#2841: Beast & Azazel

BEAST & AZAZEL

MARVEL MINIMATES

Since no other licensors were really looking to dive their hands into the X-franchise after the financial failures of X3 and Wolverine: OriginsX-Men: First Class‘s entire tie-in output was in the form of Minimates, who had previously been rather light on coverage of the X-films.  But here they were, doing Minimates from the movie, I guess.  And good for them, really.  So, today, I’m taking a look at Beast and Azazel!  What do the two figures in this set have in common?  Well, if we’re going by the comics, nothing.  If we’re going by the movies…still nothing.  But, if you view them through the strange nexus of both of those things, both of them are romantically linked to Mystique.  How about that?

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Beast and Azazel were, like the rest of the First Class ‘mates, released in the Toys R Us-exclusive FC-tie-in assortment of Marvel Minimates, which hit in early summer 2011.

BEAST

Hank McCoy had the good fortune of being the only founding X-Man from the comics who was also allowed to be a founding member in the movies, as well as the good fortune to be part of both of the first two X-Men-movie-related Minimate assortments.  What a lucky guy!  This figure details him after his transformation into a blue furry monster guy, which I guess is sensible.  Certainly more exciting than “guy in glasses and a sweater vest.”  The figure is on a standard ‘mate body, so he’s about 2 1/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  Beast makes use of the most sculpted parts of any figure in this assortment.  He has add-ons for his hair, torso cap, and belt, as well as non-standard hands and feet.  As with everyone else, all of these pieces are re-used.  The hair was previously Weapon X’s from the Wolverine Through the Ages Boxed Set.  It’s a reasonably well-sculpted piece, but it’s not at all close to Beast’s design from the movie.  Certainly there were other pieces that would have worked better?  The torso cap is the bulked up Hulk piece introduced in Series 22.  It’s not the best powerhouse piece, and it’s especially restrictive to the arms, but it was the standard at the time, so not an unreasonable choice.  His hands and feet are borrowed from the Universal Monsters line’s Wolf Man, and are definitely the best chosen re-use pieces here.  They’re very nicely sculpted parts, and they actually match up pretty decently with Beast’s look in the movie.  The paintwork on Beast is decent enough.  His uniform details more or less match up with the rest of the team, which is certainly a plus, given how great those all were.  There are some slight fur details on the wrists and ankles that help to differentiate him a bit.  If there’s one major flaw, it’s this: he has a nose.  Minimates aren’t supposed to have noses, but Beast does.  It really over-crowds his face, and makes him just look…strange.  Beast included no accessories.  Not a change for this assortment, of course, and Beast is another instance where I’m not sure what you *could* give him anyway.

AZAZEL

I don’t think anybody was particularly happy when Azazel was announced for First Class.  The arc that introduced him in the comics is rather infamously bad, and he’s more than a little convoluted.  Then the movie came along and just used him as “Red Nightcrawler”, and that actually worked a fair bit better.  Azazel is constructed with two add-ons and a pair of non-standard hands.  All of these are re-used from the GSXM-version of his son Nightcrawler, which is at the very least a nice touch.  That being said, it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the most accurate figure.  The least accurate piece is definitely the hair, which is just flat-out wrong for the character.  I get that they wanted to keep his pointy ears, but couldn’t they have at least used the updated piece from the Excalibur boxed set?  It still wouldn’t be 100% accurate, but it’s a little closer, and it’s at least got some smaller detail work going on.  This one, being from very early in the line’s run, is a lot simpler than more recent offerings, and it looks out of place.  The hands are another point of inaccuracy, though slightly less frustrating.  Azazel’s more or less got normal hands in the movie, rather than Nightcrawler’s three-fingered hands.  That said, they don’t distract too much, and it’s the sort of detail you can more easily overlook.  Plus, it’s not that hard to come by normal ‘mate hands.  His tail is the piece that works best, because how do you screw up something like that?  Azazel’s paintwork is actually pretty decent.  There’s some really great contrast going on between the red and black.  The red in particular is really bright, and very eye catching.  The likeness on the face bears a very strong resemblance to actor Jason Flemyng, and is generally just very sharp looking.  They even included Azazel’s scar over his left eye!  Azazel brakes from the norm for this assortment, and actually gets an accessory.  It’s the “bamf” cloud from the Excalibur set, but done up in red, so as to match Azazel’s effect from the movie.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I picked up my set of these figures while on a family road trip in 2011.  It was before I’d seen the movie, and therefore knew how much I’d liked it, but after it had become clear that the film stood a chance of not totally sucking.  This set’s not the assortment’s strongest.  Beast is definitely the weakest of the main team in this assortment.  While the others were all perfectly do-able using stock parts, it’s ultimately robbed Beast of any real screen accuracy.  He’s fine for rounding out the set, but that’s about it.  Like Beast, Azazel is rather inaccurate, and a bit hampered by the lack of new parts.  However, in his case, he still ends up as a rather entertaining figure despite that, and really carries this set.

#2834: Civilian Thor & Asguardian Guard

CIVILIAN THOR & ASGARDIAN GUARD

MARVEL MINIMATES

The first Thor movie’s two Toys R Us-exclusive two-packs are a rather polarized ordeal.  The first included two fan favorite characters, Lady Sif and Volstagg, who had exciting designs and had never received Minimates before.  Today, however, I look at the second set, which includes a civilian variant of the main character and an unnamed guard.  It’s a well-meaning set, no doubt, but perhaps doesn’t possess the same flair present in the other pairing.  Perhaps DST’s attention to the little details can salvage it!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

As noted above, these two are one of two TRU-exclusive packs of Marvel Minimates designed to coincide with the release of the first Thor film.  Only half of the set’s truly exclusive, though, since the Guard was actually a straight re-release of the single-packed Asgardian Guard from the army builder case, but as an army builder, the double-packing does make some sense.

CIVILIAN THOR

One of two Thors in this assortment, this figure represents Thor as he looks on Earth, which is a pretty decent chunk of the film’s run-time.  It’s not an overly unique get-up, being just a t-shirt and jeans, but that *is* what he looked like in the film.  He’s built on the base ‘mate body, so he’s about 2 1/4 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  The figure gets one sculpted add-on, for his hair.  Surprisingly, this is NOT the same piece used on the single-packed Thor.  It’s very similar, but has some more length at the bottom, since there’s no cape to contend with.  As with a few other lines from around this time, there are a few notable things going on with the plastic used for the Thor ‘mates.  Firstly, the necks were shorter, and the feet a little shallower, which makes them look a little more top-heavy.  Fortunately, with Thor, that’s not so big a deal.  The other issue is one of quality of plastic.  For whatever reason, the plastic quality was much lower on the these guys, making them feel rather waxy, and making the overall detailing of the sculpted parts a little softer.  It’s not quite as impactful on the sculpt, but it does impact the paint.  Said paint is decent enough in application, but the plastic is more absorbent than usual, which renders the detail lines much duller than we’ve come to expect.  It’s especially notable on the torso, where it’s hard to see there’s any detailing at all.  The colors of the plastic, particularly the peach-tone of his skin, are also much drearier, making him look almost a little sickly.  He’s not hit quite as badly by this as other ‘mates from the same time, but it’s still noticeable when you place him with other MCU ‘mates.  The thing that saves this figure from being mediocre is the accessories. He comes with Mjolnir (the same one included with the standard Thor and *almost* every MCU Thor since), and even cooler, he also comes with a mound of stone that’s molded to fit around the head of the hammer, just like it’s seen in the film.  Definitely a very fun extra.

ASGARDIAN GUARD

Asgardian Guard is a bit of a mouthful, isn’t it?  As the Asgardian Guard guards Asgard–I’m getting distracted.  The Guard has four add-on pieces, for his helmet, breastplate/cape, and wrist guards.  All four pieces were new to this particular ‘mate, and seem to be a decent match for the source material.  The breastplate/cape combo tends to look a little bulky, but with that sizable helmet, it ends up evening out pretty well.  The detailing on all the sculpted bits is quite sharp, and doesn’t seem to be quite as negatively impacted by the lower grade plastic as some of the others in the assortment.  The Guard’s paint is slightly more exciting than Thor’s, but has its own assortment of issues.  There’s a lot of slop on the cape, especially around the collar.  It’s bade enough on mine that I don’t actually know where the paint was *supposed* to go.  The gold on the back of the cape is a little better at staying where it’s meant to, but the actual application is rather thin and inconsistent.  The tampo work is a little better, with the armor detailing on the legs in particular looking quite sharp.  Unfortunately, the lower grade plastic strikes again on the flesh-toned bits, causing that same waxy appearance and washed out face print we saw on Thor.  In addition, my figure has some sort of mis-print or flaw in the plastic that leaves a dark streak down the center of his face.  For accessories, the Guard includes a sword and a staff, which aids in his army building capabilities, since you can arm him however you like.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I don’t actually recall exactly when I got this set, but I know I got it new.  It’s not terribly exciting.  Civilian Thor, taken purely on the quality of just the figure, seems like a little bit of a waste, especially when there are prominent characters who are still unreleased (poor Fandrall and Hogun).  That said, the hammer and stone base do at least offer a cool diorama, proving that there’s more to him than you might initially think.  The Asgardian Guard is a figure that was great in theory, but marred a bit by the execution.  He’s still far from awful, but he could have been a lot better.  DST really tried, but their factory let them down.

#2827: Black Widow & James Rhodes in Mark II Armor

BLACK WIDOW & JAMES RHODES IN MARK II ARMOR

MARVEL MINIMATES

In light of Black Widow finally getting her long overdue solo film over this weekend, it’s always kind of interesting to look back at her beginnings, at least in terms of the MCU.In addition to introducing Widow, Iron Man 2 helped to set the stage for the larger MCU as a whole.  As such it was a film rather jam-packed with characters, each with a number of distinct looks.  The corresponding Minimates were quite all-encompassing, with the specialty and TRU assortments each pulling their weight to get as many of the primary players out there as possible.  It was through this venture that Widow got her first MCU-based ‘mate, alongside a variant of Rhodey.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Black Widow and James Rhodes in Mark II Armor were part of the first TRU assortment of IM2 tie-ins for Marvel Minimates, which hit just before the film’s release in the spring of 2010.Both figures included here were totally exclusive to this pack-out, and would remain that way going forward.

BLACK WIDOW

Though her role in the finished product ended up a little smaller than some were anticipating, Widow is still one of the most important things to come out of Iron Man 2.  She had a pair of movie-based Minimates to come out of it.  This one is the first, and the one based on her actual, proper “Black Widow” design. The figure is built on the standard ‘mate body, so she’s about 2 1/4 inches tall and she has 14 points of articulation, Widow is markedly less sculpted than her pack-mate, but she still makes use of a handful of sculpted add-ons for her hair, widow’s stingers, and belt/holster. The hair piece was shared with the other Widow variant, and is a very well-detailed, exceptionally crafted recreation of Widow’s longer locks from the film.  The widow’s stingers are the same ones used on the Champions boxed set Widow.  They were good there and they’re just as good here.  The combined belt/holster piece is the only truly unique piece on this figure.  It accurately recreates what she was wearing in the film, but its design means it restricts the hip movement on the left leg, which is a little annoying.  That said, it’s far less obtrusive than earlier holster designs, which is a plus.  The paintwork on Widow is pretty decent stuff.  The face has a passable likeness of Scarlet Johansson.  Not the best DST’s done on the MCU Widow’s but certainly a good start.  The expression’s a little bland, though it’s hardly the end of the world. The detailing on her uniform is pretty solid stuff, with linework for all the piping.  She’s even got the SHIELD insignias on her shoulders; the proper classic ones from IM2, as opposed to the more Ultimate inspired one from later films.  Widow’s only accessory is a small handgun, which was in common usage around that time.  It’s a fine piece, but she does feel a little light.

JAMES RHODES IN MARK II ARMOR

There were no shortage of Rhodey figures in the IM2 assortments.  He got quite a bit of focus in the movie, and his three main looks were each represented.  His time in the unmodified Mark II armor is short-lived, but it is during one of the film’s best sequences, so its place in this assortment is certainly earned. The IM2 armored figures represent DST’s learning curve with sculpting on ‘mates.  These guys lost a lot of the connection to the base body, which makes them feel sort of alien amongst the other ‘mates.  Structurally, this figure is identical to Series 35’s Iron Man Mark IV.  Same helmet, torso, upper arms, gloves, and legs.  In turn, this means he shares his gloves and legs with the Marks II and III from Series 21.  This figure was *supposed* to also share his torso piece with those two, but due to a mix-up he ended up with the Mark IV piece, which is inaccurate to the film.  It’s not a huge difference, but it’s enough to be frustrating.  Paint on the Mark II is all rather basic.  He’s mostly just a straight silver, with detailing on the eyes and arc reactor, as well as a fully detailed James Rhodes face under the helmet (the same one on both the standard War Machine and the Uniformed Rhodes) and a look into the inner workings of the suit on the underlying torso block.  It’s pretty decent work overall, but it’s unfortunate that he doesn’t have the same rivets detailing that was present on the first Mark II Minimate. The Mark II is packed with a spare helmet with the face-plate flipped up.  It’s the same piece used for the other armors in this same assortment, and it’s a really cool idea.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I snagged this set from TRU when it first hit. I was quite determined to get it, because I really wanted this Black Widow. Fortunately, it didn’t prove to hard for me to get, so that was nice. Widow was undoubtedly the star attraction of this particular set.  While she’s been outpaced by more recent variants, there’s still a lot to like about this figure. Rhodey in the Mark II armor is a variant that would have been pretty cool if the execution had been there.  Unfortunately, it really wasn’t, and as such, the figure ends up rather underwhelming.  Fortunately, he’s got his pack-mate to carry him.

#2820: Frontline Captain America & Bucky

FRONTLINE CAPTAIN AMERICA & BUCKY

MARVEL MINIMATES

With the MCU really entering it’s post-Endgame slate, and building up some of the more minor characters, it’s sort of nice to take a step back and look at how far some of these characters have come.  Before they were respectively a hero who is the idol of millions and all-around very hard to replace icon and a sleeper-agent assassin-turned repentant hero, Steve Rogers and James “Bucky” Barnes were just two best friends, dragged into Hydra’s off-shoot of World War II.  Fortunately, DST gave us a pairing of the two before all those changes, just so we can reminisce!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Frontline Captain America and Bucky were released in Series 40 of Marvel Minimates, as well as the TRU-exclusive The First Avenger tie-in assortment, both of which hit in the early summer of 2011.

FRONTLINE CAPTAIN AMERICA

Frontline Captain America, or Rescue Cap as he’s been dubbed elsewhere, serves as Cap’s Mark I equivalent, a hastily thrown together get-up borne out of necessity.  It’s a call-back not only to the Jack Kirby days when Steve would be seen from time to time in his military fatigues with the Cap costume peaking out, but also to Cap’s WW2 era costume from The Ultimates.  It also brings to mind some memories of the hero of Joe Johnson’s other WW2 era super hero movie, The Rocketeer.  Though short-lived in the movie, its presence during Cap’s first real action scene makes it quite memorable.  The figure is built on the standard ‘mate body, so he’s about 2 1/4 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  Cap uses two add-on pieces: his helmet and his jacket.  The helmet is shared with his assortment-mate Gabe Jones, and works well as a pretty standard helmet.  It sits closer to the head than the previously used Sgt Rock helmet, making it so that hair is not visible, and he doesn’t look bald with it in place.  If you want to get picky, the helmet really should have some goggles on it, but he does lose them in the movie, so it’s not completely inaccurate.  The jacket is  unique to this figure, and features all of the gear Cap was carrying during his raid on the POW camp.  There’s a lot of really great detail work going on there.  I might have preferred the belt to have been a separate piece, but it still works quite well the way it is here.  He also gets a slightly tweaked left hand, designed for attaching his shield.  The paintwork on Frontline Cap is a little bit of a mixed bag.  The linework on his face and torso is really sharp, and the colors are all pretty well chosen.  That said, there’s a fair bit of bleed over on his jacket, and the lines on his legs are somewhat ill-defined.  The closeness of some of the colors on the palette helps to mask it a bit, though.  On the plus side, the face presents a reasonable likeness of Chris Evans as Cap, and I quite like the more intense expression.  Frontline Cap is packed with his original, non-circular shield, which can be placed either on his hand or on his back.  He also includes a handgun (re-used from Blackhawk) and an extra hairpiece for an unhelmeted look.

BUCKY

For the first film, Bucky wasn’t a super soldier like Cap, but he wasn’t quite the comics version of the kid sidekick either.  The movie instead aimed to more foreshadow his eventual return as the Winter Soldier, setting him up as the Howling Commandos’ sharp-shooter.  In terms of design, he actually got a pretty close adaptation of his original comics design, albeit with a more proper military flair to it and some more toned down colors.  Bucky has add-ons for his hair and jacket.  Both of these were new to this particular figure. Interestingly, the hair on the prototype was a different piece, the same one used on Dr. Reed from the Creature From the Black Lagoon boxed set.  No idea why they made the change, and personally I would have preferred the re-used piece.  As it stands, this one’s not terrible, though.  It just sits a little low for my liking.  The jacket piece seems a bit bulky, truth be told, and I think he might have looked better with it just painted on his chest block instead.  Bucky’s paint is reasonable, but not without its flaws.  The slop is a little less of an issue here than it was with Cap, but it’s still somewhat present.  The likeness on the face isn’t a nice as I’d like.  It appears that something happened in-between the control art and the final ‘mate, which has caused his eyes to be sort of oddly placed.  It looks rather strange.  Sgt. Barnes is decently accessorized, including his sniper rifle and the same style of handgun included with Steve.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I picked this set up when it was new, courtesy of Cosmic Comix.  Though non-standard, this is really a winning version of Cap.  There are some slight flaws, but he’s an overall very cool figure, and he’s really my favorite design for the character.  I’m glad he was such an early inclusion.  This was only Bucky’s second ‘mate, and after the slightly flawed first one, I’d hoped this one would turn out better.  Though far from terrible, this figure has a lot of smaller issues that add up to a rather forgettable Minimate.

#2785: Evil Ryu

EVIL RYU

STREET FIGHTER II MINIMATES

What better way to wrap up my Street Fighter II Minimates reviews than with a character who’s not even in Street Fighter II at all?*  Evil Ryu is a pretty straight forward concept, with all real questions about his nature answered by the name.  He’s a corrupted version of the generally heroic Ryu, who has succumbed to the power of the “Satsui no Hado” (“Surge of Muderous Intent”), which is the thing that powers Akuma.  He was first worked into the games in Street Fighter Alpha 2, and has been a recurring concept since.  He’s not really a separate character, but is more of a “What if?” surrounding Ryu giving into evil at some point in the future.  He’s also a pretty simple re-paint of a standard Ryu, making him a very easy repaint.  Hence, so many toys.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Evil Ryu was originally released in a two-pack with Shin Akuma, an Akuma variant.  The pair were exclusive to Hollywood Video of all places.  Yes, the number two video rental store opted for an exclusive item.  Kinda weird, huh?  He was also packed with Morrigan, Dimitri, and standard Akuma as one of a pair of four-packs, aimed at making these a little easier to get, I guess?  The two releases were effectively identical, so it doesn’t really matter, I suppose.  The figure is built on the standard post-c3 body, so he’s about 2 1/2 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  Construction on this guy is identical to the standard Ryu, as you’d expect.  Those pieces are good pieces, so he’s still pretty darn cool.  The paint marks the main change-up.  For the most part, it’s a palette swap, with generally darker colors present.  He does get an all-new facial expression, which is more intense even than the already more intense P2-color version.  He’s real mad, and his eyes are now red and pupil-less.  Additionally, he has gained the kanji character that was present on Akuma, signifying his corruption by the Satsui no Hado.  Likewise, his energy effect piece is now the same purple as Akuma’s.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

As with most of the SF2 Minimates, I didn’t get Evil Ryu new, in his case largely because my local Hollywood Video was rather downtrodden, and never saw these sets.  He was probably the figure I wanted the most out of the whole set, truth be told, because it’s a look I’ve always kinda liked.  Thankfully, I was able to get him at the same time as the others, courtesy of All Time Toys.  He’s a pretty fun figure, as are all of the SF2 ‘mates.  It’s a shame this line didn’t take off, because it certainly had the effort put into it.  It’s also a shame that a third of its slots were devoted to Darkstalkers…

*Okay, that’s not entirely true; Evil Ryu was added to the roster for SFII in its Ultra incarnation…which was released 11 years after this figure…better late than never, right?  Beyond that, though, he was also featured in the SFII manga, and one of the animated films.  So, it’s not the craziest thing, I suppose.

#2778: M. Bison & Chun-Li

M. BISON & CHUN-LI

STREET FIGHTER II MINIMATES

When delving into a completely new line, it does make a certain amount of sense to go for the heavy hitters right out of the gate…or at least you would think so.  Curiously, there’s a little bit of a connection between Minimates lines that have failed, and a propensity to front load with heavy hitters.  I mean, after all, Marvel Minimates, the definitive flagship of the brand, started with an assortment that was B-Tier for the most part.  On the flipside, Street Fighter II Minimates had some of the game’s biggest names coming right at the beginning, and still failed.  Coincidence?  Probably.  Honestly, what probably killed Street Fighter Minimates quicker than anything was forcing Darkstalkers into it, not the heavy hitters.  I mean, does anyone really think that it’s M. Bison & Chun-Li’s fault the line died?  I don’t, and that’s certainly got nothing to do with me being in the room with them right now…Be cool guys…they’re right here!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

M. Bison and Chun-Li were released in the first (and only) series of Street Fighter II Minimates.  The main line release is the Player 1 colors for both characters, but like Ryu and Akuma, there were also offered up in their P2 colors as part of an AFX-exclusive two-pack.  Bison and Chun-Li are probably the line’s most sensible pairing, given their history together and the tendency of the other media to have them pair off for battles within the narrative.

M. BISON

Bison is the primary antagonist of Street Fighter II and most of its spin-offs, as well as being one of the franchise’s most distinctive characters.  He’s certainly got a definitive look.  The figure was built on the basic post-C3 minimate body, so he stands about 2 1/4 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  Bison is constructed using three different add-on parts, which includes his hat, his cape, and his skirt/belt.  All three pieces are new to the figure, and they do a solid job of capturing his in-game look through the lens of Minimates.  Of particular note is the cape piece, which has a really fun dynamic flow to it, which I believe was a first for capes for the brand; they tended to just be hanging there.  Like the other SFII Minimates, Bison is all-painted, rather than using molded colors.  It looks pretty nice, and makes the colors pop a bit more.  His facial expression is definitely one of the coolest elements, which a huge, mad-man-esque smile.  It’s so perfect for the character.  Bison featured his own unique effect piece, which is a little hard to balance, but is still pretty cool.

CHUN-LI

Chun-Li may not be the central figure, but she’s probably the closest SFII and it’s various media narratives have to a proper protagonist.  She’s also become one of the franchise’s most enduring characters, despite not technically being in on the action until the second game.  She’s second only to Ryu in terms of Minimate coverage, which seems about right.  Like Bison, she uses the standard post-C3 body.  She’s got four add-on pieces, for her hair, skirt, and her spiked wrist bands.  All of the were new pieces, and would be shared only with her P2 variant.  The skirt doesn’t feel as dynamic as some of the other pieces from the line, but it’s not terrible.  The hair and wrist bands get just enough detailing to sell the design, without going over board.  Chun-Li is, like Bison, an entirely painted ‘mate, and it’s generally pretty good.  The detailing on her outfit is quite nicely handled, and apart from some fuzziness on the edge on the blue/white change over on her torso, it’s all pretty clean.  Chun-Li was packed with her own effects piece, replicating her tendency for kicking.  Sadly, it’s the only piece I’m missing from my set.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Chun-Li and Bison was a set I really wanted, but never got when they were new.  I didn’t even get their P2 colors, as I had with Ryu and Akuma.  I was definitely always bummed about that.  Fortunately, when I got my standard Ryu and Akuma, I was also able to grab this pair.  They’re quite nice, just like the other two, and show that DST and Art Asylum were really trying to make these guys work.  It’s a shame they didn’t take off.

#2771: Ryu & Akuma

RYU & AKUMA

STREET FIGHTER II MINIMATES

2005 into 2006 marked a rather turbulent time for the Minimates brand.  DST and Art Asylum were definitely trying to expand it, but there was some trouble with that.  Attempts to add DC and Lord of the Rings kind of fell through, so a desire for other licenses to replace them was building.  Marvel, still the flagship line, went on hiatus for over a year, while they tried to regroup on other licenses.  In early 2006, they attempted to get into the video game character market with Minimates based on the classic fighting game Street Fighter II, hoping that might be the thing that took off and saved the line.  Spoilers: it wasn’t.  In the line’s one and only assortment, we got some of the game’s heavy hitters, which included today’s figures, Ryu and Akuma!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Ryu and Akuma were released in the standard retail assortment of Street Fighter II Minimates.  The two of them were based on their standard Player 1 colors, but there was also an AFX-exclusive variant pack that put them in their P2 colors, as well as changing up their expressions.  The standard versions also surfaced overseas as part of a blind-box assortment, which also featured the P2 colors, but this time without the changed expressions.

RYU

Ryu, one of two character’s carried over from the first game, is arguably the star of the Street Fighter series, so he’s certainly a sensible choice for the line-up.  He’s seen here in his standard white gi with red accents set-up.  The figure was built on the standard base body, so he’s about 2 1/4 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  He has four add-on pieces, for his hair, the bottom of his robe, and his hand bracers.  It’s honestly a pretty nice selection of parts, and matches up pretty well with his in-game sprite, while still helping him remain consistent with the overall ‘mate aesthetic.  There’s still some flow and expression to the parts, but they aren’t overly detailed like some later parts would be.  His details are handled largely through paint work, of course, and it’s pretty nicely done.  The face has just enough detail to really capture the character, and his body is well defined.  I appreciate that they’ve gone to the trouble of actually outline the edges of his sleeves and pants, so that they’re a little more defined.  Interestingly, like Spider-Woman from last week, Ryu is totally painted.  It looks nice, so I can’t really complain.  Ryu is packed with a blue effects piece, presumably meant to replicate his Haduken attack, which makes for some fun posing options.

AKUMA

Facing off against Ryu is the game’s hidden final boss, Akuma, a pretty solid opponent for Ryu.  He’s built rather similarly to Ryu, which is honestly appropriate.   The only part that’s actually shared between the two is the arm bracer piece, which works well for both of them.  His hair is obviously a new piece, as is the skirt piece, which they could have probably gotten away with re-using, but they didn’t, so good for them.  He also gets a new piece for the necklace as well, which is something that could have been painted on, but wasn’t, and is honestly the better for it.  The hair’s a little bit devoid of detail, which makes it look a little wonky, but for the most part it looks okay.  The detail work on this guy is a good match for Ryu, and he is likewise totally painted.  I appreciate that they actually changed up the tampo for the torso detailing, as that’s another area where they didn’t *have* to change it.  Akuma is packed with the same effects piece as Ryu, but in purple instead of blue.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

The SFII Minimates line was one I really wanted to support, but it was one that I unfortunately didn’t really see in person.  The only ones I ever found were the P2 colors for these two, which got clearance out at KB toys of all places.  Interestingly, my Ryu from that set was erroneously the single pack version, so I never had the changed up expression for him.  I eventually got the chance to get the proper P1 versions when All Time got in that big Minimates collection back in 2019, which I was pretty happy about.  These two are well made to be sure, and it’s a shame the line didn’t take off the way DST hoped they would.

#2764: Spider-Carnage & Spider-Woman I

SPIDER-CARNAGE & SPIDER-WOMAN I

MARVEL MINIMATES

As I discussed last week, the 10th series of Marvel Minimates would be the first of a number of re-use assortments, which were entirely built from previously existing parts.  This certainly had an impact on character choices as well, since they needed to be characters that would require no new parts in the first place.  The end result was something of a hodgepodge, but they did hold to a vague Spider-Man theme, I suppose?  Today, we’re looking at the totally sensible, and not at all strange pairing of Spider-Carnage and Spider-Woman!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Spider-Carnage and Spider-Woman I were released in the 10th specialty assortment of Marvel Minimates, which hit in the summer of 2005.  This set was the non-variant set, with the  Spider-Woman II variant swapping out for this one in one pack out of every case, while Spider-Carnage remained.  They’re an odd pairing, since Spider-Woman wasn’t actually a Spider-Man character, and was in fact retired during Spider-Carnage’s brief run, but here we are.

SPIDER-CARNAGE

Spider-Carnage, being a combination of Ben Reilly and the Carnage symbiote, and even being in the same assortment as a Ben Reilly Spider-Man, honestly feels like he would have made more sense as the variant for this particular line up, but DST clearly felt differently.  He’s built on the post-C3 body (with a pre-C3 head, of course), so he’s about 2 1/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  Spider-Carnage’s construction makes use of the same bands as Ben Reilly, plus the hands from the Series 1 Carnage.  It’s a pretty straight-forward combo of the two, so I guess that makes sense.  Otherwise, he’s just handled with paint.  The application on the torso is 100% identical to the Ben Reilly, which makes sense from a consistency stand point.  He swaps out the blue for black, which isn’t strictly accurate, but Spider-Carnage was typically shaded a little darker, so I guess it’s not terrible.  He gets some additional red detailing on the arms and legs, which is true to the comics design.  The face is new, of course, but, rather strangely, the head loses the web-lines on the back that should be there.  Also, rather oddly, he drops the extra detailing on the wrist bands for a straight silver.  It’s an odd detail to drop, and feels like it would be more hassle than not, but I’m not in toy production, so what do I know?

SPIDER-WOMAN I

Jessica Drew had actually just returned to active duty in the comics, as part of the New Avengers line-up, early in 2005, making this figure a very well-timed and relevant choice, which was really a first for the line.  She too was built on the basic post-C3 body, but with the pre-peg-hole head.  As far as construction goes, do you remember Black Cat?  Because she’s exactly the same, as was her variant, the Julia Carpenter, and also Silver Sable, who was in this same assortment, too.  Not a ton of diversity there.  It’s not an inaccurate look for Jessica, so I guess it works.  Otherwise, she’s all paint.  Curiously, Jessica is entirely painted, from head to toe, with none of her parts being molded in the appropriate colors, a real rarity for Minimates.  It’s not terrible looking, though, and does help keep any weird bleed through from happening, so that’s good.  The one downside to the figure is that she’s got flesh tone painted on the top of her head, ruining an easy conversion to her fully cowled look from her earliest appearances.  It’s kind of an odd choice.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I snagged this set at the same time as last weeks pair, back when they were still new.  I actually don’t really know why, as neither of them really spoke to me.  I mean, I guess I like Jessica Drew well enough.  But it’s still not a set I really get excited about.  Ultimately, they’re both well put together figures, but neither of them really jumps out as all that inspired or anything.

#2757: Black Cat & Ben Reilly

BLACK CAT & BEN REILLY

MARVEL MINIMATES

The third year of Marvel Minimates had a very focused beginning, bringing in the FF for the first time, but after getting them out of the way, the rest of the year wound up being a pretty major mixed bag.  The 9th, 10th, and 11th assortments were all sort of mixed bags in terms of characters, and the 10th and 11th in particular would introduce something new to the brand: total parts re-use assortments.  In order to stretch things as far as they could go, DST would do as many characters as possible with no new pieces.  Included amongst these heavily re-used figures were today’s offerings, Spidey characters Black Cat & Ben Reilly!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Black Cat and Ben Reilly were released in Series 10 of Marvel Minimates, which hit in the summer of 2005.  Black Cat would remain exclusive to this pairing, but Ben found his way into a re-pack, alongside fellow Series 10 figure Sandman, for Target later that same year.

BLACK CAT

Black Cat made her Minimates debut here, sporting a fairly classic design for the character.  She was built on the basic body, post C3 feet, so she stands about 2 1/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  She doesn’t get the new head with peg hole, due to the re-used hair piece, which comes from the Series 6 Phoenix.  While not a terrible piece on its own, it was about to get a bunch of uses all right on top of each other, which earned it the nickname “The Rachel”, in reference to when lots of women got the same haircut as Jennifer Aniston, during Friends‘ hey-day.  And now you know that completely useless bit of trivia.  Aren’t you glad?  Apart from the hair, Felicia was a totally vanilla ‘mate, which honestly isn’t all that out of place for the character.  The rest of her design is handled through paint.  It’s actually pretty decently handled.  The face is really my favorite of the Black Cats that DST did, and they even did a respectable job of recreating a more feminine shape for her body, by use of shading.  It’s actually pretty cool.

BEN REILLY

Spider-Man had plenty of Minimates by this point, but this marked the first one for his clone, Ben Reilly.  Interestingly, it’s not in his Scarlet Spider gear, but instead his take on the Spider-Man costume.  Exactly why is anyone’s guess, especially since it’s usual thing of “being a more credible standard Spidey variant” is kinda lost given he didn’t get Spider-Man in his name at all.  I’m probably over thinking things.  DST didn’t overthink this guy, that’s for sure.  He’s got two add-ons, for his web-shooters on his wrists.  They’re re-used from Power Man, and, while they should technically be segmented, they do work pretty well in a pinch.  Beyond that, he’s another heavy on the paint sort of figure.  It’s pretty good paint, and I do like how they actually painted the red entirely, rather than the mix of paint and plastic like the standard Spidey.  Honestly, this is probably my favorite Spidey paint scheme.  He’s got no accessories, not even the generic webline piece, which is kind of a shame in one way, but a bit of a relief in another, because one man can really own so many of that one piece.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This is a set I actually snagged new.  This whole period of time marked me starting to fall out of things a touch (though, to be fair, it’s not like even DST felt all that invested at the time), but I liked this pair enough to buy them.  I’ve always had a soft spot for the Ben Reilly Spider-Man costume, and it remains perhaps my favorite Spider-Man minimate.  Black Cat’s not too shabby either.  Overall, a pretty solid set, even if they were just re-use.

#2722: Thanos

THANOS

MARVEL MINIMATES

Back before he was a major movie star headlining two of the biggest movies of all time, Thanos was sort of an odd-ball who was rather hard to place when it came to toy lines.  Like, he was around, and some people knew him, but you had to sort of sneak him in there, lest someone notice his presence.  Such was the case with his original Minimate release, which was one of the early line’s sort of odd floater figures for a bit, much in a similar fashion to last week’s Dark Phoenix.  He finally made it out, of course, and there have been a bunch of subsequent releases at this point, but it did take a bit of doing.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Thanos was released as a San Diego Comic Con-exclusive Marvel Minimates release in 2005, packed alongside yet another reissue of the original Silver Surfer (albeit this one with C3 feet, rather than the long ones).  He had been shown off a few times prior over the preceding years, and before 2099’s inclusion was cemented in Series 7 of the main line, it was assumed he’d be in that slot.  Then he…wasn’t, and everyone was confused for a bit, until this exclusive surfaced the following year.  Hey, at least he got released, I guess.  The figure is built on the C3 base body, and he stands 2 1/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  Thanos has four add-on pieces for his helmet, chest cap, and gloves, all of them new to him.  These pieces are pretty nicely handled; they get the character’s usual design elements down, while also keeping him in line with this earlier line aesthetic.  They all sit pretty well, and he looks generally uncluttered.  I quite enjoy the simplicity of the Infinity Gauntlet here; later releases would go for the separate fingers, and it always wound up looking weird.  Thanos’ paint work falls into a similar boat as the Dark Phoenix and Cyclops; there’s a lot of detail and creative shading, but it doesn’t feel like it goes too overboard.  Thanos included no accessories of his own, unless you want to be rather demeaning to that Silver Surfer figure.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I still wasn’t really in on the exclusive game yet with this one, and I already had the standard Silver Surfer, who was my preferred figure out of this set, so I didn’t really try that hard to get this Thanos.  However, when the rather large Minimate collection came into All Time in 2019, and this guy was there, I opted to go for it, because, hey, why not.  I like the simplicity of this Thanos compared to others.  I think he’s one of those characters that they really got right the first time.