X-men Evolution
Posted 01/26/01
Overall score - **
*1/2 out of ****

(originally posted at the Comic Book Galaxy)

After the terrific success of the X-men movie, the X-men returned to television in cartoon form once again.  The series is called X-men - Evolution, and is done in a more animated or 'cartoony' style than previous X-men cartoons.  Somewhat similar in style to the animated Batman and Superman shows, the show is starting to build a pretty decent following. 

Of course, where there's a super hero cartoon, there's super hero action figures, and this is no different.  The first wave of figures is currently hitting TRU and Wal-mart stores, soon to be everywhere.  There are five figures in the assortment - Wolverine, Cyclops, Toad, Nightcrawler and Sabretooth.  I picked up the latter three at a TRU store for $5.99 each.  Each sports 'triple x-treme action', although for some the action features are shared with the accessories.

Packaging - ***
These are pretty standard fare for carded figures, but the backs of the package are different for each figure, since the 'action' features on all three require fairly substantial explanations. The card art is very attractive, although the front graphic of a city scape seems more appropriate to Spider-man or Batman.

Sculpt - ****
I'm a sucker for the animated style that these have been done in.  That aside, they've done a terrific job capturing the look of the cartoon.  Toybiz should stick with this type of work, because they truly excel at it.  In particular, both Sabretooth and Toad have excellent sculpts.

Quality - ***1/2
These figures are much sturdier than the recent Classic Spider-man figures, and seem built to withstand the play an average kid will put them through.  This isn't a 'collectors line' - these are toys, and damn fine ones.  If only all lines could be this nice!

Value - ****
We have seen the return to properly priced action figures!  At $6, with all this articulation, and great accessories, these toys are a breathe of fresh air.  I'm really excited about Toybiz for 2001, and I'm hoping they can turn things around by returning to their roots.

Articulation - ***1/2
How could they do this well?  I just gave the Classic Spidey and ***1/2, and he has over 30 points!  Well, these figures are certainly no slouches in the articulation department, and may even be better in some regards.  Sabretooth has neck, ball jointed shoulders, wrists, hips, knees, ankles and feet - yes, those Blade toes are very popular now!  He only lacks the elbows that would have made him perfect.  

Nightcrawler is even better, with neck, ball jointed shoulders, elbows, cut joints on the forearms, wrists, hips, waist, knees, ankles and feet again.  The only spot that he could have in addition would have been his tail, but it's no major problem.

The third one I picked up, Toad, had the least articulation but it was still an excellent 15 points - neck, ball jointed shoulders (although his movement is somewhat restricted by his shoulder pads), elbows, wrists, hips, knees and ankles. Unfortunately his hopping action feature mucks up the hip articulation somewhat - because of it you can't really exploit the hip joints.

All three stand well on their own, and the majority of the articulation is well designed and quite useful.

Accessories - ***1/2
The weakest figure of the set in terms of accessories is Sabretooth.  He does come with a barrel that 'explodes' i.e. comes apart on impact, and contains ooze.  The ooze is that obnoxious sticky goo that has been common in lots of toys in the past few years.  His seems particularly sticky, picking up dirt, hair and sticking to itself far too easy.

Nightcrawler's accessory is the best.  I love the description - 'mutant gymcisor'.  There is a hoop of fire that swings out from the back, a swinging pipe that comes out from the front, a small catapult that you can flip Nighcrawler into the air with on the front, and a firing missile.  It's of special note that this missile has the strongest spring in it that I've seen in years, and you can actually knock a figure over with it! In the picture to the left, Nightcrawler is not being supported in any way other than with his single hand, and I found that I could put him in all kinds of cool positions on the gymcisor.

Toad also has a nice accessory, although I'm not sure why it makes sense.  He comes with a set of two side by side lockers.  Press a button on the top and the lockers fly open to reveal attacking slime.  This slime is not the soft variety, but rather hard plastic.  The accessory works well, although I'm not sure how handy attacking lockers really are.  Perhaps when the X-men hit the showers after a tough workout on the gymcisor.

Action Features - ***
All three figures have some sort of 'action' gimmick.  Sabretooth kicks his foot with one button, slashes his arms up and down with another, and has his 'exploding' vat of goo for his third action.

Toad's feature is the hardest to get to work properly.  Place him in a crouching position, push the button on his back, and a couple seconds later it releases and he flips.  He has small foam pads on his feet for gripping to improve the quality of his jumps.  I did find that with some practice I was able to get it to work pretty well, but it wasn't simple.  His second action is the same as his first, but if you lie him on his back his legs kick forward rather than flipping.  Finally, his locker accessory also pops open, and the ooze pushes out.

Nightcrawler has no actions of his own.  The accessory really provides all three.  You can swing him on the pipe (not much of an action feature, I know), use the catapult in front to flip him, or fire the missile. 

Overall - ***1/2
For the past few years, we've been treated to more and more lines designed for collectors.  Less articulation, more emphasis on realistic sculpting, few or no accessories, no action features, all have contributed to fewer toys that kids can just enjoy and have fun with.  On top of it, we've been forced to pay higher prices for these same figures.

With this line, we see a return to the true action figure - great articulation, cool looks, terrific accessories, and nifty action features, all at a price most folks will find quite affordable.  This line could be to X-men what the BTAS figures were to Batman - of course, it also depends on the show being decent.  I recommend that all X-men fans grab these, and I'm looking forward to what else this line and the rest of Toybiz products will bring in 2001.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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