Monday, December 3, 2012

REVIEW: Marvel Universe's Spider-Man (Future Foundation Costume)

Produced by Hasbro | Released October 2012

Some marvel at his acrobatic abilities and call him the Wallcrawler. Others hail him as the Webslinger. Certain newspaper editors stubbornly call him words unfit to print. No matter what you call him, this friendly neighborhood crime fighter is one of the world's greatest heroes. With every challenge he faces and every enemy he battles, SPIDER-MAN always remembers that with great power comes great responsibility.

Future Foundation Spider-Man?
When events in the Marvel Universe lead to the disbanding of the Fantastic Four, leader Reed Richards formed a new science-based team of thinkers and philanthropists, which he dubbed The Future Foundation. Created to help the world through scientific discovery and help usher in a new era of enlightenment, The Future Foundation also saw the former Fantastic Four members don new, snazzy white costumes. And when Spidey joined... well it would be a missed marketing opportunity rude of him not to follow suit, hence this new white-costume, Future Foundation Spider-Man figure.

The figure comes in the standard Marvel Universe/Hasbro blister packaging. Unfortunately over the last few releases Hasbro seems to have become paranoid about their figures coming loose in-transit, to the point of employing restraining cases so tight that they actually bend the figures out of shape. Most recently my Kraven the Hunter had a somewhat bent calf and now my Future Foundation Spider-Man has similar issues with his lower legs. Still, I suppose it means he won't look out of place beside my Future Foundation variant Reed Richards, either (and yes, now I have Spidey to compliment the set, I'll be Reviewing the Fantastic Four Future Foundation variant pack soon, too!)

It's also a little disappointing to see how generic the back blurb is. I appreciate there's a super-awesome paper bag/Fantastic Four costume variant of the figure but I'd have preferred to see a more Future Foundation-specific text, rather than this somewhat bland Spider-Man 101.

Sculpt & Design
I haven't done a proper head count but I've a feeling this must be around the 6th Spider-Man figure I've acquired since I began collecting the Marvel Universe line. Thankfully the new-look adds an entirely new, fresh feeling to the figure, so whilst, yes, it's yet another Spidey, it's also a revitalized take on everybody's favorite webslinging hero.

The pieces themselves are, I'm sure, recycled from a number of previous releases but given that most superheroes tend to sport simple/iconic costumes, I'm not going to blame Hasbro for re-using parts. A pair of tights is a pair of tights is a pair of tights as far as sculpting goes.

I could be wrong but this feels like a slightly bulkier sculpt than that used for previous Spider-Man releases. It's not overly muscular but it feels more ''defined'' than the slightly skinnier, more flat-chested Spideys we've seen in the past, which is a good thing, as Spider-Man should be in shape.

It's a little disappointing to see his hand sculpt doesn't include the Metal Horns/web-launching hand we've come to associate with Spidey, with the figure instead sporting a clenched fist and one open hand. It's not a huge issue but it does take away a little bit of the special-ness of Spider-Man.

The head sculpt is pretty cool, given that there's not a huge amount of detail to the comic book mask. The designers have managed to convey a sense of cloth-over-the-face, too, rather than is simply looking like his actual head (although to be honest, he does have a bit of a Gray Alien kind of look to him, too.)

The Future Foundation Spider-Man's articulation is particularly impressive - at least in terms of the design. I'm still not as sold on the new Marvel Universe rig (which uses cut thigh and calf joints along with rocker ankles and both torso and waist twists) as I am on the GI Joe set-up but it's certainly a big leap over the previous buck.

My biggest concern is with the hip/groin articulation, which uses a ball-jointed upper-thigh, cut shorter thanks to the mid-thigh joint and, as a result of that cut, it sometimes feels as if the thigh-piece is going to snap off when you try some wider poses (and I did have the ball-joint pop-out a few times during my photo session). The pieces also feel a little bulky, meaning the ball-joint's movement can be a little restricted. And speaking of restricted joints, the waist twist feels ''ratcheted'' (at least on my Spidey) and won't move beyond a certain range of motion. Which makes sense, given that humans can't do that, but on a toy it feels just a little odd.

Maybe it's just me but I always feel with this new Marvel Universe set-up that I'm constantly battling the figure to get the pose I want. It's like re-positioning the arm causes the thigh to move; rotating the thigh puts the foot out of position. It's stupid to say there's ''too much'' articulation here but sometimes it feels when you're trying to get a good, dynamic pose that it's like spinning plates or herding cats. And although I hate to keep bringing it up but the lack of a base is a real issue when you're dealing with such a poseable figure.

Still, for all these minor grumbles this is probably the most pose-able Spider-Man Hasbro has released in the line yet and so they're to be applauded for that.

Although there are a few minor points with the figure's re-used sculpt pieces and slightly off articulation, where Spider-Man really falls down is on his paint.

In theory the paint app should be good. The white and black costume detail is intricate and there's a gray wash applied to accentuate shadow and muscle. But unfortunately, due to the way the figure is painted prior to assembly, the gray low-lights serve simply to highlight where the independent pieces meet. The chest and abdomen, for example, have very little in the way of gray wash, yet the lower body has an abundance of it, resulting in a very ''hard line'' where one paint app ends and the other begins.

Also - rather confusingly - my Spider-Man has a tiny red blotch of paint on his chest. Where this is from, I've no idea, given his monochromatic color-scheme. 

Still, for all these minor faults (which of course, may only apply to my Spider-Man) the ambition of the piece is certainly at the forefront. So whilst the execution may be a little off, I'd rather see something push the boundaries and fall a little short than just go for the easy route.

Extras & Accessories
Spider-Man comes with his ''Collectible Comic Shot'' (essentially Hasbro's way of making part of the packaging seem like a bonus piece) and a clip-on webbing accessory.

I have to admit I struggled to get the webbing to fit onto Spidey, and even when it does it just looks odd. I've  never understood why Hasbro's designers created such a tangled, odd-looking piece and would much rather see the straight, single line used by some of the other releases.

And there's no stand. Although the line's earlier figures didn't include stands either, I really wish Hasbro would reverse the decision to not include bases. We're paying more now for the figures and receiving less in the way of content. And that's not right.

Final Thoughts
One thing that frustrates me is missed potential. If the above Review sounds angry it's not meant to be: I'm simply disappointed with how, with just a few tweaks, this could have been a phenomenally good figure, rather than a just the very, very good one it's wound-up being, thanks to some design/production missteps.

It's just a shame that the articulation set-up still feels like a work-in-progress, as if Hasbro still hasn't quite settled on what they want the figures to do and how they're going to do it. The shoddy paintwork is inexcusable but I'm going to ignore it in the hopes that perhaps I was just unlucky with my figure. And I can almost - but not quite - overlook the lack of a base. But with a perfect paint job, a slightly sturdier articulation set-up and a stand, then the Final Score below wouldn't include the minus sign.

Overall, this is still a very good figure, so please don't let my critical eye put you off. It's just that, with a few fixes, could - and should - have been outstanding.

Final Score: A-

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