When it was announced that Jessica Alba would be playing the role of Sue Storm in this summer's Fantastic Four movie, it seemed like strange casting - her swarthy looks didn't really fit with the whitebread suburban Sue we know from the comics. But a few weeks later, when Alba appeared at SDCC to help promote Frank Miller's Sin City, she also unveiled her new, dyed-blonde hair; suddenly the choice made sense.
Brilliant and beautiful scientist Sue Storm headed up Victor von Doom's research department at his world-famous Institute for Science. She is reunited with her old boyfriend Reed Richards when von Doom's company agrees to fund a space mission to test his scientific theory on evolution. Sue signed on as a member of the crew - a decision that would forever change her life. After the fateful accident, Sue is left with the ability to make herself disappear. As the Invisible Woman, she is also able to generate invisible force fields and fire invisible power blasts from her hands.
Until now, every Invisible Woman figure has been either colored or clear - usually with a chase variant depicting the other form. And also until now, that seemed fine: like a man blind from birth, we didn't know it could be any better. But for its Fantastic Four movie line, ToyBiz has gotten much smarter.
To show off the use of her powers, Sue is fading out. Or in. Whichever. Her head, torso, upper arms and thighs are painted, but everything beyond the elbows and knees is 100% clear. The paint apps create a nice, subtle transition between the two areas - there are no harsh edges, but a realistic fade. Plans also called for completely painted and completely translucent variants, as well, but so far only the totally clear version has shown up.
Sue has articulation aplenty: she moves at the neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, gloves, wrists, fingers, chest, torso, waist, hips, thighs, knees, boots, ankles and toes. The chest joint is an odd one, comprising her breasts and shoulder blades - it's a logical place to hide a joint, yes, but all it does is add a bit of twisting motion already provided by the waist joint. It's an innovation, but one that serves no purpose. The plastic used to make her knee and elbow joints is suprisingly soft, almost rubbery, and feels like it could break at any time. Why the cheap materials, ToyBiz?
I don't know if Jessica Alba had final say over her figure's likeness, but ToyBiz really gave us a wonky sculpt. Yes, the face resembles Ms. Alba - slightly. It's better than Art Asylum's attempt, but not as good as NECA's. The facial sculpt does give the figure the sort of wholesome "girl-next-doorness" that Sue always had in the comics (but seems to be lacking in the trailers we've seen so far).
No, the problems all lie below the neck. As with their original X-Men movie line, ToyBiz has tried to graft exaggerated superheroic proportions onto what should be a normal human figure - these toys represent real live actors, not pen and ink drawings. So why is Sue's waist thinner than her head from the front, and thinner than her neck from the side? Jessica Alba may be a scrawny little thing, but she's bigger than this. Everyone is bigger than this.
Rather than plain blue jumpsuits, the Fantastic Four's movie costumes seem inspired by the team's Ultimate version - a bit more detailed than the classic comicbook look, but still recognizably linked. The detail on the suit is good, with tiny wrinkles and piping that contuinue even onto the clear parts of the figure. Judging by her feet, Sue's boots have lifts in them to give her a little more stature.
Since she has no action features, Invisible Woman comes with a gimmicky display base. The base features a swirling flare of invisible power, carefully designed to spiral up around Sue's knees. A big button on the right side of the base launches four discs from a slot on the left side. The entire thing - swirl, base, discs, even the launching mechanism - is translucent, befitting the character.
It remains to be seen whether the movie's Invisible Woman will be the useless waif she was at the outset, or the capable leader she's become today. In either case, ToyBiz has given us a decent, though not great, figure of her. The choice to make a half-clear Sue was a good one, and it's the way every Invisible Woman toy should be made from now on.
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