As promised for a few weeks, the mighty review catch-up begins! Rather than make them exactly chronological, I’m grouping recent releases in ways that make sense. Today, we’re checking out two Hasbro Pulse Marvel Legends exclusives: The Hellfire Club boxed set, and the “army-builder” Hellfire Club Guard.
Comics History: The Hellfire Club first appeared during the fabled “Dark Phoenix Saga” in (Uncanny) X-Men #129, cover-dated January 1980. Their appearance here informs the design of the four figures in the boxed set, as well as the Guard. You probably know that the Club tried to both recruit Kitty Pryde and seduce Jean Grey into becoming the club’s Black Queen, thanks to the manipulations of Jason Wyngarde, aka Mastermind. The idea of the Club, created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, has its roots in both history (“Hellfire Clubs” were a real thing where powerful people would indulge in particular behaviors behind closed doors) and pop culture (one such club appeared in the “A Touch of Brimstone” episode of the U.K. series The Avengers in 1966; the updated look and name of Mastermind is inspired by actor Peter Wyngarde, who appeared in that episode). Two members of the Club, Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw, continue to play crucial roles in the X-books today. Frost and Shaw are included in the boxed set, as are Donald Pierce (who also appeared in #129) and Jean Grey (in her Black Queen garb). The set also produces an opportunity to make later Black Queen Selene, which you’ll see. The Hellfire Club guards debuted in the Dark Phoenix arc as well, and had a showdown with Wolverine in the scene that made him a breakout star in issue #133.
The packaging of the boxed set is very cool. The outside evokes the club gates. Inside is an invitation reminiscent of the one that Angel received. There’s an inset piece of art of the four characters represented, and the background art looks like the Inner Circle’s private chambers. It’s beautifully done.
Let’s take a look at the figure . . .
White Queen Emma Frost: There have been Emma Frost figures before, a couple of which were unfortunate. The Walgreens exclusive version was actually a terrific figure in a more modern costume, but fans had always wanted this original iteration of Emma. It’s fantastic. This is pretty much exactly how I always wanted to see Emma Frost represented. The cape detailing and the clasp are on point. The bright blue eye shadow is both comic accurate and of the period when Emma first appeared. Despite the hit or miss nature of heel-booted figures in the standing department, I found Emma easy to pose and stand. This is a really strong entry for the series.
Black King Sebastian Shaw: It’s about time. Shaw has been a significant antagonist for the X-Men for 40 years now, even appearing in X-Men: First Class. And yet, here’s the first-ever figure. I’m happy to report that it’s a good one. Yes, Shawn and Pierce appear to use the same body when Pierce should be thinner, but that’s almost a quibble, considering the fact that these even exist. The face sculpt is pretty much perfect, and the overall design is great. I like the slide off cuffs that facilitate easy changing of the interchangeable hands. I used a fist for the display because Shaw’s power (observing impact and converting it to strength) is obviously a physical one. Cool figure.
White Bishop Donald Pierce: Pierce is a cyborg, and later becomes leader of the Reavers. His cybernetic nature is reflected in the interchangeable cyborg hands included in the set. There’s also a blaster that I deemed him, considering his use of weapons with the Reavers and so on. Frankly, I’m just glad that this got made at all.
Black Queen Jean Grey/Selene: There was a previous Black Queen Jean Grey figure that was a Toys R Us Exclusive. It’s . . . not great. This one is, though. Yes, the body is basically a repaint of the Emma Frost body, but that Jean head sculpt is dynamite. I’m choosing to display mine with the Selene head; Selene was a significant antagonist for years, and deserves to be represented on the shelf. I really like the Selene expression, which reads as “queen bitch.” Not wrong. Unsurprisingly, the figure comes with a whip as an accessory.
Hellfire Club Guard (not in set): This is exactly what I want from an army-builder figure. He’s got the details right, he’s got appropriate accessories, and he doesn’t cost as much as the other figures. Thank you, Hasbro! Even if this guy is a low-frills affair, he’s still very accurate (mask looks great) and provides an extra layer to your Marvel collection. I’m a big fan of the army-builder concept, and I hope to see Hasbro continue to employ it in a number of ways.
Downers: The boxed set as a whole is great, and I’m glad to see certain figures addressed. However, there’s a downer in that two Club members are conspicuous by their absence: Mastermind, and Harry Leland. I can understand Leland not being here, as he would necessitate a bigger figure and might make an appropriate BAF or a bigger exclusive someday. Mastermind’s absence is noticeable because a) he’s one of the story drivers of the arc, and b) He first fought the X-Men all the way back in #4. I’d really like to see Hasbro do both the Hellfire Mastermind and the original Brotherhood of Evil Mutants take. I feel like they’re both pretty necessary for a complete, classic Hellfire Club (note to Hasbro: see, I’m not stomping my foot for Friedrich von Roehm or something.)
Tell us what you think, readers. Have a safe holiday!