Thursday, August 23, 2007

[Review] Tetsujin He Ain't!

So, uh, what is this blog about again?

Oh right, toys. Cheap toys, expensive toys, rare toys and supermarket-shelf crap. Expensive toys for cheap prices are always good.

So this is one of the many subcategories within my collection: what I call, for lack of a better term, "Guys in Suits." And it doesn't really bring to mind toy-collecting- maybe more of a weekly event at a darkened club with thumping music and guys wearing ... never mind. But anyway, I've always been intrigued with the idea that ordinary people could transcend their human limits by donning a special suit, whether said suit is powered by technological mastery or by straight-up magic. Iron Man, Kamen Rider, Blue Beetle, Genesis Climber Mospeada. This is my tribute to my toys of these characters- not all at once, as I don't fancy breaking open every Kamen Rider and superhero toy in my collection. So here we go.

Ultimate Iron Man actually hails from an entirely different universe than the 'real' Iron Man; the "Ultimate" universe arose in one of Marvel's periodic fits of reinvention that occurs every few years (remember Marvel 2099?). In this universe, superheroes live in a darker, flawed world, much more like our own, where I suppose the writers try to rely less on mutants, magic and alien technology, and more on realistic... mutants and alien technology. I try to sound like I know what I'm talking about, but in reality, I've read like 4 comics from Ultimates and have talked extensively to my younger brother about it. So I think, on the Internet, that makes me something of an expert. Anyway, Ultimate Iron Man is the brainchild (if you will excuse the horrible pun) of Tony Stark, who was born in this world made up entirely of nerve cells, as a result of an accident prior to his birth. Being basically a giant brain and other sensory cells, the slightest touch caused Tony extreme pain until a spray-on armor was developed that would allow him to live a fairly normal life. Normal, that is, except for the fact that the armor devoured skin cells, which I assume, was a flaw that was fixed shortly thereafter. Anyway, fast forward a few years and Tony's developed a prototype armored suit because, well because he's friggin' Iron Man. He don't need no reason. He then met the Ultimate universe Jim Rhodes, a.k.a. the only minority at Starks' prep school, as well as Obadiah Stane, a.k.a. Iron Monger, a.k.a. Fatter Iron Man. And that's about all I can remember, and all that Wikipedia can tell me.

So while I don't remember the most about the comic that was Ultimate Iron Man, I did enjoy the design that is Ultimate Iron Man. Ulti-man definitely has a Syd Mead-Turn-A Gundam design aesthetic going on, with a lot of fluid, unbroken lines and a sort-of wonky head. And just as many fans have deemed the Turn-A "worse Gundam ever," Ulti-man's design took a while to grow on me. Overall though, I think I've come to like the new design for his armor- it keeps many of the characteristic elements from the original Iron Man's getup, while drastically streamlining the bulky bits into something that looks like it could have been cobbled together by a pre-teen braniac (hee hee). I just say that because I'm staring at the toy now, and the helmet kind of looks like a motorcycle helmet. Ah, beer. The essence of creative writing.

So Ultimate Iron Man is all kinds of nu-skool cool, but how is his toy? A lot better than I expected, honestly. You see, Ulti-man is one of the first set of Marvel Legends produce by Hasbro, after they took over the line from Toybiz. For some reason or other, as good toymakers inevitably seem to do, Toybiz folded up after producing something like 16 series of Marvel Legends. Amazingly enough, they even had like 2 more sets slated for production when the ship was going down. I say that it was that horrible Walmart exclusive series that did them- you know, the one that was sold only at Walmart and that you had to wait in line at like 5 a.m. to have any chance of getting anything short of that really crappy Age of Apocalypse Sabretooth that all the stores had but nobody wanted, and then you would see all of those figures showing up at the local comic book asshole's store for like $30 a pop, $50 if they were one of the variants like hamburger-face Wolverine or one of Wasp's ten different outfits, cause that girl was like Barbie with her wardrobe. Ok. Breath. Yeah, vengeful toy gods are a bitch. So now Hasbro has the rights to produce Marvel Legends, and they're doing a damn good job, if you ignore things like Really Happy Hercules and the incredibly not-hot White Queen (ironic because she was supposed to be this hot temptress in the comic, but her toy was probably the ugliest female figure ever produced. ever. even worse than the original Lady Jay. or should I say, Man-Jay.).

So things I like about Hasbro's Ultimate Iron Man. They brought back the chrome. Hell, yes. This was a great reference to the early 90s Toybiz Iron Man series, where all of the figures featured a standard figure and crazy chromed-out extension armor. I guess it didn't seem all that odd at the time, because it was the 90s and the Rob Liefeld-armor-everywhere look was in, but really, why would Iron Man have armor. Isn't that a bit redundant (and yes, I am completely aware that the Thorbuster Armor is an exo-armor for the standard suit)? They had Hydro-armor, Inferno-armor, Glacier-armor- I think they finally decided that it had gone too far when Iron Man started strapping on his Samurai armor before going off to fight Fin Fang Foom. Frankly, I thought those figures sucked when they first came out, but in a fit of late-night eBay nostalgia, I bought like 10 of them last year. So, uh, go me. Chrome rocks.

The paint on this figure is fairly good. Minimal slop, which is incredible for a mass production figure. I also appreciate the black wash on the mechanical details on his grey armor; I realize that kind of thing is pretty standard nowadays, but it looks good.

Articulation is kind of a mixed bag for me. The legs and arms are highly poseable, as would be expected for a Marvel Legends toy, but the joints feel gummy- I'm afraid to try for the full range of motion as it sometimes feels like some internal mechanism is on the brink of failure. Ankle movement is terrible; rather, the ankles don't move at all. I think the biggest killer for me, however, is that the hands are permanently fixed in an open palm position. This really limits the poses for the figure, unless, I suppose you want him to bitch-slap Mandarin. Or be incredibly fancy.

What I don't like: two things. First, something about the balance of this figure is off. The only way that he'll stand up is if I pose him in sort of a slouch with his hips pushed forward. He's stuck in a permanent crotch-thrust. Second- and this one is much worse- the helmet of the figure is removable. That in itself is not a fatal flaw; the true horror comes when you take off the helmet. What. The. Hell. That is NOT Tony Stark under there. No, my friend, that is Evil Spock wit da CRAZAY EYES. Hasbro, yer givin' kids nightmares.

So, while this toy has its share of flaws (and what toy doesn't?), overall, the throwback chrome on Ultimate Iron Man wins my heart. Whether intentional or not, he's a good mix of old toy styling and new toy innovations, and indicates bright things ahead as Hasbro carries the torch of the Marvel Legends.

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