CYCLOPS & DARK PHOENIX
The Giant-Size X-Men-themed boxed set which hit in Marvel Minimates’ second year was our first taste of that era of the team in Minimate form, and one we’d have to stick for a little bit. We were notably two main members short of that team’s starting line-up, to say nothing of the various other players from that era. Our first follow-up came not in the main line, but as one of 2005’s non-exclusive sets. While it didn’t round out the team (it would be another 11 years before we’d get to that), it did give us a little treatment from the biggest X-Men story of that period, if not the biggest X-Men story in general, the “Dark Phoenix Saga.” We got that story’s two major players, Jean Grey in her Dark Phoenix persona and Cyclops, both of whom I’m taking a look at today!
THE FIGURES THEMSELVES
Dark Phoenix and Cyclops were, as noted above, a con-exclusive Marvel Minimates two-pack, who officially dropped in March of 2005, and sort of toured the cons that year, rather than really being tied to one of them in particular, eventually even making their way to more regular release channels as well. Both ‘mates here would remain exclusive to this particular pack, but this wasn’t the last time we got either of the characters.
Jean’s third Minimate finally put her in something with a little bit more staying power than the prior two, who were both outdated by the time they hit shelves. And, depending how you classify things, this even kind of qualifies as a new character as well, so that’s doubly cool. Jean was built on the C3 Minimate body, so she’s 2 1/4 inches tall and she has 14 points of articulation. She’s still without the peg hole in the head, which wasn’t a huge shock, since she’d been rattling around for a bit before getting an actual release slot. She gets two add-on pieces, one for her hair, and the other for her sash. Both were new to this figure, neither would remain unique. They’re not bad pieces. Not a ton of detailing or anything, but they certainly look the part. I suppose the hair’s a bit too tame by later standards for the line and the character’s original design, but it looks okay. Her paint work is actually pretty involved, seeing as they’ve put some definite effort into recreating some of the more dynamic lighting of the comics. As such, the red sections of her costume all have black shadowing, her face is slightly darker in the center, and her yellow parts have lines suggesting reflectiveness. Her face is also a far more intense expression than we tended to see at this point, especially for a female figure. The lines on the yellow have a tendency to rub off a bit over time, but otherwise the paint’s really solid. Dark Phoenix is packed with two flame effect pieces. They’re nice in theory, but kind of clumsy in practice, since they require taking off the hands to put on and remove, and in their most natural configuration, they block the use of the elbow joints. It’s weird, because they’re sculpted with one side sharply lower than the other, but it’s the wrong side, so it doesn’t end up helping.
Cyclops had already gotten the basics of this design covered in the GSXM set, but that particular release was lackluster to say the least, so a second go wasn’t the worst idea. Structurally, this guy’s the same as the prior variant, apart from subbing in the C3 feet, of course. He uses the cowl/visor piece from the last one, which was good the first time around, and was still good here. The only issue I ran into was something limited to my copy of the figure, who wound up with two left arms, one of which doesn’t sit quite right on either shoulder, making it susceptible to falling off frequently. Aside from that, he’s cool. The big change-up to this guy is the paint work. The basics remain the same, but he gains extra shading on the torso piece, simulating how he looked in the comics, and also gets a much more detailed face under the mask. It’s a very definite improvement.
THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION
I snagged this set relatively shortly after its release. It was probably a year or so after. Cosmic Comix happened to get one in, and I was happy to pick it up. This set did a lot to move Minimates forward in terms of how detailing was handled, with its actual attention to things like comics-inspired shading, and marks an interesting turn for the line. It’s a good way of handling the extra detailing, really, and I think this was the real sweet spot for where the level of detail should have more or less stuck.