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Marvel Legends Face-Off
by yo go re

Daredevil has always been, if you'll pardon the pun, the red-headed stepchild of the Marvel Universe. He wasn't created by Jack and Stan, and he had a revolving door of creators for his early adventures. He came in at the end of Marvel's first big push of creativity, in February 1964 - one of the last "classic" Marvel characters. He'd changed his costume by his seventh appearance and, for the longest time, his personality was almost indistinguishable from Spider-Man's. Heck, even his most identifiable enemy was a hand-me-down!

Matt Murdock protects the city by day as an attorney, but by night The Man Without Fear protects the streets of Hell's Kitchen at all costs. Unfortunately, Daredevil soon discovered he had a very big problem on his hands: Wilson Fisk, also known as Kingpin. This ruthless crime-lord has made it his mission to destroy Daredevil and all he holds dear. Their battles have come at the cost of many, and no one has been left unscathed. Fisk still walks the streets, his hand in every criminal activity, but Daredevil will always be there, fighting to bring the Kingpin down for the last time.

Daredevil, in his earliest days, was sort of a happy-go-lucky swashbuckler of a hero who wisecracked his way through fights. Add some blue to his costume and he might as well be shooting webs out of his wrist. It wasn't really until Frank Miller was handed the reins that Matt came into his own, and became one of Marvel's premiere characters. Out went the jokes, in came the ninjas.

Miller was almost single-handedly in charge of the book, serving as both artist and writer. His impact was felt so strongly that he has, for decades, been identified as "the" Daredevil creator and it's only in the past few years that anyone has risen to challenge his dominance. And now we've even got a figure to honor his work.

It's hard to believe this is the first Marvel Legends Daredevil figure. Yes, we got the movie figure, but that was barely mobile. DD was in the second (and final) series of Spider-Man Classics, and he made an appearance in Series 6 of the follow-up line, but that's it. We're overdue for a new version.

The sculpt on this figure is quite obviously influenced by Frank Miller's art. The boots and gloves are what really give it away: the extra-wrinkly texture that's most obvious there is the 3D interpretation of Miller's choppy linework. DD's pretty thick and muscular here - something else that helped set him apart from Spidey. Some of the flaws of the last DD figure (thin knees, unrealistic boots) have been corrected, but his shoulders still look too round.

The "Face-Off" two-packs all have a variant, shipped in equal numbers, that offers slight changes to both hero and villain. Nearly mimicking the recent comic storyline, the variant Daredevil is unmasked. While the normal figure has his hood up, the variant's is a separate piece that floats around his neck. Even dropped back like this, it still looks right - not only does the mask fold like cloth would, but the horns and eyeholes are present. Matt's hair is detailed well (though browner than you'd expect), and his translucent red glasses are glued in place above his solid white eyes.

boot We're dealing with an all-red costume, here, but paint is still handled well. The body of the suit is bright red, with slight shadows painted on. His belt, boots and gloves are a much darker shade, and the interlocking "DD" logo on his chest is painted crisply. Old Hornhead, here, gets articulation aplenty, with joints at the toes, ankles, boots, knees, thighs, hips, waist, stomach, fingers, wrists, gloves, elbows, biceps, shoulders and neck. The shoulders, in addition to being balljoints, are also on those pull-out hinges for maximum poseability.

Like Batman and his Batarang, any good Daredevil figure has to have his billyclub/nunchuks. The ones in this set are 1⅝" long and connected by a 2½" cord. They rest in a sling on his left thigh, but there's a problem with that: for the previous DD figures, the holster was a part of the leg - here, it's a separate piece that's glued to his belt, so when he moves his leg, it doesn't follow. Awkward. But simple to fix with a little cutting and pasting.

Just as in the Hulk/Leader set, the enemy in this "Face-Off" set is one that has never been seen in Marvel Legends before. In fact, the last time we saw Kingpin was in the ancient Spider-Man animated series line - he was released in 1994. Needless to say, it was time for an update.

Wilson Fisk learned the importance of strength at an early age. The bullies who had once taunted him were the members of his first gang. He became the personal bodyguard of a mob boss, and when he was ready, killed the man and took his position at the head of crime family. When other criminal organizations attempted to force him out, he retired to Japan while instigating a gang war in New York, then returned to cement his power. There have been many attempts on his life and he's been ousted from his position several times, but he always brings himself back to the top of the heap.

Kingpin is, as he should be, huge. Big figures often suffer when it comes to depth, but not Kingpin. He's 7" tall, 3¼" wide and 2½" deep. Time to step away from the buffet, sir. He's wearing his iconic suit, though the myriad wrinkles say he needs to see his tailor sometime soon. His stomach actually sticks out further than his waist, for some reason - I guess he's got that belt cinched in real tight. His coat is a rubber piece that floats above the body, but his vest, shirt and dickie are sculpted.

The variant Kingpin gets a new head, but that's not all: he also comes away with a whole new paint job. His entire suit is now black, with a purple shirt and red cravat. While the normal head looks angry, it's still fairly calm - he's merely annoyed, not enraged. The variant, however? He's about to pop a vein. His brow is knit and his mouth is open to reveal tightly gritted teeth. You can just imagine Matt casually visiting the Kingpin's office to tell him how yet another of his illegal dealings has fallen apart, to taunt him with another failure. Fisk looks like he's going to break his desk in half. Or he hasn't been eating enough fiber. One or the other.

Articulation is mostly good. He get all the usual Marvel Legends-style joints, minus one joint: the wrist. There's a hinge there, but nothing to provide rotation, so unless you want his hand to be straight up and down, you have to twist him at the shoulder. Was there really no way to put in a point somewhere south of that? Maybe it's a sacrifice made to account for all the extra bulk in his belly. The paint on both versions of the Kingpin is decent, though the ring on his pinky finger can get a bit muddled. The blue shirt sleeves on the normal version have a few spots of white from his jacket, but that's it. Even the tiniest buttons on his vest are dotted well.

Kingpin has one accessory, his cane. It's 4¼" long, with a translucent red gem on the handle. Neither hand is really designed to hold it, but he looks really nice leaning on it. Of course, it's flexible plastic to meet safety standards, but it's also ridiculously thick, which contributes to him not being able to hold it.

Like all Marvel Legends, the Daredevil/Kingpin "Face-Off" set comes with a reprint comic; in this case, Daredevil #171, which sees the first meeting between DD and the Kingpin. And in true Daredevil style, he gets his butt handed to him. Does any hero have a worse win/loss record than Matt? It's just his senses that are superhuman - he gets hurt as easily as anyone else. Oddly enough, Fisk is semi-retired from crime at the beginning of this story; it's a botched assassination attempt that gets his head back in the game.

The set also includes a diorama display scene, which is really just a cardboard backdrop that fits into a slot on a vaguely technological base. The base has a few exposed wires and such sculpted in, and spots for two Doop stands, which now feature ratcheted joints for a stronger hold. The backdrop for this set shows Fisk's spacious office (or maybe the waiting room). Ninjas are dropping in from the ceiling and even Bullseye is back there, brandishing a knife. That's one happening office! Truthfully, the diorama is unnecessary. We're already getting two all-new figures in this set, after all. If you don't like it, throw it out.

The Kingpin first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #50, but was always overshadowed by Spidey's more colorful foes. None of Daredevil's costumed enemies had really caught on, meanwhile, so pitting them against each other was a brilliant move. Daredevil and the Kingpin need each other, and this Face-Off set is a great way of honoring that.

-- 09/16/06

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