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By Thomas Wheeler

It can be readily stated that there are two super-heroes, far more than any others, that have maintained a long-standing and highly varied presence in the action figure world, even if they didn't necessarily have a movie or TV series directly tying into them, although more often than not they did. Interestingly enough, of these two super-heroes, there's one each from the two major publishers in the comics world, DC Comics and Marvel Comics.

From DC, that character is, of course, Batman. The Dark Knight has had so many animated series in the past few decades that I've lost count. Throw in a host of movies, and a couple of action figure lines that weren't really connected to much of anything specific other than wanting to keep ol' pointy ears on the shelves, and Gotham's favorite son is certainly a mainstay of the action figure world.

From Marvel, their longtime representative in the toy world is SPIDER-MAN. This makes a fair amount of sense. Although the "Marvel Age" was technically inaugurated by the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man is certainly the most prominent solo hero of the Marvel Universe. Like the Caped Crusader, Spidey has had a host of animated series over the years, a number of live-action movies, and no shortage of ongoing media presence.

I'll admit, I haven't paid a lot of attention to the Spider-Man action figure line, or maybe I should say lines. This was not due to any dislike of Spider-Man. I like the character just fine. I simply had other action figure priorities. And, in fairness, I do have a number of Spider-Man action figures. I have a few of his movie-based figures, some from the main Marvel Universe line, and this gargantuan Spider-Man action figure that was produced as part of the Spider-Man 2 line that's articulated right down to individual finger joints. So it's not like Spidey isn't properly represented in my collection.

However, I came across an interesting series of three-packs, designated "Battle Packs". I hadn't seen them before, and given that they were available at a -- let's charitably call it a discount chain, the price was certainly right. The themes of these Battle Packs were interesting as well, dedicated to specific environments. I rather liked that idea, so I decided to bring them into my collection and give the Web-Slinger and his foes a bit of shelf space.

This review will take a look at the SPIDER-MAN WATER RUMBLE BATTLE PACK. Each of these sets features two different versions of Spider-Man, plus a villain. This set features "Armored Attack Spider-Man" (is this really the best idea for a water-based set!?), "Deep Dive Spider-Man" (I thought Iron Man had the lock on that prefix), and "Aqua Venom".

Let's consider some of the history of Spider-Man, and for that matter Venom, and then have a look at these three figures.

SPIDER-MAN, often referred to as "Spidey", "web-slinger", "wall-crawler", or "web-head", plus a few things by Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson that I don't think I can repeat here, was created by writer-editor Stan Lee and writer-artist Steve Ditko. He first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962). Lee and Ditko conceived the character as an orphan being raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, and as a teenager, having to deal with the normal struggles of adolescence in addition to those of a costumed crimefighter.

Spider-Man's creators gave him super strength and agility, the ability to cling to most surfaces, shoot spider-webs using wrist-mounted devices of his own invention which he called "web-shooters", and react to danger quickly with his "spider-sense", enabling him to combat his foes.

When Spider-Man first appeared in the early 1960s, teenagers in superhero comic books were usually relegated to the role of sidekick to the protagonist. The Spider-Man series broke ground by featuring Peter Parker, a teenage high school student and person behind Spider-Man's secret identity to whom young readers could relate.

Unlike previous teen heroes such as Bucky and Robin, Spider-Man did not benefit from being the protégé of any adult superhero mentors like Captain America and Batman, and thus had to learn for himself that "with great power there must also come great responsibility" a line included in a text box in the final panel of the first Spider-Man story.

Marvel has featured Spider-Man in several comic book series, the first and longest-running of which is titled The Amazing Spider-Man. Over the years, the Peter Parker character has developed from shy, nerdy high school student to troubled but outgoing college student, to married high school teacher to a freelance photographer, his most typical adult role.

In the 2010s he joined the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, Marvel's flagship superhero teams.

Spider-Man is obviously one of the most popular and commercially successful superheroes. As Marvel's flagship character and company mascot, he has appeared in many forms of media, including several animated and live-action television shows, syndicated newspaper comic strips, and a series of films starring Tobey Maguire as the web-slinger in the first three movies. Andrew Garfield has taken over the role of Spider-Man in a reboot of the films.

In 1962, with the success of the Fantastic Four, Marvel Comics editor and head writer Stan Lee was casting about for a new superhero idea. He said the idea for Spider-Man arose from a surge in teenage demand for comic books, and the desire to create a character with whom teens could identify.

The character first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 which was published in June 1962. A few months after Spider-Man's introduction in the book, publisher Martin Goodman reviewed the sales figures for that issue and was shocked to find it to have been one of Marvel's highest-selling comics. A solo ongoing series quickly followed, beginning with The Amazing Spider-Man #1 (March 1963). The title eventually became Marvel's top-selling series with the character swiftly becoming a cultural icon.

Following Ditko's departure after issue #38 (July 1966), John Romita, Sr. replaced him as penciler and would draw the series for the next several years. An early 1970s Spider-Man story led to the revision of the Comics Code. Previously, the Code forbade the depiction of the use of illegal drugs, even negatively. However, in 1970, the Nixon administration's Department of Health, Education, and Welfare asked Stan Lee to publish an anti-drug message in one of Marvel's top-selling titles.

Lee chose the top-selling The Amazing Spider-Man; issues #96–98 (May–July 1971) feature a story arc depicting the negative effects of drug use. In the story, Peter Parker's friend Harry Osborn becomes addicted to pills. When Spider-Man fights the Green Goblin (Norman Osborn, Harry's father), Spider-Man defeats the Green Goblin, by revealing Harry's drug addiction. While the story had a clear anti-drug message, the Comics Code Authority refused to issue its seal of approval. Marvel nevertheless published the three issues without the Comics Code Authority's approval or seal.

In 1972, a second monthly ongoing series starring Spider-Man began: Marvel Team-Up, in which Spider-Man was paired with other superheroes and villains. From that point on there have generally been at least two ongoing Spider-Man series at any time.

As to a more thorough backstory: in Forest Hills, Queens, New York City, high school student Peter Parker is a science-whiz orphan living with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May. As depicted in Amazing Fantasy #15, he is bitten by a radioactive spider at a science exhibit and "acquires the agility and proportionate strength of an arachnid." Along with super strength, he gains the ability to adhere to walls and ceilings. Through his native knack for science, he develops a gadget that lets him fire adhesive webbing of his own design through small, wrist-mounted barrels.

Initially seeking to capitalize on his new abilities, he dons a costume and, as "Spider-Man", becomes a television star. However, he ignores the chance to stop a fleeing thief, and his indifference ironically catches up with him when the same criminal later robs and kills his Uncle Ben. Spider-Man tracks and subdues the killer and learns, in the story's next-to-last caption, "With great power there must also come great responsibility!"

Despite his superpowers, Parker struggles to help his widowed aunt pay rent, is taunted by his peers — particularly football star Flash Thompson — and, as Spider-Man, engenders the editorial wrath of newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson. As he battles his enemies for the first time, Parker finds juggling his personal life and costumed adventures difficult. In time, Peter graduates from high school, and enrolls at Empire State University, where he meets roommate and best friend Harry Osborn, and girlfriend Gwen Stacy, and Aunt May introduces him to Mary Jane Watson.

In the course of his adventures Spider-Man has made a wide variety of friends and contacts within the superhero community, who often come to his aid when he faces problems that he cannot solve on his own.

In issue #121 (June 1973), the Green Goblin throws Gwen Stacy from a tower of either the Brooklyn Bridge. She dies during Spider-Man's rescue attempt; a note on the letters page of issue #125 states: "It saddens us to say that the whiplash effect she underwent when Spidey's webbing stopped her so suddenly was, in fact, what killed her." The following issue, the Goblin appears to accidentally kill himself in the ensuing battle with Spider-Man.

Working through his grief, Parker eventually develops tentative feelings toward Watson, and the two "become confidants rather than lovers". Parker graduates from college in issue #185, and becomes involved with the shy Debra Whitman and the extroverted, flirtatious costumed thief Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat, whom he meets in issue #194.

From 1984 to 1988, Spider-Man wore a black costume with a white spider design on his chest. The new costume originated in the Secret Wars limited series, on an alien planet where Spider-Man participates in a battle between Earth's major superheroes and villains. He continues wearing the costume when he returns from the Secret Wars, starting in The Amazing Spider-Man #252. Not unexpectedly, the change to a longstanding character's iconic design met with controversy, with many hardcore comics fans decrying it as tantamount to sacrilege. Spider-Man's traditional red and blue costume was iconic, they argued. The creators then revealed the costume was an alien symbiote which Spider-Man is able to reject after a difficult struggle, though the symbiote returns several times as Venom for revenge.

Parker proposes to Watson in The Amazing Spider-Man #290 (July 1987), and she accepts two issues later, with the wedding taking place in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 (1987) — promoted with a real-life mock wedding using actors at Shea Stadium, with Stan Lee officiating, on June 5, 1987.

In a controversial storyline, Peter becomes convinced that Ben Reilly, the Scarlet Spider (a clone of Peter created by his college professor Miles Warren) is the real Peter Parker, and that he, Peter, is the clone. Peter gives up the Spider-Man identity to Reilly for a time, until Reilly is killed by the returning Green Goblin and revealed to be the clone after all. In stories published in 2005 and 2006, he develops additional spider-like abilities including biological web-shooters, toxic stingers that extend from his forearms, the ability to stick individuals to his back, enhanced Spider-sense and night vision, and increased strength and speed.

Peter later becomes a member of the New Avengers, and reveals his civilian identity to the world, furthering his already numerous problems. A highly controversial reboot erases his marriage to Mary Jane, restores his secret identity, and eliminates his additional powers. However, he revealed it to his teammates in the New Avengers and his friends in the Fantastic Four, and others have deduced it.

Don't even get me started on the fact that most recently, Parker's body has been taken over by the mind of Dr. Octopus, while Parker is presumed to have died in Doc Ock's body. Sheesh...

As to his powers and abilities: a bite from a radioactive spider on a school field trip caused a variety of changes in the body of Peter Parker and gave him the ability to cling to walls, superhuman strength, a sixth sense ("spider-sense") that alerts him to danger, perfect balance and equilibrium, as well as superhuman speed and agility.

Parker excels in applied science, chemistry, and physics. The character was originally conceived by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko as intellectually gifted, but not a genius. However, later writers have depicted the character as a genius. With his talents, he sewed his own costume to conceal his identity, and constructed many devices that complement his powers, most notably mechanical web-shooters. This mechanism ejects an advanced adhesive, releasing web-fluid in a variety of configurations, including a single rope-like strand to swing from, a net to bind enemies, and a simple glob to foul machinery or blind an opponent. He can also weave the web material into simple forms like a shield, a spherical protection or hemispherical barrier, a club, or a hang-glider wing. Other equipment include spider-tracers (spider-shaped adhesive homing beacons keyed to his own spider-sense), a light beacon which can either be used as a flashlight or project a "Spider-Signal" design, and a specially modified camera that can take pictures automatically.

As to VENOM, this is probably one of the strangest origin stories of all, since it started with an alien costume that Spider-Man wore for a time.

Venom, or the Venom Symbiote, is an extraterrestrial life form. The creature is a Symbiote, a sentient alien, with a gooey, almost liquid-like form that requires a host, usually human, to bond with for its survival, as with real world symbiotes, and to whom it endows enhanced powers. When the Venom Symbiote bonds with a human, that new dual-life form refers to itself as Venom.

The Symbiote's first known host was Spider-Man, who eventually separated himself from the creature when he discovered its true nature. The Symbiote went on to merge with other hosts, most notably Eddie Brock, its second and most infamous host, with whom it first became Venom and one of Spider-Man's archenemies.

The original idea of a new costume for Spider-Man that would later become the character Venom was conceived of by a Marvel Comics reader from Norridge, Illinois named Randy Schueller. Marvel purchased the idea after the editor-in-chief at the time, Jim Shooter, sent Schueller a letter acknowledging Marvel's desire to acquire the idea from him, in 1982. Schueller's design was then modified by Mike Zeck, becoming the Symbiote costume. David Michelinie would later write the backstory of Eddie Brock as the alien's new host that became the popular villain Venom.

Spider-Man first encountered the Venom Symbiote in Secret Wars #8, in which he unwittingly merged with it. After Spider-Man rejected it, the Symbiote merged with Eddie Brock, its most well-known host, in The Amazing Spider-Man #300 (May 1988). Its next host was Mac Gargan, the villain formerly known as Scorpion. Originally, the Symbiote was portrayed as a mute and lonely creature craving the company of a host. More recently, it has been shown as increasingly abusive of its hosts, and having the power of speech. The Venom Symbiote has no known name, as "Venom" is essentially the moniker Eddie Brock adopted due to his history with Spider-Man on Earth. According to S.H.I.E.L.D., it is considered one of the greatest threats to humanity, alongside Magneto, Doctor Doom, and Red Skull.

The creature that would become Venom was born to a race of extraterrestrial symbiotes, which lived by possessing the bodies of other life-forms. The parasites would endow their victims with enhanced physical abilities, at the cost of fatally draining them of adrenaline.

According to the Planet of the Symbiotes storyline, the Venom Symbiote was deemed insane by its own race after it was discovered that it desired to commit to its host rather than use it up. The Symbiote was then imprisoned on Battleworld to ensure it didn't pollute the species' gene pool.

In Secret Wars #8 (December 1984), Spider-Man damages his costume in combat on Battleworld and is directed to a facility which can provide a new one to him. Before having the chance to recover a new suit, Spider-Man stumbles into the prison module the Symbiote has been trapped in. He then activates the machine which releases the Symbiote in the form of a black liquid. Spider-Man's "spider-sense" initially tingles, and then stops upon Spider-Man's first contact with the liquid; it covers his body and, reacting to Spider-Man's thoughts about the costume worn by the second Spider-Woman, forms a new costume and symbol. To Spider-Man's surprise, the costume can mimic street clothes and provides a seemingly inexhaustible and stronger supply of webbing.

Once back on Earth, Spider-Man enjoys the costume's convenience and style until he starts becoming lethargic and witnesses its eerie ability to move on its own. After having a nightmare, involving a power struggle between the monstrous costume and his original costume, Pete finally decides to have the black costume analyzed by Reed Richards. He then learns the costume is a sentient alien Symbiote that wishes to fuse permanently with him and often controls his body while he sleeps, resulting in his lethargy.

With the aid of Mister Fantastic and the Human Torch, Spider-Man discovers the Symbiote is vulnerable to sound and flame, and he uses sonic waves to remove it and flames to scare it into a containment module. The Symbiote escapes and finds its way to Peter Parker's closet and disguises itself as a spare red and blue costume. It then attempts to forcibly bond itself to Spider-Man and prevents him from physically removing it or seeking Mr. Fantastic. In a desperate attempt to rid himself of the symbiote Spider-Man crashes himself into a church belltower. As the bells ring to sound the hour, Spider-Man fights to reject the Symbiote, leaving both the alien and Spider-Man weakened. In an act of sympathy, the Symbiote uses its remaining strength to carry an unconscious Spider-Man to safety from the bells before it slithers away.

Spider-Man believed the Symbiote to be dead, yet alternately began wearing a home-made version of the black suit in conjunction with his original. Spider-Man's rejection of the Symbiote would later leave it murderously embittered towards him, a trait it would share with future hosts.

The first Venom, Eddie Brock, is a reporter for the Daily Globe before it comes to light that he has fabricated a story revealing the identity of the Sin-Eater. Shortly after the story was published, Spider-Man catches the real Sin-Eater, disgracing Brock as a news reporter and costing him his job and then his wife. Now writing for cheap gossip magazines, Brock centers his frustration on utter loathing of Spider-Man, which only escalates when it is revealed that Brock has cancer. In response to this news, Brock begins working out, bringing his body to levels of amazing athletic performance. Still unable to cope with his misfortune, Brock contemplates suicide and goes to a church to pray for forgiveness. Meanwhile, the Symbiote, having recovered and needing another human host in order to survive, finds itself psychically attracted to Brock for both his increased adrenaline and mutual hatred for Spider-Man.

In The Amazing Spider-Man #298, they formed into the first version of the dark, villainous creature known as Venom. Venom first appeared at the end of issue #299, which led into the first Venom story in issue #300. The name Venom originally applied to Brock, rather than the Symbiote, which Brock refers to as his "Other". Over the years, as the Symbiote gained more intelligence and moved to additional human hosts, the name began to apply to the Symbiote as well as its hosts. As Venom, Brock fights Spider-Man many times, winning on several occasions.

Venom repeatedly tries to kill Peter Parker/Spider-Man, both when the latter was in and out of costume. The Symbiote is finally rendered comatose after being subdued by Styx's plague virus, and Eddie Brock is subsequently placed in Ryker's Island Prison.

When the Symbiote recovers and returns to free Brock, it leaves a spawn to bond with Brock's psychotic serial-killer cellmate Cletus Kasady, who becomes Carnage. Meanwhile, Venom and Spider-Man fight on a deserted island, and Spider-Man strands Venom there after faking his own death. Soon after, however, Spider-Man brings Venom back to New York in order to stop Carnage's killing spree. After being incarcerated once again, Venom is used to create five new Symbiotes, which are all paired with human hosts.

As well as helping Eddie Brock to seek continued revenge against Spider-Man, the Symbiote also aids Brock in a sporadic career as a vigilante. He and the Symbiote occasionally share a desire to protect innocent people from harm, even if it means working side-by-side with the hated Spider-Man. This is especially true when Venom combats the entity he believes to be his spawn, Carnage. When Spider-Man helps Venom save Brock's ex-wife Ann Weying, the two form a temporary truce, though this falls apart after Weying's suicide.

Eventually, Eddie Brock and the Symbiote go their separate ways as the Symbiote grows tired of having a diseased host and Eddie rejects its growing bloodlust, leading him to sell the Symbiote at a super villain auction.

The Venom Symbiote approached Mac Gargan, formerly known as Scorpion, and offered him new abilities. Gargan bonded with the creature, which would later give him an extra edge as part of Norman Osborn's Sinister Twelve. As the Avengers dealt with the rest of the Twelve, Spider-Man swiftly defeated Gargan, even with these additional powers, which Spider-Man suggests is attributed to the fact that Mac Gargan does not hate Spider-Man as much as Eddie Brock did.

Gargan later became a member of a sub-group of the Thunderbolts, which was drafted by the Avengers to hunt down the members of the fugitive New Avengers. It was then revealed that he had been outfitted with electrical implants by the government to keep the Symbiote in check. When in the Venom persona, Gargan retained very little of his original personality and was controlled almost completely by the Symbiote, which drove him to cannibalism. When the Symbiote was dormant in his body, he expressed nausea and fear of the organism

After the Siege of Asgard, Gargan and most of the Dark Avengers were taken into custody. While being held on the Raft, the Venom Symbiote was forcefully removed from him, ending his career as Venom.

In 2010, Marvel Comics announced a new "black ops" Venom owned by the government. The new Venom was revealed to be Flash Thompson. Flash is hired by the government to be a special agent wearing the Venom symbiote. Flash is only allowed to wear the suit for up to 48 hours, or risk a permanent bonding with the symbiote. The government is also equipped with a "kill switch" designed to take Flash out if he loses control. Flash has battled Jack-o-Lantern, fought to stop Anti-Vibranium, and fought Kraven the Hunter in the Savage Land.

Though it requires a living host in order to survive, the Venom Symbiote has been shown to be adept at fending for itself independent of a host. The Symbiote is capable of shapeshifting abilities, including the ability to form spikes or expand its size, as well as mimic the appearance of other humanoids after it has obtained a host. The organism can additionally use its shape-shifting abilities to conceal itself by altering its coloration or by becoming completely invisible. It also contains a small "dimensional aperture," allowing its hosts to carry items without adding mass to the costume. The Symbiote also exhibits telepathic abilities, primarily when it needs to communicate with its host.

Because of its contact with Spider-Man, the Symbiote grants all of its subsequent hosts that hero's powers and cannot be detected by his spider-sense. As Spider-Man's fighting style is partly dependent on his spider-sense, his effectiveness was somewhat hampered when he battled Eddie Brock. Retaining its memory from the time it was bonded with Spider-Man, Venom is also capable of producing webbing similar to Spider-man's own variety created from itself.

Venom exhibits some immunities to the supernatural powers of others such as the Penance Stare of Ghost Rider or Spider-Man's extrasensory spider-sense. Some incarnations of the Venom Symbiote have shown it able to replicate itself. The Venom Symbiote is vulnerable to fire and sonic waves, causing it great pain and exhaustion if it sustains enough exposure. It can sense and track all of its offspring symbiotes except Carnage, which learned how to block this ability shortly after bonding with Cletus Kasady.

So, how are the figures? Really very cool. The Spider-Man line leans a little more towards kids than collectors, but there's still some fine figures to be had here if you allow for that.

I do have a bit of a conceptual problem with the idea of Spider-Man having so many uniform variants. Unlike Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark, Peter Parker is not some billionaire industrialist. Heck, he sewed his first costume together by hand -- admittedly a useful skill to have. But about the only time in recent years that I can think of when Spider-Man went really high-tech was when he was working for Stark, and Stark gave him a fancy outfit (which got dubbed "Iron Spider-Man"), after criticizing Spidey's original costume as being "just cloth".

Now, Stark can build as many armors as he wants -- and has certainly had a penchant for doing so in both the comic book and movies. Bruce Wayne has the resources to pull together a wide range of damage resistant materials for his Bat-suits, although what he's worn in the comics and the movies hasn't tended to be as varied as the action figure line. It's not like he doesn't have the means, though. But Parker? Well, okay, let's assume that in some alternate universe where this toy line would be more plausible, he won the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes or some such.

ARMORED ATTACK SPIDER-MAN - Precisely what an "Armored Attack" has to do with a sea-based set of Spider-Man figures I'm really not sure, but given that the villain of the piece is Venom, one would imagine that Spidey will use whatever advantage he can, regardless of the environment.

The Spider-Man figures throughout the line have featured a certain amount of variance, although unlike some of Batman's wilder wardrobe choices, the majority of Spider-Man's variations have tended to at least maintain his color scheme of red and blue, although distribution of colors may differ, and the Black Costume turns up every once in a while.

The Armored Attack costume maintains a fairly close resemblance to Spidey's traditional red-and-blue costume. The head, shoulders, and chest are appropriately red, with the black webbing lines, and Spidey's large white eyes bordered in black. The back of the figure differs in that unlike the traditional large red Spider-emblem, the red part of the costume also tapers down the back. The black Spider- emblem that is typically the front of Spider-Man's costume is greatly enlarged on both the front and back.

In something of a costume oddity, the red continues past the waist and partway down the legs, but without the traditional black webbing lines. Similarly, Spidey's boots are red, but also sans webbing. There are distinct sculpted lines delineating the points where the red transitions into blue, but there are no web lines.

Spider-Man's gloves are also red, but these have the web lines. Interestingly, the red portions of Spider-Man's costume have a metallic finish. This seems to be typical for all of the Spider-Man figures in any of these Battle Packs that are based on some version of Spider-Man's traditional colors.

I have to say that I'm impressed with the paint work. I've discovered from other action figures over the years that use a metallic finish -- most of them Iron Man variations -- that the standard procedure for achieving the color is to paint that portion of the figure in a bright silver, and then paint transparent red over it. The effect works, when it's done well, as it certainly is here.

But then to paint the black webbing lines over that, as well as line the webbing up with the sculpted lines on the figure, can't be a thing easily achieved. This has always been the toughest thing to manage with any Spider-Man action figure, and it's accomplished very effectively here.

So, what makes this Spider-Man an "Armored Attack" Spider-Man? I don't think it's just the metallic finish. They all have that. No, Spider-Man comes with an armored harness, molded in transparent yellow. Interestingly, many of the figures in these sets are also molded in transparent plastic. This Spider-Man is the only one that isn't, but his vest is. I'm not quite sure of the purpose behind that theme, but generally, it looks cool.

The vest includes two pairs of tentacles which, except for the transparent yellow color, look exactly like the ones used by Dr. Octopus. Great. It's bad enough Marvel's pulled a dumb stunt in the comics by putting Ock's mind in Parker's body and seemingly killing off Parker. Now one of the toys is using his equipment.

However, this is actually a little more palatable. I can see an inventive genius like Parker thinking, "Okay, Ock, two can play that game", and coming up with a similar device. And since spiders have eight limbs, adding these four armored tentacle arms isn't too far a derivation from the spider-theme, as far as that goes. How much advantage these arms would be in either an aquatic battle, or up against Venom, I'm not entirely sure. But it makes for a cool figure.

DEEP DIVE SPIDER-MAN - Like I said earlier, Parker's going to get himself in trouble with Tony Stark if he keeps stealing his prefixes like this. There was a Deep Dive Iron Man figure as part of the Iron Man 2 line, and it was a cool enough design that the movie producers actually worked it into Iron Man 3 as one of the dozens of armors that Stark had constructed between Avengers and the third Iron Man film.

The basic Spider-Man figure is easily the most comics-accurate of the entire lot in any of the sets. The costume design is right on the money. The only differences are that the red has the metallic finish to it, and the blue areas of Spider-Man's costume are transparent. Apart from that, the basic lines are entirely classic Spider-Man.

In order to make this Spider-Man figure qualify for the "Deep Dive" moniker, he's been given some basic, but fairly high-tech-looking and reasonable Spider-themed diving equipment. He's wearing a gray harness over his chest, to which is attached a white backpack with gray and transparent blue trim, that serves as not only an oxygen supply but also as a means of underwater propulsion. Most of the Spider-Man figures I've encountered in these Battle Packs have removable accessories, but if there's any way to get this backpack off of this Spider-Man figure, I haven't figured it out yet, and I don't want to break the figure or the pack. It sort of looks like he's stuck with it.

Deep Dive Spider-Man also comes with a somewhat amusing diving mask, with web lines sculpted into it, and Spider-Man shaped eye lenses. That little bit of artistic license notwithstanding, the basic design is workable enough, as there are two hoses that emerge from the side near the mouth, that connect to the oxygen tanks in the backpack. The Deep Dive outfit is completed by a pair of gray swim fins, which have a slight webbing pattern in them, but otherwise look entirely plausible.

An additional accessory is what I would describe as a little underwater jet sled. It has a somewhat spider-like theme to it, and is the same color scheme as Spider-Man's equipment, with a couple of handles for him to hold onto while propelling himself underwater.

AQUA VENOM - When the Venom symbiote took over Eddie Brock, a few changes between that and how it appeared when Peter Parker was wearing it took place. The basic black color remained, as did the white spider emblems on the front and back, linked on the sides. But Eddie Brock was a larger individual than Parker, and the Venom symbiote made Brock appear that much larger. The Spider-Man-like eyes became larger and more ragged in appearance.

And then there's that mouth. Venom gained this huge, ugly red slash of a mouth, with a large supply of sharp, jagged teeth, and a repugnant length of tongue. You wonder how he keeps from biting it off with those teeth. But, anyway, the figure is an excellent rendition of the character -- right down to the tongue, which was clearly molded as a separate piece and stuck into the figure's mouth.

Sculpted detail on the figure is very impressive, including, for whatever reason, a pronounced spinal column in the back that almost looks like a series of ridges. Was Venom known for this? Might depend on the artist, I suppose, but it looks like Eddie Brock could use a good chiropractor.

I have to say I am very impressed by how effectively the white Spider-emblem is imprinted on the front and back of the figure. Given that the legs of each "spider" have to line up on the sides, and they do so very well, this isn't something that could have been easy. I was able to find the "overlap" on the back, but it's still extremely well done.

The main difference here between this Venom figure and a more typical Venom is that this Venom is molded in a transparent dark blue, not black. Interestingly enough, unlike Spider-Man's transparent sections, I don't think this look would be impossible for Venom. It's stated in his origins that he can change color, and even become invisible. Combine that, and I think that if for whatever reason, he wanted to appear transparent blue, he probably could.

Let's consider articulation on all three figures. This could be another one of the reasons why I've never gotten much involved with the Spider-Man line, as the articulation can be a little variable. And I'll readily admit that's something I find just a little annoying.

Admittedly, articulation has been a recent issue for a number of Marvel lines. The Iron Man 3 line suffered from a rather distinct shortage of articulation, but the recent line based on the Thor sequel has a far better, more expected level of articulation. The first assortment of figures based on the "Avengers Assemble" series weren't terribly well articulated, but the second assortment is much better. Yes, you're going to pay a bit more for more articulation, but I think in most cases, most fans would say it's worth it.

Armored Attack Spider-Man is a little limited. He is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivels, and legs, including an upper leg rotation. No elbows, knees, wrists, or ankles. At least he's not at all pre-posed, and he stands well.

Deep Dive Spider-Man, on the other hand, is superbly articulated. This is really an outstanding Spider-Man figure. He is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including a swivel), wrists, mid-torso, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. I'm impressed.

Aqua Venom comes up a bit short, but is somewhat better than Armored Attack Spider-Man. Venom is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, legs, and upper leg swivel. He;s very slightly pre-posed, but not much, and it's a fairly typical stance for him, so I'm not complaining about that part of it. And really, the lack of articulation isn't likely to be quite as much of a bother to kids (although sometimes I think we're underestimating them when we think like this) as it might be to collectors.

Paintwork on all three figures is generally excellent, although Venom's mouth and teeth could have been done a little more neatly.

One quick word about the packaging. The interior cardboard liner of the box features a very nice cityscape, sort of an up-angle shot of some skyscrapers and a bridge, taken from the perspective of sea level, with water visible. This could be used for a very nice diorama with these figures.

So, what's my final word? I don't expect to become a Spider-Man completist, but I am pleased that I decided to bring this set -- and the other two -- into my collection. The set features two interesting takes on Spider-Man, if admittedly slightly unlikely ones from an "in-comic-book" standpoint, and certainly an interesting take on a notable villain in the form of this transparent blue Venom.

I believe that any Spider-Man fan will enjoy this set, and I also am of the opinion that any youngster who enjoys Spider-Man's adventures would also enjoy playing with these figures. It's a great set with some cool figures and some impressive features.

The SPIDER-MAN WATER RUMBLE BATTLE PACK featuring ARMORED ATTACK SPIDER-MAN, DEEP DIVE SPIDER-MAN, and AQUA VENOM definitely has my very enthusiastic recommendation!