Thursday, December 1, 2011

REVIEW: Marvel Universe's Doctor Strange

Produced by Hasbro | Released May 2011

DOCTOR STRANGE is one of the most accomplished masters of the mystic arts in existence and an inspiration to armchair sorcerers across multiple worlds. His ability to execute seemingly impossible spells and teleportations is legendary. Mystical artifacts like the red cloak of levitation and the eye of Agamotto only enhance they mystical ability and legend of DOCTOR STRANGE.

Marvel Universe's Doctor Strange
Despite being - at least as far as I'm aware - a fairly well-known and popular character in the Marvel pantheon, Hasbro took the decision to ''short pack'' the  Doctor Strange figure on release. Granted they did produce a ''phasing'' semi-transparent version of the figure as part of the same wave but it strikes me as an odd move to limit the availability of one of Marvel's better known B-role characters. Anyway, after many fruitless months of searching I was finally able to locate a single Doctor Strange. Was he worth it?

Packaging
Doctor Strange comes in the usual Marvel Universe packaging, albeit with a minor change in the form of a ''deeper'' blister pack (to accommodate his cloak.) Hasbro has really gone to town with the ''security'' of this figure's packaging - both hands and the cloak are held in the restraining tray, another piece holds his head in place and a clear rubbery band is wrapped around both feet to secure him. It's a good thing the figure is well put-together but even so, it's still slightly harrowing getting him out of the pack.


I'm not sure about the ''up the nose'' pose on the front artwork but I've seen worse. I'm definitely not a fan of the rear blurb though. It seems like a first-pass somebody cobbled together but never revisited. I'd have thought the Eye of Agamotto, for example, should be capitalised (it's not) and comments about''armchair sorcerers'' and ''impossible teleportations'' just seem very clunky...

Sculpt and Design
Over the last couple of waves it seems Hasbro has really been attempting to push the envelope with their designs and Doctor Strange is no exception. Put simply, I think Doctor Strange is one of the best-looking figures Hasbro has produced for the line yet. No corners have been cut and no shortcuts have been taken when it comes to capturing the Master of the Mystic Arts' look and the figure certainly does him justice.


There's a pretty simple reason for this: Doctor Strange isn't a spandex-clad hero in the usual mold and so Hasbro has been forced to produce a number of new, unique pieces for the figure. Granted, some of the leg parts may be recycled from other figures but as far as I can tell, the vast majority of Doctor Strange's composition features brand-new parts and - because of that - Hasbro's designers could concentrate on getting his look just right without worrying about compromising by including pre-used parts.


Doctor Strange's core sculpt features a number of figure-specific parts, all of which are very nicely produced. From his wrinkled tunic (complete with below-the-belt ''tails''), flowing sash and Cloak of Levitation (which includes his trademark pointed collar) the detailing on this figure is superb. Not only does it capture his look perfectly but it also does so with a lot of attention to detail. Folds, creases and embossed stitching are all present and there's certainly a lot to engage the eye beyond the initial impact the figure makes.


The head sculpt is also pretty good. Doctor Strange has undergone a number of changes since his introduction in 1963's Strange Tales #110. The first stories depicted Doctor Strange as a slightly sinister character, with a mysterious past and a Svengali-like appearance. Over time Ditko developed a more ''heroic'' look for the Doctor but this figure seems to capture both, with the slightly ''top-heavy'' triangular head of the earlier appearances combined with the trustworthy, heroic look he developed later. Either way it's a nice piece, with some cool detailing on his hair and his awesome 'stache, although the actual head shape may be a little squished for some tastes.

Articulation
The sculpting is impressive, for sure. But the articulation set up used by this figure is even more impressive.

What's so good about this articulation rig? Let's start from the top and work down. 

His head can be rotated in the usual left-right manner but also includes a forward/backward tilt and a ball and socket joint that allows for lateral tilting. It's as close to a human neck joint as I've seen from the line and it allows for a lot of expressive poses.


Although he lacks any kind of elbow rotation, his shoulders allow for a fair amount of inward/outward motion. Nothing really new there, but when we reach his wrists we discover that they're not only rotate-able but also tilt-able. And unlike some of the recent GI Joe figures, they don't look at all swollen. (Speaking of his hands and wrists, I'd be amazed if Hasbro don't recycle these hands and use them on an upcoming Spider-Man figure, as his ''mystical gesture'' pose is identical to that used by Spidey to fire his web-slinger.)

Doctor Strange features an articulated torso and waist, something that's not always seen in Marvel Universe figures. Whilst the latter works without any issues, I did find the upper torso joint to be a little stiff/springy. Perhaps this will work-out with use or it could simply be an issue with my figure but whilst it's annoying, I'd rather have more joints that are a little quirky than fewer joints that are predictable.


His hips are still the disappointing ball-joint/cut-thigh combo used by most modern Marvel Universe figures. Given his robe tends to restrict his hip movement somewhat it's not a big deal but I do wish Hasbro would adopt the GI Joe style of joint. I know I say that in pretty much every Marvel Universe Review I write but it's something I feel would improve the line massively.

Finally we get to the feet and ankle joints, which feature both forward/backward movement and a tilt-able joint. There's no rotation here but a cut-calf joint allows him to be posed in a variety of stances. Again, this is a great step-forward for the line and it's amazing to compare this set-up to that seen just a couple of years ago and used by the earlier figures.

Paint
Sadly, whilst Doctor Strange is superbly sculpted and has great articulation, the figure has some issues when it comes to his paintwork.


Let's start with the bad. My Doctor Strange's eyes aren't evenly applied. As a result he has one eye that's significantly ''larger'' than the other. It's not that noticeable if you pose him correctly but if you look closely you can see it. His gauntlets also feature some splash-over onto his tunic, with an edge that's hardly what you'd call clean.

Oddest of all, somebody decided it would be a cool touch to add some ''cosmic crackle'' to his wrists, as if he's in the middle of casting a spell. Sadly the end result looks more like he's sporting a pair of leopard skin print gauntlets. Maybe Doctor Strange digs the Jersey fashion scene.


The remainder of his paintwork is fairly well-applied and pretty creative. The gold trim on his cloak and the mystic symbol on his chest are nicely done, there's a very subtle colour wash on his tunic and the colour work seems pretty spot-on in terms of the comicbook character's look.

My advice is to check the paintwork before you buy. Granted, given he's not the easiest of figures to find you may not have that option but if you do find yourself with more than one Doctor Strange then look closely before making your purchase.

Extras and Accessories
Doctor Strange features a removable Cloak of Levitation and his own stand. I'd have liked to see some clip-on ''magic effect'' hand accessories but given how much plastic (and unique design) Hasbro has pumped into this figure I can understand why he's a little shy on the extras front. It's no real loss though, given he's a magically-powered superhero rather than a soldier or other gear-heavy type of character.

Final Thoughts
Put simply, Doctor Strange is one of - if not - the best Marvel Universe releases to date. His sculpt work is excellent, his articulation is great and whilst he has some minor paint issues and is a little lacking in the extras department, the overall production quality is superb. It's a real shame Hasbro has limited this figure's release numbers, as this is a superb example of Hasbro getting it right.

I'm hoping that we'll not only see more of Doctor Strange landing on shelves as Hasbro releases more revision cases but also that we'll see a lot of this figure's features being carried forward. The head, wrist and ankle joints are superb additions that really enhance the figure's poseability and are just the sort of innovations the line needs to enjoy a continued success.

It may sound like a cliché but if you're only going to buy one Marvel Universe figure, make it this one. Doctor Strange is phenomenally good and if you're a collector of the line who hasn't found him yet, do your best to hunt him down. If - like me - you've been a little disappointed by recent additions to the Marvel Universe range this is the figure that will reignite your passion for collecting the line.

Outstanding.

Scores
Sculpt and DesignA
ArticulationA-
PaintB+
Extras and Accessories B+
Final ScoreA

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