#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.

#2841: Beast & Azazel

BEAST & AZAZEL

MARVEL MINIMATES

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

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

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

BEAST

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

AZAZEL

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

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

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

#2834: Civilian Thor & Asguardian Guard

CIVILIAN THOR & ASGARDIAN GUARD

MARVEL MINIMATES

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

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

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

CIVILIAN THOR

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

ASGARDIAN GUARD

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

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

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

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

BLACK WIDOW & JAMES RHODES IN MARK II ARMOR

MARVEL MINIMATES

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

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

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

BLACK WIDOW

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

JAMES RHODES IN MARK II ARMOR

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

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

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

#2820: Frontline Captain America & Bucky

FRONTLINE CAPTAIN AMERICA & BUCKY

MARVEL MINIMATES

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

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

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

FRONTLINE CAPTAIN AMERICA

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

BUCKY

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

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

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

#2785: Evil Ryu

EVIL RYU

STREET FIGHTER II MINIMATES

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

THE FIGURE ITSELF

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

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

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

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

#2778: M. Bison & Chun-Li

M. BISON & CHUN-LI

STREET FIGHTER II MINIMATES

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

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

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

M. BISON

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

CHUN-LI

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

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

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