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REVIEW: CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS SERIES KMART EXCLUSIVE "INTERNATIONAL PATRIOTS" BOXED SET
By Thomas Wheeler

There is no doubt that the summer of 2011 is the summer of the super-hero movie. No less than four super-hero based movies have graced the silver screen this season, including Green Lantern, Thor, X-Men First Class, and -- CAPTAIN AMERICA!

Of course, most of these movies have had action figure tie-ins (X-Men didn't for some odd reason). The two relative latecomers to the cinema were Green Lantern and Captain America, resulting in an action figure section in many stores that seemed to alternate between green, and red-white-and-blue -- as well as an expanded Transformers section for the toys from their third live-action movie.

As with most action figure lines these days, there are store exclusives. This, of course, includes the toys based on the Captain America movie. What surprises me is that one of the store exclusives went to Kmart. Now -- I have no problem with Kmart. But let's be honest, they're not the powerhouse retailer they used to be. They're not really thought of in the same breath as Walmart and Target as they once were. And in fact my town of Tucson has only one Kmart left.

However, when I learned of the Kmart Captain America exclusive, I knew I had to at least try to track it down, and I was successful in doing so. The Captain America movie line, much like the Iron Man 2 movie line, is broken down into three distinct segments. There is the Movie Series, which features characters derived and based upon the film, of course; the Concept Series, which tends to feature variants of figures based largely on the movie incarnation of Captain America; and there is the Comic Series, which features characters from the world of Marvel Comics, who have some degree of connection with Captain America.

The Kmart Captain America exclusive emanated from the Comic Series, and is a three-pack of figures dubbed THE INTERNATIONAL PATRIOTS. It features three heroes, distinctly affiliated with their respective nations, and includes Captain America, Captain Britain, and Russia's Red Guardian!

Let's consider each of these characters and figures individually.

CAPTAIN AMERICA - Captain America is one of very few characters known to modern Marvel audiences that actually predates the Marvel Universe. Alongside Namor the Sub-Mariner and the original, android Human Torch, these characters were actually first published in the late 1930's and early 1940's, around the same time as DC, then known as National Comics, was turning out the early adventures of Superman and Batman in what would come to be called the Golden Age of Comics.

Unlike Superman and Batman, Cap and his contemporaries, published by then Timely Comics, would largely fall by the wayside in the early 1950's. When the "Marvel Age of Comics" got rolling in the 1960's, with the development of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, and others, it was decided to bring back some of these characters from the past decades. Particularly in Captain America's case, that jump over time has become an integral part of his backstory.

Captain America first appeared in Captain America Comics #1, which debuted in March of 1941, and was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. An intentionally patriotic character who was often depicted as fighting the Axis powers of World War II, Captain America was Timely Comics' most popular character during the wartime period.

After the war ended, the character's popularity wanted and he disappeared by the 1950's. There was an ill-fated attempt at a revival in 1953, when Marvel's 1950's iteration, known as Atlas Comics, attempted to revive some of its superhero titled. Cap was billed as "Captain America, Commie Smasher". This lasted less than a year. Another false Captain America turned up in a story featuring the modern Human Torch of the Fantastic Four, which appeared in 1963. In the story, Johnny Storm believes he has encountered the original Captain America, who has returned after years of retirement. This Cap, however, turned out to be a villain named the Acrobat, but the story was a means of testing the waters to see if readers would like the real Captain America to return.

Captain America was then formally reintroduced in The Avengers #4, in 1964, which explained that in the final days of World War II, he had fallen from an experimental drone plane into the North Atlantic and spent decades frozen in a block of ice in a state of suspended animation. He quickly became the leader of the Avengers, trying to adapt to modern life.

As to his specific origin: Steve Rogers was born July 4, 1917, in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, to Sarah and Joseph Rogers. His father died when Steve was only a child and his mother died of pneumonia when Steve was a teenager. By early 1940, before America's entry into World War II, Rogers was a tall but scrawny fine arts student. Disturbed by the rise of the Third Reich, Rogers attempts to enlist, only to be rejected due to being in poor condition.

U.S. Army General Chester Phillips, looking for test subjects, offers Rogers the chance to serve his country by taking part in a top-secret defense project - Operation: Rebirth, which seeks to develop a means of creating physically superior soldiers. Rogers volunteers for the research and, after a rigorous selection process, is chosen as the first human test subject for the Super-Soldier serum developed by the scientist "Dr. Josef Reinstein", later retroactively changed to a code-name for the scientist Abraham Erskine.

Operation: Rebirth is implemented, and Rogers receives injections and oral doses of the Super-Soldier Serum. He is then exposed to a controlled burst of "Vita-Rays" that activate and stabilize the chemicals in his system/ Although the process is arduous physically, is successfully alters his physiology almost instantly from its relatively frail form to the maximum of human efficiency, greatly enhancing his musculature and reflexes. Erskine declares Rogers to be the first of a new breed of man, a "nearly perfect human being."

After the physical transformation, a Nazi spy reveals himself and shoots Erskine. Because the scientist had committed the crucial portions of the Super-Soldier process only to memory, it cannot be duplicated. The spy is killed, but he has done his work.

The United States government, deciding to make the most of its one super-soldier and to hide all information about Operation: Rebirth, re-imagines Rogers as a superhero who serves both as a counterintelligence agent and as a patriotic symbol to counter Nazi Germany's head of terrorist operations, the Red Skull. To that end, Rogers is given a uniform modeled after the American flag, and based on Rogers' own sketches, a bulletproof shield, and the code-name Captain America.

He is given a cover identity as a clumsy infantry private at Camp Lehigh in Virginia. Barely out of his teens himself, Rogers makes friends with the camp's teenage mascot, James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes. Barnes accidentally learns of Rogers' dual identity and offers to keep the secret if he can become Captain America's sidekick. Rogers agrees and trains Barnes.

Later, Rogers meets President Roosevelt, who presents him with a new, circular shield, forged from an alloy of steel and vibranium, fused by an unknown catalyst. The alloy is indestructible, yet the shield is light enough that it can be used as a discus-like weapon and readily thrown, and so well balanced that it can be angled to return to him.

Throughout World War II, Captain America and Bucky fight the Nazi menace, as well as various Nazi-affiliated super-villains. In late April 1945, during the closing days of World War II, Captain America and Bucky try to stop Baron Zemo from destroying an experimental drone plane. Zemo launches the plane with an armed explosive on it, with Rogers and Barnes in hot pursuit. They reach the plant just before it takes off, but when Bucky attempts to defuse the bomb, it explodes in mid-air. Bucky is believed killed, and Rogers is hurled into the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. Both are presumed dead.

Years later, the newly-formed superhero team The Avengers discovers Steve Rogers' body in the North Atlantic, his costume under his soldier's fatigues and still carrying his shield. He has spent the intervening time frozen in a block of ice, and worshiped by a local tribe of natives, until (ironically enough), an enraged Namor, one-time teammate of Cap, having recently lost a battle, comes upon the scene and flings the block of ice, Cap and all, into the ocean, where the ice begins to melt. After Cap revises, the Avengers piece together that Rogers has been preserved in a block of ice since 1945, surviving only because of the enhancements of Operation: Rebirth.

Captain America has since remained a man out of time -- often increasingly out of time as his World War II origin remains intact, unlike other heroes who have shifted forward somewhat in their origins as the decades have gone by. Steve Rogers has a fondness for music from the 1930's and 40's, which strikes many of his friends as distinctly odd given his apparent youthful age, and on at least one occasion, Captain America has made a decidedly disparaging remark about the Internet.

On the heels of the events of "Civil War", and as part of what I feel is the increased politicization of Marvel Comics, Steve Rogers was assassinated. Ultimately, Rogers returned, although he allowed his former sidekick, Bucky Barnes, who had also survived, to retain the role of Captain America, which he had undertook. However, as of this writing, there are plans to return Steve Rogers to the role of Captain America.

As to his powers and abilities, technically, Captain America has no superhuman powers, although as a result of Operation: Rebirth, he is as close to a perfect specimen of human development and conditioning as is possible. Captain America's strength, endurance, agility, speed, reflexes, durability, and healing are at the highest limits of natural human potential. Rogers' battle experience and training make him an expert tactician and an excellent field commander. Roger's reflexes and senses are also extraordinarily keen. He has blended judo, western boxing, kickboxing, and gymnastics into his own unique fighting style, and is a master of multiple martial arts. Years of practice with his indestructible shield make him able to aim and throw it with almost unerring accuracy. Rogers has vast U.S. Military knowledge and is often shown to be familiar with ongoing, classified Defense Department operations. He is an expert in combat strategy, survival, acrobatics, military strategy, piloting, and demolitions. Rogers also has a broad understanding of the espionage community, largely through an ongoing relationship with S.H.I.E.L.D. In his civilian identity, he has held careers in law enforcement, commercial art, and even comic book illustration.

So, how's the figure? Excellent. It's not at all based on the movie version of Cap, and in fact is essentially identical to an individually-sold Captain America figure from the Comic Series branch called "Heavy Artillery" Captain America, and it is precisely what I have wanted in a Captain America figure -- it's a good, straightforward figure of Captain America as he is best known. And this really is an outstanding figure.

Captain America stands very slightly over 4" in height, and has a good, muscular physique. Cap wears a blue cowl with a white "A" on the forehead. His eyes, lower face, and ears are exposed. There are tiny little white wings on the sides of his cowl. I've never entirely understood the purpose to these, if there is one, but I know that he doesn't look quite right without them.

The upper torso and upper arms of Cap's uniform are also dark blue, with a scaled look to them, representing the fact that they're armored. There is a white star on the chest and on the back of Cap's costume. The abdomen is alternating wide stripes of red and white. While the illustration of these stripes has tended to vary over the years, these days it's fairly traditional to have a red stripe in the center, and have the stripes be broad enough so that there are three red stripes evident on the front, and three on the back. And this is how the figure has been designed.

Cap has a black belt with a silver buckle, dark blue leggings, and red boots with folded cuffs. His lower arms starting at the bicep are white, and he is wearing red gloves with a slight flair to them.

The figure has been very skillfully done, with all details just as they should be. The abdominal stripes are sculpted as well as painted, and they are very neatly painted. The scaled ridges on the upper torso are intricate and orderly -- which can't have been easy for the sculptors.

Most significant to me is the neatness of the stars on the front and back, and the "A" on the forehead. The number of times I have seen these messed up over the years...! I realize that the shape of the star is open to some artistic interpretation, and some artists like to draw it large and wide, but I've always felt that it should be as regular-looking a star as possible, and that's precisely what this is.

Also of significance is the "A" on the forehead. I've seen this messed up, as well. Some artists like to draw the "A" with a fairly wide bar at the top, as well as the crossbar further down. Now, according to how I learned to write the alphabet, the letter "A" is a fairly triangular letter. Fortunately, on this figure, somebody remembered that. I'm not sure what font this is, and it's imprinted onto the figure's forehead, not even sculpted on (but somehow, that makes it look more authentic and appropriate), but it's a good, proper, bold letter "A". This is how Captain America should be.

The paintwork is excellent. His face is superbly well painted, and well sculpted. Captain America's face rightly reflects an image of heroic determination. His eyes, which are blue, have been very neatly painted. I never fail to be impressed by how it's possible to paint such tiny eye details on such a small figure, but it's something that Hasbro excels at in any number of their lines, many of which are of a similar scale to this one.

Of course, the figure's articulation is excellent. Captain America is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including a swivel), mid-torso, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. The upper leg swivel is interesting, as it's not quite the ball-and-socket design that some early Marvel figures had (and which honestly didn't work that well), but neither is it the more G.I. Joe-like leg construction that more recent Marvel Universe figures have had. It's somewhere in between, and honestly, it works very well, and looks decent.

Let's discuss the shield. Of course he has his shield. For one thing, it's a pretty good size. It's about 1-3/4" in diameter. Secondly, the detailing on it is perfect, and even moreso given that it's painted on, not sculpted in. Cap's shield features a series of concentric stripes -- red, then white, then red again, before ending with a dark blue circle in the center that has a white star in it. This shield is slightly different from the one sold with the individual figure, in that it lacks the slight metallic finish that that particular figure has. Not a big deal.

Overall, it's really an outstanding Captain America figure. Now let's consider the next figure in the set --

CAPTAIN BRITAIN - Captain Britain's backstory is almost as convoluted as his publishing history, especially since the latter is split between two countries. The character first appeared in Captain Britain Weekly #1, in October 1976, created by Chris Claremont and Herb Trimpe.

Until 1978, the character appeared exclusively in Marvel's UK comics, although some established Marvel characters such as the Black Knight, and Captain America did appear. However, Marvel's American comics didn't reference these stories or acknowledge that Captain Britain was part of the mainstream Marvel Universe.

In 1978, however, Chris Claremont fully integrated him into the Marvel Universe in a story that starred Spider-Man, and showcased Captain Britain's first visit to the United States. Originally published as a black and white story in the UK's "Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain" title, the story was subsequently colored and presented in the United States in two issues of the Marvel Team-Up title which starred Spider-Man. The two heroes went up against the maniacal assassin Arcade.

Captain Britain subsequently appeared in a minor role in another Marvel limited series, 1982's Contest of Champions, which introduced a number of international heroes. The character was later relaunched, in a redesigned costume, in the Marvel Superheroes title in England. Cap would move around to a number of different titles, finally gaining his own monthly Captain Britain title in the UK.

Once this was canceled, Marvel launched the American comic Excalibur, featuring a team of mostly mutant superheroes operating out of Europe. Captain Britain was one of the core members of this group. He has since been part of a revised Excalibur team, and a new series was launched in 2008, using the Secret Invasion storyline as a launchpad, titled "Captain Britain and MI:13".

As to the character's origin and story, Brian Braddock was born and raised in the small town of Maldon, Essex, and educated at Fettes College in Edinburgh. He was a shy and studious youth, living a relatively quiet life and spending most of his time with his parents and siblings. The family were an aristocratic one who were no longer wealthy enough to fraternize with their former peers, leaving Brian a lonely child who immersed himself in the study of physics.

After the death of his parents in what seemed to be a laboratory accident, Brian took a fellowship at Darkmoor Nuclear Research Centre. When the facility was attacked by the technological criminal Joshua Stragg, Brian tried to find help by escaping on his motorcycle. He crashed his bike in a nearly fatal accident, whereupon the ancient wizard Merlyn and his daughter Roma appeared to him. They gave him the chance to be the superhero Captain Britain. He is offered a choice - the Amulet of Right or the Sword of Might. Considering himself to be no warrior and unsuited for the challenge, he rejects the sword and chooses the amulet. This choice transforms Brian Braddock into Captain Britain.

It was later revealed the Braddock is only one member of a much larger, inter-dimensional corps of protectors. Every Earth in the Marvel Multiverse has its own Captain Britain, although some go by different names, who are expected to defend Britain and the world, and uphold British law.

Braddock would begin his career as a super-hero, garnering something of a "rogue's gallery" of villains, although due no doubt to the mystical nature of his origins, he would begin fighting more and more supernatural enemies than conventional super-villains.

Following his adventures in America, he came under a mental attack by the demonic Necromon. He spend two years as a hermit on the Cornish coast, repairing his psyche. He was eventually called to Merlyn's service again, fighting alongside the Black Knight. His memories were partially restored, and Cap and the Knight would go on to fight several battles together, subsequent to which was Cap's appearance in the Contest of Champions.

Eventually, after some further bizarre and largely interdimensional adventures, Captain Britain was returned to Earth, but this was actually an alternate Earth that had been conquered by a British dictatorship. It was around this time that Braddock's uniform was modified by Merlyn, who merged the powers of the Amulet of Right with another object called the Star Sceptre.

Eventually, Captain Britain was returned to the correct Earth, and after some further adventures, following the apparent death of the X-Men, which at that point had also included Braddock's sister, Psylocke, a group of heroes including former X-Men Nightcrawler and Shadowcat, as well as Phoenix III and Meggan, join Braddock to form Excalibur, Great Britain's premier super-team, in an effort to continue the work of the X-Men.

His adventures would continue with Excalibur, and on his own, for years. Currently, Captain Britain is part of MI:13 a British intelligence agency. This storyline spun out of events of the Secret Invasion. After fighting Skrull forces in London, Brian was dispatched to secure Avalon and this the world's magic from Skrull forces. Brian is left uncomfortable having to kill Skrulls as part of the battle. Attempting to divert a missile fired by the Skrulls, Braddock was killed in a vicious explosion.

But, hey, nobody ever stays dead for long in the comics. He was resurrected by Merlyn, and after taking possession of the legendary sword Excalibur, was told by Merlyn that his revived form will no longer be plagued by doubts, and he represents a unified symbol of the United Kingdom. He has increased powers and theoretically no limits, but this is reliant on his own personal level of confidence. While he has chosen to continue to work with MI:13 and their super-hero team, he has stated that the super-heroes will no longer kill. Recently, during an international meeting between Steve Rogers and MI:13, Captain Britain was offered a job with the Avengers, which he accepted.

As to his powers and abilities -- well, those have sort of been all over the place, as well. Originally, Captain Britain's powers were linked to the mystical Amulet of Right. He also possessed a mace-like Star Sceptre, which he could use like a quarterstaff and which also gave him the power of flight. Later, Merlyn changed his costume, fusing the powers of the Amulet and the Scepter into the new uniform, and then integrating these powers into Braddock himself.

Brian Braddock possesses superhuman strength, speed, stamina, durability, reflexes, senses, and the ability to fly at supersonic speeds. He also possesses enhanced perceptions that allow him to be aware of things others may miss, especially in the realm of the supernatural. However, the level of his powers are tied into his emotional state. If he's feeling determined and confident, then he's very powerful, but if he begins to doubt himself, then his powers wane.

So, how's the figure? Really very nicely done. It should be noted that there is an individually-sold Captain Britain figure in the Comic Series branch of the Captain America line, but the Captain Britain in this three-pack is very much a different figure.

It comes down to the fact that Captain Britain has had a number of costumes over the years. I believe one of the problems in outfitting the character to be as distinctively British as his name applies, indeed to be as British in appearance as Captain America is American in appearance, using the colors and symbology of the flag, was the presence of another British super-hero known as Union Jack, whose costume was definitely very reflective of the British flag -- right down to the character's name, really.

Captain Britain's original costume was predominantly red, with a gold lion-like emblem on the front of it. Arguably his best known costume, the one used on the individually-sold figure, is somewhat more apparently British, without stepping on Union Jack's toes too much, and features Cap wearing a largely red helmet, with a red torso, with blue and white trim more or less in the shape of the British flag, with predominantly white tights and black boots.

The Captain Britain included in the three-pack features the character in his most recent uniform, as seen in the MI:13 title. Interestingly, the costume is perhaps the most British-looking of all, and as such is also the closest to the costume of the character Union Jack, but is still far enough removed to not be identical.

This figure has Cap wearing a red cowl, very similar to his previous costume's helmet, but looking more like a mask than a helmet. This is interesting in that, in the artistic references I was able to call up for the figure, Brian Braddock was entirely unmasked. At any rate, like the previous helmet, the red cowl has markings on the sides in blue and red, outlined in white, that look like portions of the British flag.

Captain Britain's costume is almost entirely dark blue, except for an area around the upper torso, which on the front and back is clearly designed to resemble the British flag. The sleeves in particular have long red stripes down them, again outlined in white, to complete the likeness.

Captain Britain also has black boots identical to those of the other Captain Britain figure. This is notable since that figure doesn't quite match the comic likeness, and the main reason is the boots, which on that version should have been higher. Still, they're both cool and distinctive versions of Captain Britain.

As expected, the figure is very well-articulated, and neatly painted. The latter can't have been all that easy, since the British flag ornamentation is painted but not sculpted on, except for the cowl details, and extends down the arms. Fortunately, whomever painted this figure had exemplary precision.

Captain Britain comes with a sword, doubtless intended to be Excalibur. It's very nicely done and, at nearly 3" in height, for a figure that stands not quite 4-1/4", isn't something I'd want to be on the wrong end of, legendary or not.

Now, let's consider the Russian entry in this three-pack --

RED GUARDIAN - Unlike Captain America and Captain Britain, Red Guardian doesn't have a figure anywhere else in the Captain America movie line. He is unique to this set.

Like quite a number of Russian/Soviet super-heroes, Red Guardian is a name that has been applied to a number of individuals. Take a look at the number of people that have worn the armors of Titanium Man and Crimson Dynamo if you don't believe me.

Interestingly enough, there was actually a Golden Age version of the Red Guardian, although little is known of him. He began his career during World War II and met the All-Winners Squad, formerly the Invaders, on only one recorded occasion, shortly after the war's end. As one might well imagine, he was created as a Soviet counterpart to Captain America. However, his costume differed markedly from those of his successors.

The Red Guardian most probably represented by the action figure in this set first appeared in Avengers #43, published in 1967, and was created by Roy Thomas and John Buscema -- which is a heck of a pedigree in the business.

Alexei Alanovich Shostakov was born in Moscow, and was the husband of Natasha Romanova, later known as the Black Widow. He became a test pilot and KGB agent, and then trained as a Soviet counterpart to Captain America, becoming the Red Guardian.

Alexei was one of the Soviet Union's most acclaimed pilots. During World War II on the Eastern Front, he shot down a large number of Luftwaffe fighter planes in aerial battles and was credited for helping the Soviet Air Force win air supremacy over the skies of Stalingrad and Kursk.

Because of his extraordinary skill, he was chosen for the most secret and dangerous tests and new aircraft for the Soviet Union. This included being the first pilot to test-fly the MiG 15. However, the Soviet state-controlled news media greatly publicized certain other missions of his, and Shostakov was decorated as a Hero of the Soviet Union.

Later on, the KGB faked his death and trained him in secret, keeping his survival hidden from his wife. He became a master of hand-to-hand combat and an expert athlete. In addition, he carried a throwing disc on his belt which could be used against an opponent. Magnetic force returned the disc after throwing. While the Black Widow became disillusioned with her KGB masters and defected to the United States, the Red Guardian became more ruthless and increasingly vindictive.

The Red Guardian battled the Avengers with his Chinese ally Colonel Ling, to protect a Communist Chinese secret weapon located at a secret military base at an unrevealed location in the People's Republic of China, encountering the Black Widow and Captain America. When the Black Widow noticed "something familiar" about him, he revealed his identity to her.

Red Guardian was shot and mortally wounded minutes later by Colonel Ling while saving the lives of Black Widow and Captain America. He was buried under molten lava when a laser blast caused the eruption of a long-dormant volcano.

Arguably the best known Red Guardian was the second one, a woman named Dr. Tania Belinsky, who adopted the costumed identity of the Red Guardian and joined the Defenders. She would later go on to be mutated by a being known as The Presence, and take the name Starlight.

The next Red Guardian was Josef Petkus, who first appeared in Captain America #352-353, in 1989. He subsequently appeared in the Avengers, the Incredible Hulk, and the Soviet Super-Soldiers special. He would later take on the name Steel Guardian in Iron Man #9 in 1998.

He was a special operative for the intelligence agencies of the Soviet Union, and appeared as a member of the militant group known as the Supreme Soviets. He later teamed with Captain America, and later on, as part of the team now known as the People's Protectorate, formerly the Supreme Soviets, he teamed with the Avengers and Alpha Flight to battle such threats as the Peace Corpse, the Atlantean Army, and the Combine. He later joined the post-Soviet Russian super-team known as the Winter Guard, which is when he changed his name to Steel Guardian. He was killed in the line of duty battling the alien Dire Wraiths.

Other Red Guardians have included Krassno Granitsky, an unnamed sixth Red Guardian, and a seventh known only as Anton.

So, how's the figure? Extremely cool. I would have to say that the costume design is most closely based on Shostakov, with a few highlights of Belinsky and Petkus thrown in, and maybe a few details unique to the figure.

However, as one might expect with a figure representing a Russian character who was created when the Soviet Union still existed and the Cold War was still in full swing, there are some interesting attributes, one of which is found on the packaging. Each of the three figures is "backed" by a shield-like emblem. In the case of both Captain America and Captain Britain, those emblems greatly resemble the Stars-and-Stripes, and the Union Jack. However, Red Guardian's does NOT resemble the old Hammer-and-Sickle. Rather, it uses the colors of the modern-day flag of Russia, which is three broad stripes of white, blue, and red.

However, if one looks close at the figure -- and it's even more apparent on the photo of the prototype of the figure as shown on the back of the package -- the belt buckle very clearly has a small hammer-and-sickle emblem on it.

Just to make things even more confusing, there's the matter of the figure's shield. Now, at least one incarnation of the Red Guardian did carry a shield. Similar to Captain America's, it was a large, disc shaped shield. But this shield isn't. It's more of a badge-shaped shield, red in color, with ornate silver carving on it that makes it look very much like a coat of arms. Honestly, it almost looks British, but a friend of mine pointed out to me that what it really resembles is something from the time of the Russian Czars, prior to that of the Soviet Union!

Talk about trying to cover as many historical bases as possible...!

The figure is wearing a black cowl, with a white fin rising up from the center over the top of the head, and white circles over the ears. Interestingly, these have been given a glossy finish. His eyes have been painted white, and the lower part of his face, typical for most superhero mask-cowls, is visible.

Most of his uniform is, not surprisingly, red, although the shoulders and trunks are black, and there is a wide stripe of black down the front and back. His belt, gloves, and boots are white. This is something that has always surprised me about the Red Guardian. Why are these uniform details not yellow? It would have been more in keeping with the colors of the Soviet flag at the time.

Red Guardian has a large white star in the center of his chest -- again somewhat surprising that this is not red -- and two smaller white stars on his shoulders. Unlike Captain America, he does not have a star on his back -- but the figure does have a small peg hole for carrying his shield, just as Captain America does.

Similar to Captain America, the gloves are slightly flared, and the boots have a folded-over cuff. The belt has numerous equipment pouches on it, which is something distinct to the figure. The illustrated versions of Red Guardian that I was able to find online do not show such features. But honestly, given the number of super-heroes wearing "utility belts" these days, you'd think Batman would be making almost as much money as his alter ego Bruce Wayne just in licensing fees...

The belt appears to have been intended to be removable, but it really isn't. It's been somewhat glued into place although it's obvious that there was a clasp intended underneath one of the pouches on the left side. It might be possible to remove the belt, but not without leaving some unpleasant residue and white paint behind, so I don't recommend that. The figure is very neatly painted, and is certainly a distinctive character.

All three figures in this set have excellent articulation, and are fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including a swivel), mid-torso, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. Captain Britain is also poseable at the wrists. Must need a little extra to wave Excalibur around.

So, what's my final word? This is an impressive set. You get a really iconic version of Captain America -- and if you've had trouble finding the single-carded version, here's a second good way to get it. You get a very modern version of Captain Britain. And you get an interesting Russian character in the form of Red Guardian -- and how many Russian character action figures are out there? Really, it's a very cool set, that any Captain America or just general Marvel fan should welcome.

The KMART EXCLUSIVE CAPTAIN AMERICA COMIC SERIES "INTERNATIONAL PATRIOTS" three-pack, featuring CAPTAIN AMERICA, CAPTAIN BRITAIN, and RED GUARDIAN, definitely has my most enthusiastic recommendation!