Since the Marvel license is shifting from ToyBiz to Hasbro after this year, ToyBiz has been pumping out all kinds of new product under the Marvel Legends banner, including Masterworks, Icons and Face-Offs. The only one that fell flat was Masterworks, because well...who wants Marvel Legends that don't move? The Face-Offs, however, are nice, typically giving us a new version of a character we already have and a new character that hasn't previously been given the ML treatment. Or, in some cases, we get two new versions of characters we already saw earlier in ML. Or, in the case of the Captain America set(s), we get both.
Once a weakling Army recruit drafted into World War II, Steve Rogers was given an experimental serum to transform him into the world's greatest fighter. He would become a super soldier his fellow countrymen could depend on, and look up to as they defended the world from the Nazi invasion. The embodiment of all that his great country stands for, Captain America lead his troops to victory, much to the chagrin of the one who would always stand in his way: Red Skull, a Nazi so evil, even Hitler hemself was frightened. Mortal enemies locked in the oldest and most bitter of rivalries in the Marvel Universe, Red Skull threatens to spread his message of hate in an attempt at world dominance, as the Sentinel of Liberty, Captain America, is there to stop him at every turn.
The standard Cap is based on the ML 8 Ultimate Cap figure, but features a number of differences. For starters, we get a new head and neck, which helps to alleviate the hunch that many complained about in Ultimate Cap. The new head is also a significant improvement: it retains the realistically crinkled leather of ML 8 Cap while getting rid of the grump-face that made Cap look like a grandpa. The boots and gloves are also more fanciful than ML 8 Cap's, which were more toned down and realistic. Other than that, the sculpt is the same, which is good. He does have a mighty hunch, but the torso joint and new neck joint can render that all but invisible.
Cap has a balljoint at the top of the neck, a peg joint at the base of the neck, hinged pectorals, ball jointed shoulders, peg biceps, double-hinged elbows, pegs at the glove tops, hinged wrists and fingers, a hinged torso, a peg waist, balljoints at the hips, peg thighs, double-hinged knees, peg boot tops, hinged and pivoting ankles, and a hinged midfoot joint. In short, dude can move.
Cap's red white and blue paint job is in full effect,
and it uses a nice air-brush to bring out the details. His face is painted nice, with lips that are ever-so-slightly darker than the rest of the skin, and crisp blue eyes. His belt is dark brown, with silver accents. All colors are well defined, and there's no sloppiness around the edges. Like all the Face-Off sets, Captain America has a variant - and like Daredevil, he's unmasked, with a separate "mask' piece floatinga round his neck.. Steve Rogers is looking good, with his close-cropped hair and his baby blue eyes. His features even look like someone from the '40s.
The set itself gets a fairly large complement of accessories, but Cap himself, like Red Skull, only gets one: his shield. We've seen this shield in past Cap releases, but it's really as good as it gets. I suppose maybe they could have battle-damaged it or something, but when has Cap's shield ever been tarnished in the comics? Not often. Judging by his hands, Cap is supposed to hold his shield in his left hand, but the flare of his gloves means it only fits on his right. Perhaps they could have given him the clear "energy" shield he used for a time, but that would have taken away from this set.
Red Skull, aka Johann Schmidt, is looking a little different since we last met him. Back in ML5, he was wearing some pretty blatant Nazi gear, albeit sans swastikas. His outfit, coupled with his grotesque face, is probably why he was a chase figure that was rather difficult to find. I don't think Wal*Mart wanted its shelves full of a skull-faced Nazi (although, according to some reports, certain Wal*Marts did get rather large shipments of Skulls that filled the pegs).
This time, he's wearing a high-tech suit of armor that is actually comic-accurate. Or at least, comic cover accurate. While the armor is clearly based on the stolen shield armor Skull wears in the included comic book,
it matches his appearance on the cover more closely in terms of proportion and color scheme. It's a sort of super-suit that makes Skull the equal of Cap in terms of strength, so the two can duke it out in hand-to-hand combat. Still, with its spiked elbow pads and torso piping, it's not the Skull we're used to seeing. And for retail chains who sell toys to children, that's probably a good thing. Skull's screaming visage actually looks more like the skinless face we're used to in the comics, while the previous figure had some kind of strange half-skin/half-skull zombie thing going on.
While in the comic Skull's armor was a dark metallic blue, the figure gets lots of red accents, as well as a gray belt and boots. This is probably to make him pop out on the pegs more, or some other useless piece of retail logic.
You know, "female figures don't sell," "kids don't want villains," that kind of thing. The figure is painted just as well as Cap, with little bleed and sloppiness.
Skull has a balljoint at the top of the neck, balljoints at the shoulders, peg biceps, double-hinged elbows, peg forearms, hinged wrists and knuckles, a hinged torso, a peg waist, balljoints at the hips, peg thighs, double-hinged knees, peg boot tops, hinged ankles, and hinged midfoot joints. He comes in a little lighter than Cap in the movement department, but still has every joint you'll need to put him in whatever position you want.
Like Cap, Skull gets a single accessory: a sword. He doesn't use it in the comic, but it does make an appearance on the cover. It's hard to get in his hands (always a problem for figures with articulated fingers), and is a little flimsy.
Red Skull's variant set is the only one
in which the nemesis is a different character: Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker. Born in the late 19th century, Strucker was a young nobleman until his family was displaced by the Franco-Prussian war. He joined the Nazi party but, with help from the Red Skull, began funneling der Fuhrer's money and resources into forming his own group - Hydra. You know, those green and yellow, "cut off one limb and two more shall take its place" guys. Yeah, them.
Skull and Strucker must shop at the same armor store, since their sculpts below the neck are identical. In fact, that's specifically why ToyBiz chose this look for the Skull - the repaint factor.
The color scheme is now green with yellow highlights, and though it isn't anything Strucker's ever worn in the comics, it certainly looks good on him. And considering how often the toy designs later find their way into the comics (ML7 Apocalypse, anyone? Jack O'Lantern?), we may see it yet. Strucker's right hand is encased in a blood-red gauntlet, the Satan Claw, a technological item that gives the wearer increased strength, fires energy bolts, and can teleport. Basically it's only the figure's forearm that has a new sculpt - the hand is just repainted.
While ML has featured a Red Skull figure as a chase back in Series 5, this is von Strucker's first foray into ML. More than that, in fact: this is his first action figure ever. The face is really good, showing us a bald, wrinkled old man with a monocle and some facial scars. Strucker has had his aging slowed, much like longtime foe Nick Fury, but he still looks like a guy who could have been running around during WWII.
Unlike the Skull, Strucker does not have any accessories. But if you bought any of the Marvel Select Spider-Women, he looks great addressing the troops from the stairway - the size difference isn't even very noticable, thanks to the cannon fodder's lack of legs.
Both sets share a few extras. There is a bullet-strewn base with two Doop stands to pose the figures on, although any jumping poses will almost certainly cause the set-up to fall over, due to the small size of the base. One can only assume then that the Doop stands are to keep the figures standing upright, though they don't really need help to do that. There is also a piece under the base that extends out,
with a little slot to hold the included backdrop - a jet hangar with a few Hydra agents running forward. It's a nice set-up, but it takes up too much space for my tastes. As I mentioned before, there's also an included comic book featuring a battle royale between Skull and Cap.
In the end, this is the best Cap figure ever, hands down, the Red Skull is a nice opportunity to own the character for those who missed out on the chase, and Strucker is a classic Marvel villain we've never had before. However, while Face-Off Skull features much better articulation and an arguably better sculpt than his predecessor, it can't be ignored that this is not the iconic look for the character. While the Nazi look is certainly a hard one to sell to retail stores, it will always remain the "true" version of Red Skull.
Who do you like better, Skull or Strucker? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.