The variant for wave 23 is the Mark II version of the War Machine armor, and inside it, Jim Rhodes. This is a review of the variant only, it won’t cover Spymaster as he has already been reviewed here.
This wave’s packaging has the same background on the front and back as the following wave (24), which is a “Spiderman and his Amazing Villains” wave. As such, you see several pictures of Spiderman even though his is (surprisingly) not included in this wave in any form. The word “VARIANT” appears in huge, seemingly glowing text on the box next to War Machine’s plastic window, but apart from that, this box is similar to the others of this wave and of this variety generally – you have plastic windows through which you can see the figures on the front with their masks off (where applicable; Spy Master’s mask is not removable), control art-style pictures below them with masks on (where applicable), a photo of one of the actual figures in an action pose on either side of the box, a group shot of all the figures in the wave on the back, and a blurb about each figure below this picture.
Mark II War Machine
The Mark II War Machine, or Jim Rhodes, is the variant for wave 23. Rhodes is a former Marine who becomes Tony Stark’s pilot and friend in the Iron Man comics, and was portrayed in the first Iron Man film by Terrence Howard (Don Cheadle will be taking over the role in Iron Man 2).
Let me start out by discussing the figure’s non-helmeted head. Rhodey here has an angry, serious expression, looking as if he is ready for battle. This face suits the aggressive nature of a figure that has massive guns coming out of his shoulders, and a name like “War Machine”. The hairpiece is also pretty cool, as it gives Rhodey a high flat-topped ‘do, and has little indentations throughout, suggesting a rough texture. I am guessing that Rhodey sported this hairdo in the early 1990s, when “Kid ‘n Play” were all the rage. Sure, it may be a bit out-dated, but it gives him some character, and the flat, sharp angles seem fitting, given his structured, militaristic background and orientation.
With armor on, at first glance, this figure actually looks quite similar to the Mark I version of War Machine. They are the same color, share the same mask, and sport similar looking accessories. However, there are some notable differences between these two figures. First, the Mark II has a different shoulder armor mold from the Mark I. The Mark II armor more strongly references the traditional Iron Man armor, with the big circle on the chest, and is smoother and more seamless. The Mark I version is larger (comes down further on the chest block), more angular, and looks to be constructed of more pieces. Secondly, whereas the Mark I has two different gloves (one has a big wire coming out of it), the Mark II uses two of the non-wired gloves from the Mark I. These figures also have different belts, with Mark II having what looks like futuristic pouches, and the Mark I having a more technical-looking belt that may be covered with gadgets, batteries, or sensors of some kind. Finally, these two figures have different boots. The Mark II has more ridges on his boots than the Mark I, and his boots actually have a more triangular, outward sloping shape as they move upward than does the Mark I.
Regarding the rest of the body, the front chest tampo seems similar to Tony’s, but the back is much simpler, without the downward triangle with the ridges that both figures have on the front, and of course, Tony has Caucasian-colored skin near on his forearms and lower legs, whereas Rhodey has brown skin (note that the Tony in the pic here is from the Toys R Us wave re-release – the wave 23 version does not have the “t-crotch” slip-over piece with further ridges, and has dark gray “underwear” on his legs, similar to Rhodey). One minor quibble here: I know I probably shouldn’t complain when these figures already come with tons of goodies accessory-wise, but here we get the bare legs and arms, though no hands or feet to match to match. The hands aren’t a problem for those of us with spare hands from other black characters, but I can’t think that any other bare-footed, black-skinned Minimate who has been released. As such, I can’t pose him with the armor off unless I give him tennis shoes or something. Again, a minor complaint, but one worth noting in my opinion (note that the re-release of Tony War Machine in the TRU wave did include spare hands and feet).
In terms of weapons, the Mark II comes with the same minigun and missile launcher parts that the Mark I comes with. They can be stored either on the figure’s back, on his shoulders, or in his hands if you were interested (as with the mold re-used minigun that comes with the AIM soldier). These are a key component of the War Machine look, helping to clearly distinguish him from the other Iron Man armors that I am familiar with. And of course, they help to make him look like a bad-ass.
In Conclusion: I like both this figure and his Tony Stark counterpart quite a bit. There is something very cool about an Iron Man variant that looks a bit more intimidating and serious in design, color-scheme, and weaponry than his counterparts. The debate over the role of details in Minimates is a complicated one, and though I tend to prefer simpler-looking figures, the detail in the armor pieces here work quite well. In fact, a “naked” War Machine with no sculpted pieces would seem strange, because his look is inherently bulky and a bit exaggerated. Unlike the Endoskeleton that I reviewed, I can appreciate the extra size and detail that this figure has because it is appropriate, but also because it just looks good to me. An additional pro about this figure is that, as mentioned by Danny is his review of the Mark I War Machine, Rhodey is most often associated with War Machine, not Stark. As with the Hulk wave, this variant is a completely different character from his more common counterpart, and is one that is pretty dang important. As such, as far as variants go, this is one I would suggest picking up if you can. Just a great Minimate all the way around.
MMC Score – 9 out of 10