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Beetle

Spider-Man Classic
by yo go re

The Spider-Man Classic line is really doing a good job of giving us updated versions of Spidey's considerable rogue's gallery - through a daunting 15 series (and a few unfortunate box sets), almost every one of the villains that have made Peter Parker's life hell have gotten great toys. The newest addition to these ranks is the Beetle.

Abner Jenkins was a skilled factory mechanic. However, he had other plans, constructing a sticky-fingered battle suit with flight capabilities in order to become a master thief. Early run-ins with Spider-Man and Daredevil convinced him that he needed power as well, resulting in a sleeker battle suit with more offensive capabilities and greater strength.

Beetle is one of those Marvel villains who have traded partners over the years. Though he's most closely identified with Spider-Man, he was introduced as a villain for the Human Torch and has spent more time fighting with Iron Man and the Avengers than with ol' web-head.

Like Green Goblin, the first Beetle figure we got was not the iconic version, causing no end of consternation among the fans. Abner always wore a rather sleek suit, as thin and anatomical as one of Tony Stark's designs. This thing, on the other hand, is a friggin' tank!

This Beetle armor, a late-model version designed in conjunction with the government's Commission on Superhuman Activities, is huge. You can't really tell it when he's by himself in a blister, but Buzzing Beetle is right up there with Juggernaut, Apocalypse and Rhino in terms of sheer mass. He's more than 7¾" tall, so Spider-Man's in some real trouble.

The sculpt is great. The green sections of the armor have a smooth finish, while the purple areas are rougher and have a slight honeycomb pattern imprinted on them. The semi-translucent blue wings have designs reminiscent of circuit boards. According to the comics, they're composed of molecule-thin gravitonic spatial distortions. Whatever that means. Though it's hard to see, there's a real face sculpted inside the helmet; unfortunately, it's cast from translucent plastic so light can shine through.

To live up to the "buzzing" portion of the figure's name, Beetle has an action feature. Wind the big knob on his back and press the button under his arm, and his face lights up as his wings briefly flutter. To keep the batteries from running down, there's an on/off switch under his right arm - if it's off, the action feature won't work, so don't assume your Beetle is broken until you try turning it on. There are also two spring-loaded missile launchers on his forearms.

Despite the action feature, articulation is still plentiful: Beetle moves at the neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists, fingers, waist, hips, knees, ankles and toes. It's really impressive that the head is balljointed, since it has the light-up feature. Beetle's carapace is two separate pieces, which move at his shoulders.

Actually, constantly referring to Beetle as "him" is a bit incongruous: Jenkins never wore the armor, instead controlling it by remote control; one of Beetle's old enemies, Leila Davis, wore the suit briefly, but she and her teammates were decimated by a supervillain looking for revenge.

It's a shame that we didn't get the classic version of Beetle for this figure, but this is still a good toy. For those of you who prefer the Thunderbolts, early solicitiations for future series of the Spider-Man line show this figure repainted in Mach-1's (or whatever number he's going by now) blue and silver scheme, and the bulky look is more appropriate for him than for the sticky-fingered thug who fought so many heroes over the years.

-- 11/22/05


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