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Incredible Hulk Through the Ages

Minimates
by yo go re

Scientist Bruce Banner is known for transforming into the unstoppable Hulk, but the Hulk has undergone many transformations of his own. For a time he was a grey-skinned enforcer in Las Vegas, using the name Joe Fixit; later, he was fused with his red counterpart to form Composite Hulk. After he was separated from Banner, a Barbarian Hulk lived among the Moloids in Subterranea, and in one possible future he will become a despotic ruler known as the Maestro. No matter his form, one fact remains: the Hulk is the strongest one there is!

Wow, it's a good thing the back of the box explains what's going on with Barbarian Hulk, here, because otherwise I'd have had no idea. That whole "Planet Hulk"/"World War Hulk"/"Fall of the Hulks"/"World War Hulks"/"Dark Son" series got way too far up its own butt for me to care about. Apparently Bruce Banner got Doctor Doom to split he and the Hulk for reasons, and Doom agreed to do it for also reasons. He did this by cutting out the parts of Hulk's brain where Banner's consciousness lied and putting them in a new cloned body. Go Doom! You don't see THAT FOOL RICHARDS doing anything so clever, do you? No, his big idea was to shoot Hulk into space! Loser.

Anyway, pursuant to his "Hulk just wants to be left alone" complaints all those years, Hulk went to live in the Mole Man's kingdom under the earth. He was down there long enough to grow long hair and a beard, to lose his pants and to pick up a nifty necklace of skulls somewhere. The necklace is a separate piece hung around the figure's neck, and his Conan hairdo is a new mold. He gets a new loinclothe piece, too! To bulk him up, he's got a chest cap, shoulder and thigh pieces, big hands and giant feet with sculpted toes.

The body is a rather olive shade of green, with thin black lines to create muscles on his chest, back, the fronts of his legs and the wrists. his hip block is the same off-white as his loincloth, and there's a hint of a brown belt holding it up. His face is painted with facial hair, but it seems too thin: it's more like stubble than beard.

Joe Fixit was also the result of Hulk and Bruce Banner being separated - or more accurately, the result of them being put back together. They'd been apart for a while, and when they were reintegrated, Hulk was grey, just like he'd been back when the transformations first began. He also only came out at night, and had nothing to do with Bruce's mood - which may be why he was smaller and weaker than the normal Hulk (which means he was 6'6" and could "only" lift 75 tons). It really tells you something about Las Vegas that Hulk could get a job there and no one noticed anything out of the ordinary.

This Minimate gets an impressive assortment of new pieces. He's wearing a navy blue suit that clearly had to be tailored just for him, and was clearly molded just for this toy. He has a new chest cap, new feet with cuffed pants, and new hands with gloves and the ends of his sleeves. He's also got the shoulder and thigh bulker-uppers (that's the scientific term) and a new fedora.

For times when Joe Fixit's gotta get down to the rough stuff, he has an alternate chest cap (showing a torn vest and disheveled red neck tie), alternate "bare" arms (no gloves, and only the ripped shreds of the sleeves painted on the shoulder cap) and a flat hair piece so he's not going around town bald. This really is a drastic change in appearance, the kind of thing that makes Rustin buy two of a set so he can display them both. And as if that weren't enough, he's also got a Tommy gun, fitting his mobbish personality! It's a new piece, and can be held in his giant hands easily.

Composite Hulk is based on a one-shot story that saw Bruce Banner and Thunderbolt Ross, in their Hulky personae, forced to team up to fight Xemnu the Titan. Literally "forced": they were jammed together by the powers of The Impossible Man. This figure looks precisely like Ed McGuinness' artwork for the issue in question (Hulk #30, for those of you following along at home) thanks to the bifurcated colors at the expertly tampographed anatomy on his torso. He gets all the same body-enlargening add-on pieces that the other figures have, though his feet get the benefit of the sculpted tatters of his pants. His hair is new, and not likely to be reused: half of it is short and spiky, while the other half is longer and wavy.

The unquestionable star of this set, though, is the Maestro. Art Asylum seriously went all-out for this toy. We'll get this out of the way right up front: no, he doesn't come with Fallen Hero Armor. But he does come with just about everything else you could possibly want. More, even.

Maestro comes from everybody's favorite comicbook story named after a verb tense, Future Imperfect. When the world degenerated into nuclear war, Hulk was the only one who thrived: his body absorbed the radiation, doubling his strength but shattering his mind. He became the despotic ruler of the few remaining humans, until the resistance undertook a desperate plan: travel back in time to recruit the Hulk to fight their battle for them.

Maestro gets the same big thighs as the rest of the Hulks in this set, but is wearing Juggernaut's giant boots. He gets a new bicep piece and a new forearm/hand piece, both with sculpted armor bands. Of course, that's just on his left arm: his right arm is molded as part of his new cape, held across his chest. What an unusual choice! His head cap is molded with not only his bony crown, but also his giant eyebrow ridges. There's some stray red paint on my figure, but that will be easy to fix.

If you remove the crown, you can remove the cape. And if you remove the cape, you can replace it with a normal Minimate arm (with the same add-on pieces as the left arm) and a bare head. Well, "bare" is a relative term: it still has long white hair and the massive brow, just no crown. His beard is painted on, but it looks better than Barbarian Hulk's did. His chest cap is painted with a bit of blue to match his pants, a purple vest, and gold chains hanging against his green chest. The armor is silver, and he has a red belt. This is precisely what he wore in the comic, which is more than even the Marvel Legends version can claim.

While the figure doesn't get Fallen Hero Armor, he does still get something awesome: a pile of dirt. Okay, that doesn't sound good, but trust us, it is. Because that pile of dirt is shaped to hold several trophies: Captain America's shield, Thor's hammer and Iron Man's helmet. Well played, Art Asylum! Yes, they're all reused Minimate accessories, but they all get unique paint apps to set them apart, and they all have a specially designed spot in the base. This may not be Fallen Hero Armor, but it's a great accessory. No shame in that.

This is the fifth "Through the Ages" box set (after Iron Man, Wolverine, Captain America and Venom), and on the surface it's not the strongest one - no pun intended. I mean, come on: it's Hulk. He's just not that interesting. AA really did a good job putting this one together though, and the extra pieces that come with half the figures really drive up the value.

-- 07/08/13


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