Easily one of the most classic characters from the early days of Marvel, Thor wasn't actually created by Marvel Comics. He comes from Norse mythology, which, as with many ancient mythologies, had a pantheon of so- called "gods" that had dominion over various aspects of the world around them. In Norse mythology, Thor was the god of thunder, and the son of Odin, who was the king of the Norse gods.
Introduced into the Marvel Universe in the very early 60's, Thor was supposedly Donald Blake, a compassionate doctor who was lame in one leg. On a trip overseas, he discovered a crude walking stick which, when he touched it, became a powerful hammer, and became the living incarnation of the mythological Thor.
This origin would be revised some years later, with the discovery of Asgard, the extradimensional home of the Norse gods, populated by those self-same beings. It turned out that Odin, deciding his son needed a lesson in humility, transformed him into the lame doctor Blake, wiped his memory, and hid his hammer as a walking stick, to be discovered only when Odin saw fit.
Over the decades, Thor has had a number of "human" identities, the most recent of which was Jake Olson, an EMS technician.
Thor has been a prominent fixture in the Marvel Universe for decades. He was a founding member and longtime participant in the Avengers, and enjoyed a very healthy run of his own title with some of comics' best creators for many years.
However, it can be argued that the character is not easy to write. Thor and his fellows all talk like something out of the King James Bible. There's a certain epic grandeur that's expected of the character and his adventures that is not that easy to accomplish, and one can imagine that a lot of writers aren't entirely comfortable making the attempt.
Arguably, Thor has been best handled in a lengthy run by the legendary Walt Simonson, and more recently in a good series of stories by Dan Jurgens. That most recent run resulted in a series of connected stories that saw Odin sacrifice his life in battle, Thor become lord of Asgard, Thor subsequently brings Asgard to Earth to hover over Manhattan (and you thought the pigeons were the worst sky-borne problem!), and in a story that played out as an alternate future, Thor became a tyrant over the entire planet. Ultimately, the stories worked back to the present day only in time to see a story that played out titled "twilight of the gods", with the destruction of Asgard and the demise of everybody involved, including Thor, Loki, and everyone else.
At the moment, there is no Thor comic book, and as far as I know, no Thor or anyone else from Asgard. I've heard reports of vague plans to bring back the title and the characters in some sort of more modern context, which I think would be a MASSIVE mistake, but I have yet to see anything develop from it.
Why this was done I don't know. Perhaps the book's sales were faltering. Maybe Marvel just couldn't find anybody with the vision to maintain Thor and his friends and enemies at a proper level. Personally, I'd guess the latter. Thor doesn't fit into the modern world very well. He's not a street hero, he's not hip, he doesn't listen to rap, he's not a mutant, and it wouldn't surprise me a bit if Marvel couldn't find anyone willing to work with him on his terms. And that's a shame.
Thor's presence in this assortment of Marvel Legends figures is a little unusual in my book. He's easily the most prominent character in an assortment that is otherwise comprised of second and third-string heroes. I mean, when you talk about the sort of company that Thor generally keeps, names like Havok, Captain Britain, and Kitty Pryde aren't the first names that leap to mind.
This isn't even the first Thor figure in the Marvel Legends collection. However, the previous one, from one of the pretty early assortments, wasn't all that well received. Many of the details were rather muted in color, and the figure had a face that some argued was rather effeminate. Okay, so Thor has shoulder-length blonde hair. That's no reason to take one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe and give him a face that looks like it should be singing "I Feel Pretty..."
Fortunately, somebody at Toy Biz decided to make up for that early gaffe, and the result is really impressive. This may be the best Thor figure ever. He's got a face that looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger from fifteen years ago or if he still exercised. The uniform is the proper, classic design and in all the right colors. The boots are mostly yellow, not some muted metallic gold as they were the first time around. There's no overwash of dirt or grungy details, which would've been entirely inappropriate on this character. The metal discs on his tunic do a nice job of semi-concealing some of the articulation points. Thor has an appropriately powerful build that manages to be massive without being ponderous. Thor shouldn't look like the Hulk or Juggernaut. He's not disproportionate. He's big, he's powerful, but his physique shouldn't look bulky. The figure stands a good bit taller, as well he should, than the average Marvel Legends figure. Let's say the average-sized Marvel Legends figure comes in at around 6" in height, give or take a bit. Thor tops out at just over 7".
The figure is very well articulated, as one would expect from a Marvel Legends figure, and the various body sections are, for the most part, molded in the right color for what they need to be.
The paint work is excellent. I see no evidence of hand-painted details (something Toy Biz has managed to avoid for the most part anyway), and all of the paint work is neatly done with superb precision, even on fine details such as the eyes and eyebrows, and the boot straps.
Thor, of course, comes with his hammer, which is a huge thing that looks like a solid block of stone with a wrapped handle. Interestingly, there's some sort of inscription on it that looks like it's written in elvish or something. I don't know if it'd match up to anything Tolkein ever dreamed up, but it's a cool addition to the hammer. The hammer is the source of a lot of Thor's special abilities. With it he can summon wind, rain, and storms, open up portals to other times and dimensions, and probably crack walnuts, too, for all I know.
My only complaint with the figure, and it's a relatively minor one, is the cape. Don't get me wrong. It's a cool cape and it looks appropriately majestic. But it's a bit "pre-posed" in that it's designed to look like it's being "blown" to one side. A cape with a more even "hang" to it would've been preferable here, in my opinion. Also, the cape, a flexible piece of relatively thin rubbery plastic, is nonetheless a little heavy, making Thor as a figure a bit back-heavy, and so he does have just a little trouble standing up.
This particular assortment of Marvel Legends figures, possibly because of the characters, possibly because of the exclusivity to Wal-Mart, has been extremely popular. The Wal-Mart closest to me went from a display in the toy aisle AND an entire end-cap to a handful of Sabretooths in a matter of a few days -- and Thor was clearly one of the most popular figures in the lot. The odds of finding Thor at this point probably aren't very good. But if you DO see one, and wonder if he's worth picking up -- he most definitely is. This is really an incredibly good rendition of this classic Marvel character -- who seems to be having trouble getting a decent amount of respect these days -- and THOR most definitely has my highest recommendation.
Now let's turn our attention to another character from the Wal-Mart exclusive assortment:
As a character with that name, Ant-Man also goes back to the earliest days of the Marvel Universe. Ant-Man was Hank Pym, a scientist who developed chemical means to reduce himself to almost microscopic proportions. Developing a cybernetic helmet that allowed him to communicate with ants, he created a super-hero identity for himself and called himself Ant-Man. Before long, his fiance Janet Van Dyne would join him as the Wasp. Together, they were among the founding members of the Avengers.
Pym would later discover the chemical means to also enlarge himself, calling himself Giant-Man (the "Build-A-Figure" in this assortment). He would assume several costume changes over the years, eventually calling himself Yellowjacket, before suffering a nervous breakdown and, for a time, giving up any sort of super-hero work. The last I knew, he remains semi-active in the super-hero community. His "Pym Particles" have helped several other people take on super-hero identities and aid others. Granted a few villains have also used the technology.
However, this Ant-Man figure is not Pym. He's one of those "others" I mentioned. In 1979, in a story by David Micheline with excellent artwork by John Byrne and Bob Layton, a new Ant-Man was introduced.
His name was Scott Lang. An electronics expert, Lang was an ex-convict who'd committed a series of minor burglaries out of boredom if nothing else. Determined to go straight, he got a good job with Stark International (any surprise here that Micheline and Layton also worked on Iron Man?) and was staying on the straight and narrow.
Unfortunately, his ten-year-old daughter contracted a dangerous condition, that required a type of experimental surgery that only one doctor on the face of the planet knew how to perform. However, that doctor, just as Lang was about to contact her, was kidnapped by parties unknown and taken to a research facility called Cross Technological Enterprises.
This story played out on MARVEL PREMIERE #47-#48, the first part of which is the comic book included with the Ant-Man figure. It ends on a cliff- hanger. Suffice to say I've read the original story, and the bad guy is defeated, Lang's daughter is saved by the surgery, and Any and all charges against Lang are dropped.
So where does Ant-Man come in? Figuring that the only way to infiltrate Cross Technological and get to the doctor that Lang needs to save his daughter, Lang decides to commit a few burglaries to raise the money to hire some "muscle" to force his way in. Incredibly, the house he picks to burglarize is the home of Henry Pym. Lang stumbles across one of Pym's old Ant-Man costumes and equipment, and decides on a new plan. He assumes the Ant-Man identity, gains control over an ant army, and uses that to infiltrate Cross Technological instead.
At the end of the second part, Pym -- as Yellowjacket -- gives Lang the costume to keep, along with the equipment and his blessing. And so Scott Lang became the newest member of the super-hero community.
Although seldom more than a second-string player -- at best -- over the years, Ant-Man would work off and on with Iron Man, the Avengers, and even take up with the Fantastic Four for a while. Interestingly, it was during this time that Kristoff Vernard, the ward of Doctor Doom, designed a new uniform for Ant-Man that was actually a vast improvement over the original, whose design technically dated all the way back to the early 60's, possibly even the late 50's. The new costume was armored, and had a more "ant-like" appearance to it. Lang used it several times, but for reasons unknown to me, eventually went back to the classic look. Shame, really, in my opinion.
Scott Lang was with the Avengers towards the end, more than a bit stressed out over a custody battle over his daughter with this ex-wife. Tragically, Scott Lang was one of the apparent casualties of the Scarlet Witch's rampage which led into the "House of M" storyline.
Still, the character manged to hang around the Marvel Universe here and there for a quarter of a century. That's a lot more than some characters can say.
The figure is a really nice piece of work. Good basic construction and physique, muscular but a little slender, as is fitting the character. The costume is well duplicated here, including the small canisters on the belt which contain the concentrated chemicals that allow Ant-Man to change size. Articulation is, of course, superb, as one expects from a Marvel Legends figure. The 2006 copyright date tells me this is a new figure, head to toe. The helmet is a separate piece, well-fitting but also removable, and the headsculpt is a good likeness of Scott Lang. Overall paintwork is excellent. No sign of any dirtying attempt at detailing or whatever.
Honestly, I have no complaints whatsoever about this figure, and that's not something I can say very often these days. Hey, even the comic book is a good read, although you'll probably find yourself heading to a comic shop to find MARVEL PREMIERE #48 to catch the rest of the story.
Based on my observations, Ant-Man was a bit of a shelf-warmer. It's sort of understandable. Of the nine figures in the assortment, Ant-Man is quite probably the most obscure of the lot, although some people may believe the figure to be Pym which is why he's sold. And granted, the one real shelf-warmer in the assortment, Age of Apocalypse Sabretooth, has a pretty bad paintjob from a color selection standpoint.
Overall, do I recommend ANT-MAN? Yes, I do. It's a good figure, and a good entry in the Marvel Legends line. And if for some reason you'd rather this was Pym, then just leave the helmet on and pretend that it is. In any case, ANT-MAN definitely gets my recommendation!
Finally, let's consider the figure for this review that's NOT part of the Wal-Mart assortment:
The newest assortment of Marvel Legends figures is called the "Onslaught" Series. That's because the giant "Build-A-Figure" in this assortment is Onslaught, the villainous entity that led into the thoroughly atrocious "Heroes Reborn" concept, transporting many of Marvel's finest into an alternate universe/storyline for a time, thankfully scrapped after a year of absurdity. Unfortunately these days we have the Ultimate Marvel titles for that, but at least the real Marvel heroes were restored to their proper place.
I've got no great interest in Onslaught, and honestly, there's not a lot of standard figures in this particular assortment that I'm all that interested in. It does have the distinction of being an "all villains" assortment, which is fairly interesting in and of itself. Nice thing about Marvel Legends is that it hasn't been afraid to do some rather obscure characters, or even an entire assortment of them. Arguably the best known character in this assortment is the Green Goblin. I may get him depending on how he looks, but I didn't see him that day. I did see the other figure in this assortment I wanted - Pyro.
Pyro was first introduced when Chris Claremont and John Byrne were working on the X-Men, as part of a new incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Pyro's real name is St. John Allerdyce, and although in his initial appearance The Blob called him "limey", suggesting he is British in origin, his phrasings in later appearances would tend to indicate he's Australian. He was also given an Australian accent in his appearances in the animated X-Men series in the early 90's.
Apparently in his - spare time - Allerdyce was an author - just not a very good one. His power as Pyro is an interesting one. He can control flame, shaping it as he sees fit and making it move wherever he wants. The interesting aspect of this is that he apparently cannot generate flame on his own. Now, a caveat to this - in the "Age of Apocalypse" storyline, that universe's Pyro was shown generating his own flame. However, doing so also caused his flesh to burn. Usually mutants are immune to the effects of their own power, but this was apparently not the case with Pyro.
Whether the "main" Marvel Universe's Pyro was able to generate his own flame I do not know. However, his uniform included built-in flamethrowing equipment, a backpack that included some sort of concentrated flammable material, and hoses that connected to activators on his hands, sort of a flammable version of Spider-Man's web-spinners. So either the "main" Pyro was unable to generate his own flame, or perhaps had at some point, and given himself a nasty hotfoot, and looked to other means to generate flame.
But, as said, his real power is in controlling flame. He can make it assume any shape, and move it about at will. He can create flame monsters, objects, anything he wants.
Pyro was ultimately a victim of the Legacy Virus, a genetically- engineered disease that affected only mutants. Although a villain for most of his career, his last act was heroic, preventing the evil mutant Post from killing a United States senator, redeeming himself as much as possible, not to mention getting rid of a mutant with one of the most stupid names ever. I mean - Post!?
However, the figure is of Pyro at his prime, in his original uniform, and ready for action. It's actually a very decent figure, although a few of the color choices are a bit odd. Pyro's uniform is should to be tannish- gold and yellow with red boots and shoulder harness. In the comics, the gold area tended to be portrayed as orange, which would've really been more appropriate. Also, Pyro had rather bright blonde hair. It's practically the same color as the more muted gold of the uniform.
That's the least of the oddball color choices, though. The really odd choices are in what pieces were molded in what colors. For some thoroughly inexplicable reason, the elbow joints and lower arms were molded in red, and then painted completely gold, and the ankle joints were molded in gold, and then painted red - and not very well. Moving the feet from side to side causes the unpainted areas to become very visible, and even scrapes the paint off. Similarly, the hip articulation points were molded in gold when they should've been yellow, and again, the paint can scrape off. Lastly, the gloves were molded in red and then painted yellow, but at least the paint doesn't seem inclined to scrape off here.
Articulation is, of course, excellent. The figure has dozens of points of articulation, with the excellent range of motion we have come to expect from a Marvel Legends figure, and it is an excellent overall likeness of the Pyro character as he first appeared in the X-Men. He does have a little trouble standing up for some reason. The shoulder harness is perhaps just a little top-heavy, and the feet are rather narrow. His legs don't quite want to move in "all the way" to allow for a normal stance. He ends up with a sort of "action stance", but will hold it if carefully balanced.
Oddly, the comic book that he comes with is an issue of DAREDEVIL, where Pyro put in an appearance, but he's not what I'd call the focal point of the story. There seems to be an indication in the story that DD has faced him before, but having not followed Daredevil, I don't know about such appearances. It was still an odd choice for a comic book to include with this character.
On the whole, though, some minor glitches notwithstanding, this is an excellent figure of a relatively obscure character that, had it not been for the Marvel Legends line, probably wouldn't be seeing an action figure, certainly not one of this overall quality.
There's not many action figures I would recommend from the All-Villain "Onslaught" assortment, but PYRO is definitely one of them. He's an interesting figure with a good visual whose likeness has been well- translated to figure form. PYRO definitely gets my recommendation.
Most super-heroes have a fairly large pantheon of villains. Still, there's generally one standout on the crowd. Superman may battle the likes of Brainiac and Metallo, but you know the number one guy on his list is Lex Luthor. Batman may have to face the likes of Penguin, Two- Face, and the Riddler, but there's no question that The Joker tops them all. And when it comes to Spider-Man, he can deal with the likes of Dr. Octopus, Venom, and the Lizard, but then there's still the Green Goblin.
The Goblin and Spider-Man have a long and ugly history. The original Green Goblin was Norman Osborn, a somewhat questionable industrialist who, as a result of being caught in the after-effects of some of his own scientific work, found himself plagued by a maniacal dark side, that persuaded him to create a lunatic costume for himself, some equally insane hardware, and turn to a life of crime as the Green Goblin.
The Goblin also has the distinction of being responsible for the death of Spider-Man's first great love -- Gwen Stacy. That's something Spider-Man can never forgive. It was during this tragedy that the original Goblin himself met his apparent demise. Not too long after, Osborn's son, Harry, would take up the role of the Green Goblin for a time. He wouldn't be the last to do so. Don't even get me started on the spin-off character known as the Hobgoblin. More recently, astoundingly, the original Goblin, Norman Osborn himself, somehow returned.
There was even a heroic Green Goblin for a brief time, when a young man discovered one of Osborn's safehouses, and a costume for a new, more advanced Goblin. But his career was cut short during the Onslaught storyline.
It's perhaps ironic as such that the original Green Goblin finds himself part of the "All-Villains" wave of Marvel Legends figures that includes the "Build-A-Figure" parts to make a giant Onslaught.
This is hardly the first figure of the Green Goblin. One of the first was from Mego, in the 1970's. This Goblin had a face-sculpt that bordered on the cute. But the figure did show that there's one major situation that has to be addressed anytime you want to do an action figure of the Goblin -- the arms and legs of the costume are clearly drawn as scaly. How do you get around this? For Mego, the answer was simple -- print the scales on the fabric. For that matter, that's what Toy Biz did with their Mego- esque Famous Covers edition of the Green Goblin in the 90's.
So, how to work the scales on that bizarre costume? Ignore them? Sculpt a few of them? In the case of the Marvel Legends Green Goblin, Toy Biz put them all on. They came up with a pattern to apply to the sculpt of the arms and legs of this figure that's a very well defined, very orderly scaly pattern, that doesn't obscure the musculature nor hinder the articulation of the figure in any sense.
Even the purple areas of the costume, and the face, which is, after all, a mask, have a certain limited molded texture to them. It's very subtle, but it's there, and it's not inappropriate, and it works very well.
If it sounds like I'm impressed with the Marvel Legends Green Goblin, you're right. I am. This is one of the coolest Marvel Legends figures I've picked up in some time, and it may easily be the most impressive Green Goblin action figure ever.
Let's consider the headsculpt. The Goblin isn't easy. In some respects like The Joker, the Goblin's face is an exaggeration. It tends to be rather elongated, with rather bulbous eyes, a maniacal grin, an arched brow, a somewhat pronounced chin, and whoppingly large ears. It's way too easy to mess this up, and I've seen it messed up plenty of times. The Famous Covers version was no great prize. I saw one edition that took a cue from an Alex Ross illustration -- no offense intended against that amazing artist -- that assumed the huge eyes were actually sort of goggles, and normal human eyes could be seen underneath. Maybe that's true and maybe it isn't, but that's not how the character has generally been drawn. A little more "willing suspension of disbelief" is needed for the Goblin at times. Then there's that long pointed hat. Just how far do you take that thing?
This Marvel Legends Goblin got it absolutely right. One of Spider-Man's best artists, and somebody who really knew how to draw the Goblin, was John Romita Sr. This headsculpt is so right on the money that it looks like they had Romita himself come in and sculpt the thing. It's perfect. Nicely symmetrical, too. Honestly and sincerely could not have been any better.
The Goblin's costume is very distinctly divided, colorwise, along points that lend themselves to the assembly of the figure. The head, arms, and legs are green, whereas the main body, gloves, and boots are purple. It was a simple enough matter for Toy Biz to mold the figure parts in the color they would be anyway, and then leave them unpainted. I'm also pleased to report there's no sign of any sort of weathering paint applied to this figure. I suspect it was rather tempting for Toy Biz to do this to the scales on the arms and legs, and I'm pleased they restrained themselves.
The only non-articulated area where green and purple really meet are the mask and the hat, and obviously Toy Biz had the long hat molded as a separate piece and then glued into place. The only apparent paint on the figure is the neck -- neatly done -- and the eyes and teeth, also very neatly done.
I have just one -- tiny -- little -- complaint about this figure. Did they HAVE to GLUE the pumpkin bomb to his hand? Toy Biz has a really nasty habit of doing this. They did it with the Famous Covers Green Goblin. They've probably done it to other Green Goblins. They couldn't NOT do it with at least ONE of these? Okay, it's a well-designed pumpkin bomb. I like the metallic finish on it. But I'm getting my X-Acto knife out right after I take the picture for this review...
Apart from that, however, this figure of the Green Goblin is as close to perfect as it's possible for a toy to get. It's an exact likeness of the character. It's well-designed, well-made, and manages one way or another to avoid a lot of the problems plaguing far too many action figures these days. I'd recommend this figure to anyone just to see how it ought to be done these days, whether or not they've even heard of the Green Goblin.
The Goblin comes with his Goblin Flyer vehicle, which includes a display base, as well as a reprint copy of Spider-Man #122, which is the second part of the storyline where the Goblin kills Gwen Stacy and ends up dead by the end of the issue himself. First published in 1973, it remains one of the defining moments of Spider-Man's history.
The GREEN GOBLIN definitely gets my recommendation, as do PYRO, THOR
and ANT-MAN! All four of these fine figures are definitely worthy entries
to any Marvel Legends collection!