Back at Comic Con last Summer, Hasbro revealed that they were revamping the long-running, often-struggling Marvel Universe collection into a new line called Avengers Unlimited. The first series of those figures is finally here, and they bring with them a very similar sense of design, ensuring they fit right in with the considerably large Marvel U collection. However, even with a strong character selection and uniform aesthetic, these new figures are not without their problems.
Let’s start with the good– the first new wave offers up four new figures, all within the greater Avengers umbrella. The Wasp makes her Marvel U debut (or second figure, if you count the mini version in the classic Avengers three pack), and the Hulk gets a new figure in his modern Marvel Now! armor. The brand new figures this round include Hyperion and our only villain, a classic style Grim Reaper.
The figures all look great, with excellent new sculpts and the same ample articulation Marvel U fans have come to expect. The paint on my figures is crisp and clean, with no flaws on the lines of Wasp and Reaper’s costume designs, and a nice wash on Hulk’s armor which brings out the detail in the sculpt. While none of these figures include any accessories per se, Wasp does include a small-scale version of herself, a nice nod to her unique super power.
Parts reuse is actually minimal, and quite clever– Grim Reaper uses the Cyclops buck, which looks and moves wonderfully, along with Moon Knight’s cape cast in purple. His new head sculpt captures a toothy sneer perfect for the character. Many complain that the modern female buck, used here for the Wasp, is too skinny, but I think it works well, especially for the petite Ms. van Dyne. She actually looks svelte enough to be able to fly, and her new portrait is one of the best female faces we’ve seen from Hasbro in this scale.
Hyperion is mostly based on Cable’s body, but Hasbro’s designers went the extra mile to give him a new abdomen, complete with sculpted rivets, and his face sculpt works quite well. Hulk employs the new, well articulated bulky body, with great looking new armor either added in (the boots) or as new overlay parts (the chest armor and gauntlets). This Hulk has a nice continuity with past Hulk figures as far as likenesses go, and his new buzz cut hair makes him stand out, even without his armor.
So there’s a lot to like with these guys… unfortunately they also have some issues. The biggest one is stuck joints– most of the moving parts on my figures were locked in place, and because of the small size of the various pegs and joints on these figures, simply trying to twist or bend them free would have broken the figures to pieces (they were all really, REALLY stuck). I eventually freed up all my figures’ parts by heating them under a lamp, taking them apart and putting them back together… it was a long and delicate process, but it worked without breaking anybody. I would strongly suggest this route on your stuck joints, to make sure nothing breaks off. The only piece still frozen on mine is Reaper’s scythe hand. Supposedly, the wrist stump is still a viable point of articulation, but mine is totally frozen, and the blade’s handle is too thin for me to mess with it without fear of breakage.
The other issue with these figures is more conceptual. We were told the entire reasoning for the switch from Marvel Universe to Avengers Unlimited was to reboot the line, which has been growing increasingly sluggish at retail. That’s all well and good, but with the switch– and new, simple black packaging– Hasbro decided to reissue two common A-listers in the first assortment. We get Captain America and Iron-Man figures here, identical to the ones already clogging pegs in their Marvel U. packaging. It’s a shame, because adding these unwanted figures isn’t helping anyone– kids and parents can still get them in their original releases, and collectors and etailers don’t want them. Even small tweaks would have made this better– a new paint job, or the inclusion of a second, unmasked head for Cap or Tony, would have turned these unwanted, soon-to-be peg warmers into highly coveted figures.
In the end, the Avengers Unlimited figures are much more similar to Marvel Universe than they are different. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing. While the new figures are really nice, the lack of quality control on their material and assembly makes these figures feel like an after though on Hasbro’s part, now more than ever. I hope they give this line the attention it needs and deserves… if they can, and if they figure out a more clever way to re issue a-listers to anchor the assortments without ruining the line’s viability at retail, Avengers Unlimited has the potential to be a great “Phase Two” for the 3.75″ Marvel Universe.