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Captain America Through the Ages

by yo go re

In May of 2010, Toys Я Us ran a poll on their website allowing you to vote for one of six Minimates you wanted to see in an exclusive box set. That set, Captain America Through the Ages, has just arrived in stores. Its fancy red, white and blue is easy to spot on the shelves, but the bios on the back are so stilted and spotted with typos that we're not going to bother reproducing them here.

The first figure is "World War II" (each of the figures is identified by its period of origin, nothing more), but it's important to note that this isn't actually Cap's WWII appearance. You're familiar with the suit he wore back then: its standout feature was that the mask didn't connect to the shirt at all. Art Asylum has already turned that look into a Minimate in the Invaders exclusive set, so the choice not to duplicate it here is good.

This costume, with its bulky chainmail, thick brown belt and military-style helmet was originally seen in the miniseries Captain America Reborn. The look is clearly influenced by Ultimate Captain America, but is more "superheroic." If you want a more traditional Captain America, the belt and chainmail are removable, leaving just the painted versions beneath. His shield is the original badge-shaped version, although technically that had some blue stipes, not just red.

Cap gets two head pieces, as well as a blond version of the Union Jack hair. There's a standard mask, if that's what you want, but the one he's wearing in the tray is more of a soldier's helmet, decorated to look like a version of his usual wear: the wings are merely painted on the sides, and the A is a military-style stencil font.

Moving forward in history we have "Suspended Animation" Cap. As you know, in the final days of the war, Captain America fell into the North Sea, where he was frozen until he was found decades later. In honor of that, this Minimate depicts Cap as he was seen in Avengers #4. He was wearing a military uniform when he went under, and when the Avengers rescued him, it began to fall to shreds, succumbing to its age.

On that note, this figure is painted with olive drab tatters above his usual uniform. It's not a straight 50/50 divide, like Spidey's suit in the Secret Wars set, instead showing a more realistic pattern of wear. Half his chest is covered, yes, but the tears on his legs are far from symmetrical. His boots are black, and they're just painted on - no fancy pirate boots for him!

Steve has a rather worried look on his face, one not at all out of place for a man who just woke up in the distant future. He has a shaggy hair piece - certainly not military regulation, but understandable since he's been in a block of ice for so long. There's also a normal Captain America mask you can replace the hair with, if you're so inclined.

Cap has his (round) shield and a harness that allows it to fit on his back, but that's not the only accessory. To begin with, there's a nifty little "removed mask" piece that fits over the neck peg and falls onto his back. With the wings sculpted onto it there's no way this could ever be used for other characters, but the idea is good and hopefully it will spread. As cool as that piece is, it's easily overshadowed by the largest accessory in this set, a giant block of ice that the figure can stand in. It comes up over the figure's waist, and would be a perfect extra for a Mr. Freeze Minimate (if such a thing existed).

Next we have "Armored" Captain America, representing one of the low points in the character's history. This was the mid-90s, when everybody was getting a new, stupid suit of armor, and since Cap's sales figures were low, he had to have one, too. The story goes that his body was finally metabolizing the Super Soldier Serum, so he was getting sick, aging and about to die. Tony Stark designed him some armor so he wouldn't have to retire due to frailty.

The armor was the same type of eyesore as every other '90s creation, but it gets a new sculpt for this Minimate. Remember, Captain America is an athletic, agile guy, and there is no way that a star-spangled pile of trash cans says "agility." He's got shoulder pads like a football player, and his boots, which are now theoretically made of metal, are still designed to look like pirate boots. Why?! He gets new gloves with raised stars on them, and the shield can plug onto the left hand.

The helmet is designed with the dumbest eyeslit you've ever seen, mechanical ear-pods, and of course, wings. The mouth is exposed, allowing us to see the figure's grim-n-gritty scowl. How very '90s he is! The set includes two more blonde hairpieces, to be split between this Cap and the next one, but there's no indication of which is which. Why not give this one the hair with no bangs?

The final figure in this set is "Reborn" Captain America, which is apparently set in the future. The bio is all about how he was thought dead, but was instead lost in time and how he came back to reclaim his mantle from the former sidekick who'd taken it over. (Sidenote: seriously? Do Batman and Captain America just follow the same playbook at all times or what?) Anyway, he did "die," and he did come back from the past, but he didn't become Captain America again. He's just Steve Rogers, head of SHIELD. No doubt the situation will regress at some point, but not yet.

So rather, this figure represents Cap before he got caught up in the Civil War. The "modern" costume, for lack of a better term. It's still a chainmail shawl over a striped shirt, with solid blue pants (no more trunks in the 21st century) and a brown utility belt. He should have some seams on his mask, though. It's a modern innovation that stupid people hate!

All three non-armored figures share the same new innovation: rather than having large, single-piece gloves like the previous Captain America Minimates had, these guys have normal Minimate hands painted red, then separate "glove" pieces that fit over the forearms. The one on the right arm is plain, and the one on the left has a peg to attach the shield to. This is much better than the old system, where you had to remove the glove and replace it with a wrist-ring that held the shield on. Despite this set having three sets of these gloves, and three round shields, you can still tell which one belongs to which figure based on the shade of paint used. Nice work! It's odd to note, though, that two of the figures are molded from clear plastic, then painted.

You could only vote for one Minimate in TЯUs' poll, so I can't remember which one I picked, but it was either Suspended Animation or Armored - those two were far more unique than any of the other choices. Cap's worn some really goofy things over the years, but a Minimate of his Nomad suit wouldn't be recognizable as part of a Captain America set. It would have been interesting to see them do a black and white figure, like last year's Marvel Universe SDCC exclusive, or perhaps a figure of Isaiah Bradley, the black Captain America - you know, things we're unlikely to ever see in any other capacity. This is a decent set, and the new pieces are welcome, but four copies of the same guy all wearing nearly identical red, white and blue is a bit hard to take.

-- 11/18/10

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