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Arnim Zola

Marvel Legends
by yo go re

Like Stephen Colbert, this figure thinks with his gut.

Arnim Zola was a biochemist who began his experiments in genetic engineering in the late 1930s upon discovering a cache of ancient scientific papers in his ancestral castle in Switzerland. After decoding the papers, Zola used the advanced knowledge contained therein to perform experiments to create artificial life. Soon succeeding in fashioning even more sophisticated lifeforms, Zola became the first human genetic engineer in history.

That bio comes from the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, not anywhere with the figure - while he does have some biographical info in the form of the Tales of Arnim Zola, it's too much to bother with reproducing in the middle of a review. But that's what we have a blog for.

The pieces to build Arnim Zola are included with six of the seven figures in ML Series 2 (Spider-Man doesn't get a piece). But thanks to variants, it's more like nine - or maybe 12, since two of the variants also include variant BAF pieces, so you might want to build the whole thing twice. Yes, variant BAF pieces; ain't that a slap in the face! Oh, and don't assume you'll just swap things around, either: this is Hasbro, not Mattel, and once the pieces go together, they're together to stay. You can probably get a tool in there and pry things apart if you really want to, but that's a lot of hassle for very little gain.

In official sources (such as the OHOTMU entry we quoted above) Zola is listed as standing 5'10", but the toy is just over 6½". That certainly falls under the heading of "close enough," and after all, this is a robot - who's to say it couldn't be bigger or smaller than any given measurement? In his real body, Arnim was a dwarfish 3'3", so it would make sense that he'd make himself taller at any opportunity. In ML scale, this figure is now twice his original height, which is after all a nice, round number for a man looking to make more of himself. Also, that makes the casting of diminutive actor Toby Jones (who also performed the voice of Harry Potter's Dobby) a physically appropriate choice for Zola in the Captain America movie.

The sculpt on the tunic makes it look like baggy cloth, his chest/shoulder armor appears to be metal of some sort, and the lines on his leg armor are some of the deepest we've ever seen on an action figure. Hasbro's even sculpted the golden patterns on his skirt and boots! For the most part, this could be an average guy in a robe and tech harness, but then you've got small, tightly bundled coils and and wires that make up the pretend "tendons" in his neck, and his head is just a box with a big round eye in the center.

Okay, so that's not really his head - that's an ESP Box, which allows Zola to see and hear through a combination of mechanical and psychic means. The Box is rectangular, wider than it is tall, but more or less square when viewed from the side. There's one large circular oval "eye" in the center, two winglets on the upper corners, and a circular antenna right in the center on the top.

Just because he doesn't have a head, it doesn't mean Arnim doesn't have a face. There's a tv screen embedded in the stomach of the robot, and it shows the man behind the mech. Ed McGuinness provided the art (just like he did the packaging on the first two series of the reborn Marvel Legends), but it doesn't quite look like his usual cartoony style. Pretty cool, though. It fades out near the edges, helping to sell the idea that it's an image on a monitor.

In reality, it's an image on a sticker: if you work at it, you can pry up his harness and remove the clear plastic "screen," giving you unencumbered access to the sticker beneath. You know what that means, don't you? You can put your own face in his stomach! Or any other face you want. It also means Hasbro could have printed the face on a thin piece of cardboard and made it reversible, rather than a sticker, but then you wouldn't have been forced to buy variants, would you?

Like we said, the variant characters in ML2 came with variant BAF pieces - and in the case of Madame Hydra, that variant was a torso with the Red Skull's face instead of Arnim Zola's. Yes, this has happened in the comics recently, but it's not the anyone's first choice for this figure. The Skull is drawn by McGuinness again, and everything else about the torso is the same, but if you didn't get Madame Masque, you don't get Zola. A double-sided print of the faces would have solved that, even if they were tough to get at. The head included with Piledriver gets a variant, as well: red paint, instead of yellow.

Arnim Zola comes with an accessory: a device he uses to send mental commands to his genetic creations. It's taken straight from his first appearance in Captain America #208, though there it was red instead of grey. It can be held in his left hand, and will stay securely.

You can tell Arnim Zola is a Jack Kirby creation, because everything about him is monstrously stupid. But he's also got a really strong, memorable visual, which means that he'll look very cool in your ML collection. Captain America will have somebody to fight, Red Skull will have somebody to pal around with, and Baron Strucker will have a competitor in the world of villainy.

Dark Wolverine | Wrecking Crew | Captain America | Drax | Fantomex | Marvel's Madames

-- 06/11/12

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