If there is one thing that toy companies like more than getting some of your money, it is getting more of your money. So
with that in mind, Toy Biz has spun off their successful Marvel Legends line once more. This time it's Marvel's first
family's chance to take center stage: the Fantastic Four. The line is already on its second wave of figures which I'll
cover in its entirety. But I'll also catch up on three of the first wave figures as well. That is a total of eight figures
covering the entire team, an extra Human Torch, Super Skrull, Kang and Dragon Man.
Packaging - 6/10The Fantastic Four figures borrow heavily from the old packaging design from the Amazing Spider-man line. They are a standard blister card with a "J" hook at the top. The blisters are a standard rectangle with a sticker on the bottom as the only graphic. The sticker has the logo for the toy line and the figure's name. The front of the card has the full team pictured at the top between two red borders and with a large "4" symbol to serve as a backdrop for the figures. It isn't the most exciting design, but I do like the subtle use of each hero's superpower within the card art. Reed's arms are stretching. Sue is partially transparent over the border. And Ben is crushing the border in his hand. Johnny's flame on state is somewhat less subtle but quite fitting. The back of the cards is a bit of a disappointment. The top of the card has the line's logo, another image of the team and the character's name. But there is no bio or background information. That's fine for the four core team members, but not a lot of people are going to know who characters like Dragon Man or Kang are. Below the character's name are the instructions for the figure, which are all largely unnecessary. Do you really need instructions for a spring loaded gun? But the instructions for Dragon Man are down right hilarious. "Fully Articulated Dragon Man Figure," "Poseable Wings" and "Super Poseable Bendy Tail." If there is no point in having the instructions, then don't have them. Use the space for something else. Toy Biz did improve on the packaging from the X-men line though with the inclusion of a photo showing all of the figures in a particular wave. The only thing missing is an indication of the variants. It's not the most impressive packaging, but it gets the job done. But if you are a collector who likes to keep your figures MOC, I would be leery of how long the cards will hold up to the weight of figures like the Thing and Dragon Man.
Sculpting - Johnny Storm 3/10, Invisible Woman & Twist 'N Slam Thing 6/10, Mr. Fantastic 7/10, Dragon Man 10/10, Others 8/10Toy Biz has been turning out some really nice sculpts in their various Marvel lines and these are no different. Dragon Man is the bast of the two series. He has a great deal of bulk and no lack of detail. Even the articulation blends in better than on most of Toy Biz's figures. If I knew the character better I might have more complaints. Super Skrull is another terrific figure. But aside from the face, the character design is fairly dull. Kang has a much more interesting design. And the sculpt provides a fair level of detail. But the articulation really stands out in several places. The torso joint in particular needs work. The combination of the tapering of the tunic towards the waist, the wide belt and the lower portion of the torso hinge being noticeably thinner than the top portion results in a waist so small that it looks like a toothpick. (Body by Liefeld perhaps?) The Human Torch was pleasant surprise. After so many months of seeing endless Torch, Thing and Mr. Fantastic variants left over from the movie, I hadn't paid the figures from the new line much attention. When I bought the Human Torch figure I was expecting a fairly plain body. But it is fully sculpted to match the other team members. The face is a little lacking in detail, but for a flame on version of the character that is acceptable. Mr. Fantastic is the best figure to get an idea of the costume design used for the team members. It strikes a nice balance between the traditional comic book spandex and the more detailed movie costumes. I also think this version has the best head sculpt of any of the Reed figures I have. It has a distinguished look without being too smug. It does have two drawbacks. The first is a lack of normal arms. The second is that the 4 symbol and a similar sized knob in the back stick out from the body quite a bit in order to keep the armor accessory in place. The Invisible Woman turned out well too. The head sculpt is difficult to make out being clear, but it looks fairly attractive. But the extremely pre posed nature of the sculpt is a drawback. It also means that the figure is more difficult than usual to balance. Anything beyond a standing pose is out of the question. And one final nitpick is that Sue is the only one who does not have the number sculpted onto the 4 logo. This wouldn't be an issue for a painted version, but on the clear one, it leaves the symbol blank. This version of the Thing is quite a bit different from the previous ones I've seen. The body design seems almost amorphous, more like Clayface from Batman than the Thing. There is only the slightest hint of muscle structure. (You can actually see more of the muscle shape in the legs, through the costume than in the chest or arms.) And his arms look like tubes. This isn't automatically a bad thing, just not a look I'm used to. But it doesn't match the head sculpt well. The costume is also a potential issue. There is very little to tie it into the design of the others' costumes. Last and most certainly least is Johnny Storm. The body on this figure is so large to accommodate the action feature that Johnny turned into a pin headed, muscle-bound freak. I suppose the arms and legs would still be usable for a custom figure. Too bad the head sculpt wouldn't. It's practically a brick. His face is so flat that with a slight nose job Johnny would have no profile at all. The solemn look on his face doesn't fit the light hearted nature of the character well either.
Paint - Johnny Storm & Human Torch 5/10, Dragon Man 9/10, Invisible Woman NA, Others 7/10There is a considerable amount of difference in the amount and quality of the paint work on these figures. Once more, Dragon Man comes out on top. While the basic purple color comes from the plastic, the areas that are painted are clean and neat. The use of shading is quite effective without being overbearing. The wings are the biggest trouble area. The wings are a light tan plastic which is almost entirely painted. But they skipped the ball where the wings attach to the body. And the colors don't always match up perfectly along the edges revealing the lighter color underneath. Kang turned out well. But I'm not thrilled with the colors used. The boots in particular are a bit lighter in color, almost pink. The sleeves and pant legs have a gloss finish which is rather unusual. Super Skrull uses a light purple wash over darker purple plastic to create an interesting blend of colors. But it isn't very consistent. One side of the torso on my figure is noticeably darker than the other. His face is a dark green with the high areas painted a lighter, olive green. It gives the face the appearance of very heavy shadowing. Twist 'N Slam Thing is a mishmash of paint styles. The head has a dark black paint wash, much darker than the brown used on the body. So it looks like Ben hasn't washed his face in a week. And the legs are an even starker contrast with no paint washes and the only detail work being the white in the 4 symbol. The paint work on Reed is very neat, except for the grey on his temples. Toy Biz still hasn't figured out how to get that right. The Human Torch figure's only paint work is the 4 symbol on the chest and the eyes. The symbol is well executed on my figure. But there is a black wash around the eyes which is a tad sloppy. The paint for Johnny Storm's face is very well done. But the colors for his suit don't quite match Mr. Fantastic from series 1. The darker blue along the sides is much lighter than the previous figures and for some reason, his boots have silver trim along the soles. There is also some sloppiness along the edges on his boots. The clear version of the Invisible Woman is of course, completely unpainted.
There are also several paint variants out there as well. The Invisible Woman is available both fully painted and as a clear variant. Things get interesting with the Super Skrull. In addition to the fully painted regular version, there was also an invisible version cast in clear plastic and a flaming version cast in translucent orange plastic. And then to further complicate matters, later shipments contained a variant of the flaming variant that was painted orange and yellow.
Articulation - Thing & Invisible Woman 5/10, Johnny Storm & Dragon Man 6/10, Human Torch 7/10, Others 8/10By now everyone should be familiar with the articulation for Toy Biz's Marvel figures.
Accessories/action feature - Dragon Man 0/10, Johnny Storm 4/10, Super Skrull 7/10, Human Torch 10/10, others 6/10I'm far from impressed with the accessories in the Fantastic Four line, particularly compared to what we've seen in Toy Biz's other Marvel lines. Dragon Man has no accessories or action feature. But given his sheer size, that's no real surprise. Johnny Storm comes with three accessories: a pair of replacement forearms and another head all engulfed in flames. By replacing the forearms and snapping the head on top of the regular one, you create a partially flamed on Human Torch. But the replacement parts are slightly oversized and not particularly well sculpted. But on the bright side, they balance out the bulk of the body. Twist 'N Slam Thing comes with another break away wall. Two columns on the side of the base hold together the four panels to form a small brick wall. By squeezing Thing's legs together, he twists at the waist while his right hand swings upward in a punch allowing him to break down the wall or rearrange the face of the nearest villain. The feature works but the arm doesn't rotate as much as it should, creating a weak punch. Plus we've seen the break away wall several times before. But at least it can be used for a display if nothing else. Kang has a comically oversized, double barreled cannon. A gun isn't out of character for Kang. But I would think he would at least choose one small enough for him to carry. The Invisible Woman comes with a clear shield that clips onto her wrist and a spring loaded launcher with two projectiles. I'm pretty sure that the launcher and projectiles are recycled from a past Human Torch figure, though I don't recall which one. Mr. Fantastic comes with two oversized guns, one of which fires a spring loaded projectile and some body armor. Perhaps it is just me, but guns just seem to be out of character for Reed Richards. Scientific devices, sure. But not a cannon. The Super Skrulls come with two replacement arms. Since the Super Skrull is suppose to be able to replicate all of the powers of the Fantastic Four, the replacement arms are meant to demonstrate those powers. The left hand is orange rock like the Thing but with some flames bursting out of the forearm. It is even articulated at the fingers and elbow. The right arm is sculpted into a fist and also looks like flaming rock. But it is also stretched out at the top and partially transparent. By popping off the regular arms at the biceps, the extra ones can be put on in replacement. It is a nice idea and works well for incorporating the powers of the Thing and Human Torch into the figure. But the powers of the Invisible Woman and Mr. Fantastic are not nearly as obvious. Of course, if you get the various variant figures and start mixing parts it works even better. Finally there is the Human Torch, the only figure I bought solely for its accessories. He comes with three. The first is a projectile that plugs into the left arm and is fired by a lever just above the elbow. The second is a large fireball. Two small holes allow it to be held by the figure in its right hand. The arm can then be pulled back and released to throw the fireball. It takes practice to avoid it flying straight up, but it does work. Finally there is the reason why I bought the figure in the first place, an articulated figure of Impossible Man. The little green imp sports sixteen points of articulation. His shoulders and hips have standard Marvel Legends style joints that rotate and hinge at the body and then have another rotating joint just below that. The hands rotate at the cuffs of the gloves. And the neck rotates and has a hinge to tilt forward and back. Since we are not likely to get an in scale Impossible Man on his own any time soon, this is a great way to add yet another character to the roster of Marvel character to get a figure.
Value - Johnny Storm 3/10, Thing 4/10, Mr. Fantastic & Invisible Woman 6/10, Super Skrull & Kang 8/10, Dragon Man & Human Torch 9/10If you are fortunate enough to find these at retail, you can expect to pay $9 to $10 each for the Fantastic Four Figures. If you are buying them online, yo may be able to track them down for around $12 each if you are buying the entire series. Which is what I paid. For new characters such a Kang, Dragon Man and Super Skrull that's not a bad price. And in the case of the Human Torch and Impossible Man, you are essentially getting two figures for that price. I'm also pleased with both Reed and Sue for that price. I probably try to track down the painted version of Sue as well at some point. But the only reason I can see for buying the Johnny Storm figure and to a lesser extent Twist 'N Slam Thing is to have a matching set of the entire team.
Happy Hunting:With so many figures from the Fantastic Four Movie still on the pegs, distribution for this line has been shoddy at best. The only major retailer to carry it nation wide was Toys R Us. There are also a few regional stores such as Meijers that stocked it as well. Finding the second wave is proving to be even more difficult. I bought a set from Big Bad Toy Store.com when they first arrived. Toys R Us should be carrying them as well. They have popped up on their new web site already. But you have to be quick as the rarer figures like Dragon Man and Kang disappear in minutes. If you see them, don't pass them up. You probably won't get a second chance.