Hasbro continues their double-pack roll-out with the Marvel's Greatest Battles Comic Pack: Dark Wolverine and Dark Spider-man.
For those who aren't up-to-speed on the Marvel Universe's recent history, essentially everything's gone bad for the heroes. Norman Osborn (the former Green Goblin) has risen to power under the guise of the Iron Patriot and is now commanding supergroup the Avengers. However, all is not what it seems: Osborn's reform is a sham and the Avengers he's assembled are in-fact all self-serving supervillains.
Now the history lesson is over, what about the figures themselves?
The more reviews I do, the more I'm beginning to think that the packaging comments are redundant. Like all Marvel Universe packaging, this is eye-catching (using the cover of the included reprint of Dark Avengers #1 to good use) and the figures are visible in their plastic bubble. The packaging has never been particularly special on the Marvel Universe line (although the Galactus 19'' figure is in a very striking box - more on that when I get the review done!) but it serves its purpose.
Let's start with the pack's Bad News: the Dark Wolverine figure is mostly a repaint of the previously released Wolverine figures. That makes sense plot-wise and financially but - aside from having a different set of hands (Wolverine's son, Daken, inherited his father's mutant powers), a painted-on tattoo and a slightly darker colour-scheme, it's nothing we haven't seen before.
Okay, that's that out of the way. Let's look at the figure now.
Cards on the table: this is not a great figure. The casting isn't bad in itself, but the joints are incredibly loose for a new figure. Perhaps I was unlucky with my figure or maybe they're all like this.
His waist in particular is very loose. It's nice to be able to pose Wolverine in very feral/animalistic poses but given the weight of his arms, it's impossible to do any kind of position involving a twist and raised arms.
It's probably hard to see from these photos, but getting him to stand in any kind of pose without falling over took a lot of patience, time and effort. I've used an Iron Man 2 stand here and getting the peg into his foot took a massive amount of effort, yet paradoxically, it took more effort to make it stay in there. I had to resort to photographing him from the knees up to hide the fact I was holding him in place with my fingers...
It's odd, as my Secret Wars Wolverine - of which this is a repaint/recycle - is just fine.
So given he's not so great, how does Dark Wolverine's pack-buddy fare?
Thankfully, Hasbro haven't skimped on Dark Spider-man: instead of giving us yet another release of the black costume Spider-man, they've instead given us a new figure. And what a figure it is!
Dark Spider-man is in fact the Venom symbiote, hence the new cast. This is a bulkier figure than the regular Spider-man, but still retaining the essential Spider-man-ness required to convey the character we all know.
Joints are nice and stiff, but not so tight as to be un-poseable. Check the gallery below and you'll see it's a much more dynamic and poseable figure than Dark Wolverine. I also like the cast of his hands - the combination of fist and open hand allow for a lot of expression within the poses.
The paint job is a master-stroke. The purple, almost metallic hues bring a slimy, wet look to the figure and also do a great job of reflecting highlights and giving the black costume a lot of depth. It's funny how Hasbro at times almost seem to be two different companies - compare this subtle, yet incredibly effective paint job with that of Cyclops in the other Greatest Battle pack...
Is this the best Marvel Universe figure? No. But it's certainly a very good one and I'd be tempted to say it's certainly the best painted.
The pack includes Dark Avengers #1. It's an okay read if you like seeing people in spandex punching each other. Without context it's all a little ''okay, and...?'' but the artwork is nice.
The figures themselves do not come with stands or accessories.
This is a tough one to call. Dark Spider-man is great, basically a good Venom figure that doesn't look cartoonish (the lolling tongue ones from the Spider-man main toy line always look silly to me) and has an amazing paint job. On the other hand, Dark Wolverine is simply a repaint and minor retool of a figure we've not only seen before, but we've also seen in countless other guises. I appreciate Hasbro see Wolverine (along with Iron Man and Spider-man) as a good cash cow, given how popular the character is, but I'm getting a little tired of Battle Action Wolverine and his countless variants and it makes me wonder what Hasbo has planned next.
It really boils down to your collector tastes. Hasbro are planning more Dark Avengers (Bullseye as Dark Hawkeye is on the cards) and we already have Norman Osborn in his Iron Patriot outfit (is it just me or does the unmasked variant look like Barack Obama?) so if you're looking to recreate the Dark Avengers storyline, you'll be able to soon.
For casual collectors and kids, it's a nice, cheap way of getting two figures. Again though, why they call them ''Battle Packs'' and then provide two allies makes no sense to me. Having an original versus imposter would have been a much better move, in my opinion, but we shouldn't really complain, as it's a good way to get some more obscure characters we probably wouldn't see in the single packs.
Overall I'd give it a cautious thumbs-up, but only just. Dark Wolverine isn't the worst Marvel Universe figure I've seen but he's not going to win any awards. Dark Spider-man is great though, so if you're a fan of Venom and find yourself with a spare $15 or so, you could do worse than to pick-up this pack, if only for him.