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The Hydra Stomper

What If...?
by yo go re

What If... Captain Carter Were the First Avenger?

In the universe you know, Steve Rogers was the first Avenger, Captain America. In this universe, Steve is injured and fights in "The Hydra Stomper," an Iron Man armor created by Howard Stark.

Indeed he does, but did you know that was not the first plan? One of the things director Bryan Andrews pitched to Kevin Fiege was Cap fighting side-by-side with Peggy Carter and another World War II hero: the Rocketeer. But even after that, head writer AC Bradley's idea for the first episode was that Steve would be the one to fall off the train instead of Bucky, and he'd be brainwashed into "Captain Hydra," leaving Peggy, Howard Stark, and Bucky to oppose him... with the help of the Red Skull, who he'd deposed as head of Hydra. Wow!

Despite being built by Howard Stark in the 1940s, this armor looks just like the one Tony Stark would build 60 years later. I am incredibly interested in the story of what common design influenced father and son to both make their killbots look identical. Did Howard Stark Sr. have some ancestral suit of armor in his mansion that both Howard Jr and Tony would have grown up looking at? And how far back in time does this repetition run? Was there a Colonial Era Stark who had the same thing built of wood in the same shape? Tell us that story, Marvel!

Since Howie wasn't relegated to building this thing IN A CAVE! WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS!, he was able to use military-grade materials to make it, which makes for some neat little details in the design. For instance, the little ladder rungs that run all the way up the left side of the body, from the knee to the nape. There's no magic way to get someone into the armor, they have to physically climb it like a tank or airplane. Love it! And because miniaturization wouldn't allow for jet boosters in the feet, there are a pair of giant rocket tanks attached to its back. They're packaged separately, and you'll need to assemble his backpack before the toy can be complete. There's a radio antenna on the left shoulder, and two weapons on the right forearms: one machine gun, and one Tesseract-powered blaster.

The Hydra Stomper is olive drab, befitting its military origins, with light blue for the eyes and the rectangular Cosmic Cube port in the middle of the chest. A white star and the serial number C-15 are tampographed on his chest, though he's missing the "USA" on the right thigh. The soles of the feet are dark, and the exhausts on his flight pods have heavy smoke damage.

At 9¼" tall, the Hydra Stomper is even bigger than Iron Monger. And that's not even counting the antenna. The rockets make the suit a little back-heavy, so you'll need to be careful when posing, but it has plenty of joints: a barbell-jointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders (with swivels for the shoulder armor), swivel biceps, hinged elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, a balljointed waist, balljointed hips, swivel thighs, hinged knees, swivel ankles, and swivel/hinge feet. At first it seemed there were no thigh joints at all, because they were fairly stuck - got the left one moving first, which suggested there had to be a right one as well. Many of the joints are stiff, to help hold the weight of this big boy. And the rockets are on hinges as well, so they can move away from the body - which of course makes the toy even more back-heavy.

The Hydra Stomper has a few accessories, if you really want to call them that. You can choose between fists and open hands, but we also get a pair of really big blast effects. No, they're not repulsor blasts, they fit in his rockets to make it look like he's flying. You know what we should have gotten, though? Same as we said for Iron Monger: make the top open and show us tiny Steve Rogers inside! Yeah, Hot Toys did it, which may make it seem like a pretty high-end feature, but so did the Disney ToyBox two-pack of this armor and Captain Carter, so it is doable even at normal prices. Hell, ToyBiz did it with Hulkbuster Iron Man, so why are we not as good as 16 years ago? Of course, for that to happen, Disney and Hasbro would have had to be willing to tell Dennis Chan that's what this design was, rather than just a Hydra Doombot or something, and he's just a lowly freelancer, so why would they want to do that?

Since The Watcher was already taking up the BAF slot in the What If...? series, the Hydra Stomper has to be sold by itself as a deluxe figure. It's cool we got the armor, but it would be better if we got to see the guy inside it, too. You know Peggy would want it that way.

-- 02/28/22

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