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Marvel Icons
by Artemis

If you're a comicbook character, calling yourself "Phoenix" is just asking to be dramatically killed and resurrected so many times you lose all credibility. Mind you, if your previous name was "Marvel Girl," I suppose anything must seem like an improvement.

The Phoenix is life, and death, and all of the chaotic potential of the span between. Spawned in the elemental pressure-cooker at the heart of time, mere microseconds after the Big Bang, the Phoenix is a creature of raw spacetime. Constructed of the same vibrating, ephemeral math as gravity and atomic force, it wields control over the bonds that hold base matter together, letting it discorporate entire planets at will - or resurrect them.

Coalesced into the cloned mortal form of the powerful psionic Jean Grey, it experiences life as it is known to the lesser creatures of the universe for the first time. Locked into a paradigm in which the tyranny of cause and effect holds sway, it struggles to assimilate what it sees through the perspective of its host body. It is Jean through and through, for it has recreated not just her body, but her whole mind and soul as well, but it is also still the Phoenix.

Moving through daily life in the body of a mortal woman it thinks and acts as she would, laughing, loving and fighting for her friends with all the power at its disposal. And yet the ordered flow of four-dimensional time weighs heavily on it. Despite its desire to do right, day by day, it can feel its control slipping away, slowly but surely.

Big figure, big bio - for all the missteps it's made with Marvel Legends since taking the reins, Hasbro's fans have consistently gotten their money's worth out of whoever writes the flavour text on the back of the box - even if he or she sometimes gets confused and says things like "four-dimensional time" - time is the fourth dimension, they say (although my pet theory is that it's not, but a function of the other three; never mind). Aside from what I know from the movies - 1: she's an intriguing telepath/telekinetic, 2: she's a powerful and potentials dangerous TP/TK, 3: she's a dumb plot device with crap taste in dresses - I don't know much about Jean Grey, so it's just as well Hasbro's just told you something about her. Hasbro, though, don't seem to know much about making a 12" Jean Grey action figure - let me tell you about that.

She's got the height - a full 12", slightly more if you pose her straight upright - but the other two of those aforementioned dimensions are a problem; the other three, if you include time, as in "time before she gets shoved at the back of a shelf, out of view". Jean is thin to the point of gangly, and from the side she's practically a relative of Dr. Val Ventura, with the mutant ability to gross out even anorexic supermodels. She's solid plastic, as much as an articulated figure ever is, and perhaps that's part of the problem - plastic costs money, and by that standard Jean's scrawny physique must've been a bargain to manufacture.

Her sculpt (such as there is of it) features the usual gentle creases around the joints to show it's a costume, not a layer of paint, but aside from that the block heels of her boots are the only real costume element - the edges of her long boots and gloves are just painted, which on a figure this size is both visible and cheap-looking. Presumably the aim is for this to be a generic body that can be re-used for future 12" superheroines, in which case I pity the poor characters who'll wind up looking like this. There's a very minor attempt to provide definition using a black wash, but it's properly visible only on the stomach, and less beneath the breasts; elsewhere they barely bothered (although there is an errant blob of paint on the right hip ball). The Phoenix symbol, to its credit, is painted cleanly, although it's far from complex. The sash is a separate element, in soft plastic - it's firmly attached though, so it can't be lowered to hide the hip joints.

The face is, at last, good work - although it's sabotaged by everything around it, a giraffe-like neck, and a sizeable shock of indifferently-drybrushed hair that just looks out of place atop such a slender body. But the face is well-proportioned, attractive in the fashion of comic art, and displays a characterfully serious expression, with crisply painted eyes and attractive lips.

Unfortunately articulation takes a dive again - not in quantity, but quality. On the surface she's got a useful set of joints to her: balljoint neck, swivel/pin/swivel shoulders, double pin elbows, swivel/pin wrists, pin sternum, swivel waist, swivel/pin/swivel hips, double pin knees, and swivel/pin ankles. On a well-made 6" figure, that'd be all you could ask for; sadly, this is neither well-made, nor 6". The sternum pin is ratcheted very tightly - so much so that tilting the shoulders back happens with such force that the corners of the joint get damaged by the hard edge of the upper section slamming into them. The waist swivel is very ugly, due to the abnormally flat body.

The hips are very stiff, and on the figure I got, just flat-out badly-made - the left has a gap far greater than intended between the ball and the thigh sculpt, and the pin joint simply will not budge; the other hip works as advertised, but remains so stiff that posing it is a chore. The ankles (and half of one knee's double pin joint) suffer from the opposite problem - there's far too much play in the pin joint, regardless of its ratcheted position, meaning - I'm quite serious - it is functionally impossible for them to support the weight of the figure. Oh, the finessing I had to do to get her upright long enough just to take photos; give this to any child with patience issues, and I guarantee there'll be a Phoenix-shaped dent in the wall within 10 minutes. I can't comment on whether this is a line-wide issue, or whether I just had bad luck, but I noticed aesthetic issues with the hips of all three figures I had to choose from, and this was the one that looked least badly-made.

And that's about it - no accessories, no base (although she has peg holes in both feet - double the usual size, of course, so not much use unless you've got a larger-scale peg base handy). I've complained before about DC Direct's substandard 1:6-scale figures - here, Hasbro has shown it can be just as rubbish for half the price. I paid substantially less than that again thanks to a sale, and I'm still questioning the worth of it - Phoenix is substandard, and that's all there is to it.

-- 08/10/09

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