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Trying to regain its place in the super-hero toy world, Toy Biz has launched a new series of highly-detailed, highly-articulated action figures called MARVEL LEGENDS. Clearly the intent is to duplicate the success of the super-articulated Spider-Man line, because there are distinct similarities. Each figure has roughly 30 points of articulation, comes with a highly detailed "action base", and a reproduced comic book chronicling an important adventure in the characters history.

I haven't bought all of these figures, but I gave them a good professional looking-over when I saw them at Toys "R" Us and (of all places) Software Etc., so I think I can write a capable enough review of them.

IRON MAN: Overall, not a bad figure. I would only question two things about it -- using such a dark metallic gold on the parts that have always tended to appear as a brighter yellowish-gold in the comics, and giving the figure such an archaic mask. Curiously, the bulk of the armor looks to come from the 80's, not the 60's, and indeed, that's the era of the comic book that was reproduced for inclusion in the package. Well, as it turns out, what I saw was in fact a variant of the Iron Man figure, that is deliberately given the darker gold and earlier face plate. Apparently there's a second version of the Marvel Legends Iron Man figure out there, which I have yet to see, that does use a lighter yellow-gold and a more recent face-plate. And overall, the figure is quite impressive. So I'd have to give it high points on that basis, anyway, since my only complaint was the color and the face-plate (which on both versions, I assume, is removable and showing Tony Stark's face beneath.)

INCREDIBLE HULK: A bit of a coloring goof in my opinion on an otherwise impressive figure. What makes them feel that the Hulk should be dark green? He's supposed to be a fairly light, even a bright green. Maybe that's not menacing enough somehow. Anyway, too dark a color aside, it's actually an excellent figure, with superb sculpting and what looks to be remarkable articulation for so bulky a figure. I initially thought the hands were "bendies", as they are posed rather "flat" in the packaging, but according to newsgroups, they're just flexible plastic, and scheduled for a change to hard plastic with poseable finger groups like the others.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: Probably the prize of the line. This is a very modern Captain America, with his round shield and full head mask. He is superbly sculpted and detailed, and very well articulated. If I buy one figure from this Marvel Legends line, it is likely to be Captain America. The uniform is done in appropriately bold colors of red, white, and blue, and the overall detail is excellent. I recommend Captain America above any of the others in this generally excellent Marvel Legends series.

THE TOAD: Okay -- why is this one here? This fat-bellied, scrawny-limbed, freak-faced waste has gotten way too much attention ever since Ray Park played him in the X-Men movie. There have been multiple different action figures of him -- all of them ugly -- and he even wormed his way in as a pretty major character in the X-Men Evolution animated series -- or so I heard, since I haven't bothered to watch that cheesy excuse for a mutant cartoon (I'll take the X-Men series from the 90's, thank you). What is it about this third-rate character? The gross-out factor? Whatever the case, don't ask me to review the figure. I didn't even bother to look at it. Nor does he belong in the company he's keeping here. Sort of like putting an issue of MAD magazine in a collection of Great Works of Literature. It doesn't fit.

Apart from The Toad, though, and a few glitches that I'll admit are mostly personal interpretation, this Marvel Legends series presents some of the best sculpting work Toy Biz has carried out to date. This line, if it does well, and I should certainly think it would, may be what's needed to get Toy Biz back on a more productive track, and get some really cool Marvel merchandise back on the shelves, apart from a certain Web-Slinger and a gang of mutants.

According to PREVIEWS, the second assortment of these figures is supposed to include THE THING, HUMAN TORCH, NAMOR, and DOCTOR DOOM. Based on the small pictures in the magazine, The Thing looks the most impressive, Human Torch the least. Namor gets the award for the most interesting display base, a sculpted wave of water. The Sub-Mariner clips top the top of it. Doctor Doom looks appropriately menacing. There are rumors that he was bumped into this assortment, which is why the first assortment was rounded out what that horrible Toad figure, who according to some wasn't even designed for the Marvel Legends series, but is a holdover from some unreleased comic-themed figures that were going to be tied into the X-Men movie merchandise. Still, this is a very impressive line of figures Toy Biz is working on, and it has the collecting community talking online about who they'd like to see brought into it.

Now if they'd just bring back Famous Covers...