REVIEW: MARVEL UNIVERSE 3-3/4" STEALTH OPS IRON MAN
One of the cool things about Iron Man that I am certain that toymakers appreciate is that -- unlike a certain Caped Crusader or a certain Web-Slinger -- Tony Stark really has created a wide variety of armors, including a considerable supply of special purpose units, for this alter ego as Iron Man over the years, so whichever toy company, currently Hasbro, that has the Marvel Comics toy license, can put out a generous supply of Iron Man variants without taking the same amount of flack from fans as can happen when a neon orange Batman hits the shelves.
One can hardly blame the toy companies for wanting to get multiple uses out of existing molds. Creating the steel molds from which toys are made is the single most expensive part of the process. And from my standpoint, as long as the multiple uses remain interesting, I really don't have a problem with it.
Hasbro has developed a new 3-3/4" scale line of Marvel Comics-based action figures called MARVEL UNIVERSE. Easily light-years ahead of the previous attempt at this scale -- Toy Biz's generally rather lackluster Superhero Showdown, the Marvel Universe line is going a good job of bringing out a wide variety of characters in an impressive figure design from across the realm of Marvel Comics.
I'd like to say that one of these is Iron Man, but really -- two of them are Iron Man. There's a standard Iron Man, in his traditional red-and-gold armor, and there's a second one, based on the same set of molds, but entirely differently colored, called STEALTH OPS IRON MAN. It is that figure that this review will be taking a look at.
Now, for those of you who might have somehow managed to completely miss this character in the comic books for the past four decades or so, or the more recent blockbuster movie, I should in fairness take a little time to address -- who is Iron Man?
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 standard 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).
As to his stealth armor, it first turned up in the 1980's. No great surprise there, since we were quite interested in stealth technology around then, especially some of the top secret aircraft that were being rumored to exist here and there. Two notable instances when Iron Man used his stealth armor was during the "Armor Wars" storyline, when he used it to sneak behind the Iron Curtain to deal with his armored foes Titanium Man and Crimson Dynamo, and on another occasion when he used it to sneak into East Germany to rescue his then girlfriend, Bethany Cabe, who had gone in to rescue her ex-husband.
The armor at the time was portrayed as a black-colored version of Iron Man's standard armor, although in one scene in one of the snowbound wastelands somewhere in Siberia, the armor was shown to be able to turn white, as well. However, generally speaking, on those occasions when it turned up, it was shown as black, with a certain amount of blue reflection to it just due to the coloring process in the comic book.
At the time, Stark commented that the stealth armor was actually less powerful than his standard armor. In order to accommodate the necessary stealth technology, the weapons had to be cut, as well as some other features. Nevertheless, it still packed an impressive kick in a fight.
What more modern variations on his stealth armor gear Stark might have come up with since then, I'm honestly not sure, since I haven't followed the comic book all that closely. I haven't been terribly fond of the direction Marvel has taken with virtually all of its titles in recent years. It seems the company is interested in putting out stories that deal more with underhanded politics than super-hero adventures.
Certainly Stark's main Iron Man armor has undergone multiple revisions and iterations since he first developed the stealth armor. It would be reasonable to believe that Stark has upgraded some of his more specialized armors along the way, as needed. So it wouldn't surprise me to learn that there were more advanced stealth armors beyond that first one that I saw and cited here.
So -- how's the figure? Really very cool, actually. It's based, of course, on the same body molds as the standard Iron Man figure in this line, just recolored. Those molds present an Iron Man which I assume is reasonably comic accurate, but also takes a few cues from the movie -- which I suspect the comic book did, too, once the box office receipts for the movie went stratospheric. The body design has a lot of ridges and lines sculpted into it, more than on past armors, but for Iron Man, it looks good. The helmet is certainly recognizable as Iron Man.
Obviously, the color scheme is different. A stealth armor is not going to be red and gold. Neither is it the black of the original stealth armor. I think it would have been difficult to get a decent metallic sheen out of black (generally tends to be in my experience), and frankly, the figure would have looked rather dull. Besides, with characters like Black Panther, Punisher, Ronin, and Bullseye being brought into the line, there's enough black costumes in the line as it is.
Rather, this Stealth Ops Iron Man is metallic blue! And he looks very impressive as such. The areas usually painted red on Iron Man's armor are a very dark blue, and the areas usually painted gold are a slightly lighter blue. Not by much, though. He almost looks to be a solid color, but he isn't.
There's a little additional color trim on him. The eye-slits in the helmet are painted red. This is a feature that goes all the way back to the first stealth armor. Similarly, the emblem on the chestplate is red, as are some details on the lower arms.
The sculpted detail on this figure is excellent. Iron man is obviously not wearing a standard spandex super-hero costume. It's armor, and it looks it. Most of the visible musculature is somewhat squared off, there are multiple ridges along the torso, arms, and legs, to indicate the flexibility of the armor, and there are distinctly protruding portions of more heavily-armored areas such as the shoulders, gauntlets, and high boots. All of these have been sculpted with great detail and precision.
I think it's very fair to say that either version of the Iron Man figure is one of the current standout highlights in this Marvel Universe line, really.
Articulation is superb. Stealth Ops Iron Man is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists (well, glove tops), mid-torso (worked well into the armor design), legs, knees, and ankles. Most of the articulation points have a swivel or rotation movement as well as back-and-forth movement. Even better, the metallic paint job doesn't seem to cause the parts to stick all that much. This was something of a problem with the movie line.
Despite the line being supposedly 3-3/4" scale, Iron Man actually stands more like 4-1/4". Little tall if you were planning to have him take on some Star Wars Stormtroopers or Russian soldiers from Indiana Jones. Either that, or Stark is wearing lifts in his boots.
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. But 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.
These Marvel Universe figures come with a little envelope that contains some Top Secret SHIELD information.
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.
So what's my final word here? Well, as I said earlier, this new Marvel Universe line from Hasbro is so far beyond Toy Biz's Superhero Showdown line that it's not even funny. These are some really very decent figures Hasbro is turning out. Secondly, Iron Man -- both versions, really -- are among the best of the lot.
I honestly don't know if Tony Stark has a set of Stealth Ops armor that looks like this in the comics. But really -- who cares? It's a cool figure, and an interesting representation of Iron Man in a form that does have legitimate history in the title.
As such, the MARVEL UNIVERSE STEALTH OPS IRON MAN definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!