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REVIEW: IRON MAN ARMORED AVENGER 6" LEGENDS SERIES CRIMSON DYNAMO
By Thomas Wheeler

I have no problem with 4" scale action figures, and that would include G.I. Joe, Star Wars, and certainly, the Marvel Universe line, among others. It would also definitely include, by extension, the Iron Man line of action figures, which has presented a considerable variety of the Armored Avenger, as well as some of his notable allies and enemies, themselves usually of the armored type, with such notables as Titanium Man and Crimson Dynamo being part of the collection.

But, there's still a big part of me that prefers my super-heroes somewhat larger. Maybe it's because my primary super-hero collection is Mattel's DC Universe Classics. Or maybe it's because, before that, I had a pretty good-sized collection of Marvel Legends, from both Toy Biz and Hasbro. Although Mattel's DC Universe Classics continue, the Marvel side of larger-scale super-heroes is a little more sparse at this time, so I tend to keep an eye out whenever I can.

Iron Man in particular has enjoyed a new series of 6" figures. Marketed under the non-movie banner of "Iron Man The Armored Avenger", and specifically designated as the "Legends Series", giving a nod to Marvel Legends, this line has produced some excellent 6" scale figures of Tony Stark in his metal-clad finest, as well as a few other characters.

The first series featured an excellent figure of one of two notable Soviet-based armored characters that have gone up against Iron Man over the years -- Titanium Man. It was announced that the second series of these figures would feature the other Soviet armored character. Although this second series has proven more difficult to track down, I did chance across one and I officially added the CRIMSON DYNAMO to my Iron Man Legends Series collection, and I'm very pleased to have him.

Unlike the Titanium Man, whose figures were largely identical between their 4" and 6" editions, the Legends Series version of the Crimson Dynamo is a distinctly different version of the Crimson Dynamo armor, which has had quite a few versions over the years. The 6" figure is a later edition, but nevertheless a very impressive one.

Let's consider the history of the Crimson Dynamo. The character first appeared in Tales of Suspense #46, in October of 1963, and was created by Stan Lee and Don Heck.

The first Crimson Dynamo was also the creator of the original armor: Professor Anton Vanko. A Soviet scientist of American birth, Vanko was the world's foremost expert on electricity. At the behest of the Soviet government, he built a powered exoskeleton capable of performing incredible feats. The Crimson Dynamo armor allowed Vanko to generate and control electricity in all of its forms, allowing him to fire devastating bolts of lightning and fly using electromagnetic propulsion.

As the Crimson Dynamo, Vanko was tasked by the Russian government with defeating Iron Man, his American counterpart, in battle. After losing to Iron Man, Vanko defected to the United States out of fear that his superiors would kill him for failing. Vanko began to work for Tony Stark as one of his chief scientists, and eventually, the two would become friends. Unfortunately, as he feared, the Soviets came for Vanko, sending the Black Widow and Boris Turgenev, the latter of whom stole the armor and became the second Crimson Dynamo. Vanko died saving Iron Man.

Turgenev, the second Dynamo, didn't last too long. He was killed by Vanko who sacrificed his life to save Iron Man, firing an experimental laser pistol at Turgenev.

The third Crimson Dynamo was Alex Nevsky, who first appeared in Iron man #15 in 1969. He was a protege of Vanko's, and greatly admired and respected his scientific genius. However, since the Soviet government discredited Vanko after he defected, Nevsky's career was also ruined. He was sent into exile, and grew to hate both the Soviet Union and Iron Man.

Eventually he came into possession of a new and improved Crimson Dynamo armor, and battled Iron Man. After he donned the armor in public, his old Soviet masters sent the Titanium Man to kill him. This failed, but resulted in the death of a romantic interest of Nevsky's. He blamed both Iron Man and the Titanium Man for the tragedy. Later, he would make one final attempt to kill Iron Man. When he was unsuccessful, he was found and assassinated by the KGB, who confiscated the Crimson Dynamo armor.

The fourth Crimson Dynamo was Yuri Petrovich, who first appeared in 1976. He was the son of Ivan Petrovich, a friend of the now-reformed Black Widow. When western agents failed to convince Ivan to defect, they assassinated Yuri's mother. In the chaos that followed, both Ivan and Yuri believed the other to be dead. Yuri was brought to the west, where Soviet agents posing as westerners taught him to hate the west. When the Black Widow and Ivan defected to the United States, Yuri was returned to the Soviet Union, and trained by the KGB to become the new Crimson Dynamo. He was sent after the Black Widow and Ivan, but when he learned the true nature of his original "western" captors, he went berserk. He was ultimately defeated, returned to Russia, convicted by the Soviet government, and sent into exile.

Dmitri Bukharin was the fifth Crimson Dynamo, and possessed the armor represented by the 4" action figure in the Iron Man 2 line. He joined the Soviet Super-Soldiers, but was expelled from the team when they severed ties with the Soviet government. In the more recent events of the "Dark Reign" storyline, he had, after a time as a different armored individual named Airstrike, returned to the identity and armor of the Crimson Dynamo, although this time as an ally of Iron Man rather than an enemy.

The sixth Crimson Dynamo, and the one represented by the Legends figure, was Valentin Shatalov, a Colonel-General in the Soviet army and a KGB agent. He first appeared in Iron Man #255, in 1990. He used his rank to obtain the Crimson Dynamo armor from Dmitri Bukharin. He was the founder of a group of Russian superhumans that sought to return the Soviet Union to strict Stalinism. Shatalov and his allies recruited the original Titanium Man to their cause. The group fight the Soviet Super-Soldiers and a group of Russian mutant exiles, in addition to pestering Iron Man.

After the death of the Titanium Man, which was blamed on him in a political move, Shatalov was relieved of his duties as the Crimson Dynamo.

The end of the Cold War didn't seem to slow things down very much, as after a degree of obscurity following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Crimson Dynamo returned. The seventh Dynamo's real name was never revealed. He wore Bukharin's former armor, but was poorly skilled with it, and was easily defeated by Nick Fury and Captain America.

The eighth Dynamo was a college student named Gennady Gavrilov, who found the helmet of a Dynamo armor designed by Vanko, which allowed him to control the armor remotely. Garilov initially believed the helmet to be part of a sophisticated gaming system.

The ninth Dynamo had no apparent connection to the Russians, and in fact the armor was created by the underworld handyman known as the Tinkerer. This Dynamo appeared in the Secret War mini-series as a member of Lucia von Bardas' army of super-villains.

The tenth Dynamo appeared in 2006, and was also unknown. He was apprehended by Iron Man after trying to rob a bank. At this point it was revealed that the armor had been bought on the black market, and that the designs for Crimson Dynamo technology had been for sale for a while.

The eleventh crimson Dynamo was a member of Russian superhumans put into cryogenic stasis after the Cold War ended. He didn't last too long. And what's in your freezer?

The twelfth Crimson Dynamo was Boris Vadim, and he was a member of the Winter Guard, a successor of sorts to the Soviet Super-Soldiers. Along the way, he was seen ignoring orders from his superiors and helping War Machine defeat invading Skrulls. He later fled to the United States seeking political asylum, but was killed in battle against a mutated being named Igor Drenkov.

The newest Crimson Dynamo is the first female to use the armor. Her name us Galina Nemirovsky, and she is considered by her Russian masters to be one of the best Crimson Dynamo pilots ever, a graduate of their "Federal Dynamo" program. Between being "lucky number thirteen" and what's happened to some of the others over the years, she'd darn well better be. Good luck, lady.

Although the Crimson Dynamo armor has been redesigned a number of times over the years, the various forms have tended to share certain common factors. The Crimson Dynamo armor typically serves as an exoskeleton, providing the wearer with superhuman strength and durability. The suit's outer layer is composed of a carborundrum matrix alloy, and is equipped with hand-blasters that can fire high-frequency electrical bolts, small missiles contained in the back shoulder area of the battle-suit, computers and a radio transmitted and receiver, and boot jets that allow for flight. Subsequent versions of the battle-suit have featured upgrades of various kinds. For example, Shatalov's version of the armor, as represented by this Legends action figure, was equipped with a powerful chest-mounted fusion-caster weapon.

So, how's the figure? Excellent and very impressive, really. The figure stands slightly over 6-1/4" in height, and is superbly well-detailed.

The head doesn't have any really recognizable facial features, unlike a set of Iron Man armor, where there is at least apparent eyeslits and a mouth slit. Instead, the entire helmet is a dark metallic red, with a wide vertical black stripe that runs down the center. The strips is broken slightly on the front by a metallic pink brim that shades the single eyeslit across the front, which is a deep orange in color. Then the black continues the rest of the way down the face.

It's a little curious-looking, given that the brim is actually a brighter color than the orange eyeslit, and as such it stands out more. It's not hard to mistake it for the eyeslit itself, but it actually isn't.

Significant portions of the Crimson Dynamo armor are ridged metallic gray, which is relatively unusual for a Crimson Dynamo armor, Other versions tend to live up to the name more, at least color-wise. The 4" Crimson Dynamo figure, based as it is on a different suit of armor, is entirely red. However, there's enough dark crimson red on this version to still get away with the name, and at the very least, you're certainly not going to mistake him for anyone else, or any sort of Iron Man variant.

The shoulders and upper torso are dark red, and the shoulders, chestplate, and backplate are a separate piece that was assembled onto the figure during its construction. This has given the Crimson Dynamo a more impressive and bulkier look than the Legends Series Titanium Man figure, although this is probably not all that fair a comparison, since the two figures represent entirely different suits of armor, although there are some similarities, especially with regard to the ridged silver-gray armor on the limbs.

There's some impressive sculpted detail over the shoulders of the figure, and the chestpiece has a metallic pinkish circle in the center of it, which is doubtless the chest-mounted fusion-caster weapon -- whatever that's supposed to be.

The smooth black stripe that runs vertically through the helmet appears also on the abdomen of the armor. The trunks are metallic red, and the Crimson Dynamo has metallic red gauntlets and boots that run just about to the elbows and knees, respectively, with very slight ridged areas of silver-gray within them.

The upper arms, upper legs, and mid-torso of the Crimson Dynamo are heavily ridged, silver-gray in color, and very form-fitting, arguably even moreso than Iron Man's armor typically is. They outline the human musculature of the wearer very precisely and in considerable detail, detail which is enhanced by the ridges of the armor.

The paint work has some interesting aspects to it. Metallic colors can be tricky. When the Iron Man line based on the first movie came out, some of those figures were given such heavy coats of paint to produce the desired glossy metallic finish, that they were tacky to the touch. That's the sort of thing that falls under the category of "learning experience". It's not the sort of thing that's happened again.

I've observed, from careful study of other Iron Man and armored or metallic-finish figures over the years (especially since the above incident), that one way to get a decent colored metallic finish is to paint the desired area in a very bright silver, and then paint a transparent color over it. I'm not saying this has been the case every time, but I've seen a couple of Iron Man figures where there was some silver showing where the transparent red hadn't been sprayed quite as thoroughly as it should have been.

In the case of the Crimson Dynamo, I think what we have here is a figure that was, through whatever means, either silver and transparent red, or some sort of "single shot" metallic dark red, given a metallic coating on the appropriate areas of armor, which were then hit with a clear glossy finish to make it look that much more like gleaming armor. What makes me think this? The front of the trunks aren't quite as gleaming as some other parts of the armor. It's not really all that bad, and I'm being seriously nit-picky here. It's just something that I noticed. Not a big deal at all, really.

In contrast to this, the silver-gray areas of the Crimson Dynamo armor have been given a black overwash, which was then mostly wiped off, presumably to bring out the ridged detail. This, I have to say, was somewhat less effective. It wasn't cleaned off as well as it should have been in some areas, leaving portions of the Crimson Dynamo armor looking dirty and poorly cared for. Maybe to some degree, that was the intent, but it makes for a rather peculiar contrast to the more gleaming metallic finish of the red portions of the armor, and I do question its necessity whatever the purpose.

Overall, the paintwork is neat, but there were a few minor glitches. Somebody's aim could've been a bit better on the back of the left boot between the red and the gray. It's probably nothing I can't fix, but really, I shouldn't have to. I realize that these are mass-produced figures, and nothing's perfect, and that this is a relatively minor point on an otherwise good-looking and, just as important, properly assembled figure, but sometimes, I do think more attention could be paid.

Articulation on the figure is excellent, and most of the articulation blends well with the armor design. This is an advantage that armored figures have over the spandex set. It's easier to blend the articulation in, and that's true not only for Iron Man and his armored allies and enemies, but other lines of armored characters, such as Star Wars Clone Troopers, and Halo Spartans.

Crimson Dynamo is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel (which is really more a part of a sort-of ball-and-socket design), knees, and ankles.

Accessory-wise, the Crimson Dynamo comes with a spring-loaded missile launcher that fires a transparent red missile that has a tip that looks like a fireball. The launcher itself is metallic red with gray trim, and can be mounted to the figure's wrist. Somewhat amusingly, the photo shown on the back of the package card actually reverses the image of the Crimson Dynamo. He's not QUITE symmetrical. He has a clenched fist for a left hand, and an open hand for his right hand, and the details on the chestplate are not even, either. The image on the package shows the hands and chestplate details reversed.

There's a brief bit of text on the package card, which reads as follows: The mighty electrical powers of the Crimson Dynamo are enough to short out even hardened military hardware. Even Iron Man, as well protected as he is, watches as system after system fails under the shocking assault. Once the Armored Avenger fails, the Crimson Dynamo will be free to turn his supercharged weaponry on anyone who opposes him.

I do think it's worth mentioning that no secret identity is given for this Crimson Dynamo. Vanko was part of the second movie, but the Crimson Dynamo wasn't. None of the other individuals have been introduced, and even though the armor shown is technically that of Valentin Shatalov, he's arguably not the best known wearer of the armor. With at least thirteen individuals having worn some form of the Crimson Dynamo armor over the years, it probably seemed a little pointless to even pick one.

So, what's my final word here? I'm immensely pleased with this figure. Now, there's a lot of Iron Man figures out there, in both the 4" and 6" size. And unlike some other super-heroes, Iron Man can pretty well get away with having that many versions around, because Tony Stark really has built a wide variety of specialized armors over the years, as well as repeatedly upgrading his core armor.

Even so, it's nice to see other characters come along. And if you're going to have the Titanium Man, you really need to have the Crimson Dynamo as well. They're likely the two best known armored opponents Iron Man has ever faced. Titanium Man joined the Legends scale series with the last assortment, and now, so has the Dynamo, and I'm very pleased that he has, and I'm glad to have him. And if you're any sort of Iron Man fan, you will be as well.

The IRON MAN ARMORED AVENGER LEGENDS SERIES figure of CRIMSON DYNAMO definitely has my most enthusiastic recommendation!