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Red Guardian & Melina

Black Widow
by yo go re

After decades of service, Melina Vostokoff distanced herself from the Red Room. But when Natasha Romanoff returns, Melina and Red Guardian must decide where their allegience lies.

We just wanted to open with that text, because clearly Hasbro really wanted you to see it - the back of the package, where the multilingual bios usually are, instead just repeats that same English text five times. In other words, the graphic designer put the layout together, then the file got approved and sent to the printers before anyone replaced the filler text with the translated versions. It could be worse: they could have just dropped some lorem ipsum in there, at least this is something.

Red Guardian is pretty much the same figure that was available in the regular series a year ago, with better paint. On the old one, the straps, star, belt, gloves, and boots were all the same gray, while on this one, the star is silver and the rest are white. There are also more brown apps outlining things, so overall the figure looks better. Too bad you had to buy the older one to finish Crimson Dynamo. And also that there was no indication this two-pack was coming. At least the paint isn't the only change.

The solo figure came with a David Harbour head that was fairly young and well-groomed - not at all the way he appeared in the movie. This one is much more accurate, with a gray beard and wilder hair. Even the facial paint looks more like him! If this is what the delay has wrought, then so be it! And this time, we even get a second head wearing his helmet. There's nothing about this Red Guardian that isn't better than the first one (with the exception of "being a thing that did not previously exist")!

Here's a spoiler question for you: in Black Widow, Red Guardian claims he fought Captain America and kicked his butt; naturally, everybody assumes he's lying. But was he? Yes, this Captain America was still solidly frozen in ice in 1983, but this Captain America was out there in the world, slowly living his way back to the present from 1949; if something big enough happened that forced him back into the field, then it's possible he and Alexei crossed paths. And since Steve would have physically been in his 70s or 80s at that point, it would explain why Red Guardian was able to push him out a window and escape.

The accessories include a pair of bare hands with the fingers splayed - presumably for his fight with Taskmaster, but he had gloves on then. He also has the same shield as before, even though we now know he never used one in the movie; this one is molded in red with metallic grey paint, rather than being molded in silver with red paint, so you will be able to tell them apart. Finally, he has an action figure of himself, which is rather recursive, but is also a plot point, so that's cool.

Melina Vostokova (Мелина Востокова) is a character from the comics, though you'd never know it - Red Guardian is pretty famous, as far as Russian superheroes go, but has anyone ever heard of the Iron Maiden? She was a Black Widow enemy who was quickly relegated to "crowd filler" status. Her origin was that she was a KGB agent who was constantly overshadowed by the Black Widow, so grew to hate her. Because them crazy dames just can't sustain friendships, am I right fellas! *goes to the cigar room at a men's-only golf club, because this is 1950 apparently*

616 Melina got her name because she wore a suit of armor that made her look like a female Dr. Doom. MCU Melina never wears anything even remotely like it, but she does wear a white spy-suit. It's the same mold as the Deluxe Black Widow figure, which means it's nearly the same mold as the standard Black Widow figure - the chest is minorly different. The pads on the shoulders, elbows, back of the hands, and knees are painted beige, to help break up the white, and she has black straps holding her backpack on. The gunbelt is also black, and it's a separate piece (though not removeable).

The character is played by Rachel Weisz, who's no stranger to comicbook roles, but the closest thing she's had to a toy before was a Funko POP! from The Mummy. This likeness is way more recognizable, of course. Since the body is reused, you can swap Melina and Natasha's heads - something quite handy if you didn't buy the deluxe figure, but would still like to see Black Widow wearing white.

Like the existing figures, Melina gets the pistols in the holsters and the two stun-sticks that can store in her backpack. She doesn't have the "Widow's Sting" bracelets, but we do get three pairs of hands: fists, ones for the guns, and ones for the sticks. She also has a grappling hook, which isn't something from the film, but does make sense enough as something a spy would use/carry. Since her hair is up in a ponytail, none of the articulation is lost.

In another reality, this set would have been like the Spider-Man: Homecoming Spidey/MJ set: ie, one released well after the movie had come and gone from theaters, a surprise when no one was expecting it. Due to everything that happened, it ended up coming out only weeks after the film, making it almost timely! The Red Guardian here is a nice improvement over the original, and Melina is someone entirely new. What more can we really ask for?

-- 08/16/21

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