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Death's Head

Marvel Infinite Series
by Monkey Boy

Death's Head is, for some inexplicable reason, one of my favorite Marvel Comics characters. Ever. I first encountered him in the pages of Marvel Comics Presents, and childhood Me just immediately loved him: the funky demon robot look, the quirky speech pattern (Yes?)... I dug it all. So while I don't really collect the 4"-scale Hasbro Marvel Universe line, I couldn't pass up their Death's Head figure, especially considering how unlikely it is that he'll ever show up in the 6" Marvel Legends line.

Originally constructed as a host body for the psychotic mage Lupex, the mechanoid being known as Death's Head was stolen and given a mind of its own. Now this self-styled "freelance peace-keeping agent" roams both space and time as a mercenary, forever searching for his next contract.

Death's Head (Real Name: Death's Head) has a rather interesting backstory, and I mean in the real world, not the Marvel Universe. Originally created by Simon Furman to be used as a "throw-away character" in Marvel UK's Transformers comicbook, Furman changed his mind after seeing Geoff Senior's designs for the character, believing he had potential beyond his initial single planned appearance. The problem was that contractually, Hasbro was granted ownership of any character that originated within the pages of Marvel's Transformers comics, which would limit the possibilities for future Death's Head appearances.

So what did they do? They created a one-page story called "High Noon Tex" and published it in several Marvel UK comic titles, securing that Death's Head was, technically, a Marvel character beyond the scope of Transformers. Pretty genius, yes? Since then, Death's Head has been kickin' around the Marvel Universe, and although he's been reinvented a number of times, the original always seems to find his way back into the fold.

The Marvel Universe Death's Head figure captures the wackiness of his design, from the frowny-horned-tusked-skull head to the spiky ankles of his boots. In between he's mostly bulky armor and that lined metal musculature that Marvel just loves (see also: Cyber, Cable, Winter Soldier, Colossus, Mr. Sinister, Maverick, etc. etc. etc.). That's why it makes sense that most of his body appears to come from the MU Colossus figure, including the chest, torso, arms (but not hands), legs and feet. The only real place this doesn't work perfectly is on the legs, beginning just above the knee, where the sculpt changes from the contoured "metal" to the sculpted cloth of Colossus's boots.

It's not terribly noticeable though, and he's got a ton of new unique pieces to pull off his signature look. Or at least, one of them (he's had quite a few). But this is just classic DH: bulky layered shoulder pads held together by a ring on his chest? Check. Big belt made of circles? Yup. Armored skirt-loincloth... thing? Uh-huh. Big ol' red cape? Roger that. The boot pieces are separate parts affixed to the Colossus shins, and do a decent job of approximating DH's pointy footwear. The head is particularly nice, and captures Deathy's look perfectly. The only issue I have is that the cape, shoulder pads and upper chest area are all a single separate piece that fits over the chest proper, and there's nothing other than gravity to hold it in place. It just sits loosely, even though there are two holes in the plastic underneath, front and back, where pegs would be happy to plug right into (holdovers from Colossus).

Paint is surprisingly good for a figure in this scale. There's nothing too fancy, but there are enough different colors used that if you scaled everything up to six inches, he'd fit right in with your Legends figures without any additional paint apps. Silver, gold, red, blue and yellow are all used to great effect, and even in smaller areas like the eyes and chest fastener, there's very little slop.

I don't have many other MU figures, but his articulation is pretty standard. Deathy's got a balljointed head on a peg-and-hinge neck, peg-and-hinge shoulders, peg biceps, hinged elbows, peg wrists, balljointed chest and hips, peg thighs, double-hinged knees, and peg-and-hinge ankles. His hips are rather restricted by the skirt piece, but it helps counteract the fact that the hips appear fairly loose (and pop off their balljoints a bit too easily). His left ankle peg is stuck hard, even an hour in the freezer didn't loosen it up, but your mileage may vary. In general, this type of quality control (or lack thereof) is what keeps me from being a hardcore MU enthusiast; the plastic used always seems very... floppy.

If there's one thing Death's Head is known for, aside from turning just about every statement into a question with the qualifier "Yes?", it's his varied arsenal, and this figure doesn't disappoint. While DH is certainly not above using firearms, the axe and mace are two of his staple weapons, and both are represented nicely here. The axe in particular is very nicely done, with all sorts of nicks and pits in the blade. He also gets a small gold shield, which can either clip onto his wrist or store on his back by fitting into two divots just above his cape.

The three accessories are nice, but they're made even better by what you can do with them. There are two clips in the top of the shield where his other weapons can be stored, and when the shield is stored in its place on his back, the axe and mace stick out above his shoulders, just like in the comics. Cool! That alone is some clever versatility, but the toy goes one better. Being a robot, Death's Head wasn't content to just hold his weapons; instead, he'd often replace his hands with various implements of destruction. Awesomely, the toy can do just that! Pop his hands off at the wrists, and his weapons plug right in - a perfect fit! The design of the hilts on his weapons mirrors the pegs of his hands almost exactly, so it's highly unlikely that this synergy is unintentional.

Despite his flimsiness and size, which are both the main factors that keep me from collecting the Marvel Universe line on a serious scale, this is still a very solid representation of Death's Head. Despite a mostly reused body, the figure does a great job of capturing DH's design, and the added versatility of his accessories makes him a must-own for Death's Head fans and Marvel Universe fans. I can only imagine that anyone who finds themselves at the intersection of that Venn Diagram will be immensely pleased.

Now please Hasbro, scale this bad guy up for Marvel Legends, YES?!

-- 10/20/14

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