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- By Thomas Wheeler

How do you improve a figure that's already got 30 points of articulation? You make a more detailed sculpt, add four more points of articulation, and design it so it doesn't look quite so ridiculous just standing in a "neutral position". You also don't try to do his webbing with "paint wipes".

I'm speaking, of course, about the new SPIDER-MAN figure from the movie-related action figure line by Toy Biz. This company has been doing super-articulated Spider-Man figures for over a year now. I recently reviewed the K*B exclusive Spider-Man 2099 and Scarlet Spider figures. And overall, they're very good figures, although it's a little strange in that, while they're not at all pre-posed, they don't look entirely comfortable in a basic standing position.

I have to say that in my opinion, Toy Biz will never be mistaken for Hasbro or Bandai when it comes to overall manufacturing quality. Toy Biz isn't exactly what I'd call cheap, but neither do I regard them as top of the line. That having been said, their accomplishments with articulation in these fairly small figures are that much more impressive. And they've raised their own benchmark with the movie-related Spider-Man.

The Spider-Man movie toys have actually been out for a couple of months. I've avoided them mostly because the primary figure available was a "Battle-Ravaged" Spider-Man, with Peter Parker's face clearly showing through the mask, and multiple rips molded into the costume. I've never cared for this sort of format, from paint-wipes and weathering all the way to to deliberate molded "damage".

I finally found the basic, "non-damaged" Spider-Man figure in late March, and was impressed enough with his overall look to decide to spend the seven dollars to acquire him. And I'm glad that I did. I suppose I expected the standard 30 points of articulation, maybe a little loose in a couple of spots, but overall fairly decent. Wrong. And I mean "wrong" in a good way.

For one thing, no parts on this figure are loose. I realize this is something that can differ from figure to figure, but the one I bought, at least, has no problems whatsoever.

Additionally, Toy Biz has given this Spider-Man four additional points of articulation. Two of these are upper-arm swivels, something which really should have been included on the previous Spideys and which has been fairly standard procedure on any highly articulated action figure since G.I.Joe introduced it in 1983. The other two points consist of a sort of "rotating ankle" which allows Spidey's ankles to not only move forward and backward,
but also side to side. This actually dramatically increases the poseability of the figure, because he can "plant his feet" a bit more effectively and stay balanced. One nice additional feature is that, wherever possible, the articulation points have been melded into the costume elements, especially at the glove and boot points.

For those who want a complete count, the overall articulation includes: head, neck, shoulders (forward, backward, outward), swivel upper arms, double-joints in the elbows, swivel lower arms, wrists, "web-shooting" fingers, mid-torso, waist, legs (forward, backward, outward), swivel upper legs, double-joints in the knees, swivel lower legs, double-joints in the ankles, and front feet at the "toes". I think this thing is better articulated than I am...

The sculpting and detail are incredible. Fortunately, the makers of the Spider-Man movie, unlike those responsible for the X-Men, who decided to buy up all the black leather fabric that didn't get used in "The Matrix", kept Spidey in his traditional uniform, updated only slightly in detail. The webbing on the red portions is clearly embossed, and the blue areas of his costume appear to be some sort of mesh. This has been duplicated on the action figure, to superb overall effect. The webbing is raised, and painted, not paint-wiped. The blue regions of his costume reflesh the "mesh" look, and although these have been paint-wiped, it looks merely like detail, not weathering or dirt.

Also, this new sculpt allows this Spider-Man to stand in a fairly "neutral" position without looking like an idiot. Overall, this may be the finest small-scale Spider-Man figure ever produced. Heck, it may be one of the finest Spider-Man figures ever produced, period. (I think he's also the first action figure I've bought this year with a 2002 copyright date.)

The final result of all of Toy Biz's efforts is a superbly sculpted, detailed, and painted Spider-Man figure with no less than 34 points of articulation and an ability to be posed -- and maintain the pose, that is truly incredible. If you want a truly superb Spider-Man figure, even if for some reason you're not interested in the movie, then I most definitely recommend tracking down the Spider-Man movie 6" action figure from Toy Biz. I assure you you will not be disappointed.

ADDENDUM: The second assortment of the Spider-Man Movie figures recently turned up at K*B Toys. It includes two new versions of Spider-Man, both of which are pre-posed and neither of which is anywhere near as well-articulated as the first version. If you're wanting to get the super-articulated Spider-Man, CHECK THE PACKAGE to make sure it advertises "Over 30 points of articulation"! Just an advisory from Your Friendly Neighborhood Toy-Reviewer...