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by yo go re

Assembled by General Thunderbolt Ross, aka the Red Hulk, the newest incarnation of the Thunderbolts may be the deadliest yet. Rather than convicted super-criminals, the new Thunderbolts are all killers-at-large, each with their own troubled history. Elektra, the assassin; The Punisher, the vigilante; Deadpool, the mercenary. Along with Agent Venom, they make for an unlikely team, but there is no army on Earth that can stand in their way once the mission is underway.

Agent Venom gets name-dropped, but he's not in this set - we start with Punisher. Of the four figures in this set, Punisher is the one who's most different from his previous Minimate versions - sure, that's only because the skull on his shirt is red, rather than white, but sometimes that's all you need (in kayfabe, it's "gamma armor" designed to stop anything short of a depleted uranium round).

The skull, with its small, slanty eyes, doesn't match the one seen in the comic - there, the eyes are much bigger. It's like they're just counting on the colors to carry the likeness - but like we said, sometimes that's all you need. He's wearing a utility belt and Gambit's coat, because it's the only one that flares out far enough to make room for the holsters on his legs.

The current Thunderbolts book was first drawn by Steve Dillon, a guy with a very clean, recognizable art style. If thi Minimate is trying to ape that style, well, it didn't work. It's not that the face is bad - he certainly looks like a perfectly grumpy Frank Castle - it just doesn't look like Dillon's art. It's probably my favorite Punisher face yet.

As you'd expect, Punisher comes with a nice assortment of weapons. He has two silver pistols to fit in his aforementioned holsters, Sin-Eater's sawed-off shotgun, and the rocket launcher that came with the TRU-exclusive Avengers Nick Fury.

Next we have Deadpool, because the world needs more Deadpool Minimates. This is the 16th one, and there's really only so much you can do with his red and black uniform, you know? This one spices things up a little by using Flash Thompson's gloves and boots for a more armored look, but he still has the usual DP-logo belt, a holster on his right leg, and a harness around his shoulders.

It would have been fun if, in order to really peg this figure as belonging to this set, Art Asylum had included the mustache that Wade drew on his mask during the team's first mission. Why did he draw mustache on his mask? Because he's Deadpool, and it probably made sense to him at the time. Yes, that would limit this figure to only being from one specific time, but there are enough alternate Deadpool heads available that you could swap if you wanted to.

Speaking of heads, Deadpool's mask is removable, and the hamburger head beneath it is awesome! It's all covered with gross sores and scabs, like it should be, but he also has an expression that's pure Deadpool! His eyes are different sizes, and he's got a huge smile on his face. This is exactly the kind of zany look you'd expect him to have.

The mask does slip off easily, though. That may vary from figure to figure, and the same goes for the fact that his right foot keeps falling off. He's armed with a pistol (to go along with the holster on his leg, naturally), and at least two swords - but the hands are open slightly too far, so he can't actually hold them. A little warm water and some squeezing will probably take care of that.

The rest of the characters in this box are nice enough, but it's this one that really sold the set for me. There have been two Red Hulk figures before - one in Series 25, with Ska'ar, and the other in an SDCC box set - but I didn't get either of those, so my collection had a Red Hulk-shaped hole. But not any more!

Red Hulk is very bulky. He uses all the add-on pieces that a lot of Hulks come with these days (e.g., the Composite Hulk figure), and the spiky hair of the Series 25 release. His pants look black, but they're actually just a dark, dark blue - that's the only way his fly and the muscles on his legs could be painted black and still show up. His chest and back are both detailed nicely.

Rather than give Red Hulk a lot of oversized accessories (when he uses guns, they're big guns), AA gave us enough parts to power him down. You can't turn him into a completely normal civilian Thunderbolt Ross (and side note: how freaking clever is it that someone thought to use the "Thunderbolts" name for a team run by Gen. Ross? Love it! Love it!), but it's still nice to have.

The figure seems to show Ross in the middle of Hulking out. His head, neck and hands are all still pink, but his chest and arms are red. The tatters of his shirt still cling to his torso, and he has crazy eyes. The set includes human hands and feet, so you don't have to have a tiny torso with giant limbs.

And finally, we have Elektra. Thanks to her being on the Thunderbolts team, Daredevil isn't just the closest thing Frank Castle has to a friend, they're also Eskimo brothers.

This figure is mostly identical to the last Elektra Minimate, the one from Series 38. She's got the same hair, the same loincloth... she's even got the same tampograph on her torso! That's unusual. Usually these things get redesigned, even if they don't need to be - Punisher, Deadpool and Red Hulk all had older figures whose paint masks could have been reused but weren't, and yet Elektra doesn't get the same courtesy?

That's not to say the entire toy is identical. The particular pattern of her gloves, boots, and various straps and sashes is different, and she has a much angrier look on her face (which itself is no small accomplishment). She also has the benefit of a second hair piece, in case you want her to take her bandana off and stay a while.

We can be sure that the pair of sais included in the tray are meant for Elektra, since those are her weapon of choice. You can also give her some swords if you want - although we already assigned a pair to Deadpool, the box includes four, and it's not like Punisher or Red Hulk use them very often.

Personally, I would have been happier if this Red Hulk were available in a two-pack, but the Thunderbolts box set isn't bad. All the characters have been changed to one degree or another, and they come with good accessories. There's a lot to like here.

-- 13/06/13

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