Sunday, 5 March 2017

Minifigures - The Avengers, Part 4

Rounding up the rest of my Avengers Minifigures (bar a few peripheral members who belong more with other groups) this is really just an overview of the handful of characters to join between the late seventies and the title's drastic reformatting under Brian Michael Bendis to have really made much of an impression; I've always liked most of the roster but really it's not hard to see why no-one's come up with a Minifigure of Firebird or Jack of Hearts.


Carol Danvers has been around since the sixties and has had almost as many superhero personas and character annihilations as Hank Pym. Ms Marvel is probably still her most famous, a role initially ended to give Rogue a big launch, though she's since come back. This figure captures her most famous costume, the second Ms Marvel one which came back in the nineties when Kurt Busiek returned her to the spotlight as Warbird and stuck around until she became Captain Marvel. It gets the look down to a tee, with the lightning flash on the chest and the (thankfully painted considering some of the missteps with fabric) sash tie while the extant Lego hair piece fits her like a glove. Available either officially or as a Chinese bootleg, this is one of the most impressive figures out there.


Sam was always more Captain America's sidekick but for a while that basically guaranteed your slot anyway. Since then he didn't really do much in the title for years - Geoff Johns' attempts to make the book entirely about the Falcon and how great he is went down so well Marvel drafted in Chuck Austen to stop him - until Marvel decided he could become Captain America himself and lead the team. This figure - officially available in the Hulk Lab Smash set but also bootlegged by the Chinese - has a fair stab at one of the many red-and-white costumes he wore but errs in a couple of ways. Firstly the wings are not only inexplicably transparent but are also permanently spread, which is fine for play but a pain for a display. The other is limited to the bootleg, where whoever makes these things seems to have taken the gold gloves as skin tone and greatly lightened the face accordingly, leading to a Hispanic look.


Wonder Man first turned up as a bad guy in the Avengers in 1964, seemingly getting killed straight away; after various cameos he finally made the team some 13 years later - Stan Lee has claimed this was partly due to a gentleman's agreement with DC, who cried foul on the name's similarity to Wonder Woman then later brought out Power Girl in apparent violation despite Marvel already having Power Man, leading them to discard the deal. The character has since been a respectable tier 2 Avenger but has always seemed just that bit too naff for the real mainstream, with his mullet, long stint in the perennially unfashionable West Coast Avengers and dodgy nineties solo series. As such there have been no official or unofficial Minifigures of him; thankfully even an idiot like me can knock one up overlaying a red 'W' on a black muscled chest, finding some red eyes (easily found from Superman, though live action Hawkeye's red shades provide a 'powered down' alternative) and then just picking a relatively unhumiliating hairstyle.


One of the functions of the Avengers as a book was to pick up characters during lean times and that was the story of Tigra, invented in the mid-seventies as an updated Patsy Walker for the girls and rapidly cancelled. She was resurrected in the eighties as an Avenger, only briefly appearing in the main book before being sent off to the West Coast for about half of the team's run and making occasional guest appearances afterwards. As a sexy cat lady she's sort-of tarred by the whole furry thing now and has received little attention. Thankfully Penzora has once again delivered an excellent Minifigure capturing her in her stripy, bikini-wearing eighties glory; she could perhaps do with a tail but the only tiger-patterned one out there is from the much lighter 2015 Monsters Tiger Woman Minifigure.


Like Tigra, She-Hulk was another failed launch folded into the Avengers line-up after her own solo title stalled; she would then go on to do a stint in the Fantastic Four before her second, better-remembered feature book in the late eighties, a mad run of self-awareness and weird jokes. Bruce's cousin Jen has since become something of a favourite at the company, who continue to push series despite underwhelming sales. She's finally got an official Minifigure at the start of 2017 as part of a showdown between herself and the Hulk and their red counterparts; a bootleg based on her video game appearance has been doing the rounds for some time however and isn't bad, with the purple/white leotard worn for most of the solo series. Unlike the official version it sadly doesn't feature the green-tinged hair, also featuring an angry face and a different set of physical details.


Bobbi Morse started off as a side character in various Ka-Zar strips which saw her become a SHIELD Agent and then a costumed vigilante named Huntress. To avoid yet another clash with DC she was renamed Mockingbird and then romantically linked to Hawkeye, marrying him and becoming a founding member of the West Coast Avengers (having appeared in the main book as a supporting non-team character). She left the team in a messy Johnny Byrne plot but eventually returned in time to die in a late issue at the hands of Mephisto. Although wait, Marvel's ongoing creative bankruptcy meant that after some 17 years of her being dead it was reveals a Skrull duplicate had bought the farm instead. Sadly this recent interest hasn't been enough to get her in a film or into Minifig form but Penzora again has me covered; the costume of their custom is spot-on though the character has the more modified recent mask; personally I'd have prefered the amazing flying-v shaped one she wore in the eighties but that remains unfortunately beyond the reach of Lego.


Iron Man of course had been in and out of the Avengers since founding them but the eighties saw his natty red/silver (well, white) armour come to the fore, just in time for him to join up with the West Coast Avengers. There's not been a figure of the armour exactly but it did get used in Iron Man 3 as one of Tony's specialist armours and was brought out in one of the Lego Age of Ultron sets, which has been bootlegged (bootleggers love Iron Man variant armours). Not only are the details retouched accordingly but there's an additional shoulder pad arrangement including decorated tiles on the chest and back that really make the result look quite different - if not quite like the eighties comic version - while also de-emphasising how bulbous the opening helmet is.


One of the more unpleasant heroes of the era, John Walker first stood in for Captain America and made an arse of that before taking up the guise of U.S. Agent, where he was more or less on the side of right but tended to be a bit of a narc and never really got on with anyone. He was shoe-horned onto the West Coast Avengers roster by the government and spent most of his stint as an unwelcome presence. At the time the character was garbed in the uniform Steve Rogers had worn as the Captain and it's an easy one to replicate thanks to the Captain Hydra figures out there; a dab of black paint on the shield and the substitution of a plain black torso with a simple sticker makes for a convincing version of his eighties/nineties look as it's highly unlikely a character who was never that popular in or out of the fictional universe will get an official figure.


While Quasar has one way or another been in existence since 1979 (originally as Marvel Boy, using the Timely character's cosmic bracelets) his stint on the Avengers came ten years later; unlike Mockingbird or She-Hulk his presence wasn't to give him a new home but as part of a double-pronged attempt to push the character, Wendell being given his own concurrent solo series at the same time as his membership. Despite a lot of effort he never really took off however and has since been reduced to guest spots; should Marvel go for cosmic Avengers in the films he's likely to be behind the various Captain Marvels if nothing else. However, Penzora have again obliged with a lushly coloured custom based largely on his nineties look that does the job well in the face of official apathy; my only criticism is the trendy hair he's got. Really I need to find him a nice blond mullet.


James Rhodes had already served on both the main and West Coast Avengers teams during his first fill-in stint as Iron Man before later taking on the guise of War Machine and getting a slot on the latter in the end days before the team reunited. That was at about the point the character's brief fame was declining but the interest in anything Iron Man following the films' success and the easy repaint potential has given him a couple of official figures - which have again been bootlegged. The main changes are the presence of Rhodey's face under the helmet and the addition of a neat clear backpack bracket for mounting weaponry; this is ripe for a bit of customising fun. Naturally the painted detail is closer to the live action suits but it does the job for a nineties version of the character too if that's what you're after.

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