Monday, November 22, 2010

REVIEW: Iron Man 2's Fury of Combat Multi-Pack

As commander of the world's most powerful and secret spy organization, Nick Fury tried not to get directly involved in combat.  Still, there's always a time to make an exception.  IRON MAN is the centerpiece of all his carefully laid plans, so Fury has no reservations about jumping right into the fight.

Hasbro's Toys-R-Us exclusive triple-pack, the Fury of Combat, is their latest Movie Series combo-pack, featuring Iron Man (Mark VI), twin Ground Assault Drones and - let's face it, the reason you'll buy it - Nick Fury.  As I've mentioned before, Hasbro's Marvel toys are a schizophrenic bunch.  Some are excellent, some not so great.  So how does the Fury of Combat pack shape-up?  Is it another Iron Monger or Silver Centurion?  Is it more Hasselhoff than Jackson?

David Hasslehoff?  Samuel L. Jackson?  I'm Confused
There are essentially two versions of Nick Fury.  The original - created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee - exists in ''standard'' Marvel continuity and was the bouffy-haired, snarling chap that appeared on the back of the earlier Marvel Universe figure cards, encouraging buyers to register their purchases online.  Collect enough Marvel Universe figures and you could mail-away for an exclusive Nick Fury figure, based on this version of the character and it's this Nick Fury that David Hasselhoff portrayed in the 1998 TV Movie.

When Marvel introduced the Ultimate Universe - essentially a side-reboot for new readers - they decided that Nick Fury as he was, was no longer cool.  Fury was therefore reimagined by Mark Millar and Brian Hitch, using (with his permission) Bad Muddy Funster Samuel L. Jackson as the source of inspiration.  Of course, when Marvel went on to film their properties, it was obvious that Jackson would fill the shoes of his comicbook counterpart.  So the Nick Fury in this collection is the Movie AND Ultimates version of the character.  Do try to keep up.

Okay, what about the Fury of Combat pack itself?


Packaging is functional but effective: a clear-plastic front allows a good view of the figures within and can be opened (at either end) with a minimal amount of damage to the box.  The only downside is the use of tape to secure the flap - tape that tears the box unless you're very careful.  

The Iron Man 2 figures are often aimed at a younger audience and this is reflected in the colourful and eye-catching packaging.

The Iron Man and Ground Assault Drones come with their own mini-diorama recreating the battle scene from the movie, whilst Nick Fury's backdrop is a simple AVENGERS ASSEMBLE logo.  The rear of the box - shown above - displays the figures themselves.

So what's inside the box?  Well, let's start with the Iron Man figure.

Iron Man (Mark VI)
The movie Iron Man is a pretty close adaptation of the comics version, with some minor changes, the most striking of which is the colour-scheme.  As well as adding some silver to the mix, the movie Iron Man's gold-colouring is much more bronze-ish than the gold metal sheen of the comicbooks (and figures.)

It's a nice effect but it looks a little out-of-place alongside the regular Marvel Universe toys.  There are also some minor paint problems with my figure, specifically a couple of splodges on his thigh and the helmet detail is very sloppy.  Perhaps this is only my figure, but it's worth noting and if you're looking to buy, pay attention to the visor-area - it's here the paintjob will be at its worst.

Joint-wise the figure is stiff but poseable once you work those boxed-up cracks out of him.  However - and again, this could be my figure only - his torso joint is very loose.  Not to the extent of not holding a pose or being floppy but it does feel much slacker than the others.

There is a design-flaw with the figure's joints, though.  His knees and thighs feature extended ''protective panels'' that lock into place when the leg is straight.  However, this causes problems when you come to pose the figure and limits mobility.

As you can see here, it restricts his wider stances.  Granted, you probably don't want to pose Iron Man doing box splits, but does limit his poseability.

There's also a weird cast to the ''neutral'' pose, which is accurate to the movies but appears odd on the figure.  It's difficult to summarise, but watch how the movie Iron Man's torso is often pushed forward, his back curved, whenever he uses his palm repulsors to fly.  It's realistic (as being lifted by your arms would cause you to adopt that position) but it looks strange on a static figure.  As his head has no vertical movement, it means that if you want your figure to look forward, you have to push the torso back into this pose.

Given he's the star of the movies, it's a shame to see the Iron Man figure having such small defects.  If you can get past them then there's nothing really wrong with the figure.  It's just not really a deal-making, must-have figure.

Ground Assault Drones

The pack also comes with two Ground Assault Drones.  Both figures are the tank-like mechanoids created by Justin Hammer and hijacked by Ivan Vanko.  From memory they seem to be a pretty good likeness of the movie mechamonsters.

As well as featuring built-in weapons (and very cool fold-down ''suport tabs'' on their feet), each GAD includes a snap-in back cannon that fits into the port in the figure's torso and protrudes over its shoulder.

It's a nice - but flawed - idea.  You see, there's what appears to be a hinged-piece on the cannon mount and you'd expect to be able to reposition the barrel.  That's not the case though - the ammo cannister to the rear and the figure's shoulder pad to the fore unfortunately hamper the range of movement.

This restriction of movement isn't limited to the cannon - the hip and knee joints are also hampered by armour plates.

I understand it's supposed to be a big, bulky and slightly primative mechanoid but it's a shame these parts are cast in such a poorly thought-out manner.  It would have been nice to see, for example, the cannon given a wider range of vertical movement to allow it to, say, shoot at airborne targets. 

The joints themselves are fine on my two Ground Assault Units.  They move relatively freely (with the exceptions of the armour plates that limit movement) and are tight enough to hold a pose with ease.

One annoyance is that the weapons on each arm are bent due to the way they've been packaged.  I've seen this happen before with limbs but this is pretty extreme - both Ground Assault Units appear equipped with a special forearm-mounted gun designed to shoot around corners.

As for the paint-job, it's an odd one to call.  I think they're supposed to look battle-worn and like service machines, rather than shiny super-heroic hi-tech suits.  However, it comes off as looking more like poorly-applied paint in some places.  They also stink.  After handling them for a few minutes, my fingers now smell of turpentine or paint thinner.  For a toy aimed at ages four and up, that's a little worrying.

Overall, the Ground Assault Units make a nice villain for kids to play with (given that they're not ''real people'' so there are no moral ambiguities about shooting them) but as a collectable it's hard to get excited about them.  They look nice and have some cool touches (such as the fold-down foot stabilisers) but they lack any kind of Marvel Universe personality and pale next to such colourful characters as the Green Goblin.  Yes, I know they're supposed to be simple drones but it would be nice to see a little more creative spark.

Nick Fury
Okay, so you've probably skipped ahead to this part of the review.  I can't say I blame you, as - like I said before - Nick Fury is the star of this set and his presence is the reason you're considering buying the pack.

I'll put you out of your misery right now - the Nick Fury figure is very good.  It has a few flaws but if you're somebody who's in a dash - say you're standing in Toys-R-Us reading this on your phone and fighting-off a bunch of kids who keep trying to grab the last Fury of Combat set in the store - then grab it and get to the check-out.  You can read the rest of the review when you're done wiping tears and blood from your knees...

Firstly, it's a superb likeness of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.  The paint-work (on my figure anyway) is crisp, with his beard and eye-patch having no splodges or drops of mis-applied paint and his remaining eye is perfectly dotted.  He doesn't look boss-eyed or surprised.  His eye is baddd.  With three ds.  Because he's so awesomely baddd.

The head-sculpt is certainly a winner. 

Now for the not-so-great news.  His body-cast is pretty average.  It's fine that it looks like pretty much every other miltary figure out there - he's a SHIELD operative and so of course he'll have a miltaristic look to him.  However, remove the trenchcoat and suddenly Mister Baddd becomes a pencil-necked dweeb.


It may not be so clear on the photos but the figure is quite skinny under the coat.  I assume it's so the coat fits and, when in place, stops him looking like a fat Matrix fan.  However, it's certainly odd to see the figure stripped in this way and he does lose a few cool points when you remove the accessory.  Not that you'll pose him without it of course, as the coat is an integral part of the figure, but you will find yourself removing it to reposition his joints.  It's difficult to feel where they are and, should you try to force the arm to bend against the joint, you could end-up snapping the limb completely.

The coat itself isn't badly made - given the scale the manufacturers were working to.  The collar is cut in an odd manner (it would have been better had it tapered to a point) and it does tend to stick-out a bit but with a bit of work it's possible to make it appear to-scale with the figure and it certainly gives him a nice shape.  It's also good to see they didn't simply re-use the Blade figure's trenchcoat, so Hasbro deserve praise for that.  I like that a cloth coat isn't something you usually see at this scale and it gives the figure a unique look.

One other point worth mentioning is that Nick Fury comes with a small pistol that fits fairly well into either hand (both are sculpted in a gun-holding position.)  The problem, more of an oversight, really, is that the figure is cast with a pistol in his shoulder-holster that doesn't come out and his other pistol has no corresponding holster.  So he has to either carry his pistol or be displayed without it.  The Secret Wars Doctor Doom had the same problem, yet the Bucky Barnes Captain America and Union Jack figures both come with holsters for their weapons.  Again we see Hasbro's schizophrenic design notions in action.

Joints are nice and tight, but the figure uses the old-style peg hip-joint, rather than the ball one.  That's odd given that the other figures in the pack use the rotating ball system.  However, it's not a bit deal, as he's not going to be doing a lot of wide-stance posing.  He's just going to stand there and be cool.  Speaking of which, the figure is more than capable of standing without a base.  Just as well, given that the set doesn't include stands.

If all these minor points make Nick Fury sound like a poor figure, then don't pay them any heed.  The figure is great and these are really just some tiny design decisions (not even flaws, really) that can easily be overlooked and that pale when you look at the figure as a whole.

The pack comes with two slot-in weapons for the Ground Assault Drones, although given how integral they are to the figures, it's hard to classify them as extras really.  Nick Fury comes with a small (unique cast) pistol.  There are no stands or extra biographical cards/folders included in the pack.  I find that a little disappointing, as the Iron Man 2 figures and the newer Marvel Universe releases all have stands and sometimes it's difficult to display the figures well without them.

Final Thoughts
If you've a kid who loves the Iron Man movies, this is a steal.  At just a shade over $25 you get four figures - two good guys, two bad guys.  Whilst the Iron Man figure may have its faults in a collector's view, it's perfect play-fodder for a kid.  Ditto with the Ground Assault Units.  Many hours of blasting fun will be had, I'm sure.

If you're a collector, the simple question is this: is it worth paying $25 for a Nick Fury figure? Because that's your buying decision here.  Unless you're a complete Marvel Universe/Iron Man newbie, you'll have some version or variant of him in your collection - quite possibly even the Mark VI one included here.  The Ground Assault Units are available as individual figures and movie-marks will probably already have them (and their sea and air counterparts.)  So that leaves Nick Fury, the one unique figure in the set.

So again, I ask - is he worth it?

My answer would be a definite yes.  Okay, so he's not the best-cast of the figures out there, he's not flashy or as eye-catching as some of the other Marvel releases and yeah, he's not without his faults.  But if you're a Marvel collector, a fan of the Iron Man movies or you just like Samuel L. Jackson, then it's pretty much a no-brainer.  Get him and get him now, before everybody else snaps him up.

Iron Man

Production QualityB+
Final ScoreB

Ground Assault Drone
Production QualityB-
Final ScoreB-

Nick Fury
Production QualityA-
Final ScoreA-

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