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Gambit, Banshee, and Psylocke

X-Men 60th Anniversary
by yo go re

Intrigue in the Shi'ar Empire has drawn X-Men Banshee, Psylocke, and Gambit into outer space and conflict with former friends and allies the Starjammers and Imperial Guard.

Imagine you're Jim Lee: you draw the most iconic X-Men cover in a decade, not realizing you're going to eclipse yourself only six months later.

New recruit Gambit leaps and blasts his way through the Starjammers and Imperial Guard with his kinetically-charged deck of cards and bo staff.

Was he really a "recruit"? He just hooked up with Storm in New Orleans (not like that - she'd been reduced to a pre-teen at the time, and even early Gambit wasn't that much of a creep) and followed her back to New York, just in time to get kidnapped to Genosha, then was still hanging around the mansion when everybody within arm's reach was yanked off to space by the Shi'ar. If you go to the grocery store and somebody pulls the fire alarm while you're these, it doesn't suddenly make you their newest employee.

This new Gambit head was sculpted by Paul Harding, and it's far, far better than the last one we got. [you've forgotten the Retro Collection version, which was easily better than the XML5 one you've linked there --ed.] His hair flops over to the side the way comic artists drew it back then, which is no more compatible with being molded in plastic today than it's ever been at any point in the past, but the face beneath that hair is great. The figure uses the Vulcan body, despite that being way bigger than Gambit's ever been shown to be, with several new pieces to create the costume details.

It's comical that Gambit kept wearing his head-sleeve with this costume. Does that mean he has his normal shirt on underneath it? Inside the book, he even wore his trenchcoat with it, but not on the cover that this set is based on. The figure comes with the same accessories as the previous figure: a hand with two fingers extended to hold the single smoking card, a hand throwing three cards, and his bo staff. At the time, Gambit carried a bag with him all the time, and that's made it to the toy for the first time.

Telepath Betsy Braddock cuts through secret plots that lurk on Shi'ar homeworld Chandilar with her psychic blades.

Yes, perhaps related to the fact that this was only about 20 issues after she'd shown up in her new Asian body - so nobody would have quite trusted her yet, making her a bit of an outsider. She'd be viewing everyone from a removed perspective, which would put her in a perfect position to spot anything hinky. For example, since he'd left Earth before Psylocke was kidnapped by Mojo, this was the first time she ever met Charles Xavier. It's easy to forget just how long Professor X was out of the story!

The theme of both these sets is not only "Uncanny X-Men #275," but apparently also "using less-then-suitable bodies," because Psylocke gets the same mold as Storm in the other set. That's not awful, but it's also not the body the previous two Psylockes used. Hasbro, guys, stop thinking of these as just costume designs and start thinking of them as people: unless there's a reason for them to change (or you got it wildly wrong the first time), then every release of the same character should be the same dang size! Why is this set's Gambit bigger than every other Gambit? Why did Forge suddenly put on 50 pounds of muscle? Why does this Betsy Braddock have a different physical shape than one from three years ago?

The new head is very nice, at least, and unlike some Psylockes we could name, this one remembers that her hair is supposed to be purple. It's pulled to the side and falls over her left shoulder, and the face looks decently like Jim Lee drew her. The figure has a flat right hand, balled left hand, or two hands shaped for holding. What does she hold? Her sword and its energy swirl. Not a great choice, since it would be quite a few years before that became a feature of her powers; they were already dropping her psychic butterfly flare (since it wasn't shaped for this head), they might as well have dropped this, too. In exchange for an alternate head, maybe? Her psy-blade, the focused totality of her psychic powers, fits onto the left fitst. The accessories are molded in translucent purple.

Intrigue over the throne of the Shi'ar Empire has drawn Banshee and his sonic scream to space fighting alongside fellow X-Men... or possibly against them.

But I was under the impression that, in space, no one can hear you scream? This is easily the #1 figure in the entire "team uniform" lineup, because Banshee was pretty much the first Marvel Legend Hasbro released, and it was super, super rough, even by the standards of 16 years ago.

Paul Harding did the head sculpt, and it looks great. Obviously he's got his mouth open in a shout, as you'd want, and his hair is blowing backwards just a bit. We also get a second "retro" head that would fit with Harding's "Marvel in the 70s" series, thanks to its floppy coif and massive sideburns. That one's got the mouth closed, for variety.

Banshee uses the same poorly sized body as Gambit, which means the toy is never going to look as good as it could have. They really need to retire this mold as soon as they can. He gets a large collar no one else does (because he'd been wearing this Muir Island suit for a while before everyone else got theirs, so he'd had time to customize it); at first I thought this meant he was using the same chest as Corsair, but nope, not the same. Not even the same collar sculpt. The wings of his suit are less impressive than they were in 2007, being that flimsy vinyl they use for everything now, and only printed on one side. It's attached to the figure with big, ugly tabs; why, Hasbro, since this costume has bands around the wrists and legs, would you not just connect the wings to those and let us slide them on the figure? Come on! The set includes both open hands and fists.

Of the two "Strike Force" sets, this is the better one, because it doesn't include a figure that's nearly identical to one we already have, and it does include a figure that desperately needed updated. Consequently, it's selling faster than the other half of the team, with a lot of sellers inflating the already-high price by a couple dollars. I got mine during a Hasbro Pulse sale, which brought it down to the price everybody should be able to pay for it, but the wrong choice of bodies keeps this from being as much fun as it could have been.

-- 07/20/23

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