#1790: Thor: Ragnarok Minimates

GLADIATOR THOR, HELA, BRUCE BANNER, & LOKI

MARVEL MINIMATES

Three Norse Gods and….Mark Ruffalo?  What could possibly go wrong?

The Thor movies have some slight trouble with getting proper toy representation.  The Minimates have done a fair bit of good, but in the case of both of the first two films, last minute cancellations of planned store exclusives resulted in incomplete cast lineups.  Fortunately, Ragnarok was a bit more fortunate.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

These four were released in a specialty-exclusive four-pack, released at the same time as the Walgreens and TRU-exclusive two-pack assortments.  Thor and Hela were included in two-pack form in both of those assortments, but Loki and Banner are both exclusive to this particular set.

GLADIATOR THOR

Ragnarok delivered a rather changed-up look for our hero Thor, who had something of an evolving appearance as the film progressed.  This figure represents him from around the film’s mid-point, after he’s arrived on Sakaar and been thrown into the arena as a gladiator.  It’s definitely his most distinctive look from the film, so it’s a sensible inclusion.  Thor has three sculpted add-on pieces to aid in his look.  The first is his helmet.  Thor’s helmet has been frequently overlooked by the film’s and while he doesn’t wear it for long in Ragnarok, it does at least get some focus that it hadn’t previously.  It’s an all-new piece here, and a pretty decent one at that.  The general design of it’s very close to the one seen in the film, and the detail work is pretty solid.  It perhaps sits a little high on his head, but only ever so slightly.  He’s also got a brand new shoulder piece, featuring his shoulderpads and the remaining half of his cape.  It sits well on the body, and doesn’t bulk up the neck too much, so that’s a definite plus.  Finally, he’s got a generic skirt piece, standing in for the bottom portion of his tunic.  Thor’s paintwork is a good recreation of his film design.  The detail lines are nice and sharp, and while the face isn’t the spitting image of Hemsworth, it’s as close as any of the prior attempts have been, and at least this one’s got a good fighting expression.  The tunic features some rather ornate detailing, as do his wrist guards, but I think the little bit of Sakaaran armor on his right leg is my favorite bit.  It’s just so vibrant and genuine.  Since it depicts Thor following Mjolnir’s destruction, this figure doesn’t include that piece.  It does, however, include the two swords he tries to replace his hammer with during his time as a gladiator, as well as a spare hairpiece for a sans-helmet look and a clear display stand.

HELA

After sparring off with one of the franchise’s most forgettable villains for his second installment, Thor was granted a far more intriguing foe in the form of Hela, goddess of death.  She’s still not the Enchantress, but I guess I’ll take it.  Hela is built using two sculpted add-on pieces, for her cape and her distinctive headdress.  Both pieces are unique to this particular figure, though I’m sure they could easily work for a comic book Hela, should DST be so inclined.  They’re both very well crafted additions, capturing the designs from the movie very nicely.  The headdress is sufficiently ornate, and the slight swoop at the bottom of the cape is definitely a nice touch.  Hela’s paint work is suitably bold and striking, even a bit moreso than her onscreen design.  The slightly metallic nature of the green adds even more to the appearance, and I appreciate that the green detailing goes all the way around the legs and pelvis piece.  For accesroes, Hela’s packed with an extra head and hair, depicting her unmasked appearance from her more vulnerable portions of the movie, as well as the usual clear display stand.

BRUCE BANNER

While the two-packs were host to his jade goliath alter-ego, this set gives us a completely un-transformed Bruce Banner.  This is the second such figure we’ve gotten of the Mark Ruffalo version of the character, following his TRU-exclusive release from Age of Ultron.  Banner uses two add-on pieces, for his hair and his jacket.  Both of them are re-used.  The hair is, appropriately, the old Zombie Hulk piece that was used for quite a few Hulks.  It’s a pretty decent match for Ruffalo’s look, especially his slightly shorter hair from Ragnarok.  His jacket is the Ghostbusters World of the Psychic Peter Venkman piece, which has similarly seen a number of uses.  It’s just a basic blazer, so it works well for the look they’re going for.  Bruce’s paint work is perhaps not the most thrilling work in the whole set, but it’s reasonable work never the less.  The face capture’s Ruffalo’s likeness pretty well, and while the shirt lacks the Duran Duran cover from the movie (which I’m certain is a licensing thing), it does at the very least include some wrinkles and folds, so that it’s not just a blank grey block.  Bruce includes a second head, with an angry expression and green pupils.  It’s not the first such piece we’ve seen with a Banner figure, but it’s a welcome addition all the same.  He also includes the usual clear display stand.

LOKI

Loki, particularly Tom Hiddleston’s version of the character, is no stranger to the world of Minimates.  He’s managed to get at least one ‘mate for each of the movies he’s been featured in (well, barring Infinity War).  Ragnarok proved even more generous in this regarding, giving us not one, not two, but three versions of the character.  The one seen here is based on his look from the movie’s final climactic battle.  It’s a look patterned somewhat after his “Agent of Asgard” look from the comics, which is certainly one of his cooler looks.  Loki makes use of three sculpted add-on pieces, for his hair/crown, his cape, and his belt piece.  The hairpiece is unique to this figure, and does a respectable job of capturing the design from the movie.  The crown in particular is quite sharply detailed.  The cape, which is shared with one of the other two Lokis from the movie, is one of my favorite capes, in part because of its rather straight forward nature.  His paint is perhaps the figure’s one real flaw.  For the most part, it’s not bad.  Like Hela, the color scheme is rather striking, and the details on the costume are quite sharp.  In addition, the face is my favorite of the Hiddleston Lokis we’ve gotten to date; that smile is fantastic.  The real trouble is with the hairpiece, where the application is rather sloppy, and in what appears to be an across the board error, his ears have been painted the same gold as his headpiece, rather than the proper peach-tone.  Loki is the lightest packed in this set, featuring only a clear display stand.  I wouldn’t have minded his knives or an extra hair piece or something, but the other three help keep the sting down a little bit.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I grabbed this set from the best Minimate retailer around, Luke’s Toy Store, a few months back.  I actually had fallen behind a bit on releases, so this was part of a catch-up I was doing at the time.  It’s a pretty strong set. Gladiator Thor is one of the coolest versions of the character we’ve gotten in the MCU, and this ‘mate does a great job of translating that.  Hela’s an important character in the context of the movie, and a brand-new character in the context of the line as a whole, plus she’s got a pretty killer look.  Though he’s just a basic civilian, Banner’s a very well-executed ‘mate, and another winning figure in this already quite strong set.  This Loki is really the star Loki figure from the movie, and issues with the paint aside, he’s a pretty darn solid addition to the line-up.

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#1773: Captain America & Falcon

CAPTAIN AMERICA & FALCON

MARVEL MINIMATES

Infinity War saw a lot of familiar faces returning, and by extension so have the accompanying toys.  The Minimates have been split into two main assortments, and by far the most noticeable absence from the first one was the Star-Spangled Man himself, Captain America.  Fortunately, he’s headlining the second assortment, alongside his frequent partner in crime, the Falcon!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Cap and Falcon are part of the second assortment of Infinity War-themed Marvel Minimates.  They’re one of the two sets shared between specialty and Walgreens (and were originally supposed to be offered at Toys R Us).

CAPTAIN AMERICA

Captain America’s got quite a different look this time around, owing a lot to his appearance during his days as Nomad in the comics.  Given the similar thematic elements between the storylines, it’s a well-chosen look, and it aids in filling us in on how things have gone for him since he abandoned the shield at the end of Civil War. Cap’s construction is very similar to his Civil War figures, which is sensible, since it’s the same costume and all.  He uses the shield harness, gloves, and belt from that set-up, and swaps out Ego’s hair for the usual close-cropped fare.  The end result makes for a pretty solid approximation of his design from the movie. Sure, the shape of the buckles on the harness isn’t movie accurate (they should be circular), but that’s an exceedingly minor change that DST is forgiven for overlooking.  In terms of paint, Cap is pretty well-off.  The face is sporting a pretty decent likeness of the bearded Chris Evans, and the rest of the details on the uniform and such are very crisp, and all of the important details are there.  The intent from his missing star insignia is clearly defined, as are all of his pockets and such on his uniform.  It’s a shame his uniform isn’t showing the small rips and tears like in the movie, but that’s another small detail. Cap is packed with an extra set of hands, featuring his replacement Wakandan shields.  They’re a bit on the small side, and it’s kind of difficult to tell the difference between them and the standard hands.  That said, they’re new pieces, and they’re certainly better than nothing.  He also includes the usual clear display stand.

FALCON

Unlike Cap, Falcon’s look for Infinity War is largely unchanged from his prior appearance in Civil War.  However, the Civil War release was exclusive to Toys R Us, so it’s sensible that DST would want to give buyers another chance at the character.  Falcon is built from the same collection of pieces as his Civil War figure (reviewed here).  They worked very well the first time around, and they continue to work here.  As it’s the same costume in-movie, it would be silly for DST to try and recreate these pieces wholesale.  Falcon’s paintwork is also rather similar to his last figure, but there are a few minor differences.  His facial expression has changed slightly, closing his mouth, but still keeping his angrier appearance.  The colors of the costume have also been subdued a bit, which actually brings him a bit more inline with how he appears onscreen, since the Civil War release was using an earlier color scheme.  Sadly, Falcon takes a little bit of hit in the accessories department.  He’s got his flight stand and gets both of his twin guns (as opposed to the single one from last time), but loses the Redwing drone.  It doesn’t get any play in Infinity War, but it’s still a little sad to see him with less extras than before.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Cap’s the undeniable selling point of this set, and he’s a very strong entry.  After getting a lot of very similar looks in the first round of Infinity War ‘mates, this distinctly different looking Cap is definitely a breath of fresh air, and a fun figure in general.  How much you like this FALCON figure is going to be very connected to whether you got the last one.  He’s still a solid release, no doubt, but he doesn’t have much new to offer.

#1771: Big Time Spider-Man & Shadowland Iron Fist

BIG TIME SPIDER-MAN & SHADOWLAND IRON FIST

MARVEL MINIMATES

Shadowland is an event I think most of us would like to forget, and most of us kind of have.  However, the event is notable for a few of the good things that came out of it.  Firstly, it led to a hard relaunch of Daredevil, thus giving us Mark Waid’s phenomenal run on the character.  Secondly, it gave us Marvel Minimates Series 38, which, despite its questionable origins, was a pretty exciting assortment, at least at the time.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Shadowland Iron Fist and Big Time Spider-Man were available in both the 38th specialty series and the tenth Toys R Us-exclusive series of Marvel Minimates.

SHADOWLAND IRON FIST

This was only Danny Rand’s second Minimate, hitting shelves a whopping 7 years after the first.  By this point, the character had been successfully re-launched by Matt Fraction and David Aja in the pages of Immortal Iron Fist, so a new version was overdue.  DST took advantage of his appearance during Shadowland to finally get us Danny’s current (at the time) design.  Iron Fist used add-ons for his mask, sash, and wrapped hands.  The sash was re-used, though not from the original Iron Fist as you might think.  Instead it came from the PX-exclusive Dark Phoenix, which had a much more simplistic piece.  Honestly, I think I’d have preferred the old Iron Fist piece, which had more detailing, but I guess a sash is a sash.  The mask and hands were new to this guy.  The mask actually gives Danny hair and ears, unlike the first one, and is generally just a solid piece (hence why it’s still in use another 7 years later).  The hands, on the other *hand* (heh), I’ve never been much of a fan of.  They’re just oddly shaped, and definitely far too long and skinny.  I think the wraps would have looked better as a painted on detail.  The paintwork on Iron Fist is actually surprisingly dull.  Like, I get wanting to maybe downplay the colorfulness of the costume a little bit, but this always seemed to take it a little far.  It still looks fine, though, and I suppose isn’t too far off from how he looked during the Immortal Iron Fist run.  I’ve always found the face to look a little old for Danny.  I think there are a few too many lines.  With the mask on, he looks decent enough, though.  The one detail that really frustrates me is that his sleeves go all the way down to his wrists.  He had extra unwrapped hands to swap out, but without the exposed skin on his forearms, he just ends up looking wrong.  In addition to those previously mentioned extra hands, Iron Fist also included a hair piece for an unmasked look (re-used from Series 27’s Ultimate Iron Man) and an energy effect piece for his “iron fist.”

BIG TIME SPIDER-MAN

Right around the same time that all that crazy stuff was going on in Daredevil, Dan Slott began his legendary run on Spider-Man, kicking things off with a storyline titled “Big Time,” which finally brought the focus back to Peter Parker’s prowess as an engineer.  During the story, he starts building newer, more advanced Spider-suits, including the stealthy suit seen here.  Though the suit was rather short-lived, it was a very sleek look, calling back to the fan-favorite symbiote design, as well as throwing in a bit of Tron for good measure, so it had a lasting impression with fans.  This would be the first of a handful of figures based on this costume.  This Spider-Man, like a lot of Spider-Men, is a completely vanilla ‘mate, making use of no extra add-ons or anything.  It’s nice to get the occasional vanilla ‘mate to remind you of how good the standard body is.  All of the important details are handled via paint, which is handled pretty well overall.  The slight highlights are a very effective way of detailing the all-black suit, and capture Humberto Ramos’ illustrations of the suit well.  My only complaint is the shade of green used; I think something brighter would have popped more against the suit.  It’s not bad as is, but it could be better.  Spidey was packed with a web-line piece.  It’s the same piece used with other Spider-Men, but molded in translucent yellow plastic, which gives it a nice, unique feel.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Iron Fist was a much anticipated figure, but also a somewhat flawed one.  It fixed some of the issues from the first Iron Fist ‘mate, while at the same time introducing new ones of it’s own, making the whole thing a bit of a wash.  The later Best Of version ended up being the one most of us were actually waiting for.  Big Time Spider-Man is one of my favorite Spider-Man designs, and this ‘mate does a pretty exceptional job of translating it into plastic.

#1754: The Champions

ANGEL, GHOST RIDER, BLACK WIDOW, & HERCULES

MARVEL MINIMATES

In wake of the success of the Avengers and the Defenders, in the ’70s, Marvel was looking for another big team-up book to push.  In 1975, Tony Isabella and Don Heck introduced the Champions, a collection of two X-Men, two fan favorite solo acts, and a former Avenger.  The team wasn’t really a smash success, running only 17 issues, before the team disbanded and the members were absorbed into other projects.  They remained a favorite amongst die-hard fans, though, as well as having a pretty strong line-up, which led to them getting an Action Figure Express-exclusive boxed set in 2009.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

These four were released via AFX at SDCC 2009.  They cover four of the five founding members.  Sadly, we’ve never gotten a proper Iceman to match the other four, but there are a few stand-ins…anyway, onto the four we actually got!

ANGEL

We’d had two Archangels prior to this figure’s release, but this was the first proper Angel ‘mate.  Angel notably had two distinct looks over the course of the series.  This figure is based on the second, less dated of the two, which was a variant of his blue and white costume from the ‘60s.  This is one of the character’s longest-lived looks, so it was definitely a well-deserved variant.  The figure is built on the basic ‘mate body, so he’s 2 1/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  He gets an extra two points via the ball-joints for the wings, which brings his count up to 16.  Angel had four sculpted add-on pieces, for his hair/cowl, harness, and wings.  The hair is a new piece (which would see re-use later down the line for two other Angel variants), and, aside from the cowl being a little bulky at the sides, it’s a good match for Angel’s style of the time. The harness is the same one first used on Archangel, with a new set of feathery wings attached to it.  The new wings are a marked improvement over the DCD Hawkman wings, with greater size, greater posablity, and a far more durable point of connection.   Angel’s paint is privy to its ups and its downs.  The detail lines are all nice and sharp, and the face does a pretty great job of capturing Angel’s pretty-boy persona.  The colors are all very bright, and match up with the comics in that regard.  The big problem is with the application of the paint.  The changes from red to white are particularly sloppy, and the yellow for the gloves and boots is too thin to fully cover the reds in some areas.  It makes for a somewhat sloppy figure.  Angel included no accessories, but with the wings, it’s not too much of a loss.  I suppose an extra hair piece might have been nice.

GHOST RIDER

The fourth Ghost Rider, and technically the second Johnny Blaze, this figure marks the first, and to date only, ‘mate of the classic incarnation of the character.  Ghost Rider makes use of sculpted add-ons for his hair, collar, glove cuffs, and belt.  His hair and cuffs are re-used, with the hair coming from the Series 8 Human Torch, and the cuffs being the rolled-up sleeves from the Spirit two-pack.  At first glance, the collar looks to be the same one from the DCD Star Sapphire, but it’s not quite the same.  The belt is likewise a new piece for this set.  The collar sits a little high on the torso, and hides his neck, which looks a little off.  Otherwise, the parts make for a pretty solid recreation of Ghost Rider.  Ghost Rider’s paint is a marked improvement on Angel.  Perhaps it’s the variations of blue helping matters, but application seems to be cleaner and sharper than it was on Angel.  The new head also does a tremendous job of handling GR’s flaming skull, doing it in a much more pleasing way than prior variants had handled it.  Accessories are pretty much going to be the failing point of any Ghost Rider Minimate ever, since contractually he can’t have the Hellcycle that actually makes him a “rider.” As the classic version of the character, this one’s even lighter than other variations of the character, since he didn’t yet have the usual chain whip.  This one instead just gets a flame effect piece, which is certainly better than nothing.

BLACK WIDOW

This set marked Black Widow’s Minimate debut, and she served as a prominent selling point for a lot of people.  Like the others, she’s seen here in her classic ‘70s garb.  Not quite as timeless as some of the others in the pack, but a very good choice nevertheless. Widow has four sculpted add-on pieces; one for the hair, two for the widow’s stingers, and one for the belt.  Apart from the belt, which is shared with the Ghost Rider from this set (and let’s be honest, was really designed for her and re-used on him), all of her pieces were new.  Sharp detailing, and good recreation of her look from the comics. Widow’s paint is by far the best in the set.  The shiny black for the body suit looks really spiffy, and the detailing on the torso is an amazing feat in adding dimension to a flat torso block.  The face could perhaps stand to be a little more emotive, but it still feels true to the character.  There are no accessories for Widow in this set, which is a bit of shame, but not totally surprising, since Widow’s primary means of attack at the time was her widow’s stingers.

HERCULES

Like Black Widow, Hercules made his Minimate debut in this set, though unlike her he’s yet to get a follow-up. There are a number of options when it comes to Herc’s design.  This one is the one he was sporting for the entirety of his time with the Champions, and it had just gotten a revival right around the time of this figure’s release, courtesy of Herc’s role during World War Hulk and its subsequent fall-out.  Hercules has five add-on pieces, for his hair, his chest cap, his wrist bands, and his skirt. The hair piece is new to Herc, and it’s a really goof piece.  The detailing on the hair is quite sharp, and the flow to his hair is quite realistic.  The rest of the parts are re-use, with the torso coming from the Wave 22 Hulk, the wrist bands coming from the DCD Ocean Master, and the skirt coming from the Star Trek line.  It’s an okay combination of parts, but not one that’s held up the best.  The chest cap in particular was always rather flawed design, with the shoulders in particular giving the whole thing a rather strange appearance.  As one of those sort of in-between characters size-wise, DST was undeniably in a tough as to how to handle him.  Herc’s paintwork is fairly decent work.  The face captures Herc’s likeness well (though I might have liked something a bit more intense or angry, following after the cover to The Champions #1), and has a lot of detailing in the brow and beard in particular.  The rest of the details are pretty well defined, but the orange and green sections of the skirt could probably have stood to get an outline, if nothing more than to match the strap on his torso.  Hercules was packed with his club, which was a newly sculpted piece.  It follows the comics design well.  It can be stowed on his back, which is a cool touch.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I’ve never been to SDCC, so it follows that I wasn’t there in-person to get this in 2009.  Fortunately, AFX was good about getting their exclusives up online, so I was able to secure myself a set without much trouble.  I was happy to get this set, because I’ve always really liked the Champions, and I’m excited for any recognition they get.  Apart from the lack of accessories, I think Widow is this set’s strongest offering, and still holds up as one of the best variants of the character.  Angel is a very good ‘mate held back only by some issues with paint application.  Had the paint been a little better, he would have been darn near perfect.  As is, he’s just close to it.  Ghost Rider is yet another version of the character that’s missing his cycle, but at least this is a solid ‘mate in his own right.  Herc’s not the strongest figure in the set, and is somewhat compromised by some of the pieces used for him.  Still, he’s far from a bad offering, and rounds out the set quite nicely.

#1740: Classic White Tiger & Hand Ninja

CLASSIC WHITE TIGER & HAND NINJA

MARVEL MINIMATES

The 38th Series of Marvel Minimates was themed around Marvel’s Daredevil-centric “Shadowland” event.  It wasn’t exactly the most memorable event they’ve run in recent years, but the corresponding wave did at the very least serve to showcase a few of Marvel’s street level heroes, as well as giving us our first crack at one of the more established army builders of the Marvel Universe, the Hand.  Today’s set touches on both of those things, giving us lower-tier character White Tiger, alongside a generic Hand Ninja!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Classic White Tiger and the Hand Ninja were the one-per-case variant set for Marvel Minimates Series 38, with this White Tiger being swapped out for the regular set’s more modern rendition.

CLASSIC WHITE TIGER

By the time of “Shadowland,” Hector Ayala had been dead for a little while, and had passed the title and the amulets that gave him his power on to his niece Angela del Toro (who was the White Tiger that participated in “Shadowland”).  That said, how else were we going to get a classic White Tiger? The figure stands 2 1/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  White Tiger is almost a vanilla ‘mate.  The only deviation from the main base body is a pair of flared gloves.  I suppose an argument could be made for having the amulet be sculpted, but it honestly works fine as is.  Beyond that, the character’s design is meant to be pretty simple, and the ‘mate gets that right.  The paint on this guy is okay, but does have a few drawbacks.  The overall detail work is pretty solid, and I think they’ve done quite a nice job of capturing all of the musculature and such.  The detail lines don’t appear to be a clean black like others in the assortment.  This, coupled with the largely white palette, makes him look a look a little washed out.  I think the most disappointing thing about the paint, though, are the lines depicting the bands going around his shins.  They’re only on the front and outward-facing side of each leg, which looks rather silly, and is especially noticeable on a tampo-reliant figure such as this one.  There were no accessories included for White Tiger.  I’m not sure what he could have been given, but an extra unmasked head or something might have been nice.  As is, he’s quite light on parts.

HAND NINJA

The Hand were major players in the whole “Shadowland” event, and have been rather prominent over on the Daredevil side of things for a while.  Their inclusion here was definitely sensible, and at the time they were certainly a highly demanded army builder.  The Hand Ninja has no shortage of sculpted parts.  There’s a hood, a vest, a sash, wrapped hands, armored boots, and a pair of sheaths for his Sai.  Amazingly, there’s not a single unique piece on this figure.  The hood comes from Series 29’s Moon Knight, the vest from Series 9’s Lady Deathstrike (with the quiver from Series 20’s Hawkeye glued on the back), the sash from the Previews-exclusive Dark Phoenix, the boots from the Dark Avengers Ares, and the sheaths from Series 28’s Deadpool.  Only the wrapped hands are technically new, and they were actually sculpted for this very same series’ Iron Fist ‘mate.  Despite their multitude of origins, the pieces actually go together quite well, resulting in a very cohesive, and quite unique looking, Hand Ninja.  Most impressively, all of these extra parts can be removed and a standard pair of hands and feet swapped out, allowing for an almost completely different classic Hand Ninja. Paint is relatively simple on this guy when you get down to it.  He’s got two different tones of red, which go well together, and then some detail lines on his face/mask and his torso.  Not a lot going on, but it’s all very clean, and the main shade of red is really bright and eye-catching. In addition to the extra hands and feet that facilitate the classic Hand Ninja transition, this figure also includes two Sai, a large sword, a bow, and an arrow.  These weapons allow you to arm up your army of Hand Ninjas in all sorts of different ways, thus adding an extra level of fun to them.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I purchased this pack and the rest of the series brand-new from Cosmic Comix, back when they were first released.  I remember they hit around the same time as the Thor series and Excalibur boxed set, so I had a lot of Minimates going on there.  They were one of my first sets to be purchased while living on my college campus, and I remember sitting at my desk in my dorm room opening them all up.  This set was a surprisingly solid pairing that quite stuck with me.  Classic White Tiger was a sensible choice for a variant.  He’s one of those characters that’s never really been in the focus, but it was nice to get him in figure form nevertheless.  This figure’s definitely on the simpler side, and he has some flaws, but he’s generally well-executed.  After a couple assortments of sort of weak army builders, the Hand Ninja was a breath of fresh air, not only in terms of choice of character, but also in terms of quality of the end figure.  DST put a lot of effort in on this guy, and also showed that you can really do a lot with re-used parts.  Hands (heh) down the strongest figure in this assortment.

#1733: Negative Zone Spider-Man & Jack O’lantern

Before their demise last month, Toys R Us played a tremendous role in getting the Minimates brand into the hands of many new fans, as well as helping to introduce new licenses and bolstering the ranks of existing ones.  As with all things Minimates, by far the most successful of these ventures was with the Marvel license.  In the decade that they supported the line (well, the second time around, anyway), they put out 47 series and 6 boxed sets, with over 200 unique Minimates released therein.  That’s pretty darn impressive.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Negative Zone Spider-Man and Jack O’Lantern, comes from Series 25 of the main comics line of Marvel Minimates, which would prove to be the final TRU-exclusive assortment.

NEGATIVE ZONE SPIDER-MAN

Amongst the many zany properties of the Negative Zone is apparently the ability to create killer costume variants.  In addition to doing it for Spider-Man, it’s also done it for the Fantastic Four.  It’s a wonder Marvel hasn’t stuck a few more popular heroes through there to get some additional variants!  Negative Zone Spider-Man’s a variant that’s cropped up in other lines, but not yet been seen in Minimates, which is honestly a little bit surprising given how many Spider-Men we’ve gotten over the years (this one marks the 83rd, for those keeping count). Negative Zone Spider-Man is another vanilla ‘mate, so no add-on pieces here.  I much prefer this method of handling Spider-Men, so I’m happy this was the way they went. The important costume details are done via paint, which is applied very cleanly and is sharply defined, capturing his negative look from the comics very well.  It all makes for a very striking looking design, that’s also quite sleek.  As an added bonus, the head is almost a dead match for Agent Venom’s mask, should you wish to swap out the slip mask from the TTA set or turn your animated version into a comics one. For accessories, Negative Zone Spidey includes a webline (done in smokey translucent grey instead of the usual solid color; guess Spidey’s web-fluid was affected too), a Negative Zone effects base (a clever re-use of Invisible Woman’s forcefield piece), and the usual clear display stand.

JACK O’LANTERN

Jack O’Lantern’s a name that’s been held by four Marvel Super Villains.  None of them have ever really risen beyond second-string villain, but he’s got an intriguing design, so he’s gotten a few toys.  This marks his first Minimate, though.  This particular figure’s design is one that could equally work as original Jack O’Lantern Jason Macendale, or his immediate replacement Steven Mark Levens, and it could even work as Daniel Berkhart from before he re-designed his costume to become Mad Jack.  Point is, you’ve got options. Jack O’Lantern makes use of a unique pumpkin-shaped head in place of the usual cylinder.  At first glance I thought it might be re-used, either from Samhain or Pumpkin King Jack, but it’s a new piece.  He also has add-ons for the flame effect, and his flared boots and gloves.  It makes for a nice summation of Jack’s classic design, and the flames in particular work a lot better here than they have on the various Ghost Riders we’ve gotten over the years. Like Negative Zone Spidey, Jack’s paintwork is sharply handled, cleanly applied, and very bold and striking.  Traditionally, Jack’s color scheme is variations of green, rather than the green and black combo seen here.  However, differences in shading mean this general look has shown up on occasion, and it certainly looks very eye-catching. Jack O’Lantern is packed with a spare pumpkin-bomb-wielding hand, as well as his flying disk, a corresponding flight stand, and a standard clear display stand.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I picked up this set during TRU’s lengthy liquidation sales.  It was nearer the beginning, so they were essentially full price, but given how scarce Series 25 proved, I’m glad I got them when I did.  Negative Zone Spider-Man is far from an essential design, but as far as one-off variants go, he’s a pretty strong one, and quite a bit of fun.  Jack O’Lantern’s a fun lesser villain, and his Minimate lives up to all that fun, and even elevates him, crafting one of the best Spider-Foe ‘mates available.

#1730: Rocket Raccoon & Groot

ROCKET RACCOON &  GROOT

MARVEL MINIMATES

To wrap up this three-day Infinity War thing I’ve got going here, I’ve got one more set of Minimates to look at.  Ever.  Well, no, not ever.  I still have a ton of Minimates to review.  There’s over 1000 of those suckers in my collection.  No, just the last set from this little sub-set…or something.  Anyway, I’ve looked at the more Avengers-themed guys, now I’m going into full cross-over mode, with a pair of Guardians.  Let’s have a look at yet another Rocket Raccoon and Groot!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Rocket Raccoon and Groot were originally supposed to be the Toys R Us-exclusive set for the first Infinity War assortment of Marvel Minimates.  Then they went out of business and messed that all up.  But, before they went out of business, this set and it’s accompanying series were moved over to specialty.  What’s intriguing about this particular pairing is that, while it’s totally a natural choice to pack just the two of them together, thanks to use of micro-figures and such, it’s actually the first time we’ve gotten a straight Rocket & Groot two-pack.

ROCKET RACCOON

After being relegated to being an unarticulated pack-in for his first two releases, we finally got a proper Rocket Raccoon Minimate in Series 71 for Guardians Vol. 2.  At first glance, this figure might seem like a straight re-release of that one, but he’s actually a little bit different.  He’s still about 2 inches tall and has a reduced 8 points of articulation.  He uses the same head, shortened arms, and belt/tail piece.  He gets a new set of legs, more divergent from the standard Minimate legs than the last ones, and also swaps out the normal Minimate torso of the last one for the comparatively smaller torso from NBX’s Sally.  Both of these are minor changes, easily missed by a quick glance at the figure, but they result in a figure that actually looks a fair bit better than the last release.  Rocket’s paintwork is not that much different than the Series 71 release.  It’s mostly just amended to fit the newer pieces.  Rocket is packed with a rather large rifle (the same one included with all of the other IW Rockets), which is kind of comically huge (larger than the Legends version, even), and pretty much impossible for Rocket to hold.

GROOT

Groot has a much more divergent design in Infinity War than his pack-mate, so he is fittingly a more unique figure.  He uses the standard body as a starting point, but really only keeps the arms and pelvis.  The head is a unique piece, which replicates Groot’s noggin pretty well.  Likewise, the hands and feet are new, and do a respectable job of translating Groot’s tree-like appendages.  He also uses the smaller torso that we saw on Rocket, and swaps out the usual legs for another set of arms.  This results in an overall quite slender look, which helps to differentiate him pretty well from the original Groot.  His paintwork is pretty standard for this character.  Lots of brown, and some decent work on the detail lines.  I do appreciate that the arms and legs have different detailing from each other.  Groot is packed with a clear display stand…and that’s it.  Shame we couldn’t get his portable game or anything.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I got this set at the same time as Spider-Man and Hulk, via Cosmic Comix.  I wasn’t totally sold on this set at first, but after realizing how much better the changes to Rocket made the figure, and already being sold on Groot, I decided to grab it.  Is it the most thrilling set of all time?  Probably not, but it’s a pretty essential version of Groot, and it’s by far the best version of Rocket we’ve gotten.

#1729: Iron-Spider & Hulk

IRON-SPIDER & HULK

MARVEL MINIMATES

I’m just gonna keep on rolling with this Avengers: Infinity War thing that I got started yesterday, taking a look at another of Diamond Select’s Minimate offerings from the film.  This time around, we’re back to the two-packs, and we’re also looking at two of the film’s heaviest hitters, Spider-Man and the Hulk!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Iron-Spider and Hulk are–or were, I suppose is the better term– the shared two-pack between Walgreens and Toys R Us.  Of course, thanks to TRU’s untimely demise, they’re instead available everywhere, just like the Iron Man and Thanos pack.  As far as pairing goes, they’re not really the most natural choice, but at least Peter and Banner interact with each other at *some* point, even if it’s not in these particular forms.

IRON-SPIDER

Peter’s new suit for Infinity War was technically introduced in Homecoming, but doesn’t see any action until Peter winds up in space with Tony and Dr. Strange.  It’s name and Stark-designed nature tie it to the red and gold suit that Peter was wearing for “Civil War” in the comics, but its actual design seems to have more in common with Peter’s more recent Parker Industries-designed armor.  This was more than likely due to them not really wanting two red and gold armored guys flying across the screen doing battle with Thanos.  The figure uses the standard ‘mate body, so he’s 2 1/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  He gets an additional harness piece, replicating his extra spider-limbs, which also grants him an extra four points of articulation, thanks to the balljoint at the base of each leg.  The piece is new to this figure (since they can’t re-use the comic ones; they only have three legs), and works decently enough.  Sure, it bulks up the neck and waist a bit, and a dedicated torso sculpt would have possibly looked a bit better, but then you’d lack the option of displaying him sans legs, which would be annoying.  Iron Spider’s paintwork is quite cleanly applied.  Not quite as shiny as I might have expected, but still decent looking.  The details are all crisp and well defined, and he replicates the film design rather nicely.  Iron Spider is packed with an extra unmasked head and hair for the Peter Parker look.  It’s sporting a pretty spot-on Tom Holland likeness.  More Spider-Men should include the unmasked head option.

HULK

Hulk plays a very, very minor role in Infinity War, being dispatched rather quickly in the film’s opening minutes, and then not really coming around.  So, the fact that he got such a prominent spot here is a little bit baffling, but the amount of Hulk merch out there for this movie suggests that licensees weren’t really told about his small part up front.  Hulk’s construction is pretty much the same construction as several prior Hulk’s.  The only notable change is that this one’s using the hair from Tomb Raider‘s Roth.  Not really sure why, can’t say it’s a favorite, and it ends up just looking kind of goofy, but I suppose worse things have happened.   Hulk’s paintwork is rather on the basic side; his skintone is entirely molded plastic, which is a change from the prior MCU Hulks.  Beyond that, there’s some paint for his pants, and touch of grey on the sides of his temples, because Hulk’s starting to get distinguished in his old age.  He’s also looking a lot more Ruffalo-like than prior Hulks.  Obviously, there’s a lot of Ruffalo in the CG model for Hulk, but this seems to veer far too close to the Bruce Banner side of things.  He doesn’t even look all that angry; he looks more like he’s trying to calculate how much to tip his waiter.  Hulk’s only extra is a clear display stand.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I grabbed these guys from Cosmic Comix when they got the TRU-reject assortment.  I mostly bought this set for Spider-Man, and for that, I’m pretty pleased.  He’s a solid addition to our MCU Spideys, and a solid figure all-around.  Hulk, on the other hand, is really just an odd offering.  Not only his he nonessential, he’s also one of the weakest versions of the Hulk that DST has put out.  I’m not sure what happened with this guy.

#1728: Infinity War Boxed Set

THANOS, IRON MAN, BLACK WIDOW, & WINTER SOLDIER

MARVEL MINIMATES

“As the Avengers and their allies have continued to protect the world from threats too large for any one hero to handle, a new danger has emerged from the cosmic shadows: Thanos. A despot of intergalactic infamy, his goal is to collect all six Infinity Stones, artifacts of unimaginable power, and us them to inflict his twisted will on all of reality. Everything the Avengers have fought for has led up to this moment – the fate of Earth and existence itself has never been more uncertain.”

Hey, did you guys know there was another Marvel movie released last weekend?  Well, let’s pretend there wasn’t, because I’m still making my way through the product from the one before that.  Avengers: Infinity War was a big movie, and by extension, it had a ton of merchandise.  As they have since the first Iron Man, Diamond Select Toys put out a few assortments of Minimates based on the film.  I’ll be looking at the main boxed set today.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Thanos, Iron Man, Black Widow, and Winter Soldier make up the specialty-exclusive Infinity War boxed set.  This follows the trend that was set by Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther, where a movie gets a four-pack at comic book stores, and then two-packs at Walgreens and Toys R Us (Of course, it also ends the trend, what with TRU going under, but let’s not go there).  Thanos and Iron Man were also available in two-pack form through Walgreens and the would-have-been-Toys-R-Us-but-instead-became-another-specialty assortments.  This makes Black Widow and Winter Soldier the two specialty exclusives.  Admittedly, the packout here is a little strange.  Tony and Thanos make sense, but Widow and Bucky never interact with Tony at all, only really interact with Thanos via proxy, and don’t actually interact with *each other*.  What’s more, neither of them is particularly plot relevant.  Of course, we ended up with pretty much all of the major players anyway, so the packout isn’t so important, I guess.

THANOS

After all this time, we finally get an MCU Thanos Minimate!  It sure took its time, didn’t it?  This figure uses the same casual look as the Marvel Legend, which is sensible, since it’s his main look.  It’s perhaps not as exciting as other designs, but that’s hardly on DST.  He’s built on the usual body, with add-ons for his chest, pelvis, upper arms, hands, thighs, and boots.  His torso, upper arms, right hand, and thighs are all re-used; standard “large character” pieces.  The left hand, pelvis, and boots are all new pieces, detailing Thanos-specific parts.  While the skirt clashes a little bit with the more standard upper body, the boots are quite sharply detailed and true to the film.  The left hand is perhaps the most important piece, since it’s the Infinity Gauntlet.  Like all of the more recent larger figure hands (and unlike the corresponding right hand), it’s ambidextrous, should you wish to place it on someone’s right hand.  It actually seems a little small when compared to his non-gloved hand.  Thanos must have really needed help getting that thing on there!  Fortunately, it’s not overly noticeable if you get the posing right.  Thanos’s paintwork is about what you’d expect at this point from a Minimate.  The colors are pretty good matches for the movie, and the linework is all nice and crisp.  He’s sporting an angrier expression than a lot of the IW product.  It’s different, though I kind of wish we could have gotten an extra head with a different expression.  Thanos is packed with a spare left hand without the gauntlet, as well as a clear display stand.

IRON MAN

Iron Man is no stranger to Minimates, of course, especially not his MCU incarnation.  This figure replicates his nano-tech based Mark 50 armor from the movie, which is one of his coolest armors yet.  The ‘mate uses the usual construction, with a unique set of upper arms, as well as add-ons for his helmet and shoulders.  The helmet is just a basic slipcover mask, rather than a new sculpt.  However, given the sleekness of the design in the movie, this is a reasonable choice, and I certainly prefer it to another re-use of the Mk 42 helmet.  The new upper arms are also a huge improvement on the heavily restricted 42 arms.  Overall, decent basic construction. The paint is also pretty great, being a very bright, striking metallic red and gold.  The biggest flaw of this figure is the accessory compliment.  He’s got a flight stand and a hair piece for an unmasked look.  The armor in the movie could shift into all sorts of additional tools and weaponry, so the fact that none of this is replicated here is quite disappointing.  Sadly, this isn’t the only Mark 50 figure to have this issue.

BLACK WIDOW

Despite not yet having her own movie, Black Widow has made out pretty well in terms of Minimates.  In fact, her MCU version has actually made out a lot better than her comics counterpart.  This one, of course, presents her rather altered look from the movie.  The figure uses the same standard body as usual, with an add-on piece for her hair.  It appears to be new piece, and recreates her look from the movie well enough, though it seems a little more simplified than other recent pieces.  She also has a pair of holsters (the same holsters used by all of the Widow figures since Avengers)…with nothing to really go in them.  I’ll get to that in a second.  Widow’s paintwork is overall pretty decent, with the exception of her face, which, for some reason, looks nothing like Scarlet Johannsen.  They’ve gotten it down before, but this looks nothing like her.  So, onto those holsters with nothing inside of them.  Widow includes her staff in its fully assembled form, as well as the split form, and a handgun.  There are two holsters, so obviously the gun doesn’t go there.  Then there’s the split version of the staff, but each half is as long as her leg, and she definitely stores them on her back in the movie.  In the film, she has some sort of tasers stored in the holsters, at least going by the Marvel Legend.  So she’s just got the holsters and they just sort of remain empty.  I think it might have made more sense to just leave them out completely.

WINTER SOLDIER

Winter Soldier/Bucky has been fortunate enough to get a ‘mate from every movie he’s been featured in, and Infinity War is no exception.  His role is rather minimal truth be told, so I guess the fact that he’s relegated just to this boxed set is pretty sensible.  Bucky’s design for this film is a nice merging of prior designs, keeping the basic design of his first Winter Soldier look, and the more classically inspired color scheme of his First Avenger look.  It’s my favorite of his designs so far to be sure.  He uses the usual body, with add-ons for his hair, wrist guard, the bottom of his jacket, and knife sheath.  All of the pieces are re-used, but they match well with his design from the movie, so it’s hard to complain.  The rest of the work is paint.  They’ve had some trouble with Stan’s likeness on past figures, but this one seems to get it a bit closer.  Still not perfect, but at least he doesn’t have the goofy eyes that all of the others ended up with.  His uniform’s detailing is pretty sharp, and looks really bold.  Winter Soldier is packed with a submachine gun and a knife, as well as a clear display stand.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I kind of dragged my feet on this set, truth be told.  I don’t quite know why, but I had trouble getting too excited for it.  I ended up grabbing it from Luke’s Toy Store while picking up a few other items.  I’m of mixed feeling about it.  Thanos is decently handled, but a little bland.  Iron Man’s another Iron Man, and lacks any of what really makes this armor all that unique.  Black Widow’s got her confusingly implemented accessories, but is alright apart from that.  Winter Soldier’s simultaneously the least essential and yet the best figure in the set.

#1727: Cosmic Silver Surfer & Swordsman

COSMIC SILVER SURFER & SWORDSMAN

MARVEL MINIMATES

Marvel Minimates is home to some off the wall choices in terms of characters, and especially pairings. The early Toys R Us-exclusive series were home to some of the most truly strange character pairings for the exclusive two-packs.  Most of them tried to keep at least some sort of common thread between the characters included, but today’s set, Silver Surfer and Swordsman is perhaps one of the weirdest.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

These two were released in the fifth series of TRU-exclusive Marvel Minimates.  They were both designed to fit with, at the time, current boxed sets, those sets being Infinity Gauntlet and Thunderbolts, respectively.

COSMIC SILVER SURFER

Despite his status as a fairly major player on the cosmic side of Marvel, this is the second of only three Silver Surfer Minimates.  His low number of releases is undoubtedly due to his largely unchanged look over the years.  Sure, he’s had some minor stylistic tweaks, but only so much of that can be conveyed through a 2-inch block figure form.  As such, Surfer’s debut ‘mate went unchallenged for a good five years (and, depending on who you talk to, he’s still the best version of the character).  In 2009, however, there were a lot of new fans coming into Minimates, so it seemed about the right time for a new version, so we got this guy.  Silver Surfer is, and always shall be, a vanilla ‘mate.  There’s really no other way to properly do this guy.  It’s worth noting, however, that the Minimate body has had some subtle changes over the years.  In 2009, the necks got kind of short for a while, which throws off the design more than you might think.  It makes Surfer look a little more powerhouse-y than usual. The paint is, of course, the key element here.  The original Surfer ‘mate was more on the simplistic side of things, as was the style of the line at time.  By the time this guy was released, Minimates were far more detailed.  This guy gets a much more intensive paint job, which looks to be heavily influenced by Jim Starlin’s take on the character from Infinity Gauntlet.  Given the release of a whole Infinity Gauntlet boxed set the month prior to this figure hitting TRU, it was a solid stylistic choice for DST.  With that said, I can’t help but feel the figure ends up looking rather busy with all those lines and everything going on.  The head and limbs aren’t so bad (in fact, I think the face on this Surfer is my favorite of the three), but the torso is just too much.  He looks like he has a second face down there. Since he had no actual add-ons, Silver Surfer instead gets a bunch of accessories.  Obviously, he gets his board, which had been tweaked from the original release to add a peg for him to be attached, as well as a peg hole on the opposite side, thus allowing for the attachment of the included flight stand.  He also included a pair of hand blast effects and electricity effects, both molded in a very pleasing translucent purple.

SWORDSMAN

Marvel has had five different characters who bore the name “Swordsman” (and that’s not getting into alternate universes).  The one depicted here is Andreas von Strucker, originally one half of the Fenris Twins, Baron Von Strucker’s two children.  Following the death of his sister Andrea, he took up the Swordsman title.  He was never a particularly noteworthy character, but had the good fortune of being part of Norman Osborn’s Thunderbolts team, which got a full line-up of Minimates.  He was just along for the ride, I suppose.  It probably helps that he has a pretty solid design. Swordsman featured sculpted add-ons for his helmet, gloves, and belt.  The gloves are re-used from Captain America, but the helmet and belt were new pieces.  Everything was well sculpted and sits well on the ‘mate body.  I quite like the helmet in particular; they’ve done a very good job of translating it to the Minimate form.  The belt is more basic fare, but is notable in it’s inclusion of a spot to keep his sword stashed.  As with Silver Surfer, his head sits a little low on the neck, but this is less noticeable with the addition of the helmet. Swordsman’s paintwork is pretty solid stuff overall.  The shade of purple they’ve chosen actually looks quite nice, and even photographs well (a rarity when it comes to purples), and the detailing on the chain mail is quite impressive.  Under the mask, we get Andreas von Strucker’s ugly mug, and I do mean ugly.  Though he’s got a peg hole in his head, there are painted on ears, meaning this is supposed to be Andreas after he shaved his head, though if you want to throw in your own hairpiece, the option’s there. For accessories, all Swordsman gets is a single sword, borrowed from the Defenders set’s Valkyrie.  It’s a decent enough, but I do feel the extra hairpiece would have been a nice extra bit of value.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This set’s announcement frustrated me a bit.  I was excited by both figures included, but up to that point, none of the TRU-exclusives had been particularly easy to get a hold of.  Fortunately, I didn’t have much trouble with these two.Though not perfect, this Silver Surfer was much appreciated at the time of his release.  If I’m honest, I don’t truly believe any of the three Surfers is better than the others; they all present a slightly different take on the character.  If a more modern Surfer is what you’re looking for, then this one’s the one you’re after.  Despite this not being a version of Swordsman I have any particular attachment to, I really like this ‘mate.  He’s quite well put together, and it’s a design that just works well in this style.  Now, one of these days I’d really like a proper Jacques Duquesne Swordsman, but that’s a whole other thing.