Marvel Infinite Series - wave 1 (2014)
In 2009, Hasbro produced a smaller 4" scale line of action figures based on the characters appearing in Marvel Comics. This toy line was intended to only be around for a short time...giving collectors something to collect while Legends was being revamped. However, the line turned out to be incredibly popular with fans, and it ran for 6 years, incorporating 5 series of basic series, Comic Packs, Gigantic Battle Packs, Team Packs, 2-packs, 3-packs, exclusives, and the line became a staple for toy collectors ever since...until it wound down in 2013 due to distribution problems, a lack of retailer support, and a change of focus internally at Hasbro.
However, the fan support was very vocal, so Hasbro decided to continue the line. We were told that "Marvel Universe is not ending"...but in reality it DID end. It would continue under another name, focusing on the Avengers characters. After many guesses and an internal name popped up on Hasbro's own website ("Avengers Platinum"), we learned the lined would be rebranded as "Marvel Infinite Series". An official announcement during this year's Toy Fair, the Marvel Infinite line was revealed to include much of the same parts that were used in Universe...in fact, even some of the same figures are planned to be repackaged under the new banner.
The initial wave of 6 figures includes a mix of new characters and familiar faces, all utilizing the same library of parts that made up the figures from Universe. This is a practice that Hasbro had planned from the very beginning...eventually being able to kit-bash multiple characters with reusable parts with minimal new sculpting needed.
Thanks to Toy Fair reveals, we've also seen a sneak peek at waves 2 and 3, and this trend continues. A few repacks (some with a bit of "newness" to them), some repaints, and a few unique kit-bashes.
In the Universe line, the card design stayed the basic same, with each card sporting a unique character artwork. The Infinite line is a generic "Avengers" theme...although the word "Avengers" never actually appears anywhere on the card itself. The team is represented with 4 images of Thor, Cap, Iron Man, and the Hulk. The insert is also generic, only changing to include the figure's name and the Warning label (if applicable).
Another notable difference is that the figures are not numbered in Infinite. This makes keeping track of the figures a bit different, but most likely this also allows Hasbro to avoid gaps in the line (much like the missing figure #23 from series 5), and gives them more freedom to add/remove figures over time.
The Infinite cards are much taller and slimmer than in the Universe line, most likely to maximize shelf space at retail. This is a pattern that is also seen over in the Star Wars: The Black Series toy line. In fact, the cards are nearly the same dimensions.
The back of the cards are also very generic; printed in flat colors. However, the photos of the figures and the Marvel logo are glossy. The effect is pretty neat, although the glossy surfaces do not show up well in the pictures here. Finally, The blisters are large enough for extra accessories, although these are minimal in this wave.
Since the figures are not numbered, I am listing them in order of the assortment numbers. It's as good as any!
The first question nearly everyone asks when seeing this figure for the first time is "why the heck is the Hulk wearing armor?" It turns out the answer is the armor is NOT for the Hulk, but instead for Banner. It seems like Marvel finally came up with a way that keeps banner protected when the Hulk calms down, instead of leaving him half-naked with nothing but a large pair of purple pants.
The figure itself uses a kit-bash recipe that includes the Hulk body from the Original Avengers Team Pack set, Apocalypse's legs, a new head, and added on armor pieces. The armor is removable...and in fact, the elbow guards will only stay on if you keep the figure motionless. Another odd feature: the skin tone of the chest does not match the head and arms. It's true that it is mostly covered up by the chest armor, but it's unfortunate that it's mismatched like that.
This figure was one of the characters featured in Hasbro's 70th anniversary "Fans' Choice Figure" Poll from 2009. In case you haven't been paying attention, these characters are continually being made from the list; it's more of a long-term wishlist.
Here's another kit-bashed figure, using the standard male buck that was first used on Cyclops, but Reaper includes a new right forearm, left fist, and head. The cape is a repaint of Moon Knight's cape. Sharp-eyed fans will notice that the flow of the cape is not 100% the same, but I chalk that up to the positioning of the corners in the packaging, which also caused an added "fold" to the edge of the cape. The deco is pretty basic, but the blue highlights on the thighs are off, due to the added articulation.
It's a bird! It's a plane! It's...Hyperion? No, Superman hasn't jumped over from the DC Universe. This character (along with the rest of the Squadron Supreme) pays homage to those characters and this is the first figure in this scale representing that team.
The buck for this figure was originally used on Cable, but it was "fleshed out" more with Tiger Shark. In addition, this figure includes new lower legs, torso, head, cape, and chest (while the sculpt is the same, this one includes holes to plug the cape into.)
At long last, a full-sized winsome Wasp is added to the action figure line! This is the main costume worn over the past decade or so, but there have been dozens and dozens of costumes over the years. Hasbro could (I even suggested this to them at Toy Fair) continue to repaint this figure throughout the year. Variants are no strangers in this line, and this is certainly one character that would benefit from them.
The buck is the same female figure first used with X-23, although this time it includes new hands, head, and a chest with holes in the back to insert he wings. (Yes, the wings are removable) As an added bonus, a repaint of the mini-Wasp from the Secret Wars Comic Pack set is included
This figure is essentially a repaint of the 2013 figure. Since the character is about to star in a new movie, it makes sense to bring him out again. Also, since the Avengers are featured throughout the year, you just gotta include Cap!
Although it may just be my specific figures, I DID notice one very minor difference: the wings on the head are painted differently between the two releases. As more figures are found, I'll have to keep an eye out to see how widespread this is.
Iron Man (Heroic Age)
It seems that Hasbro just can't stay away from Iron Man...or this particular figure. Marking the 4th release (5th if you include last year's Zero Gravity Armor) of the "Bleeding Edge" armor, this figure is back once again.
Although easily dismissed as a repack of the original single-carded release, there actually IS a difference in this release. The lower torso does not have the glossy red finish that the rest of armor includes. It is a flatter color and it's noticeable upon closer inspection. Again, this may just be from my particular samples, but it's worth noting that this is "new enough to make you mad" (apologies to Adam Pawlus) if you are a completist.
I am a HUGE fan and supporter of the Marvel Universe line, and I am glad that Hasbro decided to continue this line of figures in some form or another. Although the library of parts used here is nearly identical to those of Universe, there is one aspect that I noticed, but I don't really know how to describe. The plastic used in the figures' limbs is "softer" than Universe. This makes the limbs warp from being stored inside the blister, and the hip joints are loose on some figures. In the case of Grim Reaper, the wrist actually broke on my figure as I was opening it up (I glued it back on, but that's super-annoying). Time will tell how this will affect the figure's ability to stand.
The lack of accessories is very disappointing. The old Marvel Universe stands were among the best pack-ins in recent years, and I for one would love to see Hasbro bring those back...there's certainly enough room in the blister!
Coming up in 2014:
We have already seen the figures from waves 2 and 3: Beta Ray Bill (repack), Commander Rogers (repack), Yellowjacket (repaint), Red She-hulk (repaint), Whirlwind (kit-bash with new parts), Wonder Man (repaint), Death's Head (kit-bash with new parts), Ares (new), Deathlok (new)...and presumably the cancelled Ant-Man, Executioner and Valkyrie figures.
Coming up after 2014:
Apparently, the plan is to feature an "X-Men" theme...and presumably the canceled Cyclops, Emma Frost, "Colossalnaut"...and one can hope, the MIA Northstar (which I assume would have been 2013's figures #23). 2016 should see a "Spider-Man" theme. Exciting times ahead!