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Marvel Legends Face-Off
by Monkey Boy

2006 will be remembered as the year ToyBiz went out with a bang. Before passing the Marvel torch to Hasbro, they've made sure that the shelves stay chock full of new Marvel product. Maybe too full. Hot on the heels of the first series of Face-Off figures comes Series 2, featuring Wolverine vs. Sabretooth, Iron Man (or War Machine) vs. Mandarin, and Punisher vs. Jigsaw.

His life shattered by tragedy, Frank Castle was reborn as the Punisher. Taking his ruthless brand of justice to the streets, this vigilante has dedicated himself to a no-holds-barred war on crime where even the most untouchable villain has not gone unscathed. Enter Billy Russo: A mob assassin set to take out the Punisher. Using Russo to send a message to other would-be assassins, Castle left him alive but horribly disfigured. Now known as Jigsaw, Russo has sworn vengeance on the Punisher for turning his face into the twisted pieces of a horrible puzzle!

Jigsaw is a bit of an anomaly in the world of the Punisher, in that he's still alive after all this time. The Punisher is not known for showing mercy to his foes, unlike most superheroes. In fact, the word "superhero" may not be the best term to describe Frank Castle, since he has no super powers and doesn't act like your typical hero.

Case in point, the new Face-Off figure. It's clearly based on Punisher's first appearance, in which he was all set to kill...Spider-Man? Fresh from the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #129, Castle sports his skin-tight black Kevlar body suit, rather than the baggy modern costume seen on the Marvel Legends IV version. His face, although contorted into a snarl, is much smoother than the rough, scarred ML4 figure. He's got the white boots and gloves, as well as a nice big skull emblem on his torso. He's also got a blue leg holster and knife sheath, both of which are functional. His sculpt and paint are really nice, and although his head is a touch small, the overall figure is a great representation of the comic-bookish style of Punisher's first appearance look.

His face, although contorted into a snarl, is much smoother than the rough, scarred ML4 figure. He's got '70s-style hair, all swept back, and with notable sideburns. The variant Punisher has a different haircut and a slightly less weird face, as well as a different skull emblem - the one on this figure is classic style, while the variant has the modern, angular Tim Bradstreet look.

He's got a balljointed neck, balljoints in the shoulders, pegs in the biceps, double-hinged elbows, pegs at the glove tops, hinges at the wrists and knuckles, a hinge at the chest, a peg at the waist, balljoints in the hips, pegs at the thighs, double-hinged knees, pegs at the boot tops, and hinges at the ankle and mid-foot. There's a little side-to-side play in his ankles, but it's not much. Still, he stands fine and most of the joints are nice and tight. Despite having articulated fingers, he holds his accessories fairly well.

Oh, and what accessories! Castle's got two rifles. One is a sniper rifle, while the other is a copy of the rifle he uses on his first cover appearance. He also has a silenced pistol that fits into his leg holster, and a tiny knife that fits in the sheath on his left calf (this is a bit of a deviation from his first appearance look, which featured a tiny revolver in his calf holster). Working holsters rank right up there with removable helmets and articulated jaws as one of my favorite action figure features, so I'm glad to see them utilized here.

And then there's the other Punisher. I mean, Jigsaw. This isn't Jigsaw's most iconic look, but it's probably his most visually interesting. According to my trusty Marvel Trading Cards (series 2), Jigsaw at one point was brainwashed into believing he was the Punisher, so his Punisher knock-off outfit makes sense. He also became the Punisher for a short period when he believed Frank had been killed, in order to get revenge on those he thought had robbed him of the chance to kill Frank himself. He's got the same black suit with white gloves and boots, as well as a crudely stitched skull emblem on his chest. However, he doesn't share any parts with either ML Punisher figure, which is awesome.

His face is mangled and disgusting looking (that what happens when the Punisher sends you through a window), but it almost looks more burned than stitched-up. He also sports an odd silver neck ring that's actually a separate piece of plastic on his neck. His outfit is much more detailed than Frank's, with the stitched-up motif continuing on his gloves, some nifty pouches on his belt, and some cool-looking straps on his boots.

Jigsaw's paint scheme is superficially the same as the Punisher's, but his white elements are not as clean - almost khaki or beige - and there are some nice silver details in the stitches and straps. Like Castle, he's got a working holster and sheath, and he sports the same articulation, with the addition of two lateral shoulder hinges, though you might not notice them.

His accessories are also similar to Frank's, but there's no re-use. He's got a rifle, a double-handled pump-action shotgun, a pistol, and a knife. He also holds his accessories well, even with the hinged fingers. His handgun has a laser sight attached to the bottom, and his knife lacks a serrated egde.

The set also comes with a base that features more weapons and ammunition strewn about; unfortunately none of it is removable. It also features a broken window on what is ostensibly the floor. They get two Doop stands that plug into the base, and a backdrop featuring the Kingpin and some other thugs in a warehouse. There's also the requisite comic, and while it features both Punisher and Jigsaw, there's actually very little interaction between the two other than a car chase in the first few pages and a brief standoff at the end that reminds me of the movie Heat.

This set is almost worth it for the accessories alone. You can never have too many guns for your Punisher, and even if you have the ML4 version, this figure is different enough to merit a purchase. For everyone who thought the ML4 Punisher was too rugged and modern, this is the perfect classic, almost goofy Punisher to satisfy your tastes. Jigsaw is a nice addition - who else is your Punisher really going to fight? Last time I checked, they don't make random thug action figures. If a Jigsaw that looks like the Punisher isn't your thing, then you can hold out for the variant, which features Jiggy in the more iconic gangster-ish business suit. Either way, this is a great set.

-- 01/19/07

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