#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.

 

#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.

#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.

#2600: Evolution of Groot

EVOLUTION OF GROOOT

MARVEL LEGENDS (HASBRO)

“From potted prodigy to towering tree-like humanoid, Groot uses powers of regeneration to become a legendary defender of intergalactic justice.”

Man, some of these reissues are going pretty far back, aren’t they?  Hey, I’m not going to complain.  For today’s Legends review, I’m turning my sights to an area of the MCU that’s been left out a bit for the last few years (by virtue of not getting a third movie just yet), Guardians of the Galaxy.  2017 was a big year for them, with their second film taking the May release on that year’s MCU slate, and two whole assortments of Marvel Legends just for them.  I reviewed all of the standard stuff when it hit, but there’s one item I never did review, mostly because I also never got it.  Today, I’m fixing that with a look at the Evolution of Groot!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Evolution of Groot was originally released as a Toys R Us-exclusive Marvel Legends offering in 2017, designed to coincide with the first series of Guardians Legends from that year, as well as the release of the movie.  It being a TRU exclusive, distribution was spotty at best, so it was a little hit or miss as to whether people could actually find the set.  Like a lot of the TRU exclusives, Hasbro has gotten it back out there, this time as a wider release through the Fan Channel set-up.  Though sort of sold as a multi-pack, this release is really a figure and two accessories, so I’m going to review them as such.  The core figure, adult Groot from the first film, stands 8 1/2 inches tall and he has 28 points of articulation.  He’s mostly a re-use of the Build-A-Figure Groot from the 2014 assortment, and is in fact so tall that his legs had to be popped off at the knees in order to fit him into the box.  I really liked the BaF Groot sculpt the first time I looked at it, and I still really like it.  The articulation on the legs is a little limited, but otherwise, it’s a great sculpt and a great figure.  He does get a new head sculpt.  The first one was a more neutral expression, whee this one replicates Groot’s goofy smile from after he takes out the Sakaraan’s on Ronan’s ship.  It’s still fairly multipurpose, and I like both sculpts a lot.  I don’t know if I actually prefer one over the other.  The BaF Groot’s paint work has some slight green detailing to help accent the sculpt, but this release dials that up even further, and honestly looks a bit better for it.  Also, thanks to all of his parts being sold in the same package, the shading doesn’t vary from piece to piece, making him feel a little more cohesive.  Groot is packed with two additional Groots, much smaller than the core Groot.  We get potted Groot from the end of the first film, as well as Baby Groot from the second one, this time sans the Ravager jumpsuit that the standard release put on him.  Personally, I liked the jumpsuit look more for Baby Groot, but getting potted Groot is a fantastic addition to the line-up.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I saw this set once at TRU.  However, in 2017 I was in a shakier place financially, and just really couldn’t justify buying a figure I effectively already had.  The BaF was good enough for me, and that was the end of it.  However, when Hasbro announced another production run, and that it would be a lot easier to get, I had a hard time saying no.  I quite like this guy.  Sure, he’s not amazingly new or anything, but the changes they made make for a slightly unique figure, and he’s also just a very nice stand alone piece for those that didn’t get the BaF when he was released.

Thanks to my sponsors over at All Time Toys for setting me up with this guy to review.  If you’re looking for Marvel Legends, or other toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay storefront.

#2178: First Appearance Thor & Balder

FIRST APPEARANCE THOR & BALDER

MARVEL MINIMATES

Jack Kirby was a major piece of comics history, especially when it comes to Marvel.  However, his actual work hasn’t quite so much been touched by the world of action figures.  There’s something about his dynamic style that doesn’t always lend itself to toys.  Fortunately, Minimates are in a position to offer a more artist-specific figure, as is the case with today’s entry, First Appearance Thor and Balder the Brave!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Thor and Balder were released in the twelfth TRU-exclusive series of Marvel Minimates, which was meant to compliment the Thor/Cap-themed Series 42 of the main line.  This set was the Thor component and Cap/Crossbones made up the Cap component.

FIRST APPEARANCE THOR

Series 42 offered up a couple of Thor variants, but the closest we would get to a classic Thor update would be this guy, inspired by his Jack Kirby-penciled first appearance in Journey into Mystery #83.  There were some minor details that changed between Thor’s initial appearance and those that followed, allowing for this figure to have a few more unique things going about it.  Built on the standard body, the figure is 2 1/2 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  Thor has seven add-on pieces, used for his hair/helmet, cape/shoulder pads, wrist bands, belt, and boots.  Like all of the “classic” Thors before him, he uses the Stargirl wrist bands, which are a solid fit for the character.  He also re-uses a standard nondescript belt piece, since the details on his early belt were just different enough that he couldn’t use the already existing belt.  His last bit of re-use is the cape, which is shared with the Eric Masterson Thor from Series 42.  It’s a good Thor cape.  His helmet and boots are new additions.  The boots are the best Thor boots to date, which is why they’ve remained the go-to Classic Thor boots since this figure’s release.  The helmet, or rather the hair beneath it, is a far more unique piece, capturing the distinctive whisp of hair that brushes out from under the helmet at the left side of his forehead.  That’s a very Kirby trait, and it really sells what this figure is meant to replicate.  More so than the sculpted parts, the paint is really key to selling the Kirby vibe on this figure.  They really got it down, from the distinctive Kirby yell on the face, to that signature shading style on the torso.  There are some minor complaints to be had, of course, like the torso detailing being slightly too high, and I know not everyone was in favor of the flat grey helmet, but by-and-large, this is a very snappy looking paint scheme.  Thor is packed with his hammer Mjolnir, which is a distinctly different shape than previous versions, following after its look in JiM #83.  The head is narrower, and the handle is longer.  As with the hair, it may not be standard issue, but it’s a nice attention to detail.  It’s even got the “whosoever holds this…” on the side.  Also included is Mjolnir’s alternate cane form.  Yeah, it’s just a glorified stick, and not super useful without a corresponding Donald Blake, but it’s a cool little extra nevertheless.

BALDER THE BRAVE

Prior to his film in 2011, Thor’s coverage in the world of Minimates included himself and Loki, twice over.  The movie and the increased exposure it granted got us a handful of other supporting players, including his *other* brother, Balder the Brave, a character whom has had exactly one action figure ever.  Like his brother Thor, this version of Balder is clearly based on Jack Kirby’s version, though he has been toned down ever so slightly so as to better fit in with the other Thor supporting players.  Balder has seven add-on pieces, for his helmet, cape, glove cuffs, boots, and skirt.  The helmet is a new piece, and its slightly smaller side denotes its Kirby influence.  While I’m kind of partial to the ridiculously large helmet from the Simonson-era, there’s no denying that this is a well-sculpted piece in its own right.  The rest of the pieces are all re-used.  He gets Superman’s cape, Invaders Captain America’s boots, Cap TTA’s gloves, and a classic BSG skirt.  It’s a well-chosen selection of pieces, and makes for quite an accurate looking Balder.  Balder’s paintwork is pretty solid work as well.  As noted above, he tones down the Kirby-styling a little bit, but it’s still definitely there, especially on the face.  Overall, he’s got an attractive color scheme, though perhaps one that’s not quite as exciting as Thor’s.  Included with Balder is his magical sword.  Don’t tell him, but it’s actually the same standard sword we’ve been seeing since Valkyrie.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

At the time of this set’s release, there were a few options for a classic Thor, but prior versions had always seemed to be lacking something.  The First Appearance look may be little more appearance-specific than others, but swap out the hammer for a more standard issue one and you’ve got a really solid take on the main God of Thunder.  And, while he may lack some of Thor’s flair, but Balder is undoubtedly a well-put together figure, and an essential piece of any proper Thor collection.  If he was only going to get one ‘mate, this one’s a pretty decent one to get.

#2117: Mutagen Leonardo & Foot Soldier

MUTAGEN LEONARDO & FOOT SOLDIER

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES MINIMATES

Well, the line has wrapped, but there was a time when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Minimates were some pretty hot stuff.  They were also some slightly confusing stuff, since depending on where you were purchasing them, the product was a bit different.  While the whole line was originally supposed to be blind-bagged, Toys R Us ended up not being so interested in that dynamic, and instead got theirs as two-packs, largely made up of the same basic figures showing up everywhere else, but now paired off and with one exclusive offering.  Today, I’m looking at that one, Mutagen Leonardo and his pack-mate the Foot Soldier.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Mutagen Leonardo and the Foot Soldier were released in TRU’s first series of TMNT Minimates two-packs.  The Foot Ninja was packed with the regular Leonardo as well, with Mutagen Leo swapping out for the regular in the one per case chase set.

MUTAGEN LEONARDO

Each of the primary retailers for this line got one Mutagen Turtle variant.  Mikey was at Kmart, Raphael at specialty, and Leo went to TRU (yes, they really did just the three of them at the start; Donatello had to wait for Series 2).  All of them were the same basic concept: take the standard release, mold him in translucent green plastic, and paint up just the bandanna in the proper color.  It’s not a bad look, and has the benefit of having the strong starting point with all the sculpted add-ons.  The lack of paint actually highlighted how nice the sculpts were on these guys, and the blank white eyes on the mask gave a nice change-up from the regular release.  Mutagen Leo was packed with the same accessories as his regular counterpart, so two katanas (in green to match him), a display stand painted like a manhole cover, and a keychain attachment to go around his neck.

FOOT SOLDIER

The Foot Soldier was available through all three venues, and I actually looked at his single-bagged release from Kmart back when these were new.  It’s the same figure, and I certainly don’t mind at all, since it and the Footbot were my favorites from the original line-up.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I wasn’t in a huge hurry to pick this up when it was new, and never got around to tracking it down.  One was traded into All Time a couple of weekends ago, and I had initially surrendered this set to Max.  However, he ended up buying it for me for my birthday instead, which was quite nice of him.  Of course, it does make this his fault, but it’s a lighter sort of “this is your fault” this time around.

#2108: Senate Hearing Tony Stark & Mark I Iron Man

SENATE HEARING TONY STARK & MARK I IRON MAN

MARVEL MINIMATES

Though the first Iron Man got a pretty solid coverage of Minimates, by the time of Iron Man 2, the brand had moved to new heights and reached new audiences, and was just much larger in general.  The IM2 assortments had to pull double-duty, covering not only Iron Man 2, but also playing some slight catch-up on the first film for new fans.  Today’s set follows that, giving us new versions of the suited Tony Stark and his original Mark I armor.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

This pair was released in the first TRU-tie-in assortment of Marvel Minimates for Iron Man 2, alongside the more outwardly new Black Widow and Mark II pairing.

SENATE HEARING TONY STARK

Tony’s irreverent performance at the Senate hearing was heavily featured in the trailers leading up to IM2’s release.  As such, the appearance of his attire from that scene in this line wasn’t a huge shock.  Tony uses add-ons for his hair, jacket, and tie.  All three of these were re-used.  The hair is from the first film’s Tony, which is a good fit.  The jacket is from the “World of the Psychic” Peter Venkman; this was its first re-use, but it’s gone on to become a very common-place item.  Lastly, there’s the tie, re-purposed from the Spirit boxed set.  Again, the first re-use of many.  The willingness to use these new pieces, especially the sculpted tie, adds some quality to the figure that might have otherwise been missing.  The paintwork on Tony is pretty decent.  The big, goony grin on his face is certainly unique, and adds an extra bit of character to this particular figure.  There’s some impressive work on the pelvis piece, as well, delivering details that weren’t commonplace at the time.  They’re certainly appreciated here.  Perhaps the only other thing I’d have liked to see would be proper detailing under the tie on the torso, but that’s a minor flaw.  Tony included no accessories.  I can’t say I can think of what could have been included, though, so I can’t really hold it against him.

MARK I IRON MAN

The Mark I armor was one of the first Iron Man assortment’s real gems (really, only rivaled by Iron Monger), and he was also extraordinarily heavy on essentially one-off parts, so a re-release was warranted.  Like the first Mark I, he uses sculped add-ons for his helmet, chest plate, upper arm and leg armor, gauntlets, and boots.  The pieces are some of the finest sculpting from the line, especially from the period in which they appeared.  They were great the first time around, and this figure is the same.  The paint on the armor this time is somewhat changed.  It’s less silver and more of a gunmetal grey, with more wear and tear.  It loses some of the other colors, which is a shame, but it overall feels a lot more accurate, and differentiates the figure more than you might think.  What differentiates the figure most, however, isn’t what’s on the surface, but rather what’s under it.  The original Mark I gave us a pretty awesome captive Tony.  Through use of a spare hair piece, hands, and jacket, this one loosely replicates Tony’s entrance at the beginning of IM2, giving us Tony in a tux.  Sure, he was wearing it under the Mark IV in the movie, but this is still really cool.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I found these new, and I was definitely more interested in the other exclusive two pack at the time, but there’s no denying that this one is a lot better than anyone expected.  Senate Hearing Tony’s not an essential figure by any means.  He certainly could have been drab and boring, had DST just phoned him in.  Fortunately, they didn’t, resulting in a pretty nifty little ‘mate.  This Mark I could have been a simple retread of the original release, but he gets a lot of added value from the alternate look.

#2067: Janine Melnitz & Samhain

JANINE MELNITZ & SAMHAIN

REAL GHOSTBUSTERS RETRO ACTION HEROES (MATTEL)

There was a real drought of Ghostbusters product in the ’90s and ’00s, no doubt tied to there being a real drought of Ghostbusters anything in the ’90s and ’00s.  When 2009 reunited the original cast for a video game sequel, the franchise was given a shot in the arm, and toymakers, most notably Mattel, went full force.  It was Ghostbusters galore for a couple of years, as we got the crew in just about every style you could think of.  Mattel was on something of a Mego-revival kick at the time, so the Real Ghostbusters cartoon got in on that treatment.  Today, I’m looking at the only non-main team offering from the line, Janine Melnitz and Samhain!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Janine and Samhain were the last offering in the Real Ghostbusters Retro Action Heroes line, hitting shelves a few months after the main four ‘busters.  The pack was an exclusive to Toys R Us, though like the rest of the line, there was no specific denotation of this.  There was an elaborate cardboard back-drop behind the figures in the box as well, which served as a “playset” version of the firehouse, though it was really just a very tall backdrop.

JANINE MELNITZ

A more strictly supporting character in the movies, the Real Ghostbusters cartoon gave Janine the opportunity to get in on the action a bit more frequently.  Subsequently, this figure follows that set-up, presenting her in gear to match the rest of the ‘busters.  The figure stands about 7 1/2 inches tall and she has 18 points of articulation.  She used Mattel’s equivalent to the Mego female body, which is overall a pretty decent match for the original, barring one major issue: those hands.  Just as they patterned parts of the male body on Big Jim, the female body, specifically the hands, takes influence from Barbie.  The end result is that she has hands that aren’t designed for holding anything, which is in pretty stark contrast to all the stuff she’s clearly designed to hold.  Janine got a new headsculpt, which is pretty much on par with the others in the line.  It’s a solid match for her cartoon design, and they’ve even managed to not make those glasses look atrocious.  Janine has a cloth jumpsuit, similar to the others, but obviously more tailored for this specific body, as well as a pair of rubber boots (taken from Wonder Woman, meaning she’s hiding peaked boots under the suit), and the same proton pack used for the others.  Janine also got all of the equipment that was divi-ed up amongst the others, the PKE meter, Ghost Sniffer, and Ghost Trap.  Most importantly, she gets one new accessory, the Ghostbusters “mascot” Slimer.  He’s a little on the small side, but it was nice that he didn’t get totally overlooked for this line.

SAMHAIN

The Ghost of Halloween is one of the few recurring ghost foes for the ‘busters, with a handful of appearances in Real Ghostbusters and a pair of focus episodes in that show’s sequel Extreme Ghostbusters.  Also, unlike the other prominent ghost, the Staypuft Marshmallow Man, he could be built using mostly standard parts.  And so he is.  He’s just the basic male body, with a pumpkin head and a robe thrown over it.  That’s really kind of it.  I mean, I guess the pumpkin head is kind of distinct, and the robe has a nice flow about it, but…he’s just not a lot to talk about.  And, without any accessories of his own, there’s not even any fun side extras to discuss…so that’s really about it.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I was actually pretty darn supportive of this line when they were new, and, having picked up the main four as I found them, I was quite happy to find this one at retail and complete the set.  Janine’s pretty solid, and Slimer’s a neat little addition to the collection.  Samhain doesn’t really do much for me, but I suppose it’s not the worst thing in the world to give the ‘busters something to, you know, bust.