When they released series 5 of their fun little Minimates figures, Art Asylum gave us a set that showed some real promise: the set was the Thing and Dr. Doom, and the promise, as mentioned in that review, was that we'd actually get to see some Fantastic Four foes along with the heroes.
Well, so much for that.
In Minimates Series 8, Art Asylum did their part to jump on the Fantastic Four merchandising bandwagon in advance of this summer's big movie, releasing tiny 2" figures of the entire team. However, instead of pairing each of the heroes with a villain, we got two teammates in each set: either Mr. Fantastic and the Human Torch or Thing and the Invisible Woman.
Thing, unfortunately, is not a rerelease of either of the two previous versions of the character. Wait, "unfortunately?" Yes, because both of those were better than this one is. Obviously, with multiple versions on the market, AA had to find some way to make this one stand out. Stand out it does, but in much the same way that a turd stands out in a chocolate factory - looks the same at a glance, but stinks when you get up close.
To make Thing look bigger and bulkier, he's got a few extra pieces. Like the other Things, he has oversized hand-gloves and a headpiece that represents his brow, but this version, known to the fans as "big-chest Thing," also has a stony sweater vest that really gives some mass to his torso. That's a nice effort, but everything above the neck is pretty awful.
The new headpiece fits like a helmet, reaching down to his neck. It's supposed to make his head look bigger, but it looks like he's wearing safety gear. Short-bus Thing! The brow was just better on the old figures, as was the expression: Ben's got some kind of half-sneer that just doesn't look very good. The best thing to do is swap Powerhouse Thing's head with another - I recommend Clobberin' Time Thing, because the goofy head seems to go well with that silly unitard.
With big hands, a big head and a big chest, Thing's legs look too thin. Add to that the fact that he's got the C3-compatible feet, which are smaller than the original feet, and you've got a disproportionate Ben Grimm. They should have given him boots like Green Goblin or Wolverine. There's no stone detailing on the vest's shoulders, leaving us with big blatant patches of orange. Overall, the first two Things are better figures.
Since the two visually interesting (to a 5-year-old, at least) members of the FF are Thing and the Human Torch, they couldn't be packaged together. For some inexplicable reason, AA decided that the Invisible Woman should be next to Ben. Sue's come a long way from her 1960s origins: she used to be the team hostage, fainting after one use of her powers. Everyone else on the team could fight, while Sue's superpowers basically allowed her to hide.
These days, though, she's one of the toughest Marvel characters around. She's even beaten the Hulk single-handedly a few times, something not even the Thing has managed. Hey, maybe that's why they were packaged together: so Sue can save Ben's pansy behind.
This figure, however, seems to represent the old days, as evidenced by Susan's 1950s Donna Reed hairdo. The Minimate hairpieces now have a peg to help hold them in place, which sadly limits their use as modular accessories - if the figure doesn't have a hole in its head, you're out of luck.
Sue's wearing the team's blue and black uniform, and her hair is bright, bright yellow. Since all the Minimates share the same body with different paint decos, Sue's figure is suggested by a few simple lines. It may be too late now, but it would be cool if Art Asylum copied Palisades' PALz, which have a different torso block for female figures.
The regular figure is referred to as Susan Richards on the packaging, which is because she's also this series' variant. In addition to the opaque version, fans could also pick up clear Invisible Woman.
Rather than just taking the easy way out and making a fully translucent figure, AA went the extra step of painting her - what was blue on the standard figure is clear, but what was black has a very slight blue tint. It really captures the way her powers were portrayed in the comics, and looks very cool in person. She even has a slightly different expression than the solid version.
Both Sues come with the same accessory, a clear disc that fits on the figure's arm to suggest a forcefield. It's just like Captain America's shield cast in translucent plastic, but it's better than nothing.
The figures are decent and it's good to have the complete Fantastic Four lineup, but you have to admit that Art Asylum and Diamond Select really missed an opportunity with these figures. If they'd been paired up with classic villains, we could have gotten figures of characters that are sorely under-represented in the world of plastic. Think how awesome it would have been to have Ben waling on a Minimate Annihilus, or to see Sue packed with Namor. But alas, it's not to be. Hell, they couldn't even get the FF logo on the boxes, something that should have been a given with the movie merchandising machine about to kick into high gear.
What FF villains would you have liked to see? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.