HeroesArentBorn.com Review: Iron Man (Mark 1 Armor)
Review and Photography by Jeffrey A. Gouse (SithLord0498)
Review Date: April 12, 2010
Planning his vengeance
That he will soon unfurl
Now the time is here
For Iron Man to spread fear
While clearly not Black Sabbath’s homicidal monstrosity, those lyrics perfectly describe Tony Stark as his footsteps thundered from the darkness, a fatalistic sound heralding impending doom to the terrorists in their isolated camp. Nervousness turned to fear as the Mark 1 emerged from the cave. If the nightmarish mish-mash of cannibalized metal, gears, and weaponry were not enough to send the Ten Rings’ foot soldiers fleeing, then the explosive bursts of fire from Iron Man’s primitive flamethrowers sure were.
That prominent and deadly entrance into daylight served another purpose, one aimed at the audience:
Proof that Iron Man was going to be something very special and very successful.
HeroesArentBorn.com is pleased to present Hasbro’s rendition of the cinematic Mark 1 armor as our second product review.
SCULPTING: Excellent (Bordering on Above Average)
In its review, the comic book Mark 1 helmet was described as having a “brutish yet simpleton-like” facial expression. That isn’t the case with the cinematic version despite their close resemblance to each other. No, director Jon Favreau’s vision of the Mark 1 is more a knight in scrappy armor, and it is not too farfetched to suggest the helmet’s expression mirrors Tony Stark’s emotional state as he lays waste to his own legacy.
Once more, Hasbro’s sculptors captured lightning in a bottle, producing an action figure that both mimics the physical look of the screen-used helmet and embodies the aforementioned emotional resonance. Proportions are as accurate as can be reasonably expected for this product type, and the sculpting is quite detailed. The hinge running front to back along the top is cleanly etched and almost manages to look functional. The eyes are more symmetrical and accurate than those on its Comic Series counterpart. This time however, the mouth falls short with the three vents running too close together. The result is a muddled sculpt that tarnishes the aesthetic quality to a small degree.
Yet the sculptors manage to redeem themselves by again demonstrating astonishing attention to detail. The screen-used helmet has two subtle dented areas—one above each eye. While the figure needs to be viewed from a certain angle to see them, the sculptors mindfully included those dents in the appropriate locations and proportions. They aren’t obvious elements, but their inclusion subtly improves the overall aesthetics of the helmet.
Hasbro’s team did a superb job rendering the Mark 1’s Frankenstein-esque nature into a 3.75 inch action figure. Considering this is still a mass market toy, the asymmetrical sizes, shapes, and placements of the scrap metal plates match up as perfectly as possible to the screen-used costume, and the seams are appropriately rendered. They do lack the coarse texture of the soldering on the costume, and it would have been nice to see that small touch of realism. Hasbro already did similar texturing on the comic book Mark 1 figure with the imperfections on the rim surrounding the arc light, so it is possible on this small of a canvas.
What is most impressive about the torso armor is the intricate detail within the arc reactor cavity. Keep in mind the reactor is housed within Tony Stark’s own chest, so the figure needs to reflect this. Rather than just inaccurately slap the reactor on top of the armor, the sculptors went to great lengths to replicate the wires and additional layers of armor housing it. The result imbues the figure with a tremendous sense of depth, and it does give the illusion of a person fitting inside the suit.
The sculptors also did outstanding work on the rivets and bolts. They made these elements so clean and precise that they look like small added-on components rather than sculpted extensions of the body (which is the reality of it). The industrial-strength motor belts on the Mark 1’s thighs as well as the gears on its back also sport very intricate sculpting and far more detail than one would expect on an action figure.
Hasbro’s work on the armored extremities is equally impressive in their own way. These areas lack the incredibly smooth and precise detailing found on the torso, but it’s because the arms and legs are extremely busy areas clearly forged from dozens of scrap components. The figure accurately portrays this. Based upon random spot-checks of several different elements, it looks as though Hasbro’s sculptors replicated the most minute details of the costume—a substantial achievement to be sure! The latches connecting the two thigh plates on the right leg are exactly where they should be. The large screw head-shaped rivets on each shoulder joint are dead-on as well. There is one feature that has been omitted however: the long armor plating that extends over the gloves should have a corresponding plate beneath them—effectively protecting Stark’s hands from injury. The most likely reason for this omission is to allow consumers to place items in the figure’s hands. It looks to be a case of function over fashion, and it was a wise decision by Hasbro as it does increase the toy’s play value.
The heavily mechanical and detailed nature of the Mark 1 armor has one more aesthetically-beneficial feature, and Hasbro’s sculptors took advantage of it. It is very easy to conceal the ball-hinged joints within the nooks and crannies of the suit. When standing in or close to a neutral pose, the only obvious traces of the hinged joints are the darker shades of paint. Otherwise, the sculpted creases of the jumpsuit and the layered armor components help the hinges blend into the overall design, leading to a product that moves away from a children’s toy and toward a statuesque appearance. Like its comic counterpart, this too is a miniature work of art.
There are some outstanding issues in terms of scale. Quite honestly, the figure is a bit too slim to accommodate a person within it. On its own, that is not very noticeable. Put it next to other action figures, and the Mark 1 looks under-scaled. Such issues of relative scale are a problem in the Iron Man 2 line. For example, Iron Monger is roughly the same height as the Mark 3 armor. Anyone who has seen the first movie knows that makes Monger grossly underscaled.
Through this site’s participation in Hasbro’s “Marvel Q&A”, the company provided this official explanation:
You are right. The Star Wars items are created in proximity to each character's true size. However, within the Iron Man collection, many of the actual characters when featured in their armor, are quite similar in size. Thus we have created characters that appear quite similar in size. We also have to keep into account our packaging dimensions when producing product. We would like to have some figures tower over others, but due to packaging restraints, this is challenging.
Clearly, the first reason doesn’t address a character like Iron Monger (the packaging restraint does though). For the Mark 1, it appears the slight under-scaling was intentional. It is up to you the consumer to decide whether or not Hasbro made the right decision.
The last major issue with the sculpting deals with the shoulder latches. Hasbro sculpted them too high above the armor. Not only does this exaggerate the aesthetics of the figure’s shape, but it also restricts the head’s lateral movement in such a way that makes it both inaccurate and renders the neck joint useless.
PAINT APPLICATIONS: Excellent (Bordering on Above Average)
The paint applications on the Mark 1 prove to be a mixed bag of sorts, which will be examined in detail.
Positives first: the team responsible for designing this deco should be highly commended for their work.
The Mark 1 is the first figure this reviewer can remember seeing in recent memory that has what can only be described as an “oil slick” effect. The figure is clearly painted in shades of gray. Yet there are frequent traces of brown that seem to shift with the lighting. Under harsh white LED lighting, it is easier to see where exactly those additional colors have been added, diminishing the effect. But under everyday conditions, the torso armor’s deco has an almost organic quality that can only be appreciated to the fullest in person.
On areas where the painting is rougher, there is a significant black wash that gives additional depth to the intricate sculpting. This is most prevalent and beneficial on the shoulders and forearms. The mustard-colored jumpsuit benefits even more from the paint wash. Not only does it provide definition, but it is used to great effect to simulate oil and grease stains. Look at the thumb on Stark’s flamethrower arm. There are small burn marks painted amidst the grease! That level of detail is very rare in mass market action figures.
The only real issue with the paint on this figure is the subtleties of the scrap metal have been lost. Stark forged this suit from a pile of various weapons, and the screen-used armor reflects this by showing heavily soldered seams and both discolored and multi-colored plates. Hasbro’s version fails to convey the same feeling because they gave all the pieces of “metal” the same color. The best example would be the metal plates covering Stark’s rear. The screen costume has a plate painted in varying shades of green. The sculpting on the figure matches the costume, but the color variations are absent. Additionally, the gears on the back are completely unpainted. At the very least, Hasbro could have added silver paint to the appropriate areas. Alas, nothing.
Granted, this is a kids’ toy, but Hasbro clearly put a great deal of time and effort into making this figure insanely detailed. Putting the same amount of effort into getting a more accurate deco would have cemented this figure’s status of “Action Figure of the Year”. To their credit, Hasbro did implement a few features that convey the scrap metal nature of the armor. First and most notable, they included the stenciled code on the left breastplate (although the stenciling found on the shoulder blades is missing). Second, they varied the texture of the paint, which was briefly mentioned earlier. The torso armor is very polished and smooth while the legs have a coarser texture.
The Mark 1’s chest-mounted arc reactor is identical to the screened-on application used with its comic book counterpart. The only real differences are the contrast is higher and the detail is much sharper. Again, the effect holds up well under a macro lens and even better under normal observation. Hasbro struck gold with this technique, and it is definitely one they should continue to use on any and all 3.75 inch scale arc lights regardless of product line (Iron Man 2, Marvel Universe, etc.)
While there were clearly several missed opportunities with regards to accuracy, the paint applications on the Mark 1 remain outstanding, nuanced, and far better than most armored figures at this scale. That is why the paint still ranks just over the line to “Excellent”.
Losing wrist articulation and substituting a ball-jointed torso for a swivel waist, the cinematic Mark 1 has less flexibility than the comic book version. This is not a major problem though because these restrictions—combined with the limitations imposed by the sculpted armor—bolster the illusion of a human confined within a massive metal shell. Yes, the screen-used costume did allow Robert Downey Jr. to move his wrists, but that can be approximated by swiveling the forearms.
Like the comic version, the joints on this figure are extremely tight. They were so tight on this sample that it took an unusual amount of force to get the ball joints on the hips to rotate. Rest assured: they do move a full 360 degrees. You may just have to carefully break them in first. The legs work the same way they were described in our last review. Rotate the hips, flex the hinges, swivel the thighs, and you have an incredible range of motion. Combine this with the broad heavy feet, and the Mark 1 is an extremely stable figure capable of indefinitely holding free-standing poses.
The Mark 1 comes with an arm-mounted projectile launcher and the obligatory character-specific “armor cards”.
Quite honestly, the projectile launcher is nothing more than an attempt to throw in an action-feature accessory regardless of whether it makes sense or not. Still, Hasbro should be commended for trying to make a weapon that follows a similar design aesthetic to the armor. In fact, it even adds that omitted shielding over the hand, which was mentioned earlier in this review. However, there is no weathering on it at all, making it look like a brand-new weapon attached to an archaic machine. Also, its mass and length tends to throw off the figure’s balance. The spring-loaded launcher works well enough, but it is simply out of place here. A much better accessory would have been an energy effect like the one included with the Comic Series Mark 1 figure. In this case, a flamethrower effect that fits over the figure’s right hand would have been perfect.
For those readers who have already read our earlier reviews, feel free to skip the rest of this section as it is reprinted verbatim.
The second part of the accessories is the standard pack-in for this figure line—a generic unmarked figure stand with slots to display character-specific “Armor cards”. The cards are comprised of a base card made of a thin glossy paper stock and two additional cards made of transparent plastic. Layered properly, these three cards show the character’s complete armor. It is very reminiscent of the scene in Iron Man where Stark layers his blueprints together to reveal the full design of the Mark 1 suit to Yinsen. It’s a novel idea and far better than some of the pack-ins used in the past with the Star Wars line, but the cards are ultimately inconsequential.
Additionally, the presence of an Internet URL on the side of the card (www.ironmancard.com) suggests that these cards are part of an on-line game. Sadly, that is not the case. Entering the URL only redirects users to Marvel Comics’ official website (www.marvel.com). It is a disappointment and nothing more than a misleading gimmick to draw people to Marvel’s home on the web.
OVERALL RATING: Excellent
The Mark 1 is not without issues, but the majority of them are either barely perceptible or unreasonable to expect from an $8 toy. The bottom line is Hasbro forged an incredibly detailed and surprisingly agile action figure that, like the comic book Mark 1 figure, sets a new standard of quality for future products. Collectors have seen such benchmarks in the Star Wars line, but the Mark 1 may very well trump them all.
There is a downside. When the next figure settles for the status quo or proves to be an average figure, it will be a disappointment because people have seen what is possible, and that lesser-quality figure will be regarded more harshly. Such relative perceptions are particularly problematic when writing product reviews such as these, and it is a challenge to know when to let go of relativity and judge a product on its own merits.
In any context, Hasbro’s movie series Iron Man Mark 1 figure is solidly built action figure and a showcase for the talented artists responsible for creating it. One could not ask for a better entry in the inaugural wave of a new product line.
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