- The Washington Times - Monday, March 31, 2014

The star-spangled Avenger and his cohorts are back in a new live-action movie “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Hasbro is ready to satiate fans and collectors smitten with the film’s key characters through its latest wave of Marvel Legends, Infinite Series action figures.

Each figure averages 6 inches tall and features exaggerated articulation and accessories. The current line-up includes an enemy soldier from A.I.M. (who looks just like comic book Captain’s archenemy Baron Zemo), Captain America in all his movie-costumed glory and a dangerous female who has been part of the Marvel Comics’ universe since the 1960s.

Figure profile: From the movie website — S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, is one of the world’s greatest spies and quite possibly the world’s most-skilled assassin. After the events in New York with The Avengers, where her specialized weapons and vast repertoire of martial arts skills helped the team defeat the invaders, Black Widow returned to S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters to take on new assignments, only to find herself joining forces with Captain America to expose an ever-widening conspiracy.

Accessories: Our fiery, redheaded killing machine arrives in a black, skintight, movie-accurate leather suit and uses over 20 points of articulation.

Plastic-molded, black-and-grey details on body and appendages highlight straps, armbands, rumpled gloves and belt while exceptional paint detail focuses on silver zippers, S.H.I.E.L.D. patches and even a red buckle (with the black widow hour glass).

The figure gets two head sculpts that both really resemble the actress Scarlett Johansson, who plays Black Widow in the film.

The first noggin sports a shorter, wavy haircut and offers a dead-on likeness from her appearance in “The Avengers” movie.

Her other head offers a straight hair style, just like in “Winter Soldier,” but she has very dreamy-looking eyes here (near zombie-like) making her look like she’s recovering from an all-night binder with Bruce Banner.

Oddly, her pistols are permanent fixtures to the holsters attached to her thighs, but yet the package includes two pair of hands (gripping and extended). Looks like collectors will need to borrow weapons from other figures to help out Natasha.

Her other accessories are a really cheap-looking, laser-style rifle and the torso part of a Build-a-Figure. When fully assembled, it displays a towering version of the Tony Stark manufactured S.H.I.E.L.D. power-armor, code-named Mandroid.

Collectors will need to wait until the fall and buy three more Marvel Infinite Series Legends: Captain America: The Winter Soldier figures such as the mighty Winter Soldier to complete the metallic beast.

Price: $19.99.

Read all about it: Let’s go back to 2005 for my favorite Natasha Romanoff comic book story starring the writing of Richard K. Morgan and brilliant artistry of legend Bill Sienkiewicz. It’s the six issue mini-series compiled in the trade paperback Black Widow: Homecoming ($14.99) that takes our super spy out of the misogynistic lands of the Avengers and on a noirish mission back to her Russia roots.

What’s it worth: It must be quite a daunting task to deliver a facial likeness of one of the most beautiful actresses on the planet but Hasbro offers a solid effort in this micro scale format. I’m not sure it’s a $20 effort but collector’s will dive in, if just to add her to their Avengers figure line-up.

Although I’m impressed with Hasbro’s 2014 Black Widow, let’s take a walk down action figure memory lane and the year 2003.

Specifically, remember the fantastic, 7-inch tall Diamond Toys’ Marvel Select version of Marvel Comics’ Black Widow (Yelana Belova) featuring blonde hair. She came with a wall diorama, heavy-duty firepower, three explosive barrels and bare midriff. No disrespect Ms. Johansen but that was a quite a figure’s figure.

Pop Vault

A look at more Hasbro items devoted to the role-playing possibilities of youngsters taking part in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

Super Soldier Battle Gear Helmet ($19.99, requires 3 AAA batteries, for ages 5 and older) —The head covering that helped define the Captain America costume for over the past 70 years is now a portable weapons and reconnaissance system for the young superhero in the family. An owner wears the mask (that covers only half of his head) and can trigger a light-up visor with a side button or fire plastic rockets from a missile launcher attached to the side of the helmet. Now, it would have been nice if the helmet completely covered the noggin (remember the days of Hasbro’s Clone Wars helmets?) and my tester could have used some sound effects.

However, for some extra bucks, Captain America clones can also purchase and attach additional gear such as the Recon Rangefinder ($7.99, a combination night goggles and mini-shield launcher) to the helmet. Additionally, parents can toss in the Nerf-fueled Stealthfire Shield ($19.99). It’s about the size of a Frisbee and opens up from the top to blast opponents with four foam darts.

Air Raid Red Skull ($9.99) — In addition to the 6-inch-tall action figures from the Marvel Legends Infinite line, younger fans of the Captain America universe have a more action-packed way to appreciate some legendary comic book characters. Specifically, a collection of 3.75-inch figures featuring limited articulation and launcher-style accessories. In the case of the First Avenger’s archenemy, he arrives nicely detailed in a long black leather trench coat with that blood-red skull popping out. Red Skull also gets a massive rocket command console that can be attached to his back and shoots a mini-drone missile when an owner presses a button. Besides, the hefty price, the only other frustration with the figure is trying to get it to stand up with the weighty payload on its back.

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