Thursday, September 27, 2012

REVIEW: Marvel Universe's Kraven the Hunter

Produced by Hasbro | Released September 2012

KRAVEN THE HUNTER views the world as two distinct groups: the hunters and the prey. And it is he who is at the top of the food chain. Only SPIDER-MAN has the wit and wherewithal to challenge his cunning. SPIDER-MAN has become this hunter's ultimate prey. KRAVEN THE HUNTER will not rest until the wily web-slinger is caught, captured... defeated.

Marvel Universe 2012 Series 4
After an extended period filled with movie-themed figures, Hasbro has returned once more to the Marvel Universe line proper, with a slew of releases featuring a host of characters, some re-vamped for the line and others being completely new. It's great to see Hasbro revisiting the more obscure characters from the Marvel Universe (something I always liked about the earlier waves), especially when they happen to be such great characters as Kraven the Hunter. But does the new figure do him justice? Read on, True Believer!

Sculpt & Design
Without sounding melodramatic, I have to admit I'm struggling to find a superlative I can use without sounding like a gushing idiot. That probably gives you some idea as to how impressed I am with this figure's sculpt work and the way in which Hasbro has managed to translate the character from the page to toy form. It's a superb piece of work.

Although Kraven's costume has undergone some changes since his first appearance in the Sixties, the figure captures his look perfectly. Lion-mane vest? Check. Klingon beard? Check. Tribal weapons? Check. I have to confess though that I'm not entirely sure which version of Kraven this figure is based upon but regardless of that, he still looks great and is immediately identifiable as the character in question.

Like the previously-seen Scarlet Spider, much of Kraven the Hunter's coolness comes from the ''layer'' accessories he sports. The lion mane vest is pretty much the key to Kraven's look so it's great to see Hasbro's designers have managed to capture its style perfectly and translate it into a fantastically cool-looking bit of sculpt work that conveys the furry look of the paper-based counterpart perfectly.

Kraven the Hunter also sports a hunting/utility belt and loin cloth. This piece sits well on his hips and - on the whole - isn't too intrusive when it comes to his articulation. The fold details are especially strong, with a design that captures the look of moving cloth very well.

The other unique sculpt pieces are found at his knees and feet. Whilst the earlier versions of Kraven the Hunter sported what I always thought looked like slip-on house shoes, this updated costume includes knee-high boots adorned with a skull and fur motif. 

The head sculpt is of particular note, mainly due to the fact that it's excellent. Kraven's aquiline features, intense expression and hair detailing (facial or otherwise) are superbly-well done.

Sadly, these amazing unique sculpt pieces come at a cost, namely that Kraven the Hunter's articulation set-up is based upon the older configuration. That means there's no thigh-split joint, tilting wrists or rocker ankles to be found here. I still find it odd that Hasbro uses such a weird mix of articulation rigs across the same figure line but given the choice between him using more generic pieces in his sculpt and construction or dropping a couple of joints, if it means the figure will look this good I'll most certainly take the articulation hit.

The joints themselves are - on the whole - good, although I did find my Kraven the Hunter featured a slight weakness at the hip joint. He tends to ''fall'' into a standing position and although he's capable of remaining upright (with a little cajoling and prop-assistance) it's a little disappointing to see. I've a feeling the packaging (which I didn't bother to cover above, as it's the standard Marvel Universe blister pack arrangement) may be responsible for putting stress on the joints and stretching them a little and I'd be interested in hearing from other collectors as to whether they've encountered this same problem.

The paint app is another great bit of work, with a combination of painted areas and tampo transfers working well together to capture Kraven's tribal look.

It's a muted palette that gives him a fairly lifelike look and makes sense for a character themed around being a big game hunter. I'm surprised to see he's not sporting leopard-skin print pants but I'm not sure how much of that is down to the character being based upon a costume revision I'm not familiar with and how much is down to Hasbro simply deciding not to attempt such a paint job. It's a very minor point though and unless you're a major Kraven the Hunter geek, you probably won't even notice it.

The facial paint app is strong, with Kraven's dark hair, intense eyes and the redness around them all being very neatly applied. It's also worth mentioning that the straps around his forearms are not - despite how they may appear - sculpted pieces but rather come from a very neatly-applied bit of paint work. 

Extras and Accessories
We'll start with the bad news: in order to cut costs, Hasbro has elected to drop the figure stands from the Marvel Universe line-up. Granted, the earlier figures were also base-free but over the last few years we've come to expect them and it's disappointing to see the figures no longer including stands. It makes posing and displaying the toys difficult (especially in such cases as this Kraven, where his hips are loose) and it's something I wish Hasbro would reconsider.

As for the positives, Kraven comes equipped with a pretty decent arsenal of weaponry in the form of a hunting knife and a spear, plus a removable necklace. Each piece is very nicely designed, sculpted and painted although the packaging has once again taken its toll, this time by bending the spear pretty badly. Given it's supposed to be a primitive weapon, you can almost get away with ascribing its warped nature to that but it's a shame the packaging's poor design impacts the figure's overall quality so badly.

And although it's a minor point, I wish his belt had included a loop for his knife, as it would have been cool to be able to display him with it sheathed.

The pack also includes a ''collectible comic shot'' - essentially a 1'' x .5'' piece of card printed with an image of the character in question. I'm not even sure why Hasbro is making a point of including these things, as they're so tiny as to make them virtually impossible to see with much clarity (and no, that's not just down to my old man eyes) and I'd personally prefer to see a return to the SHIELD/HAMMER files of earlier releases. At least they were interesting to read.

Final Thoughts
I was overjoyed when I first saw that Kraven the Hunter was to be included in an upcoming wave of Marvel Universe toys. Am I still as pleased, now I have him in my collection? The answer is a most definite ''yes.''

Granted, articulation-wise he's missing the extra joints that have begun creeping into the line (although he's no worse than 90% of the figures in the Marvel Universe range), he's lacking a base (which really is unforgivable), the hips - at least on my figure - are a little slack and the packaging inflicts some major warping on the figure's legs and accessories but these are all very minor points that you'll probably only really find if you're nit-picking, as the overall impression the figure makes is a most positive one. The sculpt is excellent, his paint app is flawless and the designers have done a superb job translating him from page to plastic.

It's been a pretty quiet period for collectors of the Marvel Universe line - movie tie-ins aside - but we've been rewarded most generously for our patience. Kraven the Hunter is an absolutely superb figure that sports what's probably one of the best sculpts I've seen from Hasbro in a long time. Here's hoping the other figures in the wave are up to this standard, as this is a phenomenally good bit of work.


Final Score: A

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  1. Replies
    1. He does. I just wish they'd included a stand, as posing him in anything but a propped-up stance proved difficult.


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