Greatest Battles: Sinister vs. Gambit

When we were kids, I got my sister good and hooked on X-Men. If I found myself short on cash and could not get that month’s issue, chances are I could con her into buying it. All I had to do was tell her that the arc was about Rogue and Gambit.

My sister being a girl, she was more into the quasi-romantic shenanigans of the Cajun Charmer and the Southern Belle than she was into the social commentary or splash pages. Most of her collection is the stuff after Lee launched the book back into the spotlight, where Joe Mad and Chris Bachalo took the book to new heights. I was content to let her collect the main titles while I focused more on the secondary Mutant books like Generation X.

Though that’s not to say I wasn’t a fan of Gambit and his progression as a core character of the newer team. In the world of Marvel Comics, new characters are few and far between and many of them don’t last more than a few years. For every Gambit there’s a Maggot, Marrow, or Skin.

Chris Claremont and Jim Lee’s creation, though, was able to tough it out, becoming a mainstay on the team. One of the first X-Men comics I owned was a copy of Uncanny X-Men #267, the issue after his first appearance in the main book. The art in that book (provided by both Lee and Whilce Portacio) became the image I have of Gambit in my head: lithe and agile, with a quick wit, a fast hand and inexplicable hair that defies all known laws of physics.

So far, none of the efforts from Toybiz, Diamond, or Hasbro have successfully brought this character to life for me. The Marvel Select version came close, especially since they offered two versions, one modern and one “classic”, but the facts that Select is in the 8” scale and doesn’t prioritize articulation killed it. This is a character whose action figure either needs to move extremely well or whose statue has to be posed dynamically enough to evoke a sense of movement. The Marvel Select figure does neither.

The Toybiz effort from the original Marvel Legends line was good, with superior articulation and a cloth  trench coat (which later turned to leatherette when the figure was re-issued). The face was also sculpted with a nice grin to it, and it came with both a bo staff and his signature playing cards. However, “super-articulation” was still in its infancy and compared to figures of today, the Marvel Legends Gambit is awkwardly engineered and poorly proportioned.

There was also a 4” attempt by Hasbro during the X-Men Origins: Wolverine toy line. I’m not entirely sure why Hasbro chose to go with the classic Gambit look from the comics when the character appeared on screen in the  X-Men Origins: Wolverine film, but the figure was based on the Jim Lee costume he’d worn prior to joining the X-Men’s ”Blue Team” in Uncanny X-Men #281. Despite having several chances to pick up this figure back in 2009-2010. The fact was that the figure was ugly, especially the way the coat billowed around it. Since it was short packed at the time, re-sellers were asking a lot more than retail. I passed every time.

Fast forward to the end of 2011, and we’ve got another chance to own that figure, with a few modifications. One of the latest waves of the Marvel Universe Greatest Battles Comic Packs features a re-tooled X-Men Origins: Wolverine Gambit paired with Mr. Sinister.


Although I realize that these two characters are in fact connected, it was in a way that never really registered as “arch-enemy” material. When I think “arch-enemy” of Mr. Sinister, I think Cyclops. Maybe I hear Nate Grey. After the “revelation” that Gambit had led the Marauders to the Morlock tunnels and allowed the Morlock Massacre to happen, the whole Gambit/Sinister was stretched to preposterous lengths. Gambit was better as the mysterious bad boy.

The new Gambit isn’t much different from the old one. He simply gets an updated head sculpt. Instead of the Jello hair, he gets an emo cut that drapes over his shoulders. He also gets one of those scarves you around the necks of dogs in Disney movies: a red one.  It’s a separate piece that can be removed by removing the headpiece and sliding it off the neck.

The rest of him is pretty much the same. It’s not strictly canon, since by the time Gambit wore the lanky, boring hair and the red bandana, he was already using another costume. The figure sports the same body as the old X-Men Origins: Wolverine Gambit, with the same armor and the same bright pink/purple color (or very close to it).

Because the bodies are the same, the same problems with the X-Men Origins: Wolverine Gambit are still present. The biggest beef I have joint-wise is with it is the ugly torso joint in the middle. Normally, the Marvel Universe sculptors try and form the parts in such a way that the break between the chest and the abdomen are logical and happen with a kind of curve down the sides. This figure doesn’t have that. What you get is sort of a bi-section of his torso: a cut joint right in the middle, giving him about the same range as a normal swivel at that location would.

He also lacks any sort of wrist and ankle joints. That is bullshit.

His hip (double swivel-hinges) and knee (double hinges) articulation is superb but the lack of ankle movement kills the benefits of both. Ditto with the upper arm articulation (both shoulders and elbows sport swivel-hinges). It doesn’t help that the bo staff he comes with doesn’t fit well in either hand. He doesn’t even come with the cards that the original figure came with, so the left hand’s posed fingers are useless as well.

More than the torso joint, I hate the coat that the sculptors gave him. I don’t know which position they sculpted him in, but I can’t really find one pose where this garment really sits well on the figure. It doesn’t look good if he stands straight, it’s ugly when he squats, and it doesn’t impart any believable motion to the figure when photographed. It is all around the most un-photogenic accessory that I’ve ever seen.

If I had any skill, I’d get another one of those Wolverine & the X-Men Cyclops figures that went on sale a year ago and use the coat from that toy. I’d like to shake the hand of the artist who sculpted that piece of work. I’d like to have 50 of these for all my trench coat wearing 4”ers.

Sinister on the other hand is made from a perfectly wonderful figure: the Marvel Universe Colossus body.

I’ve gone on and on about how much I like this particular figure, but it’s surprising how it can look so bad when used for another character. Hasbro seems to be taking a page from Mattel’s DC Universe Classics line and creating their new figures as blanks, using separate add-ons (like new heads or hands, or Jim Lee Cyclops’ straps) to create different silhouettes. Unlike the Juggernaut (which has been used several times in the past year or so), the Colossus body wasn’t made with re-use of the mold in mind. There are far too many pieces that are permanent parts of Colossus’ body: parts that need to be removed or hidden in order to work for another character.

On Mr. Sinister, Hasbro has used a mix of techniques to do that. The easiest of course is color. They’ve painted the entire body in a dark blue hue, including boots and gauntlets. Even if these parts aren’t strictly canon, they’re not as noticeable when they’re the same color as the rest of the body. Next, they’ve added extension pieces to his shoulder pads, expanding them out. His knees have also been swapped out for a new set with a differently shaped boot top.

He’s got a new head as well. I’m not sure how much I like it, as it still looks suspiciously like Schwarzenegger in goth drag (who basically looks like Colossus in goth drag). His hands, though, are the same as the old figure. I do like the fact that they’ve taken his cape and just made it a separate piece. It fits around his neck and sits on his shoulders It fits fairly securely. It looks pretty good.

The silliest cover-up Hasbro used is probably the “X” insignia on Colossus’ belt. They’ve gone and just glued a rectangular piece of red plastic to the front of it. It looks really ugly and  unbelievable amateurish, as if it was made by a fan who just completed his first custom.

At least the figure doesn’t suffer the same articulation problems that Gambit does. Whatever I have to say about the Gambit figure, the Sinister figure is based on a far superior toy. All those functional joints that were part of the Hammer Files Colossus are still present and work just as well.

I still don’t feel that the decision to include Gambit with Sinister was a good one. Getting Sinister with any one of his Marauders would have been much more welcome (Scalphunter, anyone?). Getting him with a Dark Beast (which would have meant a regular beast eventually) or Nate Grey (which could have been kit-bashed from a few figures) would have been even cooler. Gambit would have been much more well-received in a 2-pack with Rogue (what the fuck, Hasbro?! We still don’t have a Rogue?!). They’ve had more than one tussle, even if most were lovers’ quarrels.

It could be that my hate-on for the re-working of Gambit’s origins and the fact that the whole Sinister association was pushed into his history colors my perception of this set, but I can’t really give this 2-pack a solid recommendation. While the Sinister figure is still fundamentally decent, the re-tool didn’t really give it anything that makes it stand out. Even with the similarities in the skin of the characters, the Colossus body isn’t a good match for the Sinister character. The Gambit figure is just a failure all around.

It helps that the figures are in a 2-pack, so you’re basically saving about 100 bucks (Php 900.00 or around $20.00 US rather than Php 500.00 each if sold singly in the main Marvel Universe line), but that still doesn’t give it the gold star.

This one's only for the X-Men completists.

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