It's a bit unsettling to think about, but since this is 2010, that means it's officially time for '90s nostalgia. Marvel Minimates Series 34 wasted no time in taking advantage of that, offering two-packs based entirely on Jim Lee's X-Men. Well, almost entirely.
Tricked by Mastermind into believing she was
a member of the Hellfire Club, Jean Grey (secretly the Phoenix Force) became their new Black Queen - causing the Phoenix within to become even more dangerous.
Unlike other toylines (we're looking at you, Marvel Legends!), there has been no shortage of Jean Grey Minimates. She was one of the first figures ever released, she's been done as Phoenix (light, dark and movie), as versions both old and new and inbetween... and now as the Black Queen. Art Asylum knows what the people want!
Black Queen Jean Grey doesn't have any add-on bodyparts: her fetish gear is all painted onto the normal body. It's very nice work, too - the boots, gloves and panties are plain black, but the corset is highly detailed. She has a firmly evil look on her face, including a slight furrow to her brow. The hair is new, and probably not one that will see much re-use: not a lot of characters rock the giant 19th century hair bun.
The figure includes a large cape painted with a red lining, which creates some nice contrast. Wonder Woman's lasso has been repurposed for Black Queen's whip, cast in black plastic. It's not quite a perfect solution, but for a reuse, it's very appropriate. After all, it's not like anyone else actually has a whip to share (and no, Whiplash doesn't count).
Preferring to operate under the radar, the Hellfire Club exists to manipulate the rich and powerful through less obvious methods. Protected by guards seeking money and fame, their true agenda is closely guarded.
It's no secret that Chris Claremont based the Hellfire Club in the comics on an episode of The Avengers - 1966's "A Touch of Brimstone" - but having never seen that episode (or, in fact, any Avengers other than the hideous movie), I have no idea whether or not the tv Hellfire Club had an army of faceless guards to dispatch their enemies, but I'm guessing "no."
The Hellfire Club Guard was briefly planned as a pack-in ML13's "Bring on the Bad Guys" deal, but that was scrapped, so this is the first time the Guard has ever been made into a toy. A fairly iconic bit of the '80s X-Books, the HCG really doesn't have any place in a '90s assortment, but then, neither does Black Queen. His creepy flesh-colored mask is done well, and even has the inexplicable seam painted down the center.
The Guard's only accessory is a silver gun, which looks like a modified HK MP5A5. This mold originated with one of the Terminator 2 Minimate sets,
where it was painted black. The body is painted well, with a lot of detail in the shadows used to suggest anatomy. He gets a big red belt, but no other add-ons. It would have been nice to see some battle damage, perhaps: the Hellfire Club Guards are best-known for being the first mooks to actually be severely injured by Wolverine. Yeah, he had claws, but he hadn't used them on plain humans before shredding a bunch of Guards.
Able to absorb the life force of others, Selene has
used both dark sorcery and her mutant powers to remain young and beautiful for thousands of years and to regenerate from all attempts to destroy her.
Hey, look, it's a variant! Makes sense: the Hellfire Club Guard is an army-builder figure, so of course the figure he's packed with would have a second version. In this case, it's Jean's replacement as Black Queen. Once the Phoenix Force broke free from the Hellfire Club's control, they needed a new chess-themed member to fill the ranks, and the psychic vampire lady fit the bill. She'd been kicking around the X-Books for a while, having first shown up in New Mutants, so using her was better than creating some new flash in the pan, right?
Though her boots, glove and underwear are all plain black, don't
assume this is a straight copy of Jean's Black Queen get-up. She's wearing a bustier, rather than a corset, so none of the detail work is duplicated. Plus, she has knee-high boot fronts that Jean didn't. Her expression is different, she has more prominent cheekbones, and she's even wearing black lipstick. She gets the same whip and cape (hers is solid black, with no lining), but her hair appears to be new.
The choice to include Hellfire Club Guards and two Black Queens in a series of Minimates based on the '90s X-Men is a strange one, but they're both decent figures with separate and fancy paint apps. The Guard is dull, but he's supposed to be. The Queens are unique enough that even if you stand them next to each other, they won't look like repeats. Now, what are the odds AA will ever make any of the other Hellfire Club members?