REVIEW: THE AVENGERS - FUSION ARMOR MARK VII IRON MAN
It took all of its first weekend for the AVENGERS movie to shatter box office records, and within its first week, the movie had pulled in over $700 million, and within two weeks had made over a billion. Earth's Mightiest Heroes had become Earth's Mightiest Movie Stars, sinking Titanic, dismissing Avatar, and burying Harry Potter.
Granted, Marvel Studios had a long-term plan in place that was pure genius. They created what has become known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and kicked it off with the first Iron Man movie. Four additional movies later, including the Iron Man sequel, the Captain America and Thor movies, and even the less-than-stellar but still better than its predecessor Hulk movie, the stage had gradually been set for the Avengers movie through a series of short scenes taking place during or after the end credits of these films, or through oblique references during them. Even the additional Avengers, Black Widow and Hawkeye, were brought on board.
Need it be said that everybody except the Hulk is slated for sequels, with an Avengers sequel green-lighted within a week of the first movie's debut. The Marvel Cinematic Universe shows no sign of slowing down.
And, of course, there is an action figure line for the Avengers. It received a lot of promotion, with special store signage. Target even placed stickers on the floor of their toy department that made it look as though the Hulk had come stomping through, breaking up the floor tiles (which was a little unnerving until you realized what you were looking at).
I've been picking up some of the Avengers figures here and there. This review will take a look at the FUSION ARMOR MARK VII IRON MAN figure. But first, let's have a little comic and cinematic history of the Avengers, and of Iron Man in particular.
The Avengers made its debut in The Avengers #1 (Sept. 1963), and was created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist/co-plotter Jack Kirby, following the trend of super-hero teams after the success of DC Comics' Justice League of America.
Labeled "Earth's Mightiest Heroes", the Avengers originally consisted of Iron Man, Ant-Man (Dr. Henry Pym), Wasp (Janet Van Dyne), Thor, and the Hulk. The original Captain America was discovered by the team in issue #4, trapped in ice, and he joined the group when they revived him. The rotating roster has become a hallmark of the team, although one theme remains consistent: the Avengers fight "the foes no single superhero can withstand". The team, famous for its battle cry of "Avengers Assemble!", has featured humans, mutants, robots, gods, aliens, supernatural beings, and even former villains.
The first adventure features the Asgardian god Loki seeking revenge against his brother Thor. Using an illusion, Loki tricks the Hulk into destroying a railroad track. He then diverts a radio call by Rick Jones for help to Thor, whom Loki hopes will battle the Hulk. Unknown to Loki, the radio call is also answered by Ant-Man, the Wasp, and Iron Man. After an initial misunderstanding, the heroes unite and defeat Loki after Thor is lured away by an illusion of the Hulk and suspects Loki when he realizes it is an illusion. Ant-Man states the five work well together and suggests they form a combined team; the Wasp names the group "the Avengers" because it sounded "dramatic".
The roster changes almost immediately; by the beginning of the second issue, Ant-Man has become Giant-Man and, at the end of the issue, the Hulk leaves once he realizes how much the others fear his unstable personality. Feeling responsible, the Avengers try to locate and contain the Hulk, which subsequently leads them into combat with Namor the Sub-Mariner. This would result in the first major milestone in the Avengers' history: the revival and return of Captain America. Captain America joins the team and he is also given "founding member" status in the Hulk's place. The Avengers go on to fight foes such as Captain America's wartime enemy Baron Zemo, who forms the Masters of Evil, Kang the Conqueror, and Count Nefaria.
In the 1970s, the adventures increased in scope as the team cross into an alternate dimension to battle the Squadron Supreme and fight in the Kree-Skrull War, an epic battle between the alien Kree and Skrull races and guest-starring the Kree hero Captain Marvel.
As to the movie, officially known as "Marvel's The Avengers" it was produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, and is the sixth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film is written and directed by Joss Whedon and features an ensemble cast that includes Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård and Samuel L. Jackson. In The Avengers, Nick Fury, director of the peacekeeping organization S.H.I.E.L.D., recruits Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk and Thor to form a team that must stop Thor's brother Loki from enslaving the human race.
Development of The Avengers began after the success of the film Iron Man in May 2008, when Marvel announced that The Avengers would be released in July 2011. With the signing of Johansson in March 2009, the film was pushed back for a 2012 release. Whedon was brought on board in April 2010 and rewrote the screenplay originally written by Zak Penn. Production began in April 2011 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, before moving to Cleveland, Ohio, in August and New York City in September.
The Avengers premiered on April 11, 2012, at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California. The film, released everywhere else May 4, has received positive reviews from most film critics and set numerous box office records, including the biggest opening weekend ever in North America.
As to the storyline, and you may consider this your SPOILER WARNING: After his fall from Asgard into space at the end of the Thor movie, the Asgardian Loki meets the Other, the leader of a warmongering alien race known as the Chitauri. In exchange for retrieving the tesseract, a powerful energy source of unknown potential, the Other promises Loki a Chitauri army with which he can subjugate the Earth. Nick Fury, director of the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D., arrives at a remote research facility during an evacuation. Physicist Dr. Erik Selvig is leading a research team experimenting on the tesseract, and Agent Maria Hill explains that the object has begun radiating an unusual form of energy. The tesseract suddenly activates and opens a portal, allowing Loki to reach Earth. Loki takes the tesseract and uses his staff to enslave Selvig and several agents, including Clint Barton (Hawkeye), to aid him in his getaway.
In response to the attack, Fury reactivates the "Avengers Initiative". Agent Natasha Romanoff is sent to India to recruit Dr. Bruce Banner; agent Phil Coulson visits Tony Stark to have him review Selvig's research; and Fury approaches Steve Rogers with an assignment to retrieve the tesseract. While Barton steals iridium needed to stabilize the tesseract's power, Loki causes a distraction in Stuttgart, Germany, leading to a confrontation with Rogers, Stark, and Romanoff that ends with Loki's surrender. While being escorted back to S.H.I.E.L.D., Thor, Loki's adoptive brother, arrives and frees Loki hoping to convince him to abandon his plan and return him to Asgard. After a confrontation with Stark and Rogers, Thor agrees to take Loki to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s flying aircraft carrier, the Helicarrier, and imprison him until the tesseract can be acquired.
The Avengers become divided, both over how to approach Loki and the revelation that S.H.I.E.L.D. plans to harness the tesseract to develop weapons of mass destruction as a deterrent against hostile extra-terrestrials. As the group argues, Barton, and Loki's other possessed agents, attack the Helicarrier, disabling its engines in flight and causing Banner to transform into the Hulk. Stark and Rogers try to restart the damaged engines, and Thor attempts to stop the Hulk's rampage. Romanoff fights Barton, and knocks him unconscious, breaking Loki's mind control. Loki escapes after killing Coulson, and Thor and the Hulk are each ejected from the ship. Fury uses Coulson's death to motivate the Avengers into working as a team. Stark and Rogers realize that simply defeating them will not be enough for Loki; he needs to overpower them publicly to validate himself as ruler of Earth. Loki uses the tesseract, in conjunction with a device Selvig built, to open a portal above Stark Tower to the Chitauri fleet in space, launching his invasion.
The Avengers rally in defense of New York City, but quickly realize they will be overwhelmed as wave after wave of Chitauri descend upon Earth. With help from Barton, Rogers, Stark, and Thor evacuate civilians, while Banner transforms into the Hulk again and goes after Loki, eventually beating him into submission. Romanoff makes her way to the portal, where Selvig, freed of Loki's control, reveals that Loki's staff can be used to close the portal. Meanwhile, Fury's superiors attempt to end the invasion by launching a nuclear missile at Manhattan. Stark intercepts the missile and takes it through the portal toward the Chitauri fleet. The missile detonates, destroying the invaders' lead ship, thereby disabling their forces on Earth. Stark's suit runs out of power and he falls back through the portal, but the Hulk saves him from crashing to the ground. Romanoff deactivates the portal to prevent further invasion. In the aftermath, Thor returns Loki and the tesseract to Asgard. Fury notes that the Avengers will return when they are needed.
In the first of two post-credits scenes, the Other confers with his master - who turns out to be none other than Thanos - about the attack on Earth.
As to Iron Man himself, Iron Man was created by writer-editor Stan Lee, developed by scripter Larry Lieber, and designed by artists Don Heck and Jack Kirby, first appearing in Tales of Suspense #39 (March 1963).
A billionaire playboy, industrialist and ingenious engineer, Tony Stark suffers a severe chest injury during a kidnapping in which his captors attempt to force him to build a weapon of mass destruction. He instead creates a powered suit of armor to save his life and escape captivity. He later uses the suit to protect the world as Iron Man. Through his multinational corporation Stark Industries. Tony has created many military weapons, some of which, along with other technological devices of his making, have been integrated into multiple suits of armor over the decades, helping him fight crime.
In the movies, Tony Stark (and as such Iron Man) is played by Robert Downey, Jr. I've always tended to feel that Downey is just a little over the top, especially in the second movie, and perhaps not quite as serious as the character needs to be, but the characterization certainly seems to work well enough for the fans, and the first Iron Man movie is really what set the Marvel Cinematic Universe rolling, so I can hardly argue with it.
In the first movie, playboy and wunderkind genius Tony Stark, who has inherited the defense contractor Stark Industries from his father, is in war-torn Afghanistan to demonstrate the new "Jericho" missile. Stark is critically wounded in an ambush and imprisoned in a cave by the terrorist group the Ten Rings. An electromagnet built by fellow captive Dr. Yinsen keeps the shrapnel in Stark's chest from reaching his heart and killing him. Ten Rings leader Raza offers Stark freedom in exchange for building a Jericho missile for the group, but Tony and Yinsen agree Raza will not keep his word.
Stark and Yinsen secretly build a powerful electric generator called an arc reactor, to power Stark's electromagnet, and then begin to build a suit of armor to escape. The Ten Rings attack the workshop when they discover what Stark is doing. The armored Stark battles his way out of the cave to find the dying Yinsen, then an enraged Stark burns the terrorists' munitions and flies away.
After being rescued by longtime friend and military contact Jim Rhodes, Stark returns home and builds an improved version of his suit, as well as a more powerful arc reactor for his chest.
Obadiah Stane, his father's old partner and the company's manager, tries to duplicate the arc reactor, but Stane's scientists are unable, so Stane ambushes Stark at home, using a sonic device to paralyze him and take his arc reactor. Left to die, Stark manages to crawl to his lab and plug in his original reactor. Potts and several S.H.I.E.L.D. agents attempt to arrest Stane, but he dons his own armored suit and attacks them.
Stark fights Stane, but is overmatched without his new reactor to run his suit at full capacity. Stark lures Stane atop the Stark Industries building and instructs Potts to overload the large arc reactor there. This unleashes a massive electrical surge that knocks Stane unconscious, causing him and his armor to fall into the exploding reactor, killing him.
The next day, the press has dubbed the armored hero "Iron Man". Agent Coulson gives Stark a cover story to explain the events of the night and Stane's death. At a press conference, Stark begins giving the cover story, but then announces that he is Iron Man as the crowd cheers for him.
In a post-credits scene, S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) visits Stark at home, and, noting that Iron Man is not "the only superhero in the world", says he wants to discuss the "Avengers Initiative".
In the second movie, Russian television shows Stark revealing his identity as Iron Man to the world. Ivan Vanko, whose father, Anton Vanko, has just died, sees this and begins building a similar weapon.
Six months later, Stark has used his Iron Man armor to help maintain world peace. He re-institutes the Stark Expo in Flushing Meadows to continue his father Howard's legacy. Senator Stern demands that Stark turn over the Iron Man technology to the government. Stark refuses, claiming that foreign nations and business competitors are decades away from successfully recreating his achievements, and that the armor is in fact his own property.
The palladium core in the arc reactor that keeps Stark alive and powers the armor is slowly poisoning him, and he has failed to find a substitute. Growing increasingly despondent and reckless due to his impending death, and choosing not to tell anyone about his condition, Stark appoints his personal assistant Pepper Potts CEO of Stark Industries, and replaces her with Stark employee Natalie Rushman, whi is in reality Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow.
Vanko attacks Stark while racing at the Circuit de Monaco, using an arc reactor of his own powering whip-like energy weapons. Stark defeats Vanko with the aid of his portable briefcase armor, and learns that Vanko is the son of his father's old partner, Anton Vanko, who had collaborated with Howard on the first arc reactor. Anton was deported to his native Soviet Union following attempts to profit from the technology and died in poverty, explaining Vanko's desire for revenge on the Stark family. Rival defense contractor Justin Hammer fakes Vanko's death and recruits him to perfect a line of armored combat suits to upstage Stark.
Later, Jim Rhodes dons Stark's Mark II armor and after fighting with an inebriated Stark, delivers the armor to the military. Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D., approaches Stark, revealing that Howard Stark was a S.H.I.E.L.D. founder whom Fury knew personally. Fury gives him some of his father's old material; a hidden message in the diorama of the 1974 Stark Expo proves to be a diagram of the structure of a new element. Stark synthesizes it, and uses the untested element in his arc reactor, removing his dependency on the palladium.
At the Expo, Hammer unveils Vanko's armored drones, led by Rhodes in a heavily weaponized version of the Mark II armor. Stark arrives in his new armor to warn Rhodes, but Vanko seizes control of both the drones and Rhodes' armor and attacks Iron Man. Hammer is arrested while Stark's bodyguard Happy Hogan and Romanoff attempt to capture Vanko. He escapes, but Romanoff returns control of the Mark II armor to Rhodes.
After defeating his drones, Stark and Rhodes confront Vanko himself, now in a new suit of armor. Neither can match Vanko, but Vanko is ultimately defeated when they fire repulsor rays at each other, causing a large explosion. With his suit too damaged to continue the fight Vanko activates his suit's self-destruct mechanism, along with that of his drones, apparently killing himself in the process.
At a debriefing, while news footage of the Hulk's rampage from the 2008 Hulk movie plays, Fury informs Stark that while Iron Man is a suitable candidate for the "Avengers Initiative", he himself is not. Granted, that little matter was dealt with during the Avengers movie.
Which brings us to the MARK VII FUSION ARMOR IRON MAN. So, how's the figure? Really very nicely done.
Now, there's been no shortage of Iron Man figures over the past few years. Unlike Thor and Captain America, Iron Man has had TWO movies of his own on which to capitalize. Also unlike Thor and Captain America, Iron Man has legitimately had quite a number of costumes actually from the movies, as well as no shortage of imaginative creations within his action figure lines -- although Captain America had a decent number of his own, but still didn't come that close.
The thing about Iron Man is that, unlike a lot of other super-heroes, he can truly lay claim to any number of variant armors, since Tony Stark has indeed created a rather wide range of armors, in both the movies and certainly in the comic books.
But let's focus on the movies. Stark developed three sets of armor in the first film, starting with the clanking rustbucket that got him out of captivity. By the end of the movie, his "Mark III" armor was very much designed along the familiar red-and-gold armor that is most iconic of the character.
In the second movie, Stark has upgraded to a "Mark IV" armor at the start of the movie. It's still red and gold, but is clearly somewhat more advanced. His "Mark V" armor is the red and silver "portable" armor that he uses when he is attacked at Monaco. And by the end of the movie, Stark has created the Mark VI armor, the most powerful yet.
In the Avengers movie, Stark uses the Mark VI armor for a significant portion of the movie. However, between battles with lightning-wielding Norse deities and trying to kick-start one of the massive propeller engines on the SHIELD heli-carrier (and getting caught in it in the process), the Mark VI is pretty well shot. Although the Mark VII is untested, Stark has little recourse but to use it for the final battle against the alien invasion. Since this is the most action packed and climactic scene of the movie, it's understandable why the action figure line emphasized this particular armor. Besides, the Mark VI was made for the Iron Man 2 line.
As one might expect, the traditional red and gold color scheme is maintained, although there's also a fair amount of silver trim, especially on the upper legs. There is also some silver trim around the shoulders.
The figure stands looking slightly hunched over, but this really isn't the case. Between the higher shoulders and some raised detail on the upper back, Iron Man tends to look a little hunched over, but it's actually just the armor.
I tend to be of the opinion that there's less gold trim on this figure than some of the previous Iron Man editions. Of course, the faceplate on the helmet is gold, with just a little bit of silver on the sides. But where Iron Man traditionally has gold trim -- the upper arms and upper legs -- it just doesn't seem to be as prevalent as before. There's only a bit of gold trim around his biceps, and while there's some gold trim on the front and back of the upper legs, some of this is overshadowed by silver. Interestingly, there's just a little bit of gold on the torso.
The Iron Man Mark VI armor was notable for altering the shape of the arc reactor on the chest from round to triangular. For the Mark VII, the round shape has returned, and is a particularly bright spot on the chest of the armor.
I also want to commend Hasbro for dealing with a problem that seriously plagued quite a few of the Iron Man 2 figures. The way the head was sculpted, there weren't really distinct indentations for the eyeslits. They were simply imprinted onto the head beneath the slightly jutting lines of the faceplate's brow. Unfortunately, this resulted in some rather unfortunate misprints if the aim was even slightly off.
The Iron Man Mark VII figure has very distinctly sculpted eyeslits, which are also very nicely painted. I hope Hasbro remembers this when it's time to do the figures for Iron Man 3.
The red and gold paint used on the figure, and unlike some of the other Avengers figures, Iron Man is painted from head to toe, are somewhat darker than we've seen in a while. I compared the figure to the Iron Man Mark VI figure from the Iron Man 2 line, and the red is definitely a bit darker. The gold is a somewhat -- this is going to sound a little silly, but it's the only way I know how to phrase it -- golder shade of gold than was used for Iron Man 2. It's not really darker, nor is it lighter. I'd call it perhaps a bit more intense a shade of gold. The silver is a fairly straightforward silver.
I am convinced that the colors chosen are slightly darker than even what was used in the movie. I'm not entirely sire why this would be the case, but I believe it to be, and its unusual, in that I don't believe the other major characters were subjected to this.
For the most part, the figure is neatly painted, but there were a few minor glitches here and there. Perhaps this is a consequence of a figure that is entirely painted like this, I don't know. I selected the figure that seemed to have the neatest paint job, but the way the figure was packaged, I couldn't see him in entirety. The glitches are not that severe, and would be easily dealt with by anyone with moderate skill and a paint brush. The only hindrance is that matching these metallic colors is no easy feat.
Fortunately, perhaps, Iron Man doesn't have too many really fine details on him. These are mostly the eyeslits and a black line highlighting the mouth area on the faceplate.
Detail on the figure is excellent. None of these characters really wear spandex the way their comic counterparts do, and Iron Man's armor hasn't been entirely form-fitting even in the comics for years. Given the precision high-tech nature of Iron Man's armor, a similarly precision and high-tech look needs to be given to the action figure. This is likely not the easiest thing in the world to achieve, since one is essentially working with a modification of the basic human form that needs to also look mechanical. However, in this case, the end result is extremely impressive. The details are superbly rendered, with the necessary level of precision definitely present.
Iron Man is nicely articulated, although the Avengers figures are not quite as poseable as some of the Marvel movie-based figures have been in the past. Nevertheless, Iron Man is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including a swivel), legs, and knees, including a swivel. What seems to have been lost are mid-torso or waist, wrists, and ankles. Of those, the only articulation point missing that could be problematic due to its absence would be the ankles, but I haven't had any problem getting the figure to stand on his own two feet.
The leg articulation is nicely designed. Sometimes these Marvel movie figures have had rather over-engineered leg articulation that just hasn't worked that well. Fortunately, that's not the case here. It's a good straightforward design that allows for back and forth as well as outward movement.
Iron Man comes with a rather odd accessory. Admittedly, accessorizing Iron Man isn't an easy thing. His armor pretty well has everything he needs built right in. That's fine and well for the movies, but not so much for the action figures. He doesn't have a shield or a big hammer. So, something had to be made up for him. It's described as a "spinning saw blade". That is really is, is something that looks like a circular, high-tech shield, mostly red and gold, with these silver saw blades (that look more like the business end of a can opener) surrounded by what I think is meant to be blue energy. Obviously, the saw blades spin.
The explanation given for this accessory on the back of the package is that among the powerful weapons of Tony Stark's latest tin suit is a "specialized repulsor generator that can create solid, superheated energy weapons like saws and blades."
So, what's my final word? Granted, I have no shortage of Iron Man figures standing around here, most of them from Iron Man 2, and most of them in the same 4" range as this figure. But this is Iron Man from the AVENGERS, and this is Iron Man as he appeared during the scenes when the heroes united to take care of a major alien invasion. That's significant, and that makes this Iron Man worth having. He won't be displayed with the other Iron Man figures. He'll be standing alongside his fellow Avengers figures.
Fusion Armor Iron Man Mark VII is an excellent rendition of Tony Stark's latest armor -- at least until Iron Man 3, and if you enjoyed the Avengers movie, then it's definitely a version of Iron Man that you need to have in your collection.
The AVENGERS figure of FUSION ARMOR MARK VII IRON MAN definitely has my highest recommendation!