Monday, January 20, 2014

Toy Review – Marvel Legends Black Panther from Hasbro

My fifth grade teacher – Mrs. Moody – was one of my favorites.

Side Note: She was not, in fact, moody.

She was pretty and her classes were fun and I seem to remember fifth grade being fairly pleasant overall. This one time she had all of the students over to her house for a party.

Stop it. That’s not where this story is going.

So we all went to her house – something that I’m sure is unheard of now and I can’t imagine any sane person wanting the little jerks that pass for children nowadays in their home anyway – and had pizza and played some games and had a good time. At some point during the event her husband – Mr. Moody (also not moody) – escorted us down to the basement. Once we got down there I could not believe what he showed us.

Okay, seriously – stop.

There was about twenty feet of homemade shelving housing two rows of comic book long boxes. I had never seen such a thing in a grown-up house. I didn’t know grown-ups could even own comic books. I didn’t know that grown-ups did anything that was fun. 
 
My exposure to comic books at that age was minimal. My parents were those kinds of parents that seemed like they were born grown up. To this day I cannot imagine either one of them reading comic books or playing games or doing dumb stuff. I had purchased a few comics with allowance money from time to time, but this sort of thing was not encouraged. I can’t really complain, though, because they fully supported my toy habit. 
 
Anyway, Mr. Moody let us each pick out two comic books to take home with us. This was mind-boggling to me, as I couldn’t imagine just giving away comic books to people you don’t even really know. For the first time in my life I had the experience of thumbing through long boxes. It was amazing seeing all of the colorful art and the variety of titles. I don’t know why I didn’t pick out Batman or Aquaman or X-Men or Spider-Man. I think I might have been too overwhelmed to think about choosing something I was already into. For whatever reason I picked out two issues of Black Panther
 
I couldn’t tell you which issues, though I might be able to pick them out of a cover gallery. I do know they were sequential and that I did have the presence of mind to choose two issues in a row. They didn’t captivate me, but because of how exciting that whole experience was I have always had a fondness for Black Panther. It’s one of those things that has stayed with me over the years and made a big impact on me. I was very excited when Francesco Francavilla took over art duties on a Panther book a couple of years ago. The story didn’t turn out to hold up so well, but Francavilla’s art was, of course, beautiful. I think this figures might be based on the look of that book, which would explain the intense highlighting.

When I first saw this figure in pictures from Toy Fair I thought it looked kind of dull and wasn’t all that interested. I already had the last Marvel Legends Black Panther with the cape and the ridiculous claws. A plain one without all the accoutrements seemed superfluous. Plus, by the time this wave actually came out I had essentially given up on Marvel Legends. The figures I wanted the most from the last couple of waves – Dani Moonstar, Blade, and X-Force Archangel – apparently hadn’t even come out. The figures were getting harder and harder to find and Hasbro seemed to be getting really bad about reusing bucks when it really wasn’t appropriate. 
 
Then one day when I was poking around Amazon I noticed they had Wrecker for fifteen bucks (thanks to 2-day free shipping with Amazon Prime – totally worth it). I already had Piledriver and Thunderball, so I couldn’t very well pass up their leader. Wrecker arrived and I set aside the Rocket Raccoon parts he came with because I didn’t plan to buy any other figures from the wave and knew I probably wouldn’t find them anyway.

Then I found Jean Grey at Walmart. All by herself on a peg. I am not particularly a fan of the Jim Lee Jean Grey outfit, but the figure looked pretty good and I couldn’t pass up another third of Rocket Raccoon’s parts.

At this point, not buying Black Panther for the rest of Rocket Raccoon wasn’t even an option. I put the figure in my Amazon Wish List and checked several times a day for him to be in stock at a reasonable price. Soon enough he hit $17.99 and I ordered him.

FIRST GLANCE

As soon as I opened the Amazon box I realized how much more I like this design that the cape and claws one. This is the Black Panther from my youth, as well as the one from the recent book. And this may be a generic buck, but it’s a really good, well-articulated generic buck.
PACKAGING

The die-cut card with the dynamically-shaped bubble looks great. The graphics are nice and comic-booky. Also, the figure is in a relatively neutral pose, which should – in theory – prevent warping of the cheap plastics everybody is using for action figures now. 

The art on the back of the card isn’t particularly good. The lines are a little weak, the detailing of the boots and gloves is missing, and there’s a belt.
That tag line isn’t all that great, either. No mention of T’Challa’s genius, which to me is his most prominent feature. Also, is it really doing Black Panther justice to list his credentials as the world’s most perfect warrior as a question?
LOOKS

From head to toes this is a really nice looking figure. I can’t say for certain what parts are new because I don’t even come close to buying every Marvel Legends release, but I’m pretty sure this T’Challa has a new head and hands.

The head has a very sharp and detailed sculpt. The ears are spaced far enough apart and shaped just right to not totally look like a Batman head. The upper portion of the face has a tremendous amount of detail. This man is angry
 
The body is lean and well-muscled. Most of the joints blend into the sculpt fairly well. It seems like the days of the Toy Biz sculpts with narrow elbows and knees are gone. The only real issue here is with the cheap plastic warping. As you can see, the left arm and left leg are bent in a way they should not be. A little hot water could fix this, but in general I prefer just finding a pose that makes the warping less obvious. I don’t want to take a load of figures up to the sink and spend an hour trying to fix things that shouldn’t need fixing. Nobody got time fo’ dat.
I'm not crazy about the hole in the figure's back. Not sure why it's there.
T’Challa’s hands look awesome. The fingers are slightly pointed at the end to look like claws, but not so much that it looks ridiculous. I think there’s a fine line between making clawed hands and making stupid 90s razor fingers. Hasbro got these right. I also like the pose. They look ready for action as opposed to ready to maim.

I can’t help but find these amazingly well-sculpted buttocks amusing:
There is a distinct difference in the sculpt of the boots and the rest of the legs. 
It is clear that these are boots and not just a paint job. I like these new ankle joints, as well. I know they’ve been used before, but they are still novel to me. They don’t necessarily work all that naturally, but they look better and are sturdier than a lot of other options.

Overall this is a pretty slick-looking figure. The profile is nice and the proportions are great.
I can’t quite decide how I feel about the paint job. It looks cool, but I don’t think it was executed quite right. The portions under the knees and elbows aren’t painted at all, so there’s a jarring halt to the blue highlights. The back is also lacking in a lot of places. I like the extreme highlighting, but the omissions make it look odd. If it were more uniform across the figure this would be a fantastic paint job. But it’s still better than if the figure were simply black.
ACCESSORIES

Black Panther comes with Rocket Raccoon’s arms. There’s not really much more that Black Panther could have come with. I suppose Hasbro could have referenced one of the technological gadgets from Wakanda, but there’s nothing specific that Panther uses on a regular basis. And I don’t support throwing accessories in just to do it.
FUN

Black Panther may be relatively plain, but his articulation makes him fun to play with. I spent a good twenty minutes or so trying different poses to see what broke up his natural profile or where the joints might look bad. Not too many poses caused problems. Also, Panther is still on my desk. He’s one of those toys I’m still picking up from time to time. I also just bought the new Marvel NOW Captain America (review coming soon) and I like the thought of those two having adventures.
Panther has double-jointed elbows and knees that look good and function well. Hasbro seems to have finally settled on good hip joints (basically the MOTUC style ones) that can’t quite squat but look good and come close. The wrists have swivels and hinges and the head has a different version of the same, so those parts have a great range of motion.

This is a good-looking figure with a lot of functional and sensible articulation. It can do most of what you might want Black Panther to be able to do.
OVERALL

Is Black Panther worth eighteen bucks? Probably not quite, but he’s definitely worth fifteen. Especially if you need Rocket Raccoon. I have to say that I am quite happy to have this version of Black Panther and that it will be replacing the slightly wonky older one. In my opinion, if you want a Black Panther, this is the one to have.

The paint job isn’t quite right, but for some reason it isn’t bothering me all that much.
4 out of 5

2 comments:

  1. Unfortunately, Hasbro has basically admitted that they have no idea how to put out the ML variants (Bulldozer, X-Force Archangel, Moonstar, Blade, modern Hawkeye, Iron Gist, Sentry, etc...) which seems really dumb to me. I mean, that's a killer line up by itself, and it'd be an awesome wave, which would sell like gangbusters! Ah well, I guess that makes too much sense. And the reason BP has the hole in the back is 'cause this body is reused for Bucky Cap, US Agent, Carnage and Archangel, who all had things that plugged into their backs (shields, tendrils and wings, respectively.) What's cool is that the old flight stands that came with later Toybiz Marvel Legends fit in the hole perfectly for dynamic poses. Man, that's a long rant!

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    1. Yeah, I didn't phrase that well. I know why it's there, but I don't know why Hasbro couldn't have filled it in.
      And you're right - I would probably just buy that wave straight from BigBad as a set. And sell Sentry.

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