REVIEW: MARVEL UNIVERSE A.I.M. SOLDIER
One doesn't usually think of a super-hero line as being a place to find "army-builders". That's the sort of thing one usually reserves for Star Wars or G.I. Joe. You can have all the Clone Troopers and Cobra Soldiers you want, but there's a limited number of Captain America, Spider-Man, Thor, et al, out there -- not counting uniform variants made up for the toy line and debatable storylines in the comics.
But there are a few organizations in the Marvel Universe that employ hordes of assorted personnel. Generally, not unlike G.I. Joe's Cobra, these are terrorist organizations. The two most notable terrorist organizations in the Marvel universe are HYDRA and A.I.M. The Hydra Soldier got the figure treatment in the Marvel Legends line a couple of years ago. The A.I.M. Soldier has had to wait his turn for the 4" scale Marvel Universe line.
As always, I like to present some background information on any given figure that I'm reviewing. What astounded me when I started doing some research into the A.I.M. organization was just how many groups out there in the real world share this abbreviation. Okay, granted, it's more common, and in a way, less sinister-sounding than HYDRA. Even so -- wow, what a list!
Some of the highlights offhand were: American Institute of Mathematics; Association of Independent Museums; Australian Institute of Management; Alternative Investment Market; and my personal favorite, the Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere. This is actually the name of a NASA satellite.
I'm sure these are all fine organizations -- and a worthwhile satellite -- but the AIM that we want is a bunch of techno-based bad guys whose abbreviation spells out as Advanced Idea Mechanics. In and of itself, not particularly sinister-sounding, until you realize that their stated objective is the overthrow of all world governments by technological means. These guys must love the Internet age.
According to their history, AIM first came along in 1966, in a Marvel title called Strange Tales. AIM is an organization of brilliant scientists and their hirelings dedicated to the acquisition of power and the aforementioned overthrow of the world. It's leadership has traditionally consisted of a seven-member Board of Directors known as the Imperial Council, with a rotating chairperson.
The organization supplies arms and technology to various terrorist and subversive organizations both to foster a violent technological revolution and to make a profit. AIM operatives are usually involved in research, development, manufacturing, and sales of high technology. Members are required to have at least a Masters degree, if not a Ph.D, in some area of science, mathematics, or business.
AIM is a worldwide organization, with various front organizations, as well as bases in New Jersey, Canada, Europe, Haiti, India, Sudan, and the Bronx. Yeah, that one's gotta be a fun assignment given the rest of the list.
The online research cites three particular achievements of AIM that have been more notable and troublesome than others: The Cosmic Cube, a device capable of altering reality at the whim of its user; the Super-Adaptiod, an android capable of mimicking the appearance and super-powers of other beings; and MODOK, an artificially mutated human being with an enormous head and psionic abilities.
AIM's origins began in late World War II with Baron Wolfgang von Strucker's creation of HYDRA. Under the code-name of "THEM", he created two HYDRA branches called Advanced Idea Mechanics, and the Secret Empire. AIM's purpose was to develop advanced weaponry for HYDRA. They were close to developing and attaining nuclear weapons when HYDRA's headquarters was invaded by American and Japanese troops. Although HYDRA suffered a major setback, it survived and grew in secret over the following decades.
At one point in the group's history, MODOK took control of AIM, and used the chaos following the destruction of HYDRA Island and the apparent deaths of Baron Strucker and most of HYDRA's leading members to sever AIM's ties with HYDRA, making it an independent organization.
AIM has had numerous encountered with various super-heroes and super-villains, and is the subject of ongoing investigations by the government organization SHIELD.
Some of AIM's more notable actions have been the capture of Iron Man in an attempt to duplicate his armor; launching an attack on the West Coast Avengers compound; and most recently, it was revealed that AIM helped General "Thunderbolt" Ross and Doc Samson to create the Red Hulk.
Which leaves one, nagging, annoying question in the midst of all of this -- if they're so smart, why do they dress so badly? Seriously, the first line of text outlining the AIM soldier on the back of the action figure cards is "Don't be fooled by the goofy uniform." Okay -- maybe that's why they do it. Maybe they're trying to be deceptive. And honestly, the figure as presented is actually not as bad as some AIM uniforms I've seen, which doubtless vary a bit depending on the artist drawing the story in the comics. He still looks like someone wearing a HazMat suit and a beekeeper's helmet.
The full text on the back of the package card reads: "Don't be fooled by the goofy uniform. AIM soldiers are as dangerous as they come. The average trooper is a genius with at least one PhD and no morals. Even a single AIM soldier, given the right equipment, can whip up a deadly virus or invent a powerful new disintegration ray. They have no compunctions about experimenting on other humans, or even each other. Any AIM lab is bound to be crowded with dangerous surprises for any hero unlucky enough to discover it."
So, how's the figure? Well, one thing's for sure -- if you're looking for him in a general display of Marvel Universe figures, he'll be hard to miss. There's not a lot of characters out there right now that are dressed pretty much head to toe in bright yellow. If anything, the color palette for Marvel characters at the moment seems to be rather subdued, with dark reds, blues, silvers, and blacks. Even those characters that have some yellow on them, such as Colossus or Kitty Pryde, don't have all that much.
The uniform is not a typical tight-fitting super-hero suit. These guys aren't super-beings. They're scientists and soldiers. As such, it's probably just as well that the uniform is made to look a bit loose-fitting. I'm sure that AIM has some sort of regular physical exercise regimen, since its personnel do have to act as soldiers from time to time, but -- maybe I'm being stereotypical here, but would you want to put the average scientist in spandex? Someone who spends most of his time in a lab is not going to be placing supreme emphasis on building up a significant musculature. This is not someone that's going to look that good in tights.
Credit to Hasbro and whoever it was at Marvel who designed this particular take on the AIM organization, the uniform honestly doesn't look quite as goofy as it might have. Yes, it's yellow. Very, very yellow. The figure has a certain amount of yellow orange "detailing" on it. Normally I don't approve of this sort of thing, but in this case, it's not really battle-damage or weathering so much as it's an attempt to keep a largely mono-colored figure from looking too glaring. In that respect, it works, and doesn't detract from the look of the figure.
The bulk of the uniform is a basic bodysuit, right down to the gloves. There is a sculpted pattern across the front of the uniform, a sort of three-sided outline, which one might assume is the means by which the AIM soldier dresses himself in the uniform, since I don't see any other sign of seams.
There is some measure of colored detail. The figure is wearing fairly high, rather military-looking black boots, and the uniform has a high, black collar. Additionally, the AIM Soldier is wearing a surprisingly ornate belt, which is gold in color, except for three sculpted sections across the front that are silver, with black outlines. The belt seems to be entirely ornamental. Maybe these guys just got tired of looking like janitors.
The AIM soldier also has a black belt that runs from the right shoulder under the left arm. This is a separately molded piece, although I'm not sure it's intended to be removable. It's a nice little item, and does add some more detail and color to an otherwise potentially rather plain-if-bright-looking figure. There are various small objects and pouches on the belt, and Hasbro has even gone so far as to paint the snaps on the pouches in silver. As to the likely contents of the pouches, given the sorts of things these guys develop in their laboratories, that's probably something best left to speculation. None of them open on the toy, anyway.
Then there's that head. As much of a trademark as the color yellow is for AIM, the other main trademark is that helmet, mask, call it what you will. I call it the Beekeeper's Special. Again, credit to Hasbro and Marvel, this version of it doesn't look quite as ridiculous as some, but it's still pretty silly. It's a flat-topped, almost cylindrical helmet that covers the entire head. It has some evidence of fabric-like wrinkles, so one might assume that it's intended to be made at least partially from fabric. The only real feature on it is a silver visor across the front that looks like a screen. On this particular figure, it's been made to look a little more interesting than some, since there's a central screen, and two much smaller ones to either side. Still, as much as anything, it epitomizes the "goofy" aspect of the AIM uniform.
And, as far as the figure is concerned, that flat top allows this to be the first Marvel Universe figure of which I am aware that can very easily stand on his head without bracing himself with his hands or anything. This doesn't really serve any useful purpose, but if you really want to be sure you can stand him up on display and he's not likely to topple, it's worth considering...
The figure is very nicely-articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, upper leg swivel, double-jointed knees, and ankles. The "non-tights" design of the figure lets most of these articulation points be integrated into the design of the figure better than some I've seen in the line. No real complaints about the articulation, although the ankles could have used a slightly greater range of motion. Sometimes it's just a little hard to get this guy to stand up and stay standing.
I think one question that inevitably might arise here that I would like to address, since the figure does represent a terrorist organization and doesn't really look like a typical super-being is -- is the AIM Soldier compatible with the current G.I. Joe action figure line? In my opinion, the answer to that question is no. Apart from some structural variances, which are a minor issue, the AIM Soldier is too tall. The approximate height of G.I. Joe figures these days hovers around 4", give or take. A G.I. Joe figure is considered tall if he gets to the 4-1/4" point. The AIM soldier is somewhat taller than that, almost measuring 4-3/8". Additionally, he has a slightly stockier build than a typical G.I. Joe figure. He's close, and maybe your opinion might differ, but in my judgment, he's just a little too big.
Among his accessories, the AIM Soldier comes with a fancy-looking gun, and a fairly large device that looks like it could be anything from a missile launcher to a chemical sprayer. It doesn't actually fire anything, so this one is entirely up to one's imagination. It's an impressive piece of hardware, very nicely made, but its precise use is open to a bit of personal interpretation. Both items are molded in black, bit have a bit of paint trim. The small pistol actually has a tiny yellow dot on its barrel -- amazing that this much trouble would be gone to for a single little dot -- doubtless indicating it's some sort of laser weapon. The larger weapon has some impressive painted detail as well.
The AIM Soldier also comes with a display base, and a "Top Secret" envelope that includes a trading-card sized file card, and a letter addressed to Norman Osborn. This particular series of Marvel Universe figures follows, at least to a degree, the storyline in the comic books where Norman Osborn briefly found himself highly placed in the government, including in charge of an organization that replaced SHIELD. I'm not going to get into that since it doesn't really have any specific bearing on the AIM Soldier.
The file card gives various particulars on the AIM Soldiers, also listing their average height as being between 5'11" and 6'4". The card also indicates that Aim Soldiers are very skilled weapon experts, hand to hand combatants, expert pilots, and very tech-savvy.
So, what's my final word here? This is an impressive figure. He's well-made, nicely detailed, and despite claims on his own package, doesn't look quite as goofy as he might have. Consider him the 4" scale Marvel Universe version of the larger-scale Marvel Legends HYDRA Soldier. The Marvel Legends line never got an AIM Soldier, and the Marvel Universe line doesn't have a HYDRA Soldier -- yet, anyway. Assuming you're inclined to round up a small army of these guys -- and can find that many -- you've certainly got a plausible group threat for your Marvel super-heroes, any number of which have had to go up against AIM over the years.
The MARVEL UNIVERSE figure of the A.I.M. SOLDIER certainly has my enthusiastic recommendation!