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Ghost Rider

Marvel Ultimate Legends
by yo go re

Man, remember when an entire series of Marvel Legends came with free motorcycles?

Johnny Blaze fires up his iconic motorcycle and hits the pavement as the streetwise hot-head, Ghost Rider.

As the flood of Infinity War product hits the shelves, Hasbro is also releasing a few Ultimate Legends sets, which are not (as you may think) based on the Marvel "Ultimate" comics, but instead feature a rider and a bike. Naturally, the first series includes Ghost Rider, because if you're making a line of action figures that ride bikes, and you don't include GR, you've done something terribly, terribly wrong.

The Ghost Rider in this set is the same one that was in Spider-Man Legends 2. You had to buy that figure to complete The Rhino, so this one had better have something really good going for it if it's going to be worth buying again.

He has been painted differently, for what that's worth. The last one was in black leathers, with a white outline on the chest. This one is more classic, with a dark blue jumpsuit and blue stripes on the chest, collar, arms and legs. His belt is a metallic blue, and the skull, rather than being just having a little white paint over translucent orange plastic, is given full and nuanced paint apps to make it look like bone. The vertebrae remain unpainted, but that probably just means Hasbro couldn't find a way to paint them that looked good.

He no longer has the chain wrapped around his chest, but that's because now it's a separate accessory. He's taken it off to use as a hellfire whip, so the lower edge is sculpted to look like chain links and painted silver, while the top is translucent orange and has sculpted flames rising up off the curl. This is a pretty awesome piece - not quite ToY material, but still fun. GR can hold it in either hand, and since his articulation remains unchanged from last time, you'll be able to give him some wicked poses.

Now let's talk what really matters: the bike.

We've had Ghost Riders on bikes before, but this is not any of those - this is a new mold, from the wheels up. Danny Ketch's cycle was a weird, angular thing, while Johnny's was just a normal motorcycle that happened to be on fire. Over the years it's picked up some more outlandish elements, such as the big skull shield on the front end, but this is still a classic motorcycle underneath. The body of the bike is black, with a blue stripe along the gas tank that matches its rider's.

But hey, about that shield. It's cast in silver plastic, with a translucent yellow "plug" to fill the eyes. A nice idea, but the nasal cavity and the top of the piece - what would normally be the windscreen - should also be clear. That'll make it tough for him to see when he's pulled far enough into a parking space, let me tell you! Plus, the sculptor has mistaken "the front wheel shocks, but they're in the background" for "there should be tiny bars connecting the cheekbones to the lightning bolt dealies, because that's a thing that happens."

(We can tell what's right and what's not because the entire design of this piece of frippery has been lifted whole cloth from a specific piece of art - a 2006 Gabriele Dell'Otto lithograph that shows up all over the internet as a cropped-down wallpaper. Hey, at least it was an official product and not someone's fan art, right?)

Because they'd be too wide for the packaging otherwise, the bike's handlebars are packaged separately in the tray, and you have to plug them in. They're molded with brake levers, a single mirror on the lefthand side, and a speedometer/​odometer sticker that shows he's currently travelling 105 mph and has gone 387,782½ miles. Or maybe 38,782 and two-tenths miles. Either way, if I had to break out the jeweler's loupe to decipher what was printed on that sticker, then by gum, the numbers are going into the review!

The bike has a typical toy kickstand, which is to say, a U-shaped piece that hinges down under the body to hold things up. Hasbro tried to make this look more natural by molding a more realistic-looking kickstand sticking off the side, which is fine when it's up, but sticks out the wrong direction when it's down. You could swing the piece around 180°, to make it look totally right, but the faux kickstand is too tall, and pushes the bike over rather than holding it up. There's also some weird tab sticking off the left side of the rear wheel, like it was meant to be an attachment point for something, but there's nothinhg here.

A Ghost Rider's bike needs to be on fire, and this one is! The tires are translucent yellow rubber, and flames rise up the front shocks, pour out of the exhaust pipes, and lick back off the rear. They're molded translucent, then given some very light paint apps to adjust the colors while still letting the light shine through. But as cool as they look, you know the truly awesome thing about them? They're removable! That's right, the flames come off the bike in four big chunks, leaving you with an almost-normal motorcycle! The skull comes off the front, too! It's not an absolutely perfect execution of the idea - the wheels remain trans yellow, and the little tip of fire on the tail light is permanently glued on - but you have the option of having this be a totally wild fire-bike, or a more "undercover" version! With that in mind, we're a bit sad now that Hasbro didn't include a human Johnny Blaze head for the figure. They'd have had to find a way to deal with the burning neck, but if anybody could have, it would have been them.

This set costs $40, which is expensive, no matter how you want to look at it. No denying that. But Hasbro really tried to get the best value they could out of the money they're asking of you. Ghost Rider is a reused mold, but gets new paint (impressive new paint, on the skull) and a new accessory. And the bike has two different display options, depending on how you want to use it. So this may not be worth $40, but it's not not worth $40, if that makes sense? Maybe wait until there's one of those "spend X dollars, get an instant $5 giftcard" deals, but don't pass on Ghost Rider just because you think you already have him.

And after getting this? We'd be all in favor of Hasbro making the classic version of Danny Ketch and his bike, too.

-- 03/05/18

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