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Thunderball & Spider-Man

Marvel Universe
by yo go re

This is a set that just goes to prove our old axiom: there are no "normal" scientists in the Marvel Universe.

Fresh from their first victory over the villains, the heroes take refuge from a violent storm in their immense new base. While Thunderball lies locked in a stasis chamber, prisoner of the heroes, Spider-Man explores the base. Though many of the other heroes are eager to go back on the attack, all the web-slinger wants is to finish the fight and get back to Earth.

Thunderball is Eliot Franklin - actually, Dr. Eliot Franklin. He's a brilliant physicist, and was often called "the black Bruce Banner," because that wasn't racist or anything. He developed a miniature gamma bomb, but the company he worked for took credit for it, telling him he'd never profit from his work. He tried to steal the bomb plans back, but ended up in jail where he met the rest of the Wrecking Crew.

Like Piledriver, Thunderball wears a costume that is exceedingly generic. This green and yellow ensemble could be worn by anyone - hero or villain. There's not a single thing about it that is in the least way individualized or memorable. Add a cape and he'd look like the result of asking any random first-grader to draw a superhero.

Like Black Lightning, Thunderball wears a little mask that allows his afro to poke out the top. Yo'll need to check the paint there, by the way: the bicep joint on my Thunderball ripped, and when I got a replacement, the hairline was really uneven. Fortunately, the balljointed neck makes it easy to swap these things. The design of the shins makes his feet angle the wrong direction, slightly, but it's not like they're swapped - it's just an odd construction.

Thunderball gets an accessory: his trademark wrecking ball. It's not a mystical wrecking ball or anything, just a normal one, but it's got the same Asgaardian enchantments as its owner. Plus, if he throws it, it'll come back to him, like Thor's hammer. The toy version is slightly more than an inch in diameter, and has a few shapes sculpted on the surface to keep it from being plain. The chain is a solid piece, molded to look like links, and it swivels where it joins the ball. Why does it do that? Hey, why not?

The second figure in this set is the reason I only got it in a trade, rather than paying money for it: Spider-Man. It's the fifth "webbed" (ie, non-"black costume") Spider-Man Hasbro put out under the Marvel Universe header, and every one of them has been this exact mold. No changes at all other than the shade of blue paint. This Spider-Man may be the least-needed figure in the entire line.

It's a decent mold, no question: the webs are sculpted in, and he has most of the articulation any Spidey would need - though for some reason, the elbows are only single-hinge, instead of double. On the other hand, he has a waist in addition to his torso balljoint, which is something none of the other figures can claim. His right hand is molded in a web-shooting pose, though it would help if he could hinge it down a bit.

One thing you'll notice is that Spider-Man's head is remarkably small and spherical. It doesn't look like there's a human head beneath that mask at all: like someone was inflating a balloon and stopped halfway. We must admit, however, it matches the artwork. The black wash that brings out the details on the sculpt varies widely from figure to figure, so find the one that looks best.

Since this is a Comic Pack, it includes a comicbook - in this case, Secret Wars #3. It's a very Spider-Man-centric issue, with the web-head fighting the X-Men and pretty much shaming them all. It's funny how much attitudes have changed - these days the X-Men stay out of most crossovers, because they'd take over, but back in the '80s they were still hated and feared. As the back of the card says, Thunderball's big role is lying immobile in a stasis tube, but that's still better than what Piledriver got in Comic Pack 9. There's also an amusing subplot involving Magneto and Wasp, which proves that Hank Pym wasn't a one-off: she's into guys who are bad for her.

This is a really crummy Comic Pack. Thunderball has never had an action figure before, but there's nothing special about this one. Spider-Man, meanwhile, has already been released four times before this set, and even if he hadn't, the Superhero Showdown version ToyBiz made in 2005 is done better in almost every way (yes, "almost" - he's marginally too tall). Unless you're trying to build the entire Wrecking Crew, don't bother with this one.

-- 09/19/10

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