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Ultron

Marvel Legends
by yo go re

We previously took ToyBiz to task for bowing to the wishes of its most vocal fans and ruining what would have been a great figure, but sometimes caving to pressure results in a better offering. (Yeah, fanboys are a fickle bunch - we're only happy when we're complaining.)

Created by Hank Pym as an experiment in artificial intelligence, Ultron evolved farther and faster than its inventor had dared even dream. Retreating after a first, failed attempt to kill its creator, the robot rebuilt and improved itself, initiating a continuing pattern of modificatins and upgrades. Ultron later attacked the Avengers, because of their connection to Pym, touching off a years-long succession of battles. Seeking its goal of digital domination with cold, computer-like determination, Ultron is a constant, unwavering threat to Pym, the Avengers and every other living being on the planet.

When he was first unveiled, "Ultron" looked nothing at all like his namesake - ToyBiz's original design was some idiotic dog-faced conglomeration, and when fans complained, Jesse Falcon famously flipped out:

"I thought it was very funny to read that people were pissed that the Maestro had no fallen hero armor witch was NEVER in the comic. That armor was something we created with the first Hulk classic line, but when WE design an Ultron, a character that has looked different every single time it's appeared in the comic it's fu$%&*ing heresy! GREAT!!!!"

Well, yeah, Jesse, it "fu$%&*ing" is: Maestro is a supremely minor character who was featured in one story that most people didn't read, so he's more recognizable from your toy than from the comics. Ultron, on the other hand, has been around for decades and, despite what you said, has had the same basic design since the late '60s. And while the body details may have changed, you know what was always the same? His fu$%&*ing head. Jesse's comments were meant to be taken with a grain of salt, but most fans who read it thought he was serious. And off his meds.

In any case, ToyBiz listened to the complaints and quickly redid the figure's face, so now it actually bears a slight resemblance to Ultron. The face and neck are a bit fatter than you might expect, but that's to make them look in proportion to his new, huge body. Yes, it could be better, but we know for a fact that it could have been a whole lot worse.

One of Ultron's trademarks is that he's always upgrading himself, and we can tell by this figure that he's been busy. For the most part Ultron has had a fairly humanoid body, but now he's getting weird: a big bulky chest supported by a thin waist, pointy elbows that are as long as the rest of his arms and shins that bend backwards like a dog's. Huh. There's just no explaining what ToyBiz was thinking with this one.

Still, the body is detailed nicely. It was sculpted by Chris Dahlberg and Cornboy of the Four Horsemen, so of course it is! There are overlapping plates and ridges everywhere, he's got a cool spinal column and what look like two turbines on his shoulder blades. There's a large piece on his chest that almost looks like a button for an action feature - was ToyBiz considering something more kid-friendly? Rather than normal boot-like feet, he's got three-toed claws. At the base of his spine, he has some kind of weird buttplate that looks like the tails on a tuxedo jacket. What?

The paint is really good. He's mostly gray with a slight blue wash over that, which gives him a good silvery look without resorting to vac-metallizing. There are dozens of blue highlights all over, making Ultron look like he's lit from within. The red of his eyes and mouth also has a slight metallic sheen.

Articulation is plentiful but odd. Ultron moves at the ankles, knees, hips, waist, torso, neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingers. That sounds normal enough, but the choices are weird. Though the fingers move, it's only the middle two on each hand that are articulated. The wrists are balljoints, but the shape of the armor on his forearms keeps them from rotating much. As in "at all." His elbows are balljoints, but again, those crazy arms keep them from working very well. And it's easy for his biceps to get spun around backwards: remember, the blue dot goes in the front, not the back.

His hips are balljoints, too, but since they connect to his thighs at a 45° angle, the legs don't move naturally and it's hard to reposition them because the legs just want to swivel, while the hips want to stay still. The neck is on a balljoint, but the fact that it's so thick keeps it from doing much. And on mine, the waist was stuck fast, with no evidence that it even moved.

Part of the Legendary Riders series, Ultron comes with a little flying wing to ride on, and the dumb thing is, the flying wing looks more like Ultron than Ultron does! For all Jesse's talk about designing their own Ultron, they managed to create a dead-on accurate likeness for the front of his sky sled. It's got the gaping mouth, the inverted antennae... everything fans wanted. But we wanted it on his body, not on his ride.

The wing is about 5¼" wide and is detailed nicely. It's the same silver as Ultron's body and had ridged black sections and a few red highlights. Without the head, this would make the basis for a great Goblin Glider. The turbines under the wings and in the back have one of the most off-target paint apps I've seen in this line. They're just airbrushed in the vague area of the engines, not actually on them. There's what looks like a launching missile in the "mouth," but it's a molded, non-removable part, thank goodness.

Ultron comes with a reprint of Avengers vol. 3 #22, a pretty good issue that sees Ultron pretty much stomping all over Earth's Mightiest Heroes. In the process, he also stomps all over Jesse's assertion that he's looked different every time he appeared, as there are hundreds of copies of Ultron that all look exactly the frigging same. Don't mess with the geeks, Jesse; we know our shit forwards and backwards, and we'll call you on yours.

Really, this Ultron is not a figure worth buying. The paint is good and so is the "vehicle," but the articulation wasn't executed very well and the design is just wonky. If you want a good Ultron, track down the awesome version Art Asylum designed for the animated Avengers line that came out in the late '90s. It's smaller than the Marvel Legends, but it's the best version of the character ever released.

-- 12/12/05


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