Friday, October 22, 2010

REVIEW: Iron Man 2's Classic Iron Monger

The IRON MONGER was built by an obsessed business rival of Tony Stark.  Unable to defeat Stark through his deft manipulations of the billionnaire's business and personal life, Obidiah Stane set about to destroy him.  He employed dozens of super powered criminals, and eventually entered the fray wearing his own huge, immensely powerful battle suit.

Hasbro's latest run of Iron Man 2 figures sees the toy company returning to the Comic series with vigour.  As previously seen, the Silver Centurion Iron Man was a definite improvement.  Does the (Classic) Iron Monger match-up to that?

I want to jump to the packaging first, because there's something I need to point-out here.  Firstly, Hasbro need to hire a new copywriter.  Both Iron Monger and Silver Centurion Iron Man's packaging suffer from some very clunky writing.  Whilst being a Grammer Nazi is never cool (and we all make mistakes, sure) the punctuation and wording on each simply doesn't scan very well.  I know it's a minor point but it leads me to the next one: the card's rear shows the Silver Centurion armour and labels it IRON MONGER SILVER CENTURION.

That's not a great start.

As for the packaging itself, it's the standard card-mounted plastic bubble.  Interestingly the photograph on the rear of the pack shows a ''clean'' version of the armour.  Why they did this is beyond me, as the paint-job on the figure is one of its highlights!

Enough about the packaging though.  I know I may appear to be nit-picking over this, but trust me, this is the Tony Stark's Mark 1 Chest Unit of my review...  It'll be important later.

Iron Monger
What of the figure itself?

Well, let's start with the good: the paint-work is superb. Dark washes are used to catch each groove and indent, giving each panel a real sense of definition.  In addition, the figure is dirtied-up, with grubby stains, oil patches and generally gunky-looking dark patches that really give the impression of it being a man-machine.  The armour is covered in scuff-marks, dents and (deliberate) minor imperfections, all of which make it visually very appealing.

What's not so great though is the sloppy way the shoulder panels, chest beam surround and neck guard are cast from not only a completely different colour plastic, but also lack the lowlights and detail of the darker paint.  The pieces look like they're from another toy.  Also, given how detailed the dark washes are, it's disappointing to see that his chest beam is very poorly painted.  It's not only sloppy but it also barely masks the blue plastic it's painted upon.  I'd love to see the line use some kind of semi-transparent or coloured plastic inserts in the chest beam panels, as I think this could really enhance the look (providing it didn't become too gimmicky.)

It's a shame these minor details were so poorly executed, as the figure itself looks fantastic: the silhouette is superb, it has a really unique shape (due to the shoulder antenna and bulky gauntlets) and it has a nice, chunky styling that does justice to the comicbook character.

However, when you come to pose the figure you learn that the problems don't just end with the minor details.

Firstly, his arms are solid pieces.  There are no elbow joints.  There are no wrist joints.  I know this is because of the feed-lines from his upper arms leading to his forearms and that Hasbro had to include these pipes for the sake of accuracy.  But I'm sure with some thought they could have come-up with a more elegant solution than simply making his arms solid pieces, especially given that his hands are not connected to the feed-lines.  The only articulation on his arms is at the shoulder, the range of which is hampered by the shoulder-pad.

UPDATE: Revisiting my figure I discovered the previous paragraph is incorrect: the figure's elbow and wrist joints ARE moveable.  When examining my Iron Monger, I discovered the joints are very, VERY stiff (which made me to believe they were solid pieces)  but they are indeed moveable.  Unfortunately whilst the joints are present  they feel fragile like the hip joints (see below) and bending the arms is something I've refrained from doing, due to my fear of damaging the toy.

Movement of the torso is also very restricted: he has a single joint at rib-level that allows (very limited) rotation and can be angled slightly forward.  The neck joint is restricted to turning left and right only, unlike the Silver Centurion armour that allowed more subtle tilts.  I know the suit is supposed to be a heavy, restrictive and - in some ways - more primitive than the Iron Man armour, but the limitations of the figure feel cheap.

As for the lower body, the hips are - yet again - restrictive in their articulation, despite using the ball-style joint.  Whilst posing him, I felt - for the first time - I was in danger of breaking the toy.  He has a very chunky, solid feel, except for at his hips, which feel as if they're going to snap-off when you try to do anything with them.

His knees are fine, though, which is a bit of a waste, given that his hips are so restrictive: you can bend his knees as much as you like, but if his hips are immobile, it's pointless trying to do anything but make him appear to stand stock still and getting any sense of it being a person in a suit (rather than an empty suit of armour) takes a lot of effort. 

As with all Iron Man 2 toys, the Iron Monger comes with a stand (which he doesn't need anyway) and three semi-transparent Armor Cards.

Final Thoughts
Hasbro's Iron Man 2 line is a schizophrenic range.  On the one hand, there are some excellent figures but then there are some not-so-great ones, like the Iron Monger.  It's a real missed opportunity, as the figure at first glance is impressive.  The paint-work is excellent, giving depth and texture to what could have simply been a slab of blue plastic.  But it's all the minor glitches and poor decisions that make it appear as if somebody got half-way through the toy's development and then gave-up.  The plastic-looking shoulder pads, the poor hip articulation and - yes - even getting the name of the Silver Centurion wrong on the packaging all make it look as if somebody simply couldn't be bothered with the toy.  And that's such a shame, because when Iron Monger gets it right, it's superb.  It's just all the misses that drag it down.

Production QualityC+
Final ScoreB-

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