#2282: Strong Guy

STRONG GUY

X-MEN (TOY BIZ)

“Strong Guy joined X-Factor for the simplest of reasons–the regular paycheck!  Caring little about the problems between man and mutantkind, he lives instead for the finer things in life–wine, women and song!  And he’s not above using his tremendous mutant strength to put those who would criticize his lifestyle in their place!”

After three assortments of pretty solid team building, the fourth series of Toy Biz’s X-Men line is one of the stranger line-ups the line would produce.  I mean, it doesn’t have the weirdest character choices per se (well, apart from Tusk, because who the heck went “where’s my Tusk action figure?”), but more that it seems generally unfocused and all over the place.  It would be this assortment which introduced off-shoot team X-Factor into the line.  And what character would they use to launch?  Would it be team leader Havok (who had been scrapped from the Series 3 line-up), or even X-universe mainstays Polaris, Multiple Man, or Wolfsbane?  Nope, it was Lila Cheney’s bodyguard Guido, who had just taken the name “Strong Guy,” denoting his status as a…uhh….strong…guy.  Yeah…

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Strong Guy was added to the Toy Biz X-Men  line-up in 1993 as part of the aforementioned Series 4 line-up.  He would see a re-issue in 2000 in ever so slightly different colors as part of the KB-exclusive X-Men line, but beyond that, this was it for Guido, at least until last year’s Minimate and this year’s Legend.  Lucky Guido.  The figure stands 5 1/2 inches tall and he has 6 points of articulation.  He’s a little bit on the small side for Strong Guy (though that made him a nice fit with Hasbro’s Marvel Universe a few years later), but he’s got enough of a size difference that it works.  Strong Guy is missing joints at the elbows and knees, I can only assume due to his larger size.  Honestly, he makes out alright without them, so it’s not the end of the world.  Much like Ch’od, who was similarly limited in terms of articulation and also similarly-sized, Strong Guy’s sculpt ends up as a pretty solid offering.  The character’s distinctive proportions are well captured, and there’s a lot of character in the figure’s face, which helps to keep him looking fairly unique.  He also matches up well with the art stylings of the time, honestly in a far better fashion than any of the other X-Factor characters.  Strong Guy’s paint work is pretty solid for the time.  All of the important details are there, and the application is fairly clean.  Technically, there should be a patch of blue on his vest, but honestly the X-Factor art was stylized enough at the time that Toy Biz can be forgiven for not realizing that wasn’t just a harshly shaded patch.  Strong Guy included no accessories (though, like most Toy Biz figures of the time, he has his hands molded to hold *something*), but he did have a “Power Punch” action, which raises his arms up and down when his torso is spun around.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Strong Guy is not a figure I had growing up.  He actually was added to my collection during my post-freshman-year-of-college Toy Biz binge, after finding him at All Time Toys.  He was still packaged, and, for whatever reason, I just never got around to opening him.  He ended up sitting unopened for another 8 years, until I finally cracked him open a month ago in preparation for this review.  I don’t know why I delayed so long, but he’s a pretty fun little figure, truth be told.

#2279: Alpha Flight

VINDICATOR, PUCK, NORTHSTAR, AURORA, SHAMAN, & SNOWBIRD

MARVEL LEGENDS (HASBRO)

Remember when I reviewed Guardian back in September, and I mentioned that Hasbro had thrown out the concept of trying to release all of the Alpha Flight team-members one at a time in favor of dropping them all at once in one fell swoop as an Amazon-exclusive set?  Well, here we are.  Just about a whole team in one go.  It’s just how they do.  Introduced in the pages of Uncanny X-Men #120 as part of Wolverine’s backstory, they eventually got a book of their own, which ran for over a decade.  Since that original run, though, they’ve had a little trouble keeping in the public eye, which has made their toy prospects a little tricky, especially since they’ve got a rather sizable line-up.  One big drop is pretty much the only way any company has ever been able to get them out to market, and that’s exactly what Hasbro did here.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

This six figure set is an Amazon-exclusive Marvel Legends offering, which was first listed for pre-order last fall, and started shipping about a month or two ago.   It’s designed to augment the Guardian and Sasquatch figures recently released in the main line, as well as giving fans a second chance at the incredibly hard to complete Puck build-a-figure from the last series of Return of Marvel Legends.

VINDICATOR

Heather McNeill Hudson, Calgary, Alberta”

In an effort to keep up with my claims of having reviewed 100% of the Heather Hudson figures in existence (it’s easy when there’s only three of them), here’s the latest one of those.  Whoooo.   Like the other two, this one is Heather in her version of the Vidicator costume, which she started wearing after her husband Mac’s (first) death.  The figure stands just over 6 inches tall and she has 28 points of articulation.  She’s built on the Phoenix body, which works reasonably well for Heather (and confirms that Wolverine’s got something of a type…that type being red heads of a certain build who are married).  She fortunately swaps out the high heels for a pair of flat soles, and ditches one of the open hands for a first.  She also gets an all-new head sculpt, which is quite a nice piece.  It’s fairly basic, but it’s clean and it sits well on the body.  It’s also got a posable ponytail, which is handy for different flight based poses. Heather’s paint work is okay, but not without a few issues.  The biggest is the change in red from James‘ suit to this one.  The figures were close enough in production time, that the two of them really should have been sporting the same colors.  As it is, they are’t terribly far off, but it’s enough of a difference to be grating when they’re displayed together.  Additionally, the maple leaf emblem has really lost the maple-leaf-ness this time around, looking far more like a bunch of random jagged lines.  My last complaint is more of personal preference, but the opaque coloring on the visor is a little bit of a bummer, especially since both of her prior figures have managed to do translucent.

PUCK

Eugene Judd, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan”

Puck is the one figure who’s had a Legends release before, as the Build-A-Figure in the self-entitled “Puck Series,” an assortment put together to tie-in with The Wolverine‘s release that ended up dumped on Diamond Distrubutors and then wound up being incredibly hard to find.  That all resulted in Puck having a rather inflated after market price and being something of a barrier to entry for any prospective Alpha Flight fans.  Hasbro is throwing fans a bone here with an almost straight re-release of that figure.  He stands 3 1/2 inches tall and he has 24 points of articulation.  Apart from a missing waist joint, he’s otherwise very nicely articulated for a figure of his size and stature.  His sculpt is the same as his Build-A-Figure counterpart, aside from his head, which is an all-new, better scaled to the body, and just generally superior head sculpt.  Though I never owned the BaF, I did have the Marvel Universe Puck, which is actually quite similar stylistically to this one, apart from being about 2/3rds the size.  I liked that sculpt a lot, and I like this sculpt a lot.  Puck’s paintwork is alright; it’s a bit sloppy on his logo, but otherwise things look pretty decent.

NORTHSTAR

Jean-Paul Beaubier, Montreal, Quebec”

Northstar’s never had a Legends figure before, but he *was* part of Hasbro’s 2007 poll run by ToyFare, alongside his sister Aurora.  Why they decided to run tow halves of a pair in a fan poll that was only going to produce a single figure is anyone’s guess, but hey, at least he finally made it.  First Appearance Storm has as of yet not been quite so lucky.  Though the character has had a few looks over the years, this figure goes for the same one as all of his other figures, which is his first appearance suit.  To be fair, it’s his best look by far, so I’m not complaining at all.  The figure stands 6 1/4 inches tall and he has 34 points of articulation.  Northstar is built on the ANAD 2099 body, which is a decent enough choice for the character given how he’s usually drawn in the comics.  His head’s better scaled to the body than Quicksilver, the last character to use the body, so he’s off to a decent start.  Said head is the figure’s one new piece, and it’s a respectable offering, doing a solid job of marrying Byrne’s depictions of the character with the general Legends aesthetic.  He’s certainly looks suitably pompous and stuck on himself, which is really what you need for the character.  Unfortunately, he misses out on the one other thing the character could really benefit from: an open hand.  Both of his are fists, meaning he can’t hold hands with his sister, which is a major bummer, what with that being a whole part of their power set and all.  His paintwork is also a little iffy, due to the transitions between black and white being rather fuzzy, and their also being a few errant marks of the opposing color on both sections.  The pearlescent white is pretty nice, though.

AURORA

Jeanne-Marie Beaubier, Montreal, Quebec”

As noted above, Aurora appeared alongside her brother in the 2007 fan poll, but was likewise not the winning figure, thus giving her the lengthy 12 year wait for a proper figure, which this set finally brought to an end.  Like her brother, Aurora is sporting her original design, which is again the cleanest and most dynamic of her various designs.  The figure stands 6 1/4 inches tall and she has 27 points of articulation.  Aurora is built on the Psylocke body, which is a solid choice for the character, though suffers from some issues with the plastic that the original release didn’t.  The primary issue is with the elbows, which have had reports of major issues with breakage.  While I’ve not experienced this with either of my figure’s arms, I will say that the joints are a little tighter than I’d like, which has made me very cautious when posing her.  Beyond the re-used body, she also gets one of the may open gesture hands in place of Psylocke’s grip (making Northstar’s fists even more egregious), as well as a brand new headsculpt.  Like her brother’s, the sculpt does a respectable job of marrying Byrne’s style with the general Legends aesthetic.  Her paintwork is very similar to Northstar’s, meaning it’s a little iffy on the costume, but overall an okay offering.  It’s a little bit cleaner on her than on her brother.

SHAMAN

Dr. Michael Twoyoungmen, Calgary, Alberta”

Perhaps the most straight-forwardly-named member of the team, Shaman is also the least fortunate member when it comes to toys, having only a Minimate release to date, in contrast to the rest of the team having at least a couple releases under their belts.  Why he gets left out is anyone’s guess, but at least he wasn’t left out this time.  The figure stands 6 1/4 inches tall and he has 32 points of articulation.  Shaman is built on the Bucky Cap body, a mold which seems be starting to wear out, because Shaman doesn’t feel anywhere near as solid as earlier figures on the body.  I don’t dislike it’s continued use, but it’s a bit of an issue when it’s quality starts to fall as it has here.  I suppose to make up for it slightly, Shaman gets the most new pieces of all the figures in the set, with a new head, plus add-ons for his belt/loincloth and wrist bracers.  The parts are all nice enough; the head’s a little devoid of personality, but then that’s kind of Shaman, isn’t it?  The paint on Shaman is unfortunately the worst in the set.  Typically, he’s depicted in green and orange, but this figure has yellow instead, which just doesn’t look quite as good.  Additionally, the application is really sloppy, especially on the torso, which makes the whole thing look kind of messy.

SNOWBIRD

Narya, Resolute Bay, Northwest Territories”

Snowbird as a character was one of Byrne’s earliest creations, actually pre-dating his comics work, and being refitted into Alpha Flight in their first appearance.  It’s kind of a shame he never took the time to, you know, actually make her a full character.  Sorry, is my dislike of Snowbird showing?  I’ll do my best to keep that under wraps.  The figure stands 6 1/2 inches tall and has 27 points of articulation.  I’m gonna be real here guys, I don’t actually recognize the parts Snowbird is built from.  They have to be re-use, because every thing else in this set is, but I’m at a loss myself.  The head and cape are both new to be sure, though.  They do their job of recreating her design alright.  The cape’s maybe a little smaller than usually shown in the comics, but that comes with trying to make it more manageable and not have the figure falling over all of the time.  Snowbird’s paintwork is decent enough.  There’s a slight mismatch between the shades of white on various parts of her costume, but it’s not too noticeable in person, and the metallic blue is certainly very nice looking.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

With Sasquatch and Guardian already in my collection, I was certainly intrigued by the prospect of slowly building an Alpha Flight line-up.  I didn’t really expect to do it all at once, but that’s how it happened.  I ended up getting this set from my parents for Christmas.  The set’s really more spectacle than anything, sold on the novelty of completing the team in one go.  Removed from that novelty, most of the figure’s are kind of middle of the road, which I guess is only fair, since so are most of the characters.  Puck marks an improvement on the impossible to find Build-A-Figure, so he’s the star of the set for me.  The rest are okay, but virtually all of them are held back by some small production issue, which makes the set feel…underwhelming?  At least when looking at the figures individually.  As a unit, paired with the other figures?  They are pretty cool.

#2274: Strong Guy

STRONG GUY

MARVEL MINIMATES

On a team of oddballs and easily overlooked characters, Lila Cheney’s bodyguard Guido, under the alias of Strong Guy, is probably the most oddball and easily overlooked of the second X-Factor line-up.  Perhaps because of that, he became sort of the signature character for the team, a fixture for incarnations going forward.  The team’s line-up just really feel complete without him.  So, making a toy version of the team without him simply hasn’t happened.  The advent of Build-A-Figures for Minimates finally made it possible to make this five man team work in an assortment that could still sell to retailers, all while giving us the whole line-up in a single shot.  And, hey, it gives Strong Guy his second ever action figure.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Strong Guy is the Build-A-Figure for the 78th Series of Marvel Minimates.  He’s the fourth Minimate BaF, and the first one to really take advantage of the ability to get a slightly larger ‘mate out there by divvying up their pieces amongst four sets.  Unlike the rest of the assortment, Strong Guy is totally new to Minimates, which makes sense, what with him not really having other bankable looks to fall back on like the rest of the two teams.  The figure stands 2 1/2 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation, though like most bulked up ‘mates, there’s the caveat of the articulation all being rather limited.  Strong Guy starts with the basic ‘mate body, and then has add-ons for the torso cap, pelvis cap (with a torso extender), bulked up thighs, and straps for the wrists and ankles.  Somewhat amusingly, he doesn’t get the poofy upper arm sleeves like Havok and Polaris, which makes his arms seem slightly under-developed.  Why they didn’t opt to include those parts is anyone’s guess, but I suppose it’s possible they just didn’t cost out.  Strong Guy’s torso piece is all-new, and does a respectable job of recreating his distinctive proportions from the comics.  The design clips over the standard torso and replaces the arm pegs with another set mounted on the new torso piece.  For my money, they seem to sit out a little too far from the core of the body, and I definitely worry about their long-term integrity in terms of posing without breaking.  That said, they do the job alright.  The rest of the parts are re-used from elsewhere, and keep him inline with his teammates. His paintwork is respectable.  The best work is definitely on the face, which gets his design from the comics down.  The base color work on the body could be a little crisper, and the paint on some of the joints is a little thick, but he looks alright.  He’s got no accessories, but he’s technically an accessory himself, so I guess that pans out.  It would have been nice to at least get an extra stand for him, though.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Gee, I wonder where Ethan got this Build-A-Figure, built from the parts included in four sets that he just reviewed this week.  Yeah, this whole assortment was a gift from my Super Awesome Wife.  Havok was my primary focus, but I was also pretty invested in completing Strong Guy as well, which was the main push for rounding out the assortment.  He’s not perfect, but he’s a solid recreation of the character.  And now I’ve got this pretty nifty little X-Factor team.

#2273: Wolfsbane & Beast

WOLFSBANE & BEAST

MARVEL MINIMATES

Four days into these reviews, you should know what to expect here.  It’s time for one more of these Minimates reviews!  While yesterday’s pairing of characters was perhaps a little off-kilter, the assortment is finishing off with a pairing that’s actually a pretty natural one.  The feral but dignified Wolfsbane and Beast are both offered up in this final two-pack.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Wolfsbane and Beast are the final two-pack in Series 78 of Marvel Minimates.  Like the other sets in the assortment, they also include part of the Build-A-Mate Strong Guy, specifically the torso.

WOLFSBANE

“Rahne Sinclair was originally a member of the New Mutants before joining X-Factor. Her power is to shift into a wolflike form.”

Wolfsbane was a slight odd-man out for the New Mutants.  While most of their number were shunted from New Mutants into its direct replacement X-Force, Rahne was grabbed in the shuffle for a slight upgrade to X-Factor member.  It’s okay, her place in the X-Force roster had to be filled by the thinly-veiled knock off Feral.  They hardly missed her.  This figure marks Wolfsbane’s second time as a ‘mate, after getting released with her New Mutants team mates back in 2011.  This one stands 2 1/4 inches tall and she has 14 points of articulation.  She’s built on the modern ‘mate body, with add-ons for the hair and shoulder pads, and non-standard hands for her claws.  The hair piece is new, and is shared with her pack-mate.  Sensible, I suppose, as they typically had fairly similar hair, though perhaps a bit odd to see when looking at the pack in the box.  The claws and shoulder piece are both re-used parts, which is a sensible choice.  In general, they do a decent job of capturing Rahne’s team appearance.  The paintwork on her is solid work.  It translates the design and has all of the important details.  One of the knee joints was a little stuck from the paint, but at least it didn’t break like with Polaris.  Wolfsbane’s only accessory is a clear display stand.

BEAST

“Henry ‘Hank’ McCoy initially only had large hands and feet, and was a natural gymnast, until an experiment turned him furry and blue.”

There’s been something of a revolving seat for who gets left out of any ‘mate recreation of the various forms of the original five-man X-Men team.  The last time we got a boxed set of them all together, it was Hank who was left out, but this time he gets the nod over Bobby, who was the one member of X-Factor whose costume didn’t change with the others.  Beast actually had three different looks, with two “human” looks and the usual blue and furry.  This one is the usual blue and furry, which we haven’t gotten a ‘mate of since Series 34, prior to the move to the properly bulked up larger characters.  This figure uses those bulked up parts, alongside the feet from the Series 34 figure, the hair he shares with Wolfsbane, and a new set of bulked up hands.  It’s a good selection of parts, and easily the most accurate recreation of the bulked-up Beast we’ve gotten in the line.  The paintwork is about what you’d expect, and it’s worth noting it goes more heavily into that beastly look from the end of his stint in X-Factor, rather than a friendlier appearance.  The color of his fur is a close match to the Series 34 version, however, should you prefer the friendlier look.  Like Wolfsbane, his only accessory is a clear display stand.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This would be the last of the four sets of Minimates I got this year for Christmas from Super Awesome Wife.  It’s an okay set, though it’s probably my least favorite of the four sets personally.  Neither of the two included is really that much of a stand out, but they’re both certainly serviceable.

#2272: Multiple Man & Archangel

MULTIPLE MAN & ARCHANGEL

MARVEL MINIMATES

The last two sets of Minimates I looked at each paired off one member of X-Factor’s first incarnation with one from the second.  The first was the team leaders, Scott and Alex Summers, the similarly powered leaders of their respective teams.  The second was Jean Grey and Lorna Dane, the again fairly similarly powered love-interests of the team leaders.  For the third set, the connective tissue appears to be choice in head gear…*

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Multiple Man and Archangel are another set in Series 78 of Marvel Minimates, a whole assortment based around X-Factor.  Multiple Man is also available in a Luke’s Toy Store-exclusive two-pack with a duplicate of himself, allowing for quicker army building.  Also included with this pair is the head of the assortment’s Build-A-Mate, Strong-Guy.

MULTIPLE MAN

“Jamie Madrox has possessed the mutant ability to form duplicates from birth. He has been a member and the leader of X-Factor.”

Multiple Man’s first minimate was based on his 2000s X-Factor Investigations appearance, and pretty much since then a more classic version of the character has been fairly heavily requested.  Like a lot of this assortment, Multiple Man treads down the same roads as his recent Legends release; at least they know there’s a market, right?  The figure stands 2 1/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  He’s built on the modern ‘mate body, with an add-on piece for his jacket.  The jacket’s actually a new piece, which is a little surprising, but nice to see nevertheless.  The rest of his design is conveyed via paint work, which is a pretty impressive affair.  The shading on the uniform works really well, and I dig the green trench coat that more closely replicates the comics art.  Multiple Man’s only accessory is a clear display stand, which is a slight let down.  It’s too bad we couldn’t get some alternate arms for a sans jacket look, or maybe an extra head with a different expression like the Legends release had.

ARCHANGEL

“Warren Worthington III lost his feathered wings in battle, but was given new, metal wings by the mutant Apocalypse.”

Archangel marks this assortment’s first straight remake of an earlier ‘mate.  His Death design was first released back in Series 19 of the line, and hasn’t been updated since.  This one is different, but I don’t know that it’s inherently better.  He gets an add-on for his wings, which are a different piece than the previous Archangels, another surprise.  While these seem to capture the earlier stylings of the wings a bit better, it’s at the cost of the cool ball joints of the old ones; these wings only have the one possible pose.  That’s a bit of a letdown.  His paint work is at least pretty good.  I like the general color scheme of this one a little more than the prior release, and I think the face is more Warren Worthington-esque than the earlier version.  Archangel gets a flight stand and a regular display stand.  Cutting the death mask from this release is another letdown.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I got these two from the same source as the last two packs: Super Awesome Wife!  As I noted yesterday, I mostly wanted the first set, and the rest were along for the ride.  That said, this set’s probably number two for me.  Both figures are decent, but I can’t help but wish there were some more extras included, and there’s no denying that Archangel suffers a bit from change fro the sake of change.  Multiple Man’s pretty cool, though.

*Interestingly, as odd-ball as this pair may be, this is not the first time Madrox and Worthington have been paired up in this line; Madrox’s more modern appearance from Series 31 was packed with two different versions of Angel.

#2271: Polaris & Jean Grey

POLARIS & JEAN GREY

MARVEL MINIMATES

To round out the first week of my Post-Christmas reviews, I’m continuing yesterday’s theme, with another look at some Minimates.  Yesterday kicked off a pair of X-Factor teams with their respective team leaders, the brothers Cyclops and Havok.  Today, I’m following that up with their respective love interests from said teams, Jean Grey and Polaris!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Polaris and Jean are the second set in Series 78 of Marvel Minimates.  Like yesterday’s set, they also include part of the Build-A-Mate Strong Guy, specifically his arms.  I’ll be looking at those arms alongside the rest of him at the end of the week.

POLARIS

“The Mistress of Magnetism, Lorna Dane is the daughter of the mutant Magneto, and occasionally battled the X-Men before joining X-Factor.”

Though Havok has been a little more lucky, Polaris hasn’t actually gotten a single ‘mate since her very first one, all the way back in Series 20 of the line, a whopping 12 years ago.  In DST’s defense, that figure held up surprisingly well, and the only reason she really needed a follow up was to get her a second costume.  Like the Legends figure also released this year, Polaris is sporting her first X-Factor costume.  The figure stands 2 1/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation…or at least she would if mine hadn’t had the peg tear off of the right hand the first time I tried to move it, necessitating me gluing it back in place for this review.  Yay for tacky paint on joints!  She uses the basic ‘mate body, with the same poofy-sleeved upper arms as Havok, plus an all-new hair piece, and add-ons for the wrist and ankle straps.  The hair is a decent recreation of her wacky, crazy ’90s hair.  It doesn’t translate quite as well to this style as Havok’s look did, but for the most part they did a decent job of making it work.  The paint work on Polaris is fine, apart from it’s tacky, joint destroying nature in a few spots.  Aside from that little nit, it does actually look pretty solid.  Lorna included two effects pieces and a clear display stand.  Like the Legends figures, Polaris and Havok again share the same effects, just differentiated by color.  I’m still not sure how well it works.  Also, my figure has that whole torn joint thing, so she can only use one of the pieces.

JEAN GREY

“A powerful telepath, Jean Grey was a founding member of the X-Men. She later became a founding member of X-Factor.”

Jean’s the first figure so far from this assortment to not have been beaten to market by a Legends equivalent….probably due to this being a fairly low-profile look for her.  While her initial green and yellow number checks off the standard Jean Grey boxes and has therefore seen a little bit of toy love, and Scott’s second round costume was forever immortalized by having an action figure early on, Jean’s red and yellow number is often overlooked.  This is actually her first figure.  She is largely built from the same bank of parts as Cyclops, which I guess makes sense, what with the whole uniform thing.  The gloves are still technically incorrect, but at least they remained internally consistent.  The only differing piece between the two figures is Jean’s hair, which is the same one they’ve been using for Jean since the ’90s costume back in Series 34.  Again, props for consistency. Like Scott, Jean’s paintwork is rather straight-forward.  It’s clean, it’s eye-catching, and it’s definitely very red.  Jean looks weird in this much red.  Jean comes up light on the accessories front, with only a clear display stand.  Since her mask is painted onto the face, it would have been nice to at least get an unmasked head to swap out, or possibly some sort of telekinesis effect.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

As I touched on yesterday, I got this whole series of figures from my Super Awesome Wife.  Let’s all be real, the stars of the assortment are yesterday’s set; everyone else was really just along for the ride.  This set’s okay, not anything really amazing.  Neither figure has that wow factor, but neither one of them is bad either.  All in all, a decent set.

#2270: Havok & Cyclops

HAVOK & CYCLOPS

MARVEL MINIMATES

Okay, six days into this year’s Post-Christmas reviews, we’ve stumbled into our first theme: Minimates.  Yep, the next five days are going to be all about Minimates, which, somewhat like the Robin figure I reviewed on Saturday, feels a bit like getting back to my roots.  It’s been a while since I’ve just done a week of Minimates reviews.  For years, one of the more persistently demanded teams yet to grace Minimate form was the ’90s incarnation of X-Factor.  After giving us most of the characters in other, non-X-Factor forms, DST has finally given us the core team, each paired alongside one of their predecessors from the original X-Factor line-up.  I’m kicking things off with the two teams’ respective leaders, the brothers Havok and Cyclops!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Havok and Cyclops are part of Series 78 of Marvel Minimates, which is, as noted above, based on the first two incarnations of X-Factor.  In addition to the two main figures, this set also includes the legs and torso of this assortment’s Build-A-Figure, Strong Guy, who I’ll be reviewing on his own at the end of the week.

HAVOK

“Alex Summers, Scott’s brother, was a member of the X-Men before leading a new incarnation of X-Factor. He can create directional directional energy blasts.”

Okay, so the Legends release has stolen this guy’s thunder ever so slightly, but I am nevertheless still stoked to have yet another figure of Havok’s X-Factor duds.  They’re very sentimental to me, and while I’m glad we got the two versions of classic Havok we did before this guy, I am still so thrilled by this guy’s existence.  In contrast to the Legend, the old Toy Biz figure, and even the Kubrick, this Havok actually gives us the first incarnation of Havok’s ’90s costume, before he got the yellow straps to match the main X-team.  The only other instance of his first costume in toy form that I can think of is the X-Men Under Siege! board game from the ’90s, so it’s a pretty noteworthy thing.  The figure is 2 1/4 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  He’s constructed using the modern standard ‘mate body, with the poofy-sleeved upper arms, and add-ons for the hair, jacket, and glove cuffs.  The cuffs are the same Spirit pieces we’ve seen many times before, but the hair and jacket are all new pieces.  While I always envisioned this look with a full head-piece myself, I must admit that this layout works pretty well, and keeps him from being overly bulked up.  Havok’s paintwork is pretty impressive, given just how much detail is going on.  The face is really the first time I feel they’ve gotten comic Havok down; the previous two seemed just a bit too intense with the screaming.  The gritted teeth here look good.  The torso is fully detailed under the jacket, and I was pleased to see that they had even included some of the easier to miss details such as the pockets on the sides of his legs.  Havok is packed with two brand new effects pieces and a clear display stand.

CYCLOPS

“Scott ‘Slim’ Summers was the deputy leader of the X-Men before forming X-Factor. He possesses the power of optic blasts.”

And again Legends did a bit of thunder stealing here, what with giving us this exact costume in the Vintage wave this year.  Who would have guessed?  Certainly not me.  While I don’t have quite the same level of attachment to this costume that I do Havok’s, this Cyclops costume is still pretty sentimental to me, and I’m down for another version of it.  It should be noted that this is Cyclops’ second X-Factor costume.  The first was released as part of a boxed set in 2009, and remains the only time that the original costume has been done in toy form.  In that regard, Minimates are just catching up with everyone else and releasing the more popular white and blue.  The figure is constructed solely from re-used parts, with the cowl/visor piece from Series 68’s Giant Size X-Men Cyclops, plus standard cuffed boots and flared gloves.  If you want to get really technical, the gloves are supposed to have folded over cuffs like the boots, but otherwise the parts make for a good match to his comics appearance.  Cyclops’ paint is a bit more straight-forward than his brother’s, but still very nicely done, with clean application and a striking color scheme.  Cyclops is packed with an alternate hairpiece (borrowed from the Series 34 release) with his Jim Lee-style exposed hair, which he had towards the end of this costume’s run, as well as a clear display stand.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This pair (and the rest of the series, for that matter) were a Christmas gift from my Super Awesome Wife.  Amusingly enough, the series was wrapped as two pairs, and these two weren’t in the first pair, but I knew they had to be in the selection of wrapped gifts.  It may have slightly undermined my excitement on the first pair, which may have slightly annoyed Super Awesome Wife.  Whatever the case, I was very glad to get them, and this pair in particular has extra sentimental value to me, being my first two figures of both characters packed in one set.

#2259: Spider-Man & Carnage

SPIDER-MAN & CARNAGE

MARVEL MINIMATES

The early assortments of Marvel Minimates were home to some quite distinctive ‘mates.  While they are by and large a simpler selection and design, that can’t be said for every release.  In fact, the two ‘mates I’m looking at today remained some of the line’s most detailed for a long period of time, to the point where replacing them with updates seemed quite a daunting task for quite a while.  Without further ado, let’s have a look at Spider-Man and Carnage.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Spider-Man and Carnage are the final pairing from Series 2 of the main Marvel Minimates line, hitting alongside Series 1 and 3 in the summer of 2003.  Both would see re-release in a TRU 4-pack the following year, and Spider-Man would also be released in a TRU 5-pack and as a single in ’03, as well as packed with Green Goblin at Walmart and Target in ’04, and with Gajin Wolverine at Target in ’06.  He got around is what I’m getting at.

SPIDER-MAN

Perhaps the definitive classic ‘mate was this Spider-Man.  He was easily the poster child of the line’s launch, and remained front and center until the arrival of a new “standard” classic Spidey in Series 24.  It’s not a huge shock, I suppose, given that he’s Marvel’s most recognizable hero and his design allows for the showcasing of a “pure” Minimate body.  He stands 2 1/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation, and is constructed on the old long-footed body.  As with any standard Spidey, he’s great for taking a step back and appreciating the basic body at its best.  The heavy lifting, of course, is done with paint, and this Spidey had some of the very best.  All of his weblines are properly defined, something that would disappear as the line moved on.  Additionally, the face of his mask is really a perfect boiling down of Spidey’s classic mask.  No ‘mate that followed ever quite got that same feel.  It’s not 100% perfect; the blue is probably a touch dark, and compared to later releases, the lack of any musculature can be a little glaring.  On his own, though, he’s very strong.  Like the other Spider-Men in this inaugural assortment, he was packed with a webline piece.

CARNAGE

Having just escaped the ’90s, we were all still very invested in Carnage at this point, making him a solid choice for the final villain in this initial line-up.  It would be his only Minimate for a resounding 11 years, in no small part due to how well this one was implemented.  He’s fairly similar to Venom in his constuction, being a base body with a new set of hands, but it’s important to note that the hands on this one aren’t the same as on Venom, which was honestly a little bit surprising, but not unappreciated.  The real star of the show is again the paint.  Carnage’s distinctive black and red swirls are present on every visible surface, no small feat given how often details on the sides and backs of limbs got cut as the line progressed, or even compared to how sparse the rest of the early ‘mates were.  Heck, he gets full detailing on his hands and feet, the one place even Spidey’s weblines don’t go.  That’s impressive, and is part of why it took them 11 years to top this one, with a ‘mate that was rolling in the sculpted add-ons.  This one did it without those.  Carnage was packed with an extra hand, shaped like an axe, to demonstrate his shape-shifting abilities.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I didn’t actually get this set new.  My brother had one, but I ended up getting just the Spidey from elsewhere, and never felt compelled to track down Carnage until he was far too expensive on the aftermarket.  Then I got the 2014 release, and just didn’t feel the need to go back.  When All Time got in a large ‘mate collection back a few months ago, I managed to add every figure from the first year of the line to my collection, minus one: Carnage.  There was but one Carnage in the lot, and that went to Max, who’s definitely the store’s resident symbiote fanatic, so I wouldn’t dream of fighting him on it.  However, I did send him a photo of my shelf containing all but that one missing ‘mate, and he decided to go and be one of them pesky nice and generous people and give me his Carnage so that I could complete the set-up.  Can you believe the nerve of this guy?

#2254: Beast

BEAST

X-MEN (TOY BIZ)

“Blue-furred and boisterous, the Beast’s monstrous exterior conceals the fact that he possesses the mind of an articulate, well-read genius! Ever ready to answer the call should either man or mutant be in peril, the Beast employs both his dexterous digits and his scientific skills as a member of the X-Men.”

The ’90s X-Men line-up was a pretty sizeable, even just going by the cartoon’s more paired down version of the cast, which for a burgeoning toy line can be a slightly daunting prospect.  It took several assortments to make their way through the main cast.  Founding member Beast was a later addition, though certainly not the latest.  I’m taking a look at that figure today.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Beast was released in Series 6 of the Toy Biz X-Men line.  Aside from the cartoon-creation Morph, he was the only X-Man proper in the line-up.  The same figure would subsequently be re-issued as part of the “Classics” line-up which put out all of the main cartoon cast in one assortment, and then again as part of the Marvel Universe line.  The three figures are essentially identical, and it’s worth noting that my figure comes from the “Classics” release.  This figure’s sculpt would also serve as the inspiration for both the 10-inch and Steel Mutants figures.  The figure stands just over 5 inches tall and he has 11 points of articulation…in theory.  In reality, it’s more like 7, because his action feature makes the joints at the knees and ankles effectively useless.  Said action feature is dubbed “Mutant Flipping Power” and means that there are springs in his knee and ankle joints, which are supposed to allow him to flip.  In my experience, it was never a very reliable feature and just made it rather hard to keep the figure standing.  Tied into the feature was this weird switch thing on the figure’s back, for which I’ve never figured out the purpose.  His sculpt definitely follows that early ’90s look for the character, at his most bulked up and monstrous.  Nevertheless, he’s still got that sophisticated Henry McCoy expression on his face, as if he’s contemplating the moral quandaries of his current heroic endeavor.  The rest of the sculpt is surprisingly smooth for such a hairy guy, especially when compared to other, similarly textured characters from this and surrounding series.  I can only guess they were going for more of a stylistic thing on Hank.  The figure’s pretty light on the paint front, with most of him being just molded in a light blue.  There’s a bit of paint for his shorts and belt, as well as his eyes and teeth.  For whatever reason, his eyes are solid yellow; he’s gone back and forth between having pupils and pure white eyes, but the yellow’s more of a Nightcrawler thing usually. Beast was packed with a suction cup-sporting bar to hang from, which was cool enough, though the suction cup long ago fell off of mine.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I don’t actually recall much about getting this figure.  I think he was one of those “my Dad got one and then I also wanted one” figures.  I certainly would have wanted him for the purposes of filling out my X-Men line-up.  He’s an okay figure.  The action feature gets in the way here more than on most Toy Biz figures, which can be annoying, but his sculpt’s fairly decent, and he definitely fit with that toon aesthetic.

#2245: Damaged Spider-Man, Black Spider-Man & Venom

DAMAGED SPIDER-MAN, BLACK SPIDER-MAN, & VENOM

MARVEL MINIMATES

After a slightly more off-kilter theme for Series 1, Marvel Minimates went a little more straight-forward for their second assortment, centering it on Marvel’s #1 super hero, Spider-Man.  We got three prominent Spidey baddies, as well as a whole handful of Spidey variants.  In a world where Marvel Minimates wrapped with Series 3, this assortment would have made for a satisfying Spidey sub-set.  Today, I’ll be taking a look at a slightly worse for wear Spidey as he faces off against his dark reflection, Venom, as well as perhaps the most popular Spidey costume variant ever.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Damaged Spider-Man and Venom were released in Series 2 of Marvel Minimates as one of the standard sets, with the one-per-case Black Spider-Man swapping out for Damaged in each case.  Both Damaged Spidey and Venom would also see release as singles and in the TRU boxed sets as well, but this would remain the only way to get this specific Black Spidey.

DAMAGED SPIDER-MAN

A battle-damaged Spidey is a pretty long-standing tradition for toylines, and this particular figure would himself start the trend of battle-damaged figures within this particular line, particularly in the earlier days.  He’s just using the basic ‘mate body, albeit that wonky long-footed old style release.  Everything else is paint, and the paint was never really better than on these earliest Spider-Men.  This one uses the standard Spidey from this same assortment as a starting point, but adds in several tears to the costume, with a bit of exposed skin.  The coolest bit is definitely that little bit of Peter’s face we can see; that teeth-clenched expression really sells the severity of whatever situation he’s in.  His one accessory was a simple grey webline, which would be the go-to accessory for Spidey sets going forward.

BLACK SPIDER-MAN

Swapping out for Damaged Spidey is perhaps one of the most controversial choices for a limited variant release, Spidey in his black costume.  This figure, unlike his fellow Series 1 and Series 3 variants, showcases a “we’re not gonna get more than three series” mentality, because without that in place, it makes absolutely no sense to make the most popular costume variant for Spidey a supremely limited release.  It’s not a huge shock that DST would eventually release several additional versions of this costume, since he was going for mad money for a good long while.  This one uses the same layout as the Damaged, with just the standard body, no add-ons.  His painted details are sparser, befitting the costume’s simpler design, but it honestly ends up working seriously in the figure’s favor.  Straight black and white’s a very good look.

VENOM

After Peter ditched the alien symbiote, it moved onto Eddie Brock, and the two became Venom, one of Spidey’s definitive foes.  Venom has no shortage of ‘mates, but this is certainly the most basic.  The majority of it’s actually identical to the Black Spidey from above, but he does get a unique set of clawed hands, and a different head.  The head seen here is actually the one with the uniquely sculpted tongue, but there’s an important note on that.  Originally, Venom was meant to include two heads, one with tongue, and one without.  All of the standard US release Venoms from the first year were actually shipped out missing the second head with the tongue, so DST offered to send the piece out to customers who bought the earlier release.  LAter releases would add the missing piece back in.  In a turn of fate, my figure is actually missing the head without the tongue.  Of course, I see no situation where I would display that head, so I’m not worried about it.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Unsurprisingly, given how popular the costume is, the Black Spidey was very hard to find when these hit.  I wanted that one, and didn’t really have much interest in the damaged version, so I ultimately ended up getting none of them when they were new.  When All Time got in a very large Minimate collection a few months ago, Black Spidey was at the top of my list of wants, and the other two just sort of came along with him.