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Defenders Rail Authority

Marvel Legends
by yo go re

After taking a break last year, Hasbro's packaging designers are back on their bull&^%$* when it comes to designing packaging that's going to be hard to store.

Some heroes make headlines; others make police reports. For the roguish band of vigilantes dubbed The Defenders, the battle for justice is riddled with gray areas. From Hell's Kitchen to Harlem, this crew of so-called heroes must join forces to stop the radical group known as The Hand from destroying the place they call home: New York City. Though their methods may be unconventional, their motives are clear: defend and protect the city at all costs - even if it means sacrificing themselves in the process.

This set is officially known as the "Defenders Rail Authority," because the box the figures come in is designed to look like a subway train - the sides have windows and doors (as well as graffiti and various warning signs), the bottom has the suggestion of wheels, and the roof... oh, the roof. It's curved, like a real train's would be, which serves no purpose other than to further the connection of the design. It doesn't create space for the figures inside, it doesn't provide structural reinforcement, it sure as balls doesn't make it easy to put his box anywhere but the top of a stack... it's just aesthetic. You may say "but this is a convention exclusive, it should be free to go a little weirder than usual," and you're right, but would anyone anywhere really have been unhappy with this set if the top of the box was flat? Is that hypothetical person equally upset that the bottom doesn't have pop-out wheels like Masterpiece Optimus Prime's original trailer?

The art on both sides of the train is different, but both featuring the silhouettes of our heroes beating up ninjas: Jessica Jones and Daredevil on the front, and Danny, Luke, and Colleen on the back. The art identifies this as car number 91817, which suggests that the designer had some big life change about a year ago - place your bets, wedding or baby? The entire exterior (a cardboard sleeve) slides off, showing us our heroes in the aftermath of the battle, lounging around. There's more cool detailing in here, including folded cardboard seats, handrails, a subway map and ads for various in-universe things, such as Trish Talk and Metro General Hospital. Plus lots more!

But enough of that, let's talk figures!

Seated all the way to the left is a character making their Marvel Legends debut, Colleen Wing. Note, we're not specifically talking about the live-action Colleen Wing, but Colleen at all - heck, if not for the Iron Fist Minimates set, this would be the first Colleen Wing toy, period. To be fair, we only got the world's first Misty Knight action figure three years ago, and she's got a cool afro and a robot arm, neither of which Colleen can claim.

The character was created in 1974 by Doug Moench and Larry Hama, as a supporting character for Iron Fist. In the comic, her father is a professor, but her mother was leader of The Nail, an all-female sect of the Hand. And her grandfather taught her how to be a full-on samurai, because of course he did. Amazingly, all that could easily be true of the MCU version, as well, because what we know of her is that her mother died when she was young, her father walked out on her, and she was sent to live with her grandfather; the rest remains pretty vague.

Colleen is played on the show(s) by Jessica Henwick, who is most recognizable as Nymeria Sand on Game of Thrones (aka the one of Oberyn Martell's daughters who uses a whip), but who was also an X-Wing pilot in Force Awakens. This figure gets a superb likeness of the woman, with a stern look and her hair pulled back in a ponytail. The only flaw is that her hair is black - in the comics, it's a lighter shade, and often completely red. There's a reason fan-casts generally picked Devon Aoki for the role.

Since she wasn't technically a superhero, just more like superhero support staff, comicbook Colleen never really had a costume - she just wore whatever clothes she wanted. Then, in the mid-00s (right after Kill Bill, of course), someone decided her go-to outfit should be a white tracksuit, and that's what made it to the TV show. It also means that most of this figure is new molds: the upper legs and the arms come from Jessica Jones, but the feet, shins, and the entire torso are new. She's wearing sneakers (not reused from Gwenpool) and her pants only come down to just below the knee. Her hoodie, partially unzipped, has grey stripes on the chest that made her look like White Tiger when the first small images of this set were leaked. She comes with a katana and an off-white scabbard, just like she carries on TV, and has Elektra's right hand, because the split fingers make he rlook ready for a martial arts fight.

Standing in the doorway of the train and hanging onto the overhead rail is Daredevil. This figure is entirely identical to the single-carded release, so if you have that, you have this. And therefore, you can go read that review. This one gets the advantage of an alternate unmasked Matt Murdock head, at least. The Charlie Cox likeness is decent, though the painted stubble should perhaps be thicker? Darker? Something. Matt is rarely this clean-shaven. The masked head is packaged backward in the tray, so it looks like he took his helmet-thing off and just set it on a seat, rather than like he's riding next to his own severed head.

Moving on to the next seat, we find Luke Cage, resting with his arm up on the back of the seats next to him. Although Cage was created in 1972 as a cash-in on the blaxploitation genre, his Netflix series could not have come at a more perfect time. Not that things are particularly worse for black Americans right now than they have been at any other point in our history, but they're sure not good. For a long time, all the white supremecists and other assholes who wanted things to go back to the "good ol' days" had to hide their true racist feelings, but the dirt society tried to shovel on top of it has been getting scraped away, revealing what was underneath. I mean, there are still people claiming that NFL players kneeling during the national anthem has something to do with troops or the president or some other lie (and yes, that's what it is, a lie: people who know better are lying to people who don't, because telling the truth would draw attention to the racism they're trying so desperately to conceal). Point is, pop culture really needed a strong, confident, and - most importantly - bulletproof black man.

Luke is an entirely new mold, because he's a massive brick wall of a man, and he's just wearing jeans and a T-shirt, not a costume - not something you can do by just putting paint on an existing superhero mold. On the plus side, "jeans and a tee" is pretty much Luke's go-to outfit on the show, so if Hasbro wants to release another version of him at retail (maybe in a yellow shirt?), they could do so easily. This one's shirt is a brick red, which showed up in a lot of the promo shots for the series. Still feels like a missed opportunity to not put him in his hoodie, though, right? He doesn't have any accessories, but the watch he's wearing is a separate piece slipped onto the wrist.

Despite fan calls for Terry Crews or Isaiah Mustafa, the show's producers instead opted for an actor who had never appeared in an Old Spice commercial. Weird choice. Anyway, the role went to Mike Colter, who had previously been in Men in Black III (a fact you'd already know if our list of such things had been updated any time in the last 500 years). This is another good likeness, but it doesn't really capture Luke's usual look of weary annoyance. You know, the "I just bought that shirt" look.

Next we have Jessica Jones, who displays her general disregard for anybody who's not her by spreading out across three seats. This figure is mostly the same as the regular release, just that she's lost her jacket. That means she gets different arms - bare - and this time she's not wearing her gloves, either, so we just get pink fists. Her tank top is grey, rather than black, but otherwise it's the same toy. They didn't even take the opportunity to update the poor likeness. This isn't a great release, but there's not much else they could have done with her, is there? No way were they going to give her an open hand and a bottle of booze or something (as appropriate as that might be). We've got to give Hasbro partial credit for at least making the changes they did, and not forcing a complete double-dip on us. Moving on!

Sitting all by himself on the right side of the set is Randy Dan, the Fisting Man. You know your Netflix show was bad when not even the other toys want to be near you! Iron Fist Season 1 was the Thor: The Dark World of the Netflixiverse, meaning it was perfectly fine by most standards, but suffered next to what was around it. Strip the Marvel connections out, and you're left with a show that isn't particularly awful, but would be forgotten in a month anyway. Make audiences put it up next to Marvel's Dour Hallway Punch-Up Season 1 and pop culture's only realistic portrayal of an abuse survivor's trauma and it looks a lot worse by comparison.

Of course, The Defenders made everybody like him a bit more (even if it did lead to memes like this), and then Luke Cage Season 2 did for Iron Fist what Avengers did for the Hulk, so yeah, bring on Season 2! Just maybe tone down on the "it's tough being a rich white guy" stuff, huh? Leave that to Arrow.

Like Colleen up above, Danny's actor is a Game of Thrones alum - in that show, Finn Jones played Loras Tyrell, brother of (Cersei's enemy) Margaery. Like the other figures in this set, he uses the "printed" face paint technology, but while that's great for eyes and lips, it apparently still has a way to go when it comes to non-jagged facial hair.

The toy shows Danny wearing his business casual clothes, because Hasbro didn't have a "dirty hippie sweater" mold they could bust out for him. But a suit body? Yeah, they've got that. This one gets a new upper chest, because he's not wearing a tie and has his shirt unbuttoned a little. And damn, Daniel, back at it again with the white sneakers! The hands chosen for him are appropriately martial-artsy: a flat-palmed hand, and a fist cast in translucent yellow plastic. Power down, Danny, you're just riding the subway; Pizza Rat isn't going to hurt you.

This is an okay set, but only three of the five figures are new exclusives - Daredevil and Jessica were plentiful in stores last year. And since the inclusion of Colleen Wing makes it clear Hasbro realizes the Defenders aren't just a four-person team, where's Misty Knight? Where's Claire Temple? They could have swapped those two in and had this set up as a companion piece to the figures that were already out. Still, it's nice to fill out the ranks of the Netflix heroes - and since you're not Ike Perlmutter, you can have them cross over with the movie characters and fight Thanos all you want.

-- 08/27/18

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