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by Rustin Parr

I must confess my knowledge of Thunderbolts goes as far as "I think it's a team in the Marvel Universe," and this set implies it's mainly bad guys. I got this set for three reasons. From least to most: 1) it was an SDCC 09 exclusive from ActionFigureXpress.com, 2) I'm obsessively in love with Minimates, and 3) these figures just plain look cool!

The set consists of four figures - Norman Osborn, Venom, Penance, and Radioactive Man - and a ton of accessories. Well, actually it's more additional/interchangeable bodyparts for the different characters (except Venom) so that you can make no less than two (yes, two!) different outfits for each. Of course, to have both versions on display you'd need two sets, but at long last DST is making the purchase of multiples more worthwhile, in that effectively three extra figures can be made from a second set as opposed to, for example, the Silence of the Lambs or Back to the Future sets that had extra parts for just one character.

All figures, again excepting poor Venom, include multiple uniquely sculpted costume pieces which honestly don't bother me as much I had I expected. You see, a constant battle within Minimate-dom is the degree of detail, and frankly, I feel DST has been getting too detailed with their sculpts. I prefer Minimates that err on the side of simplicity, since that's the nature of the base body itself. But unlike other recent figures (say, the Iron Man movie figures) the detailing on these doesn't obscure the style of the bodies and the overall premise of Minimates. Ultimately the unique pieces very comfortably walk that fine line between sculptural detail stylistic simplicity.

Few villains are more terrifying than the original Green Goblin, Norman Osbourne. "Cured" of his supervillain past he now leads the Thunderbolts - a group of former villains tasked with hunting down rogue heroes.

Osbourne is suited up in a neat little green jumpsuit that is pretty darn reminiscent of the "New Goblin" from Spider-Man 3, but he comes with removable military accoutrements, interchangeable hands and feet, and a business suit torso slip-on allowing him to become en-suitened for business ventures. Oh, but that ain't all! There are also two handguns that fit into thigh holsters, a machine gun, and a flesh-colored hand holding a pumpkin bomb.

Formerly known as the supervillain Scorpion, Mac Gargan became the third host of the Venom symbiote after the creature abandoned former host Eddie Brock. Despite the change, Venom's hatred of Spider-Man remains as strong as ever.

Venom is the only figure with no extra pieces or anything. That's a bit of a bummer but, considering that all three other figures have extras, it's not a downside. The figure uses the same torso slip-on used for the Hulk figures from the 2008 movie Minimates, which this helps bulk-up Venom, giving him more comic-accurate proportions than previous Venoms while maintaining the distinctive style of Minimates at the same time. Venom's hands are not the standard balls, but feature claws (with a hint of a knuckle-barb) which I would bet are reused from another figure (perhaps Spider-Carnage?). Either way, they too help make this the best Venom Minimate yet (even if it's not the one true Venom).

Tortured by his part in causing the Civil War, Robbie Baldwin put away his Speedball costume and adopted a more severe identity as Penance. 612 internal spikes keep Penance in constact pain in honor of the 612 civilians killed in Stamford.

This is one heck of a cool figure. The two sentences above and this Minimate represent the extent of my exposure to Penance, and alls I can tell you is that he sure looks cool (hint hint, Hasbro). This guy was the final selling point of the set, for me, just too cool to not have. He has a uniquely sculpted helmet and torso armor that is more detailed than I would normally like on my Minimates, but it still looks fine for the style. Underneath the helmet/armor is the dude's scratched up body. He comes with two all-flesh colored arms so that one can create a "topless" Penance, though the scratches, etc., don't continue on to the arms.

Nuclear physicist Chen Lu battled superheroes for years before seeking redemption with the Thunderbolts team. His control of radiation and electromagnetism is impressive, however he must still wear protective gear to interact with friends and civilians.

Another great comicbook villain name! Surprisingly, the radioactive suit is a three-part apparatus with a torso piece, a separate helmet and a hose/tank piece that plugs into the back of the torso and the mouth cover on the helmet. A single onesy slip-on piece would have done the job just fine, but DST went that extra mile for this guy. Included are translucent green arms, which can replace the radioactive suit arms so that the terrifyingly monikered (but accurately named!) Radioactive Man can lounge about with nay but pants and a green tanktop on. Oh, do the radioactive know how to dress comfortably! It is a little known fact that one distinct advantage of becoming radioactive and in an innate sense for comfort.

I definitely recommend this set and will probably pick up a second set for myself to have the other outfits on display. Fortunately, this set is available from AFX and they tend to order enough pieces to have plenty of stock for sale on their website. Do the internet equivalent of running, not walking, to actionfigurexpress.com and/or shopafx.com and get your own Thunderbolts set immediately!

-- 08/03/09

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