#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.

#2153: Guardian

GUARDIAN

MARVEL LEGENDS (HASBRO)

Donning the maple leaf symbol of his home, James Hudson suits up in advanced battle armor and protects the Earth as Guardian.”

Last year, we started our Alpha Flight team in Marvel Legends (again) with a Sasquatch Build-A-Figure, who’s been spending his time since then looking mighty lonely on the shelf.  Seems like a good time to give him some buddies don’t you think?  Well, Hasbro thought so too, which is why they’re just dropping the whole Alpha Flight in one fell swoop in an Amazon-exclusive boxed set later this year.  However, while they were still entertaining the notion of releasing the members one at a time, they added the team’s leader, James Hudson Maple Leaf Man Captain Canada Vindicator Guardian to their latest X-themed line-up.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Guardian is figure 4 in the Wendigo Series of Marvel Legends.  This is the second time he’s been released in Legends form, but…well, the less said about his debut figure, the better.  This figure is sporting James’ classic costume, which is really the only one anyone’s interested in.  The figure stands 6 1/2 inches tall and he has 32 points of articulation.  Guardian is built on the Spider-UK body, which has been topped with a brand-new head.  Given the quite simplistic nature of his design, placing him on this body, which has plenty of nice costume details, and keeps him from being too bland.  The new head fits the body pretty well, and does a respectable job of capturing how James is usually depicted.  The rest of the figure is really sold by paint, and as luck would have it, his paint’s actually pretty nifty.  Since James’s costume was a technically-enhanced suit, they’ve opted to give it sort of a metallic finish, but still keep the overall bright nature of the design.  It translates to quite a pleasant looking figure, and the actual application is all pretty clean too!  If there’s one slight down to this figure, it’s the lack of any real accessories.  It’s really just the figure and the torso of the Wendigo.  It’s a shame we couldn’t get an alternate unmasked head or something.  That said, it’s not out of the norm for a Guardian figure to be without accessories.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Though I don’t have a ton to say about Guardian, I was actually pretty happy to see him turn up in this line-up, and in fact think he’s a pretty darn solid figure.  There’s not a ton going on, but there really doesn’t need to be to get Guardian done correctly.  And he’s certainly far better than the last attempt.

As with the rest of this series, this guy was purchased from my friends All Time Toys.  If you’re looking for cool toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay Store.

#1551: Sasquatch & Vindicator

SASQUATCH & VINDICATOR

ALPHA FLIGHT (TOY BIZ)

“Dr. Walter Langkowski was content with his quiet, fairly normal life as a college physics professor. That was before his insatiable curiosity regarding the effects of gamma radiation upon the human body led him to accidentally transform himself into the mighty Sasquatch! Standing at nearly ten feet tall, covered with orange fur and able to lift nearly 70 tons, Sasquatch is a physical powerhouse of superhuman strength. Led by electromagnetically charged Vindicator, Sasquatch serves Canada as a member of its foremost group of super heroes: Alpha Flight. Together, Alpha Flight fights to protect Canada and the world from the forces of evil.”

Okay, so there’s a bio for one of the two figures in the set, with like a passing mention for the other one.  Kind of an odd choice.  The combined bio thing worked better for Northstar and Aurora.  Here it feels awkward, right? Also, it’s worth noting that the use of just the “Vindicator” name with no pronouns or anything means it could technically be referring to either James or Heather.  Perhaps Toy Biz hadn’t decided which of the Vindicators was going to be included yet when the text was written?  Come to think of it, Vindicator’s not even in the illustration on the top of the box like all the others are.  It’s just Sasquatch.  Weird.  Well, I’m still gonna review them both.  Here we go.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Sasquatch and Vindicator were one of the three two-packs that made up the first (and only) series of Toy Biz’s Alpha Flight line from 1998.

SASQUATCH

Gonna be honest, I didn’t actually know all that much about Sasquatch until that bio up there.  He’s one of the most prominent members of the team in terms of toy representation, with this figure, a Minimate, and TWO Marvel Legends.  He’s rivaled only by Puck in terms of representation.  That’s not bad for what essentially translates to Canadian Hulk.  This figure stands about 6 inches tall and he has 13 points of articulation.  He’s a little smaller than Sasquatch tends to be depicted in the comics (where he frequently falls into the 8-10 ft range), but he’s still noticeably taller than the rest of his teammates, which is really the important thing in all of this.  Though his head is a separate piece from the torso, the nature of the neck and hair design is such that there’s no actual motion, an issue that would crop up on most of Sasquatch’s future figures.  Sasquatch’s sculpt was new to him (though it would be re-used for the Dark Side line’s Man-Thing figure not too long after), and it’s not a bad piece of work.  It matches pretty well with depictions of him over the years.  There’s some pretty great work  on the texturing, showing Toy Biz’z slow improvement over time that would eventually lead to the likes of Marvel Legends.  In terms of paint, Sasquatch is actually a bit better than you might expect.  TB could have gone the easy route and just done straight orange, but instead they’ve actually done quite a bit of accenting on the musculature and such, which looks pretty great.  Sasquatch has no accessories, though if you want to get technical, the way the packaging is laid out I suppose you could consider Vindicator his accessory…but that makes me uncomfortable.

VINDICATOR

This is actually the second time I’ve looked at a figure of Heather Hudson as Vindicator, in the same costume no less!  After this, I’ll have reviewed 100% of the Heather Hudson figures ever made.  Yay?  Like the Minimate, this figure depicts Heather wearing her (then) deceased husband Mac’s Guardian/Vindicator costume.  The figure stands 5 inches tall and she has 12 points of articulation.  Vindicator premiered this particular body, but it went on to serve as the basis of a number of other female figures, including the previously reviewed Bloodstorm figure.  It was a decent enough body for Heather, though it has a little bit of difficulty staying standing.  Her head is re-used from the Marvel Collector Editions Jean Grey figure, which isn’t the best sculpt Toy Biz ever put out, but at the same time, the head’s hardly the worst part of the original figure.  Plus, there’s a visor added to it, which helps to mask some of the weirder parts of the original piece.  The hair is still rooted, which isn’t super ideal in this scale, but it could be worse.  The paint work on this figure isn’t quite as interesting as with Sasquatch, but it gets the job done.  The edges are a bit fuzzy, but  for the time not bad.  Like Sasquatch, she includes no accessories.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Unlike the previously reviewed Northstar and Aurora, I didn’t get this pair new.  I saw them many times at retail, but wasn’t familiar enough with the characters to really be drawn in.  I ended up picking up over this past summer, loose, from Yesterday’s Fun.  Vindicator’s just okay.  Not anything really special or anything.  Sasquatch on the other hand, is actually pretty awesome, and I’m glad I finally got one.  Now, I’ll just need to find Puck and Snowbird.

#0033: Alpha Flight Minimates Part 1

GUARDIAN, PUCK, NORTHSTAR & MARINA

MARVEL MINIMATES

Did somebody say I should review more minimates?  No?  Oh…well, too bad ‘cause that’s what I’m doing, whether you like it or not!

Today’s review focuses on another set of the greatly expansive Marvel Minimates line.  This is also another set of characters from Canada’s premier super-hero team:  Alpha Flight!

Guardian is (was?) the leader of the group, husband of fellow member Heather Hudson, and all around generic hero guy!  Puck’s a short guy!  Northstar’s a guy who’s powers can only be activated by holding hands with his twin sister!  Also gay.  And Marina does water stuff!  There, now you know the characters as well as I do.  Let’s get to the review!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

These four were released as a boxed set available through online retailer Action Figure Express during San Diego Comic Con 2012.

GUARDIAN

Guardian is depicted in his basic red and white, Canadian flag costume.  He’s built on the basic minimate body, so he stands a bit over 2 inches tall and features the standard 14 points of articulation.  He has a sculpted mask, with an alternate hairpiece to swap out to display James Hudson unmasked.  The detailing on the figure is well done, with little slop or bleed over.  James also doesn’t suffer from the same red paint bleed that Heather did, which is nice.  Lastly, Guardian includes an alternate robot head, so that you can depict the artificial replacement Guardian from after James’s death, which is a neat little throw in.

PUCK

Puck is shown here in pretty much the only uniform he’s ever had: Black unitard with boots and wrist bands.  It’s certainly an odd look, but I guess he looks fairly unique, so there.  Puck is built on the basic minimate body, with one slight deviation.   To simulate Puck’s diminished stature, he’s been given a set of “slipper” feet in place of the regular ones.  This brings Puck’s articulation down to 12 points, and only really reduces his height in a very subtle way.  It does help to make him appear a bit more stocky, however, so it’s not too bad.  Puck’s got a sculpted cowl, as well as a new hand that is sculpted to let him do hand stands with the included stand.  Puck’s detailing is well done, and fairly detailed, especially the hair on his arms and legs.  And I really like his face for some reason…

NORTHSTAR

Ah, Northstar.  This guy.  He’s probably the best known of the characters featured here, due to also being a member of the X-Men and, most likely, his status as one of Marvel’s  few long lasting gay characters.   He’s depicted in what is his best known, and in my opinion best designed, costume.  The simple black and white is rather striking, and it looks pretty good in Minimate form.  Northstar’s only sculpted piece is his hair, which he includes in both black and white.  This is a nice touch, given the variance in the coloring Northstar’s hair has received over the years.  I think I prefer the black just because that seems to be the way he’s depicted most often.  His details are handled with some pretty good simplicity, which really fits the character’s design.  Lastly, Northstar includes a stand to simulate his flying abilities.

MARINA

Marina was a later addition to the team, and she honestly didn’t stick with them for too long.  She married the Sub Mariner and joined the Avengers, where she was turned into a giant monster and killed by her husband.  Which is a bit of a bummer.  She’s depicted in what I believe is her only costume.  She’s built on the basic minimate body, though she has a set of specially sculpted hands to depict her webbed fingers.  She also has a sculpted hair piece, which is nicely done.  The entire figure is painted, no molded colors, which is a bit of a rarity for a minimate.  It looks nice, though, and helps to set her apart from the others.  She is certainly a unique looking minimate.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I got this set, like so many other “Action Figure Xpress exclusives” from my very favorite minimate retailer: Luke’s Toy Store.  I do really like this set, which is really saying something, because I only have a passing familiarity with the characters it features.