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Marvel Legends Face Offs
Hulk vs the Leader

Mark Patraw is back tonight with a guest review of one of the best Marvel Legends of recent times - take it away, Mark!

Jin Saotome reviewed the Captain America/Red Skull and Kingpin/Daredevil Marvel Legends Face-Offs a while ago, now I'm here to cover the Hulk/Leader set. I'm reviewing the less common variant set of these two characters which feature different head sculpts. With the Hulk, the variant noggin has an open-mouthed roar, as opposed to the normal version which has clenched teeth. The Leader variant sports his original, tall forehead; the normal version has the more modern look (what I like to call 'Broccoli Brains'). I personally hate the bulbous Broccoli Brains interpretation, which is the primary reason I bought the variant set. While I didn't buy the normal set, there's a photo and artwork from the package down below so you can compare and see which head sculpt you like better.











Packaging - ***1/2
Picture your normal Marvel Legends clamshell, and then imagine it wider, that's basically what you're getting: Solid construction, attractive design, clear view of what you're getting, etc. The back of the package gives some nice background information and relative strengths for the two characters (which you can see at the very bottom of this review). It also shows photos of the other two sets in this wave along with handy inset photos of the variant heads so scalpers know exactly what to look for (grrr...). 

When you open it up with your favorite sharp implement, you'll find that there's only four twisty ties (one on the Hulk, three on the Leader), which isn't too bad. The plastic parts of the diorama just pop out of the interior bubble. The background image for the diorama was taped to the insert though, which I was very displeased to see--I just cut the tape off the edges, rather than pulling it off, for fear of damaging the art (note to toy manufacturers--do not put tape on cardboard/paper goods). The comic book and card are also taped, but they're inside protective plastic bags so you don't have to worry about the tape damaging them during removal.

Sculpting - Hulk ****; Leader ***
The Jade Giant's musculature is very well defined and detailed with the requisite bulging veins appearing in the appropriate places on his arms. His torn, purple jeans have a very nice cross-hatch texture all over them and the seams, buttons, pockets, etc. are all well defined. The lines in his face, locks of his hair, and invidual teeth are all captured clearly. Could it be more detailed? Yes, but this is close enough to perfection for me--he looks like he stepped right out of the comic books, which is exactly what you want. 

The Leader's head sculpt is excellent--he has a very arrogant/superior looking face and you've gotta love that giant forehead. His visage, minus the forehead and skin color, reminds me a lot of DC Comic's Green Lantern villain, Sinistro. His body sculpt, while certainly acceptable, just isn't very exciting. The colors make it pop, but from a design standpoint, it's pretty basic--although it is comic book accurate. My Leader's right leg is somewhat warped at the knee (it turns inward where it shouldn't) because of the way he was situated inside the bubble--hopefully yours will be better. There's also a very noticeable seam in the plastic of his neck where the two halves didn't quite join together. These two flaws, and his somewhat boring attire, cost him a star.

Paint - Hulk *** 1/2; Leader ** 1/2
The Hulk has a relatively basic paint job, as you'd expect. Green skin and hair? Check. Purple pants? Check. Bingo, you're done. As usual, Toy Biz has applied a wash over everything to bring out detail, and it works well for the Mr. Banner as it's subtle and not overdone. His eyes and teeth are very sharp with no bleeding or other imperfections. There's a few small, stray purple marks on his back and lower legs, which is the reason I'm docking him half a star--hopefully yours will be free of these purple chicken pox. 

Like the Hulk, the Leader is a character of few colors, but they're applied to great effect. As I mentioned in sculpting, the Leader's outfit really pops because of the strong contrast between the orange and black. Toy Biz used a black wash over the orange on his outfit, but it's applied a bit too heavily on mine--it's not terrible, but it does give the impression of dirtiness rather than defining muscles as was clearly the intent. Another nit: The black paint doesn't follow the hairline as sharply as it should in a few spots. 

The base has a few, basic paint ops on it as well. These consist of a couple of craters (which go along with the ship shooting in the background, a nice touch) and some blue bars on the machine-like surface. These are all clean looking and give some color to what would otherwise be a rather unremarkable hunk of plastic.

Articulation - Hulk ***; Leader *** 1/2
Unfortunately, this version of the Hulk isn't as articulated as some of the ones Toy Biz has made in the past, but he's still fairly poseable. His head can't move back because of his huge neck muscles, but it pivots well to the sides and down. Perhaps most disappointing, the only joint in his torso is a cut waist. In the arms, he's got ball-jointed shoulders (which are somewhat restricted by the musculature of his body), swivel biceps just below that, pin-joint elbows (no double joint, and the range isn't very wide), cut wrists, and pin-joint fingers (the four fingers move as one, they're not individually jointed). At the legs, the Hulkster has ball-jointed hips, swivel hips immediately below the ball, pin joints in the ankles, a side-to-side ankle swivel joint just below that, and pin-jointed toes (like the fingers, the toes move as one, not individually). I noticed that Toy Biz's photos of the Hulk figure on the package show him with the double-jointed knees (scroll down and take a look at the photo if you like), I wish the final product had them. 

Hulk's skinny nemesis scores better in this category, but he's still somewhat deficient in comparison to other Marvel Legends figures with a similar body build. The Leader has a ball-jointed neck (curiously, just like the Hulk, you can't get much backward motion out of it). He's got a cut waist, but the mid-torso joint you'd expect to see in a Marvel Legends figure is absent. In his arms he has ball-jointed shoulders, swivel biceps, double-jointed elbows, cut forearms where his gauntlets begin, and pin-joints in the fingers (again, they move as one, not individually). At the legs, he has ball jointed hips, swivel hips just below that, double jointed knees, cut shins where his boots begin (both of which are looser that they should be on mine), pivot ankles, and side-to-side ankle movement just below that. Toe articulation is absent here as well.

Accessories - **1/2
Each of these Face-Off two-packs comes with a four part diorama which consists of an extendable base, a clear, poseable stand for each figure, and a cardboard background. The backdrop for this set depicts a desert area with a fortress in the distance, along with several robotic figures and vehicles approaching the foreground (doubtlessly to aid the Leader, who has probably been reduced to a bloody, green mush by the Hulk). While competently illustrated, I find the art and design rather mediocre and unexciting. The cardboard is fairly thick, but it fits somewhat loosely in the plastic base. The right hand corner of my backdrop was also bent in the package, which was a bit annoying from a quality standpoint. As I feared, the clear plastic stands are not up to the task of supporting the massive Hulk (they work just fine for the Leader though). Fortunately, the Hulk stands very well on his own in many poses. I was surprised to find that Toy Biz has actually improved on the design of these stands in comparison to the previous ones we got with other Marvel Legends figures. This doesn't become apparent until you try to use them: Now the joints on these stands have ratchet gears which really helps them stay in place and support weight, kudos to Toy Biz. Personally, I would have preferred more unique, sculpted bases for these two-packs, rather than the somewhat generic ones we got, but I'm sure that would've driven costs up. 

As usual, a comic is included for your reading pleasure; this set comes with The Incredible Hulk #115, which was originally published in May of 1969. It's a pretty good read and features both characters, but I think a comic that explains the Leader's origins might have been a better choice. Also, the comic features the Leader's original look (with the tall head), not the newer 'broccoli-brain' head, which might confuse people who bought the non-variant version of the figure. 

Also included is a Marvel Vs. System game card. I've never played the game, so this is pretty much useless to me (I just tossed it into the polybag with the comic). If, on the other hand, you do play the Vs. card game, I'm sure it'd be of interest to you. 

While the Hulk really doesn't need anything, I think the Leader should have come with a pistol or some kind of techno doo-dad to defend himself with--he hasn't got a chance in a physical one-on-one match-up with the Emerald One (take a look at the art on the Vs. system card photo below, that's pretty much what would happen to the poor Leader the second the Hulk gets his hands on him).

Fun Factor - ****
What kid doesn't like the Hulk? These are cool, solidly constructed figures with a lot of play possibilities. The diorama, particularly the cardboard background, probably won't survive rough play, but the backdrop is something more for adults/collectors anyway. Unfortunately for the Leader, I have a feeling that he's going to be on the losing end of many a whupping, as I don't think too many kids are going to let him get the better of the Hulk. 

For parents: Toy Biz recommends these figures for ages 5 and up.

Value - ****
The Face-Off two-packs are priced at $14.88 + tax at my local Wal-Mart (as opposed to $7.83 for a single Marvel Legends figure). That's a good value for two highly-articulated, well-sculpted figures, a decent base/diorama, a full-page, color comic book, and a collectible card--especially compared to what some single figures from the competitors are going for these days. Sure, it'd be nice if these were a couple bucks cheaper, but I certainly don't feel like I got ripped off. Toy Biz has consistently managed to keep the price of their figures down, in comparison to other companies, and it does not go unappreciated.

Things to Watch Out For  
Keep an eye out for the variants if that's what you want. Also be picky about the paint jobs and/or joints if you can. When I was selecting mine, I noticed one Leader (normal version) that had a bad, partially-disconnected finger joint. Also, I noticed the Hulk/Leader set outsold the other two sets where I live (all the Hulks are gone at my Wal-Mart, but they've got plenty of Kingpin/Daredevils left and one Captain America/Red Skull), so, if you see it in the store, want it, and the funds are available, I wouldn't hesitate, or it might not be there the next time.

Overall - ***1/2
Being an Incredible Hulk fan, I'm quite happy with my purchase, despite a few disappointments in execution. I like the concept of the Hero/Villain being packaged together as a set, but I'm not that impressed with the dioramas. This is the best of the three Face Off sets in my opinion.

SCORE RECAP:
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpt - Hulk ****; Leader ***
Paint - Hulk *** 1/2; Leader ** 1/2
Articulation - Hulk ***; Leader *** 1/2
Accessories - **1/2
Fun Factor - ****
Value - ****
Overall - ***1/2

Where to Buy:
In my geographic location, I've only seen them at Wal-Mart. Any of your local stores that usually carry Toy Biz's Marvel Legends assortments will probably have these hanging on the pegs right now, and, if not, you can always shop with some of the many online toy dealers, such as Michael's sponsors. Last, but not least, there's always eBay.


Figure from the collection of Mark Patraw.

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