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Fantastic Four

Marvel Universe
by yo go re

Even before they were heroes, the members of the Fantastic Four were a family. The accident that granted them their incredible powers only drew their bonds of friendship tighter, making them inseperable. Separately, each member is a powerful force for good. Together, they are unstoppable.

Just as with the Marvel Legends FF box set, the big draw of this set is Sue. Why is it that the Invisible Woman can never get a solo release? Is it because her powers are too hard to display in toy form? It can't be - Reed's powers are just as toy-unfriendly as Sue's. And as we never get tired of pointing out, she's single-handedly defeated the Hulk, stood up against Thor, and made an evil, brainwashed Wolverine with no morals turn tail and run in fear, so it's not that she's weak, either - it can only be because of the false impression that girls don't sell.

Since this set pre-dates Lady Deadpool, Invisible Woman is built using the first Marvel Universe female body, the one shared with Mystique and Mary Jane. It has the typically super-heroic proportions of a comicbook female, but ends up with both more and less articulation than it needed: for instance, the chest is a balljoint, so why does she need a swivel waist? And while it's nice that the shoulders are swivel/hinged, why is there no joint either in the bicep or elbow to let us turn the forearm?

Sue has a very narrow face - she kind of looks like Nicole Kidman, but these figures are based on specific artwork, and she definitely looks like the art as well. Her hair is tucked behind her left ear, but falls straight down on the right side. Her head is on a balljoint, but it's a deep socket, so the movement is mostly reduced to a swivel.

Toymakers' go-to method for showing Invisible Woman's powers is to release a clear variant - whether totally clear or just translucent limbs, it's the usual way to go. To that end, there is a variant of this set available, with a fully invisible Invisible Woman. And yes, the variant is just her: all the other figures in the set are identical, so enjoy doubling up if you want her to be showing off her abilities.

As you'd expect, Sue comes with her husband. There had already been one Reed Richards, in a Secret Wars Comic Pack alongside Ultron. That one, however, used the Daredevil body, which was a bit larger than the character is usualy depicted - rather, like Cyclops, he's usually on the scrawny side. This version uses the skinny body that so many characters have gotten, which works a lot better for him. The only thing he's really missing are some alternate stretched-out limbs. His legs already pop off pretty easily, so they probably could have done it.

The costumes the figures in this set are wearing are the ones designed by Dale Eaglesham - blue, with black trim and a bit of piping on the body, short sleeves, and gloves. These uniforms immediately preceded the white Future Foundation suits, which is why they're not very memorable (also, they were only minorly different from the ones Bryan Hitch had been drawing just before). Normally we'd say that these figures are more than the costumes deserve, but there's no other merch depicting them, so hey, why not let them have this?

It's surprising that rather than using the existing Mr. Fantastic head, they made an all-new version. That was a wise choice - thinner body, thinner face - just an unexpected one. His hair is combed straight back (the most scientifically efficient hairdo) and there's a nice gray app that starts on his temples and goes all the way around the back.

Sue doesn't just come with her husband, she comes with her husband and his best friend. [Racy! --ed.] Despite being the "dumb muscle" of the group, Ben Grimm was a test pilot and astronaut before becoming the Thing - you have to have two Master's degrees or a PhD to even be considered for going into space, meaning that ol' Benji is only "dumb" in comparison to Reed.

This Thing is not a straight repaint of either of the existing Things: Eaglesham's costume saw Ben wearing shorts, rather than the pants and boots of the first release, or the trunks of the Comic Pack. So this you splits the difference, getting the thighs from the single-carded release and the bare shins from the two-pack. The way the kneecaps overlap the upper leg makes the final product look a little weird, but for something with zero new pieces, this is done pretty well. If you don't like the shorts, there's a second variation of this set that sees the team in their Future Foundation suits, and that means the Thing is wearing long pants.

Yes, just like the 1978 Fantastic Four cartoon, this box set replaces Johnny Storm with HERBIE, the Humanoid Experimental Robot, B-type, Integrated Electronics. The body is vaguely egg-shaped, with a long neck on top and a square head with a face formed from two red eyes and a squiggly line for the mouth. In the cartoon, HERBIE had a recessed blue circle on his belly, with a second green circle inside that, and the toy does as well. He even has a small control panel on his chest! There are three "legs" that are placed in such a manner that they don't actually allow the figure to stand on its own, which seems like bad planning - at least the Marvel Legend had a hover stand, you know? This one has a port in its back that would be perfect for a stand (it's shaped like a three-prong outlet), but no go. The head is balljointed, so at least he can look around.

The lack of a Human Torch in this set is fine - there had already been three single-carded versions and a Comic Pack that featured him, so he wasn't needed again. It does however leave us with an incomplete team, because none of the previous versions were wearing this version of the uniform. But hey, if you get a second set for the invisible Invisible Woman, you could always put Johnny's head on the Reed body, right? This is a decent set, but it's annoying that it's the only way you can get the Invisible Woman; just another reason that it sucks being Sue Storm.

-- 04/25/16

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