Monday, January 7, 2013

REVIEW: Marvel Universe's Beta-Ray Bill

Produced by Hasbro | Released November 2012

From the smoldering wreckage of his home world, BETA-RAY BILL was cast off - a survivor chosen to find a new planet for his fellow Korbinites. He soon encountered THOR and after a brief but honorable skirmish, emerged victorious. So impressed was ODIN that he rewarded the Korbinite with the battle hammer known as Stormbreaker. With this mighty weapon of virtue, BETA-RAY BILL became a true threat to the galaxy's darkest evils!

Beta-Ray Bill
Beta-Ray Bill made his debut appearance in the early 80s (in issue #337 of The Mighty Thor for those interested in tracking it down.) Initially presented as a bad guy - or at least, perceived by the heroes of Earth to be so - Beta-Ray Bill's honor, courage and mercy proved him to be as worthy to wield Thor's hammer Mjolnir as the Asgardian himself. But as it was impossible for both heroes to share the same weapon, Odin commissioned the forging of a new weapon - Stormbreaker - which Bill employs to this day.

It's a brave move from Hasbro to release such an obscure character. Will it pay off for them or is Beta-Ray Bill destined to sit on the pegs? Read on and find out...

Sculpt & Design
The first thing to notice is just how striking Beta-Ray Bill's design is. Based upon Walt Simonson's original designs (which owe a lot to Jack Kirby's original Thor look, too) Beta-Ray Bill is certainly an odd-looking character. Not that odd is always bad.

The sculptors have done an outstanding job capturing Beta-Ray Bill's look. Hasbro has been quite brave in their approach, using a number of custom pieces and character-specific tooling to create the figure, something I certainly applaud. I particularly like the way they've captured the Kirby-homage of Simonson's design, with Beta-Ray Bill's boots and shoulder pads featuring a superb Silver Age/New Gods vibe to them. 

It's impressive to see just how far Hasbro went with Beta-Ray Bill's tooling. It would have been very easy to recycle a bunch of previously used parts and hope nobody would notice and yes, whilst he does share some common pieces with previous Marvel Universe releases, the figure sports more character-specific parts than I've seen in the line for a long while, with his legs, hands and - obviously - head being the real stand-out features.

The head sculpt is particularly awesome, capturing Beta-Ray Bill's Asgardian-meets-alien look perfectly, right down to the hollow cheeks, rounded snout and winged helmet. And any figure that has tongue detail certainly scores well in my book.

It's a general rule that whenever an action figure features a lot of custom tooling and sculpt work that there'll be a trade-off in the articulation in order to keep costs down. Incredibly though, Hasbro has managed to not only produce a figure in Beta-Ray Bill that sports a number of custom pieces but also managed to retain an incredibly high level of articulation.

Let's start with what's not here though. If you're a fan of the rocker ankles and tilt-able wrists you won't find them here. But beyond that, Beta-Ray Bill features the same level of poseability found in other characters from the line - and in some cases, even more. Not only does he sports a tilt-able neck joint and jaw articulation(!) but he also includes both torso and waist joints, meaning you can pose him in an assortment of twisting/turning power-poses, ready to battle whatever cosmic evil he encounters.

The joints themselves are solid, allowing Beta-Ray Bill to hold poses with ease. I've complained in the past that with some other Marvel Universe toys I've felt like I was fighting against the figure to get the pose I wanted but there are no such complaints here. Beta-Ray Bill certainly delivers on the articulation front, as you can see from the above images.

Beta-Ray Bill's paint design is based upon the original character's costume and it does a great job capturing the overall look. The app itself is very neat and cleanly done, with such details as his chest ''buttons'' and ''circuit work'' and his eyes (in particular) being of particular note.

If I had a criticism it's that the gold plastic used for his boots and belt are maybe a little, well, plastic-looking. It's always difficult to translate a metallic luster into toy form but I'll give Hasbro credit at least for trying.

Extras & Accessories
As is now standard with the Marvel Universe line Beta-Ray Bill does not come with any form of SHIELD/HAMMER file or a stand. Whilst I can live without the former it's a real shame to see the latter gone although at least Beta-Ray Bill's excellent cape makes a great third-leg/prop to hold him in place.

I have to admit that I'm also not a fan of Stormbreaker. Like his boots and belt it suffers from being cast from the rather disappointing ''gold'' plastic. Had it been given some form of paint app it might not have looked so cheap but I can't help but be reminded of a squeaky rubber hammer.

Final Thoughts
I don't mean to turn Hasbro's decision to release Beta-Ray Bill into a negative - it isn't and I'm pleased to see them offering new characters beyond the casual fan-favorites Spider-Man, Iron Man and Captain America - but I can imagine a lot of buyers who aren't so familiar with Marvel's pantheon finding Beta-Ray Bill an oddity and so passing on picking him up. And that would be a big mistake, as Beta-Ray Bill is a pretty awesome figure.

After Hasbro's recent penny-pinching I'm seriously impressed and surprised with just how much extra, figure-specific work has gone into producing Beta-Ray Bill. Whilst there are indeed parts from other figures here, they play second fiddle to the unique parts - of which there are a surprisingly high number. From his jointed jaw and New Gods-style boots to his three-fingered hands and awesome cape there's an incredibly impressive level of detail here, all presented with little to no trade-off or price-accommodating cutbacks to his articulation. That's quite an achievement.

Ultimately whether you like Beta-Ray Bill in figure form comes down to whether you like Beta-Ray Bill as a character but hopefully there'll be enough of a take-up from collectors bored of the same half-dozen repeat characters (now with hat!) that Hasbro will continue to not only expand the line with such obscure characters but also produce them to this standard, as this is certainly one of Hasbro's best technical accomplishments in the Marvel Universe line-up so far.

Most definitely worthy.

Final Score: A-

Image Gallery


  1. I've been a fan of BRB since he first appeared and was thrilled to get this figure. Unlike some of my other recent favorite characters (Scarlet Witch) the articulation doesn't noticeably affect the look of the figure. The hinged jaw is a great touch.

    1. I'm really happy to see Hasbro expanding the line with more obscure characters. I've also got KANG sitting lined-up for Review, another great, albeit unknown figure from the line.

  2. Replies
    1. He is! He might not look so great on the shelf but when you get him out and pose him he's very cool indeed.


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