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Agents of SHIELD

The Avengers
by yo go re

Boy, how about that Avengers 2, huh? The part when Captain America inspired everybody? Outstanding! Iron Man acting like a self-important dick? Loved it. Hulk... smashing? Hawkeye being unable to arrow at a most inopportune time? Classic moments, every one of them. And then when Spider-Man showed up in the post-credits scene? Nobody could have predicted that!

Just kidding, this review was written before the movie opened, so you know more about it than we do. But this set is based on the first movie anyway, so it doesn't really matter.

No fancy tricks. No superpowers. Agent Coulson just gets the job done.

Well, maybe a few tricks - he is an international super spy, after all. Phil Coulson is what James Bond would be if James Bond wasn't the worst secret agent in the world: non-descript, barely memorable, but unflinchingly competent. He's the Least Interesting Man in the World, and if you look away from him for two seconds, you forget he's in the room. It's like he lives by Brad Pitt's speech in Ocean's 11, and that's what makes him Fury's go-to guy (unless there's some other agent out there we haven't been introduced to yet).

The only thing we've ever seen Phil Coulson wearing is a suit, and there hasn't been a Marvel Legends suit body since Professor X, so you know what that means: new sculpt!

His suit is slightly rumpled, because that's more interesting than one that's properly tailored - in real life, a suit that looked like this would have to have been rolled into a ball and put on soaking wet. Even the ill-fitting suit he wore in the first Iron Man was smoother than this, and this is supposed to represent his Avengers Dolce & Gabbana. The coat is a separate piece over the torso, and the necktie is glued in at the throat. It's like Hasbro copied Mattel's test answers, right down to the pigeon-toed feet. Note to every toy manufacturer: humans' feet point outward when they're standing still, not inward.

The articulation is better than Mattel's suit body, but that goes without saying. He has a balljointed head (which actually works like a balljoint, not a swivel), a hinged neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps (shaped like the arm, rather than just being cut straight through), double-hinged elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, hinged torso, swivel waist, swivel/hinge hips, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, and swivel/hinge rocker ankles. Hasbro's suit body > Mattel's suit body. Of course, we may be singing a different tune after it's been used for Matt Murdock, Tony Stark, Norman Osborn, Justin Hammer, Charles Xavier, Happy Hogan, modern Moon Knight, Dr. Nemesis, lab coat Bruce Banner, the Chameleon, J. Jonah Jameson, Hammerhead, Mr. Negative, elderly Steve Rogers, '90s Red Skull, and TV's Calvin "Mr. Hyde" Zabo. It's a bit disappointing that his suit is black these days: one of the fun things about Iron Man 1 was that the SHIELD agents were wearing blue outfits, just like they do in the comics.

Phil's got two heads, each with an outstanding likeness of actor Clark Gregg. He'd been in plenty of things before Iron Man, but Marvel made him recognizable. And so does this toy. Both heads share the same sculpt, but one has been given a pair of dark sunglasses. Oh wait, they're not 100% identical: one is smiling, while the other is more grim.

He also gets an accessory, and it's a great one: he gets the Destroyer Gun, perfect for threatening Loki! The detail is impressive. You can tell there's a real gun somewhere underneath all the junk they've added on (seriously, why does this thing have two kinds of sights right behind each other?), and the barrel is glowing orange, as it do. The sculpt of the toy is not a perfect match to the movie prop, though; the front pistol grip is slightly misplaced: the extra trigger his left index finger should be able to reach instead ends up by his thumb. And the body should be grey, not black. Still, he looks great holding it, and that's what counts.

The master tactician who formed the Avengers, Nick Fury hunts evil relentlessly.

Boy, are people ever disappointed in this figure! It's fundamentally identical to one that was released as a Walmart exclusive along with the first Captain America movie, so the reaction is understandable. But that exclusive was itself barely different from the Ultimate Nick Fury, so I didn't buy it (and it didn't hang around long enough to hit clearance). So let everybody rage - this Fury is new to me! And maybe to you, depending on how well your Walmart's toy section was stocked at the time.

The main point of newness on the figure is his head. Rather than merely looking vaguely like Samuel L. Jackson, it looks exactly like Samuel L. Jackson - bald head, goatee, eyepatch and all. We know that Ultimate Nick Fury got his scars from Wolverine - how do you think movie Nick got his? Come on, Disney and Fox, work out a crossover!

Also new? The little "turtleneck" piece at the top of his sweater, and the harness he's wearing - Ultimate Nick wore a holster, but it was different. The Captain America release had a grey turtleneck, but this one is all black. Even his hands are painted black (though he didn't wear gloves in Avengers). The set includes two silver pistols with blue stripes, which can fit in his shoulder and thigh holsters.

An elite espionage agent, Maria Hill is always there when it counts.

Maria Hill is kind of a badass. It's hard to notice in the comics, because she's always being the downer to whatever cool things the superheroes are trying to do, but consider the movies: her boss gets shot, and the first thing she does is jump in a jeep to go gunning for the ones who did it - without any backup! - and the only thing that stops her is the Earth itself collapsing on top of her; she single-handedly saves Captain America and pals from execution, and when armed thugs are coming to kill her, she doesn't even bother to stand up from her chair to kill them. She's great!

Maria was played by Cobie Smulders, who was supposed to be Wonder Woman in Joss Whedon's film before DC got nervous and killed the project. Early leaked images of this set made it look like this toy's head was too large for the body, but that was just a question of angles - it's slightly big, but in most poses she looks perfectly fine. No worries.

At a glance, you can tell this figure uses the same basic body as Black Widow - that's fine, the same thing happened with the 4" figures. But once you actually compare the two toys, you'll see just how many new pieces this one gets. The only shared molds are the legs and upper arms, so she's clearly wearing her SHIELD uniform differently than Natasha did. She doesn't have a strap cinching in the waist, and her zipper only comes down to her chest, not her waist - that's because her shirt and pants are two different garments, not a jumpsuit (as evidenced by the extra bit of material hanging down below her belt). There are zippers on the backs of her forearms, and she gets new hands: hers actually have swivel/hinge joints, instead of justs swivels. Unfortunately, she still doesn't get any guns. Hasbro should have loaded this set up with all sorts of weapons; it would have been a perfect opportunity to give us an arsenal, and parcel out some guns to figures who didn't have any (or could use some more realistic ones).

This set is a Toys Я Us exclusive, and with at least two new figures, it's a good one. But don't just buy it blindly. Rustin got one, and he said there were a lot of paint problems - meanwhile, I ordered online for store pickup, and it was perfect. But here's what's really weird: I've been to three TЯUs, and two of them have had this set in two different locations in the store; in the Marvel aisle, and in a special Age of Ultron display on an endcap; but in both those stores, the marked price for the set was different in each location! So you might have to pay $54.99 for this set, or you might be able to snag it for $49.99. When you go to the store, look around, and if the lower price is showing anywhere, make TЯU honor it.

-- 05/04/15

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