REVIEW: MARVEL UNIVERSE 3-3/4" IRON MAN
I'll admit, when I first heard about the new 3-3/4" Marvel Universe line of action figures, I was a little worried.
However, these new Marvel Universe action figures really look better than their predecessors from the Superhero Showdown, so I decided to give the line a try. One of the first figures I snagged was Iron Man. Whatever Tony Stark may be going through -- deservedly or otherwise -- in the comics these days, I've always had a soft spot for a cool action figure with a metallic finish.
For those unfamiliar with Iron Man, and somehow managed to miss his movie, allow me to provide a bit of background on the character: Born Anthony Edward "Tony" Stark, he suffers a severe heart injury during a kidnapping and is forced to build a destructive weapon. He instead creates an armored power suit to save his life and help him escape. He later decides to use the suit to protect the world as the superhero, Iron Man. He is a wealthy industrialist and genius inventor who created military weapons and whose metal suit is laden with technological devices that enable him to fight crime.
Iron Man first appeared in 13-to 18-page stories in Tales of Suspense, which featured anthology science fiction and supernatural stories. The character's original costume was a bulky gray armored suit, replaced by a golden version in the second story (issue #40, April 1963). It was redesigned as sleeker, red-and-golden armor in issue #48 (Dec. 1963); that issue's interior art is by Steve Ditko and its cover by Kirby. In his premiere, Iron Man was an anti-communist hero, defeating various Vietnamese agents. Throughout the character's comic book series, technological advancement and national defense were constant themes for Iron Man.
Writers have updated the war and locale in which Stark is injured. In the original 1963 story, it was the Vietnam War. In the 1990s, it was updated to be the first Gulf War, and later updated again to be the war in Afghanistan. However, Stark's time with the Asian Nobel Prize-winning scientist Ho Yinsen is consistent through nearly all incarnations of the Iron Man origin, depicting Stark and Yinsen building the original armor together.
The son of a wealthy industrialist and head of Stark Industries, Howard Stark, and Maria Stark, Anthony Stark is born on Long Island. A boy genius, he enters MIT at the age of 15 to study electrical engineering and graduates summa cum laude. After his parents' accidental deaths in a car crash, he inherits his father's company.
While observing the effects of his experimental technologies on the American war effort, Tony Stark is injured by a booby trap and captured by the enemy, who then orders him to design weapons for them. However, Stark's injuries are dire and shrapnel in his chest threatens to pierce his heart.
His fellow prisoner, Ho Yinsen, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist whose work Stark had greatly admired during college, constructs a magnetic chest plate to keep the shrapnel from reaching Stark's heart, keeping him alive. In secret, Stark uses the workshop to design and construct a suit of powered armor, which he uses to escape. Yinsen dies during the attempt. Stark takes revenge on his kidnappers and heads back to rejoin the American forces, on his way meeting a wounded American Marine Corps helicopter pilot, James "Rhodey" Rhodes.
Back home, Stark discovers the shrapnel lodged in his chest cannot be removed without killing him, and he is forced to wear the armor's chestplate beneath his clothes to act as a regulator for his heart. He must also recharge the chestplate every day or else risk the shrapnel killing him.
The cover for Iron Man is that he is Stark's bodyguard and corporate mascot. To that end, Iron Man fights threats to his company, such as Communist opponents Black Widow, the Crimson Dynamo and the Titanium Man, as well as independent villains like the Mandarin. No one suspects Stark of being Iron Man as he cultivates an image as a rich playboy and industrialist.
Two notable members of Stark's supporting cast at this point are his personal chauffeur Harold "Happy" Hogan and secretary Virginia "Pepper" Potts, to both of whom he eventually reveals his dual identity. Meanwhile, Jim Rhodes would find his own niche as Stark's personal pilot of extraordinary skill and daring.
Stark uses his personal fortune not only to outfit his own armor, but to develop weapons for S.H.I.E.L.D. and other technologies such as the Quinjets used by the Avengers, and the image inducers used by the X-Men.
Eventually, Stark's heart condition is discovered by the public and cured with an artificial heart transplant.
Tony Stark is an inventive genius who graduated with advanced degrees in physics and engineering at the age of 21 from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and further developed his knowledge ranging from artificial intelligence to quantum mechanics as time progressed. Furthermore, this extends to his ingenuity in dealing with difficult situations such as difficult foes and deathtraps where he is capable of using his available tools like his suit in unorthodox and effective ways. He is also well-respected in the business world, able to command people's attentions when he speaks on economic matters by virtue of the fact that he is savvy enough to have, over the years, built up several multi-million dollar companies from virtually nothing. He is known for the loyalty he commands from and returns to those who work for him, as well as his business ethics.
When Stark was unable to use his armor for a period of time, he asked for some combat training from Captain America and has become physically formidable on his own when the situation demands it. He also received further hand-to-hand combat training from Happy Hogan (a professional boxer) and James Rhodes (a Marine).
Regarding his armor, Iron Man possesses powered armor that gives him superhuman strength and durability, flight, and an array of weapons. The weapons systems of the suit have changed over the years, but Iron Man's standard offensive weapons have always been the repulsor rays that are fired from the palms of his gauntlets. Other weapons built into various incarnations of the armor include: the uni-beam projector in its chest; pulse bolts (that pick up on kinetic energy along the way; so the farther they travel, the harder they hit); an electromagnetic pulse generator; and a defensive energy shield that can be extended up to 360 degrees. Other capabilities include: generating ultra-freon (i.e., a freeze-beam); creating and manipulating magnetic fields; emitting sonic blasts; and projecting 3-dimensional holograms (to create decoys).
So, how's the figure? Well, curiously enough, the Superhero Showdown Iron Man figure is one of the few Superhero Showdown figures I actually bought, and this figure has it beat on every conceivable level. The sculpting is more impressive, better detailed and more consistent, the painting is a hundred times better and neater, and the articulation is far more stable. Some of those Superhero Showdown figures might as well have been marionettes.
The armor design isn't one that I'm specifically familiar with, and is probably a recent design that I just haven't seen in the comics. That's okay, though -- it's still an impressive design. And certainly Stark has had a vast plethora of armor designs over the decades. Still, for the most part, they've tended to boil down to certain basics -- a largely metallic red set of armor, with gold faceplate, arms, and legs. And that's what this suit is, in its basic form.
Interestingly enough, a more recent Iron Man figure in this Marvel Universe line IS designed after one of Stark's earlier, and arguably best-known, armor designs, which he wore for many years in the comics especially in the '70's and '80's.
I am certain that some of this armor's design elements take their cues from the movie design, which was more ridged and heavily detailed than Stark had tended to wear in the comics. Particularly notable here would be the high gloves and boots. Also notable would be the ridges appearance of the gold arms and legs. The helmet design is also very much akin to the movie.
There are differences, though. The gloves are bulkier than the movie version, and the feature in the center of the chest, while round on the movie armor, is triangular here. However, the overall design is certainly Iron Man.
The metallic red is an excellent color, brighter than the movie edition. I was also pleased to discover that, however they did it, it didn't stick the plastic. I had a heck of a time with some of the articulation points on my movie Iron Man figure. There's a little paint glitch on the lower left leg that looks like someone tried to paint over at the factory, with limited but some effectiveness. Nice of them to try to fix this sort of thing. Be nicer if it had been avoided in the first place, but at least there's some quality checks here.
Sculpted detail is really quite amazing, right down to things like ridges on the individual fingers. The right hand is especially impressive, as that hand is opened to show Iron Man's repulsor ray. Be sure to check out the detail on the boot jets, too.
Articulation is superb. Iron Man is poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including a swivel), wrists (well, gloves), mid-torso (and it works pretty well into the armor design), legs, knees (including a swivel) and ankles.
Iron Man comes with sort of a strange accessory. It's designed to look like an energy blast from his repulsor ray. It's this conical piece of transparent yellow plastic that clips to his wrist, and has been sculpted to look as much like an energy blast as plastic is going to get.
Now, no offense to Hasbro. They're not the only ones who try this sort of thing. Mattel's DC Universe Classics Red Tornado figure came with a couple of little tornadoes. Bandai's Power Rangers have tried to pull off this sort of thing with sparkle-infused paper that looks like leftover gift-wrap.
But the bottom line is -- I really think the display of energy-based powers and weapons is something that should better be left to the imagination, because it just doesn't work that well in molded plastic. Attach this thing to Iron Man's helmet and it looks like the after-effects of a wild night after Stark fell off the wagon. Ultimately, it's just a little silly.
These Marvel Universe figures come with a little envelope that contains some Top Secret SHIELD information. And here is there the toy line does stick its nose further than I'd like into some aspects of the current storylines, but I guess they can hardly be blamed for wanting to use recent information, and I am well aware that not everyone shares my personal objections to it.
For Iron Man, this envelope contains a small identification card with the words "Superhuman Registration Act" across the top, the SHIELD logo, and some basic information on Iron Man. The reverse of the card has an impressive illustration of Iron Man himself.
There's also a short letter in the packet from Tony Stark himself, as the Director of SHIELD. The letter reads:
To: SHIELD Unit Commanders Subject: Dissention
It has come to my attention that there have been some questions as to me methods as the new Director of SHIELD. These concerns seem to be concerned mainly with Operation: Goliath, and the (next few lines scribbled out).
Might I remind you that you are soldiers, and as such are to follow my orders without question. Our Commander-in Chief trusts my judgment, and I would expect the same from my subordinates.
Dissention will not be tolerated.
There's also a little card in the envelope with a code on it to type in at Furyfiles.com, a Web Site devoted to the Marvel Universe line. I'd tell you what it is, but it might be classified, and I don't need national security problems.
So, what's my final word here? Okay, forget what's been happening in the Marvel Universe of comics lately. We've all got our own opinions about that, I'm sure. Bottom line -- Hasbro's put together a very cool and very impressive line of action figures, based on some of the most iconic characters in the Marvel Universe. And Iron Man is certainly one of them.
This figure is well-designed, nicely-detailed, very well painted, very well-articulated, and unlike the last time someone tried to make a 3-3/4" Marvel-based line, he stands up on his own and holds poses well. I think Hasbro's got a serious hit on its hands, and I sincerely hope the figures do well.
The MARVEL UNIVERSE IRON MAN figure definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!