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If you’ve been paying any attention at all over the last 18 months, you know that 3 3/4″ to 4″ scale figures have once again become all the rage. Much of the huge increases in action figures over that same period was blamed on oil prices, though once those prices dropped precipitously, the prices of action figures stayed pretty much ridiculous. It was this same argument that many used to bring back the 3 3/4″ action figure to the shelves in force, but for those of us that love the little bastards, whatever the reason isn’t important. It’s that the scale is getting some love.

Mattel has their line of DC comic characters in this scale in the DC Infinite Heroes. Now Hasbro has let loose their version for the Marvel characters called Marvel Universe. These are just starting to hit retail, and you can expect to pay around $8 each for them. There are 9 figures in this initial wave that I know of, and I’m looking at four of those here tonight - Silver Surfer, Daredevil, the Human Torch, and Spider-man. I’ll also be looking at the another four - Iron Man, Black Panther, Wolverine and the Punisher - over at my other site, Michael’s Review of the Week today, if you’d like to see more of the wave. The ninth figure, Iron Man in Stealth Armor, is pictured in both reviews in the packaged photo.

If you have any questions or comments, drop me a line at mwc@mwctoys.com - on to the review!

Marvel Universe Silver Surfer, Human Torch, Spider-man and Daredevil

An interesting feature of these figures is the ability to log codes at the site Fury Files. It doesn’t look like that feature is going to be active for another 3 weeks, but once it is it will be interesting to see what they have in store. The success of Webkinz has everyone trying to find ways to connect an online experience with a physical toy, but the results aren’t always what you would hope for. There has been some talk of a Nick Fury mail away - perhaps once you enter in a certain number of codes on the site, you can get your free figure.

Packaging - ***1/2
The cardbacks are relatively small, but me thinks that with only one accessory each, they still could have saved a bit more waste. That’s a very minor nit though, and I do love all the personalization each cardback gets. On the front is a large comic drawing of the particular character, with a photo of the actual toy and a decent bio on the back. There are no twisty ties - thank God - although there are a couple rubber bands holding them in the trays. You can’t remove the figure without destroying the card, but you can cut the tape at the bottom and side to remove the S.H.I.E.L.D. information if you wanted to.

There is no form or mail away insert, but I’m betting that the codes used online could be used to obtain the Nick Fury mail away figure - we’ll see soon.

Sculpting - Surfer, Spidey ***; Daredevil, Torch **1/2
While there’s a fair amount of part re-use through out this line (as you’d expect), there’s enough different on each character to make them look unique on the shelf.

My favorite of these four is the Surfer. He is also one of my favorites of the 12″ Icons series, and his basic metal make up allows for a streamlined, simple design that looks great. I think his head sculpt has the most personality, or at least the most appropriate expression, considering the Surfer’s general lack of personality. The thin, lanky body also works quite well for him, with the exception of the abs.

There are six pack abs, and then there’s these abs. You could grate cheese on these things. They stick way out from the body, almost like skin lesions. No, it wouldn’t be attractive on a real person, and it really doesn’t work for me here.

This same tall, lean pelvis is used for the Human Torch, and it doesn’t do him any justice either. In fact, his body is exactly the same as the Surfer’s, with only the head to differentiate them (and the paint, obviously). His head sculpt is designed for fire mode, with the hair done in a sort of flaming doo. That might work if this version was painted up to be on fire, but he’s in his regular uniform with blonde hair, so he ends up looking like a member of a bad 80’s punk band.

Daredevil sports a different body than these first two, with chunkier thighs, and a thicker, shorter pelvis. He ends up looking a bit stumpy because of it, and while he does have horns, even these seem stumpy and short. He has a sculpted right hand to hold his weapon, as well as a slightly different gesturing left hand.

Spider-man has two uniquely sculpted hands, his left in a fist, and his right in a web shooting pose. The webbing and symbol on his chest are sculpted as well, and the lean look of the basic body works well for him.

These stand about 4″ tall or so, depending on the character. I’ve included a shot of them with some other current lines in this scale, so you can see where they can be displayed fit together or not.

Paint - Daredevil, Surfer ***; Spidey **1/2; Torch **
Usually with mass market lines, any paint issues don’t end up being specific to a single character across a line, but rather simply a greater problem with consistency across the entire wave. I had issues with my Torch for example, but you could just as easily get a good Johnny - and an awful Daredevil. It’s this sort of inconsistency that companies like Hasbro need to deal with.

As I said, my problem child out of this set is Johnny Storm. He didn’t look too bad when I grabbed him off the peg, but once I had him out of the package it was obvious that the guy has been snorting Cheeto dust. You don’t need a close up of his face to see the weird yellowish color all around his nose. Find one without this problem, and might be okay, because the rest of his costume is pretty decent. The Fantastic Four symble is a little off center, but it’s pretty minor for a mass market toy, and the dry brushing on his uniform, as well as the glossy finish of his gloves and boots looks good.
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The Silver Surfer could have just been silver, but they went with a translucent effect that works really well. His coverage is also very consistent and clean, with only the eyes to break up the overall color.

Daredevil, like Surfer, is predominately one color, this time red. The cut line between the face and mask is a bit sloppy, and I’m not really digging the slightly darker gloves and boots. But at least the coverage is generally consistent, and considering the scale, the issues are fairly minor.

Spidey has a less consistent coverage, but none of the glaring errors of the Torch. They tried to go for some lighte areas on the blue of the uniform, but it just looks sloppy. There are some random red and black spots on mine as well, adding to the general messy appearance.

Articulation - ***
This category was the biggest surprise to me - I was expecting to score them much higher. However, there’s at least one key joint missing, and a couple others that lack the kind of range of movement you’d expect.

One of those that’s a bit lacking is the ball jointed neck. Because the neck is thick and the head fits down quite far on it, the presence of a ball joint up inside there doesn’t mean as much as it could. The movement is quite limited, and was quite disappointing.

The rest of the upper body articulation is very solid, however. There’s great ball jointed shoulders, with joints on both sides, single pin elbows, cut wrists, and an ab crunch joing. Spidey adds in a cut waist, but the other three don’t have it. These joints have a good range of movement, sturdy pins, and generally work quite well. My one issue here is that some of the ab crunch joints tend to gap and show quite a bit, particularly when the figure is standing up straight.

The leg articulation is where the other big disappointment comes in. The ball jointed hips allow for movement out and in from the body, and some forward movement, but almost no backward movement. On Surfer and Torch there’s double pin knees and single pin ankles as well, but no cut joints of any kind on the legs. that means that the feet have to be positioned facing forward with the pelvis and hips. There’s no ability to turn the feet either inward or outward, and cut thighs would have gone a tremendous way to making these better figures. With Spidey and Daredevil, the ankles are actually pin/post type joints, where a post goes up into the calf. That means the ankle can turn…but without being able to turn the knee, the leg still looks awkward.

On the plus side though, all these joints were tight and well constructed. I didn’t feel as though I was about to break any of them, even the double pin knees, which is a huge improvement over the old Superhero Showdown figures.

Accessories - Surfer **1/2; Spider-man, Daredevil, Torch **
Extra accessories aren’t really the strong point for these figures, at least not yet. Each comes with their S.H.I.E.L.D. file, plus one small extra.

The best extra is with the Silver Surfer, and of course, it’s his board. There are two pegs to attach him to the board, but because of the lack of any cut joints on the legs, he really can’t stand on it with them in a reasonably decent looking way. Only put the front or back foot on a peg, and let the other one stand free, and you’ll have a much better change of getting a good pose.

Daredevil has his nunchuks, sculpted in a straight line. The plastic is fairly stiff too, but with a little hot water/cold water bath, you can probably get them into any position you want. He has that sculpted right hand to hold them as well.

The Human Torch, or Johnny Storm, has a small flame attachement for either hand. It seemed to fit the contour of the arm and hand better on the left side than the right, but it wasn’t any great shakes in either spot.

Finally, it’s probably no big surprise that Spidey’s one accessory is a hunk of webbing, done up like a huge pretzel. I haven’t found a particularly good way to use this yet, though from it’s design it’s very clear they had something specific in mind.

As I mentioned, all of them come with a small folder with their S.H.I.E.L.D. info in it. There’s a little piece of paper with the code to be entered on furyfiles.com, as well as a thin ‘baseball’ style card with info on the back and a character shot on the front. Finally, there’s a single small page from some sort of dossier, usually between Stark and Harold Pym, discussing some aspect of that particular character. You can see these same pages on the website, but there certain information has been blacked out, whereas the papers with the figure are all legible. I’m not a huge fan of paper add ins, but at least these are all unique to each character. We’ll have to wait and see if the ’secret codes’ add anything to the overall experience.

Fun Factor - ***1/2
The figures themselves, even with the leg articulation limitation, are really fun little toys. Unlike the Superhero Showdown stuff, the joints seem very sturdy, and aren’t any more likely to break than any other mass market toy. Time will tell if the whole Fury Files online experience adds anything, but at least for now kids will get a good sandbox version of their favorite Marvel characters.

Value - **
I’ve not yet adjusted to the concept that a figure under 4″ tall, with one tiny accessory, should get $8 at a mass market retail store. Compare this to the four pack of Hellboy II figures you could get for $20 - all with at least one accessory. Add in the amazing paint and articulation, and you can see where I might be having some issues. Even the single packs of the Hellboy figures were about this same price, and yet you were getting much more for your money.

Still, most everything is up over $8 now, even at a Wal-mart or Toys R Us. Given that, I’m only docking these slightly below average (average being **1/2 for this category), which means the effect on my personal overall score will only be minimal.

Things to Watch Out For -
While I didn’t have any joint issues, you will want to still take care when freeing them up. Every figure had at least a couple stuck joints, and you should free them slowly increasing pressure (or with the old freezer trick) to avoid damaging the pins.

Overall - Silver Surfer, Spidey, Daredevil ***; Torch **1/2
When I grabbed these off the peg, I was pretty excited. Other than the DCUC figures, I’m not really buying anything right now at mass market, so I thought that perhaps this line would be something new. After having opened eight of them, I’m not quite as sure. There are some winners in the group (check my other review for the Iron Man, easily my favorite of the bunch so far), but there was also one (the Punisher) who was just outright awful. That sort of hit or miss consistency with this line might make it something I get much pickier about, only picking up the must have characters. Out of this set of four, I’m glad I grabbed Spidey and the Surfer, but I think I could have skipped over Daredevil and the Torch without feeling too bad.

Where to Buy -
Like I said, these are just starting to hit retail, but there’s a couple online options as well:

- Past Generation Toys has a huge bunch up for pre-order. Expect to pay $9 - $12 for most, depending on the figure.

- or you can search ebay with MyAuctionLinks.com.

Comments:

One Response to “Toy Box: Marvel Universe Surfer, Spidey, Daredevil and Human Torch”

  1. tim Says:

    you know you can look at the figure before you buy it and get the one with the best paint apps, and you can also figure out the articulation by doing this.. and you are able to view the accessories.

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