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REVIEW: MARVEL LEGENDS THOR
By Thomas Wheeler

I'll admit, while I very much enjoy my various 4" scale action figure collections -- G.I. Joe, Star Wars, Marvel Universe, and so forth, I do tend to prefer my super-heroes to be of somewhat larger scale. I certainly greatly enjoy the DC Universe Classics figures from Mattel, and was delighted when Hasbro decided to reinstate the MARVEL LEGENDS line.

One of the ones I was particularly interested in was THOR. I've always rather liked the character, and I certainly have several versions of him around here, including a huge 12" version of him in his classic costume, standing on my desk and pretty much daring anyone to mess with my paperwork.

However, the new Marvel Legends Thor featured the character in his more recent uniform. Although I readily admit I tend to prefer my heroes in more traditional super-hero type costumes, I also had to admit that the more armored, somewhat grander look of Thor's modern costume had grown on me, and the figure looked truly spectacular, so I decided to add the Marvel Legends Thor to my collection.

Let's consider some of the backstory to the character, and then have a look at the figure.

Obviously, Marvel Comics didn't create Thor. He and all of the various other gods of Asgard are an integral part of ancient Norse mythology. Marvel just took this pantheon and brought it into the modern day and made it cool.

The character first appeared in Journey into Mystery #83 (Aug. 1962) and was created by editor-plotter Stan Lee, scripter Larry Lieber, and penciller Jack Kirby.

Debuting in the Silver Age of Comic Books, the character is based on the god Thor of Norse mythology. He has starred in several ongoing series and limited series, and has been a perennial member of the superhero team the Avengers, appearing in each of the four volumes. The character has also appeared in associated Marvel merchandise including animated television series, clothing, toys, trading cards, video games, and movies.

Thor's father Odin decided his son needed to be taught humility and consequently placed Thor (without memories of godhood) into the body and memories of an existing, partially disabled human medical student, Donald Blake. After becoming a doctor and on vacation in Norway, Blake witnessed the arrival of an alien scouting party. Blake fled into a cave after they heard him and began to pursue him. After discovering Thor's disguised hammer Mjolnir, and striking it against a rock, he transformed into the thunder god.

Defeating the aliens, Thor shared a double life with his alter ego: treating the ill in a private practice with nurse - and eventual love - Jane Foster and defending humanity from evil. Thor's presence on Earth almost immediately attracted the attention of his adoptive brother and arch-foe Loki; who returned repeatedly to Earth in a bid to destroy Thor. Loki was also responsible for the emergence of three of Thor's principal foes: the Absorbing Man; the Wrecker, and the Destroyer. On one occasion, Loki's tactics were accidentally beneficial - although successful in using an illusion of the Hulk to draw Thor into battle, it resulted in the formation of the superhero team the Avengers, of which Thor was a founding and longstanding member.

Thor's other early foes included the Red Army; Zarrko, the Tomorrow Man; the Radioactive Man; the Lava Man; the Cobra; Mister Hyde; the Enchantress and the Executioner and the Grey Gargoyle.

Falling in love with Jane Foster, Thor disobeyed his father and refused to return to Asgard, an act for which he was punished on several occasions. Thor's natural affinity for Earth was eventually revealed to be due to the fact that he was the son of the Elder Goddess Gaea. Although Thor initially regarded himself as a "superhero" like his teammates in the Avengers, Loki's machinations drew Thor into increasingly epic adventures, such as teaming with father Odin and Asgardian ally Balder against fire demon Surtur and Skagg the Storm Giant, and defeating an increasingly powerful Absorbing Man and proving his innocence in the "Trial of the Gods". This necessitates an extended leave of absence from the Avengers.

Thor also encountered Greek god Hercules, who became a loyal and trustworthy friend. Thor also saved Hercules from fellow Olympian Pluto; stopped the advance of Ego the Living Planet; rescued Jane Foster from the High Evolutionary and defeated his flawed creation, the Man-Beast.

Odin finally relented and allowed Thor to love Jane Foster, on the provison she pass a trial. Foster, however, panicked and Thor intervened. Although Foster failed the test, Odin returned her to Earth where she was given another chance at love, while a heartbroken Thor was introduced to Asgardian warrior Sif. Thor battled the Asgardian troll Ulik for the first time when he attempted to steal Mjolnir; defeated Avengers foe Kang the Conqueror, and the alien Super-Skrull and with Odin and his Asgardian allies engaged in a battle to the death with the Enchanters Three.

Despite repeated attempts by Loki to destroy Thor with a series of past and new foes, Thor was victorious, and even avoids being claimed by Asgardian death goddess Hela. The thunder god returned to Asgard to prevent Mangog from drawing the Odinsword and ending the universe; learned the origin of the cosmic entity Galactus; and stopped the child-like being who would eventually become Adam Warlock from kidnapping Sif.

Thor eventually confronted the threat of the Celestial Fourth Host, and after an extended series of encounters learned of the apparent true origin of Asgard and Odin's plans to defend Earth from the alien judges. Despite the attempt by Odin to stop the Celestials by occupying the Destroyer armour (now 2,000 feet tall as holding the life essence of every Asgardian) and wielding the Odinsword (and aided by the Uni-Mind, an entity composed of the Eternals) and Thor himself, the aliens departed when presented with an offering by Gaea on behalf of the "Skymothers" (e.g. Frigga and Hera) of twelve perfect humans. Thor also learned Gaea was his birth mother.

After restoring the Asgardian gods (courtesy of a gathering of energies donated by Skyfathers from other pantheons) Thor had a series of adventures on Earth, including encountering two Heralds of Galactus in swift succession; stopping Mephisto from taking human souls; clearing his name when framed by Asgardian god of war Tyr; aiding Drax the Destroyer; with ally Iron Man defeating the Bi-Beast and Man-Beast; engaging the former king of Nastrond Fafnir (transformed by Odin into a dragon) in combat when freed by Loki and battling Dracula. Never a dull moment, really.

After another encounter with the Celestials on an alien world; Thor found Odin — a captive of Seth — and used the Odinpower to fend off a returning Surtur; defeated Annihilus while Asgard was in the Negative Zone and on Earth battled X-Men foe the Juggernaut and many other opponents. When Thor killed Loki in single combat, he was banished by the Asgardian Heimdall (acting as temporary ruler of Asgard while Odin entered the Odinsleep) and imprisoned within the mind of the mortal Eric Masterson, who replaced Thor temporarily. When Odin awoke, Thor was forgiven and returned. During a battle Thor was driven into a "warrior's madness" by a Valkyrie. After overpowering everyone who attempted to stop his rampage, Thor was brought by the Eternal Thanos before Odin, who cured his son of the madness. Hey, when you need Thanos' help -- that's a serious situation.

More recently, During the events of the Siege storyline, Thor rushed to the defense of Asgard against Norman Osborn and his invading Dark Avengers. Although the invading forces were ultimately defeated, Asgard itself was toppled by the Sentry, who also killed Loki. Thor was then compelled to kill the Sentry at his request. As a result of the victory, the Superhuman Registration Act was dissolved and Thor joined the rebranded Avengers, who had come to his aid during the battle. The next day Balder lifted Thor's exile and appointed Thor as his adviser.

Thor aided Amadeus Cho in a quest to find the necessary ingredients to bring back their mutual friend Hercules from a parallel universe. During the events of the Chaos War, Thor joined Hercules' God Squad to battle the Chaos King, who was set on destroying all of existence.

With Asgard in ruins on Earth, the nine worlds were left undefended and are invaded by a force known as "The World Eaters". Seeking counsel on the matter, Thor restored his father Odin. Thor also restored his brother Loki, whom Thor had missed since his death. Thor remains active as a hero on Earth, and member of the Avengers.

As to his powers and abilities, Like all Asgardians, Thor is not truly immortal but relies upon periodic consumption of the Golden Apples of Idunn to sustain his extended lifespan, which to date has lasted many millennia. Being the son of Odin and the elder goddess Gaea, Thor is physically the strongest of the Asgardians. If pressed in battle, Thor is also capable of entering into a state known as the "Warrior's Madness" ("berserkergang" in Norwegian), which will temporarily increase his strength and stamina tenfold, although in this state he attacks friend and foe alike.

Thor possesses a very high resistance to physical injury that approaches invulnerability. Thor also possesses keen senses that allows him to track objects traveling faster than light, and hear cries from the other side of the planet. Thor has the ability to travel through time. His stamina allowed him to battle the entire Frost Giant army for nine months without any sustenance or rest; Thor has also shown the ability to regenerate wounded portions of his body, including entire limbs or organs, with the aid of magical forces like Mjolnir, Thor has superhuman speed, agility, and reflexes, enabling him to deflect bullets with his hammer. Like all Asgardians he has immunity to all Earthly diseases and some resistance to magic. However, exceptionally powerful magic can overwhelm Odin's enchantment that transforms him between Asgardian and mortal forms.

As the Norse god of Thunder, Thor can summon the elements of the storm (lightning; rain; wind; snow) and uses Mjolnir as a tool to focus this ability, although the hammer cannot command artificial weather, only natural. He can cause these weather effects all over the world and destroy entire buildings; by whirling his hammer he can also lift entire buildings with the wind. As the son of the Earth goddess Gaea, Thor has shown some control over the Earth.

Thor is a superb hand-to-hand combatant, and also skilled in armed combat, excelling in the use of the war hammer, sword, axe and mace. Thor possesses two items which assist him in combat: the enchanted Belt of Strength, and his mystical hammer Mjolnir. The first item doubles Thor's strength and endurance while the second is used to control his weather abilities; flight; energy projection and absorption; dimensional travel; matter manipulation and the most powerful of his offensives, the God Blast (which taps into Thor's life force), the Thermo-blast, and the Anti-Force (which counteracts another force). Using Mjolnir by throwing in the desired direction and then holding on to the handle's leather loop, Thor can also fly at supersonic speeds in Earth's atmosphere and travel faster than light in space. When Thor has to transport companions and/or objects to a destination by himself, he has a chariot drawn by two huge mystical goats called Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder that can fly nearly anywhere he desires almost as easily as with Mjolnir. He can throw an object out of Earth's atmosphere using his strength, and throw his hammer to Asgard from where it will return.

So, how's the figure? Very impressive. Also very big. How big? Well, it's not the easiest thing in the world to peg an "average" size for a Marvel Legends figure, because they're sort of all over the map. But let's say they tend to be around 6-1/4 - 6-1/2" -- slightly smaller than Mattel's DC Universe Classics figures, which, at least for most of the typical male heroes in the line, are right around a consistent 6-1/2". I don't generally regard the two lines as entirely compatible.

Relative to this, Thor comes in at a whopping 7-1/2" in height. That's even taller than the fairly typical 7" of Mattel's Masters of the Universe Classics, and Thor is pretty much just as musclebound. In other words -- Thor's a big guy -- in any universe.

Thor's iconic, classic costume consisted of a black top and trunks, with six large circles, either light blue or silver in color, depending on how you cared to define it, on the front. The costume was sleeveless, although Thor had black and red striped wristbands. His leggings were blue, and his boots were a highly ornate yellow gold with black flares at the top. He also had a flowing red cape, flowing blonde hair, and wore a silver helmet with feathered wings on the sides.

His modern costume? He's kept the cape and the winged helmet. Kidding aside, the new costume, while perhaps a little less "super-hero-ish" in appearance, is nevertheless highly impressive, and definitely evokes an impression of Thor as a mighty warrior.

The headsculpt of the figure is outstanding. The helmet has a slightly downward point in the front, and the bridge of Thor's nose has been flattened a bit. I've also seen this on a modern 4" scale Marvel Universe figure. For whatever reason, it didn't work quite as well there as it does here. The redesign of Thor's face gives him a distinctly more Nordic look. As to what might have pushed the bridge of his nose in like that -- apart from artistic license -- who knows? Maybe he was standing in the doorway of an Asgardian dining hall when the dinner bell rang and he got shoved into a wall by a stampeding Volstagg.

Thor's expression is what I would describe as heroically grim. He has a scowl on his face that indicates that he's ready for battle, and you'd better hope you're not on his list of enemies to be thwarted, because he's not in a good mood and he's not terribly likely to show any mercy. His eyes have been very neatly painted with ice-blue irises, outlined in black, with black pupils.

The hair sculpt, and for that matter, the feathers in the helmet, are one of the best sculpting jobs I've seen outside of the Four Horsemen, the design and sculpting studio that works on DC Universe and Masters for Mattel. Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising. I've never implied that there aren't talented sculptors elsewhere in the toy world. Certainly there are. But the Four Horsemen definitely raised the bar and have stayed at the top. Nonetheless, this Thor sculpt indicates to me that other sculptors are seeing what's possible, and are raising their own bars accordingly, to impressive results.

Thor is wearing a black tunic over his torso. Although not as tight-fitting as its predecessor, it is nicely detailed, and the six circles from the classic uniform are once again in place, this time to greater purpose. The top two secure Thor's cape, while the middle two apparently act as some sort of buttons for the tunic itself. A thick gold line weaves its way between these top four circles, lending a nice bit of regal detail to the figure. There is a thin brown strap diagonally across his chest, and he is also wearing a brown belt, that has an extra loop to hold his hammer.

Thor's arms and legs are sheathed in intricate armor, designed to look like thick chain mail. The sculpt is extremely impressive. Here again the sculptors have shown top-level talent and skills. They have carefully placed the design of the armor over the tight musculature of Thor's arms and legs, and done so with a very regular pattern. Here again, to compare to the work of the Four Horsemen, consider the intricate scales on Aquaman's shirt. Same sort of precision work has been done here. This sort of precision would be all too easy to get sloppy with, and botch, but that's not the case at all with Thor. It's really outstanding.

Thor has black cuffs at the ends of his sleeves, and his hands are bare, but very nicely done and well detailed. His left hand is somewhat open, his right hand is more closed so he can grasp Mjolnir, his hammer, properly.

Thor is wearing fairly high, black boots, that come up to his knees, and the flares of the original boots have been carried over from the originals, rising up to perhaps provide a little extra protection for Thor's knees. There are brown straps on the boots, just below the knees, and right at the ankles. The ankle straps also have silver circles on either side.

Of course, Thor has his red cape, which makes him look that much more majestic. The cape is slightly preposed, tending to swing just a bit to Thor's right, but it's not too bad in this regard, and the overall design is excellent.

Then, of course, there is Thor's hammer. The mallet section, a dark silver in color, is 1-1/4" wide and a little over 5/8" high, and it has a 2-1/4" long handle, including a loop at the tip. It's suitably imposing.

Any complaints? Nothing significant. The arms and legs have been painted in a bluish silver, and then given a wash of black paint-wipe. As ever with this particular method of detailing, I could have done without it, but in this case, it almost works. It gives a sort of "bare metal" look to the chain mail armor, without making Thor as a whole look like he's just dragged himself in off a battlefield somewhere.

The lower portion of his tunic has been intentionally wrinkled to allow for better leg movement. Granted, it would have otherwise been an impedance, but the end result makes it look a little too much like the lower part of Thor's tunic is in desperate need of ironing.

Apart from these, this is a truly magnificent figure, and Thor is certainly well articulated. He is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso (a surprising range of motion here), legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.

So, what's my final word? If you want an exceptionally cool and highly impressive modern Thor, in a good size range, then here he is. This is really an excellent figure, and his super size means that he's workable within any number of similarly-scaled action figure lines, as long as you accept the premise that Thor is a distinctly large individual to begin with, which is how he's always been portrayed anyway.

If you're a fan of Thor, I can promise that you will enjoy having this figure in your collection.

The MARVEL LEGENDS figure of THOR definitely has my highest recommendation!