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Spider-Girl/Vault Guard/Ultimate Spider-Woman

by yo go re

Usually the Minimates two-packs pair characters who have some reason to be together. Other times, Art Asylum just throws two random characters into a box and calls it a day.

The daughter of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson from an alternate timeline, May "Mayday" Parker developed the same powers as her father when she was just 15 years old. Adopting a variation of his costume, she continues his fight against super-criminals as Spider-Girl.

Spider-Girl is the most successful character to ever come out of an issue of What If--?. She was created for What If--? #105 in 1998, and has been published (more or less) regularly ever since. She's been constantly on the verge of cancellation, but every time she was in danger, her very vocal fanbase saved the comic again and again. Not bad for a character intended only to undo stupid editorial backpedaling. (Hurry up and die, "One More Day.")

May wears the same costume as her "uncle" Ben Reilly, but come on, she wears it better. It's the boobs that do it (even though, as a Minimate, she hasn't actually got any boobs). The paint is clean, though there are quite a few oddities to report. First things first: she wears blue, but the figure's painted black, so that's a pretty major flaw right at the outset; you can pretend the "blue" is just the highlighting on a black suit, but in your heart you know that's not true. The hands were always going to be tough, because Spider-Girl's gloves are blue, with red on the thumbs, index fingers and pinkies - since Minimates don't have individual fingers, there's no easy way to duplicate that. They tried their best, and it works fairly well, but why does she have two thumbs on each hand? Finally, the patterns painted on her chest and back are identical, which means she has pert teenage breasts sprouting from her shoulderblades.

Spider-Girl's mask is removable, and it's molded with enough room to keep it from getting stuck on there, like some of the old masks tended to do. Her face is cute, and generic enough to look like any version of the comic art - it's notlike she needed to look like a specific person, or that she had any real distinguishing features. The hair was new when she was released, but it's since been used for Marvel Girl.

Tasked with monitoring and protecting the maximum security super-villain prison known as the Vault, the Guardsmen utilized a variation of Tony Stark's Iron Man armor to create their super-powered battle suits and weaponry.

Now, can you name anything a Vault Guard has to do with Spider-Girl? Or why he's in a Spider-Man series at all? Series 30 is all Spidey stuff... and a Guardsman. It just screams "we had this idea for a figure, and have nowhere to put him. Do we have an Avengers series coming up soon? Iron Man? Generic Marvel Universe? No. Huh. Well, what do we have? What? Spider-Man? That doesn't make any sense. Isn't there anything else? There isn't? Okay, fine, put him in there, maybe no one will notice." But hey, what's more important? Getting the figure, or getting the figure in an arbitrarily "proper" pairing? Hint: it's the first one.

This Vault Guard is more heavily armored than the version you're familiar with - he uses Lex Luthor's boots and gloves, and the bulky chest armor introduced for Series 23's War Machine. Why this, rather than the more familiar look the Guards have always sported in the comics? It's a rather obscure reference, really: in the '90s, ToyBiz made a toyline to tie into the Iron Man cartoon; four series reached shelves, but there was a fifth planned that got cancelled; ToyBiz didn't want to let the tools go to waste, though, so they purposed the bodies into a few different lines - that's the reason there are entire series of X-Men and Spider-Man wearing armor, for instance. Anyway, the planned "Lava Armor Iron Man" was painted yellow and green, and released in the "Spider-Man: Techno Wars" line as the Vault Guard. So this one's bulky armor is a reference to that. Don't like it? The set includes extra hands and feet so you can make the plain version if you want.

The Gatling guns on the figure's shoulders can be removed, if you just want armor and no weapons, or they can be stored on his back like War Machine does. The helmet comes off, and the face underneath is a white guy wearing odd technological goggles. They're not standard-issue Guardsman wear, but AA is detail-oriented enough that I'm willing to bet they appeared in the comics or somewhere else sometime before.

The Vault Guard is the designated army-builder for Series 30, which means Spider-Girl has a variant. And warning, the bio contains spoilers for a comic published in 2006.

The result of genetic experimentation by Dr. Otto Octavius, Ultimate Spider-Woman actually shares a majority of her DNA and memories with Peter Parker. Choosing to abandon her previous life, she takes the name Jessica Drew and continues fighting crime.

Trust us, that was a pretty big shock when they pulled it out at the end of Ultimate Spider-Man #102 - Spider-Woman had been lurking around for a few issues, but when she whipped that mask off and we saw Peter Parker's face? Wow! Of course, just reading it in a tiny bio paragraph lacks a lot of the impact, so we apologize for that.

"Jessica" was introduced during the Ultimate Clone Saga, and in her own way fills the role of the Scarlet Spider - after all, her entire costume is red, and she's got a big white arachno-symbol on her chest. In the comics her costume was nearly black, thanks to the amount of shadows on it, and it would have been nice to see hints of that here. As it is, only her face comes close; the black on there should have been matched everywhere else. Points, though, for remembering the white aps on her fingers, and for not giving her back-boobs. Her brown hair is the same used for Silver Fox.

Vault Guards may not have anything to do with the Spider-Ladies, but complaining about which figures are paired together is ultimately as foolish and pointless as complaining about which characters McFarlane released as Movie Maniacs: after all, the only bearing that the packaging has on the toys is getting them to the store safely, and after that, it doesn't matter. You have the choice of how you want to display the Vault Guard, and each of the versions has its own strengths. Meanwhile, both Spider-Girl and Spider-Woman have some unfortunate choices made in the paint apps that bring the quality down a notch (from a comic-accuracy point of view). This isn't one of those sets you need to race out and buy because it's just that awesome; neither is it the low-point of the line as a whole. Basically, both the regular release and the variant are just "okay."

-- 09/13/10

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