Saturday, December 24, 2011

Marvel Legends: Magneto

In my previous action figure review I talked about the DC Universe Classics, a nice consistent Mattel assemblage of both popular and more obscure characters. Before this came about, however, Toybiz produced a "Marvel Legends" line of six inch figures for Marvel. These set a rather high standard in the early 2000s for good levels of detail and articulation. The line was later taken over by Hasbro, which caused fluctuations in the quality. As such the Marvel Legends line lacks the consistency of DC Universe Classics but there are still some memorable figures, such as the one I'm about to describe.
I've elaborated in the past about my appreciation of Captain America as a Marvel hero but my Marvel villain of choice hasn't been as scrutinised by me yet. As you can tell, it's Magneto. He's an ambiguous character with a good back story and a striking costume. Fortunately Marvel Legends produced a fitting toy for such a character.
This isn't a review so much as a retrospective or showcase because this is a pretty rare toy these days. I bought mine on eBay and while affordable considering its rarity it was still a decision I mulled over for a while. It came out in 2003 in the third wave of Marvel Legends figures and back in those days these kinds of toys were a bit of an elaborate composition. So included in the unpleasant-to-open clamshell packaging were not just the figurine but a stand in the shape of the head of a destroyed Sentinel, the mutant-hunting robots of Marvel lore, and a Magneto-related comic, in this case X-Men Volume 2 Number 2 from 1991, written by Chris Claremont with Jim Lee illustrations. It's a decent inclusion, deriving from the fairly significant Mutant Genesis storyline and focusing on Magneto's ambiguous status as villain, and as far as I'm concerned an included comic is a great addition to an action figure. Extras are always appreciated. So once the clamshell was in my hand I busted it open to the despair I'm sure of some collectors and removed the delightful contents. The package was already a bit damaged so I don't feel too bad. Anyway, the Sentinel head is also a nice addition, being distinctively painted and very detailed. It's a perfect podium for perfidious posing as Stan Lee might say and Magneto looks distinctive on it. We here at "Opinions Can Be Wrong" have often wondered about how under some colour schemes Sentinels often look a bit like big robot Magnetos. Is it deliberate? So far my research has shown nothing. Regardless, it's a nice stand and a good inclusion. It even has a hole in the back so you can hook it onto your wall, although I'm not entirely sure why you would.
Now let's take a look at the Master of Magnetism himself. One thing stands out about this Magneto figure: he's chunky. Initially I was put off by this fact: apparently he's based on Marvel Legends' Wave One Iron Man figure from back in the days when Tony Stark's armour kinda looked like muscles and it shows. He's still got the rings around the shoulder joint like classic Iron Man. It's weird to think that they thought Magneto, a primarily non-physical combatant, would have the same body shape in a fairly skintight body suit as Tony Stark would in a bulky suit of armour, and at first I was put off by his sheer bulk, but it actually works. In the Jim Lee illustrations, from which the included comic is derived, and the 90s X-Men cartoon, Magneto is a very broad, physically imposing character, and I think the body shape is ultimately fitting.
The original parts of the sculpt are all very good; it's really an extremely nice toy. Magneto's face is very detailed, and his stern, brooding expression really suit the very ambiguous, troubled incarnation of the character I believe this figure is trying to represent. He even has a lock of hair hanging down towards his right eye, only visible when his helmet is removed. The inclusion of a removable helmet is an excellent feature and clearly assisted in the quality head sculpt. While it doesn't have the side indent below the ears which it's normally depicted as having in the comics it's a very good fit and looks the right size when he's wearing it. The trim is extremely detailed and while the red and purple blend a little in some spots it's still impressive. The horned front ornament is also red, not purple. This always fluctuates from comic to comic and even from frame to frame but I've always assumed that it's generally meant to be red and I prefer it that way, so I'm glad it's that colour here.
One thing I will complain about is the collar. This is usually depicted as going all the way around his neck, hanging over both his chest and upper back, but here it's basically just a flat piece on his front. Sometimes it disappears under his cape but here it kind of sticks out and can look a tad awkward. It's really the only thing, though. The cape, while pretty rigid, is still in a nice flowing shape and well shaded in the folds on the back. Mine seems to have a small crack in the join between the cape and the neck through which skin tone is visible but I doubt that's standard. The bands on the gloves and boots are embossed, the hands are in good shapes for magnetic manipulation and the belt and trunks are kept simple. Overall it's a really good sculpt.
Last of all let's mention the articulation. I believe these old Marvel Legends toys really set the standard for amazing levels of articulation, and that's completely evident here. Magneto has shoulders with combined ball joints and hinges so they can point in all directions as well as swing outward, his elbows and knees are double-hinged, his wrists and thighs swivel, his head turns left to right and even has a little forward and backward give, his chest, stomach and waist all rotate separately but in cohesion, his hips are ball-jointed and his wrists, ankles, and even fingers and toes are all hinged. The ankles even have a little left-to right give. Overall it lives up to the Toybiz Marvel Legends reputation for quality levels of articulation and it's a very poseable figure. The cape can make him a little back-heavy at times but once it's against the ground it can actually help his stability and the Sentinel stand also has pegs to plug into his feet, as well as generally giving a good surface for posing.
Magneto's a timeless and extremely important character from Marvel comics and this is a toy which lives up to the legacy of such a popular and significant personage. As I say it's a little rare now, but if you're a big Magneto fan and you can get your hands on one I definitely recommend it. I think it's a shame these toys are so rare and that they go out of production so quickly. Nonetheless I'm glad to have such a cool character on the old shelf. Magneto's a good guy at the moment of course, so there are a few X-Men titles like Uncanny X-Men and X-Men Legacy you can pick up if you want to see him operating as a hero. He really needs his own title.
Some people think that Magneto's age and his conversion to heroism after a career of outdated terrorism and violent subversion have caused him to lose his relevance as a character. While I think there's a point to it, personally I think that as long as prejudice and discrimination endure, and as long as people are frustrated and victimised to the point of desparation and isolationism Magneto will still mean something. Bouts of heroism can make him seem like a toothless tiger but maybe Cyclops' more ruthless team of X-Men will let us appreciate these issues as the dilemmas of protagonists, and Magneto will be a vital component. Regardless, he's always an interesting character for his own sake, and he sure looks cool on the shelf.

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