REVIEW: IRON MAN 2 TARGET EXCLUSIVE ARMORED ASSAULT THREE-PACK
With the movie IRON MAN 2, the average action figure section of most toy stores or toy departments is up to the ceiling in little armored action figures. And it seems that just about everybody with a significant toy department has managed to secure some sort of exclusive product. Both Toys "R" Us and K-mart produced multi-packs of 4" scale figures. Walmart opted for some 6" figures. So did Toys "R" Us, while Target turned out a special three-pack of figures. It is the Target set, called ARMORED ASSAULT, that I'll be reviewing here.
The Iron Man 2 line of action figures has been divided into three main categories. There is the MOVIE SERIES - figures based on characters and armors that did appear in the movie; COMIC SERIES - figures based on characters and armors more closely affiliated to the comic books, and the CONCEPT SERIES - armored figures that really, could fit into either world, but haven't necessarily appeared in either, although one of the figures in this particular set certainly has, in some form. Target set comes from the MOVIE SERIES, and is tied in very closely with characters and concepts from the film.
The set includes Iron Man in his Mark V armor, one of the main villains from the movie, Whiplash, and offered as a "Super Value" and sort of packaged off to one side, a Sea Assault Drone! This figure should certainly be seen as a "Super Value", and really one of the main highlights of the set, since the Mark V Iron Man is available on an individual card at most retailers, and technically, so is Whiplash, although he's been notoriously elusive, and for all I know, might be a different version of the character in some respects. The Sea Assault Drone is exclusive to this Target set.
The text for the set on the back of the package reads as follows: Ivan Vanko (Whiplash) is determined to take out his years of anger and frustration on the man he blames for his own failure - Tony Stark. He has spent most of his life preparing for the moment of confrontation, and he has built himself the tech necessary to make his revenge complete. What he didn't count on was Stark's resourcefulness. So when he thinks he'll be facing an unarmed Tony Stark, he ends up in a destructive battle with Iron Man!
No mention of the Sea Assault Drone, but the text above does play out as one of the scenes in the movie, which didn't include any Drones at the time.
Let's consider the figures individually, starting with -- IRON MAN!
This particular figure is based on the Mark V Iron Man, which makes its debut in the sequel movie. Following the movie continuity, the Mark I Iron Man armor was the cobbled together scrapyard that got him out of captivity, and pretty much gave him the idea for an armored combat suit in the first place. The Mark II was the silver armor, that was what he built when he returned to civilization and had the resources of his company available to him. The Mark III was the classic red-and-gold armor that he used predominantly over the course of the first movie.
The Mark IV is the armor Stark has designed that starts off the second movie, the Mark VI is, at least as of the sequel movie, the most powerful armor Stark has yet constructed, and has pretty much become the iconic armor for the cinematic Iron Man.
And then there's the Mark V, which I see as a sort of side-step, and a more portable suit of armor, less powerful, but more handy.
One of the cool things about Iron Man, as opposed to other super-heroes that tend to get multiple versions within their own self-named action figure lines, is that Tony Stark, whether in the comics or the movies, really has built multiple armors -- or "costumes" -- for himself. So he can get away with it a little better than, let's say, a certain Web-Swinger or Caped Crusader
Of course, the Iron Man Mark V armor is available on an individual card, so no one's really likely to buy this set for this figure. Unless, such as myself, you never got around to buying this figure on an individual card. I was too busy trying to track down Guardsman and a few other hard-to-find oddballs. And it's not like this has been a scarce figure...
So for me, it was just as convenient to get him in the Target multi-pack, and have him that way. Granted, the boxed set doesn't include the fancy little display cards and such that the individual figures do, but that's not a big deal in my opinion.
So, what have we got with this figure? Ultimately, what we have is a rather atypical Iron Man. As I said, especially from a cinematic standpoint, this particular armor is a sort of side-step. It was designed to be a portable armor that Stark could carry with him and quickly don in an emergency. In this instance, it has something in common with many of Iron Man's comic-based armors, which he used to tote around in a briefcase. That was probably a little too implausible for the film's creators to use on a regular basis, but they wanted to acknowledge it. It also allowed them to create a new armor for Stark, as well as acknowledge the red and silver color scheme that Iron Man has had on occasion, as opposed to the more traditional red and gold.
The design, certainly distinctive to the movie, is -- just a little bizarre, in my opinion. It literally seems to zip itself across Stark's body, in fine segments, and frankly looks it. It's not quite comical, but it's certainly a bit peculiar.
The helmet is fairly straightforward for Iron Man's cinematic look, although the gold faceplate is replaced with a silver one. The main body of the armor is decidedly slimmed down from most of his standard armors, once again in keeping with the notion that this armor's primary function is portability, not power. The color scheme seems to be almost equal amounts silver and metallic red, although the color layout is at least somewhat traditional, although there's a lot of silver on the front, as well as on the arms and legs where it would be expected. Apart from the helmet, the most traditional part of the armor would be the boots.
Credit to the toy designers, this is an extremely intricate armor that needed to be very carefully sculpted in order to keep the little ridged segments, which are pretty well on every piece of the armor, as even as possible. I really hope I'm not criticizing someone with a particularly steady hand and an almost inhumanly precise eye for detail, but I almost wonder if this particular figure was sculpted with computer assistance. The details are that evenly done, and it's really very impressive -- even if it does look like a set of giant zippers in some respects.
Comparing the Iron Man Mark V to a Mark VI or a Mark IV is interesting. One notices that the Mark V, for all of its ridged detail, clearly adheres to the contours of a human body more closely. The painted detail is excellent. I find myself wondering if this toy was molded in red plastic or silver plastic. I'm inclined to go with red, but the painted detail is very well done. The red has a nice metallic finish to it, and certainly the silver does. Honestly, the paint work on this figure is neater than I've seen on its 6" Walmart exclusive counterpart.
The figure comes with a rather big accessory -- an enlarged representation of the suitcase that Stark keeps this armor in. It also acts as a spring-loaded missile launcher with two large missile in it. There's also an extra left hand, that can be swapped out on the figure, so that Iron Man can appear to be carrying the suitcase. And given the relative size of the thing. Stark's going to need the strength of his armor to lug this thing around without giving himself a hernia. Okay, so it's not that big -- although the missiles certainly are. They can be fired by pressing the blue triangular button on the side. The other side of the suitcase opens to reveal some assorted machinery.
The Iron Man Mark V figure is very well articulated, and is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, knees, and ankles. A number of these articulation points have rotations as well as back and forth movement.
Now let's consider -- WHIPLASH.
In the movie, this character is something of an amalgamation of the comics characters Whiplash, and Crimson Dynamo. It's the latter where the name "Ivan Vanko" and a lot of the origin story come from. The "Whiplash" part comes from the characters unusual weapons, although really, the movie character doesn't look a thing like either of his comics progenitors.
In the comics, Whiplash was Mark Scarlotti. Once a gifted technician at Stark International, he felt that he never received the recognition for his hard work or scientific acumen. Jealous of Stark's global renown, Scarlotti decided to become a costumed supervillain. Adopting the moniker Whiplash, he constructed a metallic, electrified whip capable of tearing apart even the strongest of metals. He worked for the criminal underworld before becoming an enforcer for Justin Hammer.
More recently, to tie the character of Whiplash closer to his cinematic counterpart, Marvel Comics developed a new Whiplash, named Anton Vanko, a young scientist from a small Russian village. One day, the village was attacked by someone wearing a stolen suit of Iron man armor, who murders a number of people, including Vanko's father.
Using a specialized rifle, Vanko is able to shoot the impostor just before he flees, causing the chestplate to come off. Obsessed with exacting vengeance on Tony Stark, still believing him to be the man who has attacked his village, Vanko is able to use the technology of the chestplate to fashion a suitable weapon. He reverse-engineers a suit of body armor equipped with energy whips. Visually, this Whiplash more closely resembles the movie version, and shares the same nationality, although has no connection to the Crimson Dynamo.
In the movies actor Mickey Rourke is Ivan Vanko, the name of the original Crimson Dynamo, who has not appeared in the cinematic Marvel universe (and one suspects probably won't). Vanko is a disgruntled Russian physicist with a grudge against the Stark family. He is the son of Anton Vanko, who defected to the United States to collaborate with Tony Stark's father, only to be fired by him, deported back to the Soviet Union, and forced to live in exile. Constructing an arc reactor-powered suit of his own with the aid of his father's blueprints, Ivan Vanko attacks Stark with two electrified whips during the historic Grand Prix of Monaco. Stark defeats him using the Mark V Iron Man armor, and Vanko is sent to prison.
Later, Vanko escapes with help from Stark's rival, Justin Hammer. Hammer, hoping to upstage Stark and secure his own commercial enterprise, has Vanko build a battalion of military drones to present at the Stark Expo. At the presentation, Vanko gains remote control over the drones and the War Machine armor, directing them to attack Iron Man. Vanko is wearing his own heavily upgraded suit of armor by this time, but it bears little resemblance to the Crimson Dynamo armor. Reportedly a figure of this version of Vanko is in the works.
Which, as far as I'm concerned, wouldn't be a bad idea, since this version of Whiplash -- okay, it's accurate to the movie. It also looks like a raggedy homeless guy wearing scraps of armor salvaged from behind a Radio Shack. Vanko has long, stringy, unkempt hair, is shirtless, and has a mess of tattoos on his body, only one of which is reasonably discernible, a Soviet hammer and sickle on his left bicep.
Whiplash is wearing this armored harness around his chest and arms, that, while nicely sculpted and detailed on the figure. Vanko is wearing sloppy brown trousers, and the figure is designed to look like these trousers were part of a one-piece, loose-fitting outfit, and the top half has been torn away and hangs loosely at Vanko's waist. There's even evidence of "sleeves", although it's obviously impossible to redress the figure.
Vanko's greatest threat is, of course, his weaponry, and he comes with two energy whips, small silver handles with crackling energy whips, molded in a bright transparent yellow green, attached. I'll give the weapons credit on two counts -- it's not often that I see energy-based accessories rendered well in plastic... lightsabers notwithstanding. These actually look pretty cool. And -- they're individual. The two whips are NOT identical.
Well, I should say something nice about Whiplash if I can. He's well-articulated, and certainly well painted. The painted detail on the figure, including the tattoos, armor, and facial details, is all very well done with great precision. He bears an excellent likeness to the character as he appeared in the movie. But he's still an ugly mess.
Now, let's consider the cool bonus in this set -- the SEA ASSAULT DRONE
Tony Stark is requested by the government to turn his armor over for military purposes. Tony Stark tells the government to stuff it. Over the course of the movie, enter Justin Hammer, another rich industrialist and a longtime rival of Stark's.
Justin Hammer is a name derived from the comic books, and indeed the character was a longtime rival of Stark's there, as well. In the movie, Justin Hammer, along with Vanko, is responsible for the design and production of a literal army of robotic armored drones, which are intended for the military, but which are also turned against Iron Man and, eventually, War Machine, for one of those big climactic battles that brings in the box office and which has been increasingly possible thanks to the growing world of CGI.
The various Drones are based, to some degree, on branches of the armed forces. There are Air Assault Drones, Ground Assault Drones, and -- Sea Assault Drones.
So, how does it look? Well, one sort of wonders if Justin Hammer and Ivan Vanko have been reading too many Gundam comic books. There's almost a Japanese flair to this Drone -- all of them, really. For starters, it's a good bit larger than Iron Man himself. Iron Man stands about 4-1/4" in height. The Drone is more like 5" -- if you count the little antenna on the head. It has a definite military-industrial look to it. It's not at all sleek or stylish. But it's danged imposing.
I'm not entirely sure what, specifically, makes this one a "Sea Assault Drone". I don't know if it can swim or float. Frankly, it looks like it'd sink like a rock. Maybe it's at least waterproof somehow?
The head is relatively small compared to the rest of the body. In fact, it almost has a sort of forced perspective in its design. Small head, medium-sized torso, and huge legs. The arms are more or less average in size, but have large forearms.
The basic color of the Sea Assault Drone is a very dark steel blue, with just a hint of silver on the legs. The Sea Assault Drone has a number of markings stamped on it, in a plausibly military style, including an American flag on the upper leg, and the number "961" on the upper leg below the flag, and on the chest. The back of the distinctive shoulder -- whatever the heck they are -- have the number "VX-23", and two "Danger" signs..
The overall sculpted detail is astounding, and one really finds oneself wishing that this thing wasn't ultimately working for the bad guy, because it looks so cool. Unlike some of the other Drones, there are no apparent weapons, although I suspect that the huge shoulder mounts amount to some sort of weaponry, and the design is duplicated with attachments on the lower arms.
The Drone is very well articulated, and is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, mid-torso (superbly concealed in the overall design), legs, knees, and ankles.
Any complaints? Just one. The shoulder attachments, distinctive to the Sea Assault Drone, don't stay put and they're rather heavy and bulky items. I don't think they can be glued into place without severely restricting the articulation. The Sea Assault Drone shares quite a few of its parts with, at least, the Ground Assault Drone, two of which come in a Toys "R" Us exclusive set. I haven't yet had the chance to compare this Drone to either of the individually carded Drones available in this line.
Regardless, the shoulder mounts were clearly designed apart from the rest of the figure, and they're not the best fit in the world. They sort of snap onto these ridges on the shoulders of the Drone, but not all that well, and their weight relative to their size is no aid in having them stay put. Unfortunately, I don't have a solution for this that wouldn't otherwise damage the figure.
However, in fairness, it's hard to gripe too much. These Drones are immensely cool figures, regardless of their specialty, and certainly that includes the Sea Assault Drone.
So what's my final word? Several stores are carrying exclusive multi-packs for Iron man 2, and there's a degree to which it could be argued that this set is the least of them. The Iron Man Mark V figure is readily available outside of the set, and Whiplash is at least supposed to be. And technically speaking, the price of the set is not worth JUST the Sea Assault Drone, despite the fact that it is certainly the coolest figure of the three.
However, if you haven't picked up Iron Man Mark V yet, or been unable to find Whiplash, then certainly this set is worth it. And heck, if you are really gung-ho about the Drones, then it might well be worth it just for the Drone! For myself, as I had not yet picked up an Iron Man Mark V, it was worth it to me in light of that. I'm not that impressed with the Whiplash figure, but that's more an opinion of the character and his movie likeness. Technically, the figure is an excellent likeness of this, so I can't criticize it on that basis. And certainly I'm pleased with the Sea Assault Drone!
All things considered, the IRON MAN 2 Target-Exclusive ARMORED ASSAULT three-pack definitely has my very enthusiastic recommendation!