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REVIEW: IRON MAN 3 ASSEMBLERS SONIC CAMO IRON MAN
By Thomas Wheeler

I'll have to admit that it took me a while to warm up to the "Assemblers" line of Iron Man 3 action figures. I'm used to seeing my action figures fully assembled and ready to go when I purchase them. I'm not used to seeing the arms and legs separated from the head and torso in the package.

Admittedly, this is something that Iron Man could get away with better than most super-heroes. If one assumes that one is looking at the armor components, then it's a little easier to wrap one's head around it than if this were attempted with, say, Batman or Spider-Man. Okay, there's "Build-a-Figures" and "Collect-and-Connects", but those are sold as one extra piece alongside another otherwise fully-assembled figure. And it can still be a little peculiar to see an arm and a leg independent of the rest of the individual to whom it belongs.

However, I started to hear increasingly positive things about these Assemblers figures. The designs were more innovative than the standard 4" line for Iron Man 3, and frankly far more innovative than many of the figures had been for the Iron Man 2 movie, which had a rather unfortunate surplus of red and gold on the shelves.

This time around, that's being avoided. In fact, out of I think eight or nine Assemblers figures currently available, only two of them follow the traditional color pattern. And this isn't one of them. It's called the SONIC CAMO IRON MAN, which is an interesting name in and of itself.

Let's have a brief look at the box office blockbuster IRON MAN 3 movie, and then at the Sonic Camo Iron Man figure.

Iron Man 3 stars Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man. The movie is produced by Kevin Feige, directed by Shane Black, with a screenplay by Drew Pearce and Shane Black.

In the movie, Tony Stark starts off by recalling a New Year's Eve party in 1999 with a scientist named 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.

Now, 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 multiple Iron Man suits, creating friction with his girlfriend Pepper Potts.

A series of bombings by a terrorist called the Mandarin has left intelligence agencies surprised by lack of forensic evidence. When Stark Industries' security chief Happy Hogan is badly injured in one of these attacks, Stark issues a televised threat to the Mandarin, who responds by destroying Stark's home with helicopter gunships.

Stark, his Mark 42 armor removing him from the scene, 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. Teaming with Harley, a local 10-year-old boy with an inventive streak, 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 at this stage of development can cause certain subjects to explosively reject it. Anyone else reminded of those TV commercials for prescription medications with the litany of possible side-effects? Imagine the ads for this...!

After veterans started exploding, their deaths were used to cover up Extremis' flaws by manufacturing a terrorist plot. Stark witnesses Extremis firsthand when Mandarin agents attack him. With Harley's help, Stark traces the Mandarin to Miami and infiltrates his headquarters using improvised weapons.

Inside he discovers the Mandarin is actually a British 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 to gain Stark's aid in fixing Extremis' flaws and thereby saving Pepper.

Killian has additionally manipulated American intelligence agencies regarding the Mandarin's location, luring James Rhodes - the former War Machine, now 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. Remotely controlling his Iron Man armor, 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 air support. Rhodes secures the president and leads him to safety, while Stark discovers Potts has survived the Extremis procedure. However, before he can save her, 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.

It's a good movie, the main criticism being -- too much Stark, not enough Iron Man, a sentiment I tend to share. I also didn't care for the destruction of all those armors. And on that note, let us turn our attention to the SONIC CAMO IRON MAN armor.

So, how's the figure? Very impressive. Colorwise, it's mostly a very dark blue, almost a blue-black, with a certain amount of light metallic blue trim.

One question that needs to be asked is -- does this armor appear in the movie? That's a good question. One that's not easily answered. Yes, in the final battle scene, there are literally dozens of remote-controlled armors zipping around. The problem is, we don't get a very good look at most of them.

There's a book available that is of some assistance. Remarkably, it's a kids' book. It's called "Iron Man 3: Suits of Armor", and it features Tony Stark going through quite a few of his armor designs, trying to decide which one might be best with which to combat the Mandarin. As far as I know, it's the best look we've got to date of at least some of Iron Man's many armors.

So, we now ask the question -- is the armor in the book? And the answer to that question is -- well, maybe, sort of. Some of the armors in the Assemblers line are most definitely in the book, without question. This one is a little more vague.

Let's consider the backstory of the Sonic Camo Iron Man armor, as explained on the toy package. It reads: "This armor's sonic camouflage technology can capture and replicate any sound. Iron Man can disguise his presence as anything from a whisper-quiet warrior to a thundering advancing army. He can trigger a diversion, drawing out curious enemies who get blasted with his launching sidewinder missiles!"

Okay, neat trick. Sound as camouflage. Does this qualify as stealth armor? I'd say that it has stealth capabilities, but is not specifically a stealth armor. And here's where we sort of have to stretch a point to match the Sonic Camo armor with one in the book.

There's an armor in the Iron Man 3: Suits of Armor book that comes very close to the Sonic Camo armor. It's officially designated the Black Stealth Suit, listed as the Mark XVI. The color scheme is extremely similar, as are some of the design particulars, although it's capabilities are different.

Two additional thoughts to consider. How accurate is the book to the movie armor designs? Based on what I've seen, I'd say reasonably so, especially for a kids' book. But it does not cover all forty-two suits of armor. Consider also this. Given the little more than cameo appearances that most of the armors make in the movie, I rather doubt that the movie's producers actually developed forty-two different suits of armor. They doubtless developed quite a few, including some rather distinctive ones, but it's entirely likely they they might have taken a number of them and done some color modification to fill in the numbers. The Sonic Camo Iron Man could be one of these.

I will say I'm impressed by Hasbro's efforts. To date, I've bought five Assemblers, and have my eye on a couple more, and they've all been distinctive. The only recolors I've encountered are Iron Patriot/War Machine, which makes some sense, and a recolor of the Iron Man Mark 42 done in black and gold.

Sonic Camo Iron Man has a fairly traditional, movie-based Iron Man helmet. However, as with the entirety of the armor, the color scheme is different. The helmet is mostly blue-black with a bright metallic blue faceplate. The eyeslits are impressive, in that they are yellow, outlined in red. And very precisely painted. One of the problems that the Iron Man 2 line suffered from was poor aim on painting the eyeslits on some of the armors. That problem seems to have been largely rectified.

The vast majority of Sonic Camo Iron Man's armor is the dark blue-black. The bright metallic blue trim is limited, but as such that much more distinctive. Most of the chest is this brighter color, as are the tops of the shoulders, the hands, except for the backs of the hands, and some paneling on the sides of the upper legs.

Sonic Camo Iron Man has a circular arc reactor on his chest, bright yellow-white, encircled in red. There's a second, trapezoid-shaped red panel slightly below this. This as much as anything was what led me to the Black Stealth Armor in the book. What purpose it might serve I don't know. I suppose one could surmise that it's his sound projector.

The paneling on the armor, especially on the abdomen and back, seems to be a bit more intricate and angular than on some Iron Man armors. The sculpted detail is especially impressive. Please take note of the right hand with the individual, separate fingers. The angular, intricate nature of the armor paneling especially comes out on those sections painted the bright metallic blue. Look at the intricate design of the chestplate.

Assembly of the figure is easy enough. Although the head is removable, it comes packaged attached. The arms and legs snap in very readily.

Articulation is -- rather limited. The figure moves at the head, arms, and legs. That's it. In fairness, the Assemblers figures do have an advantage over the standard figures in the Iron Man 3 line, in that their arms move outward as well as forward and backward, but it's still pretty limiting.

I'd be lying if I said I approved of this limited level of articulation, and I'm hardly alone in this opinion. I am not going to get into all the theories and explanations I've heard for this, and Iron Man is not alone in scaled-back articulation these days. All I can say is that I hope one day we can look forward to a return to extensive articulation in most of our 4" action figures, and in the meantime, if we want to collect them, we'll have to accept what's being made and live with the limitations.

One of the main features of the Assemblers figures is the ability to swap parts between armors. While this is something that would doubtless appeal to kids, I have to say that I now own five Assemblers figures, and any attempt to swap parts between them, given how distinctive each armor is from the others, tends to result in an Iron Man figure that looks like Tony Stark might've attended a few too many New Year's Eve parties before getting dressed in his armored alter-ego.

However, each Assemblers figure also comes with several accessories, which include additional arms that can be snapped into place. Some of these additional arms seem more appropriate than others. The additional arms that come with the Sonic Camo Iron Man are -- interesting choices.

The right arm is black, with a gold claw at the end. The left arm is mostly gold, with a spring-loaded missile launcher. The color scheme simply doesn't match. I suppose the idea here is to increase the mix-and-match potential, but I have to say that to me, they do look a little odd. The missile launcher comes with a large red missile.

Two additional accessories are a pair of -- well, I'm not entirely sure what they are, but they can clip to either his arms or legs. They're small, black, rather angular pieces of equipment, with a trio of red tips. I'm sort of assuming here that these are small missile launchers. The missiles do not actually launch, of course.

So, what's my final word? Okay, these figures look a little odd in their package. I don't think any of us are especially accustomed to seeing disassembled action figures like this. But they assemble very readily, and they definitely look cool, and so far, most of them can be connected to the movie -- at least if this book is a valid source, which I believe it is. I'm also impressed by the fact that these figures are very distinctive. It's not just a line of assorted repaints. This certainly includes the Sonic Camo Iron Man. While the articulation is unfortunately limited, it's nevertheless an extremely cool figure, very well detailed and neatly painted, and I'm glad to have it. If you're an Iron Man fan, so will you.

The SONIC CAMO IRON MAN figure from the IRON MAN 3 ASSEMBLERS line definitely has my most enthusiastic recommendation!