this relatively high standard once more. The comic is once again drawn reasonably well. Initially when I was just quickly skipping over the pages  the pink and purple panels even threw me off. I really thought they were wrongly inserted from a Friends comic or similar. A second, more thorough glance of course then revealed that this is related to the zapping effect of the electrical stun gun.

The posters are also pretty nice this time with their bright, intense colors and focused design. As a graphics artist I especially like the blue one (“Los! Los! Los!” simply translates to “Go! Go! Go!”) It’s not overstuffed and leaves enough room around the edges to let the center piece “breathe”.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, September 2020, Comic

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, September 2020, ExtraThe little buildable extra and minifigure are nice in that we don’t just get the umpteenth version of Owen Grady, but Vic Hoskins instead, another trainer/ keeper on Isla Nublar and the entertainment park there. The figure so far has only been featured in the T. rex vs Dino-Mech Battle (75983) set, and since that one may not exactly be a hot burner due to the weird mech dino requiring getting used to, it’s a nice way for people to get their hands on this figure without having to buy this set.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, September 2020, Preview

The quad is a pretty mundane and boring affair. If it wasn’t for that little twist with a animal cage trailer coming in the next issue, you could mostly write it off. In fact I’m pretty sure when the new LEGO City magazine comes out in two weeks the quad on that one will be almost exactly the same, just different colors.

Anyway, stretching out the buildable parts across multiple issues is in my opinion a good idea I’ve been vying for for quite a while. If it means that we get better, more complex models I’m all for it. I wouldn’t mind getting e.g. a full-sized Jeep spread out across three or four magazines. The downside to that is of course that it is less marketable to impatient kids who look for more immediate results.

All things considered, this is yet another quite good Jurassic World magazine. If they hadn’t played it so cheap on the quad/ buggy, it could have been even more remarkable, but i guess we’ll have to see how the trailer makes up for it and how the models look when combined.

The First Avenger(s)

Full disclosure: I honestly don’t care much for comic hero movies or for that matter the original comics themselves for a million reasons, so take everything I’m going to say about the first issue of the LEGO Marvel Avengers magazine with a grain of salt.

LEGO Magazine, Avengers, September 2020, Cover

Being blissfully ignorant of most of the Marvel movies of course I cannot say much about the merits of the story and lore in this one. I literally just bought it out of curiosity because it’s fresh on the market and I wanted to see how it holds up. The comic seems to be drawn well enough and allegedly it’s a unique story, but I’m totally clueless as to whether there’s any truth to that claim.

Outside that this one follows the same pattern as the other LEGO magazines from Blue Ocean. There’s some puzzles, some “hero profile” pages and a few other little tidbits to keep kids occupied. The posters are at best mediocre, with the Spiderman vs. Venom one being at least bearable. The Avengers one is a complete fail, though, in my view. I still don’t understand why they go through all the trouble of drawing those comics and then don’t use all that graphical fidelity to their advantage on the posters as well.

LEGO Magazine, Avengers, September 2020, Comic

The real value of this magazine is the minifigure. Well, strike that. The actual value are the extra web parts. I don’t have any of them yet and they even included the new angled posing stud. Yippee! This all will sure come in handy if and when I should ever build some old house covered in cob webs or similar. Other than that I guess the Spiderman figure is okay, though it appears the most basic one that they probably have used in a ton of sets.

LEGO Magazine, Avengers, September 2020, Minifigure

With all that said, I don’t quite know whether I’ll be buying this regularly. I suppose it will depend on the extra value I get out of the minifigures and the parts that come with them or whatever they plan on including in the future. It seems an almost sure bet, though, that this will be hugely popular with little superhero nerd kids, which at the end of the day all of them are on some level. So I guess it’s okay to buy this then.

September X-Wing

Did you ever realize how many planets in the Star Wars universe are just barren deserts? Given, how hot it’s currently I almost feel like I live on one such planet. That makes the new LEGO Star Wars magazine a welcome distraction while I’m being kind of summer-lazy.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, September 2020, Overview

The September issue is fully packed not just with the actual magazine, but also comes with a “free” album and a sample pack for the new Star Wars collectible sticker series. I put the free in quotes because you actually pay for it to a certain extend. It’s only a fraction of what it would cost separately, but still, paying 5 Euro this month instead of the usual 4 Euro was an unexpected and unwelcome surprise at the newsstand.

On the other hand I’m genuinely tempted to get some more stickers, even more so as they sell the booster packs with extra Stormtrooper minifigures of different kinds. Apparently they are re-used leftovers from earlier editions, but maybe at long last I’ll get my hands on a Snowtrooper? Somehow I always missed out on them. Anyway, I’m definitely going to keep the collector’s album around for a while, as predictably more sticker packs will be bundled with the various LEGO magazines every now and then in the months to come.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, September 2020, Comic

The comic is a retelling of Yoda‘s escape and crash-landing on Dagobah with a few more or less funny twists. I’m not that steeped in the actual canon lore, so I can’t really tell how much they bent it to be kids-friendly. There’s another, shorter comic, as well. Otherwise the magazine is dangerously light on content. Barely anything in the “activities” department, i.e puzzles and all that stuff, and the posters aren’t particularly good, either.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, September 2020, X-Wing ModelThe buildable model is – yet another – X-Wing, this time in its The Rise of Skywalker livery. If you’ve been collecting them all in the last few years, you should have a nice line-up. The build is pretty much the same like before: a long 1 x 1 x 4 brick serves as the nose extension, some plates, slopes and bricks for the main fuselage and then the wings clipped on. At least they have been trying to keep things interesting by using different pieces and construction methods almost every time. This time the wings are created with the 1 x 2 plate with bars on the side and the engine housings are simulated with the still relatively new 1 x 1 rounded bricks.

How many ways to skin a cat there potentially could be is further illustrated by the bigger Poe Dameron’s X-Wing (30386) from the polybag set I put next to it (top half). Once you start to think about the endless combinations and creative uses of the parts, you can go crazy. There’s literally perhaps at least a hundred ways to build such a mini fighter. On an interesting sidenote, I was rummaging through my parts boxes the other day, realizing I actually only had two (!) 1 x 2 jumper plates, so this model is a pleasant surprise. It contains five of these parts and that should bolster my stock considerably. You never know when you’re gonna need them…

All things considered I’m pretty satisfied, though. Good value all round despite the unexpected extra cost. For kids it could be a bit boring due to the lack of more things to do, though.

Explorer-ing the Deep

It’s currently so hot outside, I sure wish I would live somewhere by the sea or underwater even, so it’s not at all that bad the latest LEGO Explorer magazine deals with the creatures of the deep and the exploration of same.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2020, Cover

The overall structure of the mag still feels a bit too random for my taste with an “everything and the kitchen sink” vibe being prevalent. It feels like they are simply trying to stuff in too much and in this particular case couldn’t make up their mind whether to focus on the actual real creatures, their brick-modeled counter parts or the exploration vehicles. Dialing things down a bit sure would help and might actually be beneficial to the overall learning effect for the kids.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2020, Sample Pages

Again several commercial LEGO sets make an appearance, including my beloved Deep Sea Creatures (31088). this makes things a bit more palatable to me, but overall I’m still not friends with this sort of over-commercialization, especially since it’s not bolstered by extra content like comics or a genuinely nice dedicated custom poster. If you will, it feels a bit too cheap and obvious.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2020, Poster

The included model is an octopus – of sorts. If you know my Octopus MOC you know that I’m a bit obsessive about those creatures and thus very critical of any rendition. On the positive side, this one truly has eight tentacles at least. on the other hand it at best looks like a baby calamari or sepia to me. The pointed tube just doesn’t look right for an actual octopus. I also wish they had gone with a different color than Black. Keeping everything Red would have been a good start, but Dark Tan for everything would probably have been the best option. I also gladly would have traded the 32 White single studs for the suction rings for longer tentacles.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2020, Squid Model LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2020, Squid Model

Again this issue shows that they still need to work quite a bit on formulating the actual value of the mag and having a consistent style. Most disappointing is the fact that there is just not enough exclusive content. Everything feels like it was chopped together from the LEGO archives and the usual stock content libraries. One can only hope that this improves over time…

Jet-Skiing into September

In the middle of the first (and hopefully only) extreme summer heat wave for this year yet another issue of the LEGO City magazine has dropped. In normal times its subject would have been nothing special, but these aren’t normal times thanks to the CoViD-19 pandemic, of course. That’s why things are beginning to feel a bit weird even to me.

LEGO Magazine, City, September 2020, Cover

Point in case: Somehow the pretend “normal” summer activities seem so out of touch and alignment with what’s going on in the real world with people required to follow specific rules, beaches being closed off, large gatherings such as concerts being forbidden or only possible with reduced crowds and so on. Not that it should matter to kids, but to me the disparity between the fantasy world of these magazines and everyday life is just odd.

Anyway, the theme being yet again water-based activities just like last month’s diver, this time we’re getting everything based around jet skis. Sadly it seems LEGO have given up and the models included in the mags are getting rudimentary to the point of being ridiculously over-simplified. The jet ski is literally built at the level of a three-year-old with no fancies. It doesn’t even pretend to be more than an excuse so they can still print “X pieces included” on the cover. It’s simply terrible. The minifigure is also not particularly original, with the surfer shirt torso having been used a million times in different sets. So not much valuable here.

The puzzles and activities department is filled reasonably well this time. I’m still surprised how uneven this is across different issues with some mags being okay and others barely having any such content. The comic is acceptable, but I have to scoff at some really bad typography for some signage used in it. It really feels like what is in the media industry called an “intern job”. I get that the comics are drawn blank and then translated, but c’mon, clearly there must be an established procedure to integrate the type naturally rather than having it look like your mom plastered it on with PowerPoint

So overall this is pretty disappointing on many levels and it doesn’t look like the next edition is going to be much better. I’m again pretty close to just not buying this one anymore and I’m pretty sure the day where I’ll genuinely stop spending my money for it is not that far off.