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Marvel Girl

Marvel Select
by Artemis

"Marvel Girl." Yeah, it's no wonder the movies never actually mentioned Jean Grey's codename - but then, you can't really blame Jean alone. On the original X-team, the guy with angel wings was called Angel, the guy with ice powers was Iceman, the guy with a single-lens visor was Cyclops, and the big hairy animal guy was Beast. Whatever it was Xavier was teaching them at his school (presumably some kind of explanation for how the best way to stop ordinary folks fearing mutants was to isolate them and turn them into a secret paramilitary force), inventive codenames weren't on the syllabus; "Marvel Girl" is rather original by comparison.

One of Charles Xavier's original mutant students, the young Jean Grey joined the X-Men with no idea of what her future would hold. A powerful telepath and telekinetic, Marvel Girl continued to develop those powers that would save the X-Men time and again before seemingly sacrificing her own life to protect her teammates. Suddenly revealed as possessing the legendary Phoenix Force, Jean Grey's subsequent resurrection set the stage for her ultimate destiny - a destiny yet to be revealed.

Okay, let's face it: her "ultimate destiny" is to be remembered as one of the founding X-Men, and the center of the Dark Phoenix thing, since back then that sort of story was actually imaginative. She's not going to top either of those - no one gives a damn who the founding members of anything are these days, and even assuming anyone hauls Jean out, dusts her off, and gives her a really kick-ass story, it'll just sink into the mire of modern comics the moment the next writer without a clue takes over. Cynical about big publishers? You betcha. Go read Dynamo 5.

Still, you have to respect the classics, so even though Jean and her X-comrades are just a shadow of their former selves these days - and even though, let's admit it, she looks pretty dorky - Marvel Select's Marvel Girl isn't unwelcome, and as a figure she's not bad work. 6½" tall, she embraces her old school roots, with a plain, uncomplicated design that just shows off the old costume as it was, rather than trying to jazz it up with elaborate fabric sculpts. Admittedly, part of that is because this is a figure designed with a variant in mind - the other Marvel Girl (not counting the Fantastic Four one), Jean's daughter from a parallel universe whatever - and the generic, low-detail sculpt helps facilitate the re-use of parts without the need to resculpt much. Thus the boots and gloves are painted on without sculpted edges, likewise the neckline of the dress. The visible cleavage is given a very low-definition sculpt, since it has to look like it's covered with fabric in the repaint - for the same reason but backwards, Jean's stomach is very high definition, with tighter fabric and a visible navel, since Rach has it uncovered.

The head - the only really unique "Jean" part - is a saving grace, with a retro-pretty face that just radiates cute heroism from behind its goofy Batwoman-esque mask. The eyes have a weird over-abundance of red lining, making them look a bit tired (or perhaps psychically unstable, take your pick), but the rest of the paint is solid, with the shiny mask matching the gloves and boots, and girl-next-door understated lipstick. Her hair is stylized, sculpted in solid waves rather than showing the individual strands, and it does a lot to top off the overall simple look of the figure.

In all honesty, the hedging of bets on the costume goes a bit too far - the boots especially fade into the skin colour of the legs without a sculpted line to define them (and although it's not as bad as the photo flash makes it look, the painted skin on the knees isn't a great match for the bare plastic skin of the thighs), and the featureless cleavage tends to catch the eye, and not in the way cleavage normally does. Against that, though, Jean has a good palette going for her, with the pearly shine on the yellow/gold adding visual interest without undercutting the essential retro style of the outfit, and some subtle shadowing on the dress helping break up the monotony of all that green (though unfortunately a bit of it got into the crevices of the neck tendons too - oops). The skirt is soft plastic, but with the sculpt all over being soft it fits in just fine, and although there's no shadowing, with the belt between it and the torso, it doesn't look undetailed by comparison.

Marvel Select tends to stick to a middle ground with articulation, and Jean is no exception. She has a balljoint neck for starters - good for turning and sideways tilting, but the sculpt of her chin keeps her from looking down much, while the hair keeps her from looking up at all. Then there are balljoint shoulders - proper ball and socket, rather than swivel/pin type, which gives a nice unbroken sculpt and the ability to twist a little, at the expense of only having about 30° of outward swing. For the rest, pin elbows, swivel wrists, swivel waist, swivel/pin hips, pin knees and ankles. The ability to broaden her stance puts her one up on the average DC Direct figure, and makes her capable of a decent range of static, display-oriented fine-tuning of the basic pose, but she's not intended for play, and doesn't have much action potential in her.

Where Marvel Select doesn't stick to the middle ground is bases - they're often larger and more elaborate than the figure itself, and this is no exception. Jean gets one half of the front gate to Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, mounted on a sizeable base 5½" by 7" in footprint. The idea is that if you get both versions, mother and pseudo-daughter, you flip one base around to join them up as the full gate - to that end the right edge of the base has an extendable connector hidden away in it. The downside is that, since the base needs to be front-to-back symmetrical, it's just as deep behind the gate as it is in front, meaning that's about 3" of dead space on your shelf being gobbled up if you're displaying it with the gate closed. There are two pegs - one in front of the brick column, and a matching one behind it - which are loose fits for the peg holes in Jean's heels, but enough to keep her in place so long as she's not unbalanced.

The figure's alright - not exceptional, but good-looking, and while it has its flaws there's nothing that really makes her an eyesore. If you're an X-Men fan and you get both versions for the full base, it'll make a pretty great display, especially with the double gate open and a whole bunch of other X-Men figures posed between and in front of it. If you're not planning on that, though, the base is kind of frustrating - you can see how it would be cool, but on its own the half-gate is a bit ungainly, and the deep base footprint is a pain in the butt for shelving. Overall she's one for the serious fans - of Jean herself, or X-Men in general - but not especially rewarding to the casual collector.

-- 09/21/09

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