#1983: Phoenix

PHOENIX

X-MEN (TOY BIZ)

“The embodiment of the life force of the universe itself, the mysterious Phoenix Entity merged with the telekinetic X-Man named Jean Grey, transforming her into Phoenix! As Phoenix, Jean possessed nearly unlimited telepathic and telekinetic abilities – but the scope of her powers overwhelmed, corrupted and eventually consumed her. But, in the manner of her namesake, Jean later rose from the ashes of her demise, alive once again!”

Jean Grey’s spot in the X-Men has long been a tricky one.  She was a founding member of the team, and stuck with them until the “All-New, All-Different” team took over in Giant-Size X-Men #1.  Jean only actually departed for four issues, before returning for a rematch with the Sentinels that ended in her gaining the powers of the Phoenix Force.  She then remained a major player until “The Dark Phoenix Saga” ended with Jean sacrificing herself to save the day…from herself.  Then, like some sort of mythological bird that I can’t remember the name of, she rose from the ashes a few years later.  From that point forward, she was still a prominent member of the team, but never quite seemed in phase with the rest of them.  This kind of reared its head in tie-in materials as well.  For the ’90s X-Men toyline, it took three years to get a single Jean Grey figure.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Phoenix was the central figure of the “Phoenix Saga” assortment, the eighth series of Toy Biz’s X-Men line.  The assortment was designed to tie-in with the cartoon’s re-telling of the “Phoenix Saga,” and as such featured a number of pivotal players from it (and also Warstar, but we’ll talk about him later), and would not only be the first assortment to abandon a strict numbering system for assortments, but also has the notoriety of being both the last assortment to be released on the slimmer character specific card backs and the first to be released on the newer generic cards, via two separate releases.  This was not only Jean’s first figure in the line, but also her very first action figure in general, which was a pretty big deal.  The figure stands 5 inches tall and has 8 points of articulation.  Like a good number of this line’s early figures, she lacks any sort of neck articulation, due to a light-up feature in the hair.  Of course, given the shaping of said hair, it’s unlikely that she would have had much movement going on anyway.  Jean’s sculpt was new to her, but would see an inevitable re-use for a Dark Phoenix figure (pictured with Wilson 4) in 1996 as part of the KB Toys-exclusive Marvel Universe line.  It’s really not a bad sculpt, especially for the time.  The proportions are decently balanced, and not terribly unrealistic, and kind of breaking from a lot of female figures for the time, she’s not hideous or horribly distorted, which was a pretty big deal.  Compared to the Rogue figure from the assortment prior, she’s definitely superior, and she blows the Series 1 Storm figure completely away.  There have been better Phoenix sculpts since, but it took them a good long while.  The paintwork is fairly basic stuff; the colors are bright and fairly eye-catching.  The green could maybe stand to be a little darker to better contrast with the yellow, but it’s not terrible.  The clear plastic for the hair actually works pretty well, especially when you have the right lighting.  The Dark Phoenix figure is pretty much the same paint, but palette-swapped.  The yellow parts are now gold, which was an interesting choice, but perhaps not the wisest, as it again leaves the two parts of the costume without much contrast.  Phoenix was packed with a launcher stand, re-used from the X-Force line’s Cannonball (yes, Cannonball had a figure before Jean Grey; try not to dwell on it).  It’s not the most thrilling extra, nor is it super specific, which is probably why the Dark Phoenix figure dropped it.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Jean Grey has been my Dad’s favorite member of the X-Men pretty much since he started reading X-Men.  After discovering the Iron Man line on that fateful trip to Service Merchandise, he discovered the X-Men line via this figure (well, his copy of this figure, anyway), which he found at a dealer’s table at a con for the total insane crazy no one would ever pay this much for an action figure price of $20.  But hey, it was Jean Grey’s first figure, and he wasn’t going to pass it up, so he did not. …And then KB Toys did their buyout of Toy Biz figures, and you could get pretty much everyone in the line for under $5.  Not one to dwell on such things, my dad get me a Phoenix of my own, which I got alongside a Blackbird for the rest of my figures, if I recall correctly.  She was amongst 23 X-Men figures of mine that went missing for a few years during my high school/college days, but was discovered during “The Find” and has been on active display since then, because she’s just genuinely my favorite Jean Grey in my collection.

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#1472: Cyclops & Dark Phoenix

CYCLOPS & DARK PHOENIX

MARVEL LEGENDS (HASBRO)

“Though Scott Summers and Jean Grey shared a psychic link, Cyclops was no match for the Dark Phoenix. As Grey came to possess the power of the Phoenix Force, the Dark Phoenix rose, mastering telekinesis to overthrow her opposition and ascend to cosmic dominance.”

There’s much fan debate over what’s truly the “definitive era” of the X-Men.  For most people, it’s really just the era that introduced you to the characters.  For me, it’s the “All-New, All-Different” era (the first one, not the Bendis one).  Few people would debate the impact of that era’s climactic story, The Dark Phoenix Saga, a story that not only helped define the course of the X-Men going forward, but also the course of the comics industry as a whole, for better or for worse.  The story has been the source of a handful of toy adaptations, including the item I’m looking at today, a two-pack of the two central players, Scott Summers and Jean Grey, aka Cyclops and the Dark Phoenix.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Cyclops and Dark Phoenix (or Marvel’s Dark Phoenix, as the box so possessively names her) are a Toys R Us-exclusive two pack from Hasbro’s Marvel Legends.  They’re one of four such packs this year, and were the first one to hit shelves, back in June.

CYCLOPS

Cyclops has had a lot of looks over the years, and while I’ve quite liked some of them (the Jim Lee look in particular is a favorite), this one’s really the top of the game.  It’s also the one that seems most neglected in the realm of action figures.  It was only released once in Toy Biz’s 5-inch X-Men line, as a rather hasty repaint, and then later in a two-pack as another hasty repaint.  There was a Toy Biz Marvel Legends release, but the less said about that, the better. This figure follows the formula established by the Warlock Series release, taking advantage of Hasbro’s new system to make the best version of this design out there.  The figure stands about 6 1/4 inches tall and he has 32 points of articulation.  Like every other Hasbro Cyclops in the last five years, he’s built on the Bucky Cap base, which makes for some nice consistency, and also very much fits this incarnation of the character.  In addition to the base body, the figure makes use of the standard buccaneer boots, the special left hand from both the Warlock and Puck Series releases, and an all-new head and belt.  The belt is pretty standard fair; it’s a little floaty, but it gets the job done.  The head is very similar to the one we saw on the Lee Cyclops, just sans the hair. I liked the sculpt the first time around, and I still very much like it here. It definitely captures the character.  The paint’s an area of this figure that had the opportunity to be rather bland if not handled well.  In the comics, the bulk of the costume is blue, but it was always heavily shaded.  That’s a look that’s hard to pull off on a three-dimensional figure, and many others have tried an failed to make it work convincingly (including Hasbro themselves).  This figure looks a lot better than its predecessors.  The base color is a darker blue, and they’ve gone in and airbrushed in some light blue highlights.  The end result can be a little inconsistent in some spots, but it’s overall quite nice looking, and gets the idea across pretty well.  Cyclops includes no accessories, which is a slight letdown.  I would have liked an alternate screaming head, so as to help recreate the cover of #136.  As is, he certainly feels light.

DARK PHOENIX

We actually saw this figure a little while before this pairing was officially announced.  Her head sculpt was shown in one of Hasbro’s slideshows, unpainted.  It wasn’t much of a shock, mind you, since to date no company’s done a Phoenix without an accompanying Dark Phoenix close behind.  That guaranteed second use of tooling is definitely appealing.  The figure is about 6 inches tall and she has 27 points of articulation.  Despite what might seem like an obvious chance to re-use some parts from the original Phoenix release, this figure is actually rather different from that one.  She starts with the same basic starting point, but with a different upper torso, thighs, and feet, and a brand new head sculpt. Most of the changes are minor, and virtually unnoticeable.  I certainly appreciate the new feet with flat heels, since it makes her a fair bit easier to keep her standing than the last one.  The new head is a really nice piece.  The hair in particular is really lively and dynamic, and just generally cool looking.  In terms of paint, this figure’s pretty decent all around.  She’s got a similar style of shading to the Cyclops on the red sections, and the yellows are pretty much the same as the first Phoenix.  The head takes the cake, though; the eyes are blanked out, but not straight white as they’re usually depicted.  Instead, they’re metallic, and accented by black on all sides.  The hair starts as a normal dark red, and then slowly becomes translucent, creating an almost fire-like quality.  It’s pretty cool.  Dark Phoenix makes up for Cyclops’ lack of extras, with two extra heads and a phoenix flame construct.  The first head is the same as the standard one, but with fully opaque hair and pupils in the eyes.  It’s not quite as cool, but it’s perfect if you’re looking to upgrade your basic Phoenix.  The second head is my least favorite of the options; she’s just got a calm expression, pupils, and straight hair.  It’s well done, but not particularly exciting.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I’ve been looking forward to this set ever since the prototypes were first shown off.  Unfortunately, the two-packs appear to be the new scalper bait.  I found a small stash of this set back in June, but only had the money for one, which went to my Dad, since he had neither of the single releases and is the one who got me into this whole X-Men thing.  I didn’t see another one of these for a whole four months, but when I finally saw them again, I picked them up so fast.  I like this pair a lot.  I’m happy I found them.

#1043: Marvel’s Phoenix

MARVEL’S PHOENIX

MARVEL LEGENDS SERIES (HASBRO)

PhoenixHas1

“An expert of psionic force, Jean Grey uses her powers of telepathy and telekinesis as the mind-controlling hero, Phoenix”

I can’t help but feel that bio severely downplays the whole Phoenix bit of the character. It actually feels like they wrote a generic Jean Grey bio, remembered this was a Phoenix figure, quickly stuck the Phoenix name at the end and hoped no one would notice. Well, I did, so…yeah…that probably says more about me, doesn’t it? So, yesterday I looked at the first Marvel Legends Jean Grey, and now I’ll be looking at her most recent!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

PhoenixHas2Phoenix (or Marvel’s Phoenix, as she’s billed on the packaging) is figure 6 from the recently released Juggernaut series of Marvel Legends. This marks Jean’s seventh time as a Marvel Legend, and the second time we’ve gotten her as Phoenix (following the Toy Biz figure reviewed yesterday). There’s no variant in Dark Phoenix colors this time around (though I wouldn’t be shocked to see one show up down the line), but she’s also not short-packed this time around, so that’s a definite point in her favor. The figure is just under 6 ½ inches tall and has 27 points of articulation. While she may not have quite as much articulation as her predecessor, she’s got most of the same practical movement of that figure. I wouldn’t mind getting a bit more range on the elbows, but that’s really about it. Jean is built on Hasbro’s latest base female body. The upper arms and legs were used for the Red Onslaught series’ PhoenixHas5Mockingbird figure, but the actual body proper is making its debut with the Juggernaut series. It’s a very strong sculpt, probably Hasbro’s best basic female body so far. The legs are just a touch on the long side, but not horribly so. Also, my figure has a bit of trouble standing, but I don’t know if that’s true across the board. In addition to the new body, Jean re-uses the open gesture hands from Storm and Wasp, and the sash from Iron Fist, as well as an all-new head sculpt. I wasn’t sold on the head sculpt in the initial shots, but I have to say, I really like how it turned out now that I’ve seen it in person. It’s still a touch too gaunt for my ideal Jean, but it’s certainly not bad. The paintwork on Jean is quite nice. While she hasn’t got the fun metallic scheme of the last Phoenix, I think that the flatter color scheme still works pretty well. Everything is pretty cleanly handled, especially the face, which is possibly the sharpest work I’ve seen on a Hasbro Legends figure. Phoenix has no accessories of her own, but she does include the torso of the Build-A-Figure Juggernaut.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Jean is the first of the new X-Men Legends I acquired; she was gotten for me by my Dad, who found her at a Walgreens on his way to work. She wasn’t at the top of my list for this series, but I think getting her first allowed me to truly appreciate her. She’s a very nice replacement for the quite outdated Toy Biz figure, and is just a solid figure in general.

PhoenixHas3

#1042: Phoenix

PHOENIX

MARVEL LEGENDS (TOY BIZ)

PhoenixTB1

It’s been quite a while since the X-Men got any coverage in Marvel Legends. Back during the Toy Biz run, only 3 of the 16 series released were completely X-Man free, and they even got a boxed set and two different off-shoot lines. Even under Hasbro, the team was pretty well represented. Well, until recently, anyway, since the last time we saw X-Men Legends was two summers ago, and even then they were a pretty hard to find TRU exclusive series (I bought the only one of them I ever saw). Fortunately, Hasbro’s doing their best to make that up, with a new series of X-Men-themed Legends hitting just in the last month, and another on the way early next year. Of course, if you think that means I’m reviewing the new X-Men figures, you’ve got another thing coming! Well, another review coming, anyway. Since this latest set of Legends has a lot of re-released characters from Toy Biz’s run, I thought it might be fun to review the older figures in tandem with their newer counterparts. Today, I’ll be kicking things off with Jean Grey, aka Phoenix!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

PhoenixTB2Phoenix was released in the sixth series of Toy Biz’s Marvel Legends. She was Jean’s very first Legend, and she was only the second single-packed figure in the line, after Elektra (though both Rogue and Sue Storm had beaten her to release as part of larger boxed sets). She was also one of the two short-packed figures in the series. That was awesome. There was a variant of this figure painted up like Dark Phoenix, which was even harder to find. But, that’s another matter entirely. This figure stands about 6 ¼ inches tall and she has 44 points of articulation. While that might seem like of articulation, it’s not as useful as you’d hope. Yep, Phoenix is one of Toy Biz’s “twisting meat” figures, where the joints cancel each other out, resulting in pieces that spin for no reason. Oh joy. Sculpturally, Phoenix shared most of her parts with Elektra (and, by extension, Rogue and Sue). Jean obviously got a new head, but also a new pelvis, hips, and upper thighs, to give her more adequate hip articulation. The head is definitely the best part of the sculpt. The hair is a pretty spot-on recreation of Jean’s Phoenix hair (well, from when Byrne took over drawing her, anyway). The face is decent. She looks a bit like Laura Parker from Dark Shadows, who I can’t say is my ideal choice for Jean, but it’s certainly a more attractive sculpt than most of Toy Biz’s female Legends. The body is…umm, well they tried. I think. Her neck is incredibly square, her arms oddly flat, her bosom disproportionally large (and also covered by something that somehow manages to be both loose and tight fitting at the same time), and feet not unlike that of a duck. On top of all that, none of her joints are particularly well worked into the sculpt. Overall, she looks sort of a bit Frankenstiened, which isn’t really what you want in a Jean Grey figure. The paintwork on Phoenix is decent enough. The metallic green is particularly nice, but all of the colors are well chosen, and the application is by and large pretty cleanly done. The eyebrows weird me out, but I can’t really put my finger on exactly why. Phoenix was packed with a display base designed to look like the fiery bird typically seen surrounding Phoenix, as well as a reprinted copy of X-Men #101 (Phoenix’s first appearance).

 THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

When Phoenix was first announced, I was very excited. Marvel Legends was my favorite thing at the time, and I was dead set on putting together a sweet X-Men set-up. Remember how I said she was short-packed? It gets worse. See, there was only one Phoenix for every case of 12, making her instant scalper bait. Now, remember how Phoenix also had a variant figure? Well, the variant was randomly put into certain cases of figures *in place* of the normal Phoenix, thereby making the normal version even harder to get. Because of this, it was actually more than a year before I got a Phoenix, courtesy of my friend Cindy Woods (who, along with her husband Lance, has done a whole lot to help me track down hard to find items over the years) as a Christmas present. Looking back on her compared to what came later, she’s got some pretty serious issues. That said, she was at one point my absolute most wanted Legends figure, and I was beyond thrilled when I finally got her. I can’t help but be a little sentimental.

PhoenixTB3