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Guardian

Marvel Legends
by yo go re

The last time Wal*Mart had an exclusive series of Marvel Legends, one of those figures was the leader of a superteam based in a country ruled by Queen Elizabeth, and he wore his nation's flag as a costume. I guess some ideas are worth repeating.

James MacDonald Hudson was an idealistic scientist dedicated to using his engineering talents for the betterment of mankind. Inspired by the first appearance of the Fantastic Four, Hudson decided to create a new super team that Canadians could call their own. Working with the Canadian government, he recruited a team of heroes to defend his homeland against superhuman threats of all kinds. Wearing a steel mesh battle suit of his own design, he took the codename Guardian, and Alpha Flight was born. Though the daily stress of directing the team wore on Hudson, he continued to lead them on countless adventures across time and space for years. Hudson and the rest of the team met an untimely end in the Yukon wilderness when they faced off against The Collective, a powerful mutant force from beyond.

Supposedly Guardian is dead now, but he's been dead before. A few times. He's also been replaced by a clone, and worked under the names Vindicator and Weapon Alpha, so constancy hasn't been a big part of his life. He'll almost assuredly be back at some point, as will everyone else who was "killed" at the same time.

Guardian is built using that old ML favorite, the Bullseye body. It's muscular, but light on extraneous detail, so it's easy to paint. Unfortunately, that's where this figure gets in trouble. Guardian wears a very asymmetrical costume, which is good design in the comics, but murder on an action figure. Why's that? Because of batch molding.

Most collectors understand how toys are molded: two halves of a steel mold are locked together, molten plastic is injected to fill the empty space, and when it cools the piece is pulled out and assembled with all the rest. Simple linear process, right? Well, it is, but it's not like every little bit gets its own steel tool. It's more economical to put as many pieces as you can into one tool, and mold them all at once. Of course, that means they all have to be the same color, which is why sometimes you'll get a Spider-Man with red hips breaking up his blue legs. Often companies will paint those mismatched joints, but the paint tends to wear off. As fans, we complain about the color, but it's a fact of the production process.

For most figures, it's only a minor complaint. But look at Guardian's outfit: there's barely a line on it that matches up with any sculpted element on the toy. The edges of the gloves are angled, so they break over the forearm swivel. One leg is pure white, while the other is half red - and of course, both hip balljoints were molded in red, which means that one and a half of them had to be painted, but there's visible red on the one that shold be all-white. Oh, and the interior of those joints? Molded white, so the one on the right leg stands out as being wrong. And since he uses the oversized waist piece seen on black Spidey (among others), rather than the appropriately sized one the figures used to have, you can see way too much white around his waist. Seriously, did Hasbro lose that mold or something? It's distracting.

The edges of the paint - whether it's white on red or red on white - are crisp, for the most part, with just a bit of blurring near the top of his maple leaf. The stem, by the way, doesn't actually connect to the rest of the leaf, thanks to the extra-wide waist. Oh, and this figure also repeats one of ToyBiz's major flaws: ridiculous blue shadows as a way to put detail in the white. It didn't work for Mystique, it really didn't work for Angel, and it still doesn't work for Guardian. And as usual, it fails to line up at all over the joints. Guys. Just stop it, okay? Let the white be white. Just because Eddie Wires can make blue shadows look great, it doesn't mean the factories you use can.

Guardian isn't an "accessories" kind of guy, so the only thing included in the package with him is the crotch of this series' Build-A-Figure, Ares. Yes, the god of war's mighty man-loins include a little bit of pants, a little bit of armor, and a big thick belt. The belt is dark with a silver buckle, but otherwise, this piece is all one color.

Surprisingly, this is only the second official Alpha Flight action figure we've gotten as a Marvel Legend: sure, Wolverine was affiliated with the team in the past, and Northstar and Aurora were options in the vote that brought us Sunfire, but for now? Sasquatch is really the only one that counts. But this uniform (and the attendant codename) has already been reused in the recent short-lived Omega Flight, so it's not like death means Guardian will never be seen again.

-- 03/02/09


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