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Spider-Man Classic
by Monkey Boy

For such a popular character in the Spider-Man mythos, Venom has yet to get a definitive figure. ToyBiz has given him the action figure treatment quite a few times in recent years, but none has really stolen the show as the ultimate Venom figure to own.

In the original Spider-Man Classics line (the precursor to Marvel Legends), the Venom we got was an odd, duck-mouthed, under-articulated figure with his symbiote sloughing off his legs and the face of Eddie Brock visible deep within the costume's cavernous maw. Not exactly what everyone thinks of when they think "Venom." The next Venom ToyBiz conjured relied heavily on an old mold for their Planet of the Symbiotes line. The dated quality of the reused figure, coupled with the inexplicable use of light blue airbrushing, made that figure a disappointing offering.

Marvel Select gave us an Ultimate Venom that was over-the-top and well sculpted, but ultimately didn't quite capture the feel of the canonical Venom. Next, in the Marvel Legends Sinister Six box set, came a Venom that used the same body sculpt as the Sabretooth figure from the fifth Marvel Legends series. While it was well articulated and unhindered by action features, it was a little too subtle and conservative for those who wanted an all out, crazy-lookin' Venom.

The latest figural incarnation of Venom took most collectors' breath away when the prototype photos were shown. It looked too good to be true: a Venom figure, well sculpted and articulated, largely influenced by artists like Erik Larsen, who drew a very outrageous Venom. Now that the figure is out, does it live up to the hype?

Well, the sculpt is good. Just as good as the figure from the proto photos. The body is insanely muscled and textured, and the face is appropriately disgusting, with a huge distended jaw and a long, winding tongue. Unfortunately, the face is also made of rubber to accommodate the figure's action feature, which is barely functional. This means the figure has a large knob protruding from his back, which mars an otherwise great sculpt. Press the obtrusive knob, and the jaw... twitches... slightly. I'm sure it's supposed to be awesome, hideous chomping action, but in reality, the mouth is already pretty wide open, so the jaw movement is very minimal.

It probably would have worked better if it had been designed like the Lord of the Rings Warg, which involved mouth-closing action rather than mouth-opening action. Better yet, just don't have the feature at all. Or at least make the mouth an articulated hinge. Additionally, rubber parts are the bane of any action figure collector, as they are prone to cracking, deformation, and dust collecting. None of this has happened so far, but I haven't had the figure very long.

The action feature also hinders the articulation. Venom has no neck joint, so his head is immobile. Otherwise, he fares pretty well, with ball jointed shoulders, peg biceps, hinged elbows, pegged and hinged wrists, individually articulated fingers, a ball jointed torso, a peg waist, ball jointed hips, peg thighs, double hinged knees, hinged ankles (as well as a side-to-side joint to keep Venom stable), and a mid-foot hinge. He's got a lot of joints, but it doesn't change the fact that he's missing one of the key points of movement.

Thankfully, there's no real problems with the paint. He's mostly blackish, but there is a darker subtle paint wash in the cracks and creases of his body. The spider symbol is alright, although the black knob in his back interrupts the design, and the torso joint causes a break in the white paint of the symbol on the front. For all its rubberiness, the head has some decent paint apps. There's a nice shiny red on the mouth and tongue, as well as individually painted teeth and some icky green drool.

As far as accessories, Venom gets a forgettable blob of black gunk that clips onto his wrist. Inside is a spring that launches a projectile with a Venom-like face on it. Collectors will likely leave it in the package or throw it away, and to tell the truth I almost forgot to put it in the review. The only thing worth mentioning is that the accessories give this figure two action features. If we get this superfluous launcher, why do we need a useless and nearly non-functioning jaw action that cuts into the articulation, breaks up the sculpt, and turns the face to rubber?

Sadly, in the end, this is not the great Venom we were all hoping for. Instead, it's a figure design that had great potential to be the be-all and end-all of Venom figures. The sculpt and articulation are essentially perfect, but the rubber face and action feature knob knock the figure down a few pegs and keep it from achieving the glory of "Best Venom Ever." It's still a good figure, but if ToyBiz had just done this figure right, they'd never need to make another Venom again. As it is, this is a flawed but admirable entry into the long line of Venom figures, although I doubt it will be the last.

-- 01/21/06

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