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Mark IV Iron Man/Battle Damage Whiplash

by yo go re

Sometimes it's nice to be surprised. And there's nothing more surprising than the phrase "today's review is a Borders exclusive." Yes, Borders - the fancy bookstore with the big comfy chairs and the coffee bar in the corner stinking up the place. Since when do they get exclusive toys? Sure, they've had early releases before, but an actual exclusive? That's new!

Tony Stark's most advanced armor design also not only includes an enhanced Arc Reactor, but also features improved flight control, armor weight and cutting edge weaponry. Sunglasses are optional.

Are they describing the Mark IV or the Mark VI? The toy's called "Mark IV Iron Man" and the chest beam is round rather than triangular (the main difference between the two), but that copy (other than the clumsy "also not only" line) sounds more like the Mk6. Of course, since there are no real visual differences between the Mark III and the Mark IV, maybe that's what sets them apart.

The Mark IV armor shares its sculpt with the also-exclusive Mark II: that means only the chest, head, hips and forearms are the standard Minimate design; the rest are new, technological sculpts designed to make it clear Iron Man isn't just a guy with a red and yellow body. The chest cap is new for this series, but it's thick enough that it makes the left arm pop off at the shoulder if you're not careful. The paint is metallic, and if you pull the chest cap off, you can see the interior workings of the suit. The set includes two removable helmets: one normal, one with the face mask flipped up.

Though this figure is officially called "Mark IV Iron Man," that's probably only because "Hangover Tony Stark in Mark IV Armor" wouldn't clear the legal department. The head is what makes this IM exclusive an exclusive - this is the only one wearing sunglasses! You recognize the scene: Tony, with his helmet off, chilling out at Randy's Donuts in the early AM, enjoying a box. He has new hair, but sadly, no box of breakfast.

The son of a brilliant Russian scientist, Ivan Vanko combined his father's research with his own designs to become Whiplash! Though both powerful and destructive, nothing compares to Iron Man!

Now this figure is the real star of the set! There's a Whiplash in the normal release of the series, but he's at full power and ready to kick some butt. This is "Battle Damage Whiplash," as seen after Iron Man had to throw him a beating. The tattered remains of his shirt still hang from his waist, but his power harness has been wrecked. It's funny how when we first saw pictures of Mickey Rourke as Whiplash, everybody assumed the orange outfit was a prison uniform, but that changed drastically after the first trailer premiered.

Speaking of which, Whiplash's clothes are brown, rather than orange. Was that a change made in the film after the toy was under development, or did Art Asylum switch it for some other reason? He has scorch marks painted on his arms, and the remains of his mechanical rig are painted on his chest, back and legs. Yes, legs - you don't expect he could survive a hit from a car uninjured with nothing on his legs but cloth pants, did you? There's a ring around his left bicep, and he's holding the handle for just one of his electro-whips (there's no actual whip included). If you want to take that one away as well, he has a replacement hand.

In the movie, Whiplash is covered with vory v zakone tattoos, and the toy does its level best to duplicate that. Obviously they could only do so much, but he's inked on the upper and lower arms, on his stomach, and just below his throat. You can see there's more on his chest, but it's covered by the harness shreds. The face, like Gail Simone said, "looks like a roll of biscuits you open by smacking on a counter, except greasier and more rehab-y." His stringy hair falls over the right side of his face, and his mouth is open to show gold teeth. In the film they were just capped, but here the whole thing is gold.

Interestingly, the packaging for this set was custom-created for Borders: while the design is the same as all the other Iron Man 2 Minimates - both the normal Series 35 releases and the Toys Я Us exclusives - it has the "Borders exclusive" badge in the upper righthand corner. And unlike Target, Wal*Mart and TRU exclusives, the badge isn't just a sticker applied to the package; it's a printed element! So is the UPC/price tag on the bottom. All the other Borders sets just have a label covering the printed UPC, but here, it's printed on. That means the book chain not only paid to get an exclusive, they paid for custom printing and graphic design on it, as well. Weird!

The Mark IV Iron Man/Battle Damage Whiplash two-pack is a decent exclusive, and offers two unique Minimates. Well, one unique Minimate, and one unique Minimate head; after all, once you get the helmet on Tony, he'll look exactly like the normal Mark IV release. Still, if you can find this one, it's worth it - but that's a pretty big "if." Distribution on Borders' order of Minimates is wildly inconsistent: some stores have plenty, while others were completely barren even before word even got out that collectors would want to look there. Borders also has an exclusive MkIV Marvel Select figure, and in many cases, its distribution seems opposite the Minimates: stores that have Minimates don't have it, and others have tons of him, but no Minis. So if you're looking for either Borders exclusive, see what your local store has, then go online and see whose store has the reverse and wants to trade with you.

-- 05/12/10

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