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The Invaders

by yo go re

Hey, better late than never, right?

At SDCC 2008, DST offered a box set of Marvel's own WWII-era team, the Invaders. Here we are just weeks away from SDCC 2009, and we're just now getting around to reviewing them? Pretty damn lazy, huh? Well, look at it this way: the Invaders were introduced in 1969, well after the period in which they supposedly operated; so we're just following tradition, retconning this into having been reviewed last summer.

Dubbed unfit for traditional service, Steve Rogers became the first human trial of the Super-Soldier Serum - the success of which boosted his strength, endurance and speed to the pinnacle of human achievement and led him to become Captain America.

This was actually the fifth Captain America figure (not counting the USAgent or zombie versions), but he's still more than just a plain repaint. His entire torso is painted with the scales of his armor, including around the sides and onto his upper arms. The only place it's missing is on the top of the chest block, but that's pretty much covered, anyway. The stripes on his stomach are angled, rather than straight, so they suggest a more anatomical look. Unfortunately, they also repeat the common mistake of having the stripes offset slightly: they're not meant to mirror each other; there's supposed to be a single red stripe in the center of the torso, with the others spreading out from there.

Cap is packaged as Steve Rogers - his mask is off and his blonde hair is on. The hair is a new piece, an appropriately '40s 'do for this WWII-era figure. Actually, you get your choice of which Captain America you want: either First Appearance, with the bare neck and triangular shield, or revised costume, with the covered neck and round shield. We've explained before about the change in shields - if you don't know, go read that for the inside scoop. Apparently Jack Kirby had a terrible memory, and would not only draw Cap with the wrong shield (using the angular one even after they'd agreed to switch to the disc), he'd even forget which symbol went where: putting a star on the mask and an A on the shield! The Minimate gets it right, of course.

The masks are much like the ones the Batman Minimates used, a solid piece with the face just painted on. That allows both the neckless and normal versions to share the same mold (complete with little sculpted ears and wings) and only differ in the paint. There are thicker shadows painted on the "full" version, suggesting more modern art styles, but both look nice. They fit on the head tightly, but no so tightly that you can't get them off. Steve has a detailed belt around his waist, and a special harness on his back to which you can plug either shield: just slip off the wrist piece and slap the shield on his back. The set includes an un-gloved red hand so that you can actually have him wear his shield without putting it up at his elbow - a very welcome addition!

Born James Buchanan Barnes, Bucky was raised on-base at Camp Lehigh where he befriended Pvt. Steve Rogers. Upon discovering Rogers was actually Captain America, Bucky became Cap's sidekick in exchange for keeping his secret.

If you're going to have a WWII Captain America, you've got to have a WWII Bucky to go with him. Hasbro knew that, and obviously Diamond Select does, as well. But alas, this Bucky figure is a study in missed opportunities. I realize, in recent years, Bucky's been retconned into a professional soldier who had a long history even before meeting Captain America, but that's not what this set is supposed to be representing. This is meant to be the happy-go-lucky kid, but it's not what we get.

Look at Bucky's face: it's completely serious and expressionless, and while that may suit a battle-hardened warrior, it's not right for a young boy running around having adventures with his best pal. Give us a big, goofy smile, maybe even those creepy cheeks Jack Kirby always used to draw. Plus, since he uses the standard Minimate body, Bucky is the same size as Captain America. What? This would have been the perfect opportunity to bring out the smaller Hobbit-sized Minimate body developed for the Lord of the Rings line.

[No, the Hobbits were the normal 2" body: the new one they developed was a 2½" version for humans. You're thinking of Palisades' PALz, which created a small body for The Anointed One. --ed.]

At the very least, they shouldn't have given him the real belt and the big flared boots: both those features add height, when Bucky needs to be short short short. And the thing is, if you take the belt off, there's already one painted on the waist under there, so why spend the money in the first place? Yes, these are minor things, but on a 2" figure, "minor" matters.

Anyway, like Cap, Bucky comes with an extra ungloved hand so he can properly carry his shield. Wait, what? Maybe one of our readers can fill in the details, but I didn't know Bucky ever had a shield of his own. It's made from the same mold as the Invisible Woman's accessory, and is painted blue with white and red stripes. He also has a harness to strap it to his back. The paint overall is great, with a lot of fine detail that is easy to overlook. The only flaw here is that the legs of his trunks are uneven.

A synthetic being able to create and control flames, the Human Torch aka Jim Hammond vowed to protect humanity and joined the Invaders during World War II. His legacy lives on in part thanks to Camp Hammond - the Initiative's training center.

Honestly, being associated with Camp Hammond isn't really the proudest accomplishment right now. Or ever. The locals didn't want the base to begin with, then it became the Skrulls' foothold on Earth during the Secret Invasion, it's been the site of at least four superhuman rampages, and has generally proven every fearful NIMBYist's worst nightmare come to life. So if Jim wanted to withdraw the camp naming rights, no one would probably blame him.

The Golden Age Human Torch is cast in translucent orange plastic, to make him look "flamier." He's then painted with a dark orange to give some definition to his face and torso - the face is half-buried in shadow (for all the sense that makes on a guy who's made of fire), probably in an effort to duplicate the way the old art never really showed Torch with a face, and yet keep the to from being boring. In that regard, success!

Torch gets a nice assortment of translucent orange accessories, most of which we've seen before. For instance, the flame "hair" and shoulders available on the Johnny Storm figure, or the big jet of fire previously available with the Iron Man Through the Ages set. Obviously, it all works well for him. The only new pieces are the fireballs that fit over his hands. Yes, you may be tempted to think that he doesn't actually have hands, just weird fiery mitts, but those are separate pieces over the normal Minimate hands - they're just super tight. With some work, though, you can get the hands out.

The child of an Atlantean princess and a human fisherman, Prince Namor spends time both above and below the waves. Endowed with incredible strength and the ability to fly, Namor was revealed to also be a mutant - explaining his winged feet.

Ah, Namor. We've had a Minimate version of him before, with the Defenders, but that was him wearing his black outfit, not the more familiar "bareass naked" version, so this set still has something new to offer. This one is stripped down to his underwear, but there's still a lot of painted detail: his chest is new (not shared with the Defenders vesion), and he's been painted with a spine and shoulder blades. There are scales on his trunks, and a shell buckle on his golden belt.

While the previous Namor looked imperious, this one is even angrier, matching his furious depiction in those early comics. He looks like he's about to rip the lid off a German tank or battleship and murder anyone inside. Murder them to death! The hair piece is the same (and thus naturally, the ears), but his mouth is open slightly and his brow is furrowed. He's got golden bracelets, and he little pieces to give him ankle wings. It's like our custom, but better.

Don't take our long delay in reviewing this set as an indication of low quality - far from it! With Toys Я Us recently releasing a Union Jack Minimate, all we really need now is a Spitfire figure, and the full Invaders team will be complete. Yeah, that's right, scrw Toro: nobody likes his derivative ass anyway.

-- 06/22/09

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