With the arrival of the new Marvel Universe figures I really want like Psylocke and Storm still a couple weeks away, I figured I’d step back and fill in the archives by reviewing some older currently-released action figures. I started with Ultron yesterday, and you can see all of my other Marvel Universe reviews in the Toy Reviews Index. Today, I’m surprised to say that for the second time this year, I’m thrilled to be reviewing a Spider-Man variant! The first wave of 2011 gave us a spectacularly cool Spider-Man 2099, and this third wave of 2011 gives us the fan-favorite Scarlet Spider, Ben Reilly. Now that I have this figure in-hand, is it good enough to maintain my level of excitement…?
Although it was much-maligned and critically-bashed for years afterward, many 1990’s comic book readers have developed fond memories of the Clone Saga. Almost unanimously, readers will agree that the high point of this era of Spider-Man was the introduction of Ben Reilly, Peter Parker’s clone who would temporarily take his mantle as the Sensational Spider-Man. Ben Reilly’s following was strong enough that despite his death in the comics over a decade ago, fans still clamor for his return and demand new toys and statues of the character. As you may have guessed, I love this character and I love his design.
The Scarlet Spider costume has always been one of the most popular Spider-Man costumes because of its fun and quirky design, but we don’t get Scarlet Spider toys nearly as often as other Spider-Man costumes since it requires lots of little add-ons that standard Spider-Man costumes don’t have.
In order to make this figure work with the standard Spider-Man mold, Hasbro added six pieces of clothing to the mold to complete the costume: two wrist cartridge bracelets, two ankle pouches, a belt, and the Scarlet Spider’s signature blue hoodie.
The belt, bracelets, and pouches all look great and make the figure easily distinguishable from the Peter Parker Spider-Men figures. The hoodie looks good from a distance and in some of the photos, but has some issues in-person and up-close. Which brings us to…
Hasbro was never going to develop a whole new torso for this figure, so the hoodie was either going to be an add-on piece or nothing. There are no soft goods in the entire Marvel Universe line, so the hoodie had to be plastic, and it’s “good enough”, but falls short of looking really sharp. The way that the shape of the plastic bends around the torso, poor Scarlet looks too bulky and out-of-shape to be a hyper-acrobatic superhero. Instead of wearing a hooded sweatshirt, up-close it looks and feels like Ben is outfitted with a bullet-proof vest. The plastic vest restricts the upper-body articulation of the figure, which makes posing him slightly more problematic than it is with other figures in the figure line.
The super-bright day-glow red that both Toybiz and Hasbro seem obsessed with putting on Scarlet Spider toys really bothers me. I read the whole Clone Saga from the time Ben Reilly appeared until he died, and I never got the feeling that his costume was this eye-searing, almost neon red color. Some shading or a paint wash, or even just using a darker red color would have worked wonders for this figure and made me feel a whole lot better about it.
“Where Can I Buy It?!”
Marvel Universe Wave 14 started shipping back in early August, but has started to become difficult to find as several other waves have shipped since then. I haven’t seen a Scarlet Spider in a while, but I have seen some of his casemates at Target recently, so I’d recommend starting there if you want to find him locally. As far as online options go:
BigBadToyStore has the best price on the Set of 5 for Wave 14 for just $49.99 (including Scarlet Spider, Dr. Doom, Dr. Strange, Skaar, and Falcon) . That’s essentially the retail price, and I doubt any online stores will beat it. They also have Scarlet Spider available individually for $11.99 and he’s currently in-stock and ready to ship out.
The fine folks over at CMDStore currently have this wave in-stock, and they presently have Scarlet Spider available for $15.95.
Another option is that this figure is available at the time of writing for about $9 on Amazon, which is pretty much what you’re going to pay if you find him at retail.
Overall: It pains me to give a below-average grade to this figure, as I truly wanted to like him, but he’s just too flawed for me to overlook. This is the best Scarlet Spider figure that’s been released in nearly a decade, but that’s not saying a whole lot since it’s also the only one released in nearly a decade. The articulation isn’t as good as other 2011 Marvel Universe figures and is further hindered by his hoodie, the execution of the hoodie itself is lacking and leaves poor Ben looking like a linebacker, and the day-glo red color of the figure is jarring and not what I want from a Scarlet Spider figure. He’s a fun enough figure and I will absolutely take this Scarlet Spider over no Scarlet Spider, but this particular figure isn’t quite up to snuff and I hope to see an improved version in the resurrected Marvel Legends line in 2012-2013.