REVIEW: MARVEL LEGENDS IRON MAN EXTREMIS ARMOR (BLUE VARIANT)
The Marvel Legends line of action figures has an interesting history. It was originally conceived by Toy Biz, when that company was the main licensee for Marvel Comics action figures. Toy Biz did a very capable job with it, bringing many of Marvel's finest into this highly-detailed, highly-articulated line of 6" scale action figures.
It was also within the original Marvel Legends line that we were first introduced to the "Build-A-Figure" concept, whereby each individual figure in a given assortment included a part of an additional figure that could be assembled once the entire assortment had been collected. Frequently this additional "Build-A-Figure" was significantly larger than the standard figures. Toy Biz's GALACTUS remains a distinct highlight here. They also produced a Sentinel, as well as more bizarre characters, such as Mojo. You don't get much more bizarre than that.
Certainly, the Build-A-Figure concept has been used elsewhere. Mattel picked up on it for their DC Universe Classics line, renaming it "Collect-and-Connect", and they have made great use of it, as have other companies.
When Hasbro acquired the Marvel Comics license, they continued the Marvel Legends line. For the most part, the figures they produced were size-compatible with what Toy Biz had turned out, although to be honest, neither Marvel Legends line was entirely size-or-scale-consistent, even with itself. Since many of the most popular characters in the Marvel Universe had already been turned out by Toy Biz, Hasbro sought to bring out secondary characters that nevertheless had a reasonable fan base, such as Hercules, She-Hulk, as well as the occasional army-builder, such as the excellent Hydra Soldier.
Hasbro also continued the Build-A-Figure concept, although most of their offerings were closer in height to the standard figures.
And then, for reasons unknown, the Marvel Legends line simply came to an end. I honestly don't know why. Low sales? Admittedly, the line was now dependent on characters with less than superstar status. Personally, I've tended to think the main reason was because Hasbro wanted to focus on the 4"-scale Marvel Universe line. There is no question that the master of the 4" scale is Hasbro. G.I. Joe, Star Wars, Marvel Universe, Indiana Jones -- not to mention the specific Spider-Man line, as well as the distinctive lines of action figures based on Marvel movies, including Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor.
But now, Marvel Legends has returned! Heck, the packages even proclaim, "The Return of Marvel Legends!" So -- why now? Again, I don't know the specific reasons, but I can hazard a guess. One word -- AVENGERS. Okay, maybe two words are needed -- Avengers Movie.
Over the past several years, Marvel Studios has been very clever in tying together most of its movies. The two Iron Man films, Thor, Captain America -- even the less-than-blockbuster Hulk movie (which was still arguably an improvement over the first Hulk movie), have all had some level of connection, and it all started up in an epilogue to the first Iron Man movie where Samuel L. Jackson showed up as Nick Fury and wanted to discuss something with Tony Stark, who had just revealed himself as Iron Man. Something about -- the Avengers.
I don't ever recall a time when a series of movies featuring distinctive singular characters, such as Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and the Hulk, have been so effectively tied together, while still standing on their own, all with the distinct intention of bringing all of these characters together for one big group movie. And that movie is coming up pretty soon as of this writing, and every toy store and toy department has allocated plenty of space for Avengers toys.
Right about now, anything with a Marvel emblem on it is being seen as connected to probably blockbuster gold, and while the main Avengers line of action figures continues the 4" scale that each of the individual action figure lines maintained, it's not a bad time at all to bring back the larger-scale Marvel Legends line.
The initial assortment of the new Marvel Legends line is definitely a mixed bag. Few of the characters are all that prominent, although most are reasonably well known to some degree for those who follow Marvel Comics closely enough. Ghost Rider puts in an appearance, giving the flaming skull guy at least one figure to tie into his sequel movie, since he's certainly not getting any break with the Avengers, there's a couple of oddball Spider-Man figures, one in a color scheme that makes him look like he jumped out of the Tron universe; fairly well-known villains such as Klaw and the Constrictor, and really the only character in the assortment that even I had to ponder, "Who?!" over was someone named Fantomex. I don't know who he is or what he does, but his name sounds like a tile cleaner to me.
But the Avengers are not ignored here! There is an Iron Man in this assortment! Now, the Marvel Legends line is not dedicated to any of the movies. These are the characters from the comics. And as one might expect with a newly-returned series of action figures that is heralding its own return, the Iron Man figure presented in Marvel Legends is wearing his most up-to-date and sophisticated armor ever -- this is IRON MAN EXTREMIS!
I also made an interesting discovery along the way -- while Iron Man's Extremis Armor does maintain his standard red-and-gold color scheme, there's a blue variant of the figure out there. This is the one that I ultimately decided to pick up.
Why? Okay -- Iron Man is one of my favorite Marvel heroes. And thanks to generous action figure lines from the last two movies, I have no shortage of Iron Man figures around here. A significant portion of them are, as one would expect, red and gold. But I've always believed that Iron Man can get away with greater variety better than some super-hero action figure lines out there. In the comics, I can't really see Batman wearing a bright orange costume even if there's a figure of him dressed like that. I can see Tony Stark developing most of the armors that have appeared as action figures -- even if he hasn't necessarily done so -- and even using a variety of color schemes, which he HAS done from time to time when it's been appropriate to the situation.
So, I decided to pick up the blue variant of the Iron Man Extremis figure -- just for the sake of some additional variety in my collection. Your preferences may vary, of course, and there's certainly nothing wrong with the standard red-and-gold version. They're the same figure, just painted differently.
I'm sure I don't need to go into any great background origin for Iron Man. I've done that for any number of reviews of Iron Man action figures, and after two blockbuster movies and now his participation in the Avengers film, Tony Stark's tale is pretty well-known. He suffered a life-threatening injury while overseas, and after being taken prisoner by terrorists, who ordered him to build a weapon for them, instead constructed a life-saving suit of armor for himself. After defeating and escaping from the terrorists, he resumed his life as the head of the Stark company -- which over the years has been known by a variety of names, usually beginning with the name "Stark" and ending with some sort of corporate suffix -- "International", "Enterprises" -- whatever, and over time Stark has refined and upgraded his armor, always keeping a few steps ahead of real-world technology (which I've long maintained must be a fair challenge for his writers), and maintaining his Iron Man persona as one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe.
Tony Stark has legitimately had a large number of armors over the decades of his existence. A lot of this has been due to the need to keep up with actual real-world technology. Stark's earliest armors were "transistor powered". These days, that sounds like if his armor had been any more primitive, he would have had to start it up with a hand-turned crank mechanism.
But this Extremis armor? Whoa. I'll admit, I haven't kept up all that much with Iron Man's comic book adventures in recent years -- or really anyone else's in the Marvel Universe, after becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the direction the company seemed to be taking the entire universe (something I'm now facing with DC as well), so I had to gather some background information on this Extremis armor with a little online research. I'd certainly heard of it. I just didn't know what it was all about.
After being critically injured during a battle with a nanotech-enhanced foe, Stark injected his nervous system with a modified techno-organic virus to save his own life. This fused Stark's armor to his body, allowing him to store the inner layers of the Iron Man armor in the hollows of his bones as well as control it through direct brain impulses.
The Extremis enhancement has turned Stark into a cyborg, whereby the usage of his existing lockchip (a personal area networking implement implanted in his forearm) is directly integrated into his nervous system.
His new armor is no longer a bulky unit which houses its own AI "response server" and miscellaneous interfaces for neural control. Instead, it is more lightweight (constructed of a pliable crystalline material with a molecular structure that can collimate into super-hard planes upon the application of an electrical field) and less complex (as it interfaces directly to Stark's brain via the Extremis-modified cybernetic connections), and has much faster response time since it effectively functions like Stark's second skin.
He is also able to remotely connect to external communications systems such as satellites, cellular phones, and computers through the PAN interconnect (that is now thought-controlled). Because the armor's operating system is now directly connected to Stark's nervous system, its response time has been significantly improved.
Another major departure from the previous armors is expansion of repulsor technology. The "repulsor flight system" provides lift (something like anti-gravity) and positive flight control (pitch, roll and yaw), while the usual rocket boots provide the armor with thrust. The same repulsor technology allows the individual pieces of the armor to levitate and assemble themselves, by modulating what Stark referred to as "vectored repulsor fields".
Furthermore, the Extremis process has endowed Stark with a 'healing factor' and possibly even enhanced physical abilities, as he was confident enough to challenge Logan/Wolverine to a fight (and even challenging to see who's capable of recovering faster from the other's attack). It was later stated that the Extremis enhancement speeds up a person's repair process and hence the body's cells died and regenerated at a faster rate. This effectively made Tony Stark immune to cancer and gave him his "healing factor".
In the "Iron Man: The Inevitable" storyline, it was shown that it's not only Tony Stark's body and the interfacing undersheath that has self-healing properties. Even the Iron Man armor has the ability to self-heal and self-repair, presumably through the use of nanotechnology. The armor is also able to store power throughout its structure, indicating that instead of having main batteries mounted around the waist as in the older Iron Man armors, the Extremis armor incorporates distributed and decentralized energy storage.
The online information that I tracked down also indicated that since its introduction, the Extremis armor has been rendered non-operational, and Tony Stark was forced to return to older armor. I consider this unusual, since generally speaking, when Tony Stark has had to switch armors, it's been an upgrade. On the other hand, where do you go beyond Extremis?
I find myself wondering if perhaps it was written out because it was considered too advanced. He keeps it concealed in the hollows of his bones? It gives him a healing factor? I can see Stark devising an armor that he can control through his brain impulses, and even the package for the action figure makes a reference to "Telepathic Controls", and the rest of it somewhat more agreeably stated as "Biological Integration". However, I've always believed that Iron Man was at his best while he was staying somewhat ahead of real-world technology, but at least to some degree, plausibly ahead. And if anyone out there is working on -- biological integration -- I'd rather not know about it.
I do find the comment concerning the modification of his repulsor technology to be interesting. It strikes me that it brings Iron Man's repulsors in the comics a good bit closer to how they were used in the movies.
As for this blue version of the Extremis armor that I picked up from the Marvel Legends line, while there's nothing specific here about any sort of color-changing ability, it wouldn't surprise me a bit if the Extremis armor had it. Stark has used a color scheme similar to this before, on multiple occasions, with a stealth armor. It's too convenient a capability not to have it incorporated into what was apparently regarded as his ultimate armor. I don't really know if it ever was, but I would think Stark would have that sort of foresight. Amusingly, when I ran an online image search under the parameters "Iron Man Extremis Stealth" -- all I got were pictures of this action figure.
So, how is the figure? Very impressive. I almost said "extremely" impressive, but I decided that would be a rather bad pun.
Clearly the visual intent of the Extremis armor was to create an armor for Iron Man in the comic books that was reasonably close to the armor design -- or designs -- that Tony Stark had worn in the movies which, while very close to the Iron Man designs that Stark had utilized in the comic books, nevertheless had a distinctiveness of their own.
One of those distinctive attributes is the helmet, which while very close to earlier Iron Man designs, had a few differences, not the least of which was a slightly different shape to the forehead "bridge" between the traditional red and gold colors, leading to the faceplate. Additionally, the shape of the mouth and jaw were somewhat different in the movies. The Extremis Armor Iron Man design comes a lot closer to the movie designs in this regard.
Additionally, in the second Iron Man movie, the armor's chestplace has a triangular piece on it, representing the arc reactor, the power source of the armor. Iron Man's centerpiece has traditionally been circular. But the Extremis armor adopted the triangular shape of the Mark VI armor from the movies.
Also, the Extremis armor, while certainly form-fitting for the most part, looks much less like a "metallic muscle suit" than many of Stark's previous creations. Again, this is in keeping with the movies, although some of Stark's other designs also emphasize technological details over precisely duplicating physical musculature.
For the Extremis armor, the chest is much more angular, and the abdomen is a largely flat, ridged section, a detail type of which also appears on the back of the armor. Iron Man's shoulder pieces are much more angular than has traditionally been seen in the comics, and his gloves merge more with the armor than usual. Most dramatically, from a visual comparative standpoint, Iron Man's boots almost come up to his hips, in a serious deviation from most of his comic book designs, and are flared at the ankles. Once again, this is more comparable to the movies.
The Extremis armor isn't entirely bereft of comic-based details. The circular discs which Iron Man has frequently had on his sides at belt level are present and accounted for.
Although this is the blue variant of the Extremis Armor Iron Man figure, it's not hard to figure out where the red and gold coloration would be, and indeed, I have seen that figure. Obviously, the standard figure is substantially red, with a gold faceplate, some gold detail on the upper arms, and some on the upper legs. Once again, the distribution of color, although reasonably traditional, is much closer to the movie-based armors.
The blue variant is mostly a dark blue with a slight metallic sheen to it, but far less than one usually sees in Iron Man figures. The faceplate, upper arms, and upper legs are a more distinctly metallic lighter shade of blue. The triangular chestpiece is red, as are the eye-slits, as well as the repulsors on the palms of the hands.
Detail level is impressive. Although this is a relatively smooth armor in many respects, there are some areas where there is more sculpted detail. The left hand has all five fingers spread apart, and is a very nice piece of work. The feet have an unusually high level of sculpted detail relative to the rest of the armor, and have also been done superbly well. And all of the paintwork has been very neatly done.
Any complaints? Not on this figure. However, I have seen a few Extremis Armor Iron Man figures in the stores that have considerable creases in the head from molding issues. I highly recommend a careful visual inspection of this figure before you buy one for yourself.
Articulation is excellent. Extremis Armor Iron Man is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivels, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. One thing about armored figures -- you can generally conceal some of the articulation points in the armor design, and that's certainly the case with this Iron Man figure. The upper arm swivels are barely perceptible, and the upper leg swivel is very cleverly concealed by being placed as the tops of the boots. Some superb design work there.
Extremis Armor Iron Man stands almost precisely 6-1/4" in height, and is fully compatible with similarly-scaled Iron Man "Legends Series" figures from earlier Iron Man lines. Most of these figures are very slightly bulkier, or at least have more angular-looking armors, but it can readily and accurately be stated that this Extremis Armor is pretty much the ultimate expression of Stark's Iron Man armor, and given some of its properties, it would make sense for it to look somewhat sleeker.
The figure comes with no distinct accessories, but I was never a great fan of those clip-on missile launchers, anyway. He does come with one part of this series' "Build-A-Figure", an extraterrestrial character known as Terrax the Tamer, one of Galactus' more villainous heralds, who first debuted years ago in the pages of the Fantastic Four, and whose look was developed by popular artist John Byrne. Iron Man comes with one of his legs.
So, what's my final word? I'm sincerely pleased to see the return of Marvel Legends. I look forward to seeing who they have planned for future assortments, and I hope the line enjoys a long and healthy run. The Marvel Universe is almost certain to get a considerable boost from the Avengers movie, and it certainly has a substantial presence in the toy aisles as of this writing. But Marvel has maintained some action figure presence for a great many years, movies or no. The Avengers line, like those for Thor and Captain America, will likely run its course, and then take a break -- at least until the sequel. But there's no reason for the Marvel Legends line not to proceed apace, and I sincerely hope it does, especially if this excellent Extremis Armor Iron Man figure, either in red and gold, or in blue, is any indication of the type of quality we can expect. I believe any fan of Iron Man, the Avengers, or the Marvel Universe in general will be very pleased with this figure.
The MARVEL LEGENDS figure of EXTREMIS ARMOR IRON MAN definitely has my highest recommendation -- and if you're looking for a change of pace from the usual Iron Man colors -- consider the blue!