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REVIEW: IRON MAN 2 CONCEPT SERIES DEEP DIVE ARMOR IRON MAN
By Thomas Wheeler

I've always liked the concept of Iron Man. A super-rich techno-industrialist, with an amazing suit of high-tech, heavily-armed armor. Honestly, especially in the technological age in which we live, Iron Man is more realistically plausible than some heroes. I can buy into him more readily than I can someone scaling up vertical walls with his bare hands.

Ask anyone who's written Iron Man over the past several decades, and they'll tell you that the trickiest thing about Iron Man is making sure he stays just a bit ahead of real-world technology. And as fast-paced as that tends to be these days, that's no easy feat. Various writers, and for that matter artists, have treated Iron Man differently. I tend to be of the opinion that Iron Man works best when his world within the Marvel Universe is in the hands of someone who understands, appreciates, and respects advanced technology, and can apply it accordingly to the character. Iron Man had a writer for a while who readily admitted that he didn't trust technology, and it showed. Artistically, I believe Iron Man is best served by someone who draws clean, straightforward art. The sort of skritchy-scratchy, urban gloom style that turns up here and there (think Daredevil, perhaps), just isn't appropriate for the Armored Avenger.

Toywise, and there have been Iron Man toy lines before, certainly, I tend to think that Iron Man is one of the very, very few characters that can be the focal point of an action figure line that is inevitably going to produce multiple versions of the core character -- and get away with it. He really HAS had multiple, specialized-use versions of his armor over the years.

Bruce Wayne may be as rich as Tony Stark, but he tends to keep his Bat-Suit fairly basic for the most part. The first time Peter Parker put on a different Spider-costume than the one he'd been wearing for years, it turned out to be an alien symbiote that ultimately became one of his worst enemies. That sort of thing will get you to limit your wardrobe real quick.

But Tony Stark is an inventor. He's a technologist, as expert in advanced technology as any of the people he employs. That means that he's always going to be looking for ways to do things better, or in a more specialized way, and that certainly includes his armor, and that's certainly been the case over the years. Which turns out to be a good thing for the toy line.

The new action figure line based on the Iron Man 2 movie is broken down into three main categories. There is the Movie Series, which derives its designs directly from the sequel movie. There is the Comic Series, which takes armor designs and even a few other characters from the comic books. And there is the Concept Series, which offers us armor designs that might represent specialties that have turned up here or there, but never quite like this before. The ones I've seen from this particular series would work well in either the comic books or the movies, for that matter.

And one that particularly caught my eye, which I'll be reviewing here, is the DEEP DIVE ARMOR IRON MAN!

One of the things which appealed to me about this figure was that it didn't look like a typical Iron Man armor. The color scheme is entirely different. It is also significantly bulkier than a standard Iron Man. There's a huge amount of Iron Man variants out there right now, and they're all fine figures. But there's a certain level of similarity between them all as far as color scheme and general fit is concerned. If you want something that looks a little different, than you want the Deep Dive Armor Iron Man.

Iron Man has had, in the comics, armor suits before that were designed to dive into the high-pressure depths of the oceans, something his "basic" armor was incapable of. One of these designs, after a fashion, even made it into the action figure world, back when Toy Biz turned out a fairly extensive Iron Man line in the 90's. That armor suit was predominantly gold, with a fairly standard Iron Man head, protected underneath an additional clear helmet.

This new Deep Dive Armor Iron Man is nothing like that. It is a fairly bulky suit. One would expect that it would have to be, given its purpose. Consider in real life what it takes to reach some of the greater ocean depths. Look at what any exploration team from Robert Ballard on has had to endure to reach the Titanic, and that's not even the deepest point of this world's oceans.

The Deep Dive Armor Iron Man looks like it could just about allow Tony Stark to go for a swim in the Marianas Trench if he wanted to. About the only armor design I've seen that's more massive is the Hulkbuster Armor that turns up from time to time, and the color scheme and apparent built-in equipment makes perfect sense, as does the color scheme. The figure is nearly 4-1/2" in height, which is pretty good sized for this line.

The text on the back of the package card for Deep Dive Armor Iron Man reads as follows: "Crushing pressure prevents all but the toughest tech from ever venturing to the bottom of the ocean. Unfortunately some villains have access to such technology, and Iron Man is the only hero high tech enough to stop them!"

Yeah, and even he needs a special suit for it. One might also assume that he'd prefer the villains not see him coming, hence the special color scheme of the armor. There's no sign of Iron Man's traditional red-and-gold hues on this big fellow. The armor is predominantly metallic blue with some silver trim.

Every aspect of the armor design is bulkier than any typical Iron Man armor would be. The helmet is broader, with a far wider jawline. Narrow eyeslits are protected by a slightly protruding brow, while what looks like a small light is visible on the top of the helmet. The torso is massive, with a huge backpiece that one might assume contains a concentrated oxygen supply and who knows what other sort of protective equipment. The ever-present center circle on Iron Man's armor is evidently another light source in this instance.

The lower arms, the gauntlets, of Deep Dive Iron Man are huge, with only his fingers and thumbs protruding from their base. Iron Man's repulsors are evident in the palms, but there are apparent additional lights on the back of the hands. All of this makes perfect sense from a real-world design standpoint. It's dark down there. Light, even direct sunlight, only penetrates so far. If you're going as deep as this armor is designed to, you're going to need light sources. It makes sense to have multiple ones, and their placement on the armor makes logical sense. The chestplate is the largest, and one might assume that it's a sort of general illumination for the immediate area in which Iron Man finds himself. The light on the top of the helmet, if that's what it is, would aid in whichever direction he might need to look. And the lights on the backs of the hands would be useful for digging around, and seeing what's at his fingertips, should the need arise.

The legs are just as bulky as the rest of the figure, with huge metallic blue boots. The bottoms of the feet are well-detailed, although there's no immediate sign of Iron Man's ever-present boot jets, unless you assume, which one well might, that the foot-peg holes are intended to double as boot jets. So we'll go with that.

Paintwork on the figure is nicely done, but then I admit I'm a sucker for a good colored metallic finish. I'll be honest here -- I had to go through several Deep Dive Iron Man figures before I found one that didn't have some sort of paint or molding problem. Generally minor, but enough to be annoying. A couple of them had some serious creases on the upper left leg, and some just had rather sloppily applied paint. One had a visible fingerprint on it. Maybe nothing that would bother a kid, but I tend to be picky about this sort of thing.

However, done properly, the paint job is really very nicely done. Most of the figure is metallic blue. There's some silver trim on the arms and legs. There's also an extra bit of detailing which I found especially impressive, a sort of light green "glow" painted around the chestplate light and the lights on the lower arms, making Deep Dive Iron Man look like he's already far underwater. The color was almost right to actually glow in the dark, but I checked, and it doesn't. Not a big deal. It still looks cool.

Articulation of the figure is impressive, and interestingly done in some aspects. My biggest complaint with the last Iron Man movie-based line was that the paint had to be applied so thickly to some of the figures, especially that deep metallic red, that it actually stuck some of the articulation points and made them very difficult to move. Now, granted, this Iron Man figure doesn't even have that color on him, but I was pleased that the parts at least were not stuck.

However, some of them moved a little too readily. There's a double-knee joint on the legs that -- I'm no toy engineer, but I think this is an instance where the double-joint should not have been used. It's a fairly small piece, bringing together the very bulky upper and lower legs, and honestly, the end result is a leg structure that's a little too loose in the knees, and it's nearly severe enough to affect the balance of the figure. Also, to get his feet flat, since the ankles have some but rather limited articulation, his knees have to be bent slightly. It's just not the best combination in the world. It's odd, but the legs of the figure almost don't seem as well made as the rest of him. Impossible, I know, but still, both the knees and for that matter the legs at the hips are far too loose for the figure's own good, and moreso than the rest of the figure. Whether it's a common problem or just this one that I bought, I don't know.

Overall, though, articulation on the figure is impressive, especially when you consider how bulky he is. Deep Dive Armor Iron Man is poseable at the head, arms. an upper arm swivel, elbows, mid-torso, legs, double-jointed knees, and ankles. This Iron Man figure is one of those rarities that can get away with the mid-torso articulation point and look good doing it, since it blends in with the design of the armor. And since Deep Dive Armor Iron Man is an entirely new figure, I suspect he was designed with that in mind. Honestly, the mid-torso point has a little more articulation than this particular point usually gets.

The leg articulation at the top of the legs is also interested. It's not quite a ball-and-socket design. There is an attachment point that looks like it, but it really only allows for back and forth movement. The legs do not move out to the sides. The legs are apparently attached on a point that allows for their rotation, but not outward movement.

Deep Dive Armor Iron Man comes with a couple of accessories. First up is a clip-on, spring-loaded torpedo launcher. I've generally regarded these clip-on accessories in the Iron Man line as a little too "toy-etic", since Iron Man's armor itself is generally carrying plenty of firepower. However, in the case of the Deep Dive Armor, it may well be that except for the obvious repulsors, so much of the armor is devoted to occupant survival with withstanding the pressure outside that something like this might honestly be needed.

The figure also comes with a display stand, a fairly high-tech-looking section of floor, as much as anything, that also includes a clip for the "Armor Cards" that come with the figure. This is an interesting promotional item. From within the package, it looks like a single card displaying a drawing of the armor in question. Open the envelope, though, and it's really three cards -- a solid white one and two transparent ones, each with different sections of the armor on it, which when brought together form an image of the complete suit. Interesting, from an artistic standpoint.

The assembled cards also present a nine-digit code, which I assume does something on the Iron Man Web Site". The code for the Deep Dive Armor Iron Man figure is M4C 894 52T. And I'm sure I'm not giving away any Stark Industries secrets with that, since the assembled cards are very apparent in the package.

The cards don't really provide any practical information about the armor per se, but they look cool and have interesting graphics on them. Looking ahead movie-wise a bit, there is a logo on them which is the SHIELD emblem encircled with the words "Avengers Assemble". The cardholder part of the display base actually has three distinct slots in it. They're not set that far apart, and they don't really distort the complete image, or make it look "3D" or anything, but it does create a slight sort of shaded "depth of field" effect in the right light.

So what's my final word here? Okay, this figure has a few structural problems as far as the legs are concerned. Setting that aside however, and being hopeful that it isn't something that plagues all of them, I have to say that this is one of the coolest Iron Man figures I've seen in recent memory -- and there's certainly been no shortage of them. The armor uses an atypical and impressive color scheme, the design is at once very cool and logical almost to a real-world level, and the end result is truly superb.

The IRON MAN 2 CONCEPT SERIES figure of DEEP DIVE ARMOR IRON MAN definitely has my very enthusiastic recommendation!