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Marvel Legends X-Men Retro Card Series Apocalypse

“I know more of this world than you could even dream, that is why I must…destroy it!”

It is Halloween and that means it’s time for costumes, candy, and spooky fun. It’s also Halloween 2022, a pretty important date if you grew up loving those mutants who ran around in colorful spandex fighting for a better tomorrow. That’s because 30 years ago on this very night, the animated series X-Men premiered on the Fox network. The decision to debut a cartoon in prime time with characters still on the periphery of mainstream appeal was both a bold choice and one brought about by necessity. Fox had done the same recently with Batman – The Animated Series, but that hardly feels like a gamble considering that was coming hot on the heels of Batman Returns. You see, the show should have premiered in September on Saturday mornings, but the project was fraught with delays and the early animation sent back from studio AKOM was said to be a disaster. And since the show wasn’t going to be able to premiere as planned, the producers involved decided to focus on the first two episodes to get them ready for a Halloween premiere with the rest of the season to follow in early 1993. Marketing dubbed it a sneak peek, and it must have worked because before long the show was a ratings hit and the rest is history.

Given that it’s such an important day for an elder X-Men fan like myself, it only felt appropriate to forego something spooky this Halloween in favor of something celebrating that show. Now, I originally intended to debut my review of Hasbro’s Morph, but I received that figure in late September and I was just too eager to talk about Morph. The timing just didn’t make sense, so we’re pivoting to something else. Had Mystique, the next planned figure in Hasbro’s dedicated X-Men animated line, arrived this month she would have been featured here. And she even embodies a bit of that Halloween look with her blank eyes and affection for skulls. Instead though, I think we have the next best thing with one of the major villains from the show: Apocalypse.

This card is stupid big.

Hasbro’s retro card series of Marvel Legends has caused some confusion in the collector community, and I’m afraid this Apocalypse only adds to that. It started a few years ago as an homage to the classic ToyBiz line of figures from the 90s. Hasbro created updated blister cards based on those styles and packaged Legends in them. They had to be slightly oversized to accommodate the larger Legends figures compared to the classic ToyBiz ones, but who in the collector community doesn’t love a good dose of nostalgia? They’re definitely neat, and since the designs of the figures are largely based on their 90s appearances they hit pretty hard when it comes to nostalgia. It was successful enough that Hasbro then did the same with Spider-Man. Unlike the old X-Men line, the Spider-Man line from ToyBiz was a direct tie-in to the animated series that premiered on Fox (in sneak peek fashion as well since it worked so well with X-Men) in 1994. As a result, collectors weren’t sure if these new Spider-Man retro card releases were based on the animated series as well. I’ve seen many collectors refer to the Hobgoblin, especially, from that line as being animated inspired, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. The only one released that is definitely based on the cartoon is the PulseCon exclusive Venom from last year (which is being followed-up with an animated Spider-Man this fall).

The actual figure though? Not really that big. I would have actually liked a little more height out of this guy.

Now adding to any confusion that still exists out there is this Apocalypse figure. Apocalypse had multiple releases in the ToyBiz days so a retro card release makes sense. However, this particular figure features a purple and blue deco. That is significant because that’s the color scheme Apocalypse had in the animated series. No where else has Apocalypse ever looked like this. And to drive the point home further, he comes with an interchangeable gun attachment for his arm that is pulled right from an episode of the show which has left many to ask “So why is this not a release in the VHS line?” And the answer is, “I don’t know.” I don’t think any of the marketing team for Legends has explained that one. My guess is that someone on the team really wanted to do this character in this look, but the budget for the VHS line couldn’t accommodate it so they did it this way. It’s bizarre, because this figure does not feature the cel-shading paint job of the VHS line so it’s not just a difference in packaging. This figure is also based on the build-a-figure Apocalypse released a few years ago, so disassembling it to fit in a VHS box would not have been problem. Plus, as illustrated with Mr. Sinister’s VHS box, Hasbro is willing to adjust the sizing when necessary on those boxes so there’s really nothing stopping Hasbro from releasing the figure in that line from a design standpoint. I know the cel-shading is a bit of a contentious topic in the community, but this figure is so cartoon specific that I can’t imagine there was a ton of demand from collectors not interested in the animated series. This version of Apocalypse has always been viewed as a little “goofy” because of those colors so comic collectors are most certainly not the target audience, but here we are.

This is unquestionably supposed to be Apocalypse from the cartoon, you can’t fool me Hasbro!

Because of the colors on this guy, I definitely consider him to be part of the animated series line of action figures. It’s bizarre, and if it’s simply a matter of budget then I don’t know why they didn’t just hit this guy with more paint so he would fit in, but here we are. That said, I’m happy to have Apocalypse in this deco as it’s been perhaps the figure I’ve wanted most to come out of the animated line next to Morph. This funky color palette just hits right for me. Like most kids in the early 90s, I was confused why Apocalypse looked like he was painted for Easter in the show and would have preferred him in black and blue, but over time this look has just become a hallmark of the series for me and I appreciate it more as a result. Plus, Apocalypse is so bad ass that he can look like this and still be feared!

The figure does come on the aforementioned blister card and it is pretty massive. It’s almost comical to look at how big this thing is relative to other retro card releases and even more ludicrous compared to the 90s cards. It features some nice artwork, though not in the animated style aside from the suit colors, and definitely has that old school ToyBiz feel. Many like to keep these releases mint-on-card, but I am not one of them. If you want to preserve the card as much as possible, I recommend slicing the bubble from the bottom with a blade which will allow you to slide this big boy out. And once removed, he is indeed rather big standing at around 8.25″.

Even this gun attachment is taken right from the show.

In looking at this figure, what immediately stands out as “animated” aside from the colors is the sculpt of the chest. I mentioned earlier that this figure is based on the build-a-figure from a few years ago, but it’s been re-tooled in several places and the upper torso is one such place. The musculature has a very soft look to it which is in-line with the show. There’s basically just a hint of pectorals and nothing more. The other details of the costume, such as the shoulders and the collar area, look as they should. The only parts not exactly screen accurate are the boots and the gloves. The boots are just all-together busier in their design, something an animated show would strive to eliminate. The hands are similar, but they’re also just not sculpted right as he should have a blue knuckleguard on each hand. Lastly, the cables that connect his arms to his back should plug-in around the elbow and not the forearm. Obviously, these inaccuracies exist because Hasbro is reusing old parts and I would say it’s mostly fine. While I would love to buy action figures that are committed to matching the source material to a more exact specification, I know that’s not Hasbro’s approach. They do things mostly with cost in mind and basically think giving us a new torso is good enough. The issue now is that approach was more acceptable when these figures were a lot cheaper. It’s something that will bother some folks, and for others it won’t. In my experience Hasbro has done a good job of conditioning its fanbase to accept these figures for what they are so my expectation is most will be unbothered.

In typical Hasbro fashion, they give you some of what you want, but not everything. This gun has four barrels, but you get just 3 blast effects.

As a last bit of aesthetics, we should talk about the paint job. Apocalypse is quite purple and quite blue, as he should be. Hasbro prioritizes using as much colored plastic as possible with their figures and this one is no exception. The paint is mostly limited to the head, upper torso and the gauntlets. The head is where the most paint was needed and it’s done well enough. We’ll talk about the appropriateness of the expressions when we get to the accessories, but there’s enough paint to bring out the sculpted details of the face with minimal slop. He’s not the easiest face to paint as the lips basically wrap around the whole head and he has that gap in the blue on top of the head, so Hasbro did a very nice job here. What is unfortunate though is his head is in two pieces glued together and there’s a blue seem as a result between his forehead and the portion of his flesh that runs up his head and it looks stupid. Otherwise, the paint details are fairly simple and done well enough. The chest even has this really nice, matte, finish which looks great, but also makes the shiny, plastic, portions look worse by comparison. Where they had to match colored plastic to painted, the figure also looks fine.

The source material for the gun is clearly the show, though it was simplified a bit for this release.

The elephant in the room when it comes to paint is obviously the exclusion of cel-shading. This is a retro card release, so cel-shading isn’t normally expected, but he’s also animated Apocalypse and the other X-Men animated figures all have it. Personally, I would like characters based on a cartoon to feature a paint job that reflects that medium. On the other hand, I concede that the cel-shading in the VHS line has been applied poorly. Part of me would like to give Hasbro some credit here in thinking that with a bigger figure to work with, the cel-shading would turn out better, but there’s no guarantee of that. They seem to struggle just finding the right colors to use when shading (see the hideous mustard color they use to shade yellow). Ultimately, it is what it is. I would love some shading on the torso, especially, but it’s not here. Maybe that’s a good thing? I don’t know, but that’s just my opinion. I don’t think he clashes in a significant manner amongst the other figures in the VHS line so I guess it doesn’t matter that much. As was the case with the accuracy of the sculpt, the absence of shading is going to matter more to some, and not at all to others.

Would it have been hard to just give us one more teeny, tiny, piece to stich in that bottom barrel? Though the proper thing to do would have been to sculpt a new, double-barrel, blast effect that plugs into both at the same time.

Moving on to accessories, Apocalypse is pretty much par for the course when it comes to Legends these days. He doesn’t have a lot, but at least here what he does have is done well. First of all, he has two sets of hands: fists and open, “clenchy,” hands. That’s fine as it allows him to look menacing, dramatic, and you can even get those clenchy hands to grab onto another figure. He also has two heads: an angry one and a stoic one. The angry one is reused, and the stoic is new. As a comic inspired sculpt, I think the angry head is fine. As an animated Apocalypse? It’s terrible. He basically never looked like this in the show so I probably won’t be using it. The stoic head is more my thing. It’s still done in the Legends style so it’s not a toon-accurate look for the character, but that’s been true of almost every release in the VHS line as well save for Wolverine. I refer to it as stoic, but he is frowning and looks kind of ticked off. I do wish the shape of both was different as Apocalypse tends to have a wide jaw compared with the top of his head, in both the comics and the show, but these heads are pretty uniform. If it were up to me, I’d have gone with this head, but with less detail to remove the frown and paired it with a laughing head. Imagine a laughing Apocalypse on your shelf with his fists on his hips or his arms crossed? Perfection. Lastly, we have the optional gun part. It attaches to the forearm and the cable can even plug into it. It is taken directly from the “Beyond Good and Evil” plotline when Cable confronts Apocalypse at the start so it is pulled right out of the show. It looks nice and Hasbro even included some blast effects for it which I would not have expected. It’s nice to have as it allows you to display Apocalypse as a menacing overlord on your shelf, or as someone willing to get his hands dirty which was rather true of the character in the show. They could have loaded him up with more arm attachments, but this feels like a fine selection of stuff for Apocalypse. It just would have been nice to get a new effect part for the main part of the gun that plugs into both of the center barrels. Since they instead gave us three separate pieces, one barrel will always be empty.

The gripping hands are wide enough that you can make your Apocalypse perform chokeslams on Wolverine.

Time to talk about the articulation. Despite being a big boy, Apocalypse moves okay and is pretty standard for the line. We have the ball-hinged head that lets him look up and down, all around, and even tilt the head a smidge. The collar doesn’t really get in the way until you try to rotate the head, but the range is decent. The shoulders are just ball-hinged and he can raise his arms out the side and rotate them pretty well even with the shoulder pads getting in the way slightly. The elbows are single-jointed and he can’t quite hit a 90 degree bend, so that could be better. The wrists rotate and hinge horizontally. In the torso, we get an ab crunch that lets him bend back a bit, and crunch forward a decent amount. It’s mostly colored plastic here so paint rub shouldn’t be of great concern, but it’s worth being mindful of. The waist is just a twist and the legs are ball-pegs. He can damn near do a full split and is capable of kicking forward just fine, though the cheeks will prevent much rear leg motion. There is a thigh cut which does what thigh cuts do and the knees are double-jointed. There’s no boot cut, but down in the ankles you have the usual hinge and rocker combination which works just fine. More importantly, everything is nice and tight so he shouldn’t be toppling over on your shelf. Apocalypse really only needs to hit a few poses and this figure is capable of doing that.

He is here to crush the mutants, and seems capable enough.

All in all, I am quite pleased with this release for Apocalypse. Yes, I would have preferred this come in the VHS line for both the packaging and the cel-shading, but since it didn’t, at least we got a fairly robust release as far as accessories go. I’ve been pretty disappointed with the majority of the VHS line because of the poorly applied cel-shading, inappropriate reuse of some sculpts, and the dearth of worthwhile accessories. It’s really been a money-grab kind of line and at least this Apocalypse feels more substantial and like a better value. They actually did some re-sculpting to make the figure more cartoon accurate, and while they didn’t go as far as they could with that, I think most will find they went far enough. My preference would have always been to receive figures with sculpts actually designed to mimic the animated look, but Hasbro was never committed to doing that for one reason or another. This figure does suffer a bit as a result because the head isn’t right and the veiny biceps look stupid on Apocalypse (and they would look stupid on any version of Apocalypse so I don’t get the thinking here). The rest of its shortcomings are just par for the course with Marvel Legends, like the dearth of paint apps (the cables look especially plain), so regular Legends collectors will likely be content. Unless someone else can get the license to produce animated X-Men figures (highly unlikely), this is unfortunately the best we’re likely to get. And at least with Apocalypse, this one does indeed feel good enough. Most of the VHS figures are not and the feeling of settling is palpable with each one, but here I don’t feel that way. At least not as much.

Apocalypse does come at an inflated price though of $40 which is obviously a lot for a Marvel Legends release. This one at least feels more worthy of that price compared with the VHS figures at around 28 bucks. A comparable figure would probably be NECA’s Chrome Dome from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line which was also $40. I would argue that the NECA release is a better value than this as it came with more stuff, more paint, and was 100% new tooling, but it also came out a year ago so maybe in 2022 it would be $45. Value, as always, is rather subjective, but in this case I think the value is there. If you’re interested in picking this one up, you may have to dig around a bit as it is sold out in several places. Hasbro Pulse still has it open for order so that may be the safest bet. Amazon does as well, but they can be hard to trust. Re-stocks may be on the way too so I don’t think it’s one you’ll have to spend a fortune on eBay for, but I also would recommend acting fast since I don’t think this one is ticketed for big box stores which would indicate there will be fewer of these out in the wild than the Age of Apocalypse version, by comparison. More importantly, if you can find some time today (admittedly, difficult given the holiday) or maybe even just this week throw on some classic X-Men and take a trip through time. It’s incredible to think I was watching the show as a kid 30 years ago, and while it may not hit the same as it did for me then, it’s still a worthwhile nostalgia binge and a show I think is worth celebrating. Or if you want to read more about it, I’ve covered both Previously on X-Men and the X-Men art book and recommend both to fans of the show. Here’s hoping the sequel series due next year is able to carry on its legacy.


Hasbro Retro Card Symbiote Spider-Man

“Let him out! We hunger for brains!”

One of the most iconic costumes in the world of superheroes is definitely that of Spider-Man. I put that classic red and blue with webbed detailing right up there with Superman and Batman. I would argue that there’s no more iconic costume in the world of Marvel than Spidey’s, and the crazy thing with Spider-Man is he really has two now iconic costumes. The Black Costume, the Symbiote Costume, the Alien Costume – whatever you call it, is pretty popular on its own. I know I’ve encountered several fans who even prefer the black look to the classic one. I can’t go that far with it, but I do enjoy it, even if Venom has largely taken ownership of the look over the years.

A small sampling of black costumed Spidey’s of the last 20 years or so: Kaiyodo Ultimate Spider-Man, Hasbro, Toy Biz Spider-Man Classics. The new one is an improvement in almost every way save for the “web holes” on the back of the Toy Biz Spider-Man’s hands.

The Symbiote costume has been popular. I can still remember when it first showed up in the ’94 Toy Biz line alongside the Venom II action figure. I wanted it, but because it was so popular, I had trouble tracking it down at the usual spots. I did have a local, dedicated, comic book store that had it along with Venom II. Unfortunately, they wanted 10 bucks for it which was double what Toys ‘R Us would charge me. I could only get one, so I got Venom. When I had replenished my funds, I could have gone back for it, but it was one of those figures saddled with a bad gimmick that made for an unattractive presentation. That was a thing we had to deal with back then. I didn’t mind a gimmick if it didn’t harm the sculpt, but ones that did were the bane of my existence as an action figure enthusiast in the mid-90s. I never ended up getting that figure, but I did get the 2022 edition so I feel like I’m making it up to my younger self.

This mold is an update over the prior one with the biggest addition being the diaphragm joint.

The retro card series from Hasbro is essentially just a subline of Marvel Legends. The packaging reflects the old Toy Biz line, right down to the artwork used for repeat characters. It does cause some confusion as collectors aren’t quite sure if this is an homage line or a line that’s supposed to reflect the animated series itself. I see this most with the recent Hobgoblin release, even though it looks nothing like the old cartoon. Homage line seems to be the right call. That Toy Biz line wasn’t a direct animated line either, though it was much closer to its source material than the X-Men line. What this line certainly isn’t though is a dedicated toon line like the upcoming X-Men one Hasbro is launching this year. These strike me as designs based on the comic with nostalgic packaging.

Together at last.

The exception, of course, is the animated Venom released last year. I have a lot of nostalgic attachment to Venom and the show, so I wanted to grab that release. When I did, I knew I wanted to at least pair him with a Spider-Man. As a bit of a fill-in, I grabbed Web-Man because I really liked the color palette. I also put in an order for this Symbiote Spider-Man when solicitations went up so the long goal was always to get this guy for my display and now he’s here.

The best I can do to visually illustrate my shoulder critique.

This Spider-Man is actually on a different body than Web-Man. I think Web-Man is on the “pizza body” and this version is on the updated body. They’re not vastly different, but there are some. This Spider-Man stands a tick shy of six and a half inches, which seems tall to me, but I’m not a regular collector of this line and can’t speak for how others feel. I don’t believe it’s a true 1/12 scale line. The overall look is pretty much what I envision Spider-Man to be. He’s well-muscled, but lean compared with the more bulky heroes out there. I really like the head shape which has a more pointed chin than Web-Man, and Hasbro did a solid job of minimizing the look of the articulation. It helps that this is a character in an all black suit so you don’t get unsightly issues like the color of the pins not matching the surrounding area. My one real critique of this body is a common one I have for Marvel Legends and it’s the shoulders. They just sit so low on the body. It’s not as noticeable as it is with Web-Man, but it’s something that needs to get better. They just really like this look of large traps sloping down into the shoulders when superheroes tend to have really big shoulders! These ones even sit entirely below the sculpted clavicle. It’s not super noticeable if you pose him well, but this design isn’t really helping out articulation (which we’ll get to) so I don’t understand why it persists.

At least the paint slop is on the rear of the figure.

Being an all black figure means there’s little need for paint. Had this been a true toon line, or one aiming to even replicate comic shading, there would be a need for blue highlights, but that’s not Hasbro’s style. He’s all black save for the white portions. And when it comes to that, we have almost two figures. From the front, he looks pretty great. The eyes are well-defined and well-painted. I love the shape of them. The logo on the chest is quite clean as well, though the opacity of the paint is subpar. There’s too much black showing through giving it a grimy appearance. That’s true of the white panels on the hands as well. Here, we have a possible error too as there’s no “web hole” even though the packaging claims this is the symbiote suit. Longtime fans know that when Spider-Man ditched the alien, he still kept the black look as a traditional costume so in that sense the absence is not an error. It’s a nitpick, I know, but how hard would it have been to get that right? On the rear of the figure, the spider logo is more messy. There’s a scratch on mine in the lower torso and some excess white paint just behind the right shoulder. It’s on the rear of the figure so it’s not a huge deal, but it’s an error and one of those that you can’t even see when inspecting a figure in the card which is always frustrating.

Spider pose!

Spider-Man is known for being rather nimble, so of course a Spider-Man action figure is packed with articulation. This dude has a lot, but it’s not all as functional as it probably could be. His head is on a ball-peg and that has plenty of range. The shoulders are ball-hinged and this is the area I alluded to earlier. He can’t raise his arms out to the side all of the way and getting him into a swinging pose is more challenging than expected, but do-able. He does have butterfly joints and they’re okay. Hasbro painted the spider logo all throughout the joint so you don’t get an ugly gap on the rear of the figure. The legs won’t be aligned, but there’s no real helping that. There’s a biceps swivel, double-jointed elbows, and the hands swivel and hinge. All of the hinges are horizontal. There’s a ball-joint in the diaphragm which lets the figure tilt n’ twist. The spider will obviously become miss-aligned when you do so, but again, there’s no helping that. There is a solid amount of clearance between the upper and lower torso so paint rub is minimal, but still something to watch out for. The joint also lets Spidey bend back a bit and crunch forward and when used in tandem with the ab crunch below you get quite a bit of range. There’s no waist twist, and the hips use a ball and hinge so you can drop the legs down. The drop-down function doesn’t really add anything as he can kick forward just as far either way. His butt cheeks prevent him from kicking back, but he can go out to the side almost to a full split. There are thigh cuts, double-jointed knees, a boot cut, and ankle hinges and rockers and all have plenty of range.

If you’re persistent, you can even get a one-handed pose. Note: the figure did fall over shortly after this picture was taken.

This figure articulates well enough. If I were allowed to design it, the only thing I’d change is those shoulders and the hips. Normal ball and socket hips would allow a thigh twist there so we could ditch the kind of ugly thigh cut. I just find that style of cut useless because it miss-aligns the muscle groups and just looks stupid. This guy though can get into most Spidey poses. The one that’s still out of reach is the classic three-pointed stance. To aid in his posing are some extra hands, which are the only accessories he comes with. He comes with fists hands and he can swap to open, “wall-crawling,” hands and web shooting “thwip” hands. The thwip hands don’t make any sense if this is the symbiote suit, but I think they’re still good to have. No gripping hands is kind of a letdown, but he also has nothing to grip. I would love web effects, and they’ve done them in the past, and that’s something sorely missing. This is also a $22 figure and accessories and paint are where Hasbro skimps with them. I’m not surprised, but I can still want more. And what really could some already tooled web effects actually add to the cost here? It’s probably less than a dollar, probably far less, but that’s what you get with Hasbro.

It would look better with some web effects…

And cost, or rather price, is really the main goal with this line. Hasbro wants to get you a good enough action figure at a low cost. This isn’t an import figure or a boutique thing, it’s a mass market retail release. As such, it’s pretty good! The figure does have that cheap feel when compared with a lot of other figures I own. The plastic can feel “gummy” at times and little in the articulation is smooth, but it’s also not loose or stuck so that’s a positive. And this is also a style of character that really fits what Hasbro wants to do: simple sculpt, simple paint, lots of articulation points. There’s a reason Hasbro keeps reusing this body, because it works. And for me, it gets the job done as now I have a Spider-Man to pair with my Venom. It would have been cool to get an animated deco, but this is fine. There are rumors that Hasbro intends to do an animated Spidey in his classic red and blue, and if so, I’ll probably take a look. Should they do that, I hope they at least update the arms to a pin-less system as I really hate how those look on the already released Spider-Man figures which end up with unsightly red dots on their underarm. I don’t know if it will be a deal breaker, but I guess I’ll know when I see it.

In this house, Venom always gets the upper hand.

Symbiote Spider-Man is currently being stocked by both Target and Walmart with other smaller shops still awaiting product. It’s a popular release, so it doesn’t hang around on pegs for very long. I actually got mine via Hasbro’s eBay page which doesn’t charge for shipping. If you’re still looking, maybe keep an eye on that and see if they do a restock. It’s popular for a reason so I would expect the figure to remain in production for at least a little while, but with all of the delays around the world, it could be awhile. Stay vigilant and good luck and if you have to go to the secondary market at least the prices don’t appear to be outrageous.


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