X-men Minimates

Ah, the Minimates - either you love them or you hate them, there's little in between. Fans of the line tout their fun play qualities, while opponents hate the toyish appearance. Further proof that you can't please everyone, or at least that there are two very distinct types of people buying 'action figures' these days.

The latest set is the X-men. It includes Wolverine, Storm, Cyclops, Colossus, Nightcrawler and Thunderbird.  Yes, we've seen several of these particular characters before (and don't be surprised if you see many, many more versions of Wolverine before they are done), but this set is special. They are designed to appear as they did as a team in the Giant Sized X-men #1 comic in 1975. I suspect that had they never gone with this concept, we would have never seen a Thunderbird. Even though he is the word. *hic*

The set is available at comic and specialty shops for $25. Yep, you read that right, but there are six figures in the pack, making it slightly less painful. Still, with lots of folks picking up minimate two packs at Meijers for a buck and change after the holidays, it's likely to cause some sticker shock. 

They've also announced the next three waves of two packs. Wave 4 includes Doc Ock with a mask less Spider-man, Bullseye with a battle damage Daredevil, and Gwen Stacey with yet another Spidey variation. Wave 5 includes Captain America and the Absorbing Man, The Thing with Dr. Doom (sure to be a hit), and Juggernaut with a civvies Logan. Finally, wave 6 is scheduled to include Ghost Rider with Iron Man (another set that will be popular), The Leader with a Gamma Ray Hulk, and a set of Wolverine and Jean Grey in their new (movie) X-men duds. And really finally, the exclusive Professor X and Magneto are shipping from Action Figure Express as I type. 

Packaging - ***1/2
Hmmm, there's a change here...what happened to the window box? Instead we get a square box with pictures of the various figures on the exterior. It's a nice shape, sturdy, and certainly easy to store and display in this configuration, but the MIBBers won't get to see what they bought. Still, they can be easily removed (the sit in a plastic tray in the box) and returned to the box later if that's your gig.

I mention this since the new packaging for 2004 for all the waves is this type of non-window boxes. However, they did do something very cool here - they used the square nature of the box to reproduce the cover of the Giant Sized X-men #1 comic, where these characters were originally together as a team. As much as I like the windows, if they can continue to do something unique like this with the box art, I'll prefer the new packaging.

Sculpting - **1/2
Buying minimates for their sculpting is like buying McDonalds for the quality of their beef. Okay, it's not quite like that - you're not risking Mad Cow disease every time you play with a minimate - but you get the point. Sculpting isn't the selling point, it's playability. Still, it's only fair to discuss the sculpts.

There aren't a lot of extra sculpted pieces beyond the standard square torsos, round heads, and boxy arms and legs. They do add various hair, cowl or hat pieces, and these are done with just the right amount
of detail to convey the look of the character without breaking out of the overall style. And this time, Wolverine and Colossus have some very interesting booties. These things are big of course, but I didn't realize they were actually separate pieces from the feet at first. When I opened the package, I had a extra pair of red feet - what the hell? They were floating around in the box, and I couldn't figure what they were for. Maybe for when Colossus wanted to kick back and relax? Ah, but then as I was playing around with them I realized that the boots on both he and Wolverine actually slip over normal feet, and are completely separate pieces. This use of multiple pieces, all interchangeable and easy to take on and off, is one of the features that makes these little guys so cool.

There's a specific aspect of Wolverine worth mentioning - his claws. They worked out well, not too floppy, not too thin, but not too thick. They look good with the style of the character, and I was happy (and surpised) that they turned out so well.

Paint - ***
While the style of these figures is simple, the paint application is more complex with this set.  Storm, Thunderbird and Wolverine have quite a variety of color and detail, and Colossus is working with some tough combinations in silver, black, red and yellow.

The detail work is good, and the faces are great as usual.  There's a little slop and bleed between some of the more difficult colors, but the overall quality is above average in this scale. 

Articulation - ***1/2
Here's another area in which the minimates excel. This batch is no different, with neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist, waist, hip, knee and ankle joints. All the joints have fairly good range of motion as well, particularly for this tiny scale, although I wish the hips moved out a little more. Still, there's about a billion poses these guys can take, and because of their light weight and tight joints, you'll have no trouble keeping them there.

Accessories - Bupkis
Where oh where did the accessories go...nothing with this set. Since the figures can hold accessories well with their claw-like mitts, and since super heroes are such naturals for accessories, something would have been nice. And let's not forget the price point of about $4 a figure - at that price, you expect a little extra added value.

Fun Factor - ****
This is a new category, but expect to see it used more often in the future. One of the things mentioned by many of the voters in the recent People's Choice Awards is that they like to see a rating on how much fun or playable an action figure is - how much of a 'toy' is it? That's what this category will cover.

Here, you get a perfect example of a fun little toy. The articulation works great, and the basic nature of the design means you get very cool consistency across the line. Kids and adults alike can have real fun with these - just scatter a handful on your desk at work and watch what happens.

Value - **1/2
As much as I love these, even I have to admit that four bucks a figure is at least a buck, maybe two, too steep. I realize that the release on these is fairly limited, but considering the amount of reuse and lack of accessories, it seems like we could have gotten closer to $20 for the set.

Overall - ***
I have to make and admission - this year I found the Mez-itz more compelling than the minimates.  With their sculpted heads - and great characters - I found myself buying more of the Mezco mini-figures than I had expected.

However, the minimates are still fantastic toys, especially at this scale.  I've been buying the entire Marvel Universe so far, and don't see that changing any time soon.  And while I've stayed away from almost all the Lord of the Rings action figures, there's no way I'll be able to avoid buying the minimate versions due out later this year.

Where to Buy - 
I picked these up at a local comic shop, for the expected $25.  I'm not sure if other specialty retailers like Media Play or Sam Goody will get them in, and I doubt that my other local standby, Meijers, will get them either.  Online options include:

- Action Figure Express has this set for $25, but while you're there be sure to pick up their exclusive set of Magneto and Professor X!

- Entertainment Earth has the set listed for $26, but it's still a preorder.  You may want to call to see if they have it in yet.


Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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