#2279: Alpha Flight

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

MARVEL LEGENDS (HASBRO)

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

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

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

VINDICATOR

Heather McNeill Hudson, Calgary, Alberta”

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

PUCK

Eugene Judd, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan”

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

NORTHSTAR

Jean-Paul Beaubier, Montreal, Quebec”

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

AURORA

Jeanne-Marie Beaubier, Montreal, Quebec”

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

SHAMAN

Dr. Michael Twoyoungmen, Calgary, Alberta”

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

SNOWBIRD

Narya, Resolute Bay, Northwest Territories”

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

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

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

#1942: Alpha Flight Boxed Set #2

SASQUATCH, SNOWBIRD, AURORA, & SHAMAN

MARVEL MINIMATES

The United States doesn’t hold a total monopoly on North American super hero teams!  No, no, Canada also gets in on the fun, with their own psuedo-Avengers-equivalent, Alpha Flight!  First appearing in the pages of Uncanny X-Men in 1979, the team eventually moved to their own series, and they’ve maintained something of a cult following ever since.  In 2012, that following was prominent enough to warrant a pair of boxed sets, which gave us a rather sizable line-up for the team.  The second, NYCC-exclusive pack is the focus of today’s review!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

These four made up the second of the two Alpha Flight boxed sets, released in 2012.  The first was at SDCC, and this one followed up at NYCC as mentioned above.  Though, neither set was a gangbuster, so they were available from a number of retailers after the fact.

SASQUATCH

More than just an urban legend, Sasquatch is Walter Langowski, who has the ability, via either magical or radioactive means depending on your preference, to transform into this hulking creature.  He’s definitely up there in terms of recognition, falling behind Guardian and maybe Puck for best known team member.  Sasquatch takes quite a departure from the standard ‘mate body, getting add-ons for his head/chestcap, hands, upper legs, and feet.  Apart from the upper legs, which are standard bulk-up pieces, everything was new to this figure.  While the pieces work reasonably well, the design of them definitely proves rather on the limiting side in terms of playablity.  The head can’t turn, the arms only barely move, and he falls apart at the waist a lot.  So, really, anything beyond a basic standing pose isn’t happening.  He looks decent enough, though.  The paintwork on Sasquatch is fairly scarce.  He’s mostly just the same orange all around, which is accurate, but maybe not super exciting.  The face is definitely nice, and is a solid recreation of Byrne’s artwork.  Sasquatch has no accessories, since the clear display stands hadn’t *quite* become standard issue.

SNOWBIRD

An Inuit goddess, initially limited to the Canadian borders, Snowbird is one of Byrne’s earliest Alpha Flight creations, predating his professional work in comics.  She makes use of two add-on pieces, one for her hair/head-piece, and the other for her cape.  Both pieces were new to this figure, and they work reasonably well.  The cape lacks the grandeur with which Snowbird’s design was usually shown, but that does mean she’s a less restricted and top-heavy figure, so I can totally understand DST’s call on that one.  Snowbird’s paintwork is pretty decent.  The application is clean, and the colors match up well with her comics design. She’s slightly washed out looking, but that’s true to the character.  The face is accurate to her design, but seems…off.  It’s just not particularly appealing to look at, truth be told.  I guess she just doesn’t look quite right on a cylinder.  For accessories, Snowbird just gets a flight stand.  One of her alternate forms would have been cool, but given the two new add-ons she got, not necessary.

AURORA

Though she’s a little lesser known than her brother Northstar, Aurora is still pretty well known, even if it’s largely in connection to her brother.  Splitting the two up between these sets was actually pretty clever. Aurora uses one add-on piece for her hair.  It’s borrowed from Thor‘s Jane foster.  It’s not the most luxurious piece, but it gets the job done, and is a respectable choice. The majority of Aurora’s design is done with paint.  Her white and black combo is quite eye-catching, and really works well in this style.  Due to the very stylized fashion of coloring Northstar and Aurora’s hair, there’s some confusion over what’s the proper coloring.  To ease this issue, Aurora includes the same hairpiece painted both white and black.  She comes wearing the white, but the overall appearance is more or less the same either way.  In addition to the extra hair piece, Aurora also includes a flight stand, as well as an alternate hand, which allows her to hold hands with the Northstar figure from the other set.

SHAMAN

Shaman is exactly what it says on the tin…more or less.  He’s also the least fortunate of the founding members when it comes to toys, as this figure was his very first, and to date, only.  The figure uses add-ons for his hair, belt, and boots.  The boots are the DCD Flash boots (rather than the Invaders Cap boots we tend to see in the Marvel line), and the other two pieces are brand new.  The hair and the belt are quite nicely rendered pieces, with the small detail work on the belt in particular being quite impressive.  The paintwork on Shaman is the nicest in the set.  His face is a good fit for the stalwart Shaman, and the details on his costume are crisp, clean and quite bold.  While I might have liked to see some fringe detailing on the boots, I can’t really fault DST for not attempting it. Shaman included two energy effects pieces, both molded in the same translucent blue.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I grabbed this set from my favorite minimate retailer, Luke’s Toy Store.  The set’s a bit more of a mixed bag than the first one.  Sasquatch is passable at best.  Nothing really stands out as exemplary, and he’s certainly got his flaws.  But, this is kind of the same assortment of problems that every larger character runs into.  Snowbird represents a solid attempt from DST, but is sadly another miss, I think largely due to the design not really translating all that well to the style.  Aurora may be a fair standard-issue offering, but she really works in this style, and pairs nicely with her brother.  By far the star of the set, Shaman is a surprisingly good figure, from start to finish.