REVIEW: AVENGERS CONCEPT SERIES REACTRON ARMOR IRON MAN
Over the past several years, we've had two Iron Man movies, a Thor movie, a Captain America movie -- and a Hulk movie that most people will admit was vastly superior to its predecessor, but still wasn't exactly a blockbuster like the films of the other Marvel Universe heroes I've mentioned.
Nevertheless, all of these movies had something in common: To one degree or another, they all dropped hints, or had cameos, or had links of some sort that all led up to the new AVENGERS movie. I have to give a considerable commendation to the writers and producers that worked this out. I cannot recall any previous occasion when a series of distinct, stand-alone movies, that just happened to feature popular characters from the same company, provided this sort of combined link that led into yet another film that featured all of the characters involved. That's some seriously impressive work.
Granted, not all of the Marvel movies have had this connection. The X-Men tend to be pretty stand-alone. The Fantastic Four's movies were apparently considered less than impressive, and while they maintain an amicable relationship with the Avengers in the comic books, there was no great need to make a similar connection cinematically. And there are some issues regarding the movie rights over the Spider-Man character, although apparently he does have a cameo in the Avengers movie.
But Thor? Iron Man? Captain America? The Hulk? Time for you to share the spotlight, boys. And it's also time for you to share the toy shelves a bit more.
Not that they haven't been doing so anyway. You can still find merchandise in most toy stores from the last Iron Man movie. And since Captain America and Thor were released in the same year, they also shared some space in the toy aisles. Hulk? Not so much. The merchandise from his last movie was clearanced long ago.
A lot of this "individual character movie" merchandise from the other characters is starting to make its way to the reduced-price sections now, as well -- because they're all being featured in the new AVENGERS line, which as of this writing, has been given a very generous amount of space in most toy departments that I have encountered. Hardly surprising, really. Super-heroes have been popular toys since well before they started making summer blockbuster movies around them, and that sort of thing -- one hopes -- only enhances the sales.
Who are the AVENGERS? As a team, they first came along in Marvel Comics in 1963. At this point in time, the Marvel Universe as we know it today was relatively young. The more established DC Universe had pulled the multi-hero team concept on two notable occasions in its history. First was during the Golden Age of comics, when DC brought together the original Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, and others, to form the Justice Society of America. Decades later, when the Silver Age of comics got rolling, and many of these characters were completely re-imagined, DC did it again, this time with the Justice League of America.
Marvel's first team of super-heroes in the modern age was technically a self-contained group known as the Fantastic Four. Their subsequent hero creations were all individuals -- Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, the Incredible Hulk. But one tends to believe that when Marvel saw how successful DC's Justice League was, they decided to follow suit. It made sense, of course. They had a popular stable of super-heroes, the same as DC. Why not do a team book?
The original Avengers team consisted of Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, and somewhat lesser-knowns Ant-Man and the Wasp. Spider-Man was left out of the mix for some reason, and wouldn't become an Avenger until decades later, despite occasional invitations to do so. Additionally, Captain America wasn't part of the original line-up, since he'd been active during the 1940's, in World War II, and hadn't yet been discovered or revived.
The first adventure of the Avengers put them up against Loki, Thor's evil brother, the Norse god of evil and mischief. This, at least, seems to be one aspect of the gathering of the movie adventures that will carry over from the original story. And so, Marvel's Avengers were born, and proved to be just as popular in uniting the top names in the Marvel Universe as DC's Justice League was bringing its big names together.
It didn't take long for the short-tempered Hulk to get fed up with the team, and he left in short order. Not terribly long after that, the frozen form of Captain America was discovered, and the Star-Spangled Hero from America's Greatest Generation was introduced to the present day, and welcomed onto the Avengers. He was brought in soon enough so that he is retroactively considered one of the founding members of the team.
Obviously, in the comics, the Avengers have had their ups and downs, and considerable membership shifts, over the years, but as a group, the Avengers have remained the top team of (usually) top names in the Marvel Universe. And certainly that looks to be reflected by the movie, which I sincerely hope is the blockbuster that it deserves to be.
And certainly there is an extensive action figure line. No great surprise, the focal point of the Avengers line is a series of individually-carded 4" scale action figures. Hasbro, for years now the main licensee for Marvel Universe action figures, has focused on the 4" size for its core product, not just for Marvel, but for most of the action figure lines they produce, including G.I. Joe, Star Wars, as well as other Marvel tie-in lines, such as Spider-Man, Marvel Universe, and the various movie-related lines. Even lines not currently in production, such as Indiana Jones, have maintained this size.
And, as with most of the other Marvel movie-based action figure lines, the Avengers line seems to be broken down into three distinct divisions. There are the Movie Series figures, those based most closely on the cinematic incarnations of the characters. There are Comic Series figures, which more closely resemble the characters as they are seen in the comics -- although to be honest I haven't seen any of these yet, I'm sort of assuming they'll exist. And there are the Concept Series figures. These are figures that in theory could fit into either the movie or comic universes, even if they've never officially appeared in either.
And it was one such Iron Man figure that attracted my particular attention in the Avengers line recently. The full name of this figure is REACTRON ARMOR IRON MAN MARK VI.
Why did I choose Iron Man as my first Avengers figure? Granted, I've collected and reviewed a fair number of Iron Man figures. Honestly, he's one of my favorite Marvel heroes. I've always liked the high-tech edge most of his stories have had.
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.
So, why did I pick up an Iron Man figure that admittedly doesn't look especially like a traditional Iron Man, from either the movie or the comics? Granted, 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, Iron Man's traditional colors. 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.
And so we have this Reactron Armor Iron Man Mark VI. The "Mark VI" is a quick indicator that this armor is intended to be based more closely on the cinematic Iron Man than his comics counterpart. Iron Man went through three versions of his armor in the first movie. The "Mark I" Iron Man was the clunky, cobbled-together rustbucket that got him out of the prison camp in the first place. The "Mark II" armor was a more refined version, more or less a testbed for the advanced capabilities that Stark knew he could put into his armor once he had full access to his company's resources once again. And the "Mark III" was the first full red-and-gold armor that Stark utilized in the movie, including in the climactic battle scene.
By the time of the second movie, Stark had upgraded to the Mark IV, which was still red and gold, but still more advanced in appearance. The Mark V was a specialized armor which Stark carried around in a briefcase for quick emergencies. And the Mark VI was the ultimate armor from the second movie.
Need it be said we're already into the Mark VII by the time of the Avengers movie, and I would be shocked if it's the only version we see in the film, although it's possible, if we're going to give reasonable time to the other heroes. But that doesn't mean that Stark isn't going to make good use of the previous armors, and it's reasonable to assume that the Mark VI was either converted or somehow modified or rebuilt into this Reactron Armor.
So, how's the figure? Most impressive. Although there is the little matter of precisely what the Reactron Armor is for. It's an unusual name. Surprisingly, the only reference to the word "reactron" that I could find anywhere online is that it was the name of a DC Comics super-villain whose most recent appearance was during the "New Krypton" storyline. Apparently the word doesn't have any other specific definition, and given that it first appeared as the name of a character from Marvel's -- "Distinguished Competition", as they've been known to call it, I'm surprised that it's being used as a descriptive term for one of Iron Man's specialty armors.
There is a description on the back of the card that, while not necessarily providing any illumination on the term "reactron", at least offers a description as to the purpose of the armor. It reads: "There are forces in the universe of which science has only the most basic understanding. This armor was designed to explore the very edges of black holes, where time is twisted inside out, and matter is crushed to nothing. Where not even light can escape, you can find Iron man thriving."
You know, most rich guys, if they're looking to get away from it all for a while, head off to Martha's Vineyard, or Cape Cod, or something like that, I suppose. Is that good enough for Tony Stark? Heck no. He's got to go build a spaceworthy set of armor and hang around the outer fringes of black holes. This is what happens when you read too much Carl Sagan or Stephen Hawking.
In fairness, though, that's a pretty good basic description of a black hole. I'm not sure that any of this has anything to do with events in the movie. This is, after all, a Concept Series armor. However, it has been established that in the movie, Loki makes some sort of alliance with an alien race to attack the Earth, and bring down his hated brother and the other Avengers. Those aliens have to come from somewhere. So I suppose we'll see.
In basic form, the Reactron Armor does indeed have the same basic shape as the Mark VI armor from the second Iron Man movie. Some of the more notable features include the triangular space on the chest denoting the arc reactor that powers the armor, the angular ridges on the abdominal region, and the high gauntlets and boots, with the flared bottoms of the legs near the feet.
The overall sculpted detail is excellent. The helmet is a superb likeness of the movie Iron Man, with the narrow, slightly angled eye-slits and the fairly low-placed jaw. Various ridges and plate lines throughout the armor enhance the detail and give Iron Man a definite high-tech look to him shared by no other major super-hero. All of these details have been very precisely sculpted into the figure.
Of course, what makes this Reactron Armor Iron Man really stand out is the color scheme. The only red on this figure is found on the eye-slits, the arc reactor, and the repulsors on the palms of the hands. Most of this figure is an exceptionally dark blue, and black. The faceplate is a very dark metallic blue.
It could almost pass for a stealth armor, except for the fact that there's some very light blue trim on him, as well. Ridged segments on the upper arms are this color, as are the knees, small areas just above the knees, either side of his jaw, and most impressively, the ridge lines on the abdomen. These have been exceptionally neatly painted, and the entire color scheme almost gives Iron Man a sort of "Tron: Legacy" look to him.
And, what the heck, Marvel Comics is owned by Disney these days, so why not?
Now, I might have expected that this figure was simply brought over and recolored from the last Iron Man movie line. It would have been simple enough, right? But that's not the case. This is an entirely new figure. Apart from having a 2011 date on the inside of one of his legs, there's the matter of the articulation.
Reactron Armor Iron Man is very well articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows -- including a rotational swivel -- legs, upper leg swivel, and knees -- including a rotational swivel. That's entirely adequate, and I would also add that the sometimes over-engineered hip-and-leg joint seems to have been slightly redesigned to work better.
However, if you read that list of articulation, you'll notice a few omissions that some Marvel movie figure collectors have generally come to expect. There is no torso articulation, either at the mid-torso point -- which on Iron Man's armor would've worked well -- or the waist. There is also no wrist or ankle articulation.
Certainly the sculpting and detail is as good as ever. Look at this figure's hands. Each finger is separate from the others. That's some impressive work. And the figure is still abundantly capable of a wide range of motion and dramatic, heroic poses. And if some sort of articulation cutback has put an end to double-articulated elbows and knees, something I've never thought was an especially good idea for a variety of reasons, then that's no great loss in my book.
Any complaints? None, although I would advise collectors to study their figure carefully before purchase. I have seen a few of these figures with some rather aggravating mold creases in their heads. That's a long-standing quality control issue that seriously needs to be resolved, but it can also generally be avoided by the buyer if he inspects the merchandise on card before buying.
Reactron Armor Iron Man comes with a large accessory, a "Plasma Claw Launcher" that can rest on his shoulder while he grasps the trigger with one hand. The actual trigger switch, which is on top of the device, not only causes the claw at the front of the mechanism to open and close, but it also fires a spring-loaded missile. The device is the same dark blue-black as Iron Man's armor, with light blue trim, specifically the claw and trigger, and a bit of red here and there, including the missile itself.
So, what's my final word? I'm impressed. The Avengers line is off to a good start, with figures of the four main characters -- Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, and the Hulk, readily available. I've also, as of this writing, seen figures for Loki and Hawkeye. The packages use a certain amount of color coding in their individual name labels for the figures, which respects their individual status. Iron Man's is red, Captain America's is silver, Hulk's is green, and Thor's is gold. All of this on a colorful card that is mostly blue in color, with a spectacular rendition of the best-known Avengers logo, updated for the movie, with painted portraits of the four heroes in one corner. I usually don't discuss packaging all that much, but I must say that I am sincerely impressed here.
And if Reactron Armor Iron Man is any indication, then the figures are of superb quality, and will make excellent additions to any Marvel fan's action figure collection. Reactron Armor Iron Man himself may represent the "Concept Series" branch of the line, and as such is not likely actually in the movie, but he's a very cool figure in his own right, and certainly a distinctive take on the Armored Avenger, sure to be of interest to any fan.
REACTRON ARMOR IRON MAN MARK VI from the AVENGERS action figure line definitely has my highest recommendation!