#3211: Iron Man Mark 47 & Happy Hogan

IRON MAN MARK 47 & HAPPY HOGAN

MARVEL MINIMATES

Tying the movie more closely into the universe that spawned it, Spider-Man: Homecoming leans a fair bit on Iron Man and one notable member of his supporting cast.  Not only does Peter work directly with Tony Stark on a number of occasions, but long-term Iron Man supporting cast member Harold “Happy” Hogan also gets his largest roles in the MCU as part of its Spider-Man trilogy.  As a Happy Hogan fan since way back when nobody knew who Happy Hogan was, I’m all about that.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Iron Man Mark 47 and Happy Hogan were the TRU-exclusive set for the Spider-Man: Homecoming tie-in assortment of Marvel Minimates.  Due to weird licensing, the Spidey and non-Spidey characters supposedly couldn’t actually cross over in the tie-ins, so these two are isolated off on their own.  It’s not the worst thing, though, since, you know, the two of them do kind of tie together…even if Happy and Tony don’t actually interact while Tony’s in Iron Man mode.  Still, it’s really not that weird.  I’m making it weird.  I’ll stop.

IRON MAN MARK 47

Iron Man’s no stranger to Minimates, especially not when it comes to the MCU.  This was his 72nd Minimate overall and his 31st MCU-based released.  This one’s based on his briefly used suit from Homecoming, which was itself inspired, at least in terms of coloring, by the Ultimate version of the character from the comics.  The figure is based on the standard post-c3 base body, and as such is about 2 1/4 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  He features an add-on for his chest plate, as well as unique pieces for his upper arms and hands.  All of the non-standard pieces were new to this figure, which is mostly surprising because this armor was really just a quick recolor of the Mark 46 in the movie, and the Mark 46 minimates all just used the Mark 42 tooling again.  These parts are a lot less clunky, though, and generally follow the sleeker design of the armor, so I generally appreciate them.  Additionally, this figure has the interesting change of not getting a helmet piece, and instead just using the standard head.  I’m not entirely sure why that was the way they went, but it’s not a terrible look.  The paint work on this guy is pretty decent.  The metallic red is super slick, and all of the line-work is nice and sharp.  The figure is packed with a flight stand and a clear display stand.

HAPPY HOGAN

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first Happy Hogan Minimate.  Heck, it’s not even the first one I’ve reviewed on the site.  In fact, with this release, I’ll have a review of every Happy Hogan figure there is.  That’s commitment.  Or crazy.  Or there’s only three of them, and it’s ultimately nothing.  Happy has add-on pieces for his hair, jacket, and tie.  The hair piece is re-used I’m pretty sure, but it’s a solid match for Favreau’s hair style in the movie.  The jacket and tie are the World of the Psychic Venkman jacket and Spirit tie combo that they rocked for a while there, which is a pretty good set-up.  The paint work includes an improved likeness from the IM2 release, as well as actual detailing for the belt, which is pretty nifty.  Happy is packed with a clear display stand, which isn’t a lot, but it’s something.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I had to get kind of picky with what I was buying when these were first released, so I had to skip them, on the basis that I didn’t really need another Iron Man variant, and I already had one Happy Hogan.  But, then TRU was going under, and things were marked down, and I didn’t have this specific Happy Hogan, so, you know, I went for it.  Mark 47 is an improvement on the over designed nature of MCU Iron Men at the time, and I do really like that.  Happy is an improvement on the prior version, and I can definitely dig it.

#3171: Savage Wolverine & Reaper

SAVAGE WOLVERINE & SAVAGE LAND REAPER

MARVEL MINIMATES

In 2013, Marvel decided to a soft re-branding of their comics, under the banner “Marvel Now!” which would do new and and innovative things with the line.  Like giving Wolverine another book!  Nobody had done that before!  Okay, so Savage Wolverine may not have been the most unique thing, but it did get some decent buzz, thanks to Frank Cho’s name being attached to it. When DST put together some complimentary assortments of Minimates, Savage Wolverine got not one, but two packs dedicated to it.  I looked at the first, which featured Shanna the She-Devil (Wolverine’s co-star in the book) and a Savage Land Reaper, back in January of 2018.  Today, I’m looking at Wolverine proper…and the Reaper again…

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Savage Wolverine and the Savage Land Reaper were released in the 16th TRU-exclusive series of Marvel Minimates, which was TRU’s equivalent to the 51st specialty assortment.  The Reaper was the only cross-over between the two assortments, and is the same figure between both of its pack-outs.

SAVAGE WOLVERINE

Wolverine has had a lot of Minimates.  This particular one was his 48th.  It’s a derivation of the John Cassady Astonishing X-Men design, which had gotten a number of tweaks from several artists at this point.  This one marked his most current at the time, and it remained his most current until his padded number from the “Payback” story.  The figure is based on the standard ‘mate body, so he’s 2 1/2 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation .  Wolverine uses add-ons for his mask and belt, as well as “unique” pieces for the clawed hands.  The mask was the first actual, proper update to the mask we’d gotten since the Series 26 version, and I quite like it.  It’s got a unique shaping to it, and I dig the sculpted seams running along the head.  The belt, which I believe was new to this figure, but it can be hard to tell, is another nice piece, full of lots of fun details.  The hands are the same hands used initially on the Series 47 Wolverine, and they’re my favorite of the clawed hands we’ve gotten.  The paint is my favorite aspect of this figure, because at the surface, it’s just a basic Wolverine paint job, but there’s so much else going on.  The yellow with black in place of blue makes for a figure that’s quite striking, and while there are still some spots of slop on some of the edges, the small detail work is crisp, and very plentiful.  The face gives us a great, intense, Wolverine-style snarl, the hair on the arms is sharp and well defined, the muscles are subtly handled in a fashion that mimics Cho’s artwork pretty well, and they’ve even included all of the laces on his boots.  There’s a ton of attention to detail, and a lot of details that could have easily been overlooked.  Logan is packed with an extra hair piece and a clear display stand.  It’s a shame they stopped giving Wolverines extra, non-clawed hands, but at least in this one’s case, it won’t be hard to find a pair that matches.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I wasn’t really intending to get this figure when he was shown off, since who really needs the 48th version of Wolverine?  Well, me, apparently.  Once packaged shots surfaced, I found myself really liking the look, and at the time, it was easiest to just order a whole assortment from TRU.com, to make sure you didn’t randomly get the wrong pack in place of what you actually wanted.  Wolverine pairs off well with this same assortment’s version of Captain America.  He’s a variant of an A-lister that no one was necessarily asking for, but DST put in some of their best work here, and the end result is a figure that really rocks.

#3066: Human Torch & The Thing

HUMAN TORCH & THE THING

MARVEL MINIMATES


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

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

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

HUMAN TORCH

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

THE THING

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

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

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

#2904: X-Force Cannonball & Shatterstar

X-FORCE CANNONBALL & SHATTERSTAR

MARVEL MINIMATES

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

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

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

X-FORCE CANNONBALL

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

X-FORCE SHATTERSTAR

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

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

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

 

#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.