Marvel Legends Icons

When we think of old school superheroes, we generally think of Batman and Superman, characters created during the golden age of comics, that really started it all. Or, if you have a mind for the pulp side of things, you think of Flash Gordon or the Phantom. But if you want real old school, there's only one - the Mighty Thor.

Sure, his comic book counter part didn't exist until 1962, well into the silver age. But the comic version varies only slightly from his true roots, the God of thunder, created thousands of years ago in Norse and German mythology. Here's a character with some serious history.

One can only wonder if those ancient Germanic peoples would approve of of the blonde hippie in the blue tights and funky helmet, but I like to think they would. As heroes go, Thor's been a pretty upstanding guy, but the number of action figure versions have been far fewer than the big names. Hasbro has just released their first wave of Marvel Legends Icons, including Thor with Wolverine.

Don't get too excited about Wolverine, particularly if you bought the earlier Toybiz version. This is the same guy with a new paint job, and I included a shot of him in the package so you could verify for yourself. The case assortment appears to be three Thors and only one Wolverine - a smart move - so finding Thor should be no problem. The price has risen from around $15, to around $20.

Packaging - ***
The Icons package has switched to a completely clear plastic outer shell, with a inserts for the text information. It also has the rounded corner on the left edge, making it a package that wastes lots of space for the MIBBers to store. Fortunately, there's not much in the way of wasted space inside, which is always a big plus for me.

The package is not hard to open, but once you do, it's pretty much toast. I normally don't like comic books with my toys, but in the case of the Icons, I really miss them. The artwork was great, as was the history of the character, and they were the first time I made sure I kept the included book in a safe place.

Sculpting - ***1/2
The overall sculpt work is top notch, although there's a few minor nits to pick.

I really like the face and hair, both of which pull off the Norse blonde look without turning him into too much of a pretty boy. The face has a little more age and character too it, and the expression is bad ass without being constipated or silly.

You might assume this guy is just a two up of the Thor from the Giant Man wave - not so.  He definitely owes his predecessor, but it's not a straight copy.

The helmet and wings are probably the biggest issue. I think the helmet itself is certainly big enough, since it covers the whole top half of his head, but the wings seem off. Part of this is due to them getting pretty mangled in the packaging though, and some of it is correctable.

If you notice in some of the photos, both wings appear to be tilting off to the right, as though a strong breeze is kicking up from the left. This is how Thor came out of the package. In other photos, most notably the first two, you'll see much straighter wings. I ran hot water over the wings (taking care not to get the cape wet), reformed them, and dipped them into some ice water to set in the new position. This worked quite well, so if yours has bent wing syndrome, have no fear - it's easy enough to fix.

Overall proportions are more in line with standard human body builder proportions than the way Thor has been drawn at times, but this goes a little better with my vision of him. He stands about 12" tall at the helmet, making his wings come up about another half inch or so.

Paint - ***
If there's one area that Hasbro will need to improve, it's the number of paint ops. Not the quality of them, at least in the case of Thor, because what's here is all clean and neat, with sharp cuts between colors and little to no bleed.

The work in the eyes, brows and hair is great, and they've gone with just the right amount of wash on the legs, boots and hair to pull out the details without looking muddy. If you want to see what happens when you go overboard with wash, just check out the earlier Wolverine in the series.

However, the arms are cast in the flesh color, a color that's a little pale even for a Norse God. Painted plastic always looks better, less cheap, especially in flesh tones. Since the arms are such large areas of exposed meat, this lack of color is fairly obvious.

But while I'm counting it as a negative, I'm happy overall with the look and quality of the work. I'm much happier with the cast arm color than I would have been had the wash caused him to look muddy, or if the general quality of the paint ops was below average. 

Articulation - ***1/2
Toybiz practically invented the super articulated action figure, at least in the smaller scales. But Hasbro has managed to take that articulation and improve on it, and that's no where more apparent than in the Icons line.

Icons figures had the same bad hip joints as the smaller figures, but with the larger scale came larger problems. The weak knees and ankles didn't help, and the figures are forever toppling over. Even light weight characters like Spider-man have issues with remaining upright for any extended period, and the wonky difficult to move hips means far fewer poses than you should be able to get from a figure with this much articulation.

Thor has excellent joints all around, with a higher quality plastic being used and much sturdier pegs. The joints all move freely, including the ball jointed hips and shoulders. I can easily move the balls themselves around the posts that go into the torso, so that he can sit, stand straight, or take deep stances, all without much effort. The shoulders and hips move in and out toward the body, and forward and backward as well, making this a real improvement over the majority of the past Icons.

Now, I did get some Icons that worked better than others in the past, but this speaks to the lack of consistency of the manufacturing process, rather than the design. The design here has remained pretty much the same - it's just that the execution appears more consistently good.

Thor has the usual neck joint, but the long hair pretty much completely restricts it. That's my biggest issue with this figure, because it forces him to be looking slightly downward all the time, and getting the head to tilt back a bit would be such a major improvement.

The single jointed elbows and double jointed knees are tight, and both use a 'clicky' ratchet joint to improve their strength. The wrists and ankles are pin joints, but there's also a cut joint at the top of the cuff, allowing the hands to turn. The foot also has a rocker joint, but it doesn't have too great of a range of movement, and there's the usual half foot pin joint.

Now let's talk about the fingers. The right hand is sculpted in a fist to hold the hammer. This is a very good thing. Why? While jointed fingers could have been posed holding the hammer, any kid trying to actually use this as a toy would have been frustrated. He wants Thor to smash Ken's brains in with the hammer, and Thor would have constantly dropped it during play. Instead, the sculpted fist holds the hammer great, and besides, even the average collector is going to pose him holding it, so why not do it the best way?

But when they did the left hand, they went back to the pin joint through the base of the fingers, so each is separately articulated. This combination works well and allows for tons of posing and play possibilities.

Finally, there's the cut waist and pin chest joint. Again, the chest is a ratchet joint, and he can actually take and hold both hunched and leaning back poses. Overall, the quality of the joints themselves has improved, and had the neck not been a wash out, he could have scored four stars in this category. Just wait til you see that 12" Ghost Rider...

Outfit - ***1/2
Normally, there isn't an Outfit category for Icons, since they are entirely sculpted, but Thor has his nifty cloth cape. This scale is the perfect opportunity to use cloth for a cape, when it's done well. When Mattel did it for Superman and Batman, it wasn't done with the kind of quality you see here, so it was a bit of an issue.

They've used a very good quality material, and sewn together two pieces, back to back. The hemmed edges are done very well, and the size and shape of the cape is terrific. Rubber and plastic capes in this scale are generally much too heavy, but cloth has to be done well to look good mixed with a largely plastic figure. Hasbro has managed to do it perfectly here.

Accessories - ***
Thor has but one - Mjolnir. His mighty hammer can kill giants or crack a walnut, and Hasbro has done a very nice job on both the sculpt and paint. They wisely made the hammer head itself hollow, making the hammer light enough that it doesn't interfere with any poses. No worries about it weighing down the shoulder or elbow over time, and it still looks mighty mighty.

That's pretty light though, and the loss of the comic is still smarting. While the increased price point is still 33% cheaper than the Mattel 12" stuff, any price increase accompanied by a reduction in goodies is going to get noticed.

Fun Factor - ****
These are toys at their best. Kids can have a blast with the Icons line and not have them fall apart in their hands. The improvements in joint quality is much appreciated, and the lack of some paint ops won't matter much to the under 10 crowd. This could be a great line to bring kids into the 12" arena, and are much better toys than any of the other offerings in this scale currently on the shelves at your local Toys R Us.

Value - ***1/2
The old Icons were a four star value, no doubt about it. Great 12" figures for just $15? It was hard to believe. With Hasbro in charge, the price has risen $5, to $20, but that's still a damn good deal compared to other lines. For example, the recent 12" DCSH Batman and Superman, figures that were largely just statue two ups of the smaller 6" figures, run a whopping $30 each. And when I gave them a poor value score, I still got flak over it. And yet here we have Hasbro producing new sculpts, with lots of articulation, made with very solid plastic, all at 1/3 the cost? That's still a damn good deal, just not quite as good as it used to be.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Watch out for Thors with bad wings, or worse, broken wings. I saw one myself with the wing broken off the helmet, and have heard of others finding them this way too. As I pointed out, you can correct slight bends with some hot and cold water, but you really don't want to have to superglue things together right out of the package.

Overall - ***1/2
While Thor isn't the best thing Hasbro has put their name on so far in the Marvel universe (that would be the 12" Ghost Rider and Bike), he's now one of my three favorite Icons figures. He ranks up there with Hulk and Venom for me, miles above Iron Man, Spider-Man, Cap, Wolverine and Beast. If Doom comes out this good, I'll be ecstatic.

The higher quality plastic in conjunction with the much improved articulation is what goes an awfully long way here, especially the improved shoulder and hip joints. I've since played around with the 12" Ghost Rider, and his joints work even better, so it looks like we're in an upward climb at this point. I can't wait to see what gets unveiled at Toy Fair for the Icons series!

It's also worth noting that there were two big issues with Toybiz World Wide doing the manufacturing. The first was the basic quality of the figures. While Hasbro needs to step it up on the paint work, they've already shown that the quality of the plastic and joints has improved under them.

The other area is distribution. Toybiz WW had a terrible track record for getting product out on time, or even with any sort of even distribution. When product finally did hit, it was sporadic at best, with some parts of the country (or some retailers) getting their product literally weeks after others. So far that's another positive for Hasbro, who has gotten Marvel product out in all the major retailers during the first couple weeks of January, and seems to have extremely even distribution across the country.

Now if they can just keep it up...and improve the paint.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***
Sculpt - ***1/2
Paint - ***
Articulation - ***1/2
Outfit - ***1/2
Accessories - ***
Fun Factor - ****
Value -  ***1/2
Overall - ***1/2

Where to Buy -
These are hitting retail locations right now, including Target and Toys R Us. Expect to pay around $20. Online options include:

- Killer Toys has him listed as a pre-order for $23.

- CornerStoreComics has him listed as a pre-order at $24.

- Amazing Toyz has Thor listed as a pre-order for $24 also.

- you can also shop Twenga for collectible Marvel Figures.

Related Links:
Other Icons reviews include:

- Spider-man and the Beast, Venom, and Wolverine.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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