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The Thanos Imperative

Marvel Legends
by yo go re

A series of interstellar wars has torn a hole in the fabric of space and time, creating a gateway to an alternate dimension where life has conquered death. Now, a ragtag alliance of interstellar heroes is all that stands between our universe and the nightmarish abominations pouring through the Fault!

The packaging for this set depicts the Galactus Engine, a device sent from the Cancerverse and built from the body of that reality's Galactus. That's why it looks like Big G's skull, complete with fold-out ear wings. To give you a sense of scale, a group of Celestials standing in front of the Galactus Engine were as small to it as a human would be to them. Massive! Four of the figures in the set are visible on the back, while the fifth is hidden until you open the head's mouth.

Unlike last year's set, none of the figures in this set are getting their first-ever action figure, but they're (almost) all ones who needed an update. Our first figure is Medusalith Amaquelin Boltagon, better known as Medusa, queen of the Inhumans. She originally appeared as "Madam Medusa," a member of The Wizard's Frightful Four - and thus, a Fantastic Four villain (she had amnesia at the time). In fact, nearly every victory the Frightful Four had in their battles against the FF were because of Medusa! That may be why, once she remembered who she actually was, she even served as a fill-in member of the Fantastic Four sometimes.

Medusa uses the same new sculpt as Storm, but this figure was technically released first. It's pretty cool that Hasbro now has several different female bodies with different physiques to choose from when it comes to repainting. She even has Storm's splayed hands, but her feet are new: she's wearing actual high heels instead of wedges. Her costume is dark blue and metallic magenta, with a repeated M pattern that's very stylish.

The head is new, for obvious reasons. It's a generically attractive face, with a very narrow, angular chin than makes her look just slightly inhuman (no pun intended). She has a balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders, elbows, and wrists, a torso with the range of a balljoint, swivel/hinge hips, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, and swivel/hinge ankles.

Medusa's power is not turning people to stone: she has prehensile hair. Yes, that's as weird as it sounds. And it raises the question "is all her hair prehensile? All her hair?" You know what we're talking about, gentlemen: that's right, her eyelashes. Can she flex them the same way she does the rest of the hair on her head? The hair on this figure is a solid sculpted piece, which means it's incredibly heavy and pretty much renders her neck joint useless. As crazy as it sounds, we almost wish they'd given her rooted hair: it would be lighter and actually mobile, though that would probably veer too far into "doll" territory for most collectors. It is a nice sculpt, after all (seemingly based on this specific piece of art). But given the amount of hair she normally has (1, 2, 3), this might as well be a Velma Dinkley pixie bob. She needs a hair display base like the 1996 ToyBiz version had. Or at least as much of a pillar of hair as the Marvel Universe one.

Next we get Medusa's husband, Black Bolt. Black Bolt has already had a Marvel Legend in the past, and this one is wearing the exact same costume. It kind of makes him a not-very-needed character, doesn't it? But then again, Series 4 ended up becoming a Walmart exclusive, and was never very easy to find, so there are a lot of fans who never got him - even if all this release does is lower the secondary market prices on the old one, it may be worth it.

Last time, we praised Black Bolt for not using the same body as everybody else; this time, he uses the same body as everybody else. A different same body, but still. Even his gloves are reused! There's no question that his upper arms are new, though, because those have his silly silver wings molded on them! No more softgoods foldy flaps for him, no sir! It's a bit of a trade-off, however: they may never fold the wrong way, but they alo permanently stick off the arms, no matter how they're posed, so your options are limited if you want them to look normal.

The head is also a new sculpt. The details are more crisp than the last version - including the tuning fork on his forehead, which is slimmer and sharper - but the expression is much more neutral. The previous toy had a distinct frown, while this one just has his mouth closed. Speaking of which, why can't we get a Black Bolt with an open mouth? [Because Banshee proved it doesn't look good? --ed.]

Why, look! It's that figure we incorrectly predicted would be part of the Guardians of the Galaxy ML line! Available here. In a $100 convention-exclusive set. Yay. Well, we were right that it was coming, we were just wrong about where. Oh, and he'll probably also be included in the comic-based Guardians of the Galaxy 5-pack Hasbro teased at SDCC (although, who knows - that might put him in a different costume).

Rather than his new movie tie-in costume, this one is in the Marko Djurdjevic military uniform (which was given a WWI British military feel, because of the word "Lord" in the character's name). It's dark blue with red trim, and has the gold Star-Lord symbol on the chest and on the forehead of his helmet. That's a costume element that runs all the way back to his first appearance in 1976, and has since been retconned as the symbol of the Spartoi race.

Star-Lord is armed with his Kree submachine guns, which are new sculpts, not just upsized versions of the Marvel Universe accessories. They're a bit large in the hands, honestly. The belt and lower edge of his jacket are different from the AIM trooper's, and you know he's wearing the creepy facemask that made him identifiable.

We've spoken before about how Marvel likes to make ersatz versions of Superman, but the granddaddy of them all is Gladiator. In addition to having all the typical powers, he's named after the book that inspired Siegel and Shuster; he's the last survivor of the planet Strontia (named after the element two spots up from krypton on the periodic table); he wears a red and blue costume with a yellow, triangular symbol on the chest and an ankle-length red cape; he's vulnerable to one specific kind of radiation; and his real name is "Kallark" (say it out loud a few times if you have to). And yet for all that, he's not based on Superman - his entire team, the Shi'ar Imperial Guard, is a pastiche of the Legion of Superheroes, meaning this guy is based on Superboy.

Gladiator uses the same body as Hyperion, which is perfect. After all, if any two characters should have identical measurements, it's them, right? The blue and gold of his costume are metallic, while the red is flat (though it's been airbrushed with shadows to keep it from looking toyish). The golden edge of his cape doesn't quite match up with the sculpted line, but that appears to be a problem with the paint mask, not a mistake in application: the top and sides are fine, it's just the lower edge that doesn't match up.

For whatever reason, Gladiator has purple skin and a mohawk. I understand the drive to keep Kallark from looking too much like his inspiration, but how did they decide on a mohawk? Did Dave Cockrum start by drawing the spit curl, then exaggerate that into a Johnny Bravo bouffant, then just keep pushing until he got the mohawk? The world may never know.

Our final figure, the one hidden in the Galactus Engine's mouth, is Lobo. Wait, that can't be right. Giant, hairy, gray skin, inexplicable biker boots... it certainly sounds like Lobo, but he's a DC character.

Allegedly it's Blastaar, but he looks even more like a palette-swapped Ulik the Troll than he usually does. He's lost his shirt and there's a silly ponytail in his beard. Apparently Blastaar did look like this in the comics recently, but it's cetainly not his classic look.

For the most part, this is the Hulk body with a bunch of add-ons. The legs are new, because while he's still wearing jeans, they're not tattered at the knee like Hulk and Ultimate Green Goblin's were. At that point, why continue to detail them like jeans? The shins don't fake denim at all - they're superhero smooth, even if those light patches are sculpted on. The bracers, belt, kneepads, shoes, and the spiked band around the left leg are all new sculpts, naturally, but it is a bit sad we don't get anything to suggest his explodio-fist superpowers - no translucent hands, no snap-on energy effects, nothing.

As goofy as the Layne Staley beard-braid is, it at least does a little bit to differentiate Ulik Lobo Blastaar from Kalibak, and that's a good thing. It always amuses me when people who know nothing about art try to level accusations that an artist "only draws one face," as though that's some kind of insult. You know who else did that? Leonardo da-freaking-Vinci! Every artist draws one face, you ignorant chump! So Blastaar, Ulik, and Kalibak look similar? Big deal! Pretend it's one actor taking multiple roles. The art this figure is based on gave Blastaar little ears poking out of his mane, but there's no such thing on the toy.

The "Thanos Imperative" box set adds a lot of much-needed "cosmic" flavor to the Marvel Legends lineup. All these characters have had action figures before, but only one of them has ever been a Marvel Legend. Medusa should have more hair, Blastaar should have some explosion effects, and Star-Lord should have been available with the Guardians of the Galaxy toys, but overall it's nice to get them. Cosmic Marvel doesn't get a lot of attention, and this set starts to right the scales.

-- 08/25/14

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