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Lt. Col. James Rhodes

Iron Man 3
by Monkey Boy

During the production of Iron Man 3, there was some confusion among fans over identity of the man who would wear the armor of the Iron Patriot. It was pretty clear it wouldn't be Norman Osborn as it is in the comics, since he's a Spider-Man (and thus, as far as films are concerned, a Sony Pictures) villain. Early set photos showed a white stuntman in the armor, so many assumed it would be actor James Badge Dale, though he had been cast to play Eric Savin, who in the comics is also known(?) as the villain Coldblood. Now if you've seen the film, you know what the mix-up was all about. And if you haven't seen it... what's wrong with you, go see it! In the end it just goes to show you that in the instant gratification of the internet age, seeing everything as it happens can ruin the fun (see also: the identity of Star Trek Into Darkness's villain).

So who is the Star-Spangled Man With A Plan? Not Steve Rogers, but...

Salute James Rhodes, unflinching defender of freedom!

Yes, Rhodey. Turns out, in order to better fight terrorism, they just paint the War Machine armor red, white and blue. In fact, this figure isn't even called Iron Patriot anywhere on the packaging - he's referred to solely as "Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes," undoubtedly to avoid confusion with the comic Iron Patriot figure from the front half of this series. Additionally, his cardback actually features a drawing of the painted armor and the traditional gray War Machine suit... perhaps there was originally a variant planned? That would be another reason to refer to the figure as "Lt. Col. James Rhodes," and would also explain the strange golden Ultron photos that have been poppin' up.

Anywhat, though this armor is played up in the film as a simple repaint of the War Machine suit, it's not a retread of the last film's War Machine figure; the sculpt is all new. And it makes sense, since the War Machine armor itself was streamlined and re-designed for the third film (think of it as War Machine Mark II).

There are a number of large and small differences in the armor, and all of them are reflected in great detail in the sculpt, right down to the sculpted lines segmenting the face-plate. The main alterations to the previous look include a square arc reactor, an overall less-bulked-up appearance, and a long, flat lasery-type cannon replacing the shoulder-mounted Gatling gun as the primary weapon. The original film War Machine looked like Iron Man's Mk II armor with a bunch of extra padding thrown on, whereas the new design looks more like its own suit.

All of these details are recreated quite nicely in the 6" figure. I have not a single complaint about the sculpt. What I would like to gripe about is the fact that the figure is molded in shiny, sparkly, swirly plastic, just like every other figure in this series. I get it, somebody thought "Hey! This will get them looking all metally without using paint!" but there are problems with that logic. Firstly, the plastic isn't consistent, so it gets all swirly which is very noticeably anywhere there's a flat, undetailed surface. Second, we all know about the Gold Plastic Syndrome which plagued so many old school Transformers figures. Fingers crossed that this figure won't crumble for no reason in a few years.

The entire figure is molded in deep swirly blue, except for the arms and hands, which are molded in swirly red. Elsewhere the red is painted, as is the silver (or "white" if you're thinking flag). And that's mostly it. His eyes are white (real white, not silver), there's a star tampographed around his arc reactor, a smaller star-in-a-circle (the iconic Air Force roundel) tampo on his left forearm, "FF AF 04 445" on his left shoulder pad (meaning he's based out of Langley AFB... sorry, based out of Joint Base Langley-Eustis), and "Lt. Col. James Rhodes" on the left side of his chest, just to make sure we're aware of who's in the armor. Or who's supposed to be, anyway.

The articulation is quite good, but lacking in one unfortunate area. He's got a peg-and-hinge neck, hinged shoulder pads, peg-and-hinge shoulders, peg bicep, double-hinged elbows, peg-and-hinge wrists, balljointed torso, peg-and-hinge hips, peg thighs, double-hinged knees, and barely moveable ankles. Catch that last bit? The ankles are hemmed in by the odd boot skirts that encompass the foot, making any movement nearly impossible. As such, he can't do the only pose anyone ever wants to do with their Iron Man figures. It's a shame, since the rest of the articulation is pretty much perfect.

He's only got one accessory, and it's something of a stretch to call it that. His shoulder cannon is removable, and can be placed in either of two peg holes in his back. It has a peg joint so the cannon can be rotated, and a hinge so it can fold back, and of course it can move along the joint where it pegs into the figure. It's very versatile, and looks great in a number of different positions.

There's one more item in the package (two if you count the "Inside the Armor Vault" pamphlet [I don't]): his Iron Monger Build-A-Figure piece. Rhodey comes with the left arm, which is much like the right arm included with the Mk 42... and like Rhodey, it's totally molded in awesome swirly blue plastic! Yay? It has some flat black paint to mark the hoses that snake from the upper arm to the forearm, but that's it. It moves at the bicep, elbow and wrist.

It may seem like I'm being a touch harsh on this figure, but I actually really really dig it. The sculpt is top notch, the paint is well applied, and the articulation is (nearly) perfect. His shoulder cannon is also bad ass. But the ankle immobility is a letdown, and much like the legacy of George W. Bush's presidency, only history can judge the longevity of the hypnotically swirly sparkle plastic. Worst case scenario, he'll last a few years before crumbling, but for those few years, you'll have a wonderfully fun figure.

-- 06/10/13

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