Tag Archives: x-men

Marvel Legends X-Men Retro Card Marvel’s Beast

Welcome, Professor McCoy, to The Nostalgia Spot.

2022 was the year a dream toyline of mine was made a reality. Hasbro finally decided to do a line of Marvel Legends based on the animated series X-Men, which premiered 30 years prior on Halloween 1992. The line was staggered with a release coming every 6-8 weeks or so and ended up totaling 8 figures, pretty standard for a single wave. There was hope on my part that the line would continue into 1993, when the show really took off, but that was not Hasbro’s plan. As a result, several characters from the show are still outstanding, and while Hasbro has referred to this break as a pause, that’s hardly a guarantee of anything going forward. If this were a romantic relationship, it would be dead, and maybe it should be since the line was subpar. I am a glutton for punishment apparently so I do want to see it continue so that we can get the missing X-Men and some of their most notable villains, but I can’t count on that. That means I’ve had to take matters into my own hands. I’m probably playing right into Hasbro’s thinking in doing so, but so be it, which is why I now have Marvel’s Beast to talk about.

We need to ponder the potential release, or non-release, of Beast in the X-Men Animated Series subline.

Beast, or The Beast, had an interesting run in the television show. He was part of the team, but basically written out of the first season pretty quickly as he was arrested and held for trial for the bulk of the episodes. He’d be released at the end of that first season and was able to become a recurring character as a result. Beast has always been one of those characters where the viewer is not supposed to judge a book by its cover. He looks like a beastly creature and adopted a name to play off of that, but in reality he’s pretty gentle, thoughtful, empathetic, and highly intelligent. Since he’s a well read individual, the writers of the show had a lot of fun with him as they could make him rather wordy and insert lines from famous writers and poets into his vocabulary as he was quite fond of quoting others. Some viewers found it annoying, but I was always rather charmed by Beast. And mostly, I just liked him because he was blue! Blue is my favorite color so a big, blue, furry, creature is aesthetically pleasing for me. Especially because I just really like the shade of blue used for his fur. It stands out and it’s a fun, somewhat ridiculous, design.

I prefer him naked.

This figure of Beast is a re-release. There’s been a prior blue version as well as a gray version and Hasbro apparently felt now was the time for another re-release. This one differs in that the shade of blue is different, more of a cobalt, and it’s all together brighter than that past one. There’s also less shading and he comes with a new head and some new accessories. It’s my thinking that certain figures from the animated series were not in play last year because of planned releases like this one or figures that were recently released on a retro card like Rogue and Gambit. It’s also my feeling that if we get a Beast in a 2024 or 2025 from the show he’ll basically just be this figure with some cel-shading and maybe a new head. And since I just really like how this blue turned out, I took the plunge with this figure as a stand-in. Maybe a permanent stand-in? Who knows? I’ll probably want that damn box when and if it comes so, yeah, this could easily be a double-dip for me, but at least I’m future proofed.

Beast! No!

The retro card is a throwback to the Toy Biz days and features artwork by David Nakayama. It’s a lovely card and many collectors like to keep one mint and open another, but I am not one of those guys. Beast stands right around 7″ if you stand him up straight, though practically speaking he’s a little shorter since this is a character that is almost always in some kind of a hunch or crouch. He comes out of the box sporting a white lab coat which is one of the new additions. It’s not an original idea to pair Beast with a lab coat as Toy Biz did the same early in the Marvel Legends line, but some people who already have the older Beast might want it. It’s decent, but the quality of the soft goods isn’t going to impress. Mine has several stray threads and if I intended to display Beast with this coat on I’d probably do some trimming. It does have a chest pocket on the left side which is neat.

The coat is not the best quality, but I also don’t know how much of a draw it truly is for collectors.

Getting the coat off is rather easy and once done we have our furry blue boy in all of his glory. This Beast is clearly inspired by the artwork of Jim Lee, as nearly all of the retro card releases seem to be. He has a stoic expression which features his completely white eyes and his teeth poking over his upper lip. This is where the distinction between show and comic comes into play as Beast in the show always had pupils, but in the comics he was often depicted this way. I prefer my Beast with pupils, but I can’t hold that against a figure that is trying to emulate a comic look. His hair is a darker blue and the body has lots of sculpted fur on it. There are hits of dark blue shading in the middle of the chest and shoulders which makes up the bulk of the paint on this guy. Otherwise, there’s just the belt and upper legs. The trunks are sculpted in navy and the belt in yellow with the X logo painted on. The upper thigh piece appears to be sculpted in navy and the parts of his exposed fur are painted and Hasbro did a good job of matching the blue paint to the blue plastic. The area around his ab crunch though is less successful as far as color-matching goes as it appears that was sculpted in navy as well. The rest of the paint is basically reserved for the white claws on the hands and feet and it’s done okay. It’s not the cleanest application of paint I’ve ever seen, but at least it’s not egregiously bad or anything. The proportioning on the sculpt is very well done for a Marvel Legends release. His chest and shoulders have plenty of mass and so do the legs and biceps. He should fit in pretty well with your other X-Men releases from this era of the comics, or show, in my case.

Fascinating!

I already mentioned the coat, but Beast does come with some other things as well. For hands, he has a somewhat tight gripping right hand and a loose gripping left hand. He also has a right fist and a left fully open hand. I would have preferred just two sets of gripping hands that match each other, so two tight and two loose, as the loose gripping hand is a nice style pose hand. The fist I find useless while the open hand is fine. It would be a bit more useful with better articulation, but we’ll get to that. The claw paint on all of the hands is pretty consistent in that it’s passable. Beast also gets a second head and this one is from the older release. It’s a screaming head and it’s pretty well painted and the inside of the mouth is sculpted. The hair on it is slightly more narrow, enough so that it throws off the aesthetic for me. I like the wider hair look of Beast, but this older head probably wasn’t going for that. It’s fine, but I’ll never use it as I just don’t think of Beast as a screamy sort of character, but artists have had fun drawing him like one for years. Beast also comes with a pair of beakers, one containing the X-Gene and another a green liquid. They’re fine and they look nice since they’re cast in transparent plastic with a colored fill to create the illusion of a liquid inside. They’re also two different designs with one featuring a more spherical base and they certainly work with the lab coat if that’s the look you want. Lastly, Beast has a pair of glasses. They’re cast in transparent plastic with the ear pieces painted black. They’re pretty terrible though because there’s nothing to hold them onto his face. They’re rubbery and soft so they don’t pinch at all and there are no holes or any way to key them in. I’m glad they didn’t do that, but these could have been manufactured in a stronger material so that they gripped his head better. Or they could have been designed to fit between his brow and his nose. Whatever, it is what it is, and at least they fit in his pocket. I received a Baxter Stockman figure last year from NECA that came missing a pair of glasses, and since NECA still has not sent me the replacement they promised, I’ll give these to Baxter for now.

Lastly, we need to rundown the articulation on this blue boy. Beast has quite a bit, and most of it I like, but he’s not without his problems. For starters, he has the usual ball hinge at the neck only with this figure the ball basically sits right on top of the hinge. His head is low so it affects the range. He can rotate and tilt a bit and he does have up and down, but since he’s a character who crouches a lot I would like even more range looking up. His shoulders are ball-hinged with butterfly joints. He can raise his arms to the side no problem and the butterfly joint goes way back, but hardly anything forward. He has a biceps swivel and double-jointed elbows that will bend past 90 degrees even with his rather generously sized biceps. The wrists swivel and hinge with all of the hinges being of the horizontal variety which is appropriate, in this case. In the torso, we have a diaphragm joint that runs along the bottom of the rib cage. It mostly affords rotation as any movement to the front, back, or tilt is minimal at best. Below that is an ab crunch that is mostly hidden behind the floating belt. It basically only has 3 positions so you get one click back and one click forward. It’s okay. At the hips we have some ball and socket joints and he can nearly hit a full split. He kicks forward about 90 degrees with no movement to the rear. There’s a thigh cut below that and double-jointed knees which work just fine. The ankles have a ratcheted hinge, from the feel of it. It will go back all of the way with two clicks of movement, but it goes forward only one click. He has a very nice ankle rocker and he also has a fairly well-engineered toe hinge as well. I wish the toe hinge was a little more firm, but it seems to be usable.

For Beast, it’s a solid mix of articulation points and approaches and, for the most part, I think it works. Where it’s lacking just a bit is with the ab crunch and the butterfly joints not coming forward more. Beast is known for that one-handed pose on the ground in a crouch not unlike Spider-Man. He has the big, open, hand for such, but he really can’t hit it convincingly. If you get him in a crouch with the hand down he looks silly because he doesn’t have the range in the head to be looking forward. More range back in the diaphragm would have helped. It does make me think his proportions might be just a little off in that his arms should be longer. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s a character where artists cheat at times and when he’s just standing around his arms look fairly normal in length, but when posed in a more “beastly” manner they mysteriously get longer. It’s just a bummer he really can’t do his classic Jim Lee pose from the cover of X-Men #1. He can stand on one hand though, if you’re patient. I wouldn’t recommend leaving him like that on a shelf without a stand, but I was able to pull it off.

It’s kind of a Beast pose.

This Beast is probably as good as a Marvel Legends version of the character is likely ever to get. Yeah, he can’t hit all of the “Beast poses,” with ease, but he still poses well. Mostly though, the sculpt looks great for the character so it’s no wonder why Hasbro has re-released it multiple times at this point. The extras like the lab coat do little for me, but this new, stoic, head is definitely more of what I envision for the character. Yeah, I want a smiling portrait with pupils in the eyes (like the box art, I might add), but I can’t really hold that against the figure since this is a comic interpretation and he has white eyes in the comics. Mostly, I just like this blue and I love how it pops on the shelf. I think the shading on the figure is enough, though maybe some hits on the calves and forearms would have livened things up, but it’s fine. The prior version looks over-shaded to me so I prefer this dialed-back approach. The only other thing to mention is the cost. This figure, for whatever reason, is considered a deluxe release so it’s going to cost you around $35 or more in some places to add him to your collection. Considering it’s nearly 100% reuse, there’s not much in the package to justify the price aside from Hasbro just doing whatever it wants. Compared to other releases at this price point it’s not a good value, but if you need a Beast (or have doubts about Hasbro doing more animated X-Men) you’re probably going to pay it. At least the figure looks nice enough.

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Marvel Legends X-Men Retro Card Series Apocalypse

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A few years ago, I talked about my love of X-Men, the animated series, via a book review of Previously…on X-Men by Eric Lewald. That book chronicled the development of the 92 animated series that helped propel the Fox Kids Network to the top of the Saturday morning leaderboards through notes from the author and…

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Marvel Legends X-Men Animated Series Cyclops

The field commander of the X-Men has arrived.

I wasn’t sure he would make it in time, but Hasbro managed to ship Cyclops before the end of the year. Cyclops marks the final figure (for now) in Hasbro’s X-Men animated series subline of Marvel Legends. It has been…a ride. What was once a dream line of mine to see brought to fruition, turned into something less. I won’t go so far as to get overly dramatic and juxtapose dream line with nightmare, but basically nearly every negative thought I had going into it came true. I don’t have a high opinion of Hasbro to begin with, but they are a giant toy maker that is pretty good at getting out a decent product at a good price. It’s just in 2022, most of those things have stopped being true. There’s been a reduction in quality, content, and it’s been paired with a rising price. Initially, I tried to be positive about a line based on the show X-Men. We had those Into the Spider-Verse figures to use as examples of what Hasbro is capable of when it decides to base their design’s on a particular source material, but the company chose not to do that with this line. Instead, we got previously released comic book figures with a dash of cel-shading and little in the way of new tooling or accessories. The line is best qualified as lazy, and I hate to use that word because I know there are people who work at Hasbro who are anything but lazy. The direction of the line has sucked. It’s been inconsistent, underwhelming, and yet, I’m still sad to see it end. To a degree. I want the company to just finish the main cast so I can take a step back and assess what we have, but that’s been put on pause with no guarantee of anything past this figure.

For some reason, Hasbro (and Toy Biz before them) have had trouble with this costume, but I think they finally got it right.

Given all of that, there’s at least a chance that Hasbro saved the best for last. Prior releases of Jean, Storm, Jubilee, Mr. Sinister, and Mystique have basically been of the straight repaint variety with varying results. Mystique and Storm got new hair parts, while Wolverine got a new head and hands. Morph has been the only new figure, though in Marvel Legends fashion, his body is mostly reused from past figures. He did get to debut new legs which were re-tooled to allow for his thigh and boot straps to be keyed in and it’s a part that’s going to be reused quite a bit in the figures to follow. Like this one! Cyclops, like Morph, is a mix of old and new. His costume is based on the show, which was based on the costume Jim Lee designed for the character during his run. It’s been a bit of a challenge to get this costume to look nice in plastic because of the unusual belt. Cyclops has a belt that goes up and over both shoulders, but only attaches to the waist at one spot on the rear and front. It’s sort of like a pair of suspenders, except one side of the belt has been clipped to the other side instead of the waist. It’s pretty goofy, but it’s been around over 30 years now so it seems pretty ordinary as a result. It just stinks for a toy-maker like Hasbro which wants to reuse the main body of its figures and add belts onto it, but past attempts have made the end result look ugly and chunky. Not to mention it can make any articulation in the torso seem pointless.

The chest strap is now keyed into the sculpt so it doesn’t hinder articulation and it’s not as cumbersome.

That’s why, like Morph, Hasbro decided to re-tool some parts to better accommodate the belt. The torso for Cyclops, which I think is the same as Vulcan, has been modified slightly so that the belt can now key-in like the straps on the thighs and boots. This means the belt no longer has to be one continuous piece, it’s actually “broken” at the ab crunch, but when the figure bends it creates the illusion that the belt is sliding around, but really it doesn’t move. The bottom piece of the belt just gets hidden by the ab crunch with no gap visible between the top and bottom piece. Is it totally seamless? No, but it’s an action figure and it needs to articulate and short of just making the belt part of the sculpt, this is probably the best solution. And by keying it in, it sits closer to flush with the rest of the costume. It’s not as chunky and awkward looking, and it’s easy to see why Legends collectors more interested in the comic line are excited for this release because you know Cyclops is likely to get re-released there. Possibly on a retro card or something.

Stay away from my friends, Sinister!

Hasbro did some actual tooling and it’s for the better. Sadly, that’s a pretty major development for this line as standards are pretty low at this point. And it’s not all, as Cyclops has a new head and his gloves might be new as well since they’re a little different from other figures released on this buck thus far. And just taking him at face value, he looks fine. Maybe even good. The head seems a little too big for the body as superheroes (especially from this era and the show) tend to have smaller than normal heads. The shoulders still sit too low and the chest could use more mass. Cyclops is a big dude, and this figure doesn’t really capture that perfectly, but it does so better than before. There’s also an eyesore on this guy on the forearms. Vulcan has long gloves that go up his forearms and Hasbro decided to sculpt in a groove where that glove ends and the paint stops. Cyclops has short gloves and apparently Hasbro blew the budget for tooling on the torso modifications because they didn’t do the same for the forearms. It feels especially cheap because surely there are other figures who would benefit from forearms without that line? It’s so frustrating how Hasbro will go halfway to deliver an accurate product, but stop short of something so simple.

Yup, he’s cel-shaded. Get over it.

The major talking point of this line has and likely always will be the cel-shading. Again, I reiterate that I like cel-shading when it makes sense. I think figures seeking to emulate a specific look benefit from the effect, but only if it’s done well. This line has been an example of how not to do it well. It’s been applied in a cheap and lazy fashion. Cyclops really isn’t any different, but by virtue of much of the figure being cast in a dark blue, it’s not as bad. The darker blue used to shade the main body, arms, and legs looks good. A better figure still would have used three colors for the shading, but here it’s acceptable. The yellow parts still look terrible. They’ve been using this gold, mustard, color for the yellow which matches no source material I’ve ever seen, comic or show, but expecting them to change at this point would be equally stupid. It’s also applied the same as it was on Morph for the boots which includes this goofy, wavy, line on the right foot that makes no sense. The belt on his torso has almost no shading, so it really stands out as just being bare plastic, but the trunks and waist have a little. It’s still not good, but it’s not the worst we’ve seen in the line (that honor rests with Jubilee), but it is as expected so at least they’re consistent?

“You left me to die!” “No, I didn’t.”

If this line has a strength (aside from the very well done box art by Dan Veesenmeyer) it rests in the articulation as it’s been pretty solid. I think at this point that’s the main strength for Marvel Legends given the changes brought this year. Cyclops still uses the ball-hinge head which works fine and his design doesn’t introduce any elements that would hinder the range up there so that is good. The shoulders are hinged and come out to horizontal just fine, rotate, and we get a biceps swivel that does what it does. There’s a butterfly joint in each shoulder that works well enough, though the left one will be hindered a bit by the chest strap. The elbows are pinless and double-jointed and he can bend his arm past 90 degrees. Even though we have that “cut” on the forearm, there’s no articulation there. It only exists to be ugly. The wrists swivel and hinge in typical fashion. In the torso, there’s an ab crunch that’s rather stubborn on my figure, though that seems to be unique to mine. It works, but bending him back makes him look pregnant or like he has a beer belly. The waist rotates as one would expect. At the hips, we have ball and socket joints and he can spread his legs enough, not a full split, but enough for Cyclops. He kicks forward just fine, not really back, and we have the usual thigh cut. A lot of people remain unhappy with the placement of these straps and how high they are, but I couldn’t possibly care less about that. The knees are double-jointed and bend past 90 and we get a boot cut below the straps. It’s ugly, but you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to. The ankles hinge forward and back enough plus they have a rocker. I’ve seen more than one person have issues with the ankle rocker snapping. It does feel a tad gummy, and even though these are the same feet as what we saw with Morph, the ones on Cyclops feel different. Just be careful. This guy is going to do what he needs. It’s disappointing that the ab crunch results in such an ugly look for the figure considering this is a mold Hasbro intends to reuse over and over, but it is what it is.

If you know, you know.

What is not a strong suit for this line has been the accessory count and Cyclops is no different. He doesn’t even get a second head. The only other items in the box are a set of open hands and a two-finger pointing right hand designed to be used with his visor or his X communicator. There’s no effect parts or anything like that which feels pretty damn cheap.They’ve done Cyclops effects in the past, but I guess they wouldn’t work here. For 28 bucks, he really should have a second head that includes a blast. The fact that the Mr. Sinister figure in this wave was a straight re-paint with no accessories should have created enough savings for the entire line to get a decent spread. The open hands are also reused from Morph (and likely from other figures) and, like the gripping hands we saw shoehorned into the Wolverine set, are sculpted to be bare hands so he has sculpted fingernails and it looks rather silly. Again, Hasbro couldn’t see a benefit with multiple figures of creating a gloved, open, hand? We’re moving well beyond “cheap” with some of these shortcuts.

“Next time, I use these!”

Did Hasbro save the best for last? I wouldn’t go that far. I still think, given that this is a line of figures supposed to be based on the animated series, that Wolverine remains the best. He got two new heads which both look like they came from the show plus a fun little toss-in accessory in the form of the picture frame. Cyclops is sort of in a tie with Sinister and Morph. I can see arguments for all 3. Sinister is the most on-model, but also the biggest rip-off in many ways in the line given how little Hasbro had to put into it. Morph gets bonus points for just being Morph, but there was really no imagination put into that figure and the default portrait really looks nothing like the character from the show. As has been the case with most of these, Cyclops is a figure of half-measures. Hasbro did some good, but also did some bad, and the bad is mostly in what they chose not to do. His proportions are still iffy, but that seems to be a problem with Legends in general while the forearm thing is just annoying and it makes it look like Hasbro has zero pride in their product. Cyclops, like basically every release in this line, is a terrible value and I can pull up several other figures from different companies in a similar price-point that actually justify their cost. Nothing from Hasbro of late in the Marvel Legends line does that, but we keep buying it so it’s not likely to change.

This is it for the animated line for now. Despite my issues with it, I would still like for Hasbro to at least finish off the team and hit on a couple of the most important villains.

Given all of that, I actually find myself really drawn to this Cyclops. I’ve always loved this look for him and that combo of a rich, royal, blue with yellow just does it form. There’s a ton of nostalgia at play here which has made this figure hard to put down. Certainly if you’ve been collecting this line you’re not going to stop before you get to Cyclops unless you’re just so dissatisfied that you’re bailing all-together and selling everything off. For what this line has been, he’s good, but overall he’s more fine than good. It’s hard to get enthusiastic about any of these. If you would like to add Cyclops to your shelf he’s available on Pulse and should be available at some point on ShopDisney. He’ll set you back 28 bucks plus shipping, but once he’s gone it’s unclear if he (or any of the figures in this line) will receive another production run. Some have already started to sell out so you may not want to sleep on it. At the same time, this is the last release in the line for now with no, true, assurances that it will continue. Hasbro called it a “pause” so that it could focus on doing figures from the Spider-Man 90s cartoon, but it’s not like they’re obligated to continue it. My guess is that it’s still under consideration, but if the figures sell out then it’s more likely they return to it. This clearly hasn’t been an expensive line to produce, so any hurdle it has to clear performance wise may not be very big. I think they just wanted to space out some of the retro card releases like Rogue, Gambit, and the new Beast a bit more before tackling them for this line. We’ll probably know the fate of this one come this time next year (likely a little earlier as I imagine PulseCon is where we’ll find out), but as always, buyer beware if you feel you need the team to be complete to feel satisfied. I am, for better or worse, all-in with this line so if more come you can be sure I’ll cover them. And if you just want more animated X-Men figures to talk about, I did order the Mondo Magneto so the discussion isn’t over with 2022.

More from the world of X-Men: The Animated Series:

Marvel Legends X-Men Animated Series Wolverine

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This week, the long wait for an in-person San Diego Comic Con comes to an end. For the first time since 2019, attendees, creators, and the like will be invited back into the city of San Diego for a celebration of all things comics, movies, and general “nerd” culture. One of the many panels this…

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Dec. 18 – X-Men – “Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas”

Original air date December 23, 1995.

Today, The Christmas Spot temporarily alters it’s name to The X-Mas Spot. As a sort-of celebration for the animated series X-Men turning 30 this past Halloween we’re going to look at the show’s lone holiday special – “Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas.” The show X-Men was a pretty serious affair as far as kid shows go. It wasn’t very jokey or gimmicky and it technically didn’t even have a tie-in toy line. Sure, ToyBiz had an X-Men line of figures, but it was technically a tie-in with the comic book. The show undoubtedly influenced the line, there was a Morph figure after all, but the point is this wasn’t a show that went for the cheap hits so when a Christmas special was announced during the holiday season of 1995 I was pretty damn surprised.

Why does a show like X-Men then feature a holiday special? As is the answer to most things that seem unexplainable from afar when it comes to television – it was the network. Fox wanted a Christmas special from the show so it delivered one. It’s not a fan favorite and writer/showrunner Eric Lewald basically admits they made it intentionally campy to reflect other cheesy Christmas episodes of popular shows. They even got in a “Not on Christmas!” line into it. The episode is what it is, a shoe-horned concept into a show that probably shouldn’t feature such an episode, but perhaps there is still some value here. Besides, who doesn’t want to spend Christmas with Wolverine?

This is the story of Jubilee’s first X-Mas with the X-Men, which means it probably shouldn’t be assumed that we’ve been watching their lives unfold in a linear fashion or else they’ve had one hell of a year.

The episode begins at the home of the X-Men. Cyclops (Norm Spencer), Rogue (Lenore Zann), and Jubilee (Alyson Court) are decorating a massive tree in the mansion’s foyer. As they do, they’re joyously singing “Deck the Halls” and Cyclops sounds particularly awful, but seemingly intentionally so as he calls attention to his bad singing and suggests the other two carry on without him. Brooding off by the fireplace is old Wolverine (Cal Dodd) who predictably wants nothing to do with the holiday festivities despite the insistence of Jubilee for him to do so. It’s her first Christmas with the X-Men, which would seem all of the events up until now that have occurred in the show have taken place within a year, and she seems a little hurt that Wolverine won’t participate, but Rogue is here to reassure her and even lifts her up to the top of the tree to put the star in place.

Gambit is apparently impervious to boiling water.

Off in the kitchen, Jean (Catherine Disher) is preparing a Christmas dinner, but she has to contend with Gambit (Chris Potter). Despite her being the appointed chef, Gambit is sporting an apron and togue and appears to view himself on equal footing here. He rudely inquires what she’s preparing and Jean angrily retorts “It’s called food, Gambit. Normal, Christmas food.” Gambit, being from Louisiana and a connoisseur of cajun cuisine, seems to disagree strongly with whatever is boiling in a pot. When he goes for some seasoning, Jean uses her telekinetic powers to keep the spice on the counter despite how hard Gambit pulls on it. She also adds “The day that I need your help in the kitchen is the day that I stop cooking!” It’s a fine line, but Wolverine just used a similar one on Jubilee (“The day that I sing “Jingle Bells” is the day pigs fly”) so it’s a little redundant. She releases her psychic hold on the seasoning sending Gambit tumbling into the stove. He falls on his rear and the pot of water that was boiling lands on him, but seemingly does no harm. Jean gets a little laugh out of this while Gambit still insists she knows nothing about cooking a proper Christmas dinner.

In the lab, Beast (George Buza) is suspended from the ceiling mixing something in a beaker. It turns from red to green while Beast recites a poem by a “Sir Walter” that sounds festive enough. I only know the poem’s author because when Beasts tastes his “goo” he declares it worthy of the poem though he’s sure to point out this concoction is non-alcoholic (wouldn’t want the kids to think otherwise). We then cut to Professor X (Cedric Smith) and Storm (Alison Sealy-Smith) watching the goings on via the security monitors. It’s a bit creepy, but I guess someone is always watching these things for security reasons. Xavier notes that Storm seems a little blue and she remarks that seeing Jubilee makes her reflect on her own childhood. She grew up poor on the streets of Cairo, in case you were wondering as they don’t have time to discuss it further since alarms start blaring. Xavier thinks they’re under attack and Storm gets the first very, sweaty, Christmas special line “Could we be under attack – on Christmas Eve?!”

Beast is always so festive.

Cyclops receives a transmission about the alarm via his usual belt insignia. The “X” on everyone’s belts in this show were like two-way radios. The funny thing here is that Cyclops is not wearing his field uniform so rather than pressing a button on his chest he’s just touching his shirt. The X-Men race to the alarm’s origin which turns out to be Beast’s lab. They bust in only to find Beast in the process of shutting down the alarm. He’s covered in a red sauce and when Cyclops asks if he’s okay he indicates that he is, but his cranberry glaze is not. Wolverine is the last to arrive and he’s disappointed they weren’t under attack. He decides he’s had enough of this Christmas stuff and indicates he intends to go somewhere else for a bit. Jubilee then asks him if he’ll go shopping with her and Storm and Wolverine is right to point out how terrible shopping on Christmas Eve sounds. He makes a lame joke about having better luck fighting Sabretooth, but Jubilee does the whole “Please? For me?” and Wolverine responds with “Turn it off, kid.”

I’m going to have to agree with Wolverine here, the mall on Christmas Eve is something to be avoided.

Despite all of that, Wolverine does indeed accompany Jubilee and Storm to the mall against his better judgement. We see them walking around a department store and Jubilee’s face is hidden by the amount of boxes in her arms. She’s trying to talk to both Storm and Wolverine, but can’t see, and Wolverine kindly removes the top box so she can do so. She thanks him for coming and he gives her a “Don’t mention it,” but also reiterates his desire to leave. Jubilee is pretty amped up for Christmas, but also worried she’s not doing it right as she reminds us again that she’s never had a Christmas with a family before. Storm is reassuring, and as the trio makes their way out Wolverine is accosted by a sales woman pitching cologne. She sprays it in Wolverine’s face and informs him it’s sure to make women act like animals (rather risqué for a kid’s show), but Wolverine informs her he’s about to turn into an animal before Storm intercedes.

I feel like we’re missing a conversation here: How did Jubilee convince Wolverine to go ice skating?

Storm gestures towards freedom and encourages Wolverine to make a break for it. He does looking almost feral in the process. We then shift to an outdoor scene and the crew is doing some ice skating presumably at Rockefeller Center. Storm is watching from a bench as Jubilee and Wolverine skate. Jubilee tries to get Wolverine to cheer up and encourages him to have fun, but he just tells her she wouldn’t want to know what he finds fun. He then hears some sirens and goes on alert, but since Jubilee doesn’t have a super sense of hearing she dismisses him at first until Storm hears them as well.

Ape (left) can basically turn himself or his limbs into whatever he can come up with, but often his imagination seems to be lacking.

An ambulance comes crashing onto the ice and we soon see it’s being driven by Morlocks. Ape (Ross Petty) and Annalee (Kay Tremblay) emerge from the ambulance and start taking supplies from it. Wolverine comes skating up ready for a fight and calls their actions low by their standards. He grabs Ape, who had transformed his hands into paddles that look like duck feet to carry supplies. I feel like he could have morphed them into something far more useful. Anyway, Wolverine is ready for a fight, but Storm arrives and brings a blizzard with her to conceal their actions. Annalee informs her that they’re taking supplies to help Leech, a juvenile Morlock who is apparently very sick. They didn’t know what to do as they already tried a hospital, but they couldn’t care for the mutant boy. She takes this opportunity to also remind Storm that she is the leader of the Morlocks, something established way back in season one of the show, and that she’s never around when they need her. Storm agrees to help them and she uses her powers to thwart the approaching police and to provide cover for their escape. Wolverine indicates he’s not helping sewer rats, while Jubilee is worried about her presents. Storm tells the child to leave them, but she scoops them up anyway before following.

Callisto (left) and Storm have to set aside their differences for poor Leech who is afflicted with a severe case of plot sickness.

We then see the group walking through ankle deep water in the sewer. It would seem Wolverine decided to join them after all while Jubilee is worried that they’re supposed to be home in an hour for Christmas dinner. When they arrive at Leech, Callisto (Susan Roman) is there to “welcome” them. She gives Storm a bunch of sass for not being around when they need her which gets Wolverine riled up, but Storm tells him to back off as she seemingly accepts the criticism. She does inform Callisto that they can settle their differences later, for right now Leech needs their full attention. As for the child, he’s laying on a table under a blanket apparently unconscious. Storm, citing Wolverine’s experience with field medicine, instructs him to prep the child as she wants to take him to Beast. Wolverine walks over and checks the kid’s pulse and just says, “Uh oh…”

I think this is Marianna’s only appearance in the show.

Seated against the wall, Jubilee watches with concern on her face. She soon hears something behind her and it turns out to be a small, Morlock, girl who bares a strong resemblance to Leech. Jubilee greets the little, green, girl who then emerges from the shadows to come sit with Jubilee. Meanwhile, Callisto is frustrated that Wolverine isn’t preparing Leech for transport and grabs Storm insisting she order him to do something. Storm fights back until Wolverine shouts “Shut up!” at both of them. He then delivers the bad news that Leech isn’t going anywhere. His pulse is dropping too fast and there’s no way he would survive the trip back to the mansion. This leaves Jubilee to get another sweaty Christmas special line in of, “No, he can’t! Not today! It’s Christmas Eve!” as she hugs the small girl and we pan to a tiny, Morlock, Christmas tree that basically looks like Charlie Brown’s tree, only the lone ornament is broken.

Wolverine apparently has some PTSD in his past related to trying to heal people with his own blood.

As the adults discuss what to do, it’s Jubilee who says “Please Wolverine! You’re so good at healing yourself, can’t you help Leech?” Storm seems to like this train of thought and inquires with Wolverine about a blood transfusion. He refuses, while the others persist. Storm thinks it’s because Wolverine hates the Morlocks, but he shouts back at her “Don’t you think I want to help the kid?!” He then explains he’s tried it before and it didn’t work. It was a group of 20 individuals and the last one to die was a kid younger than Leech. Still, when Storm initially asked he said “Maybe” to it working and Wolverine explains it did work once and the large group was the second time he attempted the feat. He doesn’t know why it worked once, but not again, and seems reluctant to try it here.

It turns out, Wolverine isn’t racist, he just doesn’t want to see another kid die!

Storm doesn’t really care and asks Ape if he acquired a transfusion kit from the ambulance. He just looks at her in confusion and she tells him to never mind. She finds what she’s looking for amongst the supplies and informs the others that she’ll contact the mansion to have Rogue fly Beast to them. As she does she hands the transfusion kit to Wolverine and tells him he knows what he must do. He angrily responds “You don’t know what you’re asking,” and she snaps back, “I am asking you to show the courage needed to save a child’s life!” “He wouldn’t be dyin’ if you looked after these people!” Woo! There’s some dramatic stuff right here! Wolverine’s words appear to cut Storm deep which calms her down.

The moment Ape has waited his whole life for!

Storm concedes Wolverine’s point, but then calmly tells him that even if the odds are one in a thousand, he needs to try. She tops it off with a “Ask yourself, if he were your child, would you refuse?” Wolverine just looks at the kit in his hands and the scene cuts back to Storm’s face, but it’s clearly just a single cel that they’re holding on and it looks pretty goofy. I wonder if the episode came in short and they had to find cheap ways to extend it? It cuts back to Wolverine who just silently shakes his head indicating that he wouldn’t refuse if the situation was different. Storm just says, “Good,” then tells Ape that Wolverine needs a flat surface beside Leech to lie on. You would think this is a command to get a table or something, but no. Ape walks over and turns himself into a table for Wolverine to lie one! Were they planning to eat Christmas dinner off of the guy too?

All right, I need to know more about larva guy over here. Does he do anything or does he just look like that worm that creates Slurm?

Over by the wall, the little Morlock girl asks Jubilee if Leech will be okay? Jubilee responds with a question of her own and in the process we find out the little girl’s name is Marianna (her voice is uncredited, but it’s presumably from the main cast). She asks her if she believes in miracles, but Marianna has no idea what a miracle is. Jubilee tries to sniff back some tears and holds the girl close telling her “Maybe in a little while, we’ll see.”

Good thing Cyclops is here to use his powers to make sure the stalk of celery Jean threw at Gambit didn’t connect. This is the most danger anyone on the X-Men is put into during this episode. Well, Storm and Jubilee are probably in danger of catching something walking around in a sewer.

At the snowy mansion, Jean and Gambit continue their kitchen feud. Gambit apparently did something to the ham and Jean is not happy. She demands Gambit’s removal from her kitchen and in the process refers to him as a swamp rat. Cyclops thinks they’re both acting like children, but before things can get any worse, Professor X enters to inform them of the emergency in the Morlock tunnels. Lucky for him, Rogue already ditched the holiday attire and is in her normal X-Men uniform and ready for action.

This is basically Charlie Brown’s tree, only it’s one that doesn’t magically become full and beautiful once decorated.

Back in the sewers, the transfusion has begun and the rest can only look on while Wolverine urges Leech to pull through. Marianna is still rather cheerful and asks Jubilee if Leech is better yet. She wants to show Jubilee their Christmas tree and takes her over to the pathetic, little, tree which is using a tin can as a tree stand. She’s proud of it though since Leech found it and Jubilee calls it the most beautiful tree she’s ever seen. Marianna then takes Jubilee to their Christmas feast and wants Jubilee to partake. It’s some kind of stew and probably smells awful. Marianna assures Jubilee she can have some of hers as she really wants Jubilee to share the experience. Storm them enters and Jubilee asks about Leech, but it’s too soon to tell. She then asks Storm how the Morlocks can go on having so little and she gets a little dose of Christmas wisdom. Storm tells her they have each other and that’s all they need to feel loved. She tops it off with another one, “As long as you are part of a caring family, every day is Christmas!”

Beast, I don’t think you’re using that properly.

Over by Leech, Callisto is growing impatient and Wolverine has had enough. He angrily rises from his “table” and rips the IV out of his arm defiantly shouting “I told you it wouldn’t work!” Storm tries to calm him down, but before she can Rogue and Beast arrive. Wolverine tells Beast he’s got to work fast and the blue one heads for the patient. For some reason, Leech is now fully clothed and not under a blanket and apparently the animation budget wasn’t high enough to have Beast check the kid’s vitals in a logical manner so he just starts running a stethoscope over the kid’s jacket. As he does so, he explains that Wolverine’s powers are not something that modern, medical, science understands and he doesn’t know what the end result will be.

This kid probably just thinks Jubilee cries all the time at this point.

As Callisto uselessly demands that Beast “Do something,” he continues to examine the child while Wolverine can’t bare to watch. Leech’s eyes soon flutter though, and we get a shot from his point of view as he focuses on Beast. He lets out a cry of surprise which causes Beast to laugh as he notes he doesn’t have the most reassuring of faces. This whole time, Leech has been depicted with yellow eyes and I have to assume it was an error since we see he has eyelids for his waking up shot. Or, it’s not an error and they just decided to give him eyelids for that one shot to make it more obvious that he was waking up. Jubilee is sobbing with Marianna in her arms and tells the girl that Leech is okay and she just matter-of-factly responds with “Of course he is!”

Leech is all better and seemingly over his fear of Beast. Hooray!

Storm then demands Callisto hand over the ceremonial scepter of power. She’s reluctant to, but Storm asserts her authority as leader of the Morlocks and offers no explanation. She then forces the woman to kneel before her, which she probably enjoys humiliating her one last time before announcing she’s transferring her title as leader back to Callisto. Callisto says nothing but rises and takes the scepter. Wolverine then strolls over to break the ice and asks what a guy’s gotta do to get some orange juice and a cookie around here? Leech (John Stocker), who is seated in the large arm of Beast, then announces he’s hungry too which produces a laugh out of Beast who then prescribes food for the patient. Wolverine then thanks Leech “for making it,” while Storm offers her apologies to Wolverine for not treating him with the same compassion he showed Leech, adding that she should have known better than to question his heart.

She’s just handing over a few gifts, Storm, let’s not turn this into something bigger than it really is.

Callisto announces that all X-Men are welcomed to join them for Christmas dinner, though adding they don’t have much to offer. Jubilee then announces that most of the presents she’s been dragging along contain food and offers those. Storm double-checks that she’s all right with doing so since it meant a lot to her to give these gifts out back at the mansion, but she’s totally cool with it because she learned her important, Christmas, lesson. She then encourages the kids, Leech and Marianna, to help her open them.

All right, I have some questions. Number one, which member of the X-Men was in-line to get a toy plane for Christmas?!

Jubilee then gets the customary “You have done something noble,” from Storm acknowledging her Christmas lesson, even though her act of nobility is just giving stuff away. She lives in a freakin’ mansion, for crying out loud. She gives Wolverine a hug as she says “I learned from the best,” and he gives her a reassuring pat on the back and a “You’re a good kid.” Beast then summarizes the events of today by reminding us this wasn’t the Christmas Jubilee had envisioned, but it will be a memorable one. Rogue gets to have a little chuckle here adding “So will a couple of cooks I know.”

Jean is enjoying this. I’m surprised they can’t still eat some of the dinner since there’s still 4 of them there, but Jean probably refuses and I’m guessing Cyclops is in the doghouse if he partakes in Gambit’s meal. Xavier is wise to stay out of it as well.

We cut back to the mansion where Jean has seemingly ceded control of the kitchen to Gambit who has prepared what he feels is a flawless Christmas dinner. Word comes down that the others are having Christmas dinner with the Morlocks, and Gambit does not take the news well that the whole crew won’t be getting together for Christmas dinner. Jean gets to suggest that they can heat it up tomorrow which just irritates the cook further. Gambit retorts in the third person with “Gambit does not make TV dinners!”

Oh no! He’s melting!

By the fire, we see Xavier taking a phone call from Jubilee who is concerned that he’d feel hurt that they’re not spending Christmas together. Xavier assures her that’s not the case, and while their presence will be missed, he’s proud of their actions today. He even refers to her action as a “generous sacrifice,” which seems to be quite the exaggeration here! He tacks on a whole thing about how she’s giving him the best gift of all by acting like a true X-Man in recognizing that she is where she’s needed most. We pan outside the mansion to the giant tree out front where the camera holds and the message “Merry Christmas from all the X-Men” appears to announce that this one is over.

Wolverine wished me a merry Christmas, you guys!

In the intro, I mentioned how out of place it felt for a show like X-Men to do a Christmas special. Now that it’s over, I don’t feel any different, but I do have to commend the show for just going for it. It’s a very dramatic show with a lot of heavy-handed line readings and this episode is no different. Except that this one gets to play with the overly dramatic Christmas special motif we’ve seen in other shows. It almost feels like an episode of Full House as a result, only with mutants, and it takes place mostly in a sewer. It has all of the usual holiday staples though in that we have a character excited for Christmas and the pageantry that accompanies it. Jubilee isn’t portrayed as a selfish child, but she is consumed by the act of Christmas and not its message, but it comes from a healthy place as she reminds us more than once she’s never really had a traditional, Christmas, experience. And she’s forced to adjust on the fly to her first Christmas with a family changing its setting, and even some of its participants.

Wolverine’s heart grew three sizes that day…

We also get the tried and true “some kid is sick at Christmas and needs a Christmas miracle to survive” via the Leech plot. Wolverine, who naturally functions as a Christmas antagonist of sorts, is brought into the story that way and it makes sense that the show would want to involve its most popular character in the plot. It finds a role for him, and we get the added drama of Wolverine being sort of racist against the Morlocks, but forced to save one. That angle isn’t really played up though. Wolverine just assumes the worst of the group, and he’s not entirely unjustified in doing so based on their prior interactions, and also gets in some cheap insults before they come upon Leech. It’s enough for Storm to assume the worst though and adds to the drama. Her and Wolverine’s argument is definitely the height of the special as far as the drama is concerned and the line readings from Sealy-Smith and Dodd are very much over-the-top, but in an earnest way.

Fans of the show probably weren’t asking to spend Christmas with the Morlocks, but the fact that they’re a poor family does lend itself well to a Christmas story.

And then, of course, we get the comedic B plot at the mansion involving Jean and Gambit. I feel like we actually could have used one more scene between the two as clearly Jean just gave up on preparing her idea of Christmas dinner at some point to let Gambit go full steam ahead with his oyster loaf and other foods. It’s fine and we actually get to see a different side of Jean in these scenes, who is normally rather buttoned-up and, frankly, boring. It also allows the whole team to get some presence in this one which is probably an important thing since Christmas is traditionally about family and it’s not like the show was planning on ever doing another Christmas episode.

At least we get to see how the X-Men decorate for Christmas. And they certainly go big.

As an episode of X-Men, this one is a bit of a failure. It’s plot feels out of place and the corny Christmas lines stand out far too much. It also doesn’t get to redeem itself with any special production values. The Christmas décor looks fine, and some of the characters are in outfits we’re not accustomed to seeing, but that’s about it. As a Christmas special though, it’s not that bad. Admittedly, there’s a ton of terrible Christmas specials out there so the bar isn’t exactly high. The messaging in this one is fairly simple and it really doesn’t beat you over the head with it since it’s largely contained to the show’s final minute. Xavier lays it on a bit thick right before the credits roll, but that’s hardly unusual for a Christmas special. It gets bonus points for having actual stakes, and while Leech is basically afflicted with “plot sickness,” the miraculous capabilities of Wolverine’s healing powers mean he could have legitimately been sick with something awful and Wolverine’s powers are just that good. There’s no Santa or anything like that, but it does have a human mutant story at its heart so that helps give it a solid foundation. Plus, it features the X-Men and you don’t get that too often in a Christmas story.

“Have Yourself a Morlock Little Christmas” gets a tepid recommendation from me. I suppose you have to be a fan of X-Men to get the most out of it, but at the same time, hardcore fans are possibly more likely to have a strong negative reaction to this one since it feels a bit silly to see the characters in this setting. This one is basically searching for the overlap on the Venn diagram of X-Men fans and fans of corny Christmas fair. At the end of the day, it’s only 23 minutes so you’re not sacrificing much to give it a look. And it’s fairly easy to find since the whole show is streaming on Disney+. It’s also available on DVD if physical media is still your thing. At worst, maybe you’ll be inspired to try some new dishes at your own Christmas dinner?

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

Dec. 18 – The Legend of Prince Valiant – “Peace on Earth”

The early 90s saw an influx of cartoons produced solely with the intent to sell to cable networks. Previously, most cartoons were packaged from film or created for broadcast networks which would get the first run on major network affiliates and then gradually migrate to smaller stations. With cable becoming more affordable, it was fast…

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Dec. 18 – Dumb and Dumber – “Santa Klutz”

After doing write-ups for the two cartoons inspired by Jim Carrey films from 1994, you must have figured I’d do the third today! Just as Carrey stormed the cinematic gates with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber in ’94, the television world followed suit in ’95 with an animated series based…

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Dec. 18 – Little Dracula – “The Bite Before Christmas”

There was a huge demand for cartoons in the early 90s. Cable was expanding and needed content for all ages while a new broadcast network was also making noise. That network was Fox, and after scoring primetime hits with Married…with Children and The Simpsons, the network started to look at other areas where it could…

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Marvel Legends X-Men Animated Series Mystique

Mystique is bringing the big guns.

The penultimate figure in this series is a bit of a curveball. When one thinks of the animated series X-Men, the first villains that come to mind are Magneto, Sinister, Apocalypse, Sabretooth, and then it gets muddled. Graydon Creed made quite the impression in the show’s second season and may even be the most hate-able villain the show produced. Omega Red was certainly memorable since he was a very 90s sort of villain and being tied to Wolverine never hurts. And, of course, we have Mystique, the character Hasbro selected to be the second villain of the line (third if you want to count Morph). I think she has a claim to that fifth spot and I can certainly see an argument for Mystique as one of the most memorable villains of the show. It’s just that her character is very much tied to others. She does briefly cross paths with Sinister, and her box art appears to be inspired by that scene, but she’s not really associated with him. There’s her adopted daughter Rogue, biological son Nightcrawler, and her lackeys in the form of Pyro, Avalanche, and the Blob. All of those characters could certainly make an appearance in this line, and I would certainly argue that Rogue should be, but it strikes me as odd to get Mystique before some of these other characters. And it’s especially surprising considering she is, as I mentioned in the first setence, the penultimate figure of the line with the only remaining character set for release being Cyclops. Hasbro left open the possibility that they will return to the world of the X-Men animated series, but for now we basically have to consider it done which just makes this selection an odd choice.

Are we all in agreement that the box art is the best thing about this line?

I don’t know how Hasbro settled on the characters for this line, but my guess would be it’s largely sales related and cost-oritented. You can’t do this line without Wolverine, and basically any member of the team can’t be considered a surprise. I’m guessing Hasbro skipped over Rogue and Gambit because of their recent retro card released figures, and the same is true for Beast who has a new figure shipping now. Magneto also had some recent figures, so maybe that’s why Hasbro went with an older figure like Sinister. He was prominent enough in the show that it was hardly an upset to see him released as soon as he was, and he pairs well with Morph who was a character they absolutely had to do. With Mystique, it’s possible she’s a favorite of someone on staff who pushed for her, but it seems more likely to me that this release has more to do with Hasbro and the Legends team wanting to get her back out there. Like most of this line, Mystique is a re-paint with some minor additions and the previous figure was released as a Walgreen’s exclusive. Retail exclusives can be a pain to track down, so putting out another version that’s easy to acquire is often a welcomed development. I could be wrong, but that’s my guess on how Mystique made it into this 8 figure line.

I don’t hate this figure, but I would like it a whole lot more if it actually looked like the render on the box.

Mystique comes in the customary VHS styled box with artwork by Dan Veesenmeyer. It depicts Mystique in a shadowy area holding a candelabra which gives it a real horror vibe which mixes well with the character’s blue skin and affinity for skulls. It might be my favorite illustration in this line so far. On the spine is the usual profile shot and on the rear is the customary product shot, only with this figure the product on the back is not representative of the figure inside. In what has become an annoying and, frankly, unacceptable trend with Marvel Legends of late the promotional renders for figures have been using the wrong molds. The actual figure is on the same female buck that the former Mystique figure utilized, while the render on the back appears to be based on the newer Shriek figure. It’s a much better base for a superhero line as the figure is well proportioned, looks like a woman of impressive physical fitness, and it’s an all-together better looking figure than what’s actually in the box.

“I have some information about your daughter…”

The render basically gives Mystique an unfortunate hurdle to overcome right out of the gate and I’m going to try to not let it impact my feelings here, but the simple fact is this older female body is just okay. It’s very slight and not particularly heroic looking (granted, she is a villain). It has articulation limitations as well which we’ll get to and it’s just a base body that I would like to see retired. Mystique does feature her cartoon accurate costume of a white, sleeveless, dress with long gloves and boots. The head has been reworked to give her a new hair piece which looks fine. I love her wicked grin which is very appropriate for the character and they got the little skull on her hairline correct. Her body is mostly colored plastic as she’s basically a two-toned figure of blue and white. The controversial cel-shading is also present and, once again, Hasbro made the odd choice to use gray instead of black and it’s a shade of gray that looks too close to the gray-blue of her skin. It’s applied okay here, certainly not as bad as some of the other figures in the line, but it still comes across as half-assed. She really should have multiple shades of gray, black, and blue to do her justice and considering she’s a character who often featured heavy shading in the show it really feels like a missed opportunity. There’s no shading on her hair or on her yellow belt and it just very much feels like an afterthought. The only shading is applied to the clothing. The belt is a floating piece and the skirt portion of her outfit is a part of the belt which is a little odd. I think an overlay might have worked better, but then you lose the articulation in the torso. I am forced to reiterate, once again, that I love the idea of putting shading on these figures, but if they’re not going to put the effort in then don’t do it. She really needs some on her face to bring her to life, but I’m not brave enough to try my hand at customizing. She also has a hole in her back which is unnecessary and unwanted.

“Lord Apocalypse!”
I don’t know if she ever had a gun this large in the show, but at least it opens up the smaller gun for another figure.

Mystique comes with a fair amount of accessories, though most are just reused from elsewhere. She has open hands out of the box with her right hand being more “cupped” than the left like she should be holding a long-stem glass. She has optional trigger hands and they’re for her two guns. One is a large, machinegun, type and the other a pistol. Both are just cast in the same blue-gray plastic used for her flesh which is pretty damn cheap on Hasbro’s part and it makes the larger gun, especially, look stupid in her hands. The pistol is the same gun that came with the movie Deadpool. At least being blue makes it kind of resemble the gun she used in “The Cure” and the one Morph was seen with at times. Her final accessory is a more thoughtful one, but again, Hasbro’s cheapness ruins it some. That accessory is a baby Nightcrawler wrapped in a brown blanket which has better shading than most of the figures in this line. This is a callback to the show and the scene of Mystique preparing to toss her unwanted mutant child off of a waterfall. The problem is, this baby is repurposed from a baby Hulk figure. It lacks Nightcrawler’s defining pointed ears and he has this pompadour styled hair that looks stupid. He also has a yellow pacfier, which he did not possess in the show. Lastly, Mystique’s portrait is inappropriate for posing her with the child. Had they included a secondary one with tears streaming down her face that would have been something. Should we give Hasbro credit for at least referencing the show? I guess, but I’m also the type who sees little point in doing something if you’re not going to do it right.

And the other character in need of a gun is Morph. This blue one looks a little like the gun he featured in “Till Death Do Us Part.”
I appreciate the thought, but that’s not Kurt.

The last thing we need to consider with this action figure is the articulation. Mystique, being essentially on the same body as Jean, has few surprises. The ball-hinged neck lets her look in all directions save for up since her hair gets in the way. The shoulders can lift out past horizontal and rotate fine while the arm articulation is limited to single-hinged elbows with a swivel point in the elbow. She can’t quite hit 90 degrees and the lack of a bicepts swivel is a disappointment. The wrists rotate and hinge with the right trigger hand featuring the proper, vertical, hinge so that’s good. The torso has the diaphragm joint under the bust which offers little more than some rotation and tilt with very little forward and back. There’s no waist twist, and the legs can barely manage a 45 degree spread. She does kick forward okay, but not back, and there’s a thigh cut for rotation there. The knees are double-jointed and they feel less gummy than Jean and Storm’s. There’s no boot cut and the ankles hinge forward and back a decent amount and rock side-to-side. It’s a mediocre spread of articulation. She can at least pose fine with the hand gun.

“Oh, my beloved child. Wait…you’re not my baby!”

Mystique is another bare minimum type of release from Hasbro in this line. She looks okay, the cel-shading is at least passable, and there’s a tiny bit of re-tooling with the head. They still half-assed the accessories and really should have just used the new body they had already made for other figures as I bet this belt and head would have fit just fine. Why they didn’t is not something I can figure out. And making the guns the same color of plastic as her body is just weird and cheap. Imagine if everybody ran around with guns that matched their skintone perfectly. That’s Hasbro not wanting to pay to change the color of the plastic in the machines. And the baby Kurt is a nice thought, but a poor execution. At least the box art looks great.

“So long, imposter!”

Mystique is presently available via Hasbro’s Pulse website and the Shop Disney webstore. Like all of the figures in this line, she comes with a slight upcharge that’s not really reflected in the product. Chances are, if you’ve been collecting this line then you’ll probably want to add Mystique to your shelf. She could have been a lot better, but by the standards of this line she’s actually one of the better releases. I suppose I’d stick her somewhere in the middle, and I probably prefer her to any of the X-Men women. I’m still left wishing she wasn’t the character we got with one of these precious 8 slots Hasbro budgeted for, but at least she’s not a dud. That means we only have one more figure to look forward to in this line, Cyclops, before we say “goodbye for now.” Hopefully it’s a good one, but it’s not looking like it will arrive before the year’s end so check back in 2023 for my thoughts on Cyke.

If we’re only getting a few villains out of this line, at least they fit reasonably well thematically.

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.


Marvel Legends X-Men Animated Series Morph

It’s everyone’s favorite mutant back in plastic!

This is it! This is the big one! Back on Halloween of 1992 Fox premiered X-Men and we were introduced to a character named Morph. For comic readers, it was a bit of a re-introduction as Morph was based on the character Changeling, but for copywrite reasons, had to undergo a name change. Changeling wasn’t a popular character and was only briefly considered a member of the X-Men, but he was somewhat famous for basically one reason: he died. Comics, like soap operas, tend to feature death that is rarely permanent. Characters either die or appear to die, but often return and usually with some new threads! Changeling was a bit unique because he died and stayed dead and that’s what made him appealing to the writers of the show.

When the team headed up by writer Eric Lewald got settled in to write X-Men they really keyed in on the social commentary that was present in the story. A group of individuals are outcast due to no fault of their own while one of their chief villains is a survivor of the Holocaust. It was very easy to draw a straight line from the civil rights movement to what was going on in X-Men. Because of that, even though they were writing a TV show that would primarily be watched by children, they felt it needed to be grounded and also needed some real stakes. Taking a character and killing him off in the second episode was a way to create such stakes. In hindsight, the death of Morph should have been easy to see coming. He was modeled on a dead character from the books and he wasn’t even included in the show’s intro. We don’t learn anything about him during his brief stay on the show, he’s just there to be likable and make others laugh via his unique shape-shifting powers.

“Wolverine! Fall back!” (I had to do it)

And yet, we loved him. When you present something to a child and then tell them they can’t have it, it tends to create even more desire for it. That was the case with Morph. He seemed fun enough, but had he been a character like any other it’s quite possible he would have been one of the least favorites on the show. Because he was killed though, it’s totally different. We may not have known him very well, but we did get to see how his death impacted those we would get to know which made it resonate even more. The network would go on to claim that he ended up being the stated favorite character of the majority of kids who chose to write-in and share their thoughts on the show. There was enough of such letters that the network convinced Lewald to bring him back, even though he had intended for Morph to die and stay dead. He eventually agreed, but on the condition that he come back as a villain. You can’t just have someone die and come back all sunshine and flowers, they’re going to be pretty affected by such a traumatic thing, which is how we got Evil Morph in Season Two.

Because Morph is viewed as a unique creation for the show it was assumed that he would show up in this line of action figures from Hasbro eventually. And apparently some of those child letter writers from the 90s are still among us as there’s been a lot of support for a Morph figure based on his toon appearance for years. As a result, it was expected that this figure of Morph would have appeal outside of the line and those who aren’t interested in cel-shaded X-Men would cave for a Morph figure. Which is why it was hardly a surprise to see Morph unveiled as the line’s sixth release. We knew he was coming, it was just a matter of when. I thought maybe they would save him for a convention or maybe even as a tie-in for the show’s 30th anniversary, but he was just tossed out there in May and made available for pre-order shortly there-after. I have not been shy about my displeasure with the quality of this line and the shortcuts Hasbro has been willing to take. My hope has always been that the budget on some figures was lower than others so resources could be put towards a proper Morph because, perhaps more than any other, this figure needs to be good because this is THE character from the show and unlikely to see another release. And in some ways, my faith was rewarded, but in others not so much. Reader beware, I have a lot to say about this figure and it might come across as nit-picky so if you just want a fluff piece this won’t be it.

No one left you behind this time, Morph. And take that Cyclops, Morph is here before you!

Morph comes in the same VHS styled packaging with art by Dan Veesenmeyer as the rest of the line. It looks nice and we have a joyful looking Morph running from the Mutant Control headquarters just as he did in the show before tragedy struck. The figure itself is contained within and comes in a little bag. Many collectors hate this approach, but I can’t say it’s really done any harm yet as all of the figures I’ve received have been fine. Once free, Morph stands around 6.5″ and is depicted in his blue and yellow costume with the flight jacket. Morph is a slightly tricky release because for a character with just a handful of appearances in the show, he did have some different looks. We saw him with the jacket and without as well as with yellow gloves and without. He also switched from black to brown hair in his later appearances which is what the old Toy Biz figure went with in the vintage line. He’s probably a bit oversized as represented here, but not egregiously so.

Why can’t his face just look like the reference art?!

Let’s first talk about this head. Like most figures in the Marvel Legends line, we have a lot of reuse here, but the head is unique. For it, Hasbro tapped the excellent Paul Harding to sculpt it. Harding is one of the best out there and we’ve already looked at some of the stuff he’s done for NECA’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line. A sculptor can only do as directed though, and for this figure Harding was instructed to do Morph, but make him in the “Marvel Legends style.” That style is to take a character from a comic, or in this case cartoon, and up the realism. Make them look believable. Unfortunately, I strongly disagree with this approach. You’re making a line of toys based on a cartoon specifically to match that look. We have Wolverine, Storm, Jubilee, etc in these costumes already in Marvel Legends, why do animated versions of them if they’re going to just be in the same style? It’s pointless! And it’s confusing, because we already received Wolverine and Hasbro gave him a new head that looks like the cartoon. Hasbro has done figures based on properties like Into the Spider-Verse within Marvel Legends which took a screen accurate approach, why not here?

Let me be clear, cel-shading on action figures is a good thing. It can really capture a certain aesthetic. Hasbro’s attempt at cel-shading is not. Why does the shading just stop at the shoulder, but pick up again after the bicep? Make it make sense!

As a result, this head-sculpt that comes on Morph leaves a lot to be desired. He’s very square-jawed when the show Morph had a very pointed chin and sunken cheeks. The extra detail on the face and painted lips (again, something Hasbro didn’t do with the animated Wolverine) further take away from the animated aesthetic had it been allowed to exist. They also did his hair in a dark brown. It’s too light to be the black-haired Morph we saw in seasons one and two, but too dark to be the brown-haired version we saw in “Courage” and later appearances. His expression is also very bland. It’s stoic, when anyone who has seen the show thinks of Morph in the same way he’s presented on the box art: with a smile. He’s a goof, that’s his defining characteristic. Practically every line out of his in the first episode is intended to make someone laugh, and if no one is around, he’s trying to make himself laugh as we saw when he’s watching TV. This head is so inappropriate for this character and release that I find it almost completely useless.

“I found your lifeless body…”

The rest of the figure is a mix of old and new. As far as I know, the entire upper body is recycled from a prior Cyclops release in a flight jacket. The main portion of the jacket is a soft plastic and features sculpted pockets and a zipper which looks fine, though the zipper is unpainted. The sleeves are molded, hard, plastic so the jacket is non-removable. The legs are new, and the floating X-Men belt might actually be new too. The legs are new so that they could make the thigh straps part of the sculpt which is a good move because they looked horrible on the old Cyclops figures. Some feel Hasbro placed them too high on the thigh, but I think they look fine and they’re obviously there to hide the thigh cut. And when I say “part of the sculpt,” I actually mean they sculpted out room for the straps on the legs as it still appears that the straps are a separate piece of plastic slid over the leg and glued in place. The knees are pin-less, and the straps above the boots are also sculpted in yellow plastic like the thigh straps. The body looks okay, maybe a little too thick for Morph, but not horribly out of place or anything. His hands do seem really large, but that’s a minor complaint. The neck is also inaccurate as there’s no end to Morph’s costume. Pretty much all of Morph’s neck is visible in the show, but here he has a turtleneck. Hasbro just had to paint the neck, but chose not to. And the paint in general is not great. The cel-shading is barely present on the jacket. There’s a swath of dark brown starting on the figure’s right collar going to the shoulder where it just stops for some reason, bypasses the biceps area, and then resumes at the elbow. On the figure’s left arm, it just starts at the biceps. There’s no shading on the front of the jacket at all and just a little under the pecs underneath. There’s a little hit of it on the belt which carries down to the trunks and one minor hit on each thigh and boot. Once again, Hasbro is using a mustard color to shade yellow which doesn’t look great, and for some reason the shading on his right boot is in a wavy line and mostly looks bad. Hasbro, if you’re going to do this bad of a job with cel-shading then why bother doing it at all?

“You will listen to me, Morph!”

It was my hope that Hasbro would go all out with Morph and really make him feel like an “ultimate” version of the character because how likely are we to see future Morph figures? Hasbro could have done so with accessories, but Hasbro declined to do much in that area. Morph comes with two heads: standard and evil. The Evil Morph head turned out rather well. He has a more gaunt appearance and the hair is a little darker. It’s also a little messy and he has the dark shading around his eyes as he has a hit of purple under the eye and black over it. Technically, his skin should be paler with a touch of yellow, but I’m not surprised to see Hasbro ignore that since then they would have had to do good and evil versions of his hands. Even ignoring that inaccuracy, it’s so much more livelier and on-model when compared with the standard head that I suspect most are going to display him as Evil Morph. Aside from that though, we get just two sets of hands: fists and open. Why not do a third head so we can have a brown haired option and a black haired one for standard Morph? Or a “Wolverine! Fall back!” expression? Why not a set of gripping hands, or at least one, so he can wield a gun like he did in the show? And how about said gun?! I personally would have loved a second set of arms to do a coat on or off look, but I didn’t actually expect that. I did expect more though and it’s a shame this is all we received. I really wanted Hasbro to go all-out for Morph, even if it meant tacking on a higher cost to purchase him, but they barely did half-ass.

Yeah, evil head all the way.

The articulation for Morph is basically what you expect out of Marvel Legends. He has the ball-hinged head that provides for good range, though looks “broken” from some angles. Even with the collar on the coat, he can still look up pretty well and range isn’t an issue. The ball-hinged shoulders let him get his arms out to the sides and rotate. There’s a biceps swivel, and single-hinged elbows that also swivel plus wrists that swivel and hinge. He does have a butterfly joint in the shoulders as well, but it’s functionally useless because of the jacket. The torso features an ab crunch that works fine though you have to work around the coat when bending backwards. The waist rotates and the hips go out to the side better than 45 degrees, but short of a full split. The legs kick forward to not quite horizontal and only kick back a touch since he has a sculpted bum. There’s a thigh swivel above the strap, so it’s well-hidden. The knees are double-jointed and work fine. There’s a boot cut below the straps and the ankles hinge and rock side-to-side and also work fine. It’s all pretty standard stuff and one of the things you can count on with Marvel Legends, be it the good parts or bad. I would like to see double-jointed elbows, but even without them his elbow can bend a little past 90 degrees and the aesthetic does at least look fine.

I don’t have any Marvel Legends hands to source, but a NECA TMNT Foot Soldier hand can work for Morph if you want him to wield a gun. The tone is slightly different since NECA paints it’s hands, but if you don’t pose it by his head like I’m doing here it probably looks fine on a shelf. The gun is from the Marvel Legends MCU Deadpool.

Morph is not the homerun I was hoping for, but he’s also not the dud that Jean was. The things holding him back are Hasbro’s direction and cheapness. I wish his standard portrait looked more like the show. I understand why it doesn’t, but I don’t agree with the approach. I don’t know who is responsible for the choice of expression on that head, but I also dislike that aspect of it. I also wish he had more stuff and that the cel-shading was better applied. One of those things is dictated by cost, the other by effort, and that’s a shame. No gripping hands is borderline unforgivable though. How much would that have cost? Twenty cents? Molds already exist for un-gloved gripping hands so it’s literally just the cost of plastic. If you don’t want to give us a gun, fine, but at least give us the hands so he can hold one from another figure. Mystique is on-deck, after all, and she has two guns! I could easily give one to Morph if he could only hold it. That’s less of an issue for those who are deep into Marvel Legends since they likely have some extra hands at their disposal, but I am not so lucky. If you’re collecting this line or have affection for the cartoon, you’re probably getting this figure no matter what I say. It’s an okay release, probably not worth the price Hasbro is charging these days, but most will be reasonably satisfied. It’s a shame that’s all we can seemingly hope for with this line, but it is what it is.

“Leaving without saying ‘goodbye?'” “Goodbye.”


Marvel Legends X-Men Animated Series Jean Grey

Another teammate has arrived for the animated X-Men.

For some reason, Jean Grey has never been treated well by toy makers. Back in the Toy Biz days, Jean had to wait several years to finally show up in the X-Men line of action figures, and once she did, it was in some gimmicky line in a costume that looked made-up. Her first, good, figure came in the Onslaught subline which was like a precursor to Marvel Legends. The scale was different, the sculpts were better, but preposed, and she was featured in her Jim Lee costume. By then, I had checked out and when Marvel Legends brought me back Jean was again left wanting. Seemingly, Toy Biz felt collectors only wanted a Jean Grey figure if she was in her Phoenix costume. Was it the gender bias working against her? Maybe, but then why did Storm, Psylocke, Rogue, etc. seem to have no trouble getting figures? Has Jean just historically been less popular by some metric with Marvel? I don’t know, but it bothered me when I was a kid that my team of X-Men was always missing a Jean and Phoenix just wasn’t a suitable replacement.

I haven’t been doing this with this line, but for this figure I feel like I have to. Here is Jean from the show. Note how she is NOT ORANGE!

Hasbro’s latest release in its line of action figures based on the animated series X-Men introduces a new hypothesis: maybe Jean is just hard to produce in plastic? I don’t really think that’s true, but it would be an understandable take for anyone who picks this figure up. Yes, we have yet another subpar release by Hasbro. When the line was announced, the fear on my part was that Hasbro would just grab a previously released figure, add a touch of cel-shading to the paint, and call it a day. With a figure like Mr. Sinister, that was the approach, but it worked because that old sculpt was suitable enough for the show version of the character and the paint job was pretty good. It was not without its problems and disappointments, but at the end of the day I felt like Sinister was a worthy addition to my shelf. With Jean, that’s not really the case.

She can’t even put her hands to her head for her traditional pose.

Hasbro finally did right by Jean and released her in her Jim Lee attire a few years ago. In a three-pack with Wolverine and Cyclops, that version of Jean came with two heads and four hands and had a decent enough sculpt at least. Perhaps to no one’s surprise, this release is exactly the same. That’s fine in some respects, and not in others. For one, Jean’s costume in the show and comic is basically the same excepting the colors. In the show, she had a tan and blue scheme instead of yellow and blue. I’m not sure why that change was made, maybe they just felt tan would look better on TV than yellow, but that’s a pretty easy thing to correct for. The other change is Jean went with a ponytail instead of wearing her hair down. This was likely just to differentiate her from Storm and Rogue and it’s basically her defining trait in the show.

“See the woman in this picture? You’re not her!”

So how did Hasbro screw this up? For one, she’s not blue and tan, she’s blue and orange. And when I say orange I mean very orange. Why couldn’t they cast her in the right shade? Beats me, but it looks terrible. Hasbro also chose not to retool her ponytail head from the previously released 3-pack. That head was meant to work with her long hair, except just tied back, only Jean in the show did not have a huge swath of hair that went all the way down her back. Her ponytail is huge and ridiculous looking, and I suppose just to annoy me a little more the part in her hair is off to the wrong side. Those inaccuracies are annoying, but to add to it her face just doesn’t look like Jean. The face might be re-tooled from that old release, or maybe just better painted, but either way it’s not good. She’s duck-mouthed with this weird smile and her eyes are really narrow. At least they’re green, but the paint job is also messy. It looks like they cast her head in blue and painted her face on and you can tell there’s a darker shade of plastic behind it. Usually the figure is cast in the lighter color and painted with the darker, but not here. The figure also has the same problems as the first release, and many of the Legends women, in that there’s little shape to the figure’s body. Yes, like most super hero women, she is pretty well endowed, but the silhouette is off. The body doesn’t taper much from the shoulders, to the bust, to the abdomen, and hips. She almost looks like a tube when viewed head-on. Hasbro is also seemingly afraid of letting their women have some muscle-tone in their arms and calves. These ladies are superheroes, sculpt them like superheroes!

No effect parts (big surprise) so I gave this Power Rangers one a shot. Meh.

Is anything done well? Aside from the box (and it looks like Hasbro supplied artist Dan Veesenmeyer with a sample or something to base his art on), the only compliment I can give this one is the cel-shading on the torso looks good. It’s probably the second best after Sinister. It’s easy to find reference art for how the black was applied and it works here. The shading on the legs is less successful as the orange paint is too close to the color of the plastic so it barely stands out. It’s limited to just two, thin, swashes on her thighs and doesn’t stand out on a shelf. I wish they did some around the textured portions on the sides of her legs or something, but someone must really like the Creamsicle look of these legs. The paint on her hands suffers from the same issue as the paint on her face, and the edges of the blue on the torso aren’t as crisp as they could be.

Why is this so hard?

Hasbro tends to short-change its female figures when it comes to articulation and Jean is no exception. She’s not going to do a whole lot and is very similar to Storm. Her head is on a ball-peg and it can look in most directions except up because her hair gets in the way. The ball-hinges at the shoulder work fine, though the shoulder pads are a hindrance going up. There’s no biceps swivel, just a swivel at the elbow which is a single hinge that only provides for about 90 degrees of bend. The hands rotate and hinge and need to work around the gauntlets. They should have sculpted the padding for the back of the hand to the hand itself, but chose not to. There’s a ball-joint in the diaphragm under the figure’s bust. It basically just lets her rotate with a little tilt. She can bend back a bit there, but not forward at all. There’s no waist twist and the legs only come out to the side about 45 degrees. There is a thigh cut, but like with every release in this line, it breaks up the shading so for me it’s kind of useless, but then again, the shading is barely visible so maybe it won’t bother me. The knees are double-jointed and really gummy, but they work. The ankles hinge and pivot and they’re the only joints I have no issues with. The others stuff is either too limited, gummy, or poorly engineered.

She can wear her down, if you wish. I don’t know why you would though.

Accessories have not been a strength for this line and that continues with Jean. We get open hands on the figure in the box and a set of fists since Jean is known for punching people. There’s also a second head and it’s recycled from the 3-pack and features her hair down. She has a neutral expression that I think is supposed to look mildly seductive, but it’s not working for me. It’s a totally useless addition though since Jean never looked like this in the show. The only time she had her hair down in costume was in the very last episode of the show when her costume was yellow and blue like the comics. Her hair was still not that massive and the figure isn’t colored properly for it to matter anyway. A completely wasted accessory. Why not junk that and toss in some effects parts instead? Or maybe spend a small amount of money to sculpt a Cerebro helmet for her to wear, since she was seen wearing that in the show on more the one occasion. It’s just as if the people working and designing this line don’t give a shit about the show or never watched it.

To the back with you, Jean!

Jean Grey is a phoned in release that Hasbro assumes you will buy because it vaguely looks like the character and you’re all-in anyway. And they might be right since I bought this despite it missing the mark by a wide margin. She might be the line’s new low point since it at least feels like some effort was put into that Jubilee figure, even if she doesn’t look like the character in the show and features an awful paint job. I only have this figure because I want to tell Hasbro there’s money in doing figures based on the cartoon, but if I wasn’t buying it for that reason there’s no way I would have bought this one. It’s not good, and I can’t recommend it especially at the price Hasbro is charging.


Marvel Legends X-Men Animated Series Storm

Storm is here to summon the full power of…a gentle breeze?

Despite featuring a gap of about 4 months between their solicitation dates, my figures for Mr. Sinister and Storm arrived the same day from Hasbro Pulse. Storm, from the new figure line based on X-Men the Animated Series, went up for sale in February and arrived at my door just recently. A five month turn-around from pre-order to delivery is something I haven’t really experienced since the pandemic broke out in 2020 so that is at least a step in the right direction. Hopefully, that’s indicative of the figure itself as this line has been all over the place through its first 3 figures. After looking at a figure in Mr. Sinister that was essentially just a straight repaint with nothing new added (unless you count his silky, smooth, neck), we have a figure in Storm that is a bit more like the first two figures in the line and more of what I expected out of the line. That’s both a good and a bad thing, and while Jubilee is still secure in her position as worst in the line, I don’t think Wolverine is feeling threatened by Storm for his crown of best, but we should probably just get into it.

The tallest shall lead.

Storm comes in at close to 6″ to the top of her forehead making her the tallest of the hero characters released thus far. If you factor in her voluminous hair then she’s closer to 6.5″. Like the other figures, there’s a lot of reuse here as a retro-carded Storm was clogging pegs at Target not that long ago. I’m fine with reuse when it makes sense, and for the most part, it makes sense here. Her costume is pretty show accurate as it’s sculpted mostly in white plastic with the yellow belt and stripe down the figure’s right side. The shoulder pads and excess material around the biceps is present along with the yellow stripes on said shoulder pads and the cuffs of her sleeves. The cape is done in a light gray with yellow trim and she even has her very fashionable lightning bolt earrings. Really, the only obvious miss here with the costume are the boots which are basically standard, soled, boots. That’s certainly the functional way to go, but the Storm of the cartoon series wore heels so that’s a disappointing omission (I doubt it’s an oversight) since there must be some heeled feet they could have swapped in, but Hasbro opted not to.

I appreciate the new tooling, but I wish she looked more like the box art as this just doesn’t look like Storm from the show.

Where this figure differs from the prior Storm is with the hair and the paint. Hasbro re-sculpted the hair to give Storm that lovely, 80s, look she had in the show. Storm, and many of the women, often had some big hair and this sculpt reflects that. When removed from the show, it does look absurd, but the shape is fairly accurate to a lot of scenes. I would have preferred they just go with the interpretation of her hair on her box art, which is still voluminous, but not to this degree. What would have made it work better is if it fit the head better. It looks a bit off and that might have to do with the sculpt itself or with Hasbro trying to just to fit it on the prior Storm head. There’s also no paint on the most visible portion of the hair, it’s just sculpted, white, plastic when a wash would have helped out a lot here and been consistent with the cel-shading Hasbro is going for. It may have also worked better with a new headsculpt, which is my biggest issue with the figure as this face just does not look like Storm from the show. Marvel Legends tends to take a character from the comics and add some realism to it, which doesn’t work well for this line in many cases. Storm’s complexion looks off as do the shape of her eyebrows and lips. I suspect this will be a complaint going forward with other figures. The more inhuman look of Sinister didn’t suffer, but unmasked characters are just going to look off because the show took Jim Lee’s already fairly simple face structure (especially for women who all seemed to look the same) and simplified it further for animation. And Hasbro wants these figures to look like Marvel Legends first, animated characters second, and that’s a philosophy I’m just going to disagree with them on for every release.

Note that in order to make the shading on the right leg line-up her toes need to point in. Also, I do really wish her costume looked more like that box art.

That said, Hasbro’s attempt at cel-shading with this figure looks okay. It’s not on par with Sinister, but the shading here at least looks logical. It’s even pretty easy to just image search Storm from the show and see how Hasbro came up with the shape for the shading for this figure. The issue here is it just doesn’t go far enough. Storm, whose costume has a bit of a shiny quality to it in the show, really demands a third color for the shading but Hasbro just went with black on white. A gray or gray-blue added to places would have really helped this figure pop. As it stands, the shading makes her look passable on a shelf, but in-hand and up close it’s far less impressive and feels half-assed. And even on the shelf, white just dominates for this figure. And it’s true that many sequences in the show featured Storm with a white costume that even matches her hair, but there was also a lot of shading on both the hair and the costume to lessen the impact. What really should have happened here is Hasbro should have sculpted the costume in a very light gray and then shading with black and white. Hasbro obviously doesn’t want to spend that much money on paint despite asking for a higher price on this figure and it’s a bummer. Hasbro did shade the portion of her hair behind her head a light blue, which is an odd choice for the color and it almost stands out more than it should. Again, a wash or just gray would have worked better and it should be applied to all of her hair. The end result is that, yes, the costume is sculpted accurate enough and the black linework looks good, but this just doesn’t look like Storm from the show.

Well, it’s the thought that counts.

Which brings us to Storm’s accessories. Maybe the paint isn’t impressive, but there’s still another way to justify the cost in the accessories. And with Storm, the accessories are just okay on their own, but bad in another sense. Hasbro included open hands on the figure and an extra set of lightning hands. They’re more spread open and the fingertips end in lightning bolts which are cast in translucent, yellow, plastic. The issue here though is that the whole piece had to be cast in that translucent plastic so the hand portions are painted brown. They look super shiny and the paint on the fingers is awful so some of the lightning is painted over making her fingers look like melting, Snickers, bars. The other problem is that whenever Storm uses her lightning power in the show her eyes always change to an all-white look, but our Storm features standard eyes with no alternate head to pair with it. Plus her expression is very generic to the point of looking bored. It basically renders the extra hands useless if that’s something you care about, and I’m guessing most collectors do. I suppose some might repaint her eyes, but that won’t make her look any less bored. I guess there was just no budget for an extra head with this one.

“Face me, evil doer!”

Which brings us back, once again, to the concept of value. Here we have a reused figure with the only new addition being the hair, accessories, and some black paint. On top of that, this figure tacked on an extra buck to the price moving from $27 to $28 before taxes and shipping. Where’s the extra money going? The VHS packaging is nice, but if that’s preventing us from getting a better face or heeled boots then I don’t want it. Again, this line is one I am happy to have, but I’m continually disappointed by the shortcuts these figures are taking and by the overall direction it seems to be taking. It’s not what I want, but I’m buying it because it’s the only product of its kind and I’m paying a tacked on premium at that when compared with a standard Marvel Legends release. It’s not a great feeling.

Ahh, damn.

All right, with that out of the way we do have to talk about the articulation. Storm has the usual ball-hinge head, but her giant hair locks her head down more than Sinister’s. She cannot look up at all and barely rotate, but she can look down a little. Her shoulders are ball-hinged and work fine, but the shoulder pads will get in the way for certain poses. Plus Hasbro designed them to peg into the front of the shoulder and they’re prone to popping out as a result when just moving that peg to the rear of the figure would have prevented this. The elbows are single joints with swivels in place of a true biceps swivel, but it works okay as she can get a little better than 90 degrees on a curl. The hands swivel and feature horizontal hinges. In the torso, she has a ball-joint just below her bust. She can bend back a little there, but it’s mostly for rotation and tilt and she gets really no “crunch” forward at that spot. The waist twists and she has standard joints at the hips that give her a decent spread. There’s a thigh swivel, but the shading goes over it so it looks ridiculous when not aligned. The knees are double-jointed and the range is good, but the quality is terrible as she feels really gummy. The lower right leg even appears warped so if I want to line up the shading I need to point her toe in, though it matters little since this figure stands like crap because of the hair. The ankles feature the usual hinge and rocker combo and work okay, but again, super gummy feeling.

A flight stand is probably the way to go with this one, though I need to find one that fits Storm better than this MAFEX one.

This figure is just not fun. The hair is too outlandish and the facial likeness is terrible. Combine that with the gummy legs and this one is a pain to stand. I suspect most will go with a flight stand of some kind, or just toss it somewhere. This is the first figure in the line where I’m tempted to just buy the retro card release and take a marker to it for the shading. It’s just such a bummer that Hasbro re-sculpted the hair, but not the face, to make this look more like Storm. If they at least nailed the likeness I could be more forgiving of the other stuff. Instead, the only thing they got right is the basic look of the costume (excepting the feet) and the black lines for the shading. Otherwise, the accessories suck, the cape feels cheap, and the quality of the figure feels suspect despite being the most expensive in the line so far. I still dislike Jubilee more than this one, because her likeness is just so bad, but it’s hardly a compliment to say this Storm is less bad than that one.

Well, at least I like half of the figures in this shot.

If you read all of that and still want to add this to your collection, then your only option right now is via Hasbro Pulse. This figure will likely show up at Shop Disney’s website eventually, but it could be awhile. Both Jubilee and Sinister showed up on that site first, while Wolverine lagged pretty far behind the Pulse release. Maybe Storm will be the same? I don’t know. Up next for this line is Jean Grey and I’m more dreading that than excited for it because the promotional shots are not good, but I’ll withhold judgement until then. Maybe she can at least do better than Storm? Here’s hoping.


Marvel Legends X-Men Animated Series Mr. Sinister

“My name is Sinister, Mr. Sinister.”

This week, the long wait for an in-person San Diego Comic Con comes to an end. For the first time since 2019, attendees, creators, and the like will be invited back into the city of San Diego for a celebration of all things comics, movies, and general “nerd” culture. One of the many panels this week will even focus on the 30th anniversary of X-Men, the animated series that capitalized on the rising popularity of a comic book and helped make a generation of kids lifelong X-Men fans. Because of that, the timing could not be better for the delivery of some new toys in Hasbro’s Marvel Legends subline of figures based on X-Men. And today, we have the first villain of the line: Mr. Sinister.

A lot of fans were probably a little surprised that the first villain in this line went to Sinister. I’m guessing most expected that honor to go to Magneto, who has always been thought of as the X-Men’s main villain. He even has the honor of being the true, first, mutant adversary introduced in the show with the third episode, “Enter Magneto.” Perhaps Hasbro is holding him back for something a little more special, and if you’re going to go to a number two villain it’s hard to do worse than Mr. Sinister. Sinister was the main villain of season two of the show. He’s teased at the end of the first season, something that was added in after the show’s late renewal, and has a presence all throughout that second season as he resurrects Morph, strands Xavier and Magneto in the Savage Land, encourages Mystique to go after Rogue, and the like. He’s just a general pain in the ass for the X-Men during that time, and while he does basically drift away following that, he did show up here and there following that season. As such, his original action figure and the show were how I, and I assume many others, were first introduced to the character and I always associate him with the cartoon.

He sure is a happy guy.

The obvious other reason why Hasbro went with Sinister in this spot is because he has a fairly recent action figure that can be reused and repainted for this line. If you read my reviews of Wolverine and Jubilee, then you know I’ve had a very mixed reaction to this line. Wolverine is largely fine, there are some errors and shortcuts that are inexcusable with him, but overall I like the figure well enough. The Jubilee figure was one I was far more harsh on that resulted in me going off on the concept of “value” when it comes to an action figure line. And a lot of those value criticisms I had with Jubilee will apply to Sinister, even more so. This figure is a bit of an odd thing to review as I’ll tell you right up front that I like this figure, but it’s also a terrible value.

This probably comes as no surprise, but Sinister is the tallest in the line so far.

Mr. Sinister stands at around 7″ to the top of his head and is depicted in his show accurate blue and red costume. The body has sculpted lines, or grooves, on it as the character is often featured with such a detail and he’s sporting a rather wicked grin. Sinister’s cape is basically impossible to do100% accurately given its unusual design, but Hasbro did a decent enough job with it here. It’s a very dark blue on the back and black on the inside. There’s an effort made to make it appear that all of the strands of the cape originate from around the collar, with some going straight up from there and cresting well over the figure’s head with others curling more at chin level. Some of the strands are molded together, which is odd, but maybe they were concerned about the durability. It’s a weird cape, so whatever, it’s fine. The only exposed skin on the character is on the head and neck and it’s bone white. He has the red diamond on his chest with red around the wrists and waist via the belt. His legs are a bit odd as he almost looks like he’s wearing thigh-high boots, but he also has boot cuffs down around the ankles, but that’s not a shortcoming with the figure as that’s how the character looks.

We really need a Cyclops to pair Sinister with, but Wolverine will have to do for now.

Sinister has a pretty wacky design that must have been a chore to bring to animation, especially with the budget X-Men had. The figure is fairly accurate to the source material, but it does differ in places. There’s a sculpting bit around the neck area where the cape is intended to “attach” to the costume proper. It adds a bit of realism to the look, but is something that isn’t captured in the animation. The thigh seams, or parts that looked like thigh-high boot cuffs, are angled when in the show they just cut straight across the thigh and were kept fairly simple. Sometimes they were given more of a diamond shape, but it was inconsistent as the character was a nightmare to animate. The figure also just plain looks chunkier than the character in the show. Sinister isn’t what I’d call skinny in the show, but he basically had typical super hero/villain proportions while this figure looks like it’s a bit beyond that. I’ll be interested to see how the figure scales with a future Cyclops as comparing it to Wolverine and Jubilee doesn’t really tell me much since those characters are among the shortest in the show.

The spine on the boxes can be arranged in such a fashion that it looks like the good guys are staring down the bad guys. Also of note, Sinister’s box is way chunkier than either Wolverine or Jubilee.

This being the animated line, the thing that’s going to stand out the most is the paint. To Sinister’s credit, this is the best paint job in the line so far. Sinister is fairly easy to shade as he’s just dark blue and black and Hasbro did a solid job of following the rules of the source material when applying the shading to this figure. It’s even fairly easy to find images from the show that appeared to give them a guide as to how to shade with the dark parts. The only odd part is that Hasbro opted not to use black, but a dark, almost slate, gray. It looks okay, but in some pictures and in certain lighting it gives the character a washed out look, like a poor quality digital image that didn’t capture the fullness of the colors. It’s weird, but does look better in person than in pictures. Like Wolverine and Jubilee, there’s no shading on the skin which is a bummer, but at least this character has paint details on the face in the form of the black around the eyes and on the chin, though the chin looks off-center on mine. There’s also some shading on the belt and inside the collar and it’s pretty striking. Hasbro even painted the inside of the boot cuff which I wasn’t expecting since it’s only noticeable from the rear. And speaking of the rear, there’s no shading on the back of the figure nor is there on any joints so you do get instances where blue plastic is poking through a shaded area like the ankle hinge. And that blue plastic is quite shiny, which normally is turn-off for me, but it’s not really bothering me much here. Maybe because I just like this shade of blue? This guy looks rather nice on the shelf and hopefully the figures that follow can match this paint job because I think few will complain about it.

This foot is ugly. There’s so much empty space between the heel and ankle. Yeah, it does let the foot pivot backwards very far, but why would Sinister ever need that much range in his ankle joint?

The thing I haven’t touched on yet is where this figure comes from. If you’re a Legends collector you may even be screaming at me because this figure is 100% reused from an earlier Mr. Sinister figure released about 3 years ago. Everything is the same except the neck. On the first release of this figure, the costume went all the way up the neck and even featured the same linework so Hasbro had to ditch that and replace it with a neck they could cast in white. That’s it though, that’s the only new piece and I doubt they had to actually re-tool a neck for this guy, they probably could source that from somewhere else. That first figure came with zero accessories and this figure does too. That means no extra head, no extra hands, and no effects parts even though the box art features him creating an energy DNA strand of some kind that would have been awesome to have. You’re basically paying a premium price for the VHS box and some extra paint. This is where I bring up the concept of value again as this figure is objectively a pretty terrible value, especially if you already have the old figure. A figure that is 100% reuse should have some room in the budget for at least some extra hands or a fireball. Even Jubilee, another 100% reuse character, got an extra head and some additional accessories, you mean to tell me there wasn’t some blast effect hanging around that couldn’t be tossed into the box? That’s the type of thing that literally adds pennies to the cost as opposed to whole dollars. I can only assume this line has a budget, not the individual figure, and the Legends team is forced to take from some figures to fund others, but that’s still not the problem of the consumer. If we’re being asked to pay more for this figure versus a standard Legends release, we need to see that reflected in the product and it’s just not here.

What do you do with a character that lacks accessories? Steal them from another figure! This is from a Lightning Collection Yellow Power Ranger.

Okay, rant over, so let’s talk about articulation. Again, if you have that old Sinister you’ve been here before. If you’re like me and you do not, then this is pretty new, but it’s also pretty familiar as Sinister doesn’t do anything other Legends don’t do. He’s got the same hinged ball joint on the head that lets him look up, down, and rotate, but it’s going to feel more locked down because of the collar. The shoulders are hinged and can go out to the side while the shoulder pads affect his ability to rotate all the way around, but it can be worked around and they are soft. There’s a biceps swivel, double-jointed elbows, and the hands rotate and feature horizontal hinges. One is a closed fist and one is open. The torso features an ab crunch that works okay. There doesn’t appear to be much parts rub so I don’t have any fears about the paint and the figure can crunch forward and back an acceptable amount. The waist features a twist and the hips allow for the character to spread its legs beyond what a Mr. Sinister figure really needs. There’s a thigh twist hidden by the way the legs are sculpted and the knees are double-jointed and work fine. There’s a boot cut above ankles which appear to be attached via ball pegs. They can rock side-to-side and bend very far forward and back and that’s because there’s a ton of plastic cut out on the back of the feet. It’s great for range, but the feet basically look like they’ve been mis-matched and don’t fit the figure when viewing it from the side. It’s pretty ugly and I would even go so far as to call it inexcusable. There’s nothing impressive going on here with the articulation, but there’s really nothing to complain about as this is a guy who doesn’t really do much in the show beside stand around and occasionally raises its arms to fire off some energy blasts.

Or if you prefer, the Black Ranger’s blast effect which kind of looks like an exploding pumpkin.

Mr. Sinister is one of those figures that I like, but I can’t fully recommend because the value is so terrible. If you’re collecting this line then you’re probably getting the figure since he did play a significant role in the show, but if you have that old Sinister you’ll probably feel a bit conflicted. They didn’t even fix the feet which were an apparent issue with the old figure. I at least do not have that original release so this figure is all new to me. Even ignoring that, it’s still absurd to see a Marvel Legends figure at this price point come packaged without any accessories at all. It would be one thing if Sinister was a figure that didn’t call for any, but even the box art depicts an energy effect. And if Hasbro wanted to do a show specific accessory (and I really wish they would make that a priority for every release) they could have given Sinister his Morph controller or that weird, little, robot bug he stuck in Morph’s head. I’d still rather a simple blast effect to those, and some alternative hands (I’m guessing the fist and open hand are a nod to the old Toy Biz figure, but a fist on Sinister is kind of useless), but I also would have appreciated little details like those. The VHS boxes are cool, but Hasbro seems to think they’re all the fan service this line needs and the result is that this line feels less like a celebration of the TV show and more like a cash grab.

If you want to add Mr. Sinister to your collection, he’s currently available at both Hasbro Pulse and Shop Disney. If you time it right, you may be able to get the figure with free shipping from the Disney website, or if you’re ordering the figure alongside 50 bucks in other Disney merch (free shipping can be triggered at $75). Shipping is free on the Pulse storefront only with a Pulse Premium membership. Those are your only options though.


Marvel Legends X-Men Animated Series Jubilee

“My name’s Jubilee and I blow…stuff up.”

There’s a belief when it comes to children’s entertainment that the young audience needs a surrogate on screen, someone who they could believably place themselves in the role of. For the animated series X-Men, that character was Jubilee. The role was of such importance to the property that the earlier pilot, not affiliated with the 1992 Fox Kids program, “Pryde of the X-Men” had the exact same role written into it. Only with that would-be series, the character would have been Kitty Pryde. Kitty was the kid X-Men character of the 80s, but come the 90s she had been aged out of that role in the comics and even moved to a different team of mutants in Excalibur. When it came time to create the same character for the 92 show, it was Jubilee who the writers ultimately settled on.

It’s easy to see why such a role was envisioned for the show. Both versions of X-Men were presenting the super hero team as something already established with a large roster of heroes. By introducing a kid character just coming into contact with the X-Men it would mean the kids watching at home would learn about them along with the character. And even though the comic was white hot in 92, the cartoon was still likely to hit a wider audience of kids who had never even looked at a comic book.

The getup looks okay, but that doesn’t really look much like the Jubilee I know from the toon.

Young Jubilation Lee, played by Alyson Court after a lengthy search to find the right voice for the character, is introduced in the show’s first episode and has the distinction of being the first X-Men character we really meet, even if she isn’t technically a member of the team yet. Her origin was changed to be an orphan in foster care and her well-meaning foster parents recently signed her up with the Mutant Control Agency. Her foster dad thought they would help her and her budding mutant powers, but man, why would anyone trust an organization with such a name would be helpful? Jubilee refers to herself as a kid, though her actual age is never given. Eventually we’ll see that she’s being taught how to fly a plane and drive a car, so I guess she’s around 15 at the start of the series though she looks younger. After her initial arc, she mostly fades into the background popping up here and there to head a plot, often paired with Wolverine who is like a big brother to her.

Decisions, decisions…

When Toy Biz was making action figures in the 90s based on the X-Men, two characters from the show seemed to get short-changed: Jean and Jubilee. Perhaps Hasbro considered that when it decided to make Jubilee the second character in this series of Marvel Legends based on the cartoon. Or it’s because Jubilee was released not that long ago as a Marvel Legends figure and the tools were on-hand to make this one. Either way, this figure is similar to the Wolverine one in that it’s mostly reused from past figures. In this case, two different versions of Jubilee were utilized to settle on this one. Unlike Wolverine, basically nothing new was created here as Hasbro mostly just updated the sunglasses. There’s also no show specific accessory included. Instead, we get some effects parts to go along with the VHS packaging featuring new art by Dan Veesenmeyer. Is that good enough?

Transparent on the left, solid pink on right. I think I prefer the ones on the right, but it’s nice to have choices.

Jubilee is depicted in her show accurate costume: pink shirt, blue shorts, blue boots, yellow gloves, and her traditional yellow trench coat. Is it supposed to be a rain coat? I don’t know, Jubilee’s style has always been bizarre and unique to her. She also has her pink sunglasses and the only inaccuracy about her look here is that her earrings are gold instead of red and black. And yet, this one misses the mark. Jubilee’s portrait makes her look much older than she was in the show and the hair style is wrong. Standing at 5.75″ she’s also too tall to be an animated Jubilee. Mostly though, I think it’s her coat that makes her look off the most. In the show, she’s practically swimming in the thing, but for her figure it’s lovingly tailored to fit her physique. When I hoped for a series of Marvel Legends from Hasbro, my fear was that Hasbro would just repackage it’s existing Jim Lee era figures and call them animated versions and that’s basically what’s happening here and it’s a bummer.

If you don’t like either set of glasses, there’s the alternate head with the glasses molded above the eyes. This is from a prior build-a-figure Jubilee.

The main change with this figure from past ones is obviously the paint. Jubilee is cel-shaded like Wolverine, though it’s not as noticeable. I suppose that’s due to the coat as it hides most of the shading on her torso which is also just limited to a block of red paint on her right side and a streak by her neck. There’s also very little shading on the coat which is limited to the sleeves and the area around her collarbone. It’s strange to see none on the creases of the coat. They also used that same mustard shade of yellow that was used for Wolverine which doesn’t look right. There’s not much rhyme or reason to the shading on her though. With Wolverine, there was more shading on one side of him than the other which is how most characters are colored for animation. With Jubilee, it’s just haphazard and the shading on the coat especially is rather ugly. I suppose I’d rather the shading be present than not at all and her boots and shorts look fine, ignoring that her boots aren’t the proper shape. There’s no shading on the flesh portions of her arms and legs which is true of Wolverine so I guess that’s going to be a thing going forward. There is some shading on her sunglasses which turned out okay, but like basically everything with this figure, could have been better. It’s the sort of shading I wanted to see on the windshield pieces of Super7’s Optimus Prime.

While I prefer this look for young Jubilee, that head is just so sleepy and boring. Where’s the smile?

Jubilee doesn’t nail the look of the character from the show, and unfortunately, her accessories don’t sweeten the package much. Her default look is a head with her hair trimmed short and no glasses. She has two pairs of shades that can slip over her eyes: solid pink, and translucent pink. Both feature the shading on the front and both fit on the character’s head just fine. I prefer the solid pink ones as that looks more like the character from the show, but she also rarely wore her sunglasses in a traditional manner. And because of that, Jubilee has a second head with the glasses permanently above her eyes. This look is more faithful to the show and her hair looks better, but she still looks like an older version of the character. Plus she’s missing her earrings – come on, Hasbro! I’m torn on which head I’ll ultimately display, and it sucks that I’m trying to decide which is the least worse. Lastly, we have two effects parts cast in translucent pink plastic. They would be fine if they at all resembled her powers from the show (or comic), but they don’t. These look like the same parts released with Scarlet Witch and Negasonic Teenage Warhead just colored differently. I didn’t love them then, and I like them less now since they don’t make sense. There had to have been better effects parts for Hasbro to recycle, right? Dazzler’s parts would have worked better than this.

These effects pieces seem inappropriate for the figure. There were better options out there.

One, final, bone I have to pick with this figure is the articulation. Hasbro, for whatever reason, seems to always shortchange the female characters when it comes to articulation. For some reason, they think double-elbows and ab crunches can’t work with them and Jubilee is no exception. Her head is on a ball hinge that lets her look up, down, and around with some tilt. The shoulders are ball-hinged and they’re fine. There’s no butterfly joint or biceps swivel as the top of her arms have the sleeves sculpted on. She does get a swivel at the elbow and single hinges that let her bend her arms at a 90 degree angle. Her wrists swivel, and interestingly, one wrist has a horizontal hinge and the other vertical. It’s not necessary, but I kind of like it. In the torso, we have a ball joint in the diaphragm that does little. It gets almost no range forward, back, or tilt and it’s mainly just a swivel point. No waist twist, and we have ball-jointed hips. She can kick forward, but not back, and her legs go out to the side an acceptable amount. There’s a thigh cut just below the shorts which looks good, and double-jointed knees. The hinges at the knees feel a bit gummy and the top one is quite tight, but if you get both to move properly, she can bend past 90 degrees. There’s a boot cut below that and the usual ankle hinge with rocker that works very well. Jubilee is pretty conventional for a female Marvel Legend. The elbows are okay and the torso stinks, but at least she’s not worse than usual.

Jubilee should get used to finding herself behind better looking figures.

As a final bone to pick, we have to talk about value. This figure is $27 and sold exclusively through Hasbro Pulse and Shop Disney, so you have to order it. There’s no brick and mortar option, so tack-on the cost of shipping to that 27 bucks, or the cost of a Pulse Premium subscription (which is what I ended up doing as I figured this line would pay for itself through the free shipping perk) unless you happen to catch her on Disney during a free shipping promotion (otherwise you have to order $75 worth of merch to trigger that perk which you actually could right now just by ordering the three figures from this line currently available – Wolverine, Jubilee, and Mr. Sinister). That’s not cheap, and to illustrate that I have the below picture. All four figures were released or solicited around the sound time so there’s no COVID impact to the price of one that wouldn’t affect the other, and in comparison this figure is just not a great value. Let’s go left to right:

Not included is the DC Collectibles Batman from the animated series I reviewed previously. It’s a better value than Jubilee and features good cel-shading, but I don’t know if it was available to purchase around the same time so I left it out.

NECA Turtles in Time Raphael – the cheapest at $26, not sold exclusive to any retailer. 100% reuse from a past figure save for the new sais and hoverboard (though the mold for that is used for other figures). He also has his own unique deco via the pixel shading. It’s a reissue of a figure from 2020, but so is Jubilee basically.

Jubilee, who is $27 plus the cost of shipping because she’s not available at retail. 100% reuse, bad paint job where the cel-shading is concerned.

NECA Groundchuck – This guy is sold in a two-pack for $65, so he’s $32.50 and found at Target and pretty comparable in price to Jubilee. And unlike Jubilee, there’s no reuse with this guy and likely won’t be any future use for these tools unless NECA does a variant. Tons of paint, tons of hands, and a gun. Terrific value. And if you think I’m cherry-picking from the set I’d say his box-mate Dirtbag is just as good and actually has more accessories.

Bandai/Tamashii Nations Goku Black – this guy is the most expensive, but he’s $35 and sold at Target. It’s a reissue with a new paint application on the hair. This is Bandai reissuing an older figure and giving the consumer a discount as a result. Jubilee is a reissue of an old figure, but more expensive. Plus this is an S.H.Figuarts release, a much higher quality product than Marvel Legends. Normally the comparison would be unfair and ludicrous, but it’s $35 so it’s very much comparable to what Hasbro is giving us.

Value is a subjective concept, but I don’t see a strong argument for this Jubilee being comparable to those other 3 where value is concerned. Basically we have two companies offering up a reissue or variant of an older figure and giving the consumer a price break, while the third figure is all-new and just so happens to be right around the same price. They’re also all licensed figures and not an in-house brand for any of the companies above. I don’t doubt that the Marvel license is more expensive than TMNT or Dragon Ball, but that is meaningless to the consumer since we’re just judging the product for what it is and how it compares elsewhere. Unfortunately, Marvel is exclusive to Hasbro in this scale so there’s no alternative unless a non-US company like Medicom wants to start doing animated X-Men. If this were down at 20 or even 22 bucks then I’m not making this comparison, but if Hasbro wants to charge a premium for this line then we’re entirely within our rights as consumers to expect better. If they have to charge more to do these figures justice then charge more, but don’t repackage old figures at a mark-up and expect people to just smile and accept it. If this line fails it’s going to be because collectors saw it for what it is and not a reflection of the desire out there for a line based on the cartoon X-Men.

I think it’s pretty clear which figure Hasbro sunk more money into.

Jubilee as just another Marvel Legends release would be fine. Probably a little on the subpar or average at best scale, but ultimately fine. The sculpt is okay and the paint effects are applied well with minimal slop. It’s as a representation of the Jubilee we know and love from the classic animated series that this figure fails. This just doesn’t look like that Jubilee. She’s too tall, the proportions aren’t right, the cel-shading on the coat is bad, and she looks much older. Had Hasbro at least given her a more show accurate head-sculpt, like it did for Wolverine, I would be satisfied and able to overlook the other inaccuracies. And if they gave her more expressive effects parts that would have helped too. Instead, we have a figure destined to lurk behind the other figures in this line. Hopefully, she ends up being the least accurate of the bunch (though that Jean isn’t looking too hot) and all future figures are better because I’d hate to see one that’s worse. Hasbro has its hooks in me though, and as long as they’re the only ones giving us a line of figures based on the animated series, I’ll probably keep on buying. Not enthusiastically, but I guess if Hasbro is getting my money regardless that’s all they care about.


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