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Thunderbolts

Marvel Legends
by yo go re

Hasbro's SDCC Marvel Legends exclusives just keep getting larger and more ornate. Over the past three summers, we've gone from one figure to three figures to five figures. I can't wait to see what 2015's 9-pack is going to be!

Justice, like lightning... will this crew of corrected criminals prove themselves hardened heroes or vile villains? Only time will tell!

The Thunderbolts have been around in one form or another since the '90s, first as villains masquerading as heroes to gain the public trust, then as sort of a superheroic work-release program (the less said about the "fight club" version, the better). This set is definitely of the "known villains" variety, taken from the "Heroic Age" version of the book. The packaging represents Thunderbolts Tower, the team's headquarters. The logo is gold foil, and the front of the box is curved out to make it look more building-like. The team shots on the back of the box and the inside of the front flap are by the book's main artist, Kev Walker.

Our first figure in the set is the team's overseer, Luke Cage. Yes, the former Hero for Hire. That's a big step up in responsibility for him, but it's a logical choice: he's an ex-con himself (wrongly convicted, but still), so he knows what it takes to prove yourself a hero after that. Plus, he's functionally invulnerable, so he'll be able to defend himself when the 'bolts inevitably try to turn on him.

At 6⅞" tall, this Luke Cage is bigger than the last version. It's not a major difference, but it's enough to be noticeable. Being bulkier is one thing, but I don't care how much you work out, you're not going to get taller. He uses the same mold as Hyperion - at least, above the shins. His boots are genuinely new molds, while the belt and his big metal gauntlets are pieces that simply slip over the existing body. The gloves are what allow him passage through the security fields in The Raft (the prison where the team is headquartered) and to activate the nanites that keep the villains in line.

Luke's style may have changed, but his colors haven't: he's still wearing a yellow shirt and black pants, with silver around his waist and wrists. He's bald, but he's got a goatee, and for some reason his eyes appear to be the same gold as the Thunderbolts logos on the shoulders of his T-shirt. The apps on the figure are all crisp and clean.

Next we have Moonstone, one of the founding members of the original Thunderbolts team (under the supranym "Meteorite," though Altas accidentally calling her "Moonstone" during a fight with the Hulk was one of the first clues that the team was not exactly what they seemed). Dr. Karla Sofen was a villain long before talking the original Moonstone into giving up his power source and letting her have it, though: during her time as a psychiatrist, she talked at least eight patients into killing themselves. While she watched. Though she seemed like one of the characters who might have been redeemed by her time posing as a hero, she ended up being filling the Ms. Marvel slot on Norman Osborn's Dark Avengers team.

Moonstone gets an entirely new sculpt, and it's a good one. It's so weird to see a female action figure that actually looks like a healthy, athletic woman - we're used to getting scrawny little stick figures. She looks strong and well-developed, but still feminine. And she doesn't have flatface, either! Good work, unknown sculptor(s).

Because this body was clearly designed with an eye toward re-use, all of the costume details are created via paint. Of course, her costume isn't very complex, so that's fine. She's mostly pearly white, with golden gloves and whatever that symbol on her chest is supposed to be. The T-bolts logo is in the small of her back, and her eyes are bright blue.

The articulation on this new body is good, but it's not The Best. Karla has a balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, swivel/hinge elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, balljointed torso, swivel/hinge hips, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, and swivel/hinge ankles. The torso balljoint is really nice to see, allowing her to express a lot through body language, and the ankles are the kind that fake rocker joints. However, she does follow that grand Marvel Legends tradition of giving female figures more articulation than they need. Honestly, what's the point of having swivel biceps and swivel elbows and swivel wrists? In case you need to turn an arm around backwards? Keep the shoulders and wrists, Hasbro, but go to double-hinged for the elbows. Hey, at least she doesn't have a second, superfluous thigh swivel in each leg, right?

All these characters have changed over the years, obviously, but none so much as Ghost. He was originally just a typical industrial hacker/sabotuer, albeit one that dressed like Moon Knight and could turn invisible or intangible (though not both at once). Like most technology, his suit got slicker over the years, but he also got crazier - possibly as a side effect of the phasing technology, which was only ever meant to be used on computer chips, not people.

At first glance, Ghost appears to have a new sculpt, as well - but you may be surprised to learn that it is, in fact, mostly the same mold as Patriot from the Young Avengers box set! What a clever choice! These days Ghost is looking pretty much like a white version of Psycho Mantis, so Patriot's small, thin body works perfectly. A lot of customizers used the Legendary Heroes Judge Death variant as a base for their own Ghost figures, but maybe Hasbro doesn't have access to those molds? Or thought the idea had already been done, so they'd better try something different? His upper torso, boots, and gloves are all new pieces, designed specifically for this figure. They might have been able to get away with reusing Wiccan's boots, but this is nice.

He also gets a new head - in fact, two new heads. I haven't kept up with the Thunderbolts book, so I can't tell you what the second head is about. They're both accurately bulbous reproductions of Ghost's creepy mask, with its off-set eyes, but the second one is a slightly different design with a flat panel on the front. It seems unlikely that it's something made up for the toy, but we don't know what it represents in the comic.

Ghost is molded entirely from clear plastic, then given smoky grey paint apps on his boots and gloves, on the harness sculpted around his shoulders, and on the paired air filters on his mask(s). His eyes are painted an orangey yellow, and there are gold Thunderbolts logos on each shoulder. He has swivel/hinge ankles, double-hinged knees, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge hips, swivel waist, hinged torso, swivel forearms, double-hinged elbows, swivel biceps, swivel/hinge shoulders, hinged neck and a balljointed head. You can get him into some appropriately creepy poses, but we really wish there was a hole in the back, so you could plug him onto a Doop stand and allow him to hover. Yes, I know it's been more than six years since the last Doop stand came out, but lots of collectors still have them around. Adding a hole might not have been to the benefit of everyone, but it wouldn't have been a detraction for anyone.

Satana is a rather obscure character. She's the sister of Daimon Hellstrom, the hero(?) known as the Son of Satan. Which, yes, means that her father is Satan as well. Not Mephisto, not some random devil, the actual Biblical Lucifer. She was part of Marvel's rush to "horror up" their books when the Comics Code was relaxed in the 1970s. She was killed in a 1979 crossover with Dr. Strange and Spider-Man, but that really doesn't mean much when your dad's the Capital-D-Devil.

Back in the day, her color of choice was red: she wore a red costume and had flaming red hair (as well as a birthmark on her throat in the shape of a devil's head, and long eyebrows that arched over her head to simulate devil horns, though those were eventually toned down, and her hair started sticking up like horns on its own). These days she's switched to black, though he skin now turns red when she really cuts loose.

The lining of her cape is bright red, and it's painted with dark shadows in the wrinkles. The exterior is matte black. Her bodysuit is glossy black, and has a cutout down the center to show off her skin. Even her lipstick is black! There's a stray bit of paint on her cheek, but it just looks like a mole. Her cape clasp is the Thunderbolts logo.

Satana gets the same body as Moonstone, and thus all the same articulation. She does get unique hands, though: they're sculpted with the fingers in a sort of "incantation" pose, suggesting she's casting a spell or ensnaring a man (she is a succubus, after all). Her cape is heavy, but not so much that it means you can't pose her the way you want - you do have to make sure she's not going to fall over backwards, though. This new female body has an appropriately superheroic bust, and a narrow waist. The hips have a natural shape, rather than perfectly round balls, and the figure has a complete butt. The thighs are large, which would probably be insulting to a woman if you said it to her face, but they're clearly defined and muscular. It's a good-looking body (which is good, since if the past is any indication, we'll be seeing it repainted many times).

And finally, we come to Crossbones. Remember, this Thunderbolts team was formed during the "Heroic Age" (ie, after the end of Dark Reign/Siege), and while Steve Rogers was back to life by that point, Crossbones was still the guy who assassinated Captain America. And a total dick. And actually, that's what the team leaders were counting on: they knew that putting a grating a-hole like Brock Rumlow on the Thunderbolts would make everybody else gravitate toward Luke Cage.

This figure is basically just a repaint of the previous Marvel Legends Crossbones, which might make the aftermarket prices on that figure drop a little (I wouldn't count on it, though). It also means we can just point you to that review and not have to worry about reapeating all the information here. One of the changes made is that this figure has two brown straps around the top of his boots. Differences!

Okay, that's not the only change. His pants are black instead of grey, and he has the big crossed bones pattern painted on hisvest (as well as the Thunderbolts logo near the right shoulder. His forearms are white like athletic tape, rather than trying to match his skintone. His belt is brown, and while the zipper of his vest isn't painted silver, the clasps are. The pattern on his mask is still sculpted in, but this time the paint is more ecru than white. It's rather sloppy on my figure - far enough off-center to be noticeable.

Since Crossbones' super power is "shooting guns," he was often shown carting around a big Gatling gun during his time with the Thunderbolts. Rather than design a new accessory, Hasbro got clever: they reused the gun that came with Sigma 6 Heavy Duty - not the first time they did something like that. The gun does look very nice, done in black and silver instead of green and gray. It does not include the backback or the missile launcher, but it does retain the 9" string of bullets and the spinning action feature. The handle is articulated, to best position it for his hand, and it's so heavy that Crossbones wants to fall over constantly.

Technically, not all these characters were on the Thunderbolts team at the same time - Crossbones was kicked off before Satana joined - but who cares? Lots of characters have come and gone on the team, so you can build the Thunderbolts however you want. For instance, this group could really use a Juggernaut (who could then beat the ever-lovin' crap out of the evil Hyperion). And their mode of transportation, Man-Thing. Even Shocker ended up on the B team at one point! The important thing is that this set includes three new characters, one character in his modern appearance, and one character who was already hard to find. Put that all together, and this is a winner!

-- 08/12/13


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