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Sentinel/Rachel Grey

by yo go re

It's recently come to our attention that some of our readers hate it when we review Minimates, because they think Minimates are crap. Obviously we disagree (or else we wouldn't cover so many of the damn things), so today we're going to try to demonstrate what makes these toys great.

First invented by Bolivar Trask, the robotic Sentinels were tasked with containing and destroying mutants. Notoriously difficult to effectively program and control, the use of Sentinels almost always ends in tragedy.

Depending on how you want to reckon it, the Sentinel may have been a Minimate before. Art Asylum did a short-lived series of 8" statues known as "Minimate: Max" - only two were ever released, and one of them was a Sentinel. The statues were immobile, done as a way of getting around the 2" height restriction on Marvel Minimates, so however you slice it, this is the first time there's been a Minimate Sentinel action figure.

This is a '90s-style Sentinel, all done up with large, bulky armor. He starts with the standard Minimate body, cast in purple, but he gets detailed boots, gloves, a waist piece and chest cap in dark blue. The torso add-ons have painted details (muscles, belt, triangular yellow chest beam), while the boots and gloves are borrowed from Lex Luthor. The details in the sculpt are simple, but accurate for the character. The big boots look as though they're sheaths over separate feet - you'll remember the same kind of thing on the ML10 BAF.

To re-create the classic Sentinel visage, this figure gets a new helmet with a big hole for the painted face to peek out. The helmet has a peg to hold it in place, and there's a ring of rectangles across the brow and all the way around from there. It's done in the same purple as the arms and legs, and the robot's face is pale lavender. Turning the head can be a little tricky, because the helmet wants to turn easier than the head does.

To up his firepower, the Sentinel gets a few other pieces. First we have an alternate "blaster" hand, reused from the Teen Titans Cyborg Minimate, which makes it clear that whatever the contract it was that said Marvel 'mates couldn't use DC pieces has expired. It's the same blue as the gloves, and has two yellow nubs on the front. Next we have a... well, "flame burst" would be a good way to describe it. It fits between the wrist and the glove, to simulate the fist rocketing off like he's a Shogun Warrior or something. Can't remember anything like that happening in a specific comic, but it certainly seems like the type of thing that would happen, no?

After coming to terms with the loss of her mother Jean Grey, Rachel adopted the original Marvel Girl's codename and costume. Her powerful connection to the Phoenix and her psychic abilities continue to make her almost unstoppable.

Rachel originally appeared (with no last name given) in the "Days of Future Past" storyline, so it makes a kind of sense that she'd be paired with the Sentinel. Though the bio mentions psychic abilities, that's not actually what her mutant ability is: instead, it's some ill-defined time-travel thing; when she used it during DoFP, she attracted the attention of the Phoenix Force, which still missed Jean. It came and joined her, giving her natural abilities a boost and imprinting her with the same powers her mom had.

This Minimate is wearing the same green and yellow miniskirt ensemble that the Marvel Legends figure had. Supposedly she's wearing it to honor her mother, but I'm not sure Jean would appreciate her daughter showing so much skin. The short, short skirt is new, and she has wrist-wrings to suggest gloves. The skirt is sculpted with a belt, and there's even a unique paint app for the buckle. Turn her around and look at her back, and you'll see the Phoenix tattoo the Shi'ar branded her with after killing her entire bloodline - since the Phoenix Force had already shown a preference for Grey genetics, they didn't want it jumping to anyone else after they killed Rachel. Those guys are jerks.

Rach shares her hair with the Series 30 Spider-Girl figure. It's a short bob, parted on the left with a single lock hanging down her forehead to between her green eyes. The face is fine, but one thing we would have liked to see is the Phoenix-symbol shape Rachel often gets over her eye when she's using her powers. If AA didn't want it there all the time, they could have painted a second face on the back of her head, like Kubricks and Legos do, but I guess that's still beyond them.

As with every series of Marvel Minimates, there's a chase variant in Series 33. And as with most of the recent series, the variant is paired with an army-builder, so you don't end up with an extra unwanted character. In this case, the army-builder is the Sentinel, so Rachel gets the variant. Before we talk about that, though, let's backtrack to the Sentinel a bit. Repeat bio and all:

First invented by Bolivar Trask, the robotic Sentinels were tasked with containing and destroying mutants. Notoriously difficult to effectively program and control, the use of Sentinels almost always ends in tragedy.

Almost? Why "almost?" When have the Sentinels ever showed up and done something good? Somebody builds 'em, they take a couple pot-shots at the X-Men, they're mostly defeated, then they turn on whoever built them and the X-Men have to save him, teaching him a valuable lesson in tolerance along the way. Awww! Next month, Mr. Sinister! Booo! (It's called a "formula" for a reason.)

Now, despite what glancing at that photo may lead you to believe, the Sentinels in these packs have no differences: this is the same one seen in the pic at the top of the page. If you strip off the chest cap and waist piece, you'll find that the plain Minimate body isn't so plain: the torso is a different shade of purple than the limbs, closer to blue than red, and the chest is painted with shadows and a circular yellow chest beam. There are new gloves and feet in the lighter purple, to complete the look. The colors and design, coupled with the skinnier body, make this a great 70s/80s style Sentinel.

The head remains the same on both versions, so it does end up looking a bit too large on the stripped-down body. If you take the big helmet off, you'll see that the "skin" doesn't go much farther than what's visible through the face-hole. The face is painted with black shadows, red eyes, and a silver mouth-grill. With the helmet off, the top and the back of the head are silver, and technological details wrap all the way around the back.

The set includes one of the old Iron Man "repulsor palm" hands, to show the Sentinel blasting at mutants. The hand ends up lacking a "cuff" on the glove, but who's really going notice that? And if they notice it, who's going to care? It's purple, rather than blue, so no question it's meant for this version of the figure, not the modern one. They can both use the translucent orange flight stand, though, as if they were just lifing off into the air. It's the curved mold with the plume of smoke at the base creating a counter-balance, so even though the Sentinel is only 2" tall, you can pretend he's drifting over a city, scanning ant-sized humans below.

Okay, enough of that. Onto the actual variant!

The child of Jean Grey and Scott Summers from the Days of Future Past reality, Rachel Summers was forced to serve as a "Hound" by her slaver captor Ahab. Later free of the brainwashing, she would join the Excalibur team.

It's interesting that while the other figure is Rachey Grey, this one is Rachel Summers. What did she, get pissed at daddy and take her mom's maiden name? How very... teenager. Of course, if her name change were the only thing left unexplained about the character, things would be a lot simpler.

As a fan of Excalibur, this is what I think of when I think of Rachel - or "Phoenix," as the packaging fails to call her. The outfit was originally black leather, but turned red over time. There are silver spikes painted down her stomach and arms, and she's got some really nice anatomy. I do prefer Minimates that get designed apps on their back, rather than just the front, but Rachel doesn't fall into that category. One thing the typical Minimate body wouldn't be able to duplicate is the row of spikes around her throat, so instead, the figure gets a separate collar, done in silver - some red apps in between the spikes would have been nice.

Rachel has her oh-so-80s hairdo, sort of a super-short buzzcut with a tuft in the front and a rat tail. Yeah, classy. It's a new sculpt, obviously, and I can't imagine it'll ever be used again. Her face is plain and pleasant, but nothing really remarkable. Except... remember what we said about turning the head around for a second face, and how AA just didn't get it? Obviously they do, because Phoenix has a second face hiding beneath her hair! Spin her around and you've got a big wicked grin, blank eyes, and the black Hound tattoos she normally used her powers to conceal - she was ashamed of them (Hounds were used to hunt other mutants, so no surprise there), but when her concentration slipped, they would become visible. Nice work, nameless designers!

Both Rachels come with a new Phoenix Effect display stand, a 2¼" wide, 2¾" tall piece cast in translucent orange. It has the typical "bird of fire" design, and the large, sloped base has a single footpeg to make the figure appear to hover in the fire. Since the only thing required for a figure to use the base is one of the Lego-compatible C3 feet, you can use the base with either of the existing Phoenices (or any other Jean Grey you like). Want Emma Frost to be Phoenix? Do it. Spider-Man? Sure! Whatever you like.

Minimates all share one basic body, but that certainly doesn't mean they're all the same: while most toys are all about the sculpt, Minimates are a chance for graphic designers to show off. It's just a different kind of work, but it's not any easier. The Minimates have a distinct advantage over larger toys, and not just in terms of shelf space: look at that Sentinel, and try to imagine any way a "real" figure would be half as versatile. You'd never be able to swap parts to change eras, and Rachel would never have had her scars. They really are excellent toys... as long as you live in the US. Everywhere else in the world, you have to pay importer's prices, and that just kills them. Art Asylum and DST need to find an international distributor, so fans outside America don't have to pay through the nose for what should be affordable figures.

-- 06/21/10

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