Sunday 20 October 2019

Toybox Review: MAFEX Iron Spider

Release Date: July 2019, August 2019 (Reissue)
RRP: 7800 yen

After beating off the likes of Revoltech and Figma, Bandai's S.H. Figuarts line ruled the roost for a good while when it came to collector-grade Japanese figures in 6" scale. However in the last few years they've begun to face some stiff competition from Medicom and their "miracle action figure" MAFEX line - directly challenging them with their own versions of characters from Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and more. Discussions of inconsistent quality prevented me from buying into the line for some time, but as it begins to extend further into both comic and movie-based properties I've found myself more and more interested. While other lines are now turning their attention to Avengers: Endgame, Medicom are still trailing behind covering Infinity War – and among their releases this year was the MAFEX Iron Spider figure. But despite coming nearly a year after the S.H. Figuarts version, Medicom's edition of Spider-Man's hi-tech suit still got plenty of attention – not just selling out on release but also getting a reissue only a month later.

If there's one thing this packaging isn't short on it's colour, as Medicom seem to have gone all out on their Infinity War releases with a barrage of gold and cosmic blue. Honestly it's not too far off what other companies were doing either, since they're the key colours of the Infinity War marketing in general. The front of the box features a nice big window which gives you a great look at all the goodies inside, along with numerous pictures of the figure on the front, spines and back of the box along with the official Avengers logos. Inside the figure is laid out on a typical moulded plastic tray, however the side where all the accessories are has been arranged rather cleverly. The section is actually a separate removable tray, and then underneath are all the various web pieces the figure also comes with.

There’s a lot of things to praise this figure about when it comes to the sculpt/build, but as soon as you lay eyes on it the first thing is immediately obvious. Unlike the S.H. Figuarts Iron Spider which had a flat colour, textured finish like the standard Spidey suit, the MAFEX version is true to the onscreen version with a smooth finish and metallic paint. But while the colours immediately stand out, the abundance of metallic paint always means the ever-present risk of it scratching. In fact my figure had a rather noticeable silver scratch straight out of box, though thankfully it’s located in a place on the elbow that’s only visible when bent. The colours really are fantastic though, and when it comes to Iron Spider figures in this scale the MAFEX is by far and large the winner in this regard. Proportionally the figure also nails the look of a 16-year old Peter Parker, so the smaller stature makes it perfect for standing alongside larger MCU figures - whether they’re Figuarts or Marvel Legends. Other than sharp paint apps though what is there to say about a Spider-Man figure? As long as you get that skin-tight suit perfect you’re golden.

Articulation is a something that can make or break a Spider-Man figure, so thankfully it’s another area that Medicom seem to be getting right for the most part. MAFEX Iron Spider has a ball jointed head and neck, swivel hinge shoulders with additional butterfly joints, bicep swivels, double hinge elbows, ball jointed wrists, ball jointed torso and waist sections, ball jointed hips with an additional swivel at the connection, double hinge knees, swivel hinge ankle rockers and single hinge toe cap sections. All the joints on the figure are both smooth and flexible, allowing for a really dynamic Spider-Man figure that doesn’t feel like it’s about to snap in half when moving the joints about. There are a few shortcomings that don’t ruin the figure, but could definitely do with being ironed out on future releases. The hip joint section isn’t great, fixed on a rocker piece so that when one leg is pulled down the other will move up. Not awful, but needlessly awkward when you’re trying to get the two legs to sit at the same level. The more glaring omission is the lack of a thigh swivel, which would have added so much more articulation to the legs. The swivel at the ball joint connection is great and really does make a hell of a difference, but having another swivel a little lower down would allow the legs to contort even more for those super-dynamic web slinging poses.

MAFEX Iron Spider comes with a rather impressive array of accessories, and there's one area in particular that Medicom seem to be ahead of Bandai in – alternate heads. Bandai have been very hit or miss about which figures they included unmasked heads with in the S.H. Figuarts line, but with MAFEX it seems to be a much more common occurrence. Whereas the S.H. Figuarts Spider-Man figures come with alternate eye pieces, MAFEX have included two full extra heads with their release – a second masked one with squinted eyes, but also a fully unmasked one with an alternate neck piece. The likeness to actor Tom Holland isn't amazing, but certainly passable and definitely on par with similar sculpts Bandai have put out. The bigger issue perhaps is the generic expression the head has, which doesn't really work for a character as hyperactive as Peter. I'm a big advocate for more expressive faces on toys in general, and MAFEX is yet another line that could really benefit from them.

The other accessories bundled with this release also include five pairs of swappable hands, six different web effect pieces (two small web shots, two medium web shots and then two long web ropes) and a standard MAFEX display stand. Regular inclusion of a display stand is always a huge positive in my hands, and MAFEX's version is pretty similar to what you see from both Max Factory and Bandai – albeit with a much thicker claw piece. That said, in my 10+ years of messing around with display stands like these this is the first one where I've had to tighten the screws right out of the box, as it just couldn't hold the figure up without it. The hand selection here is really nice, ranging from open and web-shooting hands to closed fists and web holding ones. The hands themselves swap really easily (though the web shooters will frequently fall off when doing so), since there's no way to "click" them onto the peg they aren't especially secure. It's not like they'll fall off once posed, but if you're messing around positioning the wrist joint there is a chance they might just drop off.

The webs on the other hand are perhaps the weakest element of the whole set – if not in design then by execution. The four "web-shot" pieces attach via a loop that fits over the wrist joint and is then locked in place by the hand, which would be fine if the hands themselves locked on better. So the webs, web-shooter and hands all have a habit of falling off when being positioned, which gets incredibly frustrating after a while. More annoying though are the longer webs, which simply thread inside the intended pair of hands. But the webs are so fragile and the hole they thread through so tight, so the risk of breaking them is extremely high. I broke one of them trying to replicate the pose on the box of the figure pulling on it with both hands, which was near impossible to replicate just because of how hard you need to push/pull the web through. It's just as well two of each kind is included so I'm not too burnt up over it, but it's annoying nonetheless and should have been easily avoided.

Among the various hands included are a pair with magnets build into the palms, along with an additional pair of feet with two magnets each in the soles. This is something MAFEX have been doing with their Spider-Man releases since The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and with them the figure can stick to metal surfaces in a variety of wall-crawling poses. However though this method may be less cumbersome and far more versatile than the Amazing Yamaguchi line's equivalent (where the magnet is instead built into a plug for the figure's back), the magnets aren't quite strong enough to hold the figure without support from both the arms and legs. With a bit of trial and error you can get a pose using just one hand or foot, but it isn't long before the figure starts slipping down the surface. It may not be perfect, but it's an extremely cool display option nonetheless.

But the pièce de résistance of these accessories (and the biggest selling point of the Iron Spider in general), are his four mechanical spider legs – fully articulated and attached to an alternate back panel. Each leg has a ball joint at the point that connects to the back, a hinge joint between the two "knee" sections and then another hinge just before the bladed tip. The legs are beautifully sculpted and painted, looking far more detailed than the S.H. Figuarts equivalent (it is worth noting that these were revised for the reissue, with the first version being a little less accurate in regards to paint apps). However gold plastic is enough to strike fear into the heart of any toy collector, and given how thin these legs are it goes without saying that they are pretty fragile – there have been numerous instances of them breaking. Personally however I found the webs much more of an issue than the legs, and they pose perfectly fine if you treat them with the utmost care and don't apply too much pressure. Plus they look absolute brilliant and really make this figure shine. How well they'll hold up over time is another matter entirely, but for now I'm pretty happy with how they turned out.

As a bit of a bonus (or not, since these two figures have both been out a while now and I'm sure someone else would have done it), I've also included some comparison pictures with the S.H. Figuarts Homecoming Spider-Man figure. Super articulated as Bandai's offering was, when put up against other figures you can see just how weird the proportions are - the extended neck, the gangly just doesn't look quite right. Clearly Bandai thought so too, since they overhauled the mould for their Iron Spider release (and presumably the subsequent Far From Home versions as well). Despite being from a different line, the MAFEX Iron Spider scales almost perfectly and construction-wise is similar enough to a Figuart to fit into a display. While it might not be as sturdy as the Figuarts Iron Spider, the deco and accessories are considerably more accurate.

MAFEX Iron Spider proves that Medicom have what it takes to go toe to toe with S.H. Figuarts, but the line still need some refinements in order to surpass it. While the sculpt and finish on this figure are top notch (completely outclassing the Bandai equivalent), there are still lots of little issues that it falls short on. The fragility of the legs and webs being the main thing, but also things like the loose hand connection or even just the floppy display stand. Nevertheless if you need a Spider-Man for an Infinity War/Endgame display this is absolutely the one to go for at this scale, and buying it may also help persuade you on all the other great things MAFEX have coming in the future. I considered myself pretty loyal to S.H. Figuarts, but a bit of healthy competition never hurt anyone.

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