#3121: Venom & Doppleganger

VENOM & DOPPLEGANGER

MARVEL MINIMATES

In the ’90s, Marvel was big into anti-heroes, and in a lot of cases, that meant refitting older villains into a newer role.  The popularity of Venom outside of even his main hero pushed Marvel to take that slightly more heroic angle with him, with a prominent anti-heroic role during “Maximum Carnage,” where he and Spidey are forced to team up to face down a common foe.  Over on Carnage’s side, he was building his own team of villains, which included a remnant of a prior crossover, the Doppelganger, who’d been brought into existence during “Infinity War” and had a hole in his schedule, I guess.  Those two are the subject of today’s review!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Venom and Doppleganger were released as part of the 76th specialty series of Marvel Minimates, which was based on the “Maximum Carnage” cross-over.  They and the rest of the assortment hit shelves in October of 2018.

Also included in this set is a piece to the Build-A-Mate Shriek.  For this particular set, it’s the torso, belt, and pelvis.  Not quite as distinctive as the head and hair, but it’s something.

VENOM

“One of Spider-Man’s greatest foes, Venom must help his enemy stop Carnage, whose powers stem from Venom’s symbiotic costume.”

No stranger to Minimates, DST sometimes seems to struggle with how to make each subsequent Eddie Brock Venom feel unique from the last.  We gotten all manner of different mixes of bulking him up, and, well, here’s another one, I guess.  Structurally, this Venom is really a mix of prior ones.  He’s got a bulked up torso, upper arms, pelvis, and upper legs, and then a pair of clawed hands.  The end result is…well, it’s different.  DST was clearly looking to capture the artistic take in Venom at the time, which had his upper torso being rather large in comparison to his arms and legs, making him look like a bit V…you know, for Venom, I guess.  Using just some of the power-house pieces is actually an idea that was suggested on the boards a few times, so there was certainly some demand to see it done.  I’m not super sure how well it worked out ultimately, but this is far from the worst take on Venom.  The paint on this guy does a decent job of capturing the art from the story, as well as selling him as distinctive from his prior figures.  That said, it’s a shame that the highlights on the upper legs don’t continue to the lower, as this only further emphasizes the jump between the parts, making it look like he’s missing something.  I do really like the print on that head, though.  Venom’s only accessory is a clear display stand, which is kind of a shame.  It would have been nice to get another unmasked Eddie, or possibly another of the sonic gun they included with Spidey.  As it its, he’s very light, especially without all of the usual bulk-up parts.

DOPPLEGANGER

“A twisted copy of Spider-Man created during the Infinity War, Doppelganger is adopted by Carnage and Shriek during their deadly rampage.”

The Doppelganger is an interesting enough concept, though he admittedly gets a little lost in a story with so many dark reflections of Spider-Man.  It was at least nice that they didn’t totally forget about him.  This is his first time as a ‘mate, which isn’t a huge surprise for a character that hasn’t been relevant since the ’90s.  Of course, with the 6-arm tooling ready to go since Series 36, it’s perhaps a bit of a shock it took quite as long as it did.  Like the standard Spidey, Doppelganger starts with the core body, but adds in the harness from 6-Arm Spidey, as well as a new set of hands and feet for more of a clawed appearance.  I felt the harness bulked up Spidey a bit too much, but it ends up working out okay for the Doppelganger, who was typically depicted as a little larger anyway.  I also appreciate that this guy got new hands and feet, rather than just re-using similar pieces from the likes of Nightcrawler.  It makes him even more unique.  His paint is generally pretty close to Sonic Attack Spidey, though the application’s not quite as good on my Doppelganger, with the eyes not really matching up quite right with the lines on the mask and a bit of slop on the base level of the work.  It’s not terrible, but it’s definitely a slight step down.  Like Venom, Doppelganger’s only accessory is a clear display stand, but with the new hands and feet, it feels a little less frustrating here.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Like I mentioned in my Spidey and Black Cat review, I’ve got no notable attachment to this storyline, and I was starting to fall out of Minimates by this point.  I was grabbing the one set, and I felt compelled to get this one too.  None of the others, though.  As I said above, it’s hard to do a lot new and different with a Venom at this point.  This guy gets points for trying something new, I suppose, and he’s ultimately not a bad effort.  I’m even hard-pressed to say what DST could have done differently, but he still feels ever so slightly off.  Doppelganger’s a decent new addition to the line, held back ever so slightly by some wonky QC, which has been afflicting Spidey for a while now.  I guess it’s only fair it might hit his duplicate.

#3111: Sonic Attack Spider-Man & Black Cat

SONIC ATTACK SPIDER-MAN & BLACK CAT

MARVEL MINIMATES

Marvel sure does like their cross overs, and they have for quite a while.  As perhaps the company’s biggest name hero, Spider-Man’s found himself at the center of a good number of them.  In 1993, it was actually one of his villains that was center stage, for “Maximum Carnage”, an event spinning around, you guessed it, Carnage.  Spidey himself was still rather involved, it running through his books and all, and so were a good number of his supporting cast members.  The whole event was a fairly big multi-media success, and in 2018, DST put together a set of Minimates to mark its 25th Anniversary.  I’m taking a look at Spider-Man and Black Cat today!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Sonic Attack Spider-Man and Black Cat were released as part of the 76th specialty series of Marvel Minimates, which was entirely themed around the “Maximum Carnage” cross-over.  They and the rest of the assortment hit shelves in October of 2018.

Also included in this set is a piece to the Build-A-Mate Shriek.  This time around it’s the head and hair, which are definitely her most distinctive features!

SONIC ATTACK SPIDER-MAN

Every so often, we get an update on the classic Spidey, and since he had his standard look during the story, this is as good a time as any to get one.  This one specifically goes for that ’90s aesthetic, as a sort of a post McFarlane version of the character, which does have a distinctly different flair to it than previous figures.  Structurally, he’s pretty much like any basic Spidey, meaning he’s just that core ‘mate body.  It’s a good core body, so it’s hard to go wrong with a straight re-use.  Correspondingly, he stands about 2 1/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  The paint does the heavy lifting here.  He’s got all the usual hallmarks of a late-line Spidey, so he doesn’t have quite as expansive a selection of weblines as some of the earlier versions.  He does get a lot of detailing on the not-red parts, though, with a very creative use of shading on the arms, legs, and torso, which help to capture the artistic feel of Spidey as seen in the story.  The paint work is all fairly clean on this guy, and the coverage for both colors is pretty consistent.  This Spidey’s accessory selection is where things really get more unique.  He gets the usual webline and display stand, as well as the sonic gun from which the figure’s name is derived, and, for the first time ever, a pair of thwip hands.  They’ve been on the request list for quite a number of years now, but it’s pretty cool to finally get them.

BLACK CAT

Black Cat certainly hasn’t had as many ‘mates as Spider-Man, but she’s gotten a respectable amount, with four separate releases under her belt.  What’s most impressive is that there hasn’t been any overlap in terms of costume choices.  This one uses her mid-90s appearance, which isn’t terribly different from her first ‘mate, but lacks the fur collar and has a deeper neckline…so deep that it becomes more of a waist line, really.  In terms of parts, Felicia gets five separate add-ons for her hair, glove, and boot cuffs.  The hair is from the MvC Phoenix, and is suitably large and flowing for a Black Cat piece.  It also follows her original ‘mates precedent of re-using a Jean Grey piece, so I guess that’s fitting.  The cuffs were last used on TRU Series 24’s more modern Black Cat, and work just as well here as they did there.  Black Cat’s paintwork is overall pretty decent.  It keeps the usual striking nature of her design, and the line work is mostly pretty sharp.  The skin tone is a bit uneven in terms of coloring, which is a little distracting, but for the most part she looks pretty decent.  They managed to convey a feminine figure alright here, though she does at times feel a little top-heavy to me.  Spidey may have done very well on the accessories, but Black Cat’s not quite so lucky.  All she gets is a display stand, which really doesn’t feel like much, does it?  Certainly there was something else to throw in?

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I’ve got no real attachment to this cross-over, and I was already starting to dwindle on my Minimates purchasing when these hit.  But, I kinda liked the look of the set, so I grabbed it.  Honestly, I wasn’t expecting a ton from yet another standard Spider-Man, but this guy turned out really well, and the accessories in particular really make him.  Definitely a worthy update to a core character.  Black Cat’s a solid ‘mate, but I don’t know that she’s terribly exciting.  Despite being technically something new, I can’t help but feel like she’s a little redundant.  Maybe I’m just not that huge a Black Cat fan.

#3081: Spider-Man & Hobgoblin

SPIDER-MAN & HOBGOBLIN

MARVEL MINIMATES

It’s another Monday, and I’m doing that Minimate thing again.  So, here we are, looking at more Minimatrs.  2018 marked the year that Walgreens’ supply chains got a little gummed up, at least as far as Minimates were concerned.  Technically, four series hit that year, but for a good portion of collectors, those figures didn’t actually arrive for the better part of a year after their first sightings.  While the most infamous case of this was certainly Series 10, the two series prior also were rather afflicted.  Things did eventually level out, though, making things easier to find.  So ,let’s have a look at some of those ‘mates, specifically Symbiote Spider-Man and Hobgoblin!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Spider-Man and Hobgoblin were released in Series 9 of Walgreens’ Marvel Minimates line-up.  These two were part of the assortment based on Disney’s then-running Spider-Man cartoon, with marketing to match.

SYMBIOTE SPIDER-MAN

“Recovered on a space mission, the substance known as V-252 is actually a sybmiotic creature, which bonds to Peter Parker and increases his aggression.”

We’ve had no shortage of Symbiote Spider-Men (well, not in recent years, anyway), but this does mark the design’s first inclusion at Walgreens.  It also sports the somewhat up-dated design of the cartoon.  It’s not a bad look, truth be told.  It manages to keep the sleekness and simplicity of the original design, while still doing something a little different.  I can get behind it.  The figure is built on the standard post-C3 ‘mate body, so he’s about 2 1/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  Structurally, this, like most Spidey ‘mates, is just a standard vanilla ‘mate.  It’s the right course of action for such a design, and it’s never a bad thing to get a good focus on the core body.  It’s the paint work that really sells this guy, of course.  It’s not perfect; there are a few spots where I definitely feel the application could stand to be a little sharper, and those fuzzy edges do hinder the sleek design a little bit.  Overall, though, it’s a solid look, and has the benefit of being one that can integrate with non-animated ‘mates without too much trouble.  Symbiote Spidey includes a webline and a dynamic posing base, both of which have become fairly standard for Spideys.  Unfortunately, on my copy, the stand’s peg for connecting to the figure twisted off.  I’ve not encountered such an issue with one of these stands before, so perhaps it’s limited to my copy.

HOBGOBLIN

“Hiding his true face behind a hood and metallic mask, the mysterious Hobgoblin will stop at nothing to destroy Spider-Man.”

Despite what the bio might suggest, the 2017 Spider-Man‘s take on Hobgoblin is actually something of a departure from how the character is usually handled, being a more heroic identity held by Peter’s best friend Harry.  While the two are initially opposed, and the identity later gets co-opted by Harry’s father Norman, Harry as Hobgoblin serves as an ally for Spidey within the confines of the show.  We’ve gotten only three Hobgoblin Minimates over the years, each somewhat reflecting a different incarnation of the character.  In addition to being the show version of Hobgoblin, it’s worth noting that this design also draws fairly heavy influence from Humberto Ramos’ design for the Phil Urich version of the character.  Hobgoblin’s construction makes use of a single add-on piece for his hood/shoulder pads/backpack.  It’s a little restricting in terms of articulation, and the details do seem a little soft, but it looks fairly decent overall.  It matches well with the character’s design from the show, to be sure.  The paintwork on Hobgoblin is passable overall.  The line-work is pretty sharply handled, and instances of slop are fairly minimal.  The add-on piece is again a little more softly defined, but it’s not too bad.  Hobgoblin’s only accessory is a clear display stand.  This feels rather light, and it’s a shame we couldn’t get any of Harry’s goblin gear.  The glider might have been too big, but his sword, or even an alternate head with an unmasked Harry would have been cool.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I picked these two up back when they were still relatively new, with a bit of an assist from Max, who was also scoping out Walgreenses for ‘mates at the time.  I was slowing down by this point, but this pack appealed to me.  It got to the point where it was a little bit difficult to make a new Symbiote Spider-Man distinct, but this one did a decent job, and turned in a pretty fun, somewhat unique figure.  Issues with the breaking stand aside, he’s pretty alright.  This Hobgoblin figure represents a fairly unique take on the character, and is well-removed from previous releases of the character.  While he lacks in the accessories department, he’s still a pretty nifty figure overall.

#3076: Iron Spider & Spot

IRON SPIDER & THE SPOT

MARVEL MINIMATES

I guess Mondays are for Minimates, huh?  Well, this month at least.  I guess we should just jump right into that, there.  Back in 2018, Toys R Us closing brought their exclusive Marvel Minimates assortments to an end…a little quicker than DST anticipated, in fact.  While TRU’s last official exclusive assortment was Series 25, there was one more assortment produced and ready to go when the chain went under.  Fortunately for us Minimate fans, Walgreens stepped up to the plate and took the assortment on.  It does, however leave us in the precarious position of just how to refer to the assortment.  Today, I’m taking a look at the series’ Spidey-themed set, Iron Spider & The Spot!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Sinister Six Iron Spider and The Spot are one of the three two-packs of Marvel Minimates originally intended for TRU, before becoming an online-exclusive for Walgreens after TRU’s closure.  Of note with this particular assortment’s packaging was an extra large Walgreens sticker, which was actually just covering the TRU sticker that was already in place.  The figures actually had to be taken back to have that sticker applied.

SINISTER SIX IRON SPIDER

“A mysterious figure has stolen Spider-Man’s Iron Spider armor and now wears it as the leader of the all-new Sinister Six.”

Well, maybe he’s not quite so mysterious, given he was rather quickly revealed to be *SPOILERS(?)* Miles Morales’ uncle Aaron.  Kudos to DST for not spoiling that, I guess, but now I’ve just done it for them.  The Iron Spider armor has been featured three times prior in Minimate form, but this time it’s got a new hat differently colored!  The figure is built on the standard ‘mate body, so its about 2 1/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  Structurally, this version of Iron Spider is the same as both the Walgreens Series 2 and the TRU Series 21 Iron Spider-Men, meaning he’s a vanilla ‘mate with a harness that has the three mechanical arms attached to it.  It helps keep things sleek, and it also keeps things consistent with the other figures.  On the paint front, Iron Spider is again quite similar to the TRU Iron Spider, effectively having the exact same paint apps (with a couple of minor changes on the eyes), but swapping out the red base of the prior figure for a black one here.  It looks pretty decent, and the contrast’s a little better, so I think it works.  Iron Spider is packed with a dynamic posing base and a standard clear display stand.  Not a bad combo for a Spidey-variant.

SINISTER SIX THE SPOT

“With his ability to create portals to anywhere, of varying sizes, the Spot is the ultimate getaway driver, as well as an unpredictable opponent.”

The Spot is one of those quirky lower tier Spidey foes that’s just absolutely fun every time he shows up.  He’s not been very lucky when it comes to toys, however, as his only prior figure was one of Toy Biz’s 10 inch figures.  Given how easily he can be assembled from re-used parts, that’s a little surprising.  Fortunately, “assembled from re-used parts” is Minimates’ jam, so he finally made his way in here.  Spot’s a vanilla ‘mate, but that’s okay, because that’s exactly what the character should be.  He’s a guy in a form-fitting spandex suit with no add-ons.  That’s just how he do.  The Spot’s paint isn’t super complex or anything, but it does a really sharp job of applying all of the dots all over him, as well as giving him a few lines to represent the man in the suit beneath.  It’s a stark-looking design, and its harsh black/white nature helps it pop out against more colorful characters on the shelf.  Of note, the face on the standard head is another black whole, in keeping with more modern appearances for the character.  The Spot’s accessory selection is a rather impressive selection of common place items repurposed for some fun times.  There’s an alternate head with Spot’s classic design on it, plus two repainted Tron Discs, two smaller display stands, and two larger display stands, all in black.  It’s great because they work perfectly as Spot’s “spots”, and the modular nature of Minimates means you can toy around with disassembling him to make it look like he’s popping out of various portals.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I snagged this whole assortment from Walgreens’ website, back when that was an easier thing to do.  I don’t have much attachment to this version of the Iron Spider design, but I can certainly support a new character being added to the line, and the design’s not a bad one.  He’s a decent way of putting a Spider-Man into the line, while still doing something new.  Spot’s the main reason I got the set, because he’s one of my favorite Spidey foes.  He’s a great example of how clever execution can make a second-string character made from re-used parts the real star of an assortment.  He’s absolutely fantastic, and I can’t imagine him being better if they’d tried.

#3071: Thor, Thunderstrike, & Kronan Stone Men

ERIC MASTERSON AS THOR, THUNDERSTRIKE, & KRONAN STONE MAN

MARVEL MINIMATES

Remember when Thor actually had a secret identity?  And then he didn’t?  And then he did again, but it was a different guy?  And then he didn’t again, but that guy from before had a *different* secret identity?  Man, Thor comics is weird…

Today, we’re jumping back into the world of Minimates for just a bit, specifically looking over at the Thor side of things, with a Thor variant, a variant of that Thor variant, and a stone guy, but not that stone guy that every one knows.  Confused?  Yeah, me too.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Eric Masterson as Thunderstrike and the Kronan Stone Man were released in the 42nd Series of Marvel Minimates, with Eric as Thor swapping out for Thunderstrike in the one-per-case variant set.  The whole assortment was a split between Captain America and Thor, serving as a loose tie-in to the two characters getting their live-action films in 2011.

ERIC MASTERSON AS THOR

Introduced as a supporting player in the book, Eric Masterson took over as Thor’s human host, after Thor had been without one since he and Don Blake had split a few years prior.  Eric was a different sort of Thor, a more working class sort of character.  Also, he had a beard, which was a departure at the time…not so much any more.  This is not the first time we received an Eric Masterson as Thor ‘mate; the first one was also a variant set, released alongside the main version of Thor waaaaaaay back in Series 16.  The figure is built on the standard post-C3 base body, which stands about 2 1/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  Thor has seven add-on pieces, for his helmet/hair, cape/shoulderpads, arm bands, belt, and boots.  With the exception of the armbands, which, like the original Thor ‘mate, are re-used from DC’s Stargirl, and the belt, which is also from the original Thor, the pieces were new to this figure, or at the very least the wave, since there were a few shared parts going around.  Due one would assume to budgetary reasons, the original Masterson Thor used the same helmet as the standard, with only paint to replicate his signature armored mask.  This figure, however gets his own uniquely sculpted helm, with hair designed to work in conjunction with the high sitting cape.  It’s a very impressively detailed piece.  The cape itself is a somewhat impressive piece.  Prior Thor capes seemed to lack some of the grandeur of how his comics incarnations tended to look, but this one does its very best to live up to it, swooping up and out from his shoulders in quite a dynamic fashion.  It can at times make him a tiny bit top-heavy, but for this look, I think it’s worth it.   The prior Thor used a very bulky set of boots, which made posing his legs very awkward.  This figure uses the streamlined style of boot introduced with the Secret Invasion set’s Wolverine, which results in an accurate, detailed depiction of Thor’s footwear that isn’t too restricting.  Thor’s paintwork is quite nicely handled.  The basic colors are all a good match, and I quite like the way they’ve made his…torso circles (?) reflective.  By far the best part is the face that’s under that mask.  Not only is it perfectly aligned to the mask, but it also gives us a very expressive, very angry looking Masterson.  Thor is packed with one accessory: his hammer Mjolnir.  It’s the more sizable model introduced a few years prior with the Reborn Thor, but this time it has “Whosever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of THOR” written on its side.  A small, but fun change.

ERIC MASTERSON AS THUNDERSTRIKE

When it was decided that the original Thor was going to return, Marvel didn’t want to just shunt Eric off to the land of forgotten comic book characters, so a new weapon, Thunderstrike, was created for him, and he took on the name to match.  As Eric’s main identity, Thunderstrike served as the non-variant set’s anchor.  Thunderstrike, like Thor, uses seven add-on pieces.  The armbands and belt are the same ones used for Thor, and he gets a new hair piece, vest, and boots.  These new pieces are all excellently sculpted, featuring quite a bit of detailing, not always seen on prior figures.  The vest’s collar is popped up, as was Thunderstrike’s style, and his pony tail has been smartly sculpted to match.  It does make posing the head a little bit tricky, but not impossible.  The boots are designed in a fashion similar to the Thor figure, but since Thunderstrike’s boots are intentionally bulkier, they wrap a bit around the sides of the leg as well.  Thunderstrike’s paintwork is a good match for Thor’s.  It’s similarly clean, and crisp, and the differing way of handling his chest detailing reflects how things were handled in the comics.  The face is slightly different from the one under Thor’s mask, but the details make it clear that this is the same guy, just with a slightly different expression.  The cool thing is that you can swap the heads between the two, resulting in a calmer Thor and an angrier Thunderstrike, which is definitely a nice little bonus.  Thunderstrike is, unsurprisingly, packed with his mace Thunderstrike, a unique sculpt for this set.  It’s a reasonable match for the weapon from the comics, though doesn’t quite have the imposing power of Mjolnir.

KRONAN STONE MAN

The Kronan Stone Men, or as they were then known, the Stone Men of Saturn, were Thor’s very first antagonists, appearing alongside him in Journey into Mystery #83.  Though never incredibly prominent, they’ve been hanging around the Marvel Universe ever since, and, most recently, gained a little bit of notoriety via Korg, the goofy, inept stone man from Planet Hulk and Thor: Ragnarok.  Though I’ve no doubt their presence in Thor’s debut certainly played a part in getting them this slot, I’d say the biggest push to include them in this series was parts re-use. Apart from the head, which is a unique piece depicting the Stone Man’s pointier noggin, these pieces were all sculpted for prior figures.  The bulk of the pieces come from the re-worked Thing minimate from Series 37.  Technically, the hands are new, since they didn’t make it onto the production version of that figure, but they were certainly sculpted for him.  Given the similarities between the Thing and the Stone Men, the re-use is certainly sensible.  The skirt piece is from waaaay back in wave 1 of the line, borrowed from Elektra.  It’s a somewhat archaic piece, and certainly more geometric and flat than more recent offerings, but for the Stone Men it works.  The Kronans’ paintwork is decent enough.  Not particularly thrilling or anything, but that’s the Stone Men.  They’ve gone with their brown/tan coloring from JiM #83’s interiors, rather than the green from the cover.  This also allows for an easy enough conversion to a comics version of Korg, which is a nice bonus.  The Stone Man is packed with two different styles of blaster, in both large and small sizes.  Both were new to this particular figure, and the pairing allows for some different options for army building.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I picked these sets up, along with the rest of the assortment, from Luke’s Toy Store, back when they were new.  Though not a new figure, Eric Masterson Thor was certainly a very welcome redo, and trumps the original release in just about every way.  He may be an off-shoot variant, but he’s one of the best Thors available.  It’s always nice to get a new character, and Thunderstrike was definitely a very welcome addition to this line-up.  He perhaps lacks some of Thor’s flair, but that’s a bit by design.  A few series after introduction of the army builder idea to the line, DST seemed to hit a bit of a low point, running out of exciting choices.  The Kronan Stone Man, while not an *awful* choice was kind of a little bit that way.  Technically, it’s a fine figure, and it’s a credible character choice, but it’s really just hard to get excited.  They can’t all be winners.

#3066: Human Torch & The Thing

HUMAN TORCH & THE THING

MARVEL MINIMATES


Fun Fact: In both the Specialty and TRU line-ups, Series 8 was devoted to the Fantastic Four.  No idea why, probably just crazy random happenstance, but there it is.  There were four sets in Series 8, and Reed and Sue were both packed with a villain, so you might have thought that was how the whole assortment went: FF/Villain.  Not the case. Since Namor and the Atlantean Soldier got their own pack, FF-members Human Torch and the Thing got packed together. Of course, as antagonistic as these two are known to get, there’s no reason this can’t still be a “versus” pack.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

As noted above, Human Torch and The Thing make up one of four two-packs in the eighth TRU-exclusive series of Marvel Minimates, which was released in the fall of 2010.

HUMAN TORCH

With only two ‘mates prior to this one, poor Johnny was sort of the runt of the family in terms of Minimate coverage.  Well, at least this line didn’t replace him with Herbie, right?  This particular Johnny opted for a fully “Flamed On” look, following the trend of his first ‘mate.  He’s based on the standard post-C3 body, so he’s about 2 1/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  Sculpturally, this Johnny was actually completely identical to his original release (and the Jim Hammond Torch from the Invaders set, for that matter).  He’s got the same hair and fiery shoulder piece.  Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?  After the completely opaque first figure, this Human Torch followed the example set by the Invaders Torch, going for a fully translucent look.  Apart from being molded in an orangish hue and featuring sculpted flame bits, Johnny is otherwise without flame-related details, instead just depicting Johnny’s FF costume. It’s a more modern way of handling Johnny’s flamed on state, similar to the way artists like Mike Wieringo depicted him in the ‘00s, which generally follows with the general overall aesthetic of this particular set of FF. The detail work is all nice and sharp, and I quite like Johnny’s sly grinning expression; very true to the character.  Johnny was packed with a pair of flame effects for his hands, as well as a blast-off stand.

THE THING

Benjamin J Grimm is by far Minimates’ favorite member of the FF. At the time of this release, he already had twice the number of ‘mates that Johnny had, and he had another two right around the corner in Series 37.  The Thing has had the most looks of all the FF members, so there are options to choose from.  This one continues the Weiringo trend of the other team members, giving us a Thing with pants. Woo.  I feel for the sake of full disclosure, I should begin this section by noting that my figure has been slightly modified (see the unmodified version here). The at-retail version of the figure made use of Ultimate Hulk’s bulked up torso piece and toros extender. From a build perspective, it was fine, but it left Ben with an abnormally long torso that just didn’t seem right for the character. Removing the extender piece alleviates some of the issue, but then his torso cap hangs over his belt. On my figure, I took an x-acto blade to the chest piece and trimmed about 1/8 of an inch off the bottom, thus keeping his torso from being so bafflingly tall.  In addition to the torso extender and chest cap pieces, Ben also features add-ons for his brow, hands, boots, and pelvis. The brow and hands are just the standard pieces that have been in use since the first version of the character; they still work reasonably well here. The boots are re-used from the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, and I’d be lying if I said they didn’t look super goofy. Points for effort, though.  In terms of paint, Ben was decent enough, but not without some issues. The big problem is that the orange of his brow and hands really doesn’t match the rest of him, which looks kind of odd.
Beyond that, he’s reasonable. The blue matches with the rest of the Four, so he’ll fit in well with this set.  Fortunately for those of us who didn’t like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man feet, Ben has the tops of his boots painted on his legs, as well as a pair of standard feet in black. Sure, his feet will be a little bit tiny, but he’ll look better overall. He also includes a pair of standard hands in orange, should you wish to remove the big Thing hands, but I don’t know who would.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I picked up this set brand new when it first hit, alongside the rest of the assortment.  Having missed out on the original FF run, these were my first go at the team in ‘mate form.  Though perhaps not my preferred take on the character, this Human Torch was a definite improvement on his original release, and fit in very well with his wave-mates.  For a multitude of reasons, this version of the Thing very much feels like an afterthought. Though all of the figures in the wave are made with parts re-use, Thing is the one most negatively affected by it. With the Series 37 version released only a few months after this one, it really felt like this one was only included here as a place holder for that one. The modification helps the figure a little bit, but he hardly feels worth the trouble. Ultimately, this ended up being one of the weakest variants of the character in the line, and a slight slip-up in an otherwise very strong wave of figures.

#2904: X-Force Cannonball & Shatterstar

X-FORCE CANNONBALL & SHATTERSTAR

MARVEL MINIMATES

Marvel Minimates have always paid very close attention to ‘90s Marvel, specifically the X-Men side of things. In 2010, we even got a small subset of Liefeld-inspired X-Force Minimates, which included Liefeld-favorite Cannonball and Liefeld-creation Shatterstar!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Cannonball and Shatterstar were released in the ninth TRU-exclusive series of Marvel Minimates, which hit at the tail end of 2010.

X-FORCE CANNONBALL

Not Cannonball’s first or last time as a Minimate, this particular take on the former New Mutant gives us his first Liefeld design, which, despite my usual distaste for things Liefeld, is actually one of the better takes on Cannonball.  Cannonball is built with four add-on pieces, for his hair/goggles, coat, and gloves. The gloves are just standard flared gloves (DC flared gloves, though; not Captain America flared gloves), but do their job well enough. The hair piece and jacket are both new, and do a reasonable job of capturing Sam’s in-book appearance. The hair could perhaps stand to be a little sharper in terms of detailing, but the coat definitely turned out well.  The paint on Cannonball is reasonable overall, but some of the application is rather sloppy. The boots on my figure are particularly messy. This assortment falls during the stretch of time where the plastic quality on Minimates took a bit of a dive. They aren’t hit by the worst of it, but you can sort of see the difference in the coloring of the skin-tone on the head, and how the paint takes to the plastic (detail lines here are generally a bit duller).  In terms of accessories, Cannonball’s only got one, but it’s a good one. He’s got a blast effect piece that plugs into the bottom of his torso in place of his legs, depicting how he is usually drawn when using his powers.

X-FORCE SHATTERSTAR

This figure marked Shatterstar’s debut as a Minimate, appropriately in his debut costume from the pages of New Mutants #99. Shatterstar is a character with a history of truly hideous costumes. This one is hardly an exception.  Shatterstar has add-on pieces for his hair/headgear, shoulderpad/scarf, belt, and gloves. The gloves are the same ones used on Cannonball, but beyond that, all of the other add-ons were new to Shatterstar.  They’re decent enough recreations of his gear from the comics, goofy as they may be. Shatterstar also has the poofy sleeved upper arms that first showed up on the Series 29 90s Storm. I’ve never been overly fond of these pieces, given how far they stick out from the chest block. Just the standard arms might have worked better, especially on a figure that’s already as bulked up as this one.  Shatterstar’s paint is rather similar to Cannonball’s. There’s some serious slop on the changeover from white to black on the legs. He’s also plagued by the same issues of plastic quality. The skintone’s a sickly color, and the white has always been a little bit yellowed. Just an overall messy piece of work.  Shatterstar is packed with a pair of his signature twin-bladed swords. They’re decent enough on their own merits (apart from some slight warping from the packaging), but the choice of hands for him means he has some serious trouble properly holding them. Getting them into his hands can take some serious effort.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This pack marked a rather easy to acquire purchase for me back when they were new, surprisingly.  I wound up finding them on a last minute stop at TRU during the holiday season, when I wasn’t actually expecting to find anything.  Cannonball is an overall decent rendition of the character, slightly held back by a few quality issues.  Shatterstar is a flawed figure, in both design and execution. Had the execution been there, I think he still would have been fine, but he had the misfortune of being released during one of the roughest periods of quality control, so he ends up really middle of the road. Not awful, but not so great either.

 

#2897: War Machine & Maya Hansen

WAR MACHINE & MAYA HANSEN

MARVEL MINIMATES

Now listen up, here’s the story, about a little guy who..isn’t content to not review a War Machine this week.  So, yeah, I’m pulling out an MCU set, going back to Iron Man 3 for a look at War Machine and pack-mate Maya Hansen!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

This pack was part of Series 49 of Marvel Minimates, the specialty component of the Iron Man 3-tie-in ‘mates.  It’s one of the two sets contained there in which was completely exclusive (although War Machine didn’t really feel all that exclusive after the three nearly identical releases that followed).

WAR MACHINE

The actual War Machine armor doesn’t appear in Iron Man 3 proper, but it did figure prominently into the merchandising, and has a somewhat minor role in AoU. It’s just the same as his Iron Patriot armor, but done up in his more traditional War Machine colors.  Structurally, this figure’s the same as the Iron Patriot ‘mate. He’s got add-ons for the helmet, torso piece, waist, upper arms, boots, and gloves. I thought the armor looked just a bit pudgy on that figure, and I still feel that’s the case here, but it’s not horrible at all.  I think it’s really the helmet that throws it off.  His paint is pretty decently handled.  I do quite like the Air Force linsignias from the gloves, and his facial likeness works pretty well for Cheadle.   War Machine includes the usual clear display stand.

MAYA HANSEN

Maya was a moderately prominent character in the comics, especially at the time of the Extremis arc, so she was a sensible choice for the movie.  Of course, she doesn’t really do a whole lot in the movie, but as Extremis’ creator, I think she earned her spot here.  She has three add-on pieces, one for her hair, one for her skirt, and one for her purse.  All three parts are re-used, but they work for her look, so its sensible.  They’re well-sculpted, and the hair in particular is one I quite like, so I’m always down for seeing it crop back up.  Maya’s paintwork is solid work.  It’s clean, and she’s actually rather colorful for a civilian.  The funky pattern on her skirt certainly helps things.  Her likeness is actually a pretty surprising match for Rebecca Hall, especially given how simple it is, but it turned out quite well.  Like Rhodey, Maya’s only accessory is a clear display stand, but I’m not sure what else she could have been given.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

As with most Minimates of this vintage, I picked these up the day they were released from my local comic book store, Cosmic Comix.  I recall getting the whole set on a run to the store in the middle of a day of classes, and then carrying them all around in my bag while wandering around campus that day, opening them up one set at a time as I had the chance.  War Machine is a sensible case for parts re-use, and is a pretty solid figure.  Of course, he’s a little harder to like in light of the three almost identical releases we’ve gotten since, but that’s hardly this figure’s fault.  Maya’s far from the most thrilling figure in the set, but she’s also not the most boring, so she exists in a nice middle ground.  Ultimately, this set’s probably the least spectacular of those included in the line-up, but it’s not a bad one.

 

#2890: Havok & Emma Frost

HAVOK & EMMA FROST

MARVEL MINIMATES

Summers and Frost are usually two things that don’t mix.  That is, unless we’re talking X-Men, in which case, those two things seem to mix a lot.  Unless, of course, we’re talking about X-Men: First Class, where it’s Alex Summers, not Scott, and therefore no real reason for the two to interact, so they actually never do, and therefore they again don’t mix.  Well, that is, unless you’re talking about the tie-in Minimates.  Which I am.  Yay?

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Havok and Emma Frost were part of the TRU-exclusive First Class tie-in assortment of Marvel Minimates, and are by far the most oddball pairing of the line-up, since, as noted, the two characters never actually meet.  Still, here we are.

HAVOK

Since Scott Summers had been used for the first three X-Men flicks, and was therefore unavailable to be a founding member of the team for the prequel, his brother Alex, better known as Havok, was chosen in his stead, netting himself his second Minimate in the process.  The figure is built on the standard post-C3 ‘mate body, so he’s about 2 1/4 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  Alex uses add-on pieces for his hair and belt.  The belt is the same piece used for Xavier and Magneto, as well as countless other figures.  It’s basic and it gets the job done.  The hair’s another story.  It’s re-used from Ultimate Iron Man, and it’s not really much of a match for Havok, who was sporting a much more high-and-tight hair style in the film. That said, if you look at some of the concept art from the film, Havok is seen with something much closer to this style. Ultimately, you can swap it out with one of the many MCU Captain America hair pieces, which results in a more accurate appearance.  Havok’s paintwork is about on par with the previously reviewed Xavier figure.  It’s still quite strong, though I’m not sure his likeness is quite as spot-on.  On the plus side, the control-thingy on his chest is still pretty darn cool.  Havok included no accessories.  An effects piece might have been nice, but it was a re-use wave, so no luck there.

EMMA FROST

Since Emma Frost had been used for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and was therefore unavailable for a prequel, Fox decided to say “ah, screw it” and just use her again, but played by a totally different actress and written as an almost entirely different character, with absolutely no explanations.  Sure, let’s go with it.  Emma’s one lone add-on piece is her hair.  It was *technically* new, by virtue of Emma hitting shelves shortly before Peggy Carter, the character it was sculpted for.  It’s still a re-use in essence, though.  It works reasonably well for Emma, and matches up decently with how she looked on-screen.  The paintwork on Emma is reasonably well handled.  Like Havok, I’m not sure the likeness is really there, but it’s not like it looks un-like her.  They’ve opted for Emma’s leather jumpsuited look from early scenes on Shaw’s submarine.  While perhaps not her most distinctive look from the film, I suppose it’s not the most awful choice ever.  On the plus side, this choice of costume also makes it very easy to convert her into a comics-accurate version of Agent 13.  So she’s got that going for her.  Just like Havok, Emma’s got no accessories.  Given how little exposed skin she has, it might have been nice to at the very least get a diamond-form head and hands for her, since there’s no new tooling needed.  As it stands, quite light.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

As mentioned previously, I snagged this whole assortment on a family road trip, just before seeing the movie.  I’m a big Havok fan, so I certainly wanted at least him.  While this Havok isn’t quite as strong a ‘mate as either Xavier or Magneto, with one quick fix, he actually turns out pretty alright.  Not a bad addition to the line-up.  Emma’s a perfectly serviceable Minimate, but suffers from not being terribly distinctive.  Overall, an okay set, that’s really the most middle of the pack.

#2883: Maria Hill & Chitauri Foot Soldier

MARIA HILL & CHITAURI FOOT SOLDIER

MARVEL MINIMATES

“And that, kids, is how I met your Aunt Robin”

Wait, are the How I Met Your Mother jokes not in vogue anymore?  My apologies, my calendar’s still back in 2012!  Well, I certainly can’t wait for this up and coming Avengers movie!  Maria Hill’s sure to steal the show.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Maria Hill and the Chitauri Foot Soldier were released in Series 45 of Marvel Minimates, which was a whole assortment dedicated to the Avengers movie.  This was the “variant” set for the specialty line-up, packed at one per case.  Despite being the variant, the set isn’t denoted as such, likely due to a general confusion about which set was going to be the variant until the last minute.  It was one of the two sets exclusive to the specialty line-up.

MARIA HILL

Compared to the rest of the characters in The Avengers, Maria is a rather recent addition to the mythos, first appearing during Bendis’ New Avengers run.  She’s had rather heightened visibility since very early on in her career, so her inclusion as a part of SHIELD in the movie was fairly natural.  The figure is built on the basic post-C3 Minimate body, so she stands 2 1/4 inches tall and she has 14 points of articulation.  Maria makes use of three add-on pieces, for her hair, belt, and holster.  All three were new pieces to this figure, well-sculpted to match her appearance from the film.  The holster would see immediate re-use on the TRU-exclusive Nick Fury and Black Widow, and has subsequently seen reuse on a large number of figures later in the line.  It’s a very versatile piece, and certainly an improvement over the much bulkier pieces we saw on prior figures.  The paint work on Maria is a little simpler than some of the other figures from this same assortment.  It’s in line with her more basic design, though.  Her face sports a respectable likeness of Cobie Smulders, at least for the style.  I also quite like the detailing on her SHIELD logos and on the tops of her boots.  Maria is packed with a pistol (re-used from Blackhawk) and a clear display stand.

CHITAURI FOOT SOLDIER

There was much mystery surrounding the Chitauri prior to the film’s release.  All initial solicitations simply listed the figures as “REDACTED,” which led to all sorts of rampant speculation, and spoiler-filled theories.  In the end, they were just the Chitauri, an Ultimate-universe-knockoff of the Skrulls, chosen because the Skrulls were caught up in all sorts of legal troubles.  Ironically, here in 2021, we’re three years past seeing the MCU-debut of the Skrulls in Captain Marvel, and looking towards seeing them show up in their own story for Secret Invasion.  This standard Chitauri Foot Soldier was constructed using five add-on pieces.  The helmet and torso cap were both new to this figure, and have since then remained unique to him as well.  By virtue of the smaller window of lead time necessary for Minimates, these pieces end up being perhaps the most accurate versions of the Chitauri design available.  They’re perhaps a little restricting to movement, but otherwise pretty good additions.  He also makes use of the torso extender piece, as well as the dreaded “duck feet.”  The feet, admittedly, look a little better on an inhuman design such as this.  That being said, it’s a shame we couldn’t get a set of more movie accurate feet, and even perhaps a unique set of hands as well.  The Foot Soldier’s paintwork is a decent offering. Not as detail oriented or precise as most Minimate offerings, but fairly clean and colorful, and definitely a good match for the movie’s design.  This guy was packed with a long blaster rifle.  It’s not the arm-mounted piece that we saw most of them carrying in the film (a variation of that was included with the General), but it’s accurate, and well sculpted.  Oddly, there was only one display stand in this pack, so Hill and the Footsoldier will forever be made to fight for it.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I picked this set up when it was new, from my local comic book store Cosmic Comix, in eager anticipation of the movie’s release.  Though perhaps not this assortments most colorful or exciting release, Maria was a new character release at the time, and is a solid “civilian” addition to the line-up.  I didn’t think much of the Foot Soldier, or the Chitauri in general, at the time of its release.  However, this is a pretty solid offering, and it holds up decently 9 years later.