- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Marvel’s mightiest heroes star in a new live-action movie debuting Friday. Young fans smitten with comic book legends such as Thor, Iron Man, Hulk and Captain America who are starring in the film can re-create moments of the on-screen fun with Hasbro’s lineup of 3 3/4-inch Avengers action figures and in-scale vehicles.

Each of the pint-size versions of this second wave of heroes, such as Gamma Smash Hulk, comes with a special power or accessory to bring the miniadventure to life.

Figure profile: From the package — Though the Hulk is only barely in control of the vast power that boils within his massive body, he usually is able to direct it against the proper target. His rage — and his strength  knows no bounds. So beware all those who stand against the Avengers; when you face the Hulk, you face fury incarnate.

Accessories: Our Gamma-infused friend features 12 points of articulation and fist-pounding functionality that’s engaged when an owner pulls up on either arm. His torso rears back and a spring-loaded response drops the appendages on enemies.

I’ll also note that his snarling head sculpt looks more like the weightlifting brother of Jim Carrey’s Grinch than the movie equivalent.

The rest of latest 3-inch wave offers more articulation (averaging 16 points) and include Shield Launcher Captain America (with a pistol and mounted holster, but it’s not as functional or articulated as many of the “Captain America” movie figures), Shock Strike Thor (with an impressive launching hammer missile that, alas, works poorly in tandem with the figure) and Fusion Armor Mark VII Iron Man (great detail to the armor, includes a spinning saw-blade weapon).

Now let’s take a walk down memory lane as I pine for the days when Marvel characters offered sizable reasons to collect them. I specifically remember the fantastic, 6-inch-tall-and-larger Marvel Legends release from Toy Biz back in the earlier part of the century that cost roughly the same price collectors are now paying for these puny representations. (I am staring at an awesome Colossus figure from 2004 as I type.)

Although Hasbro picked up the mantle for the line and is now offering 2012 waves, the pricing (roughly $19.99) is too much of a wallet-shrinking event for the average fan.

Price: $9.99

Read all about it: Let’s revisit Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s brilliant and mature version of the Avengers with the Ultimates: Ultimate Collection ($34.99). The trade paperback offers all 13 issues from one of my favorite series and stars a Nick Fury who looks like the guy who stars in the movie, Samuel L. Jackson.

What’s it worth? Hulk kinda cool but parents will need to drop around $40 for junior to enjoy the quartet of mini-Avengers. Those willing to pay should look to future waves of figures (with Black Widow and Hawkeye to name a few) and to the fall for an even more impressive way to play with the team using a S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier that’s more than 3 feet long and holds more than 30 figures (price to be determined).

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A look at more Hasbro items devoted to the role-playing possibilities of youngsters becoming one of the Avengers.

Gamma Green Smash Fists ($29.99)  For anyone around for the release of the original Hulk Smash Hands back in 2008, these are a painful reminder of the lack of innovation in the toy industry. The originals were much bigger, covered the wrists and delivered a collection of awesome sound effects gleefully guaranteed to scare pets and small children. None of the above applies to the new ones, but a Hulk-sized scream will bellow from parents when they drop the $30.

 Tri Power Pulsor (Requires three AAA batteries, $19.99)  Iron Man’s weapons technology arrives for youngsters to strap onto their arm and unload a virtual pulsar blast on enemies. The very sturdy device attaches to hand and arm via stretchy, Velcro straps and features buttons to launch a pair of spring-loaded plastic projectiles. Once connected to the appendage, flick the wrist up (just like the crimson hero), which triggers the laser and explosion sound effects with an added voice snippet, such as “I am Iron Man” (distinctly not vocalized by Robert Downey Jr.). Although the box lists ages 4 and older, I am sure the launching of hard, plastic missiles at any age is a recipe for poking an eye out, so be careful, junior Avengers.