Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Toy Review – Marvel Legends Infinite Series Captain America The Winter Soldier: Black Widow from Hasbro

This Black Widow figure has been a long time coming. Not this specific figure, necessarily, but a Marvel Cinematic Universe, Scarlett Johansson Black Widow figure was long overdue.
Samuel L. Jackson’s cameo as Nick Fury at the end of Iron Man was our first glimpse at a larger world of superheroes, but Johansson’s role as Natasha Romanov in Iron Man 2 was the affirmation that we would be seeing these Marvel superheroes working together. It wasn’t just a cameo – she had a major role in the movie. Going into Avengers two years later the core of the team were essentially Nick Fury, Tony Stark, Natasha Romanov, and Phil Coulson.

Side Note: Yes – it is an absolute fucking crime that we do not have an action figure of the central character of the Marvel Cinematic/Televised Universe. I… I don’t even know what to say about that. I understand that from the perspective of a toy manufacturer that a guy in a suit is not exactly a big sell to kids, but everybody loves Agent Coulson. 
 
Besides, Mattel released about fifty guys in the same suit over the course of its DCUC and Movie Masters lines. Surely Hasbro can release one. As a build-a-figure, maybe?

While Black Widow’s character hasn’t gotten quite the same amount of definition as the rest of the Avengers (save Hawkeye), she has been a central and important and hot redheaded character for years now. She was long overdue for a figure. As strong as the Walmart Exclusive Avengers figures were, the lack of Widow (and Coulson) left the wave feeling less than great.

But now we finally have a figure of Johansson as Romanov and Hasbro pulled out… well, most of the stops. 
 
It took a lot of effort to get this figure. I’ve been checking Amazon almost every day since last November for a Star Wars Black Series Boba Fett (I have one, but I want another for my Wall of Fett. I need one hanging there, but it isn’t a figure you can just keep in the box. It’s too spectacular). On March 8th I found the movie version of Cap on there, so at that point Winter Soldier and Black Widow became part of my daily search. Winter Soldier showed up on the 27th of the same month, so the search for Black Widow and Boba Fett continued.

On May 7th I was texting Belligerent Monkey and Evil about toys (what else?) and how difficult it had been to find Black Widow. Out of habit I pulled up Amazon and there she was for regular price. I ordered and texted the guys to do the same.

A few clarifications:
  • Boba Fett, Black Widow, and pretty much any other action figures are pretty much always available on Amazon. But not for regular price. Scalpers use the Amazon store to sell just like they do on eBay. So listings for the things you are looking for will pop up, but at grossly inflated scalper prices. Black Widow was around $65 and Boba Fett was never less than $45 for a long time. Actually, Fett still goes for that. Thanks to The Oncoming Josh I don’t have to worry about it anymore. And yes – the Fett review will be coming soon.

  • Lest I lose my toy hunting cred, I still do the brick-and-mortar search thing. I don’t have the time that I used to, so this is limited to places I can reasonably pass going to and from work, but I do still frequent the stores looking for loot. I bought all of the new Spider-Man Legends at retail.

  • This isn’t really a clarification, but an observation – I seriously have to stop buying Marvel Legends. They are way too expensive now. I have let myself get to the point where I can justify $22 for a 6” scale action figure. That’s not okay. I pulled the plug on Matty’s DC figures because that’s how much they cost. Granted, most of the new Marvel Legends are far superior to those in quality, but I just can’t be spending this kind of money. Especially with build-a-figures involved. The new Toys R Us Exclusive X-Men wave has a Jubilee build-a-figure that I really want, but to get her I have to buy a Magneto and a Cyclops that I don’t want. That’s about forty-five dollars’ worth of extraneous toys that I certainly won’t be able to unload on eBay.

  • Also, I have said all of that before. First when the Legends went to $14.99 and then again when they went to $19.99. I have no resolve when it comes to toys.
Side Note: I find it interesting that Hasbro won’t pull the trigger on X-Men movie style figures. All I can think is that Spider-Man is so kid friendly and that the Avengers franchise is just too darn big not to.

FIRST GLANCE

Upon opening the Amazon box and seeing the figure in the package my first thought was that holy shit, this was worth the wait. The sculpt is very strong and distinctive and immediately stands out as something that the creators at Hasbro put a lot of effort into. It’s like they knew we were waiting for this figure and didn’t want to disappoint. The amount of accessories alone was impressive.

Then I noticed the holsters. Surely they hadn’t fucked them up like it looked like they had fucked them up.

PACKAGING

I’m working really hard right now to line up podcast episodes with toy designers, but I’d like to talk to somebody that has designed packaging for a few companies, as well. I think it would be fascinating to hear about coming up with new styles and dealing with the requirements and ideas of the toy production companies. I say this because what else am I supposed to say about these boxes that I’ve already discussed ten times?

I will mention again that I wish Hasbro would put just a little extra effort in and do biographical stuff on the backs:

Codename: Black Widow
Real Name: Natasha Romanov
Height: 5’3”
Eyes/Hair: Green/Red
Abilities: Being super foxy and badass, skilled in the use of pretty much every weapon ever made; including alien stuff
Uniform: Skin-tight, butt-hugging super Kevlar/Nomex blend
Bio: Black Widow was a Russian spy that killed a lot of people. She eventually saw the error of her ways, fell in love with Clint Barton, AKA Hawkeye, and joined S.H.I.E.L.D.

C’mon Hasbro - that took me thirty seconds.

LOOKS

First – Mrs. Troublemaker said that this figure’s proportions were weird. She said this right after I opened it and was still in awe of the detail, sculpt , and facial likeness, so I didn’t ask for specifics because I didn’t want to be brought down from my new figure high; especially after spending two months hunting this down (for me that’s a long time to spend looking for a current figure). She is, of course, right. Black Widow’s hips and boobs are kind of exaggerated. But at least she isn’t the stumpy little nightmare that the Man of Steel Movie Masters Faora turned out to be:
Yeesh.

And, most importantly, Hasbro didn’t just repaint the same buck they’ve been using for every single female figure they’ve released since they acquired the Marvel license.

The likeness on this figure is one of the best Hasbro has produced. It’s an outstanding portrait of Scarlett Johansson – not just her features but the expression of quiet resolve or calm determination or whatever that is. It’s more than just a neutral face, but thankfully not yelling or anything. The hair is long and straight like it was in Winter Soldier, but it does have some shape to it. The sculpt makes it appear to hang on the shoulders and in the back it’s swaying slightly. The paint on the face is perfect – one of the best deco jobs I’ve seen. The eyes are very lifelike for this scale and nothing is off-center or painted too thinly.

The articulation is blended into the profile about as well as it could be. I think the reason the hips are a bit wide is to give the joints enough housing to have a wide range of movement. As for the perhaps larger-than-they-should-be boobs, I dunno. Maybe they cover the abdominal joint a little more?

One thing I’ve been really appreciating lately on my action figures is texture. I’m definitely tired of lines that use the same buck over and over again regardless of how appropriate it might be (Masters of the Universe Classics are somewhat exempt from this due to the clever conceit that farming parts is the gimmick). I’m way over seeing plain bodies with paint where sculpt should be. This Black Widow is a shining example of what should be done with texture and sculpt. Her bodysuit is chock full of definition and it looks spectacular. There is a mesh-like pattern on the inside parts to give the appearance of a more flexible material while the outside portions are smooth and look armored. Every detail of the belt on her abdomen is sculpt – even the logo. I like the way the belt is done – it goes through her uniform rather than around it and you can see the fabric bunched around her midsection where it sits. This design makes a lot more sense than the one in Avengers.

All of the figure’s buckles and belts are sculpted with buckles and a profile that sits out from the base sculpt – they all have thickness. Her gauntlets are part of the arm sculpt, which I prefer over older Widow figures where they would slide around. These are also much sleeker. The fingerless gloves have seams and padding, sort of like MMA gear. The fingers are defined and separate. Also, the paint is clean – the flesh tone doesn’t bleed onto the gloves and vice-versa.

Romanov has a SHIELD logo on either shoulder and they’re both clean. I’m used to seeing minor scrapes on apps like these, but not on this figure.

The bodysuit is grey and black, with a pretty good separation between the two. There’s just one spot on the left thigh where it’s a little sloppy and it isn’t very noticeable.

The boots lack paint, but have a cool sculpt. Lots of buckles and zippers and stuff. It’s nice to see the wedge heel as opposed to an actual high heel, though a regular boot would make so much more sense. Of course, Johansson is only 5’3”, so all of the dialogue scenes would have to be wide shots.

Here’s the problem – those holsters. And there are lots of problems with those holsters.

In an effort to not interfere with the figure’s movement, Hasbro decided to keep the straps separate from the belt. I get what they were doing, but obviously it looks terrible. The two alternatives here would have been to make the straps part of the figure’s sculpt or to make them, the holsters, and the belt separate rubber pieces with a lot of flexibility. I have other figures like this – a Dark Angel and a Tomb Raider. The problem is the expense involved, so I would have gone with just sculpting the straps onto the figure. It wouldn’t have looked as good, but it would have been better than what we got, which visually doesn’t even make sense.

And yes – those pistols are a part of the sculpt. They are not removable.

ACCESSORIES

Black Widow comes with Mandroid’s torso and shoulder cannon, and extra head, and an extra pair of hands.

You might be thinking, “But wait, Phantom – you forgot guns!”

No, I didn’t. Hasbro did. This character that uses guns all the time; like, it’s completely her whole gimmick, does not include guns. She has hands posed to hold guns. But she does not have guns. I do not understand this at all. And it doesn’t make a lick of sense. You can discount the whole rest of the Marvel Legends line that is chock full of gun-toting characters whose figures have come with piles of firearms – Taskmaster, Punisher, Madame Hydra, Madame Mask, Cable, Deadpool, Domino, various Agents of SHIELD – and even within this series you have Red Skull, the AIM Soldier, the Hydra Agent, Winter Soldier, Baron Zemo, and Cap himself that come with guns. It’s ridiculous that this figure does not.

The extra head sports Widow’s hairstyle from Avengers and I’m convinced this one was supposed to come out on a different body much earlier. I’m very glad that Hasbro decided to include it here because it looks great. The face is the same, but the shorter hair actually works better on the figure and allows for more movement. When the long haired head is on the figure it sits forward a bit too much because of the collar on the suit.

The extra hands look great and are easy to switch out, though I was afraid that the tiny pegs would break or twist off. Of course, these would look even better if they had some pistols to hold.

FUN

Don’t let this figure’s excellent and very female profile fool you – the articulation all works very well and some great poses can be achieved. The only improvement I would have made would be the addition of double-jointed elbows. I think the wrists are too thin to have supported pivots.

The lower body has a great range. The hips work very well in all directions, the knees are double-jointed and have deep bends, and the ankles support a good range of movement. Most importantly, despite the narrowness of the feet and the height of the heels, the figure stands quite well. I have a lot of female action figures that topple over all the time thanks to high heels or tiny feet or both. This one is balanced pretty nicely.

The extra head and hands are great, but the exclusion of guns definitely cuts into the play value. I have a ton of extra weapons in my parts drawer, but I really shouldn’t have to hunt any down. 
 
OVERALL

The core figure is fantastic. This is another one of those occasions where the thing that the company did wrong is even more infuriating because of how right they got the rest of the figure. This is a beautiful figure with a fantastic sculpt. It’s going to look great on your shelf surrounded by the rest of the Avengers. But it just isn’t complete. It should be the be-all, end-all Black Widow, but ti simply isn’t.

Despite the bad holsters and the lack of guns being two separate – and fairly major - issues, I just can’t bring myself to give this figure a 3. It’s too darn good.

4 out of 5

Interestingly enough, this is not the first Black Widow movie figure to lack guns. I reviewed the Marvel Select version a while back and it, too was missing pistols despite having hands posed to hold them. I wonder if maybe Johansson herself is responsible for this. There are certain qualifiers that come along with licensing an actor’s likeness. She might have some weird hang-up about selling toys with guns to kids. Stupid Hollywood liberals.

I had to do at least one with a gun. That's the rifle that came with Winter Soldier.
I haven’t seen this figure for regular price since I bought it, but I hear that they are packing two per case in future shipments. Still, I recommend you go ahead and buy one now to help support Needless Things!:


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