One of the SDCC exclusives I was most excited for was the Marvel Legends box set Hasbro would be offering. Once again, we see the release of a five-pack of figures– essentially an entire new wave of figures– offered at the Con. This year’s set kept the cosmic theme going, based on the Thanos Imperative storyline, and features comic book style figures of Star-Lord, Blastaar, Gladiator, and the Inhumans Black Bolt and Medusa.
So obviously, the character selection is pretty great– we finally get a home for the comic book style Peter Quill, a welcome update on Black Bolt, his wife and other most important Inhuman (excluding Lockjaw of course), the Shi’ar Imperial Guard who’s been on everyone’s want list for years, and a classic cosmic villain in his modern look. Not only that, but the packaging is amazing, an effigy of the massive skull of Galactus, complete with an opening jaw which reveals Blastaar packed within. Without a doubt, this is my favorite box art from Comic Con this year.
I’m setting all of this up to prove that, really, this set should have been a massive success. But while there’s a lot to love here, it doesn’t come together as well as it should have. But we’ll start with some more positives, namely Star-Lord and Gladiator. Both of these guys have been long-time fan wants in the Legends scale, and Hasbro’s designs certainly do them justice. Quill is depicted in his blue and red “space cop” uniform, a body he shares with the outstanding AIM Soldier. This means he features a ton of great sculpted detail, as well as a lot of articulation which particularly plays to his laser gun oriented poses. The all new head features a perfect rendering of Star-Lord’s helmet and mask, and between this and the new uniform colors, he really feels like a unique, all-new figure.
Gladiator is also great, with another perfect head sculpt atop the properly scaled, big and bulky Sentry body. The perfect blend of dignity and disdain comes across in this figure’s portrait, and all the stylistic details, from the pointy ears to that iconic mohawk, make this figure scream Gladiator in every way possible. The figure’s all new high collar cape is well sculpted, although it’s also very stuff, making it difficult to keep in place while posing the figure. Looks-wise, though, it’s perfect, and it offsets nicely against the wonderful metallic design of Gladiator’s classic red and blue outfit. I cannot imagine a better version of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard than this.
Star-Lord and Gladiator are the winners in this set, so good that they easily rank among the best Legends figures of all time. But sadly their three fellow figures in this set are nowhere near that high-set bar. Blastaar comes closest, I think. Once again, I have absolutely no complaints about the portrait, which is big and angry and filled with the bushy hair and beard that gives this cosmic warlord his unique look. The figure opts for Blastaar’s (more boring) modern costume, so instead of the Kirby-style tunic, he’s sporting no shirt and boots and a belt he obviously borrowed from Lobo’s closet. That part is not the fault of Hasbro– it’s accurate to his modern comic design– but I can’t imagine why they would choose this look instead of Blastaar’s classic costume… I’m normally fine with modern renderings in the Marvel Legends line (it worked incredibly well for last year’s Luke Cage), but when the modern design is this dull, the figure winds up feeling lacking. Still, Blastaar is acceptably big and bulky, and the new details, especially the skull-style boots are very well done. And the metal armor pieces Blastaar wears feature a very nice wash, which adds a tarnished realism to them, which I was very impressed by.
I really wanted to like Medusa, especially since I’ve always been a fan of the Inhumans. And there’s quite a bit to like here– her portrait is appropriately gorgeous and very well done, conveying her regal nature very well. I also very much like the new body, which features wider hips and thighs and a smaller bust than previous bodies. The result is quite naturalistic, a good middle ground between the athletic Black Widow body and the buff Moonstone. I hope all three bodies remain in play, because counting them all, as well as one-offs like the movie Black Widow and Gamora figures, I think we have seen more unique female body sculpts in Hasbro’s Marvel Legends than in any other action figure line.. which is awesome!
Medusa is one of those characters who typically gets good costumes, so unlike Blastaar, I have no issue with her modern outfit being used here. The purple bodysuit makes her stand out, with enough in common to her earlier design that she’s very recognizable. Of course, it wouldn’t be Medusa if not for the hair, which is both the best and worst feature of this figure. The colossal locks of red hair are very well sculpted, with a natural flow in the design and a bright red color that stands out brilliantly. The problem is, the hair was sculpted too short for the figure. This, combined with the heft of the five inches of solid rubber hair and Medusa’s high heels means getting this figure to hold a pose at her neck or stand up is impossible. It would have been so easy to sculpt her hair just an inch longer, turning it into a makeshift base (as we saw on the Marvel Universe version of the character)… but as it stands… Medusa just doesn’t.
Rounding out the set is Black Bolt, and while the king of the Inhumans is a step up from his previous Legends figure, he’s still not great. The Bucky body works well here, and Black Bolt gives this set a perfect score in regards to excellent head sculpts. His neutral expression fits the character, and his tuning fork headpiece is rather intricately sculpted. I’m okay with the fisted hands on this guy, and the black and silver costume is well done… but his wings prove to be a grievous design error. The segmented wings are sculpted directly into Black Bolt’s triceps, meaning the only way they look right is if his arms are outstretched to the sides, so the wings look connected to the torso. If you turn the arms any other way, the wings just out to the back or outside the rest of the figure in a very awkward way. Like Medusa, it seems like this could have been such an easy fix– just make the wings removable parts which can clip in place– but losing this option really affects the overall figure in a case like this.
I don’t want to sound too harsh on the Thanos Imperative set. It’s certainly fun, it features very cool packaging and some really outstanding figures that stand shoulder-to-shoulder among the very best Marvel Legends ever. But small design oversights like Medusa’s hair and Black Bolt’s wings wind up feeling like even more devastating flaws in light of perfect figures like Star-Lord and Gladiator.
To position it as a back-handed compliment, I’ll put it this way– Hasbro has really upped their game when it comes to Marvel Legends. That’s a good thing for them and us… but it also means they will now be held to that higher standard. If this set came out a few years ago, even duds like Black Bolt would have been lauded as incredible toys. But in a year that saw brilliant figures such as the Captain America Legends, with their alternate hands and unmasked heads– in addition to a kick-ass Build a Figure– the minor mistakes in this set seem especially disappointing.