#2416: 1996 Wolverines

WOLVERINE — LIGHT-UP, PATCH, SAVAGE LAND, & BATTLE ARMOR

X-MEN (TOY BIZ)

As we reach the middle of this crazy Day of the Wolverines event, I’m doing a bit of a time jump.  We last left off in 1993, just as the X-Men line was taking off.  The Wolverine craze was, admittedly, at a minimum.  I’ve already covered 1994’s Wolverines, and by 1995 I had gotten into collecting myself, meaning I bought those Wolverines when they were still new.  So, we pick things up in 1996, when the X-Men line is starting to dip its toes into the world of weird.  Don’t worry, guys, this one stays mostly on the rails; it’s the next one you have to worry about.  Okay, into the fray once more!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Long before joining the X-Men, Wolverine was a well-trained mercenary.  One of the most important skills to him was stealth training.  Now when Wolverine needs to get somewhere secretly, he utilizes this background and his stealth equipment!  Donning these advanced stealth weapons and gear, Wolverine becomes a one-man covert operation.”

1996 was the year that the gimmicks really started to seep into the X-Men line, with the first one of note being the “Classic Light-Up Weapons” series.  Ah, yes, Light-Up weapons; what a classic.  While the general purpose of the assortment was to update some characters that hadn’t gotten figures since nearer the beginning of the line, Wolverine was also along for the ride, because, well, he’s Wolverine.  His standard figure for this release was, despite the “Classic” monicker, not a classic Wolverine, but instead a variant costume, which looks to be based on the stealth gear he wears in the Animated Series episode “Sanctuary Pt. 2.”  It’s not the worst thing to come out of the ’90s, and I guess it’s at least a fairly unique look.  The figure stands just over 5 inches tall (even crouching, again showcasing the upward trend of height) and he has 7 points of articulation.  As with all of the Light-Up figures, Wolverine suffered a bit of a restriction on the articulation front thanks to the light-up gimmick, meaning his right arm’s not going to be doing much, and he loses out on elbow movement.  He doesn’t even get the ankle joints that Gambit, Psylocke, and Nightcrawler did to make up for it!  The sculpt on this one is…well, it’s an interesting one.  It’s an intense one, too.  They were definitely going for dynamic, especially as the line continued and…well, this guy is dynamic, I suppose.  There’s quite a bit of pre-posing going on, something we really hadn’t seen in this line before.  It’s not ideal.  Wolverine is also really bulked up and…I don’t wanna say “puffy”?  Again, not ideal, but fitting with the line’s ongoing efforts to make Wolverine larger and larger (that’ll hit critical mass in the next set of reviews).  The whole Light-Up assortment was treated to a set of re-paints, meaning we got this figure not only in his weird stealth colors, but also in a semblance of his regular color scheme as well.  Whichever version you got, he included a large light-up…thing, and two belts full of pouches.  Yay pouches!  No trading card here, I’m afraid.

“A hero whose adamantium-laced bones and razor-sharp claws make him the bane of his enemies, Wolverine is a hard guy to miss.  So when he finds himself on the island of Madripoor in need of a disguise, Wolverine takes on the identity of ‘Patch!’  Now secretly moving among the island’s inhabitants, Wolverine waits for the moment when he can finish his covert operation and return home to the X-Men!  With amazing mutant abilities and years of martial arts training, one thing is for sure–no matter what guise he’s in, Wolverine is always ready for action!”

Ah, yes, Wolverine’s “Patch” identity.  An oft-mocked concept that really doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that would come even remotely close to working as a real-world disguise, largely due to usual renditions of the design still keeping Wolverine’s signature hairstyle.  Let’s all marvel at Toy Biz managing to actually make a legit comics thing somewhat less stupid for adaptation into a toy.  It was…certainly a change of pace for this particular era of figures.  Wolverine Patch stands 4 1/4 inches tall and has 8 points of articulation.  That includes an articulated ponytail.  Did I say ponytail?  Yes, I certainly did, because Toy Biz actually gave Patch a different hairstyle than your usual Wolverine.  He’s got it pulled back, which actually makes him look like a different guy.  There’s an illustration on the back of the box which also shows this hairstyle, so it may be something that actually came from later Patch appearances, but my searching online didn’t bring any up, so I’m crediting Toy Biz with changing this one up.  Beyond this newly patch-ed and ponytail-ed head, Wolvie makes use of a slightly retooled body from the AoA Weapon X figure, which had been released earlier the same year.  Virtually every part of the body had been changed in some fashion, though, so it seems it was more to save on sculpting time, and less to save on costs. The figure’s got a armored thing that the package dubs his “Total Assault Arsenal,” which is supposed to be removable.  I don’t know if this is the case across the board, mine being the only copy I’ve opened, but on my figure the tab at the back of the belt had been glued shut, in fact even gluing a portion of the belt to the body.  It freed from the body easy enough, but it was no easy task getting the two ends of the belt to separate for removal.  That’s not ideal.  There were two color schemes available for this guy.  The one seen here, and one that swaps out the dark blue body suit and the red cables for black and purple, respectively.  He brings back the trading card as well, with this one being dedicated to showing off the broken claws of a post-adamantium-extraction Wolverine.

“During his time with the X-Men, Wolverine has visited many strange places, but none can compare with the Savage Land! A tropical rain forest located in the heart of Antartica, filled with prehistoric creatures long thought extinct, it is as unique as Wolverine himself.  But with his adamantium claws and heightened mutant abilities, Wolverine is a primal force to be reckoned with, even in a place where dinosaurs still roam.” 

Repaints were a fairly regular affair for the line by this point, be they as accents to a main assortment, or as an assortment outright themselves.  For ’96, the repaint series was titled “Flashback,” I guess as a reference to the re-used molds?  It certainly didn’t have much of anything to do with the figures contained within.  The assortment was 50/50 split on good use of a repaint and bad use of a repaint.  Fortunately, its Wolverine variant fell into the former category.  While the whole X-team would journey to the Savage Land the next year, Wolverine got in ahead of the game.  Savage Land Wolverine stands 4 3/4 inches tall and has 7 points of articulation.  He’s a repaint of the Fang Wolverine mold, which is one I actually haven’t looked at here on the site yet.  It’s one of my favorites, and quite frankly, it’s probably the best Wolverine sculpt the line produced.  It’s proportions aren’t nuts, and pre-posing is at a minimum.  Even its action feature, which makes use of a primitive form of butterfly joints, for sort of a claw slashing maneuver, is pretty decently handled.  The new paint does a respectable job of transforming the original costume’s details into a sort of a tribal affair, which makes for a fairly unique design, and distances it from the original figure quite nicely.  He’s packed with the same weapons tree and two blades as the Spy Wolverine figures, as well as the two additional blades from the initial Fang Wolverine release.  And again, there’s a trading card, this time of Juggernaut!

“Everyone knows that one Sentinel is no match for Wolverine’s adamantium claws…but what about five Sentinel’s? or ten?  That’s why Professor X and Forge developed a special battle armor for Wolverine!  Using highly advanced Shi’ar technology, the armor boosts Wolverine’s strength, and emits a focused energy that temporarily neutralizes the Sentinels’ power cells.”

Okay, so, a couple of things.  Firstly, I want it noted that I transferred the bio over directly from the back of the box, including that possessive “Senintel’s” that is meant to be a plural.  Secondly, though the bio talks all about this thing being anti-Sentinel armor, the descriptor on the front is “Anti-Magnetism Armor” which would lead you to believe that it would have something to do with Magneto.  Beast from this assortment *also* has Anti-Magnetism Armor, so I went to check if his bio was more properly oriented, only to discover that my figure came with the card back for Quicksilver.  I’d say it’s a safe bet that Wolverine’s “Anti-Magnetism” descriptor is yet another typo, especially given this is the infamous “Muntant Armor” series.  Let’s get away from the packaging and onto the figure.  This whole assortment was an excuse for Toy Biz to make use of the recently canceled fifth series of their Iron Man line, pumping them into the far more commercially viable X-Men as a string of goofy variants.  Wolverine made use of the planned Magnetic Armor (a little ironic, given the ultimate descriptor on this guy), sans the Iron Man head, and with the Space Wolverine head in its place.  It’s not a terrible construction, and certainly a much less forced set-up than the Beast figure from the same assortment.  It also ditches the more typical Wolverine color scheme for one that’s blue, red, and black.  It’s honestly kind of interesting that they didn’t go more on-brand with the colors, especially considering they already were tweaking them from the proposed Iron Man colors.  As a repurposed Iron Man, Wolverine’s got the same removable armor gimmick that most of that line did.  He also includes a trading card of Cable vs Nimrod, which is all holographic and stuff.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

By 1996, I was officially venturing into the realm of “I probably have too many Wolverines,” which is why I didn’t get most of these when they were new.  That’ll go double for the next entry.  I did get the standard Light-Up Wolvie new, though that was as a gift from my Nana, so I can hardly be blamed for that (he’s the only one form this set *not* from the All Time haul, but the variant did come from them).  What’s intriguing about this year’s line-up is how far away from potentially standard Wolverines we moved.  They’re all kinda specialized.  I think Savage Land is my favorite of this bunch, but that’s largely linked to him being a repaint of Fang Wolverine, who’s just a solid figure in his own right.  Light-Up is *not* a good figure, by pretty much any metrics.  I’ve got a little bit of a soft-spot for him, but I can recognize the many mistakes made there.  Armored Wolvie is a passable Iron Man figure, but really doesn’t feel like and X-Men figure, because he’s simply not one.  And Patch is…I mean, he’s just kind of there.

Thanks to All Time Toys for setting me up with these guys to review.  If you’re looking for other cool toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay Store.

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