Marvel Masterworks
Fantastic Four

Toybiz has thrown a new series into the mix, under the Marvel Legends title - Masterworks.  These smaller scaled dioramas recreate famous covers from classic Marvel comics.  Interesting that this isn't the first time Marvel has used the term 'famous covers'.

The first two released are based on "The Battle for Gwen Stacey", in which Green Goblin and Spider-man battle it out, and tonight's review, "The Fantastic Four Meet the Mole Man".  It seems that Toybiz can't quite make up their mind which comic cover this is - on the front of the box, it claims it's Fantastic Four #1, while the back says Fantastic Four #0.

While recreating comic book covers with action figures isn't a new concept, these first two are quite a bit more involved and complex than most past attempts.  Assortment 2 is slated for October, and includes an epic battle with Galactus and the Hulk taking on the Thing.

These are hitting retailers rather sporadically right now, with Wal-mart being the first to get them in.  Patience and your retail options will increase.  Expect to pay around $15 - $18.

Packaging -  ***1/2
I always prefer boxes to cards, because they stand up better to shelf wear, and they are easier for the MIBBers to store.  They are usually closer to 'collector friendly' as well, but not this time.  To open him up and get him out, you pretty much have to tear things up.

Still, if you are a MIBBer, you'll be happy because the box provides and excellent clear view of the diorama, set up just as it should be.  It includes a nice small shot of the cover on the bottom right so you can compare, and includes text specific to this set on the back.

Sculpting - ***
The overall design of the set is intended to appear as close to the comic cover as possible.  They do a pretty good job, but come up short in a couple spots.

The biggest problem in matching the cover is that the base is smaller than you really need.  This means that both Thing and Reed are closer to the monster than they are on the cover, throwing off their position.  While on the cover it's clear that both of them are reaching for the Invisible Woman, clutched in the monsters left hand, in translation it doesn't quite come out that way.  It looks like Richards is trying to snag his right arm, and Thing...well, he seems excessively fascinated by the monster's crotch.

Providing snap on bases that could attach to the front of the main base would have allowed for these two characters to be further out, and really helped the overall appearance.

The monster is rotocast, which means he's predominately hollow.  He's lighter weight than you might expect, but I don't think it hurt the level of detail or quality of the sculpt.

Johnny Storm is fully flaming around the back of the monster, and his flame trail is glued into the back of the big guy to ensure stability.  In face, all the characters are glued in place, including the Mole Man himself.  He's attached to a separate piece of rock that then snaps into the base once you've freed the pieces from the package.

The detail for this scale - the main figures are about 2" tall with the exception of Reed, who is stretched to about 3", and the monster is 8" - is good if not exceptional.  They remind me of the work you see with the Figure Factory stuff.

My biggest complaint about the set is probably the soft plastic used on some of the figures, especially Richards.  He's pretty thin of course, being stretched out, but the soft plastic means that wilting is not only likely, it's already starting.

Paint - **
Like the sculpt, the paint reminds me of other 2" offerings like Battle Dice figures or Figure Factory.  It's not bad, but it's not exceptional.  There's a fair share of slop, and small details are often off center or misaligned.

My biggest complaint is that the actual appearance of the monster is more like the interior artwork, and less like the cover artwork.  He's very dark green, with some browns mixed in for good measure.  There isn't much of any use of dry brushing or highlighting, so all his skin detail is lost.  I much prefer the lighter color used on the cover, and since this is supposed to match that - not the interior art - it was a let down.

Now, this is NOT the actual cover art. I'm not sure where this cover came from, but you can see the actual FF#1 cover courtesy of Wikipedia. Clearly the cover was altered to accommodate the set. I'm not too thrilled with the concept - it's not really a famous cover if you created it just for the toy, now is it? Perhaps they pulled this cover from some later issue... 

Articulation - *
Since this is a diorama-like statue, you really wouldn't expect any articulation.  But both shoulders on the monster are cut joints, allowing some slight posing.

Accessories - *1/2
He comes with the comic book, which is more than you also might expect with a diorama.  Neither this score or the articulation score is going to effect my overall in a negative way - in fact, they might help slightly.

Fun Factor - *1/2
Unlike most of the Marvel Legends lines, these aren't intended for much 'fun', at least in the traditional sense.  Put them on the shelf and look at them - that's the point.

Value - **1/2
I paid $15, and at that price I didn't feel ripped off, but I'm not dancing in the streets over it.  It's a small 8" rotocast monster, with a few Figure Factory quality guys permanently attached.  If you pay more than $18, knock off another star.

Things to watch out for - 
Watch those paint jobs, because there's plenty of room for good and bad.  Other than that, there's little to worry about.

Overall -  **1/2
I actually liked this set better once I had it out than when it was in the package.  The paint work still bugs me, and the odd positions of the Thing and Reed are annoying, but after it was on the shelf for awhile, I was able to get past it.  It still doesn't thrill me by any means, and certainly not the way it could have - the idea has tremendous potential - but it's not bad for fifteen bucks.

BTW, my overall is largely determined this time by sculpt, paint and value.  While it was worth noting things like Accessories and Articulation, I knew going in that with a diorama neither would be particularly good.

Packaging - ***
Sculpt - ***
Paint - **
Articulation - *
Accessories - *1/2
Fun Factor - *1/2
Value - **1/2
Overall -  **1/2

Where to Buy -
I picked this up at Wal-mart, no matter how much that pained me.  I haven't seen them at any other brick and mortar retailers yet, but I'm betting that we will very soon.  Online options include:

- CornerstoreComics has the individuals for $17 each, or the pair for $32.  You can also pre-order the next two.

- YouBuyNow has them for $18.50 each.

- Killer Toys has them for $20 each.

Related Links:
I've had plenty of Marvel Legends reviews:

- there's the guest review of the Fearsome Foes of Spider-man boxed set, Urban Legends box set, X-men Legends boxed set, and the Fantastic Four boxed set

- The previous Sentinel BAF was guest reviewed.

- then there's the various series reviews, including the Wal-mart Giant Man series, series 13, series 12, series 9 (including Galactus), series 8 Captain Marvel and Doc Ock, series 7 Vision, series 6 Juggernaut, Wolverine and Deadpool, series 5 Blade, Nick Fury, Sabertooth and Colossus, along with series 5 Red Skull, Silver Surfer and Mr. Fantastic, series 4 Goliath, Punisher, Beast, Gambit, and Elektra, series 3 Daredevil and then the rest of the series, series 2 Thing and Namor, and finally, from three and a half years ago, the series 1 review.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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