I kind of feel bad for Hasbro’s Marvel Universe series. It seems like the red headed step child of the toymakers, being ignored and left alone for half-year spans, disappearing form store resets, and so on. But every time it comes back, the often-ignored line seems to improve by leaps and bounds. That happened again with Series 22, which delivers MU debuts for Elektra, Spider-Man villains Rhino and Mysterio, as well as a fantastic new Captain America.
Each of the new figures are very good, utilizing the well sculpted and expertly engineered modern bucks such as Cyclops/ Steve Rogers and X-23. Rhino, however, features an entire new body, which sports the same bulk and girth as “big” figures like Thanos, as well as some wonderfully detailed textures on his leathery costume. It’s amazing how well engineered this guy is, that he can be so thick and big, yet remain as poseable as his is. We already got a Rhino in the 3.75″ Spidey series, but this new one is such a dramatic improvement, he demands a purchase.
Speaking of previously-released characters, I planned to skip the new Captain America, since there’s been, like, a hundred in this series so far. I’m glad I didn’t, because this feels like the first Cap they’re really gotten right. Logically sharing a body (and jawline!) with Steve Rogers of SHIELD, this is the best articulated Cap we’ve seen in the line’s lifetime, and added details like his glove, boot and belt overlays add a realistic dimensionality to the figure. The new headsculpt is way, way better than the previous, pinched head that’s been used ad nauseum, and he actually looks like the unmasked Steve Rogers, only with the mask on– yay for continuity!
Elektra is all new, and hasn’t been seen in this scale since the not very good Super Hero Showdown version by Toy Biz, but the new version is another excellent figure. The assassin features the wonderful articulation of the X-23 body, which is perfect for her martial arts poses. Her portrait matches her personality– beautiful, yet very focused, and her hair manages to be well sculpted but not impede her head articulation. Elektra includes her pair of sai, and Hasbro went as far as to give her new hands with her index fingers spread out to wield the weapons properly, another great touch!
Mysterio rounds out the new lineup, and he’s a good figure in his own right, while also hiding the makings of a fifth figure with minimal effort. The illusionist features his classic fish bowl costume, which is perfectly handled. The last Mysterio was the Toy Biz 6″ one, whose helmet was translucent, which always kinda bugged me. The new figure gets it right, with a frosted finish that actually looks like fogged glass, so you can see only the vaguest of hints of a head underneath. The helmet is attached to Mysterio’s cape and sits well on his shoulders. The whole setup is a bit heavy, but the cape is long enough that you can use it to prop up the figure and manage any balancing issues. The villain sports the Cyclops body with all its ample articulation, and some very nicely detailed new gloves.
The easter egg with Mysterio is as great as the figure– under his dome is the head of fellow Spidey villain The Chameleon! It’s a great sculpt that’s never been released in this collection, and with a very simple headswap, you can plug this head on a Professor X, paint it white, and add to your Spidey rogue’s gallery yet again! I used an extra Snake Eyes head on my Mysterio, which provides a nice neutral silhouette under the dome, and this way I score a free Chameleon figure!
These new Marvel Universe figures are solid, but with so much right, the few shortcomings they have feel worse than they are. Most disappointing is the lack of texture on Mysterio and Cap. Both figures sport the blank buck bodies, with painted details. So Mysterio’s outfit doesn’t have its cross match pattern, and Steve lacks the scaly chainmail on his chest and shoulders. It’s not a dealbreaker on figures otherwise this good, but if they included these extra sculpted details, we’d be looking at all-time DEFINITIVE figures of these two characters. Especially when Rhino enjoys such a well detailed new sculpt, the lack of texture feels like a shame. Other than that, the packaging is by and large good, but Elektra seems to have a tendency to have her legs warped at the knee due to her tray and bubble position. It’s an easy fix by heating her up and cooling her off with the leg straightened, but I wish the restrictiveness of tray liners could be better handled to avoid warpage like this.
I had honestly cooled on Marvel Universe, mostly due to the on- and off-again presence of the line. But each time new figures finally DO hit, I’m reminded of what a truly great line this is. What we’re seeing now are the last creations under the expert management of David Vonner. I’m hopeful that someone else will pick up the reigns and give this series the support and attention it deserves. There’s lots more corners of the Marvel Universe to cover, and I, for one, am ready to get started again!