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Fantastic Four

Marvel Legends
by yo go re

The Fantastic Four really are the First Family of Marvel Comics. It was their introduction, even more than Spider-Man, that kicked off the modern Marvel Universe.

While there had been superteams before, they were patterned after clubs or work - joining the JSA or the Invaders was something a hero did in his spare time. The Fantastic Four, though, are always the Fantastic Four - the Fantastic 24/7. They don't band together to beat the big evil menace, then punch out for the day; they're a family, so after work, they all head back home.

Over their 40-plus years of publication, the Fantastic Four have obviously gone through some ups and downs. They're in a big upswing right now, with three different ongoing series and a big-budget movie on the way, so it only makes sense that ToyBiz would single them out for a little extra attention.

Three of the four had already been released in the Marvel Legends line, so it was rather annoying when it was announced that the fourth would only be available in this set. But to be honest, there's more to recommend this set than just one new figure.

Doom demands to ride the ferris wheel! SO SPEAKS DOOM! A brilliant but arrogant scientist, Victor Von Doom was disfigured when one of his early experiments went horribly awry. Now - his scarred countenance masked by a metal faceplate, his body sheathed in nigh-impenetrable armor - Dr. Doom rules the small European country of Latveria with an iron fist. Not content with one nation, his ultimate aspiration is world domination... and the destruction of the fabled Fantastic Four!

We already got a Dr. Doom in series two of Marvel Legends - two of them, in fact. So why another? Well, it certainly wasn't for the body - this is the same mold as the previous figure. It's Victor in his classic green and silver armor, which is nice enough, but he recently (if briefly) upgraded.

The detailing is all there, from the small weave of his tunic to the big rivets on his armor. As long as they're reusing the body, I guess we should be glad that it looked so good to begin with. The paint job is more polished and silvery blue than the ML release, as well. Doom moves at the neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists, fingers, waist, hips, thighs, knees, ankles and toes.

The new feature on Dr. Doom is what lurks behind his mask. While the previous versions gave us either a Doombot or his slightly scarred human face, this version truly embodies the HIDEOUSLY SCARRED Dr. Doom we expect. Since the lab accident just left him with a little cut, there's really no reason for him to wear the metal mask other than vanity, right?

Somebody's been bobbing in the deep fryer again... Well, no.

The idiot forced a group of monks to make his mask, then grabbed it from them and slapped it on while it was still piping hot. What a brilliant mind! This box set version shows just that - a crispy, deep-fried Doom, painted with a nice selection of bright, sickly pinks to make him look raw and disfigured.

Johnny, feeling a little hot under the collar Mutagenically transformed by cosmic rays into the heroic Human Torch, Johnny Storm is the hothead of the Fantastic Four. Often impetuous and immature, the Torch has a talent for tormenting his teammate, the Thing. The Human Torch, who possesses the mental ability to control ambient heat energy, can transform his body into living flame upon command. In this state, he can fly and expel bolts of fire in varying intensity, up to a super-charged nova-blast. His uniform and clothing consist of unstable molecules, enabling him to "flame on" without damaging them in any way.

Johnny, here, is one of the figures that got a fairly major change. He's still based on the Spider-Man Classics Daredevil body (unfortunately), but he's no longer fully engulfed in flames. His head and shoulders are bare, with the flames fading in as you go down. The effect works really well, better than it ever has on any of the other "flame on" Human Torches over the years.

The big drawback is the body they used. While the Spider-Man Classics line was great for its time, they're a little too small for Marvel Legends scale. Of course, since Johnny's supposed to be a bit younger than the rest of the team, it works for him. Sort of. If you squint. And tilt your head. And breathe paint fumes.

Some Visine'd clear that right up Like Doom, Torch has a new head. Since the old one was completely flaming, it couldn't just be repainted. This time Johnny's got hair on top of his melon, and why that stuff never burns away if regular clothes would is a mystery for the ages. Since he's in the process of powering up (or down), Johnny's eyes and mouth are a fiery orange-rimmed yellow. Nice touch.

does the coat stretch, too? Brilliant scientist Reed Richards came upon his powers during an experimental space flight where he was exposed to cosmic rays. Upon returning to earth he discovered that he was capable of converting his body into a highly malleable state at will. As such, he can stretch, deform, expand or compress himself into any contiguous shape he can imagine. Celebrated around the world as much for his brilliant mind as his stretching abilities, Reed Richards commands the respect of his peers and family as leader of the fabulous Fantastic Four!

Ah, the stretchy guy. Every company's gotta have one. Or two, if they can help it. Marvel's is the mighty big-brain scientist Reed Richards, looking ever-so-smug in his pristine lab coat. Yes, to help set this figure apart from the standard version, he comes with a copy of Gambit's trenchcoat, cut from white cloth instead of brown. Oh, and there's a pocket on it, now. Science!

a time for change Reed's got a new head to make him distinct from the ML version, but that's not the only change. It's easiest to see on him, since he's the only one wearing a "normal" costume, but instead of just repackaging the same figures we already had, ToyBiz put all the members of this Fantastic Four in new costumes.

The FF have had plenty of costumes over the years, but by and large they all look alike. In the regular line, Mr. Fantastic had a two-tone blue costume; for the box set, he's in dark blue with white.

big ball of suck While this set doesn't include the two super-stretchy limbs that the standard version did, there is a 1 1/2" diameter blue ball with Reed's face printed on it. Obviously this is supposed to duplicate his powers, but there are a few problems. First of all, the ball is hard plastic, not rubber - it doesn't bounce, just rolls around. Secondly, it's painted the wrong colors - the figure's in dark blue, but this ball is light blue. Great attention to detail there, guys.

Sue Storm: Marvel Universe MILF Sue Richards' psionic ability to manipulate ambient cosmic energy enables her to bend light without distortion - thus rendering herself, and other people and objects, invisible. Sue's brain cells produce psionic force she can shape into highly resistant protective fields and relatively simple forms - such as rectangular planes, globes, cylinders, cones and domes. By projecting columns of psionic force beneath her, she can travel through the air. Sue continues to develop her powers and play an active role in the team's leadership.

Sue! The very reason that most people who buy this set will buy this set!

There hasn't been an Invisible Woman figure in the Marvel Legends line, yet, so this is the box's big draw. She's just over 6" tall and is built on the female ML body that was introduced with Elektra; she even has the same hole in her back for a nonexistent backpack. Sue moves at all the same points as Elektra - toes, ankles, boots, knees, upper thighs, hips, waist, torso, neck, head, shoulders, biceps, elbows, forearms, wrists and hands - though her hips are different.

little closer, girls Elektra's goofy hip joints didn't allow for a very good range of motion and they looked pretty weird, so ToyBiz ditched them in favor of balljoints. Though they did the same thing for ML6's Phoenix figure, the Invisible Woman's joints are not reused: everything between her waist and her knees is entirely new. Instead of normal spherical balljoints, the figure's hips are slightly tapered and asymmetrical, which helps them look more natural. My only question is, if they could do it for Sue, why couldn't they do it for Jean? and if they got rid of the mid-thigh joint, why couldn't they ditch the useless biceps, as well?

so cute Sue has a new head sculpt with the short hair she had recently in the comics. This gives her head a full range of motion, which already puts her ahead of the other three ML females. However, since the body was designed to work with a figure who had long hair, Sue's head rather looks like it's just sitting on top of her neck, rather than attached to it. Additionally, the strand of hair that is sculpted between her eyes makes her look cross-eyed.

Because ToyBiz loves its variants, there are two versions of the Invisible Woman; one normal, and one clear. The clear one, of course, is much harder to find, and really, how stupid is it to make a variant of a big, expensive box set? Who but scalpers will be able to 1) find it or 2) afford it? Stupid, stupid, stupid.

People were complaining because they'd have to buy duplicates of four characters in order to just get one new one, but that's not quite accurate - there are actually three new figures in this box set.

The cosmic radiation that gave Reed and Susan Richards their superhuman powers also affected the genetic structure of their son: Franklin Benjamin Richards was born a mutant. Unlike most superhuman mutants, whose unusual powers do not emerge until the mutant reaches puberty, Franklin began manifesting his superhuman powers at a very early age. In the normal course of events, Franklin's psionic powers would presumably increasingly emerge as he grew older until they reach their full, vast potential when he achieves maturity.

Franklin's surprised anyone bothered to make a figure of him Potentially the most powerful being in the entire Marvel Universe, Franklin Richards is also potentially the least well-defined. His powers have, over time, included just about everything, up to and including time travel and the ability to fundamentally rewrite reality. I don't think anyone's sure exactly what his mutant ability is supposed to be, so they just let him do anything.

Franklin gets an entirely new sculpt because, face it, there haven't been any 4-year-olds in the line before him. He stands just over 3" tall and moves at the neck, shoulders, waist and hips. The proportions are very good, and make him look like a child rather than a short adult.

Franklin definitely gets his looks from Mom's side of the family - he's got the same sandy blonde hair and the big blue eyes. Of course, the size of the eyes may have more to do with the artist responsible for the designs than any sort of genetics.

Franklin and, in fact, all the figures in this set are based on the artwork of Mike Wieringo. One of the first guys to introduce cartoony elements into comics of the '90s, Wieringo's worked on some pretty major books from both Marvel and DC, as well as his own creator-owned Tellos. He's currently working with scribe Mark Waid on the regular Fantastic Four book, and doing a damn fine job of it.

HERBIE doesn't get a funny caption The other new figure in this set is H.E.R.B.I.E., the Homo-Erotic Receptacle Built for Internal Emissions, apparently some sort of pleasure droid that-- oh, wait, no, I've been informed that's it's actually "Humanoid Experimental Robot, B-Type, Integrated Electronics," which is much more innocuous.

H.E.R.B.I.E. was invented for the old FF cartoon, when censors decided that putting the Human Torch on TV was probably just going to inspire the stupid late-'70s kids to immolate themselves, because back then science hadn't yet discovered that fire = hot. So back then the Fantastic Four were Reed, Sue, Ben and H.E.R.B.I.E. TRULY FANTASTIC!

(Actually, that's just the urban legend - the real story is that Marvel was trying to secure a solo Human Torch project through Universal Studios, so he wasn't included in DePatie-Freleng's cartoon rights.)

This dorky little squirt has never had an action figure ever before, but you don't hear anyone complaining about how they have to buy a whole box set just to get H.E.R.B.I.E. Probably because nobody likes H.E.R.B.I.E. And because I don't like typing all those periods, he's now HERBIE.

HERB's about 2 1/4" tall and moves at the neck. He's detailed very nicely, with a look somewhere between the blank, pared-down cartoon design and what an actual technological thingie like him would look like - seams between the panels that make his body, big bright red buttons and... and... Sigh. And a big red smiley face. Because HERBIE is friendly.

HERBIE was designed by Jack Kirby, because Dave Cockrum, the artist who was supposed to be doing it, thought the notion was lame and kept turning in purposefully stupid ideas, like a trash can on wheels with a big "4" on it. Stupid idea? Take that, R2D2!

The set includes the same translucent display base that came with Deadpool, so you can make HERBIE hover. Too bad it doesn't also fit in the hole on Sue's back.

Once a skilled fighter-pilot, Ben Grimm is now the Thing, a member of the world-famous Fantastic Four. Bathed in cosmic radiation during a fateful trip into space with his three friends, Ben was transformed into a hideous creature of craggy, orange stone with superhuman strength. Many find him unsightly, but Ben has maintained his sense of humor and honor - because under that rocky exterior lies an ever-lovin' heart of gold! The Thing possesses superhuman strength, endurance and durability.

Thing's lookin' pretty badass Finally, we get the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing. Biggest, strongest team member, the Thing is easily the most visually distinct, as well. Stretchy dude? Plenty of those around. Fire guy? Total rip-off of a WWII Marvel hero. Invisibility? can't even see that one, but it's been done. A giant guy made of living orange stone? Now that's something new!

Actually, when the Thing debuted, he didn't look anything like he does today. He was more like a big lump of mud than individual, craggy rocks. Maybe he's dried out over time? Whatever the case, this is today's Thing. He stands 7 1/4" tall and moves at the toes, ankles, knees, hips, waist, torso, shoulders, elbows, wrists and neck, which is light by current Marvel Legends standards, but is still quite good.

Of course, the original Thing had all this movement, but this one has a bit more. Each of his fingers is independently articulated, for more poseable possibilities. Since he doesn't have to worry about holding any accessories, it works well for him.

Why aren't his eyes and teeth stone, too? Thing's painted a much darker shade than the previous release, and he's got a whole new head sculpt. While the original was stern yet reserved, now it really is clobberin' time. Ben's angry and it shows: furrowed brow, wide eyes and bared teeth make this one daunting Thing.

Instead of a reprint comic, these Marvel Legends box sets always come with a poster book. In this case, we get 20 pages of the Four and Doom taken from covers and splash pages in recent years. Really, would it have been too much to ask to get a story about them instead of just pictures? It's probably a choice to keep them from having to reprint/repackage for international releases, but still.

Instead of unique bases, the set includes generic DC Direct-style logo bases. The Fantastic Four get their big circular 4 logo in blue and white, while Doom gets a gold and stone piece. All things considered, they could have done worse.

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