Hasbro has always been much more into the "exclusives" game than ToyBiz, so it should come as no surprise that they've really pumped up the number of Marvel Legends releases that are only available in limited places. Their first attempt, Silver Wolverine, was a failure of truly epic proportions, proving that Marvel fans aren't going to fall for the same silly shenanigans as the Star Wars fans. Hasbro's second attempt, Diamond Emma Frost, should have just been a standard-release variant.
But by the time they got to the SDCC exclusives and Wal*Mart two-packs, they seemed to have hit their stride. Now they're back at Toys Я Us again, with the exclusve Black Queen.
Its enternal matter coalesced into the mortal form of Jean Grey, the Phoenix found itself subject to the many weaknesses of mortals, not the least of which was the manipulation of a powerful psychic like Mastermind. Her consciousness swamped by the overwhelming psychic assault of her attacker, she left the X-Men and joined the Hellfire Club as one of its most powerful members. With her mind opened wide to the darkest aspects of her personality, the Phoenix embraced evil wholeheartedly. Even when she inevitably slipped loose from the power of Mastermind, she simply plunged deeper into darkness, emerging as the elemental force for universal destruction known as the Dark Phoenix.
When it was announced that Hasbro would be giving us a Black Queen figure,
a lot of people assumed it would be Selene, the immortal psychic vampire. A few days later, the first official photos cleared up the confusion, revealing it was Jean Grey who would soon be gracing store shelves.
This figure is mostly a repaint of the terrible HL1 Emma Frost, which has upset some fans: as seen in the artwork on the front of the package, the Black Queen never wore an outfit like this; she wore a corset and black satin panties. That's right - she dressed like Dr. Frank N. Furter. You'll have to decide for yourself which one of them looks better in it.
Being repainted has done wonders for the figure.
In white, Emma's proportions looked all wrong: her arms seemed too skinny, her neck seemed too long, and the hip articulation made her look like she was wearing a diaper, according to some fans. Redone in black, though? Everything looks much better. The detail in the sculpt remains the same (even the X-logo belt buckle), but that simple color change makes everything work. Yes, she's still incredibly petite - moreso than the character's ever been in the comics - but the figure looks good, even when you take her cape off.
The major flaw with the Emma Frost figure was the amatuerish face sculpt.
It's not like any comicbook women are less than good-looking, but Emma is supposed to be one of the most beautiful. The toy was... plain. At best. The bar was set incredibly low, is what we're saying. The Black Queen did't need to be especially good to show an improvement, but great holy hell! This is so much better. I wouldn't say it's the best face a female Marvel Legend has ever had, but it's up near the top. The sculpt really captures the look of John Byrne's artwork, from the stern look on her face to the big old-fashioned bun her hair is pulled up in.
The paint is simple, but it works well. There are two spots to watch out for, though:
the waist can get sloppy, and the edge of the cape is tough to keep straight. Neither is a really big flaw, but take the time to compare samples if you can. Her hair is more orange than red, but the little curls that fall down in front of her ears are painted cleanly. Silver dots on her choker stand in for the spikes in the comics. The interior of her cape is a nice magenta, while the rose on the clasp (a newly sculpted element) is true red. Overall, this is a much nicer presentation, though the inside of her hips is still pink, not black.
As an exclusive, Black Queen doesn't come with any BAF pieces, but she does have an accessory:
a whip. A single solid piece of plastic, the whip is coiled loosely in her hand. It's actually a nice accessory, and just kinky enough to make Cyclops sorry he broke up with her. Jean is an even 6" tall and moves with a balljoint in the neck, balljoints in the shoulders, balljoints in the elbows, hinges in the wrists, a balljoint in the chest, balljoints in the hips, pegs in the thighs, double-hinged knees, and hinged ankles. Some kind of forearm swivel would really add a lot, but no surprise there.
What's really surprising is how easily a few small changes can turn a bad figure into a great one. New paint and a few sculptural changes made all the difference between one of 2007's worst toys and this must-have exclusive. It's funny to go to Toys Я Us and look at their exclusives: Diamond Emma Frost is still hanging around, even at half price, but the Black Queen is nearly sold out after just a few weeks. This is one repaint that's well worth getting.