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The Warriors Three

by yo go re

This summer's Thor movie was really popular, but the toys didn't follow suit. There are many theories as to why (clearly, we blame piss-poor casepacks), but the fact remains that stores glutted on the first series and never put out Series 2 - until very recently.

Fandral the Dashing is known as much for his skill with a blade as for his striking good looks. Many have swooned at his attention, but many more enemies of Asgaard have fallen beneath his furious attack. There is no edge Fandral cannot turn into a weapon, and no clash that does not go exactly as he plans.

Everybody has that one friend who's just a giant hit with the ladies - he's smooth, he's funny, and just to drive the final nail in the coffin, he's good-looking, as well. Seriously, dude? You couldn't be a handsome jerk, or a smart, funny uggo? You've got to be the total package? Anyway, in Thor's world, that friend is Fandral. He's the one who gets the mead flowing, if you catch our drift. Thor's lucky he's the prince of the realm, or none of the Asgaardian honeys would give him a second glance when Fandral is around.

When Stan Lee created Fandral, he based the character on Errol Flynn - the happy-go-lucky swashbuckler trope. He was blonde in the film, but the figure has brown hair - probably because they were afraid yellow hair would conflict with Thor himself. He has a goatee, but it seems his wee mustache is just painted - he's sculpted with a cute smirk, though.

In the comics, Fandral wears a lot of green. It's his signature color, in fact. Since the movie stayed very true to the source, he's still wearing it, he's just not dressed like a second-rate Robin Hood. He's wearing gold and silver armor that leads to the two cape-like strips hanging from his shoulders. There is visible stitching down the fronts of his arms and legs. The colors on the toy are more vibrant than they are on the movie costume, because otherwise buyers would complain he looked boring, but they're close enough that you get the idea, and that's what counts.

Fandral moves just as well as any other 4" Marvel figure. He has a balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders and elbows, swivel wrists, balljointed torso, swivel/hinge hips, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees and swivel/hinge ankles. The left leg's range of motion isn't too good, because he's wearing a scabbard that's connected to his belt and looped around his leg just above the knee. His accessories include a rapier to fit in the sheath, and a silly spring-loaded "harpoon blade." That's just as rubbish as you'd expect, but the sword is nice enough.

Hogun the Grim rarely smiles, and never laughs. He finds his own quiet joy in victory over the enemies of Asgaard, but he leaves the celebration to Volstagg and Fandral. His skill at hand-to-hand fighting makes him an invaluable comrade in arms to the mighty Thor.

You know, for all the idiot racists who came out of the woodwork to complain about Heimdal being played by a black guy, there was surprisingly little talk about Hogun being Japanese. Part of that is surely because all of the Warriors Three were invented by Stan Lee for the comics, so he's not a "real" god (and even in the stories, he's not from Asgaard like the rest of the cast); but maybe a bit of it is that he's always had a decidedly Mongolian style in the comics, as well.

On that note, Hogun was played in the film by Tadanobu Asano, who also stared as Temujin (Ghengis Khan) in the film Mongul. His hair is done up in a chonmage, but sadly, since the movie never showed him in his distinctive furry hat, the figure doesn't get one, either. Stan Lee's inspiration for character was tough guy Charles Bronson.

Hogun's signature color is blue, but the toy is actually darker than the movie costume. Still, all the lines of his armor are sculpted on and painted well, and they even remembered the interlinked discs of armor that hang from his belt. There are streaks of gold on his upper arms (they were silver in the film), and he has a molded plastic cape. You can remove the cape, if you work at it, and he looks fine either with or without it.

His articulation is the same as Fandral's, and he comes with his trademark mace (which could stand to be molded from a harder plastic). His goofy, oversized weapon is actually one of the few in this entire series that's even a little bit cool. It's a large battle axe, done in black, gold and silver; the blades can be removed from each side and turned into hand weapons. Granted, the size is better suited to a 6" figure than a 4" one, but it's still a neat idea and a good execution. Give it to the 1:12 figure of your choice!

Volstagg the Valiant is famous across Asgaard for his boundless bravery, mighty axe, and endless appetite. It is rare, even in battle, to find him without food in his hand, or at least a pouch full of snacks. His hunger never distracts him from a battle, however, and his brother warriors are always glad to have his axe at their sides.

That stuff about "boundless bravery" is true now, but it wasn't always so - in the Warriors Three's first appearance (Journey Into Mystery #119, August 1965) Volstagg was portrayed as a bumbling blowhard who more of a problem to have around than an asset. As he appeared in more issues, however, that changed to the boisterous warrior he is today.

Volstagg was played in the film by Ray Stevenson, in his second comicbook movie role. When these figures were shown off at Toy Fair, we made fun of the Warriors Three as "Dread Pirate Roberts," "Jet Li in a historical epic," and "Gimli," and we stand by it: Volstagg has a big red beard and long hair pulled back into a ponytail.

In the comics, Volstagg wears pink and yellow, but the movie put him in orange, brown and silver. Yeah, that's probably for the best. And though Stevenson is bulkier than the other actors, he's not as gigantic as the comic character, who's not only fat (thus the nickname "Volstagg the Voluminous"), but also towers over his companions. Of the three, Volstagg looks the least like the comicbook design, but he still fits into the movie's aesthetic, and looks unmistakably like an Asgaardian warrior.

The figure has swivel/hinge ankles, double-hinge knees, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge hips, a balljointed torso, swivel wrists, swivel/hinge elbows and shoulders and a balljointed head. He's armed with an axe (furthering the Gimli comparisons), and a ridiculous "spinning ram axe" that you'll use maybe once and then lose forever in a drawer somewhere.

The Warriors Three are sold individually (as figures 08, 09 and 10 in the Thor line), but we reviewed them as a set because let's face it: they're a team. Hasbro could have put them in a three-pack and sold them that way. Maybe then they would have shown up in stores on time. People who are more charitable than we are have suggested that stores were just holding these figures to coincide with the DVD release (it comes out tomorrow), but whatever the case, we're just glad these figures made it out at all. But seriously, a note to Hasbro: rethink your casepacks. The Captain America cases have been slightly better than Thor's were, but they've both been pretty bad. The Green Lantern toys may be utter garbage, but at least there are a lot of different ones out there. You're surely already working on next year's Avengers toys, so for Pete's sake, don't repeat the mistakes of this line.

-- 09/12/11

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