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House of M

Marvel Legends
by yo go re

When ToyBiz started doing box sets to go along with their Marvel Legends line, the execution was flawed: like Hasbro and Mattel with their Batman box sets, they were forcing fans to spend upwards of $30 to get one new figure and a handful of re-releases. It was pretty crummy. Thankfully, they eventually got that straightened out, to the point where their last few sets were all top-notch. Fearsome Foes? Five old characters, three much-needed new sculpts. Young Avengers? Four new characters, four brand-new sculpts. Monsters? Four new characters, two new sculpts. And now, their last box set, the House of M, which only re-uses one existing figure.

The most technologically advanced society on the planet, Genosha is the symbolic capital of Magneto's mutant kingdom. Built on the backs of mutate slaves, this subclass of the mutant strain were reduced to living automata in the interest of keeping Genosha's human population living in affluence. This changed the day Magneto, aided by his closest friend Charles Xavier, attacked Genosha, overthrowing the corrupt government and setting the mutate population free. Converting the island into the home base of his ever-expanding mutant empire, Magneto began the systematic destruction of human oppression. After leading the mutants to victory in the inevitable mutant-human war, Magneto made the site of humankind's most monstrous crimes the capital of the new, mutant-dominated world. Serving as Lord Magnus, Magneto rules this brave new world from his seat on the Genoshan throne, protected by his Royal Guard - his most trusted allies. Acting as emissaries and bodyguards, the Royal Guard would give their lives in servitude of Magneto; in their minds, he is their lord and savior. He has delivered them from extinction. He has earned their supreme loyalty, even unto death. This is the House of M.

"House of M" was the big Marvel crossover of 2005, and can be viewed as the middle part of a four-part trilogy (no, really) that culminates with the excellent Civil War. When her mind went kerflooey, the Scarlet Witch rewrote reality so that mutants were the dominant species on earth, and humans the persecuted minority. Yeah, it worked out about as well as you'd expect. In any case, most heroes were cast into a whole new life, and ToyBiz did a decent job of milking those changes for new figures. This set includes Iron Man, Hulk, the Inhuman Torch and the It.

Iron Man is a real beauty. He was designed by notorious jackhole Pat Lee, best known for putting his name on other people's work and for being more concerned about he and his brother's sports cars than his artists' salaries when his company went bankrupt. In any case, Lee's artstyle is heavily anime-influenced, so one thing he's really good at is drawing robots. People? Not so much. But give him a mech suit, and he's (mostly) golden, which means putting him on an Iron Man book plays to his strengths.

The figure is 6½" tall, and moves at the head, neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, gloves, wrists, fingers, torso, waist, hips, thighs, knees, shins, ankles and toes. He's also got two wing things over his kidneys, and they pivot. I'm sure they're supposed to be something, but you'd have to ask Lee.

The sculpt is really detailed, capturing all the Evangelionish shapes seen in the comic. Seriously, if this thing was blue and purple, you'd expect to see Shinji Ikari climbing out the back. Instead, we get the traditional IM colors: red and yellow. There's a great wash that brings out all the seams in the armor, making the figure look like it was literally pulled off the comic page.

HoM Iron Man doesn't have a removable facemask, like all the other suits of armor, but they found a small way to make up for it. Tony Stark didn't build this suit to be a hero - he built it as a war machine. In addition to being CEO of Stark Industries, a successful technology company, Tony takes part in Sapien Death Match, a gladiatorial endeavor that pits humans in powered armor against one another. Not content with just a unibeam on his chest, Tony included some add-on armaments.

The figure has a three-part backpack that is nearly as large as he is - 6" wide and 4" deep - and sports a 5" gun that plugs onto his right arm. The gun and flightpack are detailed just as well as the figure, and it's even designed to accommodate a Doop stand so Iron Man can fly. All together, this is one daunting piece of hardware that will look right at home in your own Iron Man armory.

Mutants may rule the world, but there are still some pockets of human-controlled society, such as Latveria. Victor Von Doom knew which horse to bet on, and supported Magneto in the human/mutant war. As such, he was allowed to continue ruling his homeland. But recognizing that conflict was inevitable, he formed his own defense force: the Fearsome Four. He recruited his family for the team, including his young ward Kristoff Vernard, who became the Inhuman Torch.

The Inhuman Torch is 6¼" tall to the tip of his head-flame, and has an impressive 11" wingspan. Yes, wings. Doom empowered his team through mystical means, so Kristoff ends up looking quite demonic. He moves at the toes, ankles, shins, knees, thighs, hips, waist, torso, wrists, gloves, elbows, biceps, shoulders and neck. Plus, each wing is on a balljoint. Can't beat that.

At a glance, the figure looks like he might reuse some Human Torch parts, but that isn't the case. He is, in fact, all new. His design is somewhat reminiscent of the Age of Apocalypse Sunfire, with solid black sections on a fiery body. He's molded from translucent plastic that's a bit more magenta than orange or red. The sculpt has a few licks of flame rising off the body and wings, and the skeletal face is wonderfully creepy.

What's really neat about the Torch, though, is the texture. Once you look past the the flames, you'll find that his muscles are fibrous, his wings are leathery and his bone is slightly porous. There's a hole for a Doop stand just below his wings, so he can hover above anyone he chooses to attack.

Hulk is the standout figure of this set, but only because he's the only one that isn't painted in the red/yellow spectrum. A big green lump really stands out from the crowd. HoM Hulk is the one reworked figure in this set, having originally been the Hulk Classics Gamma Punch Hulk - you know, the one that came with Bruce Banner. The re-use works, though, because the figure was so plain to begin with.

The sculpt is nice. Hulk is 7½" tall and massively thick. He's wearing nothing but tattered brown pants, just like in the House of M tie-in comics. The head is new, and it looks great - bald head, thick brow, big prominent chin and a slight underbite. Hulk moves at the head, neck, shoulders, elbows, forearms, wrists, thumbs, fingers, chest, waist, hips, knees, ankles and toes. He's still got the same action feature... or most of it, at least. GPH had spring-loaded waist and shoulders, while HoM Hulk just has the waist.

In the House of M world, Bruce Banner was living with Aborigines in the Australian outback, trying to learn to control his fury and avoid the persecution faced by all humans. And it was working pretty well, until he caught in the middle of a fight between Magneto's governors - Exodus, Pyro, Vanisher and Unus the Untouchable - and an anti-mutant sect of AIM. Anyway, as part of his quest, he was decorated with totemic symbols, which is why the figure has white paint all over his trunk, arms and head.

You'd think the paint would crack and flake off when he grew, but hey, it's a comic. Maybe that explains why they were drawn inconsistently. The figure's paint is applied well, and all those intricate details have really crisp edges. The lines get broken up by the fact that they run over the joints, but not so much so that they look bad.

The Inhuman Torch isn't the only member of the Fearsome Four in this box set - we also get his huge, stoney teammate, the It. The It is little more than a mindless dog, and serves as Doom's personal bodyguard. During battle, he's led around on a telekinetic leash by Doom's wife Valeria, the Invincible Woman. Doom himself will berate the It one minute, and treat him like an old friend the next.

The It is an even 7" tall if you stand him straight up, but he looks better with a slight stooped hunch, like he's being crushed by the weight of the world. Metaphorically. Not actual weight. Though he could probably support it. It's articulated at the toes, ankles, knees, thighs, hips, waist, head, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists and fingers. fingers Now, the elbows and knees are single joints, and he doesn't have any kind of swivel for his hands and feet, but he makes up for those losses in his hands. Like Spider-Hulk, he has a single thumb joint, then two joints in each finger for maximum poseability. Beauty!

There's a bit of an easter egg with the It. If you look closely, you might just notice the smallest hint of resemblence between the It and Fantastic Four member the Thing. You have to be pretty sharp-eyed to catch it, but it's there. Okay, kidding aside, this is obviously the House of M version of Ben Grimm - maybe. It's kind of left up in the air at first. Johnny Storm fights in the Sapien Death Match alongside Tony Stark, so the fateful space mission in this reality involved Reed and Sue Richards, Ben Grimm and John Jameson. They still encountered the cosmic radiation, but the results were much different: the survival rate, for one. The rocket crashed and was recovered in Latverian territorial waters, so Doom was the one to find the bodies and set his scientists to work on unravelling the results.

Even after granting everyone their powers, Doom kept tinkering with ways to make them stronger, which is why the It is so much bigger and bulkier than the Thing. The stones on his arms and legs are sculpted to look like the ones we're used to, but on his chest and shoulders they get larger, overlapping more like a dinosaur's plates of armor than a pile of gravel. The depressed look on his face is absolutely crushing, with human eyes staring out from under that massive stone brow. His control collar is the only smooth part of the sculpt, and its silver paint really makes it stand out against the dark orange apps of his body.

The set includes two Doop stands, two HoM-logo disc bases and a reprint of the Secrets of the House of M comic with a new, bland cover. The discs are unneccessary, because Hulk and It can stand fine on their own, and the comic doesn't offer a story, but instead is just a handbook of who was where in the new world. It's a good reference, but couldn't they have at least thrown together a few panels of these four characters in action? Kudos to including the Doop stands, though - keep those fliers off the ground!

It's odd that, being drawn from a world ruled by Magneto, this set gives us four modified humans and no mutants. Still, if you want to assemble a House of M display, ToyBiz gave you a fine selection of figures to stock it. However, there are still many more. Let's hope that Hasbro keeps mining this crossover for costumes, characters and variations, and that the future quality is as good as we got in this box set.

-- 01/06/07

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