Last year, Hasbro celebrated the 30th anniversary of X-Men, the animated series that premiered on Halloween 1992 and would become a ratings hit shortly thereafter for the Fox Kids Network. It was responsible for getting a lot of kids into the X-Men and Marvel comics in general and the first, prime, benefactor of that rise in popularity was Spider-Man. Spidey had taken a couple of swings at television and found modest success, but certainly nothing on the level that some of the other prime kids’ shows that were contemporaries. I personally recognized Spider-Man more from his public service announcements or the Marvel Productions animatic that would follow a show like Muppet Babies. With X-Men being a hit though, it opened the door for more Marvel cartoons and Spider-Man was next in line arriving in sneak peak fashion, just like the X-Men, in the fall of 1994.
The Marvel Legends VHS series for X-Men must have been received well for the company to do the same with Spider-Man. That is easy to understand. What is not is why now? The X-Men wave has almost sold out on Hasbro’s website and it’s expected the remaining figures will eventually get there (Cyclops was just added to shopDisney in April) which suggests that a second wave is certainly in order. The 8 figures Hasbro did release hit on some members of the team and some notable villains, but more remain. Why not come back around with another 8 in 2023, 30 years after the show really took off since only 3 episodes premiered in ’92, and then come back with Spider-Man in 2024 to, you know, coincide with that show’s 30th anniversary? It seemed like it was setup perfectly for just that, but apparently Hasbro and the Legends team got impatient or they feel like they need to space the X-Men releases out more or that line is dead and they’re not ready to admit it. I personally don’t get it and I will be a little ticked off if they don’t come back to X-Men to finish off the team, at least, even though that product line was rather poor. I’m a sucker for that cartoon though so I was committed to filling out the roster, as imperfect as it was, and not having the likes of Gambit, Rogue, or Magneto leaves my shelf feeling incomplete.
That aside, Hasbro’s approach to Spider-Man could be described as the same, but different. We’re still getting VHS styled boxes with TV show inspired artwork, only now they’re apparently coming in two-packs. I guess that’s great if you didn’t like the gap in releases between the figures in the X-Men line, but it stinks if you only want one of the two figures (and I think that will be true for many with the upcoming Doc Ock and Aunt May two-pack). Hasbro doesn’t think it’s worth their effort to credit the artist on the box, but good thing we have social media as I was able to find out that it’s Harry Moore once again who did the art on the retro card release too. The box is designed to look like a slip cover with two VHS tapes in it, but it’s just one box with the two figures inside. Like the X-Men line, this one is likely to be a collection of repaints with minimal investment made in the tooling of new parts. These figures aren’t direct adaptations of the characters you saw onscreen. It would have been great if that was what Hasbro committed to, but at this point no one should be surprised. A big feature of the X-Men line was also the cel-shading approach to the paint. It was something that was not applied consistently from release to release. Some figures looked okay, some looked terrible, but it mostly came down to the application being cheap and unfocused. With this line, we’re going to have two figures where one is shaded, and the other is not. It looks like cel-shading isn’t going to be as big of a focus here, but it’s hard to know why with anything Hasbro does.
We’ll start with Spider-Man first. This is the symbiote, or black suit, Spider-Man from the show since we already received a standard, animated, Spider-Man via the retro card release late last year. Thematically, it makes some sense to pair symbiote Spidey with Carnage, a fellow symbiote, though anyone who watched the show can point out that Spider-Man never fought Carnage while wearing the black costume. Interestingly, this Spider-Man is a repaint of the figure that came in the Renew Your Vows two-pack last year. The animated Spider-Man from last year was on the noticeably smaller Amazing Fantasy figure mold making this figure basically not scale with the other Spidey. Cool. The sculpt is also much more cut than that one so this is a Spider-Man that looks almost absurdly ripped and lumpy for this source. The head appears to be the exact same as the retro card black costume Spider-Man and so are the hands, and for that matter, the torso. Whatever your preferred body is, none are particularly great for the animated Spider-Man as he was very broad shouldered and full in the chest which neither figure is. This one is pin-less in the arms and legs, so it has that going for it.
What is going to be most divisive with this release is probably the paint. The figure is cast in black plastic so the only paint present is the white and the blue. Yes, blue, as this figure is shaded like the show. Or rather, like basically every version of black-costumed Spider-Man. Just doing him in all black won’t show up on print or on TV, so he (and Venom) have always been shaded blue. In the show, Spider-Man was outlined in blue and the muscles were also done in blue. For the figure, Hasbro appears to have tried to outline the abdomen with blue while also hitting both clavicles. For the limbs, it’s just a few lines down the meat of the arms and the front of the legs. There are a couple of lines in between the eyes, and almost nothing on the back of the figure. There’s also none on the hands. It looks okay, but there doesn’t appear to be a ton of thought put into the blue on the arms. And, as usual, I think the figure would have benefitted from a little more. Something on the crown of the head would have looked nice, and maybe some under the pecs. And maybe just more curves to the lines would have helped with the biceps looking the worst out of all of the spots, but it’s probably as good as we could have expected out of this line. The rest of the paint is reserved for the eyes, hands, and the spider logo which has some gray shading. That is not consistent with the show, but it looks okay on the front, though I don’t know what they were going for on the back. The spider itself is pretty clean, though the white on the hands is too thinly applied. The eyes, which have a little luster to them, look okay.
There’s no point in devoting a full paragraph to accessories for this guy as he just comes with the standard array of hands: fists, wall-crawling, and thwip. The thwip hands are useless since this version of Spider-Man shoots webs out of the back of his hands so why not drop them for a set of gripping hands? Or web accessories? It’s like the people who design these figures have little or no attachment to these characters, but any average fan would say “This doesn’t make sense.” Anyway, this guy should be pretty familiar when it comes to articulation too since he’s like most of the other Spider-Man releases. We get a double ball peg at the head that feels rough. It has some gapping issues and they did that thing where they cut out a chunk of the rear of the neck which shouldn’t be necessary for a figure that has no hair. Even with that, he doesn’t look up all that far and the head just wants to fight me for some reason. The shoulders are ball-hinges on butterfly joints. He can raise his arms out to the side fine while the butterfly joint provides okay range going back and forward, but nothing crazy. They also didn’t continue the paint on the spider logo on the rear so when the arms are all the way forward you get a gap. There’s a biceps swivel and the elbows are double-jointed. I cannot get the top hinge on the right arm of my figure to budge, but I was able to get the left one to move. He gets a little better than 90, so nothing impressive, but it doesn’t look ugly. The wrists swivel and hinge.
In the abdomen we get a ball joint that lets the figure bend back and forward a little bit. It creates gaps in both directions so it’s better used for rotating and pivot and the range going to the side is pretty good. Below that we have an ab crunch that does what it’s supposed to and at the hips we get the utterly useless drop-down hinged hips. With the hinge up, he can kick forward about 90 degrees and he doesn’t really kick back due to the sculpted butt cheeks. With the hinge down, he kicks forward…about 90 degrees. Maybe a little better and more straight, but you’re gaining practically nothing. With the hips up or down, he can’t achieve a full split. It’s pretty crazy the amount of figures I have that can do a split, and yet none are Spider-Man. There is a thigh cut, but not only does it break up the anatomy it breaks up the blue shading as well. The double-jointed knees work better than the elbows and they go well past 90. There is a boot cut if you want it, but again, it breaks up the sculpt and the shading. At the ankle, we get a hinge that lets the feet go forward and back an acceptable amount, though it’s kind of ratcheted so finding those in-between positions is a challenge. The ankle rocker works well and we also get a toe hinge which is fine. Aside from the addition of the toe hinge, this figure moves as well as the previous symbiote Spider-Man which I would categorize as good, but not good enough for a Spider-Man figure. There’s plenty of things to nitpick, but mostly it’s just scrap those garbage hips. Ball and socket hips would work better and cost less than the silly hinge. The whole thing also has a gummy feel and ultimately posing this guy isn’t really a fun experience.
Okay, that’s enough about Spider-Man, let’s talk about Carnage. This figure is a partial reissue of the Monster Venom wave Carnage from about four years ago. Some stuff is the same, while some stuff is different. The head, hands, and probably the arms are the same while the torso and legs are actually different. That older figure lacked butterfly joints while this one has them. It appears to be the same torso we saw with Web-Man, who shared a torso with Spider-Man 2099, if I’m not mistaken, and probably several others. He is a very bright red, which isn’t really what I’d call show accurate, and the black paint for the various swirls and lines on Carnage is understated compared with a comic version of the character to attempt to match the show. The head is clearly the comic inspired head so it doesn’t really match the show aside from the amount of black on it. The Carnage in the show had a much stubbier head as opposed to the elongated one from the comics. There was one shot of the symbiote right after it attached to Cletus Kasady that looked like the comic book character, but that was pretty much it. I think there should actually be a bit more black on the torso to really match the look of the show, but that’s not Hasbro’s goal apparently so I don’t why I feel the need to point out the inaccuracies. This figure also has some tendrils plugged into the arms and a removable one that slots into the back. That aspect of the character wasn’t seen much in the show where animation and the ability to do it well is a concern, but I prefer Carnage with them so they don’t bother me. I think he looks okay, he just doesn’t really look like the character from the show. He’s much too lean and suffers from that Marvel Legends “tiny shoulders” syndrome that so many figures in this line possess. The figure also struggles with trying to be somewhat inspired by the animated series without looking cheap. It seems to me if they just committed to a more toon-accurate paint job that would have solved that issue to a point, but I’m just some guy with a blog so what do I know?
When it comes to accessories, Carnage fares better than Spider-Man. Again, these are all reused from past releases, but you get a second head that’s of Kasady and he looks pretty creepy. There’s no paint on the hair, so that’s a bummer, but at least the face appears to be done with face printing making it much better looking than the original release. It’s a comic inspired look, but you probably could have guessed that. If you have the older figure, it might be fun to have this head on that, but I’ll probably never use it. For hands, Carnage has two open hands by default where his fingers look long and bladed. They’re basically style posed, though the right hand is more curled like it’s trying to grip something. The fingers on that hand also don’t end in points and are rather stubby so they look stupid. You’ll never use it though because the optional hands are way better. For the left, we get a more exagerrated, clawing, hand that also has some added tendrils on it. I think it looks great save for the added blob on the index figure which is just a bizarre design choice as it makes it look like he has six fingers. For the right hand, we get a fisted hand that’s affixed to a big, symbiote, axe head. I like how it’s sculpted to have slime separating the fist from the axe and then the axe head itself has a neat design with a little hook in it. It’s painted too so we get some black lines that look nice and help sell it. They also gave the figure a vertical hinge on this hand which is appreciated. The only downside is it is pretty heavy, and the hinge fairly loose, so posing it can be a tad frustrating.
For articulation, we have a pretty standard Marvel Legends figure. The old ball hinge is in place for the head and the figure can look up and down without issue as well as rotate. He even gets a touch of tilt on the ball, so that’s okay. The shoulders hinge out to the side less than 90 degrees so that’s disappointing. Web-Man can get his arms out to the side without issue which has me thinking these two share a torso, but the arms are actually different. The butterfly joint provides for solid range going back, but not much across the chest. There’s a biceps swivel and the double-jointed elbows will let the figure bend past 90 degrees there. The wrists swivel and hinge and all except the axe hand hinge horizontally. In the torso, we get an ab crunch that works well going forward and back with no gapping issues present. Hasbro also continued the black paint so that looks good. The waist has a twist which looks pretty ugly because there’s nothing to hide it, but it does work. At the hips we get the standard ball and socket setup and, what do you know, he can do a split. It’s a miracle! There’s a thigh cut below that which works fine, but breaks up the black paint. The double-jointed knees also work fine and you get a boot cut if you want it. The ankles hinge forward and back all the way and rock side-to-side just fine. I think the legs are basically the same as the old release, they just don’t have the plug holes for more tentacles. In other words, more old Spidey parts shared with Web-Man and other Spider-Man figures. Aside from the shoulders, he moves well enough. There’s still gummy-ness to the joints with Carnage, but it isn’t as pervasive as it is with Spider-Man.
Overall, this release is basically what I expected it to be. It’s a bunch of parts reuse, with a different paint job. As a kid, it always bothered me that every Venom figure I bought was just black plastic when in the comics he was clearly blue. Obviously, that’s because an all black look wouldn’t work, so he had to be shaded blue and even some artists made blue his dominant color (he was very much black in his first appearances though). Because of that, I always wanted a Venom or a Spider-Man in the symbiote costume that took a similar approach so that’s what drew me to this set. Plus, I did like the cartoon series and it’s where most of my Spidey knowledge came as prior to that it was all from Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends and the occasional stray comic book. This figure from Hasbro has its problems, but it comes close to satisfying that urge for me and I think it looks better than the more plain release from the retro card line. It’s pretty absurd that he’s so much bigger than the red and blue Spider-Man when they’re supposed to be the same character from the same show and the accessories blow, but at least the base figure looks fine.
With Carnage, this is a character all new to me in figure form. Well, new in the sense that I had not purchased a Carnage since the Toy Biz Carnage II figure from the Spider-Man line way back in the 90s. I was never a huge fan of the character, he was just Venom without a conscience, but he did look cool and I certainly spent many hours playing Maximum Carnage back in the day. As a figure, he’s fine. He looks good, moves well enough for the character, and I like the optional parts. I like them so much that I consider the main hands rather useless, but it’s fine. And when I got that animated Venom in 2021 I knew I wanted to add a Spider-Man and a Carnage to my little display so I at least achieved that. As for this series going forward, I might have been interested in that Doc Ock, but the Aunt May he’s bundled with looks bad and I’m not paying for her. This set retails for $53 on Hasbro’s Pulse website. If you’re a member, you get free shipping, but if you’re not then tack on the price of shipping as well. This was the last order I made with my subscription and I don’t intend to get more. At this price, it’s something a fan of the show can possibly talk themselves into. The box is nice, if that interests you at all, and the figures are I guess the usual level of quality for Marvel Legends. Had they just given Spider-Man some worthwhile accessories it would have been much easier to recommend, but since they didn’t it puts this one squarely in the niche category. Few Marvel Legends are worth their asking price these days, and these are no exception. If you’re primarily a comic book collector and already have these figures, then don’t bother. If it looks like something you like and you know what to expect, give it a shot. Or wait awhile for the next warehouse sale when you can probably get it for 40-something where it would be a much easier recommend. That’s probably not going to happen for awhile though. There’s also shopDisney which is supposed to carry this and may be more aggressive with its sale prices if it hangs around a few months. You can also get free shipping there, though you have to spend $75 I think. If you time it right, and have a wife or kids that love Disney, it’s not a tough threshold to meet. At least it’s easier to get than the stupid Walmart exclusive.
Need to know more about what Marvel Legends has done for Spider-Man? Check these out:
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