Fantastic Four
Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm 

God bless guys like Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, for they created some of the most iconic comic book characters of the silver age. But much like George Lucas almost two decades later, they didn't spend a lot of time on the names.

Let's say they design a character who gets his power from a radioactive spider...let's call him Spider-man! Gotta guy walking around in a big metal suit - he's Iron Man! And what if you have a team of four scientists, hit by cosmic powers and each given fantastic powers? Why, it seems obvious - the Fantastic Four! Or you could call them the Incredibles, but that would just be silly.

The Fantastic Four were created by Lee and Kirby in 1961, but it has taken until 2005 for them to get the big screen treatment. Okay, that's not quite true. A truly awful movie by famous B-movie director Roger Corman was done in the 90's, but it's a film best left forgotten. The story goes that the studio that had the rights to the characters was going to lose it if they didn't start shooting a film, so they produced this awful low budget piece of Thing poo just to maintain the rights, never intending to release it.

But all that is behind us, and with comic book movies all the rage in Hollywood, a Fantastic Four film seemed obvious. And if you're doing a superhero movie, you're doing superhero toys. Marvel is releasing a ton of stuff for the film, including a line of 6" action figures through Toybiz.

Wave 1 is already out at stores, and includes Sue Storm (the Invisible Woman, modeled after the element 'wind'), Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic, modeled after the element 'water'), Johnny Storm (the Human Torch, obviously modeled after fire), and Ben Grimm (the Thing, modeled after earth). Incredibly, wave 2 is also hitting stores, and includes second versions of Reed, Johnny and Ben, but appears to be missing the announced Dr. Doom at this time. 

Packaging - **1/2
I prefer clamshells to the old style cardboard backer/bubble, but at least these are fairly colorful and attractive. There's a nice shot of the actual movie characters in front, with specific information on each character (including how to work their action feature) on the back.

They won't hold up too well to peg wear, but since they're designed for a mass market buyer, they'll do the job. An interesting feature of Reed's package is that he is half assembled, with one long leg and one long arm on opposite sides of his body. The nice thing about that is you won't need directions to figure out which pieces belong where when putting him together. The bad thing, at least with my Richards, was that his legs were switched, with the lower right leg on the left side, and vice versa.

Sculpting - Johnny ***1/2; Sue, Reed, Ben ***
This line is a 6" scale, designed to fit in with Marvel Legends or Spider-man figures. And for the most part, it does.

It's important to keep in mind that these figures are based on the film characters, not a comic book version. You might not be thrilled with all the designs, but that's the movie maker's fault, not Toybiz's. That's most likely to be an issue for Ben Grimm, whose new film look is more candy confection than rocky bad ass.

If you can get past that, Ben has a well done sculpt for mass market kid's toy. Ben's craggy surface is nicely detailed, but it doesn't look a whole lot like the movie stills or short video I've seen. I compared it to the maquette, as well as the NBA Finals advertisement, and it's clearly a different rock pattern, style, and design. The head is quite a bit different, as if they might not have had final information when they started the toys.

Ben's head sculpt is awfully tiny on the body, and I'm betting that won't be the case on screen. I waffled around a bit on Ben's score, because the toy looks pretty good - but doesn't look much like the source material.

Johnny's sculpt is much better, and the flame effect on Johnny is surprisingly cool. The flames look great, and yet none of them get in the way of the hyper-articulation. It's hard to tell just how well the Johnny head sculpt matches the actor since a) the actor is a fairly generic looking guy and b) it's cast in a transparent red plastic, making details far less easy to discern.

Reed's head sculpt is probably the most accurate to the film of the set. He can pass as Ioan Gruffad (who plays him on screen), but he could also pass as David Duchovny from the right angle. Such is the difficulty in doing sculpts of real people.

Reed's body sculpt (as well as Johnny and Sue's) looks good and allows for the hyper-articulation to work well.

Sue's head sculpt is better than many are saying. This is the closest Alba sculpt we've gotten, much better than NECA's, and it is the same sculpt as the 12" figure from this line. Extreme close ups don't do it justice, and the blond hair throws you a bit as well, but she had the chubby cheeks and perky nose of Jessica. She also has the butt.

The hand sculpts for these figures aren't as critical, because they all have articulated fingers to some degree. That means there's no need for the hands to be sculpted in a unique way to work with accessories.

Paint - Johnny, Ben ***; Reed, Sue **1/2
Overall, the paint ops on these figures are clean and neat, and about average for what you see on the pegs at the local Wally World. There are a few issues worth nothing though.

Obviously, Johnny doesn't have much in the way of paint ops, since he's been cast in a cool clear red plastic, that looks very much like fire. His black eyes are painted though, and mine are slightly off. His only other true paint op is his Fantastic Four chest emblem, which is clean and well done.

Ben has a wash over his torso to highlight the rocky skin surface, and it's done well - not too much, not too little. His steely blue eyes are even and straight, and most of the work on his pants and boots is clean as well. There's some very minor slop here and there, but certainly nothing major.

Reed has the blue and gray suit of course, and most of the paint is well done. His 'four' emblem was sloppier than the rest on my set, and he's a tad cross eyed, so pay a little extra attention to it when picking yours out.

The blue on both his and Sue's outfit seems a tad lighter in color than I expected, but until I see the film I can't be sure if it's really off or not. The color scheme does work pretty well though, and I for one am happy to see a superhero in something other than black.

As I mentioned earlier, Sue comes in three versions, and the one I found is half clear/half painted in sort of a 'phasing' state. There's also an all clear, and an all painted. They did a pretty nice job with this version, having the extremities completely clear, but then slowly getting less clear as you move toward the torso.

She does have one other paint issue though that I didn't see with the others. Her face tone is inconsistent, and lightens up near her hair line. It almost looks like she's using a fake tanner, and didn't rub enough in up near her hair.

Articulation - Johnny ****; Reed ***1/2; Ben ***; Sue **1/2
As tends to be the case with Toybiz figures, these are extremely well articulated.

Ben scores poorly due to his funky action feature bollixing things up a bit. He has a ball jointed neck, but the range of motion is less than you might expect, and certainly less than the other three. He also has pin elbows, pin wrists, pin fingers (all one piece), chest, cut waist, pin knees, pin toes, and a pin/swivel ankle joint that allows forward/backward and side to side movement.

I didn't mention his shoulders and hips, since these are the ones effected by the action feature. He has a ball jointed left shoulder, but a cut right shoulder. His legs are reversed, with a ball jointed right hip, but a cut joint on the left hip.

Johnny is loaded with articulation, similar to a Marvel Legends figure on steroids. He has a pin jointed neck with a good range of movement forward and backward, ball jointed shoulders, double jointed elbows, cut forearms, pin wrists, a chest joint that allows him to lean forward and back, cut waist, ball jointed hips, double jointed knees, cut shins, pin toes, and those pin/swivel ankles again. On top of all that, he has finger articulation with each finger able to move independently of the others!

Reed has psycho articulation as well, with a ball jointed neck, ball jointed shoulders (the kind we've seen with some ML and Spidey figures that includes the interior chest joint for a greater range of movement), cut biceps and cut forearms, double jointed elbows and knees, a chest joint that allows forward and backward tilting, a cut waist, ball jointed hips, cut thighs and calves, pins at the wrists and toes, the unusual pin/swivel ankles, and individually articulated fingers. That wore me out just writing it down.

Reed's joints are designed to work with his action feature, which I'll get to more in a minute. The various parts pop on and off, and for the most part it doesn't hinder the actual poseability of the figure.

Sue has just as many joints as the rest, but takes a big hit for a weird neck joint. She's actually articulated in a way almost identical to Johnny, but adds an extra joint at the chest, and doesn't have individually articulated fingers. That makes sense though since they are so tiny, and they are still articulated as a single joint.

Her neck joint is the same as Johnny's as well, with a rather odd pin joint that allows her no real side to side motion (it's not a ball joint), but does allow her to put her chin on her chest. With Johnny, I understand it, because this type of pin joint means there's a large peg that runs up into the head (just like at an elbow, for example), and that is where the bulb is that lights up his head. But why on Sue?

The other problem that plagues Sue with this joint that is not a problem for Johnny is the paint. Or lack of it. The first time you move her head, the flesh colored paint is going to rub right off the disk in her neck. Voila, we have a weird black mark running down the front and back of her neck. Obviously, since Johnny has no paint, this isn't an issue for him.

I have no idea why they went this route for Sue, instead of simply using a basic ball joint at the top of the neck. It hurts the look of the figure though, and adds nothing to it.

Accessories - Reed ***1/2; Sue, Johnny **1/2; Ben Bupkis
Poor Ben gets the short end of the stick in this category, probably due to his multiple action features. He hasn't got a single accessory - not even a light pole to bend.

Johnny has his flaming tornado base, and I'll cover the action feature of the base in the next section. As you'll see, it works pretty good as an action feature, but not as well as an accessory. The soft material used for the tornado tends to sag with Johnny on it, and it doesn't hold him above the ground in any particularly interesting way, but more like he's simply levitating.

Sue comes with an invisible whirling base, which ties her invisibility in nicely with the concept of the wind element. She can stand in the center, and the base fires small disks. This is one of those accessories that kids may enjoy, but collectors will toss in a box right out of the package.

Reed has the coolest set of accessories, and they tie in with his action feature. Mr. Fantastic comes with eight additional pieces - two for each arm and leg, a torso and a neck - that can be used to put him into various stretched states. I won't get into the actual feature yet, but suffice to say that eight additional pieces is a great value.

Action Feature - Johnny ***1/2; Reed ***; Ben, Sue **1/2
I'm never a huge fan of action features, since it's so hard to find any that really work well and don't detract from the main purpose of the toy. Occasionally, they work though.

Johnny is a pretty good example of when that happens. He has a basic light up feature in his torso and head. You can activate it one of two ways - there's a small button on his back that you can press to light him up OR you can attach his back to the included tornado of fire and press a button there. The tornado also says one line as it lights him up "Flame on" in what I can only assume is the character's voice from the film. He has to be attached to the base for it to work though, and the tornado doesn't hold him too far off the ground.

Ben is a good example of when an action feature isn't just boring, it's annoying. He actually has multiple action features. Stomp his left foot, and it makes a stomping sound. Move his right hand, and it makes a crushing sound. I suppose it's not surprising, but the crushing and the stomping sound an awful lot alike.

The problems are multiple. The action feature not only inhibits the articulation, but makes the left ankle particularly weak. There's also no way to shut it off, short of removing the batteries, so it's going to annoy the hell out of everyone after awhile, kids included.

Ben has a second, fairly standard action feature. He has a small thumb handle on his back, and if you twist his torso, it snaps back into place with a punching motion. This motion swings the body so that the right hand is the striking hand. It works fine, and is actually much better than the lame-o sounds.

Reed got a good score in the accessories department for the extra pieces, but unfortunately, it's a cool idea that doesn't execute quite as well.

The eight pieces are all bendy, but some bend better than others. The thicker pieces, like the thighs, will have a little more trouble holding bends than the thinner pieces, like the neck. The pieces pop on and off easy enough, and are scaled for some interesting effects. Some of them pop off a little too easily, since the pegs are fairly short, but in general he holds together okay. Kids may get frustrated though if the arms and legs fall off too frequently.

He can't actually stand with the whole arrangement in place, since the soft rubber legs won't hold the weight. Even with the flaws though, it's better than an annoying stomping sound.

Sue's action feature ties in directly with her accessory. The base fires several small discs, and works pretty well. It seems fairly bizarre though, since the base isn't a weapon. Fortunately, the disks fire better than you might expect.

Fun Factor - ***1/2
The designs might not be the best, and some collectors may think there's too much articulation or too little articulation, but for kids these are great toys. Unfortunately, kids will believe it's the Fantastic Three, since the odds they'll ever see an Invisible Woman. Perhaps it's all just part of a cruel joke on Toybiz's part - "She's invisible, get it!".

Value - ****
Each of these figures has solid if not outstanding sculpting, good articulation, and either accessories or multiple action features. At less than $7 each, that's one hell of a deal.

Now, if you end up paying closer to $9, which is the case at some retailers, you can knock off a half star.

Things to watch out for - 
I didn't have any issues that were worth calling out, or problems with breakage or joints. I'd be a little careful with some of the fingers, since the articulation might stick and you'd be wise not to crank on the tiny digits, but that's about it.

Oh, and if you're buying Grimm for your kids, you might want to pull the batteries early and tell them he broke.

Overall - Johnny ***1/2; Reed, Sue ***; Ben **1/2
I played around with these for a couple days, and also had my kids play with them. In the end, Johnny is my favorite of the bunch, with the strongest sculpt, articulation and action feature. He's a terrific value at $7, and is going to fit in great with some of the Marvel Legends figures.

Sue and Reed aren't bad, and I think the Alba sculpt is better than some folks do. The action feature on Reed keeps him from being a boring character, and Sue is bootylicious. What more could you ask for? They aren't perfect, but they're fun.

Ben is not bad to look at on the shelf if you like the character design, but it leaves me a tad cold. Combine that with the goofy and annoying action feature and limited articulation, and he ends up on the bottom of the pile.

Packaging - **1/2
Sculpt - Johnny ***1/2; Sue, Reed, Ben ***
Paint - Reed, Johnny, Ben ***; Sue **1/2
Articulation - Johnny ****; Reed ***1/2; Ben ***; Sue **1/2
Accessories - Reed ***1/2; Sue, Johnny **1/2; Ben Bupkis
Action Feature - Johnny ***1/2; Reed ***; Ben, Sue **1/2
Fun Factor - ***1/2
Value - ****
Overall - Johnny ***1/2; Reed, Sue ***; Ben **1/2

Where to Buy - 
I picked these up at the local Wal-mart, where the price was right at $6.88 each.  However, you can also find them online:

- has the figures up for pre-order at $10 each.

- has them listed as coming on May 15th, for $9 each.

- Fireside Collectibles doesn't have the figures, but they have a great price on the Thing maquette at $140.

Related links:
I haven't reviewed a ton of Fantastic Four stuff, but there's a little:

- Here's a guest review of the ML5 Mr. Fantastic, and the ML boxed set of the Fantastic Four. 

- Here's my reviews of the Ultimate Mr. Fantastic bust, and the Dr. Doom maquette.

- and then of course, there's the official Fantastic Four movie site, with trailers, screen savers, etc.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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