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By Thomas Wheeler

There can be no question that one of the most popular movies of not only the season, but most popular movies PERIOD, is "The Avengers". I've heard it called the best super-hero movie ever, and I am not inclined to argue the point. Certainly the box office numbers have given this assessment a good degree of credibility, with well over a billion dollars brought in worldwide.

The movie brings together Marvel Comics' most popular individual heroes -- Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and the Hulk -- all of whom have starred in their own respective movies over the past several years, most of which are due for sequels, as they combat the combined threat of Thor's adopted brother Loki, and an alien army that he has gathered to cause no small measure of chaos and conquer the Earth in the process.

As one would expect, there is an action figure line to accompany this movie. Hasbro has been the main Marvel licensee for some years now, and as with many of their action figure lines, including Star Wars and G.I. Joe, most of their Marvel figures have tended to be in the 4" scale, give or take a little depending on the character. Along with the main "Marvel Universe" line, they have produced figures for both of the Iron Man movies, the Hulk, Captain America, and Thor movies, and an action figure line for Spider-Man's newest film has started to arrive in the stores as of this writing. All of these lines, except for the first Iron Man movie, have been 4" in scale. It seems to be Hasbro's action figure standard, for the most part.

Now, I don't have a problem with that. Hasbro does excellent action figures in this scale, and I have a generous number of them from all of the various Marvel-related lines, as well as Star Wars and G.I. Joe. Heck, go back a couple of years, and I even have some Indiana Jones figures in this scale. It's a perfectly good size for a wide range of action figures, and you can see my reviews for many of them here on this site.

However -- maybe I've gotten a little spoiled by Mattel's DC Universe Classics or some such, but something in me just likes my super-heroes to be a little larger than that. In fairness, Hasbro does try to accommodate this to a certain degree. When they first got the Marvel license, which had been held by Toy Biz for a great many years, they continued the Marvel Legends line of larger-scaled action figures for some time, and recently brought it back, with some very impressive results. Nevertheless, this larger size is not a priority for Hasbro's Marvel lines.

So when I discovered that there was a 6" scale, Marvel Legends-type line of figures based on the Avengers movie characters, exclusive to Walmart, I was at first surprised that an entirely different SCALE of figures would be a store exclusive, given the expense needed in creating entirely different sets of molds, and distinctly larger ones at that. Then I decided not to question my good fortune and made it a point to round them up.

The Avengers 6" Movie Series line consists of six figures -- Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, and Loki. Sadly, Black Widow got left out of the mix. The stigma of female action figures strikes again. And frankly I think they could do one with the existing body molds used for the Marvel Legends figures of Madame Masque and Madame Viper, and just sculpt the head of the actress. But -- never mind. I'm immensely pleased with this line as it stands, I'm glad they were made, and this review will take a look at THOR!

First, a little history on the Avengers, and their movie, and the character of Thor.

The Avengers made their debut in The Avengers #1 (Sept. 1963), and was created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist/co-plotter Jack Kirby, following the trend of super-hero teams after the success of DC Comics' Justice League of America.

Labeled "Earth's Mightiest Heroes", the Avengers originally consisted of Iron Man, Ant-Man, Wasp, Thor, and the Hulk. The original Captain America was discovered by the team in issue #4, trapped in ice, and he joined the group when they revived him. The rotating roster has become a hallmark of the team, although one theme remains consistent: the Avengers fight "the foes no single superhero can withstand". The team, famous for its battle cry of "Avengers Assemble!", has featured humans, mutants, robots, gods, aliens, supernatural beings, and even former villains.

The first adventure features the Asgardian god Loki seeking revenge against his brother Thor. Using an illusion, Loki tricks the Hulk into destroying a railroad track. He then diverts a radio call by Rick Jones for help to Thor, whom Loki hopes will battle the Hulk. Unknown to Loki, the radio call is also answered by Ant-Man, the Wasp, and Iron Man. After an initial misunderstanding, the heroes unite and defeat Loki after Thor is lured away by an illusion of the Hulk and suspects Loki when he realizes it is an illusion. Ant-Man states the five work well together and suggests they form a combined team; the Wasp names the group "the Avengers" because it sounded "dramatic".

The roster changes almost immediately; by the beginning of the second issue, Ant-Man has become Giant-Man and, at the end of the issue, the Hulk leaves once he realizes how much the others fear his unstable personality. Feeling responsible, the Avengers try to locate and contain the Hulk, which subsequently leads them into combat with Namor the Sub-Mariner. This would result in the first major milestone in the Avengers' history: the revival and return of Captain America. Captain America joins the team and he is also given "founding member" status in the Hulk's place. The Avengers go on to fight foes such as Captain America's wartime enemy Baron Zemo, who forms the Masters of Evil, Kang the Conqueror, and Count Nefaria.

As to the movie, officially known as "Marvel's The Avengers" it was produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, and is the sixth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film is written and directed by Joss Whedon and features an ensemble cast that includes Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård and Samuel L. Jackson. In The Avengers, Nick Fury, director of the peacekeeping organization S.H.I.E.L.D., recruits Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk and Thor to form a team that must stop Thor's brother Loki from enslaving the human race.

Development of The Avengers began after the success of the film Iron Man in May 2008, when Marvel announced that The Avengers would be released in July 2011. With the signing of Johansson in March 2009, the film was pushed back for a 2012 release. Whedon was brought on board in April 2010 and rewrote the screenplay originally written by Zak Penn. Production began in April 2011 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, before moving to Cleveland, Ohio, in August and New York City in September.

The Avengers premiered on April 11, 2012, at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California. The film, released everywhere else May 4, has received positive reviews from most film critics and set numerous box office records, including the biggest opening weekend ever in North America.

As to the storyline, and you may consider this your SPOILER WARNING, just in case you've been so negligent as to actually miss the movie: After his fall from Asgard into space at the end of the Thor movie, the Asgardian Loki meets the Other, the leader of a warmongering alien race known as the Chitauri. In exchange for retrieving the tesseract, a powerful energy source of unknown potential, the Other promises Loki a Chitauri army with which he can subjugate the Earth. Nick Fury, director of the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D., arrives at a remote research facility during an evacuation. Physicist Dr. Erik Selvig is leading a research team experimenting on the tesseract, and Agent Maria Hill explains that the object has begun radiating an unusual form of energy. The tesseract suddenly activates and opens a portal, allowing Loki to reach Earth. Loki takes the tesseract and uses his staff to enslave Selvig and several agents, including Clint Barton (Hawkeye), to aid him in his getaway.

In response to the attack, Fury reactivates the "Avengers Initiative". Agent Natasha Romanoff is sent to India to recruit Dr. Bruce Banner; agent Phil Coulson visits Tony Stark to have him review Selvig's research; and Fury approaches Steve Rogers with an assignment to retrieve the tesseract. While Barton steals iridium needed to stabilize the tesseract's power, Loki causes a distraction in Stuttgart, Germany, leading to a confrontation with Rogers, Stark, and Romanoff that ends with Loki's surrender. While being escorted back to S.H.I.E.L.D., Thor, Loki's adoptive brother, arrives and frees Loki hoping to convince him to abandon his plan and return him to Asgard. After a confrontation with Stark and Rogers, Thor agrees to take Loki to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s flying aircraft carrier, the Helicarrier, and imprison him until the tesseract can be acquired.

The Avengers become divided, both over how to approach Loki and the revelation that S.H.I.E.L.D. plans to harness the tesseract to develop weapons of mass destruction as a deterrent against hostile extra-terrestrials. As the group argues, Barton, and Loki's other possessed agents, attack the Helicarrier, disabling its engines in flight and causing Banner to transform into the Hulk. Stark and Rogers try to restart the damaged engines, and Thor attempts to stop the Hulk's rampage. Romanoff fights Barton, and knocks him unconscious, breaking Loki's mind control. Loki escapes after killing Coulson, and Thor and the Hulk are each ejected from the ship. Fury uses Coulson's death to motivate the Avengers into working as a team. Stark and Rogers realize that simply defeating them will not be enough for Loki; he needs to overpower them publicly to validate himself as ruler of Earth. Loki uses the tesseract, in conjunction with a device Selvig built, to open a portal above Stark Tower to the Chitauri fleet in space, launching his invasion.

The Avengers rally in defense of New York City, but quickly realize they will be overwhelmed as wave after wave of Chitauri descend upon Earth. With help from Barton, Rogers, Stark, and Thor evacuate civilians, while Banner transforms into the Hulk again and goes after Loki, eventually beating him into submission. Romanoff makes her way to the portal, where Selvig, freed of Loki's control, reveals that Loki's staff can be used to close the portal. Meanwhile, Fury's superiors attempt to end the invasion by launching a nuclear missile at Manhattan. Stark intercepts the missile and takes it through the portal toward the Chitauri fleet. The missile detonates, destroying the invaders' lead ship, thereby disabling their forces on Earth. Stark's suit runs out of power and he falls back through the portal, but the Hulk saves him from crashing to the ground. Romanoff deactivates the portal to prevent further invasion. In the aftermath, Thor returns Loki and the tesseract to Asgard. Fury notes that the Avengers will return when they are needed.

In the first of two post-credits scenes, the Other confers with his master - who turns out to be none other than Thanos - about the attack on Earth.

As for Thor - technically in one sense, Marvel Comics didn't create Thor. They just adapted established Norse mythology to the growing Marvel Universe. The character as such first appeared in Journey into Mystery #83 (Aug. 1962) and was created by editor-plotter Stan Lee, scripter Larry Lieber, and penciller Jack Kirby. He has starred in several ongoing series and limited series, and has been a perennial member of the superhero team the Avengers, appearing in each of the four volumes.

Stan Lee in 2002 described Thor's genesis early in the Marvel pantheon, following the creation of the Hulk: "How do you make someone stronger than the strongest person? It finally came to me: Don't make him human — make him a god. I decided readers were already pretty familiar with the Greek and Roman gods. It might be fun to delve into the old Norse legends... Besides, I pictured Norse gods looking like Vikings of old, with the flowing beards, horned helmets, and battle clubs. ...Journey into Mystery needed a shot in the arm, so I picked Thor ... to headline the book. After writing an outline depicting the story and the characters I had in mind, I asked my brother, Larry, to write the script because I didn't have time. ...and it was only natural for me to assign the penciling to Jack Kirby..."

Thor's father Odin decided his son needed to be taught humility and consequently placed Thor (without memories of godhood) into the body and memories of an existing, partially disabled human medical student, Donald Blake. After becoming a doctor and on vacation in Norway, Blake witnessed the arrival of an alien scouting party. Blake fled into a cave after they heard him and began to pursue him. After discovering Thor's disguised hammer Mjolnir, and striking it against a rock, he transformed into the thunder god.

Defeating the aliens, Thor shared a double life with his alter ego: treating the ill in a private practice with nurse - and eventual love - Jane Foster and defending humanity from evil. Thor's presence on Earth almost immediately attracted the attention of his adoptive brother and arch-foe Loki; who returned repeatedly to Earth in a bid to destroy Thor. Loki was also responsible for the emergence of three of Thor's principal foes: the Absorbing Man; the Wrecker, and the Destroyer. On one occasion, Loki's tactics were accidentally beneficial - although successful in using an illusion of the Hulk to draw Thor into battle, it resulted in the formation of the superhero team the Avengers, of which Thor was a founding and longstanding member.

As to his cinematic debut, Thor was the fourth film released as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film was directed by Kenneth Branagh, written by Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz and Don Payne, and stars Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba and Stellan Skarsgård. The film tells the story of Thor, who is exiled from his homeland of Asgard to Earth. While there, he forms a relationship with Jane Foster, a scientist. However, Thor must stop his brother Loki, who intends to become the new king of Asgard.

In AD 965, Odin, king of Asgard, wages war against the Frost Giants of Jotunheim and their leader Laufey, to prevent them from conquering the nine realms, starting with Earth. The Asgardian warriors defeat the Frost Giants and seize the source of their power, the Casket of Ancient Winters.

Now in the present, Odin's son Thor prepares to ascend to the throne of Asgard, but is interrupted when Frost Giants attempt to retrieve the Casket. Against Odin's order, Thor travels to Jotunheim to confront Laufey, accompanied by his brother Loki, childhood friend Sif and the Warriors Three: Volstagg, Fandral and Hogun. A battle ensues until Odin intervenes to save the Asgardians, destroying the fragile truce between the two races. For Thor's arrogance, Odin strips his son of his godly power and exiles him to Earth as a mortal, accompanied by his hammer Mjolnir (the source of his power) now protected by an enchantment to allow only the worthy to wield it.

Thor lands in New Mexico, where astrophysicist Jane Foster, her assistant Darcy Lewis and mentor Dr. Erik Selvig, find him. The local populace finds Mjolnir, which S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson soon commandeers before forcibly acquiring Jane's data about the wormhole that delivered Thor to Earth. Thor, having discovered Mjolnir's nearby location, seeks to retrieve it from the facility that S.H.I.E.L.D. quickly constructed but he finds himself unable to lift it, and is captured. With Selvig's help, he is freed and resigns himself to exile on Earth as he develops a romance with Jane.

Loki discovers that he is actually Laufey's son, adopted by Odin after the war ended. Odin, overcome with stress from Loki's discovery and Thor's exile, falls into the deep "Odinsleep" that allows him to recuperate. Loki seizes the throne in Odin's stead and offers Laufey the chance to kill Odin and retrieve the Casket. Sif and the Warriors Three, unhappy with Loki's rule, attempt to return Thor from exile, convincing Heimdall, gatekeeper of the Bifröst - the means of traveling between worlds - to allow them passage to Earth.

Aware of their plan, Loki sends the Destroyer, a seemingly indestructible automaton, to pursue them and kill Thor. The warriors find Thor, but the Destroyer attacks and defeats them, prompting Thor to offer himself instead. Struck by the Destroyer and near death, Thor's sacrifice proves him worthy to wield Mjolnir. The hammer returns to him, restoring his powers and enabling him to defeat the Destroyer. Kissing Jane goodbye and vowing to return, he and his fellow Asgardians return to confront Loki.

In Asgard, Loki betrays and kills Laufey, revealing his true plan to use Laufey's attempt on Odin's life as an excuse to destroy Jotunheim with the Bifröst Bridge, thus proving himself worthy to his adoptive father. Thor arrives and fights Loki before destroying the Bifröst Bridge to stop Loki's plan, stranding himself in Asgard. Odin awakens and prevents the brothers from falling into the abyss created in the wake of the bridge's destruction, but Loki allows himself to fall. Thor makes amends with Odin, admitting he is not ready to be king; while on Earth, Jane and her team search for a way to open a portal to Asgard.

In a post-credits scene, Selvig has been taken to a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, where Nick Fury opens a briefcase and asks him to study a mysterious object, which Fury says may hold untold power. An invisible Loki prompts Selvig to agree, which Selvig does.

In my opinion, the movie was an excellent take on what had to have been a difficult character to bring to the screen, at least seriously. Thor and his adventures tend to have a certain over-the-top quality simply because of their grandiose nature. However, the movie fared well, and the scenes around Asgard were staggeringly impressive. And certainly, the movie set the scene for Avengers, introducing us to Loki, as well as Thor, and showing his interest in the Cosmic Cube, clearly recovered from the Captain America movie, and now in the present-day hands of SHIELD.

So, how's the figure? Big. Granted, Thor's always been a pretty good-sized character. It makes sense, given his nature. Now, Thor's not as big as the Hulk. That towering colossus measures 8-1/2" in height and had to be posed in a crouched position in his package just to fit in the rest of his assortment. But in a line where the average height of the other figures is about 6-3/8", Thor still manages to make an impression at an impressive 7-1/4" in height.

Let's discuss his best known costumes for a moment. Arguably Thor's longest-lived and most iconic costume features a black top and trunks, blue leggings, and a red cape. The costume is sleeveless. In more recent times, Thor has adopted a different costume in the comic books, one which is a little less super-heroish in its design, and which, among its most notable variances from the original, adds chain mail armor, especially to the formerly sleeveless arms, as well as to the formerly blue-clad legs. This newer costume has been generally well-received by the fans, and was certainly the basis for the costume in the movie. Although the cinematic costume didn't have armored legs, it certainly had armored arms.

In the Thor movie, Thor is bereft of his powers and any real semblance of his Asgardian glory for much of the film, and is generally seen in a T-shirt and jeans. When he finally regains his powers, it's back to full battle mode and full armor. Since Thor has not been exiled to Earth in the Avengers movie, the T-shirt and jeans look is gone, but there's a sort of "interim" costume that he wears that is sleeveless and unarmored, doubtless a nod to his classic look. But when it comes time to do battle with Loki and his invading army, Thor is once again in full battle mode, and this is, of course, reflected in the figure.

The headsculpt is an excellent likeness of the character and actor as he appears in the movie. No great surprise, Thor's rather lengthy locks of hair were sculpted as a separate piece and attached to the rest of the head during factory assembly. Thor's facial features are very well painted, and nicely detailed. He has a decidedly stern expression on his face. The eyes, are very neatly done, with distinct whites, irises, pupils, and little white dots for light reflected. Also neatly painted is the beard.

Thor's costume is something I would describe as a fancier, perhaps more elegant take on both his original iconic costume, and his modern costume from the comics. The majority of the costume is a very dark blue. The chest has ornate grey-silver details on it, including a series of six circles, just like the classic Thor, although these are worked more effectively into the design of the costume, with the uppermost two being part of what holds the cape in place, and the lowermost two being part of an ornate belt. There is also some fancy design sculpting in silver down the front, and some very interesting and intricate texturing in the dark blue areas bordering the silver details.

Thor's leggings are fairly straightforward, while his boots seem to combine a sort of semi-medieval look, not atypical for Asgardians, with a limited bit of high-tech. The knee pads, silver in color, have a certain high-tech look to them, and the rest of the boots seem to have protective features, and yet they seem to have straps emanating from the top. It's an interesting combination. The feet of the boots are especially well detailed, especially along the sides near the soles. The undersides of his boots are very finely treaded.

Thor's arms are clad in gray-silver chain mail armor from shoulder to past the elbows, with his lower arms being protected by some fancy gauntlets, although his hands are not gloved.

Thor has a flowing red cape. It's carefully secured at the shoulders, merged with some clasps sculpted into the silver armor pattern, but it's also glued along the top of the back, somewhat akin to DC Universe Classics figures in this regard. This might seem excessive, but the cape is a bit heavy, and I think if it had been glued just at the shoulders it might not have stayed put.

The cape is very highly detailed, with a texture to it that makes it seem as though it's made from thin fur, as much as anything. The cape is a little pre-posed to look like the base of it is flapping to one side, but it's not as though it looks like the entire thing is blowing in the wind, so I can live with it. As noted, it is rather heavy, and it does give Thor some slight balance problems, but this can be overcome.

Thor has a fair amount of painted detailing on him, all of which has been superbly done. And the figure is also very highly articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.

Thor comes with an accessory, and of course, it's his hammer, Mjolnir. Very nicely sculpted, Mjolnir is about two inches long, with a narrow handle and strap that the figure can hold, colored in brown, and a pewter gray mallet at the end of it that, along with calling up thunder and lightning at Thor's behest, looks like it could give anybody a nasty headache if applied with any measurable force.

Thor also comes with a display base, a feature that all of the figures in this series have. Although Thor is capable of standing on his own two feet, and I normally eschew the use of display bases, if his cape causes him to topple too often, it might be a viable option.

So, what's my final word? As I said earlier, I tend to like my super-heroes a little larger than most. There's nothing wrong with the 4" scale, but I am truly delighted that Hasbro and Walmart got together to turn out this excellent 6" scale series of figures based on the Avengers movie, and the 7-1/4" Thor in this series is definitely highly impressive. Certainly any fan of the movie, or of Marvel Comics in general, should track down this figure.

The AVENGERS 6" MOVIE SERIES figure of THOR, exclusive to Walmart, definitely has my highest recommendation!