A lot of fanboys are whining about Iron Man's role in Marvel's current Civil War crossover - he's acting too "unheroic," just worrying about toeing the line. Have they ever read Iron Man? He's never been that heroic. He was a weapons dealer who only stopped because he was personally injured by war, and most of his costumed career has been spent fighting people who directly threatened his business, not the world.
Industrialist Tycoon turned Super Hero, Anthony Stark joined the Avengers as the Invincible Iron Man after inventing a suit of near-indestructible armor. Using his armor's vast array of weaponry to fight for mankind, Iron Man would soon clash with the Mandarin, a would-be conqueror who employs the mystical might of ten powerful rings. Seeking to use the technology behind Iron Man's armor as a means to advance his diabolical schemes, the Mandarin has waged a war against his most despised enemy. Iron Man battles heroically knowing that he alone stands in the way of the maniacal Mandarin's ultimate goal - world domination!
Iron Man has worn literally dozens of different armors since he was first introduced in 1963. Therefore, everybody has "their" armor - maybe not their favorite, but the one they think of when you say "Iron Man." Often it's the armor he was wearing when they met the character. That means for a lot of people, this version is the real Iron Man.
It's not that this design is particularly better than any other, or even than the one that immediately preceded it; it just has a lot more exposure. This is the version that was animated for IM's Saturday morning cartoon, as well the one that appeared in the Marvel vs. Capcom series of videogames. People who have never read an Iron Man book in their lives will recognize this suit.
This suit is known as the "modular armor" - it was designed to be easily adaptable for any situation, with snap-on accoutrements. By keeping all the different options outside the suit, Tony was able to strip it down to the bare minimum. For an example of how that would work, check out the Hulkbuster Iron Man: this is technically the same armor; it's just buried under layers of other tech.
Iron Man's sculpt is good. It's hard to get "artist specific" when you're dealing with Iron Man, but all the details of the drawn suit are here on the toy. He's got the petagonal unibeam port on his chest, and his ears are the early vented style, rather than the rounded pods they eventually became. He's got the raised yellow modular ports on his gloves and legs, and lots of superfluous detail on his boots. Maybe the shoulders should be bulkier, but overall this is a good resprsentation of the art.
The variants in Face-Off Series 2 are much harder to find
than the ones in Series 1, sadly. While the regular set had Iron Man, the variant set had War Machine. It's the same sculpt (save for the face beneath the mask, of course), but the colors are different. Most of the removable masks on Iron Man figures have been incorrect, from a story standpoint - Tony wears helmets, not masks. It actually works here, though: the modular armor, like the modern armor, had a flip-up faceplate. The mask fits in place well, though the inside is not molded to fit with either figure's specific face - it's just smooth.
Some fans have complained about the paint, going so far as to paint the entire figure white and start their own repaint from scratch. I'm not really sure what the problem is, because the colors look fine. He's red and yellow, as he should be, with gold for the tiny ports on his palms and soles, as well as his unibeam and belt. The yellow is clean, and the red vibrant. There's a missed paint app on his mask - the "chin" should be red, not yellow - but that's a minor complaint. He could use a wash to bring out the detail. Articulation is standard for an ML figure: toes, ankles, boots, knees, thighs, hips, waist, stomach, fingers, wrists, gloves, elbows, biceps, shoulders and neck. No pull-out hinges or any other surprises.
To convey the idea of the modular armor,
Tony has two accessories. They're just small technological gewgaws that plug onto his arms, but they do come straight from the comics. True, they weren't painted red and gold in the book, but it's still nice. They fit in place well, and look like they belong. Once they're attached, there's nothing to tell you they don't belong. If you can find the War Machine variant, he's got the same ones.
Iron Man's enemy in this Face-Off set, the Mandarin, is one who's never had a Marvel Legend figure. In fact, the last time we saw any Mandarin was in 1994, for the cartoon line. He's a classic foe, and a good choice... in theory.
Born of a Chinese father and an English mother,
the man who would be Mandarin was orphaned at a young age. He used his vast inheritance to further his own education and scientific pursuits. While on an exploration of the forbidden Valley of Spirits, he found a damaged alien spacecraft, and studied its technologies. He took the gems that fueled the ship's warp drive, and fashioned himself ten rings of power that would respond to his mental commands. Eventually his consciousness was transferred into the rings, such that anyone who wears them will find themselves overpowered and replaced.
Mandarin stands slightly over 6¼ tall, and is wearing ceremonial robes. The robe has a lot of ornate detail on it, which is nice enough, but not entirely without problems. The whole thing is a single rubber piece, glued in the back. In order to hold all that fine detail, the rubber had to be fairly thick and resilient, so it doesn't move enough to allow the figure to be posed. Doesn't that sort of defeat the entire purpose of a Marvel Legend?
The variant Mandarin is at least better than the standard in one respect:
the read. In addition to the color changes (green for the normal release, red for the variant), the head is changed, too. Green Mandarin is wearing some ridiculous helmet that covers all but his lower jaw - red Mandarin actually gets his face revealed. Yeesh, what a trainwreck. Of course, since the variants are impossible to find this time around, you can't even try to swap the better head onto a decent body.
What kind of body? In the comic that came with Psylocke, Mandarin was helping to retrain her to assist the Hand - in that story, he first wore a business suit, then a robe (different than this one), then a suit of armor. There are three examples right there.
The body beneath Mandarin's robes is the same as used for Archangel, but because you can't really pose it all that articulation is for nothing. In addition to the head, the hands are new: we see his long, pointed fingers and all ten rings, each painted a different color. The paint on the robe is an absolute mess, despite the fact that so much of the detail is actually sculpted. Better had they given us a thin, flexible robe like Vision's cape, with the paint details simply stamped on. Then, at least, we'd be able to move the body, no matter how bad the outfit looked.
Mandarin actually has a pair of accessories -
2½" energy blasts that slip onto his hands. They look like ice-blue flames, and fit on perfectly. There's nothing bad to be said about these, but when two throw-away accessories are the highlight of a figure, you know you've got problems.
Like all Marvel Legends, the Iron Man/Mandarin Face-Off set comes with a reprint comic; in this case, Iron Man #311, part three of a six-part crossover titled "Hands of the Mandarin." It sees the two foes fighting one-on-one, while everyone else involved in the crossover is off doing their own things. Though Mandarin does wear the stupid helmet on the cover of the book, he doesn't wear it inside, and his robe is of a different, less complex pattern. So again, there were better costumes that could have been chosen for this figure.
The set also includes a diorama display scene, which is really just a cardboard backdrop that fits into a slot on a Stark Industries base.
The base is actually pretty nice, but not neccessarily for the Mandarin - it and its two Doop stands will look nicer supporting two Iron Men rather than one of his enemies. The backdrop for this set is the IM armory; it shows an entire satellite full of old armors, displayed in glass tubes. The original gold and the modern armor are in the front, with 33 other armors visible behind that. It's actually just three or four different drawings, skewed poorly to look like they're in the tubes and colored to look like a whole arsenal. This isn't the greatest backdrop in the entire series, but it's decent enough and it'll look great padding out the back of your own Iron Man display.
Some fans said that ToyBiz was cutting corners at the end of their run, pushing and rushing just to get product out with little regard to the final quality. That may or may not be the case, but this Face-Off set certainly isn't going to change any minds.
What's "your" Iron Man? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.