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REVIEW:
MARVEL LEGENDS LUKE CAGE and PSYLOCKE
By Thomas Wheeler



The 1970's were known for two particular genres in popular entertainment
- martial arts, and urban gang movies. These two genres were pretty far removed from each other, but other forms of popular entertainment managed to take advantage of both of them.

In the case of Marvel Comics, their main martial arts guy was a character known as Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu. But he tended to be almost outside the Marvel Universe. He was part of it, but distantly. More embroiled in the world of "super-heroes" was Iron Fist, a young man named Danny Rand, an American who had been raised in an interdimensional realm called K'un L'un, that had just about every cliche from a martial arts movie you could ask for.

The urban guy was called Luke Cage, known before long as Power Man. What was incredible was that Marvel Comics eventually teamed these two characters together into a title called POWER MAN AND IRON FIST, which actually managed a decently successful run.

A while back, Marvel Legends released an Iron Fist figure. I added him to my collection, and I was really hoping that they were going to do Luke Cage, as well. I mean, here were the Marvel representations of two 1970's cliches in entertainment, part of a 21st century collection of excellent action figures. It was so danged funny that I couldn't pass it up.

Fortunately, Luke Cage has come along, as part of the newest assortment of Marvel Legends figures, the so-called "Mojo" assortment, because the multi-part "Build-A-Figure" is Mojo, a character who has turned up in the X-Men from time to time. Mojo is an extra-dimensional tyrant who maintains his power base by providing a never-ending stream of video entertainment to his empire. He's astoundingly obese, and he'd probably be the first one to appreciate turning out modern-day action figures of characters who had their primary day in the sun roughly 30 years ago.

Iron Fist's look hasn't changed all that much over the decades. Luke Cage's, on the other hand, has. I was sincerely hoping that we were going to get "Classic Luke", and thankfully, we did.

By means of an origin, Luke Cage, was essentially an alias for a wrongly- convicted man known only as Lucas. Years later, he would legally change his name. Sentenced to a prison where brutality from the guards was pretty much the order of the day, Cage eventually allowed himself to be subjected to certain medical experiments. One of the guards tried to sabotage the experiment, but this attempt backfired in the worst way possible. Cage not only survived, but he gained super-strength, and super-dense skin that was outright bulletproof. He escaped from the prison, and returned to New York City, taking the new alias "Luke Cage", designing a distinctly 70's uniform for himself that even he realized was a little odd, "but that's part of the super-hero game", and hiring out his services as -- as the title indicated -- a Hero For Hire.

Eventually Cage took on the name Power Man, having to defeat a super- villain who had used the same name for a time in order to keep it. Interestingly, that villain, originally known as Goliath, real name Eric Josten, ultimately became Atlas, a member of the Thunderbolts.

Precisely when he became involved with Iron Fist I do not personally recall. Probably not long after Iron Fist's own short-lived title bit the dust. The numbering system for Power Man and Iron Fist picked up on Power Man's title.

Over the years, Cage went on to be a fill-in member on the Fantastic Four for a time, was briefly involved with the Defenders, and pretty much set himself in good terms with most of the super-hero community, even though he really didn't fit all that well in their upper echelons. He was more of a street-level hero, along the lines of Daredevil and some others. Apart from his time with the Fantastic Four, he tended to stay out of the cosmic-level stuff. Although I do recall hearing that there was one story where he went up against Doctor Doom over a debt of $50. Cage might not have wanted to have anything to do with universe- spanning adventures, but that didn't mean that he was afraid of much of anybody, either.

More recently, Cage has been a member of the Avengers, up until the Civil War storyline which has once again shattered that team. His look has changed over the years. He's shaved his head and doesn't much go in for costumes. But he's still the toughest bad-dude on the block, no question about that whatsoever.

The figure, thankfully, is of the original Luke Cage. And it's really a superb action figure for the most part. The headsculpt is perfect. Here is Luke Cage with his moderate afro, silver headband, and really mean facial expression. The figure is wearing Cage's traditional yellow shirt. This was almost a running gag in the title for a while. These shirts had a tendency to get torn up on a regular basis. Cage's skin may have been bulletproof, but the shirts weren't. I remember one hysterical sequence in a comic book where Cage walked into a tailor's shop, apparently a tailor to the heroes, and he picked up a dozen new yellow shirts. On his way out, another guy walks in wearing a long coat and torn purple pants, and the tailor says, "Hi, Dr. Banner, I have your pants right here..." (and if you need that joke explained, read more comics...)

Now here's the odd thing about the Luke Cage figure. I initially thought it had been miscolored to some degree. The photograph of the figure, obviously a prototype, on the back of the package showed Cage wearing dark blue leg tights, and entirely yellow boots, which is how he is best known. But the figure had black tights, and black boots, with only the tops of the boots being yellow. What the heck was this?

Then I noticed the cover of the comic book that was included. It was Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1. And sure enough, the cover image had the figure wearing black boots with yellow tops, and the tights, arguably, could be black. That part of it is a bit of a toss-up, but it's possible. So obviously Toy Biz decided to go with a REALLY retro Luke Cage. This could almost be considered a "First Appearance" Luke Cage. And I don't think it's a variant. There is no variant planned for this figure. Mind you, in the world of Marvel Legends, that hasn't necessarily stopped Toy Biz from coming up with one. No one expected a variant of Captain Britain, either, and we got one, and it was an improvement. Anybody sees a Luke Cage with blue leg-tights and all- yellow boots out there, I'd like to know about it.

The other unusual detail that wasn't shown on the figure on the back was a heavy chain-link belt. But again, this is something that the illustration of the character in the comic book is shown as having, so they apparently decided to include it at the last second. It's not a bad touch, either.

Paint work, for the most part, is excellent. Toy Biz CAN be a little sloppy at times, but I don't really see any evidence of that here. There's also not a lot to be painted on this figure, for that matter. But what is painted, is, for the most part, painted very neatly. About my only complaint at all is that the right leg is a little loose at the hip joint. But this could just be a quirk of this particular figure I bought, and certainly isn't unheard of in the action figure world in general. I just tend to be a perfectionist.

The articulation is what one would expect it to be for a Marvel Legends figure -- considerable. But there's a couple of odd points. The right hand is formed into a fist, but the left hand is open, and all four fingers are individually articulated. In theory, this means that Cage could give someone the one-finger salute with his left hand -- right before smashing them in the face with the other hand. Also, the waist is not articulated. At least I don't think it is. It looks like it should be, but I can't get it to budge, and I certainly don't want to force it and break the figure. It either isn't articulated, or some of the glue they used to attach the belt got into the seam. I'm just not sure.

One other thing that should be mentioned is the height of the figure. Since Luke Cage tends to be something of a loner most of the time, and isn't really regarded as one of the top-tier characters (recent membership in the Avengers notwithstanding), most people forget just how big he is. Luke's a fairly large individual, and the figure, coming in at almost 7" in a line that's generally regarded as "6-inch scale" certainly reflects this.

Do I recommend LUKE CAGE? Absolutely. For any Marvel Legends collector, it's a cool addition to the line. And if you have any memories of the 70's, then this figure is a near-must-have, especially if you have Iron Fist as well, and if you don't -- go get him. I fully suspect the Toy Biz Marvel Legends figures to vanish pretty quickly once the Hasbro ones start showing up, and that's not far away as I write this.

But LUKE CAGE is definitely cool, and definitely has my recommendation!

Now let's turn our attention to PSYLOCKE.

As with Luke Cage, Psylocke is part of the "Mojo" assortment of Marvel Legends figures. Not surprisingly, she's the only female figure in the assortment. Psylocke is Elizabeth "Betsy" Braddock, initially a mid-level telepath and sister to Brian Braddock - a.k.a. Captain Britain. Somewhere along the way, though, Braddock was kidnapped by the ninja organization known as The Hand. They trained her in the ways of ninja, altered her body to that of a young Japanese woman, and her powers now enabled her to wield a "psychic knife", a form of telepathic energy that, if sent into a person's mind, was basically the next best thing to a temporary lobotomy, just a whole lot more painful.

Braddock kept her purple hair -- and British accent, apparently, even though that was a little difficult to convey in the silent comics. Mention of it was made, of course. As the new Psylocke, she also picked up a new costume, which largely amounted to a one-piece dark blue "swimsuit", and high gloves and boots that became straps the further up they went. An interesting and attractive design, that probably served to distract some foes in battle -- like a Japanese woman with purple hair and a British accent wasn't distracting enough.

I'm honestly not sure what Psylocke's present status is. I believe she was killed somewhere along the way, but like half of the current Marvel Universe, found a way back from that.

Psylocke has been around long enough so that this isn't the first figure of her, and in fact there was even a cloth-costumed Famous Covers version of her several years ago.

Psylocke's costume is not easily translated into an action figure format, largely due to the straps. However, Toy Biz found a rather clever and effective way to handle this. The figure alternates between using blue plastic and flesh-tone plastic for its parts, whichever color is the most prominent on any given section, and then paints the rest accordingly if needed. This isn't the first time this technique has been used on action figures of course, but the tricky part is getting it to work and to stand up to a fair bit of scrutiny. If the paint is laid on too thick, it stands out too much. Also, color matching can be surprisingly difficult. I have to say, Toy Biz did a heck of a job with Psylocke. I actually had to study the figure fairly closely on certain parts to figure out what the plastic color actually was.

As for articulation, it's really superb on this figure. Boasting 30 points of articulation, the overall assembly is extremely well done, and not the least bit pre-posed. I was honestly reminded of another toy line, the Japanese Microman series, when studying the articulation on this figure. Sometimes Marvel Legends figures can have rather loose articulation points. Psylocke doesn't have this problem. She can stand in a straightforward fashion, and assume a wide range of poses well in keeping with her ninja training.

A word about the headsculpt. It looks good, don't get me wrong. But it's also a little -- peculiar. It doesn't look especially Japanese. Honestly, it looks a lot more like what Ms. Braddock looked like before she was altered by the ninja clan. Strange.

Psylocke comes with the "back lower torso/stomach" section of Mojo, a surprisingly small piece of this massive tub of lard.

The comic book that comes with Psylocke is a reprint of Uncanny X-Men #258, given a new cover for this particular edition, and for good reason. Psylocke's costume within is quite different than the one with which fans are most familiar. Apart from the top, she seems to be wearing spandex bicycle pants. Somewhere along the way, I suppose she cut these down to her more familiar costume.

The story, which has Psylocke still working for The Hand and digging around inside Wolverine's head telepathically (NOT a good idea), also featured Jubilee going up against the super-villain known as The Mandarin, usually an enemy of Iron Man. By the end of the story, Psylocke has been freed from The Hand's control, and the heroes basically escape with their lives after trashing the villains' headquarters.

Overall, I'm sincerely impressed by Psylocke. Predictably, I think Psylocke is short-packed, and Marvel Legends clearly remains an incredibly hot action figure line in a time when "hot action figure line" is almost a contradiction in terms. But I've been seeing displays of this Marvel Legends assortment that seems to have everybody EXCEPT Psylocke and the "First Appearance Iron Man" in it, although why anybody would want that ugly lump of metal is beyond me.

Do I recommend Psylocke? Absolutely! Assuming you can find her. And you know how tricky ninjas can be -- even purple-haired Japanese-looking ones with British accents...