Saturday 10 August 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Iron Man Mk 85

Release Date: June 2019
RRP: 6480 yen

Avengers: Endgame marked the end for many aspects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we currently know it, but for many fans the main thing it'll be remembered for is its place as the final chapter in Tony Stark's story - the man who first shaped its origins way back in 2007's Iron Man. The character is not only the MCU's biggest star but also one of Bandai Tamashii Nations' biggest sellers in the S.H. Figuarts line, given the number of different suit variants the company has put out over the years. So when a number of characters were suddenly announced a few weeks prior to Endgame's cinema release, there was no doubt that the latest rendition of Iron Man was going to be among them. However S.H. Figuarts Iron Man Mk 85 was actually the last of these initial general sale Endgame Figuarts to be released, with a third version of the Infinity War Mk50 suit preceding it the month before.

Like the rest of the Avengers: Endgame Figuarts this latest iteration of Iron Man comes packed in a fairly plain white box, adorned with both the general Avengers logo and the more specific one for the film itself. Each character has been assigned their own individual colour for the boxed out sections and spine font, and in Iron Man's case it's a fitting candy apple red that matches the suit's most iconic colours. The back of the box then features the usual selection of stock images displaying the figure in various poses, and to their credit Bandai have done a really good job picking out good ones for this particular release. Overall it's some pretty basic packaging overall, but manages to have a certain charm about it nevertheless. Inside the figure and accessories are all safely stored on a moulded plastic tray.

There's no question that S.H. Figuarts Iron Man figures aren't just popular because the character is popular, they've also sold extremely well because they're all exceptionally good figures too. Even if you're new to the range, it doesn't take much time handling the Mark 85 to see why they're considered among Figuarts' best. The Mark 85 suit is the perfect balance of Iron Man's iconic red and gold colours, throwing in a healthy dose of silver lining for extra effect. The moulding on this release is exceptionally sharp, and the bright colours help bring out all that added detailing that the suit is covered head to toe in. Yet despite all of said detailing, the suit is far from overcomplicated and has a very natural, organic look to it that suits the nanotechnology Stark uses in later films. The translucent blue used for the eyes and arc reactor is really well done, especially in the case of the former as its far more vibrant than the barely noticeable blues used on the earlier Iron Man figures. Much like previous releases, the Mark 85 also has die cast metal feet - a rarity in the S.H. Figuarts line these days but an addition that gives these figures more heft and stability. That beautiful finish does come at a price though, so be warned of paint rub/blemishes appearing on both the glossy red and metallic gold sections. My figure came pre-packaged with scuff mark on the knee, and I've already begun to notice minor paint rub here and there just from posing the figure. Just take care when posing and take note of what parts rub against each other, and hopefully that'll be enough to alleviate the sole problem on this exceptionally good looking figure.

Over the years the Iron Man suit has developed from bulky armour into a sleek bodysuit, and the Mark 85 definitely feels like the natural endpoint to that change. Even when compared to the (still relatively recent) Mark 45 armour from Age of Ultron you can see that the smooth, robotic panels have evolved into defined muscle shape and detailing. It's understandable why this progression in design would turn some fans off from the new armours, but as well as being in-keeping with Stark's advancements in technology in the film's it's also led to the designs feeling like much closer approximations of the comic look. Just take a look at any Iron Man appearance from the 70s or 80s and you won't see much in the way of armour plating, you'll see what's essentially a gold bodysuit with with some armour bits slapped on. With most high-end toy companies either focussing on the movie suits or their own interpretation of comic book variants, the Mark 85 offers this sweet spot for people looking for a movie-styled Iron Man figure that has the right shades of comic influence.

The sleeker aesthetic has also done wonders for the overall articulation of the figure, leading to what's  undoubtedly one of the most posable Iron Man toys the line has put out. Altogether the figure features a ball jointed head and neck section, swivel hinge shoulders with added butterfly joints, bicep swivels, double hinged elbows, ball jointed wrists, ball jointed torso and waist sections, "pull down" ball jointed hips, double hinge knees, swivel hinge ankle rockets and then of course the hinged toe section at the end of each foot. That isn't especially more articulation than what's packed into the usual Figuart, but it's how it pulls it all off that makes it so satisfying. The hip joints for example have a silver cover piece situated between the crotch and the leg, which almost perfectly covers up any gaps in the silhouette when the joint is used to its full potential. It does however make it a little difficult to reattach the leg should you accidentally pop it off (like I did whilst trying to put the figure into the obligatory superhero landing pose), but everything feels nice and tight without any fear of breakage. Similarly the silver pieces that surround the butterfly joints in the shoulders also do a great job of holding everything together into a "complete" design. Despite having a considerable amount of Figuarts by this stage I'd be hesitant to call myself an expert at posing them, but there's just something about this particular figure that makes getting it to look good so seamless. The design, articulation and die cast feet all work in tandem to make it look perfect in any pose you throw at it.

However the flaws in this release begin to show themselves when looking at the accessories, which include four additional pairs of hands (two pairs of open hands, one pair of straightened "flight" hands and a pair for use with the effect parts), two sets of repulser blast effect parts that plug into the hands (one large pair and one smaller pair) and one set of rocket boost effects that plug into the figure's feet. While these effect parts might be blue rather than the usual orange they have been on most Iron Man releases (however the ones the first Infinity War Mk 50 came with were also blue), they are exactly the same accessories nearly every Iron Man Figuart has come with since Bandai started making them. And after around 20 different releases, it gets a little boring. Of course as was the case with the other Endgame figures announced before the film was released getting any spoiler-specific accessories (i.e. a hand with the Infinity Stones embedded into it) was never going to happen, but it's hard to believe the concept art Bandai would have worked off didn't have any sort of nano weaponry included with it. Even the initial Mark 50 figure (which was also revealed before Infinity War's release) came with cannon pieces to make it a little more unique. But since the Mark 50 then had a further two releases with even more different accessories, it seems a safe bet that there'll be more versions of this figure coming out somewhere down the line. At the very least an alternate Tony Stark head would have sufficed, but given how hesitant Bandai are to release that with the actual armours suggests likeness costs might be at play somewhere. 

Given how closely it mirrors the character's most iconic comic look the Mark 85 is undoubtedly my favourite armour from the MCU, and S.H. Figuarts Iron Man Mark 85 does an incredible job of taking all that colour and detail and shrinking it down to figure form. Design-wise it feels like a far cry from the original Iron Man's Mark 3 armour but if you look at how the suits have changed over the years, it feels like a pretty natural progression and a fitting conclusion to Tony Stark's time in the MCU. But despite how good the base figure may be, the lack of accessories really bring the package down as a whole. With Infinity War Bandai finally got out of the rut of including the bare minimum with the Iron Man figures, and now with the final suit they seem to have fallen right back into that hole again. The S.H. Figuarts Mark 85 armour comes highly recommended, but given the high prices it currently commands on the aftermarket it might be worth holding off because a re-release with additional accessories seems inevitable.

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