It’s CLOBBERIN’ time! Again!
After years of being stuck in the rights Negative Zone, the Fantastic 4 are back with most of their brethren at Marvel Studios/Disney and that means the toys are flowing again. I know there has been plenty to keep the Marvel Legends team busy over the years, but as the F4 are my favorites of the MU, this is a big deal to me. No longer being resigned to the store exclusive category, the Fantastic Four have made it all the way to their own Retro Series release, and I hope we continue to see such plastic support as we await their entrance to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
This series was tipped awhile back without ever being confirmed until this past summer. We have had that Retro Dr. Doom for some time now, so there really wasn’t any way that there would not be more, and with this six figure series, along with a couple of exclusives, the F4 is looking pretty good right now. As I am one who generally prefers the blue and black costumes, the High Evolutionary and Psycho Man are the ones I am most looking forward to, but since Ben Grimm is my favorite Marvel character of all time, of course I have been hyped for this figure, too.
As we have already gotten the blue and black costumes, as well as the mostly black costumes in ML, it was pretty obvious from the get-go that this retro set would feature the Four in their blue and white duds. That fits with the card back and actual line that supported the 1990s cartoon that this line pays tribute to, so the planning all works out nicely. This might not be my preferred look, but I certainly don’t hate it, and from what I can tell, the whole team looks good sporting this combination. Oh, and as an added bonus, if you are still a fan of the stretched out Mr. Fantastic from the old Ronan series (swap heads with the new Mr. F. figure, it does wonders), the colors match up almost perfectly, so bonus! As you would expect, Ben carries over many of the parts that the previous figures established, but there is definitely some new here, and those pieces have varying degrees of success.
While the new heads are the main focus, this figure does sport new upper thighs to give the Thing his trunks look, rather than the shorts of before. This alteration is definitely appropriate for the look, but it was something they could have just cheated and been done, so I am definitely glad they took the extra step to get it right. Now I want a blue and black version of these trunks. It does not alter the articulation scheme at all as the upper thigh swivel remains as before, but it is definitely an appreciated change.
Now, the new heads are a biggie, and I was really excited about both of them before the release. They ended up swapping spots in terms of which I find to be more successful, so it is funny how things work out in the end. First and foremost: I really appreciate getting a couple of heads with the “Byrne” brow. After Jack Kirby himself, John Byrne is my favorite F4 artist (I know I am not alone there), and his contributions are certainly important enough to merit a Thing likeness based on his art. I really like the library of different Grimm likenesses we are accumulating in ML, I just hope we get a chance to get versions that are compatible with the various different releases, but more on that in just a minute.
So, of these two new heads, I actually like the one with the gritting teeth more, and I was not expecting that. Honestly, I SHOULDN’T like this one better because the other head is much more in line with what I have been wanting. See, as seemingly silly as it sounds, I prefer the Thing without teeth. That goes back to the early incarnations, but also that I think the only feature left of Ben Grimm himself in this form as his blue eyes. Those have always been such a big part of the characterization, and they should be alone as the last remnants of him, and the window to his soul, as it were.
While I most excited about getting a likeness with this feature, and I appreciate the attempt, the execution falls flat. The mouth shape, along with the painted eyes just makes for a very weird expression. I get what they were going for, but it just turned out looking off. That means that, despite the gritting teeth, the alternate head is actually my preferred piece from this release. If this head had a closed mouth, it would be PERFECT for me, but that said, I don’t mind the teeth in this instance as much as the odd execution of the other, so even though I can’t believe it, I am going with this one for display. Hopefully we will get another crack at a Thing portrait with no teeth, so fingers crossed there.
If you have the Thing figure from the Super Skrull Build-a-Figure wave, you will be familiar with the paint finish and deco choices for the orange portions of this figure. In fact, you can swap heads between these releases pretty easily with the same aesthetic essentially remaining consistent. I have to say that I am not completely in love with that lighter orange overspray as it is not consistently applied and can look strange at certain angles. It is not bad, don’t get me wrong, but the effect is definitely most apparent in a ring around the upper chest and shoulders and then again inside the lower legs/feet. Personally, I am looking for a finish that is more like the Walgreens figure, but perhaps a bit lighter in terms color in the cracks. I get that this finish fits that cartoon look more, but I think I would have just preferred them making him bright and more solid in terms of color.
Overall, this figure has some great things going for it, and is a strong release. The color application and the unsuccessful rendering of the open mouth portrait aside, this is a good looking figure that fits the Retro homage quite well. I am looking forward to getting the rest of this series, but if you are like me and had to have Ben right away, you can get him at Dorkside right now. Robo and I chatted this past Sunday about what version of Ben we wanted to see next, so hopefully there will be lots more soon – for all of the Fantastic Four!