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REVIEW:
MARVEL ICONS - 12" THOR
By Thomas Wheeler


I was honestly surprised when Hasbro decided to continue the 12" Marvel Legends Icons line of action figures which Toy Biz had inaugurated. I was surprised for several reasons. First off, the Icons were a relatively new addition to the roster of Marvel action figures. There had only been a couple of assortments before the license shifted from Toy Biz over to Hasbro. I don't expect there would have been any great consequence if Hasbro had simply decided to drop the line. Secondly, large scale action figures tend to have a tough time in today's toy marketplace. It's unusual to see much of anything on the high side of six or eight inches these days that isn't a VERY proven property, and then it's usually something that's a small part of a larger overall line. While the Icons are, essentially, an extension of the Marvel Legends line, that line in and of itself has become increasingly known, almost by necessity, for doing secondary and tertiary characters. The major players have long since been done as Marvel Legends.

But then Hasbro took over the Marvel license, and much to my surprise continued the Marvel Icons line. The first assortment of two figures included Wolverine -- big deal -- and -- THOR!

I'll admit, I like Thor. Now, I've actually taken some grief for that. I am a Christian by faith, and I have, on thankfully infrequent occasion, been assailed for having anything to do with a character who calls himself a god, but who clearly isn't God. All right, let's consider that for a brief moment.

I think there's three important things to consider here. First off, Thor is fictional. Period. Whether you regard that from a standpoint of Marvel Comics, or ancient Norse mythology, Thor doesn't really exist. I'm not, for one second, going to consider that a fictional character, regardless of his origins, is going to be any sort of "god", and certainly not God Himself. Secondly, the Thor of the Marvel Universe is clearly a "super-hero-ized" version of the ancient character. Stan Lee has remarked that they didn't create Thor and his retinue of fellow Asgardians, they simply worked with the established mythology -- and basically, they brought it into a format that could work in modern day comic books. The history/mythology was left intact, but I doubt very much that Thor, in ancient times, was pictured as wearing a black tunic, blue tights, and a bright red cape. Thirdly, and finally, I would reference a scene from the late 1970's, wherein Thor, in the company of a number of Avengers, were investigating a church where a villain was thought to be hiding. Thor seemed a little ill at ease, although he did have the respect to remove his helmet, and when asked about his discomfort, acknowledged that he felt a little out of place in a church, but also stated that his own father, Odin, chief of the Norse "gods", made no claims to being all-powerful.

Thor and his compatriots in the Marvel Universe are pictured as immensely powerful beings, something other than human, but even they make no claims of actual godhood on that level.

Within the Marvel Universe, Thor is one of the long-time characters, coming along in the early 60's pretty much in the same time period as the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Hulk, and others. Initially, it seemed as though Thor was an ordinary human by the name of Donald Blake. Blake was a well-regarded doctor, but this physician was unable to heel himself. He was lame in one leg, and lived a rather isolated life as a result of it. On an overseas trip, he discovered a strange, gnarled walking stick. Striking it to the ground at one point, he was transformed into the mighty Thor!

Later it was revealed that Odin, Thor's father, concerned over his son's ego and arrogance, stripped Thor's memory from him, transformed him into a human being, one with a physical deficiency, and sent him to Earth in order to teach him a measure of humility. Thor, essentially, was the real deal, while Donald Blake was the pretense.

Over the years, Thor has had an extremely varied existence. He has had several other "secret identities", and a wide range of costume designs ranging from the regal to some that were just a little TOO modern in design for a character like Thor. For myself, I always appreciated the traditional outfit in which he first appeared. Although perhaps too closely resembling a super-hero costume, I happen to think it works. Thor's best-known outfit consists of a black, sleeveless tunic with six large, metallic discs on it, blue leggings, gold-toned boots with some sort of wrapping around them, a silver helmet with feathered wings on each side, and a large red cape.

Thor is obviously a powerhouse. He can hold up against the strongest in the Marvel Universe and then some. He went toe-to-toe with Superman in the JLA/Avengers crossover between DC and Marvel, and the outcome of that fight was anybody's guess, but suffice to say "epic battle" would not be an exaggeration.

Although one would hardly think someone like Thor would need a weapon, he still comes with one. Thor without his hammer just doesn't quite seem right. And Thor wields a big hammer. Its name is Mjolnir, and it is made from a material called "uru". It is basically indestructable, and there is an enchantment on it, courtesy of Odin, that only Thor can even lift the thing. Occasional exceptions have been made if someone is particularly worthy, or if there is a crisis at hand. Later in that same JLA/Avengers crossover, Superman was able to heft the hammer for a time, and even he had trouble comprehending its full power.

Far more than a mere mallet, Mjolnir can be used to bring about horrific storms (he is the "god of thunder", after all), open up dimensional portals -- generally to Asgard and back -- and has even been capable of time travel on occasion. And, of course, it works pretty well as a hammer, although you wouldn't want to just drive nails with it. Drive a super-villain clean through a building, maybe. The hammer also allows Thor to fly. Essentially what Thor does is throws the hammer as hard as he can, grabbing onto the loop at the end at the last second, and allows himself to be carried along by the force of his own hammer-throw.

I've always seen Thor as one of those characters who manages to be fairly prominent, and yet has a little trouble fitting in. He has this mythological grandeur to him that is perpetually at odds with the more mundane world around him, even a world populated by other super-heroes. It can't be easy to write this character. Make him too cosmic, and the stories could get downright incomprehensible. Bring him too far down to earth, and you lose too much of who he is. I've seen both happen over the course of his adventures.

So -- how's the figure? Pretty darned impressive. It's certainly the "classic" Thor, and if you're going to buy only one of the 12" Marvel Legends Icons line, this is the one to have. Technically, if you throw in the feathers on the helmet, he's more like 13", but he is an even 12" to the top of his head.

Thor is nicely sculpted, with detailing to his black tunic that makes one think it is something other than typical super-hero spandex, perhaps a more protective material. The figure has a powerful physique, in keeping with the character, and a well-defined musculature throughout his frame. The detailing on more intricate areas such as the wrappings on his boots or the feathers on his helmet are superb.

Thor has a good face-sculpt, too. I suspect that Thor is not an easy figure to design a toy for. You can't really base him on any one artist's interpretation. And with that long blonde hair, there's always the risk of making him look either to effeminate -- despite the powerful body -- or just as bad, making him look like some sort of California surfer dude.

At the same time, there's the matter of age. Thor is at least centuries old -- and yet he certainly doesn't look it. How detailed should his features be? This Thor figure does a superb job. The face is superbly designed, nicely detailed, possessed of a stern expression of determination, doesn't look the least bit "off", and manages to even have some features that might associate as representative of the part of the world where the Norse mythology is based.

The long hair is sculpted. I've seen Thor figures over the years that have used rooted "real" hair, and sculpted hair. Generally it's a toss-up as to how well this works. I think Mego did a good job in the 70's, with a rooted-hair Thor figure whose only real failing point was that the standard "male" body that Mego used at the time wasn't quite powerful-enough looking. Even then, between a good costume design and an excellent headsculpt, Mego crafted what I think was pretty much the first Thor action figure, and it's deservedly well-regarded to this day.

The flip side of that coin would be the Toy Biz Famous Covers Thor, which also used rooted hair, but it was such a neon blonde that I think it would glow under an ultra-violet light, and I think that Thor got a pretty short cape compared to the massive cape acreage that later figures Vision and Magneto received.

Most sculpted-hair Thors have worked pretty well provided they have a decent face sculpt. Some have, some haven't. One from Toy Biz, which I think was part of an Avengers boxed set, looked particularly effeminate.

The Marvel Icons Thor? Works very nicely, thank you, and the hair is flexible enough so that it doesn't impede the head articulation all that much.

Overall articulation on the figure is excellent, pretty much to Marvel Legends levels. Thor is poseable at the head, arms, upper swivel arm, elbows, wrists (either side of the wristbands), the left hand's fingers are individually articulated, mid-torso, wiast, legs, double-joined knees, ankles, and the fronts of the feet.

The cape is a very nice piece of work. Someone as regal as Thor needs a cape, and this figure has a superb one. Hasbro was a little cheap with the capes when they did some 9" DC Comics figures a few years ago -- didn't even hem them. But Thor's cape is a double layer of fabric that has almost a metallic sheen to it, and it is definitely hemmed on all sides, and tucked into the collar of the figure very appropriately. I am very pleased that Hasbro decided to go with a fabric cape on this figure, rather than some pre-posed piece of plastic. Interestingly, the red on the outside of the cape is a little darker than the inside.

And, of course, Thor has his hammer. Mjolnir is a pretty good-sized block of -- well, whatever "uru" is -- well-detailed to look to be made of a very dense stone, and is attached to a well-detailed handle that was designed to look as though it is wrapped in some sort of leather.

Best of all, there's no real "dirt-wash" paint on this figure. It looks like there's a little on the legs, but it's negligible. The boots have some detailing, but it looks good there, and was done in tan, not black. The rest of the figure is nice and clean.

My one and only complaint about this figure is that the "flares" of the uniform around the shoulders don't quite look to be even. One of them seems to flare up a bit more than the other. A distinctly minor point on an otherwise superb action figure.

In the comics, Thor and the rest of the Asgardians faced "Ragnarok", the so-called "twilight of the gods", a while back, and his title was suspended. Thor's only return since then, was a brief appearance in the "Civil War" story, and this turned out to not actually even be Thor, but a clone of Thor, that went out of control and killed a hero named Goliath. And you have to wonder about the actual intelligence of a group of supposed geniuses like Tony Stark, Reed Richards, and Henry Pym that got it into their heads that cloning a being like Thor was a good idea, or something they could even get away with without the sort of damage that clone caused.

However, a new Thor comic book has been announced to start in July 2007. I've seen an image of the new costume, and honestly, I'm not terribly impressed. It's closer to the classic look than some, but parts of it seem too loose-fitting, and others too armored. But the title might be worth a read, to see how they undo Ragnarok or whatever.

Meanwhile, if you're looking for what I have to regard as the ultimate classic Thor action figure, especially if you want a pretty good-sized version of the big guy around, then you definitely need to consider tracking down the Marvel Legends Icons 12" THOR figure. This Thor has my highest and most enthusiastic recommendation!