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by yo go re

The benefit of buying box sets is, theoretically, getting a lot of variety in your toys. With their Avengers Minimates, Art Asylum took that even further, giving the characters enough extra pieces to create two or three different versions of each.

Fresh from the creation of his Iron Man armor, Tony Stark was drawn into the Avengers by the teenaged Rick Jones' radio transmissions warning of a Hulk attack.

Appropriately, this figure mostly uses the same mold as the 2004 Wizard World Chicago exclusive Classic Iron Man - since the first major change Tony made to his suit in the comics was to spray paint it gold, without otherwise tweaking the design at all. He's wearing his little skirt and has radio knobs on his stomach. In keeping with the comment about the radio, he has an antenna on his shoulder. There are also wristbands to make him look bulkier.

He does get some new paint apps, though: there are bolted seams painted on the arms and legs, and across the top of his new helmet. He gets one weird accessory, a giant hammer that fits on his arm. Did he use such a thing in Avengers #1? Quite possible.

Tony's alternate mode involves stripping him down. Really. Take off the skirt and chest cap, replace the helmet with wavy brown hair (showing off that Errol Flynn face), and give him bare arms. Then you can re-enact all the high-octane scenes of him sitting in a chair and using a wall socket to recharge the chestplate that kept him from dying. That's action in the mighty Marvel manner, true believers!

Half of a husband-and-wife super-team, Janet Van Dyne use Pym Particles to shrink to fantastic sizes, fly with insect wings and fire blasts of energy at her opponents. Her small size is not to be underestimated...

You know, for a fashion designer, the Wasp wears some of the god-awfulest eyesores ever seen wrapped around the human form. She's like the Lady Gaga of superheroes. Of course, if you've ever seen a fashion show, you know that ugly clothes are nothing unusual.

Fittingly for a woman who's worn more costumes than anyone else, you can create at least three versions of this figure. Rather than try to name them all, we'll just give you a breakdown of what accessories she has, because looking at that huge image linked 35 words ago, she mixed and matched quite a bit - the image up above is what she wore in the comic in question.

The basic outfit is red and blue/black, which she can accessorize with a skirt or a wide-shouldered v-neck top. There are either short, fitted gloves,
or a longer flared pair. If you don't want her to have her hair exposed, she can either wear the silly pointed hat, or a hood that does a bit more to conceal her identity. Doing the same kind of math for her that we did for the Pit Commando, we find that there are 24 different combinations of outfits for her to wear.

Since Wasp's wings attach to pegs on the back of her v-neck, she'd have to go wingless if you didn't have her wear that. To make up for this deficiency, the set includes a small piece that rests flat against her back and provides the needed pegs. I have to admit, I'm a bit wary of those: the wings fit on tightly, and I'm afraid a peg might break while switching out the wings.

Originally known as Ant-Man, Hank Pym possessed the same size-changing powers as his wife the Wasp in addition to his tech-based ability to communicate with insects. Later known as Giant-Man, Yellowjacket and Goliath.

That makes it sound like Ant-Man copied Wasp's powers: actually, he developed the Pym Particles that let him change size, and she bugged him (no pun intended) until he gave her some so she could tag along with him. He'd actually been adventuring on his own for more than a year by the time they started double-dating (or whatever you want to call it). You know he just gave her the abilities in an effort to get some lovin'.

Hank comes with his ant-control helmet, which looks totally silly in Minimate form. But don't take that the wrong way: it's a goofy design, so if it didn't look silly, there'd be something wrong. He's also got a yellow hair piece, if you want to have him in casual mode. Hank is yet another Aryan Avenger: him, Captain America, Hawkeye, the original Human Torch... all blonde, blue-eyed guys. The master race is alive and well!

Some fans complained when we got Giant Man in a Marvel Zombies set. Why? Because we had a zombie version, but no "real" version. Well, those fans can finally shut the hell up, because this set includes pieces to turn Hank into his larger alter ego. There's a powerhouse chest cap, and a waist piece to keep the lower body from looking too small. And of course, he has a full-head mask to complete the look, though his weird antennae had to be painted on. I do wish they'd found a way to extend his waist a bit, for just that little extra bit of height. For instance:

Tricked by Loki into destroying the railroad tracks in the path of a speeding train, the Incredible Hulk joined with his fellow heroes to defeat the Asgardian trickster. Solitary by nature, the Hulk would soon leave the team for parts unknown.

Ah, now this is the Hulk the way Jack Kirby drew him: ugly, lumpy, and more "stocky" than "huge." Plus, when was the last time you saw Hulk with body hair? His chest and forearms are painted with it here. He gets a new chest cap, which is surprising, since there are already several iterations of "Hulk chests," and any of those could have worked for this figure. He has a large waist piece (painted with wrinkles) that provides a bit of lift for his upper body, making him slightly taller.

Hulk's head is new, as well - not just his hair, his entire head! He's one of thoe rare Minimates who gets a newly molded noggin, rather than the standard cylinder with any additions made via hair or other head accoutrements. This head not only gets sculpted hair and ears, but also thick, heavy brows. The painted furrow doesn't match up with the sculpt at all, but the idea comes across clearly.

The figure also comes with new angular feet that are slightly taller than the standard Minimate foot. They still have the Lego holes in the bottom, it's just a question of bumping the figure up a few millimeters. If you don't like them, the set includes a normal pair of feet. Technically, Hulk is the only figure in this set who doesn't get a secondary version, but if you wanted to, you could strip off all the extra pieces and have a smaller, more slender Hulk. No paint detailing, but he's passable.

The Avengers box set is a great value. Hulk's a bit average, but everyone else? A lot of versatility and playability in the designs, and characters we'd never had before. This was a Previews-exclusive offering, which means you shouldn't have too much trouble finding one and starting an Avengers team of your own.

-- 02/15/09

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