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Marvel Legends
by yo go re

When they had the Marvel license, ToyBiz gave us figures of Wolverine and Shadowcat based on their looks in Astonishing X-Men. Since then, Hasbro has completed the team, giving us Emma Frost, Cyclops, and now Beast.

Hank McCoy was once a man, though he was always different. Blessed from birth with phenomenal strength and agility, his childhood schoolmates assigned him the cruel appellation "Beast." When circumstances led to his appearance becoming truly animalistic, his nickname became a literal description, and he embraced it as a codename for use when working with his teammates on the Avengers and X-Men. He has made a home for himself as a teacher and scientific expert at the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters. As a result of tortures - tortures that resulted in an occasionally unstable intelligence, along with his current leonine appearance - inflicted on him by Apocalypse and Cassandra Nova, he has become the master of his more truly bestial side, making him highly resistant to mental control.

There was a pseudo-Astonishing Beast released in ToyBiz's X-Men Classics line, but this is the real thing. The question is, is it worth it to upgrade from "good enough" to "on the mark," or should you stick with the old Stealth Beast and call it a day?

To begin with, Beast's sculpt is very strong. The details in his fur are deep and crisp, and his ridiculous clothes look like thick rubber. His hands are thick and paw-like, but his feet are still mostly human; judging by the source artwork, they should be elongated paws, as well. There's some really nice detail where the fur near his elbows spills over the top of his wristbands, but just like on the Minimate Beast, his pants are done incorrectly: the yellow design is supposed to be a big X, so the parts on the figure's legs need a steeper angle that ends around the knees; they're too high and shallow here.

Beast's face has the current cat-like look, though it's much rounder than the Stealth Beast sculpt. Though the design of the toy looks tailor-made for a point of articulation in the jaw, there's nothing here. Missed opportunities are disappointing. He has those little ears poking out of the fur near the top of his head, and his feline eyes are focused intently on something. Maybe a laser pointer or flashlight.

From here on out, things get bad. We'll start with the paint, since you can see that through the packaging. The major problem area is right around the hips: the yellow and black paint gets very sloppy, very uneven, and very blatantly wrong. It's hard to find a Beast that even has acceptable paint, never mind trying to find one that looks good. And of course, you can only see the front - if there's anything wrong on the back, you'll never know until you get him home. The blue/yellow edges where the fur falls over the wristbands gets blurry, and you need to make sure the eyes look good. Plus, as good as the exposed fur sculpt is, a better wash would really help the detail pop.

Now, the articulation. The figure has a ball-and-socket head, but the fur reaching down to his shoulders keeps the head from tilting back at all - that also means the swivel/hinge joint in the torso is basically useless, since there's no point in having him bend over if he can't look up. The arms are fine: swivel/hinge shoulders, elbows and wrists, which is as good as any Hasbro Legend.

The legs, however, are the real flaw. We get swivel/hinge hips, which is a good start, but those are paired with double-hinge knees and swivel/hinge ankles. Uh, notice anything missing in that grouping? Yeah, thighs. The hips go into the torso at a 45° angle, which means you have to swivel them to raise them; without thigh joints, that means if you try to move his leg forward, his knee ends up pointed to the outside. He can sit with one leg crossed over the other, but he can't crouch down? Fail, Hasbro; fail. Someone should be embarrassed.

Beast's only accessory is the right arm of this series' BAF, Nemesis. The arm is as tall as Hank's chest, and has joints where you'd expect them: shoulder, elbows and wrist. Nemesis is kind of an energy being, so the arm is trans yellow with a few reddish-orange Kirby dots painted on the surface. It's not very impressive by itself, but it will probably look better once it's part of a whole set.

A note of interest about the packaging: there's only one picture of this version of Beast among the artwork running down the side of the box; the other three show the "Blueverine" head, although two of them are just the old head put onto the current body/costume. The one at the top of the stack, for instance, is just the ham-handed Photoshop job from the top of ToyBiz's X-Men 3 tie-in line - and it's based on the same piece of art as the real pic of cat-head Beast! Obviously Hasbro put as much effort into Beast's packaging as they put into the figure itself - i.e., as little as conceivably possible.

Astonishing Beast should have been a good figure. There are three components of an action figure - sculpt, paint and articulation - and to be baseline-acceptable, a toy has to nail at least two of those. Beast doesn't pass the test. The sculpt is very nice, but the paint is less than professional and the articulation is remarkably subpar. Get this one to complete the BAF or if you really, really want a toy specifically based on this version of the character, but otherwise? You shouldn't bother, because Hasbro sure as hell didn't.

-- 12/21/09

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