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Avengers: United They Stand
by yo go re

So far, every Marvel Monday this month has been a Spider-Man character. We would have kept that trend going this week, but one of our readers requested something different.

The evil robot Ultron, originally designed by Dr. Hank Pym, possessed the capacity for creative intelligence and self-repair. The living machine inadvertently gained awareness and emotions, and believed himself to be the next step in evolution. He is one of the Avengers' strongest and most villainous opponents. Now the powerful blast of his mega-energy cannon is aimed at the Avengers!

These days we have Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, which is one of the best superhero cartoons ever made. Animation fans weren't always so lucky, though: in the '90s we were saddled with Avengers: United They Stand, which was pretty much a total hunk of ass. It didn't have Captain America, Thor or Iron Man; the character designs were ridiculous; and everybody had toyetic snap-on armor. No wonder it was cancelled after only 13 episodes. Surprisingly, it got two series of toys and had a third scheduled but unreleased.

The token villain for the first series was Ultron, and man does he look good! Wisely, the toy completely eschews the cartoon's design, and instead goes for something, you know, "good." He was sculpted mainly by Paul Komoda and Jose Rodriguez, who did great (team)work: it almost looks like this figure was designed for some other line, and merely got repurposed as a cartoon toy. Which may be possible, come to think of it. He's tall and skinny, just like the comic version, and has a surprisingly asymmetrical design; he looks like a robot that's been repaired numerous times, rather than one that was built to a specific blueprint.

And that's just the broad details - the smaller elements are just as good! The tiny mechanical bits in his hands are so intricate that they even stand up to today's toys. Hell, if there were some way to put modern articulation in this sculpt, fans would eat it up. Dig out the original 2-up, retool it from scratch and we'll love you forever.

And hey - the head is right! Remember the foofaraw about Marvel Legends Ultron, and the fact that the first images didn't look even a little bit right? No worries here! The Ultron has the proper eyes, the distinctive mouth... and two little antennae that rise above his head. Okay, that part's not right, but it's close enough.

Ultron stands 6⅛" tall to the tip of his left antenna. When it's straight. They're molded from very soft PVC, so they get warped super-easily. The articulation is pretty average, for the time: he has hinged ankles, hinged knees (with a movable pad over the knee), balljointed hips, hinged elbows, a swivel right shoulder, swivel/hinge left shoulder and a swivel neck. We could really use some swivel action in the legs: he's pigeon-toed. The control art that Nelson Asencio provided showed him with a wider stance that might have fixed that. It also gave him a bunch of PVC tubes running all over the place, which probably would have been annoying. The toy's better without them.

So, why are the neck and right shoulder plain swivels? Because of his action feature. Press the button on Ultron's belly, and his eyes glow bright red. In order for that to happen, wires have to run up into his neck, so if it did anything more than swivel, they would snap. Similarly, wires run into his shoulder so that the giant freaking gun that plugs into his arm can light up, too. Just like the robot, the gun is crazy detailed. It's 5¼" long, has lots of exposed tubes and wiring, and even holes near the barrel to cool things down. The gun is painted to match its owner: metallic blue, silver, dark grey and a few gold accents. Putting it on the figure makes him lean a little far to the side, so you'll have to find a pose where he's stable.

Remember when we said that Art Asylum was a design studio for years before starting to make their own stuff? Well, this Ultron is one of the things they made. I remember they had a booth at Wizard World one year, showing a lot of the two-ups they'd designed for ToyBiz, and this Ultron was right there among them - and this was before he was released, so it was sort of his announcement. So I'd been waiting for him to show up ever since that con, and I snapped him up as soon as he appeared at Toys Я Us.

ToyBiz had three shots at making an Ultron, and this is the best one they ever released. He's a little too short to properly fit in with modern Marvel figures, but he looks so good that you might want to find a way to work him into your display anyway. Ugly as it was, the ML11 Ultron inspired the character seen in Marvel Ultimate Alliance, and if you look closely at the animation, it's possible this figure inspired the Ultron seen in Avengers: United They Stand. Even if it did, this toy is a lot better than the others in its line.

-- 02/27/12

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