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By Thomas Wheeler

I must confess, when I initially saw the Iron Man 3 "Assemblers" figures, I wasn't all that impressed. The package display, with the arms and legs separated from the rest of the body, was more than a bit peculiar, and even though assembly itself was certainly easy enough, the concept, for some reason or other, just didn't especially appeal to me.

The "gimmick" to the Assemblers figures is that you can swap out the heads, arms, and legs of any of the figures in this particular branch of Iron Man figures, and create various custom armors. This is demonstrated in a small series of pictures on the back of the box. To be honest, I think most of the combinations look rather silly, but let's be fair. Toys are still marketed largely to kids, and what looks silly to a collector might look really cool to a kid.

But before long, I started hearing some positive reports about the Assemblers figures from other collectors. They went together easily enough, and they featured more distinctive designs than the standard 4" scale Iron Man figures. So I took a closer look, and realized that there were indeed some impressive designs here. Doing a quick about-face on my opinion, I've started to bring in some of the Assemblers figures. This review will take a look at one designated HYPERVELOCITY IRON MAN.

The Iron Man 3 movie is one of the biggest blockbusters of the season so far. I think it's fair to say that regardless of how other summer movies may fare, Iron Man 3 is an unquestioned success for Marvel Studios, and an impressive entry in the growing adventures of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Let's have a look at the movie, and then at this new armored "Assemblers" action figure.

Iron Man 3 is the third movie featuring the armored Avenger. The movie once again stars Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man. The movie was produced by Kevin Feige, directed by Shane Black, with a screenplay by Drew Pearce and Shane Black.

In the movie, Tony Stark recalls a New Year's Eve party in 1999 with scientist Maya Hansen, the inventor of Extremis -- an experimental regenerative treatment intended to allow recovery from crippling injuries. Disabled scientist Aldrich Killian offers them a place in his company -- Advanced Idea Mechanics -- but is turned down.

In the present day, Stark's experiences during the alien invasion of New York in the Avengers movie are giving him panic attacks. Restless, he has built literally dozens of various Iron Man suits, creating friction with his girlfriend Pepper Potts.

A string of bombings by a terrorist who calls himself the Mandarin has left intelligence agencies bewildered by lack of forensic evidence. When Stark Industries' security chief Happy Hogan is badly injured in one attack, Stark issues a televised threat to the Mandarin, who responds by destroying Stark's home.

Stark survives the attack and finds himself in rural Tennessee after his artificial intelligence JARVIS followed a flight plan from Stark's investigation into the Mandarin. Stark's experimental armor lacks sufficient power to return to California, and the world believes him dead.

Teaming with Harley, a local 10-year-old boy, Stark investigates the remains of a local explosion bearing the hallmarks of a Mandarin attack. He discovers the "bombings" were triggered by soldiers subjected to Extremis, which can cause some subjects to explosively reject it. After veterans started exploding, their deaths were used to cover up Extremis' flaws by manufacturing a terrorist plot.

With Harley's help, Stark traces the Mandarin to Miami and infiltrates his headquarters. Inside he discovers the Mandarin is actually an actor, Trevor Slattery. The Mandarin is a creation of Killian, who appropriated Hansen's Extremis research as a cure for his own disability and expanded the program to include injured war veterans.

After capturing Stark, Killian reveals he is the true Mandarin. He has kidnapped Potts and subjected her to Extremis in order to gain Stark's aid in fixing Extremis' flaws and thereby saving Pepper.

Killian has also manipulated American intelligence agencies regarding the Mandarin's location, luring James Rhodes -- the former War Machine, now renamed the Iron Patriot -- into a trap to steal the armor. Stark escapes and reunites with Rhodes, discovering that Killian intends to attack President Ellis aboard Air Force One. Stark saves some surviving passengers and crew but cannot stop Killian from abducting Ellis. They trace Killian to an impounded oil-drilling platform where Killian intends to kill Ellis on live television. The vice-president will become a puppet leader, following Killian's orders in exchange for Extremis to cure his daughter's disability.

On the platform, Stark goes to save Potts, and Rhodes saves the president. Stark summons each of his Iron Man suits, controlled remotely by JARVIS, to provide combat support. Rhodes secures the President and leads him to safety, while Stark discovers Potts has survived the Extremis procedure. However, a rig collapses around them and she falls to her apparent death. Stark confronts Killian and traps him in an Iron Man suit that self-destructs, but fails to kill him. Potts, whose Extremis powers allowed her to survive her fall, intervenes and kills Killian.

After the battle, Stark orders JARVIS to destroy each Iron Man suit as a sign of his intention to devote more time to Potts. The vice president and Slattery are arrested. With Stark's help, Potts' Extremis effects are stabilized, and Stark undergoes surgery to remove the shrapnel embedded near his heart. He pitches his obsolete chest arc reactor into the sea, musing he will always be Iron Man.

So, how's the figure? Very impressive. One thing about this Iron Man Assemblers line, and for that matter even the standard 4" figures for Iron Man 3 -- they're not afraid to use a good spectrum of color schemes. I really believe that one thing that hurt the Iron Man 2 line was there was simply too much red and gold in it. Yes, those are Iron Man's traditional colors. But it can get redundant. The Iron Man 3 line features much more distinctive figures, to the point where the red-and-gold actually stands out more than it did the last time around.

The HYPERVELOCITY IRON MAN figure is not red and gold. He's mostly a very dark steel blue and a metallic pewter gray, with a bit of silver and red. It's interesting in that this is an Iron Man whose color scheme really makes him look like -- an iron man, if you will.

One question that should be asked is -- does the Hypervelocity Iron Man armor appear in the movie? And my answer is -- sort of. We are faced here with a couple of dilemmas. First of all, Tony Stark has been a very busy billionaire since the Avengers. He's built literally dozens of armors, which appear in little more than cameos in the final battle sequence in a rather oddly-lit nighttime environment. Discerning one armor from another is one of those things that's likely to have to wait for the DVD release, and some serious "freeze-frame" attempts.

There is a book that is somewhat helpful. Oddly enough, it's in the children's section of book departments like one might find at Target -- which is where I found this book. It's called "Iron Man 3 - Suits of Armor", and features Tony Stark going through quite a few of his various armor designs to decide which one is best-suited for fighting the Mandarin. Most of the pages are filled with good, straightforward illustrations of quite a number of his armors, albeit not all of them.

Here's the other dilemma. There is an armor in this book called the "High Velocity Armor". It's the Mark XL -- or Mark 40, and it's nicknamed "Shotgun". It's described as having the ability to lock into a tight, streamlined shape that blends arms and legs into a single form while in flight mode, and it can reach speeds in excess of Mach 5.

Problem -- visually, it's not really a match for the Hypervelocity Armor figure. What's annoying is -- it's close. I just am not sure it's close enough. As portrayed in the book, the High Velocity armor is mostly dark gray and silver. It has none of the blue of the Hypervelocity Armor. The description on the package for the Hypervelocity Armor describes it as being used mainly as a research took for exploring upper atmosphere weather effects, also incorporating the energy collection technology of other Iron Man armor versions to allow it to collect and discharge the full might of Earth's most power storms.

Description-wise, I don't call that a match. And yet, there are similarities. The raised, somewhat V-like shape of the chestplate, and many of the details on the backplate, are very similar.

Still, my own personal opinion, and that's all it is, is that these are not the same suit of armor. I think it can be said that any of the armors that appear in the book are likely somewhere in the movie. As for this figure? Maybe it's in the movie separately. Maybe it is meant to be the same as the one in the book. Ultimately, I'm not sure.

Which doesn't mean that the Hypervelocity Iron Man armor isn't a cool figure! It most certainly is!

Most of the helmet is dark blue, but the faceplate is silver, and it has dark metallic gray on the sides. The eyeslits, which seem larger than usual, have been painted red.

Most of the chestplate and backplate are dark metallic gray, with some dark blue on the sides. The arc reactor centerpiece is a red circle, framed in a five-sided, diamond-shaped silver framework. The abdomen and lower torso of the armor is mostly dark blue, with some intricate dark gray detailing around the stomach region, and some on the sides.

The arms and legs are mostly dark blue, with a limited amount of metallic dark gray plating on them. The overall design is very cool, and one gets the impression that the designers -- both in the movie and at Hasbro -- were able to have some great fun designing these barely-seen armors for the movie and the toy lines. Since they weren't the primary armors, and since Stark had built literally dozens of suits, there was no particular reason why any of the specific guidelines that had more or less been required on the more prominent suits of armor necessarily had to be used here. In other words, if this were Stark's primary suit of armor, it would seem out of place. As one of many that is used occasionally, when needed, for very specific assignments -- sure, why not?

The shape of the armor, and even the placement of panel lines on the suit, seems to be somewhat more angular than we're used to seeing on an Iron Man armor. To what degree this is advantageous for the specialty of the armor itself, is something that only Tony Stark would know. Regardless, the sculpted detail is at once precise, intricate, and extensive. Please note the extended individual fingers of the right hand.

As far as practical application is concerned -- well, hey, it's a super-hero. There's got to be some "willing suspension of disbelief" here, or high-tech suits of armor aside, we're going to start pondering the plausibility of power rings. And yet there is this recessed area on the back that I just wonder a little if it might not be the output port for an internal jet of some sort.

The Hypervelocity Armor receives some other assistance, though. There are two attachments that can be secured to the sides of the lower legs that could readily be jet packs of some sort.

Additionally, all of the Assemblers figures come with two extra arms. Some of these make more sense than others, or at least seem more geared towards the armor they come with. The Starboost Armor, for example, didn't fare quite as well. One of its extra arms was a chainsaw, for pity's name. Yeah, there's a useful space tool.

The extra arms for the Hypervelocity Armor Iron Man seem a bit more geared to the figure. The color is a closer match, although they are a lighter blue, and the darker blue shielding or whatever it is on the lower arms seems to be more of a match both colorwise and in structural design to the slightly angular look of the rest of the armor. I'm especially impressed with the detail on the hands, particularly the open left hand. There's a large gun barrel on the right hand.

Swapping parts out, and indeed, assembling the figure in the first place, is easy enough. The head is already attached (but can be traded out), and the arms and legs pop right in, and the arms are an easy trade-out.

Articulation? Okay -- not so much here. One point of contention that's been raised with a number of 4" lines lately has been very limited articulation. I'm not going to get into all the reasons and explanations for it. I will say that I think it's unfortunate. But, it is what it is, and if we want to enjoy these figures, we have little choice but to accept it. Hypervelocity Iron Man is poseable at the head, arms, and legs. The Assemblers figures do have one advantage over the standard 4" Iron Man 3 figures, in that their arms move outwards as well as forward and back. The standard figures lack the outward movement.

So, what's my final word? This Assemblers line is much cooler than I initially thought. I think I'm going to have to pay much closer attention to it, and bring some more of them in to my collection -- and provide reviews of them, of course. The Hypervelocity Iron Man figure presents something of a mystery, at least in relation to the High Velocity armor pictured in the Iron Man 3 - Suits of Armor book. Is it or isn't it? Well, from a strictly toy standpoint, I suppose it doesn't matter all that much. It's still a very cool figure, and certainly a distinctive version of Iron Man.

If you enjoyed the Iron Man 3 movie, and have any sort of Iron Man action figures around, you should definitely look into adding this particular armor to your collection. I am certain you will be pleased with it.

The HYPERVELOCITY IRON MAN figure from the IRON MAN 3 ASSEMBLERS line definitely has my highest recommendation!