Hasbro Marvel Legends series 1

Tonight we have a guest review from Matt Hedgecock, and covers the full wave of new Hasbro Marvel Legends. I've covered the Beast, Hercules and Banshee over at QSE this week, and will hopefully cover the other three when I manage to find Emma...until then, give us the scoop, Matt!

Well, the hyper-articulated torch has passed. After what seems like forever, Toy Biz no longer is making Marvel comics action figures. Understandably, collectors have been extremely concerned about the future of the various Marvel lines, doubly so because Hasbro - the Wal-Mart/Microsoft of the toy industry - now has the rights, and triply so because they'll be doing the ever-loved Marvel Legends.

Well, Hasbro has wasted no time in putting out product. A week into 2007, the first series of Hasbro's Marvel Legends has arrived, either to be met with applause or further cries of "Hasbro raped my childhood!" But enough rambling - how does the new take on an old line stand up?

Packaging - ***1/2
Frankly, I'm just happy to be rid of the old Toy Biz clamshells. They were utilitarian, but nothing much to look at. The new blister cards are much more attractive, featuring multiple bits from comics and character-specific cardbacks featuring eye-catching art that reminds me somewhat of Star Wars Unleashed. They look great and are nearly as sturdy as the old clamshells.

The bubble is very large, though, and the ones holding the smaller figures feel terribly empty. Hasbro's gone with a one-size-fits all approach, meaning the bubbles that hold the Hulk and the White Queen are the same size. MIBers won't be happy with the wasted space.

On the plus side, no twist-ties! Each figure fits snugly into the interior bubble.

Sculpting - Ultimate Iron Man, Planet Hulk, Banshee, X3 Beast ***1/2; Hercules ***; Emma Frost **
Legends, despite being known mainly for its articulation, has never been an slouch when it comes to sculpting. And aside from one odd man (or lady) out, this is one of the most well-rounded waves we've seen in a while.

The real standout is Ultimate Iron Man. Looking much more robot-y than most incarnations, the figure is loaded with tiny little mechanical details and has tons of neat details, like his boots and wrist blasters. The mechanical sculpt also helps hide the figure's joints better than the others. I only have a problem with the sculpt of Tony under the helmet. Namely, it's way too small. The sculpt's not bad, but his chickpea-sized noggin means you'll be keeping the helmet on most of the time.

Planet Hulk has a nice craggy appearance, befitting the Jade Giant's current status of interplanetary gladiator. Some people may not care for the stylized head sculpt, with its big chin and brow, but I think it gives the figure great character, and helps him stand out from other Hulks in the line. The left arm, though, which is supposed to be armored, is veiny and organic in appearance, and instead looks like a silver arm instead of the gantlet it's supposed to be.

Banshee is fairly average, but not because the sculpt is bad; he's just a typical guy in green underwear. He's basic, but well done. Some people hate the screaming head, but I think it fits the character. Come on, screaming's his meal ticket - take that away, he's even MORE average.

X3 Beast looks pretty close to the film incarnation - you can even see a bit of Grammar in the sculpt. The hair looks nice and natural, tufting up in just the right places. Unfortunately, Beast suffers from a case of small-head too, though its not as drastically undersized as Tony's.

Hercules's body sculpt is fine, but what's with the face? He's got a goofy/perverted grin, like he just caught Aphrodite coming out of the shower. I'm not sure what they were aiming for, but I think they missed it.

The lone stinker is Emma Frost. Frost, one of the sexiest, most, uh, voluptuous women in the Marvel Universe looks skinny, gaunt and generally off. Her go-go boots also limit the poses she can take, effectively locking her into straight standing pose. If she were pretty, I could overlook her static nature, but, alas, she doesn't even have that.

Paint - ***
None of the figures are especially outstanding or especially poor in terms of paint apps. For the most part, application is clean with minimal slop or bleed. It's there on each figure, sure, but nothing wince-inducing. In general, it's all above average for mass-market toys. I especially like the vac-metal parts on Iron Man.

Worthy of note, though, is that it seems LESS paint is being used than in the Toy Biz days. Paint washes are much lighter, and more parts are molded in their respective colors rather than painted. This is probably a good thing, considering most collectors, at one point or another, have gotten a Marvel Legends figure with a joint frozen in place due to excessive paint. It remains to be seen if this is Hasbro's way of doing things, or just this particular batch of characters.

Articulation - Banshee, Planet Hulk ****; Ultimate Iron Man, X3 Beast, Hercules ***1/2; Emma Frost **
First and foremost, all those joint problems the Legends figures had? Loose joints? Tight joints? Not a one in the bunch. The plastic in these figures is of a much higher quality than was used before. I've been posing the figures for a few days now, and have run into no problems with wilt or figures falling over. Kudos to Hasbro for fixing this long-standing problem.

Banshee has the widest range of movement, mostly because his basic body type doesn't restrict his range of movement. Hulk has less than the other characters, but its all useful and he's capable of nice, hulking - heh - poses.

Iron Man, Beast and Hercules have the usual ML articulation, but each has parts of their sculpt that limit their movement - Iron Man's ankles, Beast's neck and Hercules' legs. They lack the articulated fingers we've grown used to, but I was never really a huge fan of them to start with - I mean, unless you want Captain Marvel to flip someone off, what's the point? Quality over quantity, I say.

Frost comes up short again. Her hair restricts her neck joint severely, she doesn't have cut wrists, and, as noted above, her go-go boots and lack of a swivel ankle pretty much restricts her to a basic standing pose.

Accessories - ****
Ah, the build-a-figure returns! Arguably Marvel Legends' most-appealing feature, it was a no brainer that Hasbro continue the trend.

This time, we get treated to the Negative Zone's resident bat-bug-robot-pterodactyl tyrant, Annihilus. He comes broken apart in 8 pieces, spread apart the 6 characters (Frost and Beast each come with an arm and a leg). And, like previous BAFs, he's absolutely fantastic.

First off, he's much sturdier than previous BAFs. I've heard many reports, particularly in regards to Onslaught, of busted and loose joints - and when you're dealing with such large characters, a wobbly leg can be fatal.

But even with the heavy wings, he stands and poses great. Complementing his solid construction is a killer, craggy sculpt with quite a bit of menace - which is saying something for a guy wearing pink. Paint is kinda sparse, with just a light wash in most areas, but the character doesn't really call for it and what's here is clean and even.

Some people may lament the loss of the giant BAFs like the Sentinel, but if you built either MODOK or Mojo Annihilus' size won't be a major disappointment. With the BAFs, they seem to be aiming for characters that aren't TOO huge, but are too big to be sold as an individual figure, a category Annihilus fits into well.

Really, Annihilus to me represents what makes the Marvel Legends line so cool. He's a weird character, one we've never got a decent version of, done exceptionally well. If you're thinking of picking up even four of the figures in this line, go ahead and buy the other two just to finish Annihilus. He's worth it.

Hulk comes with the most regular accessories, featuring a shield, a helmet and a removable shoulder pauldron. Everything fits great - I particularly like how deep over the brow the helmet fits.

Iron Man comes with a removable helmet, but, again, you'll be keeping it on more than off. Hercules comes with a mace, which can fit into a sculpted holster on his belt. Frost comes with a removable cloak, and Banshee's wings are removable too, though I suspect this may have been more of a security feature to keep the wings from ripping off the body if stretched too far.

Value - ***
Uh-oh! Price jump! I found these figures for $9.99, which seems to be the price nearly all stores are charging (though once they hit Toys R Us, I except them to be higher than that).

As much as I hate paying more for these figures, $9.99 is still not a bad deal. You're getting highly-articulated, fun figures with good accessories, in addition to higher quality plastic and snazzier packaging. You'll miss the days of $7 Legends, but these are no ripoff.

Things to watch out for-
I'd check the paint jobs if there are multiple figures on the shelf, but, honestly, the case I looked through were all fairly consistent. The big benefit, I think, of Hasbro having control of the line will be better QC - the fact that I've zero problems with joints on all figures, including Annihilus, bodes well for the future of this line.

Overall - Ultimate Iron Man ****; Planet Hulk, Banshee, Hercules ***1/2; X3 Beast ***; Emma Frost **
Naysayers rejoice! Hasbro took over Marvel Legends and the world did not end. Not only did the things we love about ML stay the same, but certain aspects improved as well. Iron Man is my personal favorite, and the vac-metal armor really pops on the shelf. Planet Hulk is an interesting take on a familiar character, and Hercules and Banshee are all-around well-done versions of needed characters - even if I don't like Hercules' expression, I doubt we'll ever get one better than this. X3 Beast is kinda dull, mostly because I didn't like X3, but people who enjoyed the film should like him okay. 

Frost is the loser of the bunch, but she's still worth buying just to finish Annihilus, who is nothing short of fantastic. Series 2 is looking pretty solid - let's hope Hasbro can keep this line going strong as long as Toy Biz did.

Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpt - Ultimate Iron Man, Planet Hulk, Banshee, X3 Beast ***1/2; Hercules ***; Emma Frost **
Paint - ***
Articulation - Banshee, Planet Hulk ****; Ultimate Iron Man, X3 Beast, Hercules ***1/2; Emma Frost **
Accessories - ****
Value - ***
Overall - Ultimate Iron Man ****; Planet Hulk, Banshee, Hercules ***1/2; X3 Beast ***; Emma Frost **

Where to Buy -
Mass market retailers should get these in, but without any important variants, going online might be your fastest route:

- CornerStoreComics has them in stock, with the exception of Emma, for individual sale at $12 each. They do have Emma if you buy the set of six for $70.

- Killer Toys has the singles for around $12 each, or the full set for $59, but I'm not sure if they have them in stock yet.

- Amazing Toyz has the full set of 6 in stock for $70.

- and if you're in the U.K., Forbidden Planet has them for about 10 pounds each.

Figure from the collection of Joseph Dunnigan.

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