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Ultimate War Machine

Marvel Legends
by yo go re

Look, it's a character you've heard of and a character you've never heard of, all in one!

James Rhodes was just a student when he met Tony Stark, but he became much more than that when he was forced to fight off bullies using Tony's first Iron Man prototype - he became War Machine! Later, working alongside Tony at the Baxter Building think tank, James constructed his own suit of armor, which imbues him with super strength, the power of flight, and heavy artillery. With Iron Man at his side, War Machine fights injustice with the only things he can trust - the technology he makes with his own two hands!

Iron Man's main "home" in the Ultimate universe is the various Ultimates series, and War Machine hasn't shown up there - he actually comes from the secondary source, the two Ultimate Iron Man miniseries written by Orson Scott Card. Yes, "Ender's Game" Orson Scott Card. How did Marvel wrangle an actual respected and established author to work for them? Beats me, but it's pretty cool.

This figure is a repaint of the Hasbro Legends 1 Ultimate Iron Man figure, proving that even the unlikeliest of sources can be reused if you're clever enough. Judging by the pictures running down the side of the package, the sculpt isn't 100% accurate, but it is close enough to be servicable. There are cool details, like the wrist guns and the booster rockets on his calves, but none of the techno-elements are overdone. It's an appropriately sleek design, and it has one unquestionable advantage over the Iron Man suit: it's not vac-metallized.

One of the features of the War Machine suit seems to be round goggle-like eyes, but this figure doesn't get those. Rather, he has thin blue slits. Again, that's one of those "it's not in the art, but it doesn't really matter" features. The helmet is a separate piece, but it's not removable: it's been glued on. Of course, a few seconds in hot water will fix that. I've had Mattel joints that were harder to get free than this helmet. The head beneath is the same semi-Asian sculpt, but it's painted brown with a bit of black at the lower edge of the hairline, so the parts we'd be able to glimpse without removing the helmet look appropriately Rhodey-ish.

In keeping with his 616 counterpart, Ultimate War Machine is gray, silver and black. For the most part, the paint is good, but they've tried to make the ports on his chest look like they're glowing blue, and it doesn't quite work. Look at Thanos or Metallo to see what a really good app looks like; this just comes across as sloppy. Of course, who knows? Maybe it's better on other samples - the availability of this Wal*Mart-exclusive series makes even Mattel's DC Universe toys look plentiful, so comparing paint really isn't an option.

Looking at this figure now, it's almost comical to think that at one point, there were fans who were convinced - absolutely convinced and certain - that Hasbro's Marvel Legends weren't going to be as good as ToyBiz's. War Machine is articulated with a balljoint in the neck, balljoints in the shoulders, peg biceps, double-hinged elbows, peg forearms, hinged wrists, hinged torso, peg waist, balljoints in the hips, peg thighs, double-hinged knees, and balljoints in the ankles. The chest hinge really doesn't want to take any different poses, slipping back to center when you release it.

Other than removable shin guards, of all things (woo!), UWM only has one accessory: Ares' head. This figure is entirely a reused mold, they only painted half his head, and he still comes with the smallest, simplest piece of the Build-A-Figure? Ah, whatever; I'm not an accountant, I don't know the cost breakdowns of these things.

Ultimate War Machine isn't the most exciting Marvel Legend ever released: in fact, he's just a palette swap of Ultimate Iron Man, but that's true in the comics, as well. It would have been nice if they'd at least gone to the trouble of giving Rhodey his own head, but for a simple repaint, he's not bad.

-- 03/09/09

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