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Marvel Toys

Legendary Comic Book Heroes
- Monkeyman Series -

Judge Death

Toy Review

By Mark Patraw

Manufacturer Information:
Marvel Toys
(A division of Marvel Entertainment, Inc.)
New York, NY 10016


The Package:
The Legendary Comic Book Heroes figures come on basic blister cards (roughly twelve inches tall by seven-and-a-half inches wide) that are predominately blue in hue. The front of the package is fairly spartan, sporting the LCBH logo at the top and a character-specific insert at the bottom that also points out the Build-A-Figure feature. The back of the package has Judge Death's biography, a comic book style portrait of his lovely visage (looks like Simon Bisley's work to me), cover samples of the comics the figures originally appeared in (Britain's 2000 A.D. in Judge Death's case), and pictures of all the characters in Series 2, including the Build-A-Figure, Monkeyman. The bubble is both glued and taped to the cardback and is kind of annoying to get off--I recommend cutting the plastic/tape around the edges with scissors first. Monkeyman's left leg pops right out of the interior plastic tray but the good Judge is held in place with two twisties. The Monkeyman instructions are folded and lying at the bottom of the bubble.

Judge Death:
The sculpting work on Judge Death is absolutely brilliant, I'd even go so far as to say this is one of Toy Biz/Marvel Toys' best figures ever. He really does look like he just stepped out of the pages of A.D. 2000 to pronounce judgement on the rest of your helpless toy collection. His rictus grin, trademark medieval-style helmet, shoulder pterodactyl (a mockery of the Earth Judges' eagle), etc., are all captured with loving craftsmanship. The detail is such that you can even see the subtle bumps made by the shoulder blades, spinal column, and ribs through the back of his uniform. They even went to the trouble of giving him eyes behind his portcullis visor (something you can't even normally see unless you shine a flashlight beam in there or rip the helmet off). The only negative thing I have to say about the sculpt is that the chain, that's supposed to connect his collar to his badge, is curiously missing. Series 1 Judge Dredd had his, which makes its absence here all the more puzzling.

The paintwork is also excellent, although there are a few minor errors that keep it from being perfect. Most of the wrinkles in his black uniform are picked out nicely with blue dry-brushing (the legs didn't get nearly enough of this treatment though). His skin is the perfect shade of sickly green and I really like how clean the work on his teeth and gums turned out. Silver paint, from the visor, got onto the black helmet in a few places where it shouldn't be. It doesn't look too bad in the respect that one could consider it "battle damage", but I'd prefer it wasn't there. Also, one of his finger-covered elbow pads got a lot more yellow paint dry-brushed onto its digits than the other did, which makes them look a bit mismatched. Try to watch out for little things like that if you have several to choose from in the store (my Wal*Mart did have a few to pick from, but I was in a bit of a rush).

For a walking corpse, Judge Death is mighty flexible. He has a ball-jointed neck, ball-jointed shoulders, rotating biceps, double-jointed pivot elbows, rotating and pivoting wrists, pivoting fingers (the pointer finger moves independently, the other three fingers move as a group), rocker torso, rotating waist (the belt is bendy to accommodate this, but go slow so you don't tear it), ball-jointed/rotating hips, double-jointed pivot knees, pivot/rocker ankles, and toe pivots (all five move as one unit). The range of motion in his shoulders and elbows is a lot better than Dredd's was, probably due to Death's scrawnier limbs. His lower legs, like most of the LCBH figures, are somewhat bowed, due to the soft plastic used for the knee joints. I'd take a little more care in posing his limbs than your average figure, due to his thin frame.

Also, be aware that there is a transparent (with a bit of a black paint wash to provide some contrast) variant version of Judge Death. This is meant to represent his ghostly spirit form. You see, when the body of any of the Dark Judges is destroyed, they don't die, their spirits simply exit the husk and they search out a new vessel to inhabit. Creepy, eh? My Wal*Mart had several of the clear variants when they first put the LCBH figures out, so I don't think it's all that rare. Of course, that didn't stop the scalpers in my area from buying them up immediately. Personally, I like the normal version (it's difficult to appreciate all the sculpted details in transparent figures), but buy whichever you like best, or, even better, both.

Judge Death doesn't come with anything besides his Monkeyman part and instructions, but, then, he never really uses anything in the comic books anyway. Who needs weapons when you're immortal and can perform all sorts of unnatural nastiness, even when you don't have a physical form? That said, as a whole, Series 2 is pretty light on accessories in general with only Darkness and Stryker getting any at all (not that Series 1 was really any different).

- Monkeyman's Left Leg. The sculpt on this is fairly detailed, especially the folds/wrinkles/texture in the clothing material. It's molded in light green plastic with the ankle cuff painted brown and a lighter brownish-orange color dry-brushed over the top of everything. The leg is well articulated too with a double pin joint knee, ball jointed ankle, and nine pivot points in his toes (which are actually more like fingers, given his simian foot design). There's even a whole in the bottom of the foot to accomodate a peg stand, although what good a tiny stand would do a figure as big as Monkeyman is beyond me. While the execution is good, I have to say that Monkeyman just doesn't interest me much as a Build-A-Figure. There's nothing outright wrong with him, he just doesn't have the "wow" and "cool" factor that Series 1 Pitt did. If you're a fan of the Monkeyman And O'Brien comic, or just like giant apes in general, you'll probably feel differently. Pitt was the primary reason I bought a complete set of Series 1, which is what a good BAF should make you want to do, unfortunately, I can't say that Monkeyman conjures up the same "gotta have it" emotions.

- Monkeyman Assembly Instructions. A black and white sheet of paper telling you how to put together your plastic ape. It's not like you couldn't figure it out on your own, but it's always nice to have a diagram. I did notice that Monkeyman's reading glasses, which come with the Star figure, aren't mentioned at all in the instructions. Maybe those goggles were a last minute addition.

I paid clearance price, $5.00 plus sales tax, for Judge Death at my local Wal*Mart, which is a great deal in my book. The original rate was double that, $10.00. Actually, my Wal*Mart has been kinda screwy with their pricing of the LCBH line, bear with me here: They started out at the $10 I just mentioned, and didn't sell well at all (probably because your average person has no idea who most of these independent comic book characters are), so Wal*Mart reduced them to $7 around Christmas time, which is when I bought my complete set of Series 1 for $42 so that I could build the awesome Pitt. Then, after the holidays, for reasons I can't begin to fathom, Wal*Mart decided to take them off clearance and jack the price back up to $10 a piece. Time passed, the figures predictably still didn't sell very well at the higher price point, and they got clearanced again, this time to $5. I think that's the only time in my life I've seen toys go on clearance and then get put back to the regular price afterwards. You would think it'd be common sense that if they're selling at $7, but not at $10, you'd leave them at the lower amount. Judge Death also has the dubious honor of being the peg warmer in my area, the regular version reviewed here that is, scalpers quickly sucked up the transparent variant as I mentioned earlier.

Final Analysis:

- Clearance priced!
- Outstanding sculpt, other than the lack of a chain for his badge, everything is spot on and mirrors the comic book look faithfully. It's hard to imagine another toy company doing better.
- Superb amounts of useful articulation.
- Excellent paint job despite a few errors.
- Monkeyman isn't my thing, but Build-A-Figures are a great incentive to get the consumer to buy a complete set of figures.
- The Dark Judges rule (oh, how I wish the Stallone movie had featured them instead of Rico)! It's a shame we'll probably never get his three buddies Mortis, Fire, and Fear. The quartet would have made a great boxed set.
- The variant for Judge Death, his transparent spirit form, is an excellent choice for a chase figure.

- The Monkeyman Build-A-Figure just isn't as exciting/impressive as Pitt was. And, needless to say, the pieces that go towards making him don't do you a whole lot of good unless you buy a complete set of Series 2. Mine will end up in the "Museum of Unfinished BAFs", joining my Marvel Legends Onslaught and Annihilus parts.
- Some minor paint errors, the silver flecks on his black helmet being the most annoying.
- No chain for his badge. Why? They didn't forget it on Dredd.

Where to Buy:
Wal*Mart is the only store in my geographical area (Marquette County, Michigan) that carried the Legendary Comic Book Heroes line. Unfortunately, they never invested in Series 2 (to which Judge Death belongs), probably due to how poorly Series 1 sold here. How did I get him then? Well, you see, for some reason, Marvel Toys decided to pack Judge Death, and his variant, in with the Series 1 cases (maybe because he really is meant to go with Judge Dredd--actually, I'm surprised they didn't just put Dredd and Death into one of their two-packs, I know I would have bought it). The other five figures in Series 2 include Sin City Marv, Freak Force Star, The Darkness Darkness, Cyber Force Stryker, and Monkeyman and O'Brien Ann O'Brien---buy them all and build yourself a Monkeyman. If you can't find any in your local stores, you'll have to hunt 'em down online.

For Parents:
Marvel Toys recommends Judge Death for ages 8 and up. He doesn't have any small parts that would pose a choking hazard (unless you broke something off of him maybe); I think the higher age recommendation is a result of his gruesome appearance and dark murderous background. It wouldn't surprise me at all if his cadaverous features gave younger children nightmares. Also, if you buy a complete set of Series 2, your child may need help assembling Monkeyman--I remember I had a real bear of a time getting Series 1 Pitt's chest connected (and I wasn't the only one).

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