Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Marvel Legends X-Men Infinite Jubilee Wave Storm

After the Phoenix Force took him over Namor laid waste to Wakanda, a disaster which the isolated African nation had never seen the likes of before. Because Namor was an X-man when it happened, the leader of Wakanda, T’Challa annulled his marriage to Ororo Munro, despite their feelings for each other, because his people couldn’t see him canoodling with someone who’s so publicly an X-man herself.

Out of anguish and rejection Storm had Wolverine cut her hair in the Mohawk she had in the 80s, and also pursued a casual rebound relationship with him. She also formed a new X-force alongside Puck, Psylocke and Spiral, and this is the outfit she currently wears.

The paint makes the outfit. The paint white is pearlescent white/metallic mix. It’s mostly cast in black, except for the hands and hair (white) and the chest and head (brown). The added paint makes up the lines of the outfit where there should be details.

Storm has a great, solid sculpt, and the joints are tight. I don’t recognise the body though, she could be the Songbird buck from the Thunderbolts SDCC special, though the torso looks different. She certainly shares the conjuring hands of Satana, though. She’s got a swivel balljoint head, ball-jointed shoulders, elbows and wrists, ball-jointed torso, swivel hinge hips, double jointed knees and ball-jointed ankles with a bit of an ankle pivot. Her feet are tiny in high heels so she’s real hard to stand without a base.

The cape is cool but makes things feel a bit delicate though. It’s made of a fabric that’s crunchy, a little paper-like, kind of like a bigger, softer, flatter Lego cape. It’s fastened on with rubbery plastic rings and I fear I may snap them or tear the cape in a way I can’t fix. The cape has a painted gold edge and also attaches in the peg that joins the chest to the belly.

The head sculpt is the important bit, seeing as you have to get that face right as everything else is sculpted. Her face is beautiful, is painted crisply and her hair makes her super tall. The hair looks great. It restricts movement upwards, so flight positions are a bit limited. The hair and the head are in two parts, maybe for re-use purposes? Her 90s look of long flowing hair sometimes looked as if she had shaved sides, so who knows. Someone might even be able to make a Nebula custom out of it, maybe. I could see someone making an easy, great looking Shard, Bishop’s sister.

Its great that it’s the most recent costume, its what we want and its cool. Having proper sculpted elements on both her and Cyclops would have been fun but this will do in a pinch.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Marvel Legends X-Men Infinite Jubilee Wave Cyclops

I’ve always liked Scott. I mean my favourite these days is Hank, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Scott. He grew into a more interesting character, for me, with Morrison and Whedon’s version of the X-men, as they were two writers who understood how interesting such a plain, straight up hero can be, and what lies under that strength. They revealed him to be flawed and frail, with more depth than simply being the fearless leader. And nowadays he’s even more interesting.

When the Phoenix Force, a cosmic force of unimaginable power, came to Earth to take over Hope Summers, Tony Stark, brains trust that he is, attacked it, and it divided into 5 parts. The Phoenix force inhabited five X-men: Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magick, Colossus and Namor. During their rampage Scott killed Professor Xavier, an act which broke his heart, turned half the X-men against him and made him a villain in many peoples eyes.

As a result of his hosting of the Phoenix Force Scott’s powers are now busted. Where before his beams were focused weapons of precision, now they’re basically a sawn-off shotgun blast of uncontrollable power, which needs time to recharge.

Now as his role as a mutant revolutionary, Scott needed a spiffy new suit to hit social media with. His
new movement drums up support from humans and mutants alike as he searches out new mutants popping up globally and protects them from a world that would see harm come to them.
And here it is in action figure form. My new favourite costume of his (and my favourite new design of any costume) blows the Astonishing era, John Cassiday designed suit, and its boring redesign out of the water.  The black and red design, by Chris Bachalo, is eye-catching, unique, dynamic and iconic, fitting for his role in this new world. Its also very villainous looking, which suits his standing with his former friends, and that circular collar design is very Magneto-esque, who’s now his second in command. That mask is so strange, you should check out the cosplay to see how poorly it translates to real life, which I love. The blasts are channelled through the center of the X, if you’re wondering.

The figure is very basic in its design, so its inclusion in this line is a great up-to-date decision and a no-brainer. There are very few new parts (just the belt and the head) and the paint is the important part. He’s cast in black and painted with a shade red that looks like his eye-blast colour. The belt is dark brown, and there’s two types of orange on the mask to suggest he’s powering up to fire. The red elements have some wear and tear, at least on my second-hand Hong Kong version, so look out for that on the official release. I’ve also seen some wear on the red lines by the ab crunch so be careful with that too.

A note about the head sculpt: the mask I think should extend down his cheeks and take up most of the face. The orange elements of the X-visor look like they should extend down his face, or at least the black should be underneath though no drawing of the costume suggests this. He looks cool but it feels like someone, in sculpt or paint, got something wrong, though the final result is actually comic accurate. Also he's a completely smooth sculpt, and the costume has ribbing and piping thats missing from this piece. It would be amazing to get an 100% new sculpt, but to me he's good enough. 

Articulation-wise he’s basically what you get from the old Cyclops and with a lot of Marvel Legends since Bucky-Cap. Swivel-ball head and neck, ball jointed shoulders, bicep swivel, double jointed elbows, swivel hinge wrists, ab crunch, swivel waist, ball jointed hips, swivel thighs, double jointed knees, swivel calves and ball jointed ankles with ankle pivot. It’s a sculpt that works well so that’s why it’s been re-used so often.
I got this bad boy early from those distant shores of old Hong Kong so I didn’t get any accessories, as the only thing he comes with is Jubilee’s arm.

The new Jubliee wave is promising, with brand-new up to date versions of characters people like (and new stuff like Stryfe). There are a few duds, with a Wolverine re-issue no one wanted and a Magneto which should have been a brand-new black and white version (or just better looking than what we got), but even then I’m very happy with getting my favourite new costume so they should keep this kind of thing going. Now we just need new Magick and Emma Frost figures in the Marvel Now style, that'd be amazing. NEXT: Marvel Now Storm is on the way, keep an eye out


Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Marvel Legends Guardians of the Galaxy Infinite Star-Lord


The problem with someone like Star-Lord is that he’s not, in terms of popularity, a Batman-level character, who has a vocal fanbase that would object strongly to any major changes to the character. So what we end up with is a character that’s constantly changing to fit whoever is writing them at any given moment.

We start in 1976, where Steve Engleheart created Star-Lord. As told by Matthew Peterson at Majorspoilers.com (Read the more in-depth story here) Engleheart’s intention was to turn a brash, awful and unlikeable man into a genuine force of good in the universe. But he only got to the a-hole bit before leaving, so our impressions of early Quill are shaped as such.

Born to Meredith Quill, Meredith’s husband saw no resemblance to himself in young Peters face, and tried to murder the infant. A timely heart attack saved Peter, who later learned that his real father was an alien prince called Jason (later ret-conned to J-son). After his mother was murdered by lizard aliens, Peter joined NASA, and was visited by a being called the Master of the Sun who wanted someone to take up the mantle of Star-Lord. Peter beat a hated rival to gain admittance and was given a talking star ship called Ship and his Element Gun, which could harness the earth’s elements (earth, wind, fire, water).

I came across Star-Lord later in his life, during the Annihilation saga. At this point he’d lost everything; he’d faced a rogue herald of Galactus, and sacrificed thousands in order to save billions. He’s lost his gear, his ship and his desire to remain human, covering himself in cybernetic implants. During this time
he was the trusted advisor to Nova as he fought Annihilus, and would often annoy Nova by calling him ‘Richie’. Afterwards he was accidentally responsible for the invasion of the Kree Empire by the Phallanx, and as punishment had his implants removed and placed in charge of a rag-tag espionage team. It was in this team he met Groot, Rocket Racoon and Mantis, with whom he created the Guardians of The Galaxy with. That was the coolest run (written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning) which lead to the movie being made.

My favourite period of Star-Lord ended with he and Nova fighting to keep Thanos from re-entering our universe by staying behind and distracting him as a dying universe collapsed around them; Star-Lord mysteriously returned blond and with his old element gun back, without Nova. He now looks like he does in the movie, so that makes this figure basically a comic figure as well.

From what we’ve been told of the new version from the movie, Peter Quill was kidnapped from earth as a child. So he’s an overgrown child who never grew up and who only knows 80s popular culture? He’s pretty much every nerd out there. However, the second trailer also shows him rousing the Guardians in a way that reminded me of my favourite version of Quill, so that’s something.

I remember thinking when seeing the first pictures that they were going to just reuse that old Punisher mold. I’m very happy to report that he’s a 100% new sculpt, and from what I can tell from the rest of the line he’s got the lion’s share of accessories too.

What impressed me about the Marvel Select Wolverine from last year was that they followed the Japanese collector action figure ethos of ‘everything that you want out of the character is in this one box’. He comes with the alternate head, removable satchel, his twin pistols, and that strange orb he was stealing at the beginning of the first trailer (not the orb he shakes up and lets free for light). He also has his headphones for listening to his classical music. He can’t hold the orb all that well and the guns don’t stay in as strong as I’d like them, as the fingers are soft.

The sculpt is great, and like I said all brand new. He even has the rocket boosters we’ve seen in the trailers and TV spots; they even went so far as to sculpt the buttons to fire them. The paint is strong. He has silver highlights on the rocket boosters, some square elements on his coat and his belt buckle. He’s wearing a bluish grey t-shirt, and his coat, covered in a wash to make it seem more dirty and leathery, has brown leather parts on his shoulders and a brace on his left arm. The paint on the unmasked head is ok; I think it’s the paint on the eyes that make him look less like Chris Pratt. The mask head is better, the mask looks great but there’s a bit of slop with the red eyes.

He has ball hinged feet with ankle pivot, double-jointed knees (with cool kneepads) swivel cut thighs, ball hinge hips, swivel waist, ab crunch (with limited range) ball swivel neck/head, cut swivel biceps, ball jointed shoulders and wrists and double jointed elbows. So he’s pretty stocked in the articulation department.

This might well reflect the first costume he wears in the movie, that opening sequence and the ‘Nova Corps police booking’ sequence seem to be the only times he wears this outfit, but he’s represented
well here. This is a fine figure with very satisfying accessories and will no doubt please a lot of people once the movie comes out.


Marvel Legends Guardians of the Galaxy Infinite Nova

With great luck and great personal expense comes...

Nova is one of those action figures that customisers out there have repeatedly put their sculpting skills to the test in order to sculpt their own Annihilation Nova action figure, only to have one of the big companies churn one out. I myself have been tempted to give this one a go, as even though I knew so little about Nova before I became interested because of Ari Granov’s painting of him in this particular suit. So here’s what I know about Nova.

Richard Rider was an average kid who ended up being a member of a multi-species interstellar police force called the Nova Corps. Very much like a Marvel version of a Green Lantern, a Nova member became a living rocket, and had collision abilities not that dissimilar to Cannonball from the X-men but could also channel that energy offensively. The Nova Corp home-world was Xandar and the Corps are regulated by the Xandarian Worldmind, a living super computer. The Nova Force granted Nova with flight, super strength, damage resistance, energy blasts, the ability to open doorways called Star Gates and use an attack called a Gravimetric pulse. These abilities were granted to him by the Nova Force, the Xandarian source of all their powers.

And much like Hal Jordan when he became a ‘hard travelling hero’, Richie found himself living like a normal person, having to work crappy jobs (for example, in a fast food joint) to make ends meet despite having super powers. Being a product of the 90s I remember seeing him in New Warriors with a mullet sticking out from under his helmet, so he seemed to take up the ‘Seattle grunge scene' look. For a cosmic character he seemed quite grounded.

But that didn’t last long, soon Richie took to the stars and had his shining moment come with Marvel Annihilation: When Fantastic Four villain Annihilus (and his impossible large fleet of ships, the Annihilation Wave) escaped the Negative Zone and waged war on our universe, one of the first victims was Xandar, and the whole Nova Corp. The last surviving member, Nova had the Worldmind uploaded into his mind and body, greatly increasing his knowledge and strength, and granting him access to all of the Nova Force, the source of the Corp’s powers. He was now an alpha level opponent, and the experience also granted him the coolest costume ever.

The suit also absorbs some of the Nova Force in order to keep him sane. I think that’s what those big discs are for. All the details are represented here amazingly well. He's a 90% original sculpt, with things like the feet, thighs and upper arms the only re-use i can see. Everything else is brand new. 
His helmet and some raised gold elements are cast in metallic gold plastic, and the rest of him is a deep metallic navy, that kind of plastic that has metallic plastic mixed into the navy blue in the casting process. His face is painted flesh and the red star on his helmet stands out and is cast in red plastic. The head is separate from the helmet, and his face is largely sculpted underneath. You can really tell which bits are cast in gold and which ones were painted. The blue orbs on his chest and forearms are very light blue with a painted darker edge around the outside. 

His articulation is mostly great. Ball hinge feet, double jointed knees, swivel thighs, ball jointed hips, swivel waist, ab crunch, swivel balljoint neck/head, double jointed elbows and balljoint shoulders and wrists. The shoulder-pads are made of a softer plastic that a lot of his armour is made of, (And are on little swivels) but not soft enough for him to get his arms up to achieve that classic flight pose, although his head does allow for a good position. 

So yeah, the figure everyone wanted, in the version everyone wanted. The hard part of his design was those shoulder-pads, and unfortunately they didn't turn out perfect here. But his groovy sculpt makes up for his lack of accessories.

For those buying at retail, the only thing i would warn against is that red star on his head, it might be a bit wonky. But otherwise, a great figure.