Tuesday, November 30, 2010

REVIEW: Marvel Universe's Mystique

Mystique is the ultimate super-spy, a shape-shifting mutant capable of impersonating anybody and anyone.  As such, she's served both sides, aligning herself with whichever individual or group would help her own cause.  Yet despite her ruthlessness and hatred of homo sapiens, she's also been a mother (and mother-figure) to a number of mutants, including the X-Men's Nightcrawler and Rogue.

Today I'm looking at Marvel Universe's Mystique (as if the title above wasn't enough of a give-away.)

Mystique comes in the standard Marvel Universe blister-pack, with card artwork by Mike Deodato.  Whilst the packaging is functional and basic, one thing I do like is the fact that each card has individual artwork for each character.  This is a pet peeve of mine with the Iron Man 2 line, as it makes sifting through the figures a chore.  With the Marvel Universe toys, it's possible to identify each figure by its packaging alone, which is something I like.

Now on to the figure itself.


I'm going to just go straight for the jugular in this review: there are some pretty serious problems with Mystique.  Firstly, her paint-job reveals a rather odd design-decision on the part of Hasbro.  As you can see, her skin is blue and her outfit is white.  Given that her halter-neck top  covers 90% of her torso, why then did they decide to cast her in blue plastic and paint this part white?  Surely it would have made more sense to use white plastic and paint-in the blue parts!

Whatever the reasoning behind it, it doesn't work.  Is it supposed to be semi-transparent?  Is it a blue shadow effect to accentuate the figure's details?  Or is it just cheap white paint that hasn't been applied well-enough to cover the blue plastic underneath?  I don't know, but what I do know is that it doesn't look particularly polished. 

What's odd is that her hands are cast of white plastic.  I'm guessing they're re-uses from the Secret Wars Spider-Woman figure (which also suffered the same painted-on white problems) or another white-gloved female figure.  Which would be fine if the painted white areas matched them.  Which they don't.

As for the rest of the paint-job, it's not bad - eyes, eyebrows (especially) and lips are pretty tight, with no splodges or mis-applied paint.  Her hair suffers a similar blue-wash/shadow effect that dulls it down a little but it's nothing you can't live with.

The other problem with the figure is that she's been cast with a very odd back.  Her torso is formed from two pieces - a stomach/core and chest/shoulder piece.  This allows for her to twist both at the waist and at the chest.  Although that might sound odd, given real people don't do that, it's a clever way to approximate the flexibility of human beings.

That's all well and good, except the moment you turn her upper-torso, her back becomes lumpy and mis-shapen, as if she's either been eating 'roids or a dozen quarter-pounders for breakfast.  Let's face it, Mystique is something of a sex object in the comics: just do a quick Google search for Mystique and you'll see how she's been portrayed by artists and fans.  Now look at the lardy man-back on this figure. 

It's as if in their quest to over-sexualise the figure with a large pair of breasts Hasbro felt they had to address some kind of Karmic balance and so lumbered her with this weird globby back to stop her being too sexy.  It's odd, given they've gone to all the trouble of creating a custom piece that they made such a bad job of it.  I know it may sound as if I'm being overly-critical but it really drags the figure's quality down.

Now for the better news.

In terms of poseability there are no real problems.  The rubbery skirt doesn't inhibit movement and is - thankfully - not attached (it's held by her skull-belt) meaning it can be repositioned easily when posing the toy.  The joints themselves (on my figure anyway) seem tight enough and she can hold poses just fine.  The only minor points are that (A) her right hand is cast to hold her rifle but does so badly - her trigger finger tends to flip-out the rifle and getting her to hold it straight takes some work and (B) her foot holes seem larger than the pegs on her stand.  She'll stand fine with both feet planted wide but try standing her with only one foot peg in-place and she'll fall over.  It's odd to see such a minor problem appear in the line, given Hasbro has been producing Marvel Universe figures for over 18 months now.

Mystique comes with an assault rifle (which annoyingly she can't hold in both hands, a problem common to most Marvel universe toys), HAMMER file and personalised stand.

Final Thoughts

Mystique is a reasonably good-looking figure - until you look closer.  The figure's silhouette is great and the skirt makes her a unique-looking toy among the skin-tight, pantsed-up spandex brigade. 

However, the figure is really let-down by the decision to use white-painted blue plastic for so much of her outfit.  Had it been applied better then perhaps I wouldn't be complaining.  But as it stands, the toy loses a lot of marks due to the combination of a bad decision and bad execution.  Then there's the weird torso piece.  I know it seems a minor point but the more I look at the figure, the more the mis-shapen, lumpy shoulders freak me out.

It's just so wrong.

It's a real let-down, because on-paper this figure should be outstanding.  And it does come close to greatness but the flaws are simply too much for me.  Of course, X-Men fans are going to snap-up Mystique and I'm sure many won't be disappointed.  Perhaps I simply got unlucky with my paint-job and there are perfectly-painted Mystiques out there.  But that still doesn't compensate for the weird back and the fact that a figure so badly painted was allowed onto the shelves.

My advice is to examine the figure carefully before buying.  If you find one with a good paint-job then go for it.  Alternatively, if you feel crafty you could always try to paint her yourself.  Either way, just make sure when you do pose her, she's facing you, otherwise her back will give you many weeks of nightmares...

Production QualityB-
Final ScoreB-

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