REVIEW: IRON MAN 2 COMIC SERIES GUARDSMAN
Although certainly the most prominent, Iron Man is not the only armored character in the Marvel Universe. Neither is War Machine. And although these two characters are certainly dominating all aspects of the action figure line based on and around the Iron Man 2 movie, there ARE some other characters to be had.
One thing that I appreciate about the Iron Man 2 line is that it has been broken down into distinct segments. There are the movie-based toys, there's a line of Concept Armors which, although not existing "as is" in either the movie or the comics, are certainly well within the capabilities of either the cinematic Tony Stark or his comic-book counterpart to design, and then there is the Comic Series, which features Iron Man and others as they have appeared in the comic books.
This is where the majority of other armored characters have turned up, including Crimson Dynamo, Titanium Man, and this figure, known as the GUARDSMAN. You'll know it if you see him in a display of Iron Man 2 figures, as well. Within the sea of predominantly red and gold, the Guardsman is a very distinct green. Needless to say, he tends to be a little hard to find, since he tends to get picked out of the display rather quickly.
So, who is the GUARDSMAN? Well, the character in the comics has actually had several identities, both hero and villain. He first appeared in Iron Man #31, in November of 1970. I was able to call up some background information about him, who he's been, and where he came from, with a little online research.
The first Guardsman was one Kevin O'Brien. He was an engineer and inventor working for the newly-opened Lakani Island plant of Stark Industries, who came to the attention of Tony Stark when he invented a stun ray that managed to harmlessly disperse a crowd of violent protesters. Stark invited O'Brien to transfer to Stark's main plant on Long Island, New York.
Despite a careless streak which once caused a laboratory he was working in to explode, he became a close friend of Stark, and was soon appointed head of Stark's research department. On several occasions, O'Brien assisted Stark and Stark's "bodyguard" Iron Man (Stark himself, of course), notably against the villain Spymaster and his assistants in the Espionage Elite, saving Stark's life on more than one occasion.
Stark then decided to reveal to O'Brien that he was in face Iron Man, and to build a second suit of armor for his use in the event of an emergency. This was the Guardsman armor. That emergency came soon after when Stark and his girlfriend Marianne Rogers were taken captive by the superhuman madman Mikas the Soulfather. Putting on the armor before it was fully tested, O'Brien fell prey to a malfunction in the cybernetic circuitry controlling the armor, which stimulated the regions of the brain where rage and jealousy originate.
O'Brien found himself sized with a sudden attraction for Marianne Rogers, and became jealous of Stark's power and fortune. At the same time, Simon Gilbert, then Chairman of the Board of Stark Industries, grew alarmed that Stark was moving out of munitions production, and planned to seize control of the company. O'Brien, in the Guardsman armor, offered to help Gilbert. He would later turn against the renegade board members, but once again seeing Stark with Rogers unbalanced him further. When the Guardsman attacked a group of protesters outside the Stark plant, Iron Man engaged him in battle. Guardsman sought refuge in an experimental tank vehicle. Iron Man trained his repulsor rays on the vehicle, hoping to disable it, but instead hit the fuel supply. The tank exploded, killing O'Brien.
The second Guardsman first appeared in Iron Man #82, as Michael O'Brien, but would not don the Guardsman armor until Iron Man #97. Michael was the brother of Kevin O'Brien, and was a sergeant on the New York City police force. He believed that the official investigation exonerating Iron Man's actions was a cover-up. Reopening the investigation, O'Brien confronted Stark, interrogated several employees, and declared his intention of proving Stark responsible for his brother's death.
O'Brien hired an unscrupulous private detective to get him inside Stark's Long Island plant. There O'Brien located the Guardsman armor and put it on, determined to use it to bring Iron Man to justice. However, the same malfunction in the cybernetic circuitry that had affected Kevin O'Brien also affected Michael, sending him into a rage and determined to kill Iron Man. Iron Man confronted him and finally convinced him that the armor was causing him to act insanely. O'Brien collapsed on rebelling against his own urge to kill Iron Man.
Stark took O'Brien into custody rather than press criminal charges, hoping to convince the man of his innocence in Kevin's death. Later, an attack the the mutant Sunfire and Stark's heroic attempts to save lives convinced Michael O'Brien of Stark's innocence. O'Brien and Stark would go on to defeat a plot by the Mandarin. Stark chose to reveal his true identity to O'Brien, and following the Mandarin's defeat, Stark fixed the malfunction in the Guardsman armor so it was safe to wear.
Michael O'Brien was determined to use the armor to vindicate both his brother's actions and his own, and aided Stark on several occasions. Later, having quit the police force, O'Brien interviewed for the position of Security Director at Project Pegasus, the government energy research facility, after its previous director, the super-hero Quasar, quit. With a high recommendation from Tony Stark, O'Brien got the job, and O'Brien remained with the Project since his appointment and has performed his duties admirably. Later, he was the Security Chief at Avengers Mansion for some time.
Additionally, the Guardsman armor has been duplicated for use by guards at The Vault, a super-villain imprisonment facility.
The Guardsman armor was designed by Tony Stark. It contains a powerful exoskeleton that gives the wearer superhuman strength, allowing the operator to lift 40 tons under optimal conditions. The armor's high-carbon steel alloy mesh and radiation shielding also offer protection from most ballistic and some energy weapons. The armor can fly via chemically-powered boot jets at a maximum speed of 250 mph for three hours, and contains a 30minute air supply for submersion or high-altitude flight. Each palm of the Guardsman armor's gauntlets contains a charged ion "repulsor ray" emitter capable of 45 seconds of continuous discharge at a range of 40 feet.
Additionally, Michael O'Brien is a good hand-to-hand combatant, and was coached by Captain America.
So, how's the figure? Really extremely impressive. This is not, technically, the first-ever Guardsman figure. There was one a number of years ago, produced by Toy Biz, that was in fact a recoloration of a figure that was planned for the ultimately canceled fifth assortment of Iron Man figures based on the 90's animated series. Although a capable enough figure, its accurate resemblance to the Guardsman from the comic books is somewhat debatable.
The package for the Guardsman figure refers to him as Kevin O'Brien, not Michael, and refers to the malfunction in the cybernetic interface that drove him insane and led him to become an enemy of Iron Man. Personally I think that's rather unfortunate, as Michael has served as a hero for far longer than Kevin was a villain, but I suppose this was seen as a means of bringing another enemy into an action figure line that, as far as armored heroes are concerned, would prefer to emphasize Iron Man and War Machine and leave it at that. Of course, those in the know can logically treat the Guardsman figure as they see fit -- enemy, ally, or for that matter, army-builder.
The figure stands about 4-1/4" in height, and actually has a more imposing muscular build than quite a few of the various figures of Iron Man himself. What he lacks, and this has been noted by some collectors online, is the same number of assorted armor-like gizmos and doo-dads that one has come to expect to see on the average Iron Man armor.
However, I think in this instance, one needs to keep in mind the fact that the Guardsman was first created in 1970, and not even Iron Man's armor was all that sophisticated back then. And unlike Iron Man, the Guardsman armor's visual design has not been updated over the decades. Additionally, one would tend to believe that the armor is not quite as powerful as Iron Man's own, or at least not quite as versatile.
The figure IS a truly excellent match, appearance-wise, for any reasonable comic-based reference of the Guardsman. It was clearly derived from one of the various Marvel Universe Handbooks, and even though Hasbro chose to darken the colors somewhat, the basic design parameters are spot on.
And I'm not going to complain about the color darkening, either. The Guardsman character was originally developed for the comic books during a time when printing capabilities, and for that matter color choices, were far more limited than they are now. Although some of Hasbro's toy lines, such as G.I. Joe and Star Wars, have replicated action figures derived from comic books from earlier times, more often than not I tend to think that those action figures, however enjoyable they may well be, do tend to showcase the limited color palette of those comic books.
Technically, the Guardsman may come from a "Comic Series", but the Iron Man 2 figures thusly dubbed are not trying to specifically look like they just popped off the pages. Rather, it's a distinction in the line between that particular branch of the figure line and others. If the figures were trying to look "comic-accurate", I don't think we'd have all the cool metallic finishes to them and such.
And Guardsman does indeed have a very nice and very impressive metallic finish to most of him. The bulk of the figure's design is a metallic green, including part of the faceplate, the arms, torso, and legs. I'm not sure why, maybe it's just Iron Man overload from the past few years, but offhand, I can't think of that many times when I've seen metallic green on a toy. Other colors, yes. Silver and gold, certainly. Metallic red, blue -- but not green for some reason. And it really looks very cool here.
The rest of the figure -- most of the helmet, the chest and upper back, trunks, boots, and gloves, is a very dark green that has been given a glossy finish, but not a metallic one. It's not a big deal in that respect, and it still looks most impressive.
Apart from lacking some of the more typical "armorish" details of an Iron Man armor, Guardsman's helmet is quite different from Iron Man's. Round on the top but angled and flat at the base, it looks a little like an elongated dome. The bulk of the helmet is the darker green, with a metallic green faceplate, but the darker green also includes a raised section that runs down the middle of the faceplate. There is no visible mouth, just two eyes, painted in a bright yellow that's bright enough to look like it's glowing. If there's anything that makes Guardsman look a bit villainous, it's this. Lacking a visible mouth, the helmet makes the character looks somewhat more impersonal than Iron Man. There's also a bit of an angle to the way the eyes are painted that accentuates this effect.
The overall musculature is superbly well detailed. It's been commented that, lacking any real armor-type details, the body could probably be used for a number of other figures, and that's likely true. However, the bottoms of the boots definitely show signs of the boot jets. Most of the paintwork on the figure is very neatly done. The eyes could have been a little more precise, and there's a slight glitch on the back, but nothing serious.
The only real mild complaint I have about the figure is there's a few places that have molding creases. But in this instance, they're relatively unobtrusive. Nevertheless, this is a problem which has plagued this line a bit, and should be addressed so it doesn't continue with this or any other action figure line.
Articulation of the Guardsman figure is excellent. The figure is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including a swivel), glove tops, mid-torso (which works surprisingly well as it's designed to fit in with the musculature of the figure), legs, upper leg swivel, double jointed knees, boot tops, and ankles.
Accessorywise, Guardsman comes with a display base, and an "energy burst" that is molded from transparent yellow plastic and can be attached to his wrist to simulate a repulsor blast from his glove.
Also included with the Guardsman figure is a set of three cards, one solid and two transparent, that can be fitted into the display base, to create a sort of semi 3-D assembly image of the Guardsman armor, with fancy little high-tech details printed on the cards. It actually makes for a very neat display. There's also a code on the card, which can be used at the Web Site: IronMancard.com, although precisely what it does I'm not sure. I really need to check it out at some point. For those so inclined, the code on the Guardsman's set of cards is: M51 M9Y WM5.
So, what's my final word here? I am extremely pleased to have the Guardsman. In my opinion, the Iron Man 2 line has a lot of potential to stretch well beyond various versions of Iron Man himself. There's no shortage of supporting characters, a good number of them armored, that could be brought into this line if it is able to endure beyond the movie. Whether it will, I honestly don't know, but I hope it can. Certainly the Guardsman is a cool and impressive figure, who is absolutely not going to be mistaken for an Iron Man variant, but clearly stands as a character unto himself, and will make a good addition to any collection of Iron Man action figures.
The IRON MAN 2 COMIC SERIES figure of GUARDSMAN definitely has my highest recommendation!