The character of Spider-Woman was initially created by Marvel Comics in the mid-1970's, almost as a legal trick. Copyright and trademark laws being what they are, and with the popularity of Spider-Man, Marvel Comics didn't want anyone else trademarking a character named "Spider-Woman", so they came up with a character of their own to protect the name. Pretty much the same reason they came up with She-Hulk. At the time, both Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk had live-action TV shows (although the Hulk's would last far longer), and someone else, even the studios producing these shows under license from Marvel, coming up with their own female counterparts to these characters, and not owing Marvel a dime for them, was a legitimate concern.
What's interesting is how enduring both characters have since become, and in Spider-Woman's case, just how convoluted a history the character has. Or should I saw characters.
There have been no less than four characters named Spider-Woman in the main Marvel Universe, and Marvel Legends has actually turned out two of them in their current assortment.
One Spider-Woman that didn't get the figure nod was a villain, real name Charlotte Witter, who was a fashion designer (and granddaughter of Madame Web, whose had her hand in the lives of Spider-Man and all of the Spider-Women on more than a few occasions) and also engaged in black market deals. Those dealings led her to work for Dr. Octopus. Through genetic manipulation, Dr. Octopus mutated her into a human/spider hybrid. He gave her the ability to absorb the powers of the previous Spider-Women in return for her agreeing to destroy Spider-Man. She managed to steal the powers of Jessica Drew, Julia Carpenter, Mattie Franklin, and Madame Web. During a climactic battle, Mattie reabsorbed all those powers, leaving Charlotte powerless.
The other was the aforementioned Mattie Franklin, who had her own short-lived comic series several years ago. Mattie was a troubled youth who grew up with her father after her mother died when she was young.
She was granted her powers when, after overhearing a phone call between her father and Norman Osborn (the original Green Goblin) about the Gathering of the Five, she took her father's place and was endowed with the powers that Norman Osborn had wanted for himself.
She subsequently assumed the identity of Spider-Woman with the blessing of Jessica Drew and Julia Carpenter, the previous Spider-Women. Mattie's routine was disrupted by her drug dealer boyfriend who began using and abusing Mattie to produce a drug called Mutant Growth Hormone, which would give someone mutant powers for a short time. Ultimately, she was rescued by private detective Jessica Jones and the original Spider-Woman Jessica Drew, who is now once again the current Spider-Woman, although Mattie is expected to return in an upcoming limited-series called The Loners.
Which brings us back around to Jessica Drew once again, who is the main Marvel Legends Spider-Woman figure. The character first appeared in Marvel Spotlight #32 (February 1977). While popular in the 70's and early 80's, with her own comic series that ran for fifty issues, she was depowered and fell into disuse for years, supplanted by the other Spider- Women.
The character's origin is a tricky one, thanks to having been reworked in 2005 by writer Brian Michael Bendis, who is also the writer of the New Avengers, in which Spider-Woman was a member (at least until the recent Civil War mess).
Spider-Woman's original history is as follows: At a young age, Jessica Miriam Drew was lethally poisoned by radiation. In an attempt to save her life, her father injected her with an experimental serum based on irradiated spiders' blood. Because the serum did not have any apparent effect on her, the man who would come to be known as the High Evolutionary placed her in a genetic accelerator. While in the accelerator, she aged at a decelerated rate. When she was finally released, decades later, Drew was only seventeen years old.
Jessica grew up on Mount Wundagore, home of the High Evolutionary. She eventually left when she did not appear to fit in. Her first few years were confusing as she adjusted to life among other humans. Eventually the terrorist organization HYDRA found and recruited her. Through brainwashing and manipulation, she was convinced she was not human but actually an evolved spider. During this time, she went by the alias of Arachne. Finally, on a mission against S.H.I.E.L.D., Jessica learned HYDRA's true nature and turned on them.
Now going by the name Spider-Woman, Jessica used her new identity to track down her father's killer, starting her search in London. During this time, Jessica was recaptured by HYDRA and brainwashed into working for them again. After breaking free of HYDRA'S brainwashing, Jessica came into contact with the sorcerer, Magnus, who would become one of her strongest allies. Magnus provided information that would lead Jessica to relocate to Los Angeles where she began her career as a costumed crime fighter.
In the last adventure of her original comic book, Jessica engaged in a showdown with sorceress Morgan le Fey in the 6th century. She managed to vanquish Morgan, but Jessica's human body was destroyed. Jessica was believed dead and the sorcerer, Magnus, placed a spell over humanity to remove all trace of Jessica's existence. However, this spell was faulty, and Tigra and the Shroud discovered Jessica's body and contacted the Avengers and Dr. Strange. It turned out that Jessica was in fact trapped on the astral plane, and was attempting to make contact with her body again. Eventually, Dr. Strange was able to restore Jessica to her human body, but it was not without a cost: Jessica appeared to lose all her super powers. Jessica was nevertheless grateful for returning to the land of the living, and continued her life simply as a private investigator in San Francisco.
Jessica Drew frequented Madripoor as a private investigator, partnered with Lindsay McCabe. During this time she had lost her ability to discharge bioelectricity, but found that her super powers were slowly returning. She still possessed superhuman strength and agility, and the ability to cling to walls.
Jessica Drew's life settled down until Charlotte Witter, a villainess going by the name of Spider-Woman, stole her powers. After the theft, Jessica returned to her life as a private investigator and served as a teacher and mentor to Mattie Franklin, a young woman who had assumed the Spider-Woman identity. Jessica began to regain her powers at this time; while investigating two cases with Mattie she made use of her restored superhuman strength and agility. Although she regained the bulk of her spider-powers, they were unstable.
After regaining and stabilizing her powers from the mysterious HYDRA agent, Mr. Conelly, Jessica became a member of S.H.I.E.L.D., and later joined the latest team calling themselves the Avengers. HYDRA's doctors restored Jessica's powers through a 17 month-long ordeal of operations that repaired her refined genetic make-up. (The operation provided her with the ability to fly, instead of just glide.) However, Jessica's complicity with HYDRA placed her under constant threat of having her powers stripped from her if she did not comply with their wishes. In recent issues of the Avengers, Jessica confessed to Captain America that she was actually a double agent, reporting directly to Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D., while also acting for HYDRA.
In the comic "Spider-Woman: Origin", the mini-series attempted to streamline, condense and clean up Spider-Woman's backstory, which was widely regarded as convoluted. Perhaps most significantly, Origin gets rid of the entire spider-blood serum and genetic accelerator element. Instead, Jessica gets her powers while still an unborn child, when her mother's womb is hit by a laser beam containing the DNA traits of several different species of spiders (the Drews were trying to splice and harness spiders' environmental adaptive capabilities, in order to graft them into the human genome.) It also thankfully eliminates one previous official origin for Spider-Woman from Marvel continuity: Jessica beginning her life as a spider, artificially evolved by the High Evolutionary into human form. Talk about a continuity problem!
Spider-Woman's animated series ran for sixteen episodes in 1979-1980, and guest-starred Spider-Man twice.
The character's costume has changed little since early appearance, and so the Marvel Legends figure is almost a throwback to the 1970's. Interestingly, the costume design doesn't particularly resemble her male counterpart's. The mask's eyes evoke Spider-Man, but that's about it. Spider-Woman's costume is predominantly red. An early design had her entire head covered, but this was soon changed to allow her long black hair to emerge through the top of the mask. It is a more attractive look. The gloves and boots of the costume are yellow, and there is a yellow semi-triangular design down the front of the costume. There is a black border between the red and yellow elements of the costume, and transparent webbing under the arms, which acts as glider wings, although reportedly Spider-Woman can now fly. Still, glider-wings don't hurt.
The figure is nicely designed, and as well-articulated as one would expect a Marvel Legends figure to be. The figure is very neatly painted. Sometimes Toy Biz has been a little sloppy in this regard, but I have no complaints about Spider-Woman. I can see it being possible that if the gloves or boots were painted too heavily, that the wrists and ankles might have some articulation problems, but mine are fine in this respect.
Now, let's discuss the variant figure. Rather than just being this same character in a different costume (except for the "bald head" look she doesn't really have one), it's an entirely different individual, the second Spider-Woman, named Julia Carpenter.
This Spider-Woman first appeared in the SECRET WARS mini-series in the early 1980's, and was, in a sense, the inspiration for Spider-Man's black costume, which he first acquired at this time, and which later went on to become the evil symbiotic villain known as Venom.
This Spider-Woman's origin, which was not revealed at the time of Secret Wars, is as follows: A secretive government group called The Commission decided to create their own superhero. Government Agent Val Cooper met college friend Julia Carpenter in Denver, and convinced her to be part in an "athletic study". She was unknowingly a test subject in their experiments. During the experiment, they "accidentally" injected Julia with a mix of spider venom and exotic plant extracts, which gave Julia powers very similar to those of Spider-Man. Not long after she was given identity of Spider-Woman, she was drawn into the first Secret Wars. After returning to Earth, Julia joined Freedom Force but, much like her predecessor, found herself on the wrong side of the law. She teamed up with Spider-Man occasionally, but eventually found herself as a freelance hero. When one of her assignments led her to California looking for a team of Asian super-villains, she met and assisted the West Coast Avengers several times.
Julia's main enemies were the arachnid-based team called Death Web, which consisted of three super-villains who were created by The Commission, using a variation of the same serum which transformed Julia. When Mike Clemson, founder of Death Web, captured Spider-Woman's daughter Rachel, he blackmailed her into fighting Spider-Man, even though she nearly killed Spider-Man, she couldn't commit murder, and Spider-Man helped her rescue Rachel. Eventually, Julia walked away from the superhero business to concentrate on raising her daughter. Like Jessica Drew (the original Spider-Woman), Julia was also attacked by Charlotte Witter and had her powers stolen. After the loss of her superpowers, Julia returned to the life of a normal mother.
More recently, her powers have resurfaced, and she has taken on the name Arachne. During the recent Civil War storyline, Julia tips off several targeted superheroes who have refused to register with the government.
A government strike team led by Ms. Marvel, including Wonder Man and Araña, another spider-based super-heroine, attacks Julia at her home just as she was about to flee the country with her daughter. Julia is captured and summarily incarcerated.
A character resembling Arachne appears in promotional artwork for the forthcoming Canada-based team Omega Flight. Marvel has confirmed that Julia will be a member of the team.
Interestingly, there has been a Famous Covers action figure of this character, who was sold in a two-pack with the black-costumed Spider-Man.
The Marvel Legends version of this Spider-Woman looks very decent, and uses the same molds as the original Spider-Woman (and can get away with it since basically we're just talking about two long-haired super-women with tights and different costume colors and details.
The Spider-Woman figure -- either one of them, really, is truly excellent. Nice design, nice sculpt, well-painted, and of course well-articulated. And certainly the original Spider-Woman is a popular enough character, especially with her Avengers membership these days, which the package card does make mention of.
SPIDER-WOMAN (either one of them) definitely has my recommendation for any fan of the Marvel Legends line!
Next we have The Maestro. Talk about a relatively obscure entry for the Marvel Legends line. The Maestro would definitely have to qualify. I may not have any great interest in the character, but the figure appeared to be well-made.
I I knew a little bit about Maestro. I knew he was an alternate future version of the Hulk, and not a very nice individual. He was the creation of Peter David, who arguably has handled the writing chores on The Hulk better than any predecessors, and George Pérez, artist supreme who carried out the artwork on the mini-series "Future Imperfect", in which the Maestro first appeared. But I didn't really know how the Maestro came to be.
The Maestro is a version of the Hulk from an alternate future timeline, approximately a hundred years into the future, combining Banner's intelligence with the Hulk's more malevolent aspects. After a nuclear war kills almost all of Earth's superhumans and brings the world to the brink of extinction, the Maestro seizes control.
Gray haired and balding, the Maestro is clearly older than the Hulk - but is also significantly stronger, due to the radiation he has absorbed since the war. He rules the city of Dystopia, built to his own designs and protected by radiation shielding. Brutal soldiers with hi-tech equipment keep the "peace" and impose the Maestro's iron will. The Maestro himself dwells in a grand palace, where a Bacchanalian atmosphere reigns. Other gamma-irradiated beings, She-Hulk (now calling herself "Shulk") and the Abomination, survived the war and seem to have conquered other areas of the world.
Not long after the war, an elderly Rick Jones encounters the reality- hopping mutant Proteus, who is possessing the body of an alternate reality Hulk from the year 2099. Proteus intends to discard his current body and possess the Maestro. Jones, unaware of his plan, provides a weapon created by the X-Man Forge, which might be able to kill Maestro. However, the plan fails when Maestro is warned by the Exiles, who are pursuing Proteus. Proteus possesses a new host and flees to another world, breaking the Maestro's neck during his escape.
Years later, the Maestro, fully recovered from his injury, encounters a time-travelling Genis-Vell and Spider-Man 2099. Manipulated by the supervillain Thanatos, the three battle - but Captain Marvel and Spider-Man eventually return to their own time, with no consequence for Maestro.
Acquiring Doctor Doom's time machine, the rebels opposing Maestro (led by Rick Jones) eventually decide to bring the 'Professor' Hulk forward from the past, hoping that he can defeat Maestro. The Hulk agrees to help them and confronts the Maestro, but loses due to the Maestro's greater experience, as he is able to predict the Hulk's moves in combat (Although the Hulk does manage to deliver a few good punches). The Maestro breaks Hulk's neck to immobilize him, then tries to persuade the incapacitated Hulk that he should side with his future self, telling him that nothing will change when he returns home and he will still be persecuted.
After the Hulk's recovery, the two of them clash once more, but, despite the Hulk's best efforts, the Maestro is still far too powerful for him. At the last minute, the Maestro is defeated by using Doom's time machine, sending him back to the time and place that the Hulk was created - ground zero during the testing of the atomic Gamma Bomb, the only bomb that the Hulk knew the ground zero location of (It was speculated that such an explosion was the only thing that could kill the Maestro). Appearing next to the bomb itself, Maestro is seemingly killed in the same moment that creates the Hulk, but some degree of his consciousness still remains, tied to the skeletal fragments at the Gamma Bomb site.
Eventually, the Hulk learns that the "homing sense" which has always allowed him to locate ground zero, his "birth" place, is actually finding the Maestro's spirit and remains. The Maestro has also been absorbing gamma radiation from the Hulk each time he returns to the site, gradually restoring himself. When the Hulk returns from the Heroes Reborn universe, radiating vast amounts of energy, Maestro finally absorbs enough radiation to restore himself to life, although in a weakened and emaciated form.
Shortly thereafter, Maestro is captured by Asgardian trolls, who place his soul into the Asgardian Destroyer. As the Destroyer, he battles the Hulk - but as the Hulk and Maestro share the same DNA, Hulk is able to enter the Destroyer and defeat the weakened Maestro, who is seemingly killed by an avalanche.
Creator Peter David has stated that the Maestro is intended to be an evil and insane alternate Hulk - not a separate personality within Bruce Banner.
Seems this guy got around a lot more than I thought...
As to the figure, I was initially going to say that I wasn't sure it was quite large enough, but after some comparison, I'm not so sure. Maestro is just about as big as the Marvel Legends Juggernaut. He may not quite compare to the first Marvel Legends Hulk, but I'm not certain that's a fair comparison, since some of those early Marvel Legends don't always stand up that well to their successors in some respects.
That this figure is an "elderly" Hulk goes without saying. Bald, with a grey bears, and so many warts and wrinkles on what I would suspect would feel like very leathery skin it's no wonder that he ended up with Asgardian trolls. They probably confused him with one of their own. The figure is dressed in blue trousers, dirty silver boots, a red belt with purple ornamentation on it, and he comes with a viking-like helmet that, I have to say, doesn't stay put very well. If you want to buy and own this figure, I recommend a little Glue.
One thing that's missing, that I believe a previous Maestro toy had, and which I recall seeing in some illustrations, is a belt that Maestro wears around his shoulder, that has helmets of certain armored characters placed on it, that presumably Maestro has defeated. I distinctly recall the helmets of Nova, Iron Man, Juggernaut, and Ultron on it. However, it might have been impossible to create this accessory without altering the scale too severely.
Articulation is, as one would expect, excellent, and I always find this especially impressive in figures that are as bulky as Maestro. But somehow, Toy Biz manages to work it all in.
From a character standpoint, I'm not sure I can recommend this figure. He's pretty well outside the mainline Marvel Universe, and is a pretty strange individual if you think about it. Figure-wise, though, it's excellent. There's an incredibly intricate level of detail here.
So, if you want an elderly, wrinkled, crazed-mean, but ultimately very well-designed version of the Hulk in your collection, then you should definitely give consideration to the Marvel Legends MAESTRO figure!
Finally we come to X-23. This is, of necessity, an observational review, because I purchased this figure for a friend of mine, who wanted it mostly for the large "Build-a-Figure" Apocalypse segment that comes with it, but he was also interested in the figure, since he collects all X- Men-based Marvel Legends figures.
I'll admit I don't know a whole lot about X-23, except that she's a relative newcomer to the Marvel Universe, so I was a little surprised that this figure warranted a Marvel Legends figure. Then again, she's hardly the first unusual entry in the line. We've had the likes of Maestro, Sentry, Blackheart -- none of these are exactly A-list contenders. That's one of the cool things about Marvel Legends... they're willing to do just about anybody.
X-23 is, essentially, a female Wolverine. Just what the world needs, right? According to the character description on the back of her card, she's the result of a re-created Weapon X Program, which used damaged DNA extracted from Wolverine to create her. She was then molded into a perfect killing machine, trained as a child in the arts of war, strategy, human anatomy, weapons, combat, and stealth. Sounds like if the Weapon X Program couldn't have Wolverine, they'd make their own, and got it.
She's got claws, as well -- two of them per hand compared to Wolverine's three. She's had a few encounters with the X-Men, and has even managed her own title.
I do find myself wondering about the name. She could really use a better name, and I wonder if the comics have explained what happened to X-1 through X-22? Probably nothing pleasant...
The figure is a good likeness, especially since costume-wise, there wasn't a whole lot to work with. The character is a fairly basic young human female in appearance, dressed in a black sleeveless jumpsuit, with ridged light blue trim on her wristbands and boots. X-23 has long black hair, and a stoic-and-almost-mean look on her face.
There is a variant out there, interestingly not one listed on the back of the package. The variant features X-23 in a purple suit.
Neither version of X-23 has been especially easy to find. I, personally, am uncertain whether this is because of the popularity of the character, the fact that as a female character she may be a little short-packed, or because the Apocalypse part she comes with is the head and upper torso of Apocalypse, who's arguably a better known character than X-23, and so you've got this giant version of HIS ugly mug staring at you from inside the package right along with X-23 herself.
X-23 is relatively small for a Marvel Legends figure, just under 5-3/4" in height from what I can tell. Then again, her genetic progenitor Wolverine isn't exactly going to be playing for the NBA anytime soon. Articulation is, of course, superb, and even simple observation can determing that the advertised "32 points of articulation" include the usual array of head, arms, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, knees, ankles, and various rotational points on the limbs.
So what's my final word on X-23? It looks to be an excellent figure.
Would I recommend her? To anyone who closely follows the X-Men, definitely,
yes, I would, if for no other reason than she's still not exactly what
I would call a major player, and probably isn't going to turn up in
figure form again. She's not really someone I would buy for myself,
since I don't follow the X-Men titles closely enough to really be all
that familiar with her, but ultimately, X-23 is a Marvel Legends figure,
and it's hard to go wrong with those. On that basis, X-23 does have