REVIEW: Hasbro SDCC Exclusive Marvel Universe Masters of Evil
Three Bad Dudes For Your 3 ¾ Inch Collection...
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This summer at San Diego Comic-Con Hasbro unleashed a huge assortment of incredible exclusive products covering everything from Transformers to My Little Pony and everything in between. In the Marvel department the toy giant brought out two super popular team packs, one in the small Marvel Universe line and one in the larger Marvel Legends series. The former featured three members of the most villainous team in Marvel’s history, the aptly named Masters of Evil! Appearing for the first time in the Marvel Universe lineup are fan-favorite characters that no super-villain collection will be complete without: Radioactive Man, Baron Zemo, and Tiger Shark.
The Marvel Universe series has had a bunch of three and four-packs, so Hasbro took the existing package design and adapted it for Comic-Con. Just like, say, the Avengers or X-Force packs, the Masters of Evil set is collected in a wide, flat window box with flashy graphics. The front panel is dominated by the window so you can get a good look at the three figures; to the right side is a great image of the three characters and below them is the set’s name and of course an SDCC exclusive sticker. The back of the box has the full image of the trio breaking through a wall (the character art on the front is isolated from this image), and looks really cool. At the top of the panel is a brief description of how the Masters came together, fueled by Baron Zemo’s hatred for Captain America and the Avengers. Once you’ve opened the three-pack you’ll get a better look at the fiery explosion backdrop behind the figure tray.
The Masters of Evil first appeared as a team in the pages of the Avengers in 1964. That initial group of super-villains was gathered by the original Baron Zemo (Heinrich) to take on the premiere hero team, and was of course eventually stopped. Despite suffering failures at every turn the Masters of Evil would return and re-form throughout the years with a rotating roster of members including Heinrich’s son Baron Helmut Zemo, Radioactive Man, Tiger Shark, and many others. The younger Zemo came to prominence in the 70’s, taking up his father’s hatred for Captain America and complex plots to kill him. Lacking superpowers, Helmut has great scientific knowledge as well as martial arts and sword fighting training. Chen Lu was a nuclear scientist in China fed up with Thor’s actions against his nation’s army invading India. Out to stop the Asgardian at any cost, Lu dosed himself with radiation and became the super-powered Radioactive Man able to exert and absorb energy. Meanwhile Todd Arliss was a competitive swimmer who after an accident submitted to a risky genetic engineering experiment. With DNA spliced from Namor and a shark, the resulting Tiger Shark had super strength, durability, hunting prowess, wicked pointed teeth, and a never-ending hatred for the Atlantean prince!
The Marvel Universe toy line is still relatively young (begun in early 2009), but it has rapidly found a place in the collections of 3 ¾ toy fans in general and Marvel collectors specifically. With great character range, lots of variants and running changes, and dynamic comic book looks, the Universe figures are a powerful force in the toy aisles. The line is probably best known for its super-articulated figures, often packing 15 to 20 or more joints. Marvel Universe has also featured its very own SDCC exclusives every year since its inception, from 2009’s Invaders to last year’s Sentinel, so this year’s Masters of Evil fits right in.
Slightly larger than 3 ¾ inch scale, these three “Masters” are really fun new figures each with his own unique look and feel. Zemo is the shortest at just over 4 inches tall, while the other two tower over him at 4 ½ and 4 5/8 inches for Radioactive Man and Tiger Shark respectively (Shark’s fin extends to 5 1/8 inches!). As with previous Marvel Universe figures there is some re-use of sculpted elements, but enough new parts that they don’t feel at all like cheap repeats. Sculpts are very good on these three, with a pretty interesting range of detail and technique. Zemo has the most intricate, character specific sculpt with a lean body and tons of clothing details. Besides the smooth boots, gloves, and impressive belt, the Baron’s full-body outfit is presented with plenty of creases and ruffles (especially on the chest and arms). His collar is a separate piece of plastic that rests on his shoulders, and like his head has intricately sculpted lines. The ruffled furry ridges on Zemo’s boots are actually separate pieces of plastic too so you can pose his legs as you like and then fit them over. Tiger Shark is huge and powerfully built with lots of musculature, but from the neck down there really isn’t anything about the sculpt that defines the character. Of course, look up and you’ll find one of the best head sculpts in the Marvel Universe line with a truly frightening shark tooth grin and the epic head fin! Radioactive Man may be shorter than his aquatic ally, but if anything he has a more impressive body builder look for his size (check out those traps!). He also has a unique bald head sculpt and old school cuffed boots along with a tank top with star design that shows off even more muscles.
In the paint department, each of these three villains shines for different reasons. Radioactive Man is almost entirely comprised of translucent green plastic. Oftentimes clear figures can look a little cheap or boring, but this neon green color really looks great. Of course, it’s also offset by solid dark green boots and the matching shirt, further accented by the golden star on his chest and the tiny detail of his painted yellow eyes. Tiger Shark has a straightforward paint job, but it’s very well done, essentially an orange jumpsuit with metallic purple elements at the boots, gloves, horizontally pointed “stripe” up and down the torso, and head. And while the suit is clean, it’s the Shark’s face that really stands out. The excellent sculpt is highlighted with silver eyes, white teeth on a red background, and even his naked ears sticking out of his cowl. Finally you’ve got Baron Zemo, who has the most complicated color palette. The villain’s outfit is a dark purple, only broken up at the yellow extremities and belt. His head and collar piece are generally a lighter purple, and the fringed shoulders and boot tops are a dirty white. Zemo’s head adds creepy silver eyes, nuanced shading around the face, and the gold crown-like detail.
As with all Marvel Universe figures, these three Masters of Evil have outstanding articulation. Radioactive Man has a ball-jointed neck, ball-jointed shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists, probably torso and waist (don’t want to destroy the additional piece to find out), hips, double-jointed knees, calves/boots, and ball-jointed ankles. Tiger Shark has even more poseability with thigh swivel joints and ankle rockers, and Zemo takes those two and adds even more with hinged wrists! Suffice it to say that these figures can be posed in just about any way you desire, though you might find some balance issues in the more extreme. On the accessory front there isn’t too much going on here. Tiger Shark has nothing, and Radioactive Man just the (non-removable) shirt on his back. The Baron is the only one graced with accessories, a one-handed short sword and pistol. Unfortunately, Zemo’s hands are sculpted so far open the only way for him to wield the weapons is to balance them VERY carefully. It can be done, but it’s definitely the weakest thing about this trio.
Just like with the Uncanny X-Force Marvel Legends SDCC exclusive, by this point you’ve probably made up your mind whether you’re going to track down the Masters of Evil. I’m here to say that if you’re still on the fence and wondering if you should add these classic villains to your collection, the answer is most certainly a “yes.” All three are unique characters with interesting looks, and the MU articulation means you’ll have fun posing them with the other figures in your collection. Sold out from Hasbro, the Masters of Evil are available on the secondary market for between $40 and $50, which isn’t too bad at all for this trio. Let the evil commence!
Review and Photos by Scott Rubin
Review Sample Courtesy of Hasbro