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By Thomas Wheeler

The toys for the SPIDER-MAN 2 movie, surely this summer's blockbuster, have started to emerge at toy stores, and one toy in particular has garnered a lot of attention -- well-deserved attention.

Toy Biz has produced an immense, incredibly detailed, and unbelievably articulated Spider-Man action figure. This Spider-Man stands 18" in height, easily dwarfing the popular 12" scale best known for G.I.Joe and other military toy lines. The toy features 67 points of articulation, outstripping both Marvel Legends and Gundam, which had previously ruled the articulation roost. Possibly only a handful of Transformers can boast of more moving parts, and those mostly needed for their transformations, not as part of their humanoid robot-mode articulation.

Almost half of these articulation points are in the hands. For the first time in the history of action figures, as far as I am aware, an action figure has been given hands so thoroughly articulated they come very close to mimicking the same level of movement of a human hand. Each finger is separately articulated along each finger joint. The only point slightly lacking is the thumb, which doesn't quite fold inwards as well as it should, but even it is articulated along proper points, and given how intricate these hands are, it's a wonder they managed as much as they did. I have no complaints.

It's entirely possible that this Spider-Man figure is as big as he is because Toy Biz couldn't make it any smaller and still get this level of articulation. I pity the workers that had to assemble this toy. Along with the amazing hands, Spidey is articulated at the head, neck, arms, elbows wrists, twice along the torso, the waist, legs, knees, ankles, and feet. Every one of these key areas of articulation has multiple points of articulation for an astounding range of motion.

The package Spider-Man comes in not only has many photographs showcasing multiple poses, but a diagram on the back specifically outlining all of the articulation points. The figure also comes with a web shooter accessory, with little plastic web missiles. Frankly, given that the selling point is clearly the articulation level of the toy, I don't even know why they bothered with this, except to in some way include one of Spider-Man's best known features that didn't involve the wall-crawler's amazing agility -- shooting webs. Apart from that it's a little pointless.

The figure is very solidly made. This is not some hollow-plastic cheapie. I remember the 12" fiascos that Toy Biz produced some years ago. I bought the Spider-Man from that line, accidentally dropped it, and it shattered. Toy Biz started getting their act together more with Famous Covers (which I still miss) and Marvel Legends, and now we have this amazing action figure.

If one studies the figure closely, you can see that most of the assembly points along the arms and legs have been concealed with plastic "plugs" that fit in with the contours of the figure. The attention to detail is really amazing.

There's a few minor problems. The proportions look just a little off to me. I can't quite tell if Spider-Man's head is a little too small or his legs and feet a little too large. I might be imagining this. And the back of Spidey's head comes up a little short, and can't entirely be explained by a need to accommodate articulation. Looks like someone cut off the lower back of his skull. Certainly the detail level is beyond reproach. And I'd also like to thank the producers of the Spider-Man movie, on which this figure is based, for not messing with Spider-Man's costume to any great degree. The overall likeness is superb.

Given the figure's size, he's a little hard to manipulate. And the articulation points are very tight, something I actually appreciate, and in the major limbs they're "click-jointed", moving from one point to another with a loud "click" so that the figure can hold the pose. But the size of the figure and the tightness of the joints can be a slight detriment when posing the figure. You move one leg, then move its knee, then move the foot, then do the other leg and then check the first leg to see if it lines up, and it's almost impossible to keep the entire figure in your field of vision when doing such close work. And sometimes the articulation is so tight you worry about breaking the figure if you move something too harshly. I suspect Spidey has been built better than that, though. I tend to treat most of my action figures rather cautiously.

He's certainly heavy enough. I haven't actually weighed the figure, but I'm sure he weighs several pounds. You don't want to drop him on your foot if you're not wearing shoes.

The paint work is impressive. The figure seems to have been molded mostly in red, with the proper areas painted a very dark blue. The webs have been done in silver, in keeping with the movie image, and the spider insignia on his chest, and the borders around his eyes, have been neatly painted in black. A nice touch is that the eyes of the mask itself have been painted in a slightly reflective pearlescent white.

Ultimately, this is truly a superb Spider-Man action figure. Actually, he's a superb action figure, period. Certainly one of the most complex ever designed. Hasbro, Mattel, and a few others could learn something from Toy Biz on this one.

And for what you get, and for all the work that's gone into him, and the sheer size, Spider-Man is certainly priced right. He's $24.99 at Target, which is where I found him on January 2, and reportedly around $22.00 at Wal-Mart. Either is an excellent price for this action figure.

I give the 18" SPIDER-MAN my highest recommendation!