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Marvel Universe
by yo go re

Some writers will create intricate worlds with every step of thir story planned out before word one hits the page. Others fly by the seat of their pants, trusting that everything will work out in the end. Both have their advantages: if you watch the first episode of Futurama, you'll see Nibbler's shadow on the wall when Fry falls into the cryogenic chamber, but it's Season 5 before we learn why. On the other hand, when Stan Lee needed a mystical power source for a new villain in X-Men #12, he just reused one of the made-up magical names he'd been having Dr. Strange incant for nearly a year - Strange Tales #124 was the first mention of the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak.

Before unwittingly encountering the mystical Crimson Gem of Cyttorak, Cain Marko was a normal man, but he was a man consumed by jealousy of his half-brother, Charles Xavier. Cyttorak seized on that jealousy, turning Marko into a being of untold power - an unstoppable force of destruction that would plague Xavier and the world for decades to come.

For a guy whose power is barreling into things at full speed without any thought for the consequences, Juggernaut is a surprisingly nuanced character. He was one of the first villains to work with a partner (Black Tom) not because they were having a teamup, but because they were actually pals. He's been a member of not one but two X-Men teams, which would be like Lex Luthor joining the JLA. It's been suggested that the reason he's evil at all (as opposed to just being a huge jerk) is because Cyttorak influences his mind - after all, every time he starts to do good, his abilities wane.

Juggernaut had a 1:18-scale figure before, in ToyBiz's short-lived Superhero Showdown line, but he was released at the tail-end of the line, so I may be one of the only 12 people in the world to actually own him (thanks to the help of one of our readers, naturally!). Basically, he was ripe for a re-do. The shocking thing is that Hasbro did it so fast: this is only the second year of Marvel Universe, and here he is already - as figure #14, according to the top of the card.

The figure stands 4¾" tall, which so far seems to be the max height for MU figures - possibly because there's some restriction in Hasbro's contract that keeps the figures below the 5" mark, but more likely because any larger than that and they'd have trouble fitting the figure on the standard-sized blister card. Juggernaut is a very bulky figure, not quite as wide as Hulk, but close. He has a very muscular sculpt, without being needlessly busy the way ToyBiz's was. It seems that Hasbro is planning to re-use the arms at some point, because the armored bands on his upper arms are separate pieces held on by friction, while all the armor on the lower ends is on the far side of the joint. I don't know who they're thinking of, but the potential is there.

There's one thing about this Juggernaut better than any previous version, and that's the head. Or specifically, the helmet: this is the first time it has been the right shape in more than a decade. I'm a huge Juggernaut fan, whatever the term is for that ["Juggalo" --ed.], so it probably doesn't bug anyone else, but his helmet is supposed to be short and wide, not tall and pointy. It's not a bucket, it's a wok, but most toys don't reflect that. The last one to do it properly was in the 1999 X-Men vs. Street Fighter set, and it didn't even get a neck joint! The helmet and the face are two separate pieces, but it's not removable: the "head," such as it is, is a square block glued into notches under the helmet, but the overall effect is of a human face behind armor.

Articulation is very good. The head is a balljoint and the neck is a swivel, which is honestly more than you'd ever expect him to have. He has swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, swivel forearms, balljointed torso, balljointed hips, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, swivel boots and hinged ankles. That's less articulation than the Superhero Showdown version had, but it's designed better, so you're left with a better-looking toy. The paint is really good too, from the red and brown base coats to the subtle shadows and the truly impressive weathering painted on his helmet. Seriously, other than the rivets and three conspicuous slashes, the helmet is perfectly smooth - everything else is done with paint.

Juggernaut has no accessories of his own, just a Marvel Universe display base (that he doesn't in any way need) and the "paper accessories" all the figures have had. The manilla envelope now has a HAMMER logo in one corner - great timing, guys. The contents include a code for the Fury Files website that's useless because Hasbro hasn't bothered to update the site since it went live last year, a superhuman registration card, and a note from Cain to Norman Osborn telling him to back off. The graphic design on the note is lacking, however, because while it's meant to look hand-written, it's blatantly something that's been typed, because no person in the history of time would ever hyphenate their own name for a line break. Someone needs to pay better attention.

Plus, the registration card calls him an "expert hand to hand combatant" and lists his height as 9'5" - which sounds accurate for the comics, but in MU-scale would translate to a toy that's 6¼" tall. Is Hasbro telling us their own toy is 1½" too small? Plus, his fighting style is to run straight at something and knock it over, which is about as far from "expert" fighting as you can get (it's not very "hand to hand," either). Hey, at least the artwork of Juggernaut that graces the card looks really nice - that's more than we can usually say for Mike Deodato Jr.'s work.

Juggernaut is just now starting to show up, so he's still a rare find. If you can track him down, though, you'll find a really nice figure. Excellent sculpt, all the articulation you could want, killer paint... there's nothing to not recommend him, as long as you're not going to worry about how tall he is. This is Juggernaut the way Juggernaut should be.

-- 08/02/10

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