The Avengers - Captain America, Black Widow and Thor
Hot Toys

"The following is a guest review.  The review and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the guest author."
Jeff Parker checks in tonight with another terrific Hot Toys guest review - take it away, Jeff!

Thanks as always to our host with the most (toys) Mr Michael Crawford.

I’ve been racking my brain and I don’t think I have ever attempted a treble whammy review. I may need to be corrected on that, but I’m still wondering if three figures in one low-down is a bridge too far, especially three that have as much to be said about as this trio!

But Hot Toys are hitting us so thick and fast with their new releases at the moment, so it seems like a good way to get my thoughts on three of the super hero troop out in one concise round-up. I already covered Nick Fury and Hawkeye a few weeks back here, and now we have another member of the group without any ‘super powers’, but one who can still kick the ass of an opponent three times her size. The ever sassy and easy on the eye… Black Widow. And to accompany her are the first two proper super heroes in the set, comprising of Captain America (the wimp turned super soldier, with a persecution complex) and Thor (the ever so slightly ‘hard to relate to’ Norse God of thunder).

There seems to be little or no point in going over the movie again, we all saw it (probably more than once) at the theatre, and we’ve all watched it a good few times on Blu-Ray since, so I won’t insult us all by rehashing all that jazz. All I will say is we are in for another summer of superhero blockbuster heaven, as Iron Man 3 is looking increasingly promising (though at the time of writing I’ve heard some pretty mixed early reviews), and at a recent press interview Howard Chan announced there would be no less than 15 new figures from the movie, with many believed to be variations on the power suit… and if you saw the trailer you’ll know why (whoa Nelly!). But enough about Iron Man, after all, we haven’t even had the MK VII released yet, so lets get on with the show!





















Packaging - ***1/4
As a set these are going to shape up well, as the uniformity of the design gives them a nice cohesive look for you MIB’ers. However, when viewed individually I still maintain that these are far from exciting. Each character has a grainy ‘print matrix’ effect image of the character on a unique colour back-drop, with a shiny foil movie logo over the top. The Cap is in blue with a bright red inner box, Thor has a silver sleeve with another bright red inner section and the Black Widow is… you guessed it, black (well actually tones of black and midnight blue) with a silver inner box. The outer sleeve can be slid off to show the window-fronted carton within. Nestled inside these are the usual vac formed trays with the figures held securely inside, all are collector friendly and no twisty ties are used at all. I will however point out that Thor’s cape is posted through a slot in the back of his tray, so take care when you lift him out.

So, like the packaging for the previous two characters, they are well constructed boxes that are more than up to the job of protecting the contents in transit, and though the designs are far from unattractive, they don’t exactly float my boat much either.

Sculpting - BW+ Cap A (unmasked) ****; Cap A (masked)+ Thor ***3/4

These are four exceptional sculpts, and I defy anyone to say otherwise. Of course we all have our favourite characters from the three and if based on comic books mine would be the Cap, if based on their movie representation then I’d have to go for Thor, but judging them as figures and looking at the three standing side by side its actually Black Window that takes the prize… for me at least.

This is the third time we’ve had Scarlett made by Hot Toys. First we had her as Silken Floss from The Spirit (sculpted by Hiroki Hayashi ) then we had the first version of Black Widow from Iron Man 2, and now we see her here as she looked in The Avengers (both of these are by Yulli Choi). As is generally the case, these things improve with each new representation, and that trend is highly evident here. The new sculpt is just sublime, managing to capture something of her beauty whilst never falling into caricature or over ‘cutesy’ Barbie territory. Her expression is focussed and determined and works fantastically well for a good many poses. Her complexion is flawless, but the ‘oh so subtle’ texturing of the pores is still evident on very close examination (though much like in the real world, no where near as evident as on those on the manly men… this is after all a ‘well made-up’ soft focus ‘Vogue’ fashion shoot representation, as I’m sure Scarlett’s ‘people’ demanded… I’m ready for my close up now Mr DeMille! She comes with real (well, nylon) rooted hair. As always this can divide collectors, but I like it… I would have liked it even more if Hot Toys had given us an alternate head with sculpted hair, or the ability to swap it over (which was hinted at in an interview with Yulli Choi a while ago). However even without this option she looks fantastic. And the softness of the ‘real’ hair definitely enhances her femininity. It is styled with some kind of ‘product’ to help keep it in place, and I found that with minimum effort she looks pretty darned hot straight from the box. And as far as the actual likeness of the portrait goes, well, it’s pretty close to perfection. One of my favourites from recent releases, without a doubt! In fact seeing how good Hot Toys have got with female sculpts and rooted hair it has me praying they might actually deem to give us a Marilyn Monroe in the M-Icon range at some point!

For the Cap we get two head sculpts by K.A Kim, one with his cowl/mask in place and the other without, and both are great likenesses of Chris Evans as Steve Rogers. I guess somewhat obviously the unmasked head is the best likeness as the whole head is on show, and his angry expression, with mouth slightly open makes this a great portrait for dynamic action poses. And the way his military style ‘short back and sides’ haircut is handled works amazingly well, aided by the paint job in the way it graduates up the back of his head from close shaved to stubble. The masked head has a more neutral expression on the exposed areas, but still works well for many poses, and the way Hot Toys have attached the mask as a separate piece over the face helps enhance the illusion of layering, yep, once again they show is how it’s done!

Thor’s portrait is by KoJun so we know we are in safe hands. However, even though this is an outstanding piece of work, that I’m sure is the envy of many companies that work in competition to Hot Toys, it doesn’t quite get a full score from me. It is undeniably Chris Hemsworth, but when I look at it from multiple angles he doesn’t seem quite as strong as his comrades. The reason for this is the long hair, which is amazing in its own rite, and I have often praised KoJun in the way he masterfully depicts hair. However, even though the detailing is deep and crisp and even (cue Christmas carol!), and even though I defy almost anyone to improve on the way he gets it to look natural in the way it falls with ‘implied’ weight! There is always a problem with sculpted long hair, and that problem being the ends. Where the style tapers off at the tips can start to look less convincing, depending on the position of the head and where the hairline falls against his shoulders. I know this detail will impact more with some people than others, and on this occasion I still think this is the best way to handle his particular style. As let’s face it, rooted hair would have been difficult to get right on a mass produced level, however it is the one tiny factor that can spoil the illusion!

All three also come with a good selection of hands (I shall number them in accessories) but you can rest assured that all are well sculpted, and come with a fair selection of positions to interact with their accessories and also aid in your general posing.

Paint - ****
I’ll keep this short and sweet, they are all without fail exceptionally good. Yes they exhibit all the requisite fine detailing on the skin, with its fine texturing and mottling (though as stated above with a softer focus on Ms Jonansonn). And both the male characters have some delicate and understated detailing on the hair. Black Widow, or Natasha Romanof doesn’t have this however, because as also stated above her hair is rooted.

I guess I could wax lyrical about the glossy wet eyes, the subtle colouration of their flesh and the fact that even at this diminutive scale they look incredibly lifelike, even when photographed and blown up to sizes they will never be viewed at with the naked eye. But I won’t, because I’ve said it all before, and it is testament to Hot Toys very talented artisans, (lead by the ever present JC Hong) that it is now taken as read that the companies output in this department is virtually beyond reproach. Simply stunning across the board!

Articulation - BW ****, Thor + Cap A ***
For Black Widow the only real loss of articulation is in the ankle, as those rigid boots mean all mobility, save for the action of turning is pretty much null and void. However the rest of her outfit is so well designed, cut and fabricated that you will be amazed at the poses you can get. As I mentioned above, this body was recently used on the Baby Doll figure from Sucker Punch that I covered here, and is by far the best and most articulated version of the female form released by Hot Toys to date. I guess the only thing worth pointing out is that like every other toy manufacturer, Hot Toys has to re-use their base bodies on many different characters, meaning the base figure here, though very curvy, is not quite as full bodied as the real Ms Johansonn… but its damn well close enough for me!

The boys on the other hand have equally as impressive outfits in the way they look and are constructed, but they do suffer from a hampered ability to achieve any deep poses. This is compounded by the fact that both the guys are sporting muscle bodies, which means they couldn’t achieve an acute elbow bend even if the suits had allowed. You can look over my past breakdown for the generic True-Types here and I recently looked over a muscle body here as well.

Suffice to say both look buff and heroic and would look equally as comfortable on the field of battle as they would in a club pumping to HI-NRG music!

Accessories - Cap A ****, Thor + BW ***1/4
We get quite a cool selection of goodies, and the breakdown per character goes like this-
Black Widow has-
8 interchangeable gloved hands, consisting of:
1 pair pistol grip
1 pair of fists with tazer effect
1 pair of regular fists
1 right hand for posing on waist
1 right hand for throwing discs
2 Glock 26 automatic pistols
2 discs with pouches
1 Chitauri long ‘rifle’ weapon with bayonet
1 pair of stinger bracelets
1 pair of stinger bracelets with tazer effect
 1 Figure stand with nameplate and movie logo

The Cap has
1 unmasked head showing Steve Rogers portrait
9 interchangeable gloved hands including:
1 pair for holding shield
1 pair of throwing hands
1 right pointing hand
1 pair of relaxed hands
1 pair of fists
1 regular electroplated shield
1 battle damaged electroplated shield
1 Chitauri assault rifle weapon
1 Figure stand with nameplate and the movie logo

Thor comes with-
6 interchangeable hands including:
1 pair of fists
1 pair of relaxed hands
1 pair for holding hammer
1 Tesseract containment tube
1 metal hammer of Mjolnir
1 figure stand with nameplate and the movie logo

So, I guess its plain to see that the mighty God of thunder comes away with what might appear at first glance to be the lightest haul of equipment in this particular arena, however the inclusion of that real metal hammer and the rather cool ‘containment’ tube to transport the Tesseract in does make up quite a bit for his shortfall numerically. The detailing on both of these items is as beautifully rendered as you would expect. And that metal hammer (even if it is a reuse from the first figure) is nice and weighty, with a cool leather carry strap on the handle… if only they could have packed a helmet as well (even if as a bonus prop).

The Cap would be nothing without his shield, and this figure comes packing two. Both have the super shiny electroplated finish but whilst one is pristine, the other has taken a bit of a bashing from the Chitauri foot soldiers and shows a number of charred doinks and scratches. And even though the stars and stripes design on the front is the view that will be most oft viewed, it’s the other sides detail, with the straps, buckles and rivets that look the best, well, to my eye anyway. His other cool extra is the bronze, steel and blue Chitauri hand held assault weapon, this attaches directly to the arm by means of engaging with the wrist peg, or it can simply be carried. However it is the inclusion of the extra noggin that puts this figure head and shoulders over the other two in this category… did you see what I did there?

Lastly we get to the Black Widow who comes with two sets of her trademarked ‘stinger’ bracelets (one pair have some subtle blue detailing to denote a tazer effect, as do one set of the accompanying fists), she also has a brace of Glock 26 automatic pistols, with removable magazines and a cocking mechanism, a pair of ninja style throwing disks and lastly she also comes with a Chitauri rifle/spear/lance like weapon that is used in the movie to help close the inter-dimensional portal that the alien invaders are using to try and lay waste to our planet (don’t you just hate when that happens). Like the rifle that comes with the Cap it has some nicely observed detailing and is finished off with a crisp paint app to boot.

All three also come with figure stands that are adorned with the movie logo and a character specific nameplate, though I found all three stood just fine without them, leave them in the box, your display will look much better, trust me!

Outfit - All Aesthetic **** Functionality BW ****, Cap A +Thor ***
OK, We have three distinct groups here… Norse God, medically enhanced super human and highly trained ‘government operative’. So their respective ‘fashion sense’ is something of a moot point. Let’s kick off with Black Widow, whose outfit is utilitarian… but because of it’s ‘Bauhaus’ quality ends up being sexually alluring at the same time… but lets face it, we are talking about Scarlett Johansonn encased in a skin tight synthetic body glove… WHAT IS NOT TO LIKE? This is a woman I have secretly admired… and not so secretly admired since I first saw Ghost World! It’s an outfit that worked well in the Avengers movie, and when reproduced at 1/6th scale it still does the business! Underneath the suit is the new improved female base body, last used on the Sucker Punch gals. This affords a far greater range of mobility than previous female bods, and this new outfit is tailored in such a way (and constructed of a soft enough fabric) that it is flexible in all the right places. For pretty much the first time, we can now get some real kick ass deep poses, with high kicks and full knee and elbow bends. I admit I wouldn’t want to leave her posed in an extreme bent knee pose for too long (for fear of stretching the soft flexible material) but for photography and general ‘play’ value, this is a supremely well put together suit. The detailing on the seams is finely crafted and the working zipper up the front allows you to be as wanton or prim and proper as your sensibilities allow. Her boots are rigid, but the detailing is beautifully rendered, and over her suit she has belt to complete her look. From this hang two drop-holsters, and unlike on the Iron Man 2 version she has a brace of matching automatic pistols, instead of the odd pair she sported last time. I guess it should be easy to see that this is my favourite of the three ensembles, proving succinctly that sometimes the simplicity of less is more!

Thor, well, what can one say about Thor? He’s a God from the (now not so) mythical world of Asgard. As such he is not one for subtlety or understatement. Oh no, we are in the arena of full on, high camp ‘fancy dress’. However, to the costume designers credit, this is an outfit that manages to stay close’ish’ to the comic book source material whilst also managing to look like it would afford some real protection in a combat situation. From the feet up he has armoured boots that replicate the screen seen foot-ware very well, and they even manage to disguise a joint at the ankle, making Thor’s the most posable boots of the trio. His trousers are a complex set of panels sewn together with differing blue, black and red sections. These go up under the torso armour, where some loss of mobility is encountered when trying to bring the thigh up acutely. The abdominal and chest armour is pretty stiff, so there is only limited movement, but the design is subtly different to his previous outfit. I guess his criteria when ordering new clothing must be pretty limiting. His orders must be something along the lines of “Master tailor, I require a new outfit for my next rip-roaring adventure/movie, it must be as instantly recognisable as my previous outfit with a long flowing (yet incredibly masculine) red cape, six huge shiny silver buttons (double breasted style) down the front and also display enough subtle differences that we can launch a whole new series of manly action figures… make it so, lest I be not best pleased with you… and I demand you have it completed by Friday… no, by Odin’s beard make that THORSDAY!’

Unlike on the previous version, his cape is permanently fixed to his back, which I have to admit I prefer. The reason being that the way the cape is pleated and folded on this version seems slightly more detailed, and this method of attaching it makes it hang exceptionally well. Part of the reason it drapes so well is the choice of fabric, which has a great weight considering the scaled ‘thinness’ that it exhibits. His arms are clad in the same metallic looking sleeves as last time (though this time they show more definition in the upper arms musculature), with the criss-cross ‘diamond’ pattern etched into its surface. They appear to be made of moulded vinyl, which means they look fantastic, but the articulation suffers quite a bit. I was lucky enough to see a full size replica of the outfit recently (along with Cap A’s and the MK VI) that was cast from the screen worn suits/CGI models, and I can vouch that this is as close to perfection as you are ever likely to get at this scale (I could tell you where I saw it, but I’d have to kill you!). At the cuffs he wears red fabric gauntlets (to match his cape) that have armoured panels strapped over the top of them. There is however one item of the iconic outfit missing, but that’s from the classic ‘comic book’ look of the character rather than the look he sported in The Avengers. Of course I’m alluding to his winged helmet. Its absence is enough to make the first version the more ‘essential’ if you just want to build up a collection of ‘real world’ Marvel characters. However, in virtually every other respect this is a far superior figure.

The Cap is also wearing a pretty complex outfit in terms of the actual pattern cutting and tailoring that this suit requires, and for that fact alone he deserves a few bonus points. But a single swallow does not a summer make!
His outfit was in my mind the most difficult to make in a ‘real world’ setting as its original ‘spandex’ nature was always going to be a hard sell in the ’Joss Whedon’ Avengers universe. However, for me at least, the figure actually manages to look better than Chris Evans did in the movie. C’mon, you all have to admit that his outfit looked a bit… well, how does one put it politically correctly… I guess ‘camp’ is best word I can find! However, it served a purpose, as he is the closest equivalent to the jingoistic ‘Superman’ the Avengers movie has, so his na´ve ‘man out of his time’ nature is well suited to this chosen choice of threads (well, actually allocated by SHIELD). He’s the superhero equivalent of an over enthusiastic Labrador… but with a moral compass that is unmatched! I pray ‘The Winter Soldier’ gives him a tad more depth. However, even though beautifully observed and tailored this suit does end up hampering quite a lot of the Caps movement. There is some finely carried out detailing on features like his tiny zippered pockets (not functioning but replicated with minute millimetre thin sculpted steel coloured panels), integrated knee pads, red and white abdominal section and the steel coloured chest star and shoulder details. Over the suit he wears a multi pouched utility belt (don’t try and undo the front buckle as it fixes at the rear) and he’s also equipped with a ‘snap on’ hood that hangs down over his back for when you attach the un-cowled head. This was a late but welcome addition to the figure, and certainly finishes the look off.

The boots are rigid, but like the rest of his ensemble are beautifully detailed with the straps, bindings and armoured calf guards all expertly rendered. His gloves/gauntlets are sculpted as two separate elements meaning the hands can be swapped over and still maintain a fair degree of mobility at the wrist.

The most notable area of restricted movement was the upper thigh, where the slight drop crotch, coupled with the detailed nature of the tailoring made any truly deep poses pretty much out of the question. You can still get some good general stances, but a deep crouch is a no-no, and like Thor the upper arms also suffer, so you’ll have to work with what you’ve got!

So, three outstanding outfits in terms of how they look, but when it comes to action poses Ms Romanof has the boys eating out of her hand!

Fun Factor - BW ****+, Cap A +Thor ***1/2
For me the fun factor can usually be broken down into two distinct areas, and one not so distinct. Firstly, and most obviously is my connection with the licence, us geeks will always have our favourite IP’s, and we tend to geek out more when they are made into collectibles. Then my second criteria is just how posable and play friendly the figure is. Articulation is king, but it has to be unhampered by the outfit and accessories. If you can’t bend a joint because of the way the outfit is constructed or bits fall off every time you repose a figure then that just ain’t good enough I tend to be slightly more forgiving of some figures than others in this respect, but you know what I mean!

Which leads me onto the ‘mystery’ or ‘random’ element when reviewing, and that comes down to the un-definable quality a figure has that just excites you. It’s a gut reaction, often not obvious in photos, but comes from the ‘experiencing’ of a figure, holding, kitting up, playing with and posing it, something you’ll never get from looking at photos on line or simply viewing it in a box.

It’s for that reason the Black Widow is my favourite here, she has that undeniable quality, that ‘je ne sais quoi’… now maybe that’s because it’s Scarlett Johansonn in a skin tight outfit, and the fact she’s on a new improved female base body that seems to pose much more smoothly and naturally just may also have something to do with it.

The Cap is just about as solid a figure as you could want, and his two head sculpts help drive his score up, but the lack of articulation at the upper thigh does end up hurting him a little. Then Thor is a very strong figure too, with his only bug-bear being his mobility in the arm area (and the awkwardness of the hairstyle at some angles). But ultimately these are all fun figures, and when we get the MK VII and Hulk delivered I can’t wait to set this whole team up (with Spidey as an honourable member!).

Value - BW ***1/4 Thor *** Cap A **3/4
These guys have a range of prices, which are-
BW $189.99
Thor $199.99
Cap A $214.99

Those prices just keep creeping ever skyward don’t they, and with figures like these it gets harder and harder to justify to yourself (let alone family members) getting the complete line up. With an ‘average’ price of around $200 a pop, the ‘regular’ sized figures for an Avengers team are going to cost you a whopping $1400… and that’s before you even get the big green guy, who has an RRP of $299.99. Of course some might not regard Fury and Agent Coulson to be as ‘essential’ as the core members of the squad… and I haven’t even considered the bad guys in the form of Loki and the Chitauri foot soldier, but we are talking about parting with some serious cash if you want all the key characters/figures.

I admit that I am smitten with all three of these, and I get more enthusiastic about achieving the full line-up with each new member received. They are all top quality figures that showcase just what is achievable in terms sculpting, paint and tailoring… but those prices are going to keep a good many fans out of the game, which is a shame, because they deserve as wide an audience as possible. I just prey they plateau out soon.

Overall - BW ***3/4, Cap A + Thor ***1/2
I guess a lot of why I love these figures is gone over above, and they all look amazing straight out of the box. The price as always ends up playing a part in keeping those final scores down, but that elusive and indefinable quality manages to push the Natasha figure just a nose ahead of her male counterparts and oh so close to perfection… could it be that 1/6th cleavage… nah, surely not, even I’m not that much of a perv ;)

The undeniable thing is we live in a time when the best action figures that have ever been made are now available, at a quality that those of us who kept the faith (not to mention that inner child alive) have yearned for since we were mere nippers. However they come at such a premium that people are having to make tough decisions on which ones to get and which ones to skip! And you just know that if you don’t get the core characters from The Avengers, you will kick yourself in a year or two’s time when they have doubled or quadrupled in price on the grey market… of course that should be just about the time that The Avengers 2 comes out and the new versions released will so superior that they piss all over these, making them virtually worthless (I dread think what the RRP on those new figures could be, but I bet they’ll probably talk and make your breakfast for you).

Where to Buy -
At the time of writing all three were still available from Sideshow Collectibles for the prices listed above in the value section. I did try trawling the site sponsors, but they seem to have sold out pretty quick in most places. And looking at the prices being asked it would seem that a lot of folks agree with me on the desirability of BW. The one site that still had at least two available is BBTS, where the prices were-
Black Widow- In stock $239.99
Thor- In stock $199/99
Cap A- Sold out- $224.99

Or you can hit eBay where I’m seeing Thor for anything between $190 to $300, Black Widow has a range of $230 up to $350, and finally the Cap, who is going for between $250 to $320. But they all seem to be getting pretty thin on the ground!

Or you can search ebay for a deal.

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This product was provided for the review by the manufacturer. Photos and text by Jeff Parker.

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