First off, Happy Halloween! Remember: cosplay does not equal consent! Comic books and toys seem to naturally go hand-in-hand, so for today's dose of Venom, I'll be reviewing the best of all symbiote action figures in symbiote toy history. Now, my criteria of what constitutes the "best" action figure—range of posability, scale to other figures, accessories, and the sculpt's accuracy of likeness—may differ from your own, but by the end of this review I'm sure most of you will agree with more than one of my choices from your own experience. In this review, I'll explore the best action figures based on select symbiote characters, including Venom (Eddie Brock), Agent Venom (Flash Thompson), and Carnage (Cletus Kasady), as well as note a couple honorable mentions.
Let's start with the newest of our three subjects: Agent Venom. So far, there have only been two action figures released for this character, and both hit the ball out of the park in relation to my criteria. The newest of the figures was recently released as a Walgreens exclusive in the Marvel Legends Infinite line of figures from Hasbro, and features one unique accessory that sets it apart from its predecessor: a detachable back piece with four gun-wielding symbiote tendrils (only three can actually wield weapons, though).
However, the prize goes to the first Disney Store exclusive Agent Venom action figure from the Marvel Select line, produced by Diamond Select Toys and sculpted by symbiote fan-favorite Jean St. Jean (this won't be the last you hear about him in this review). Though the figure lacks the range of articulation and a minor paint detail as opposed to the Marvel Legends one, I feel the Marvel Select Agent Venom has the most comic book accurate look and a solid sculpt. Aside from those highlights, it's also to-scale with the rest of the Marvel Select line, which is a big plus.
Next up is the classic Venom. Venom has had just about as many action figures as he had comic book miniseries, if not more! One cannot dismiss his immense popularity, after all. Most Venom action figures have their own unique toy gimmicks, but the clear winner of the best Venom action figure is the one with comic-inspired accessories in place of gimmicks. Sculpted once again by Jean St. Jean and produced by Diamond Select Toys, the Marvel Select Venom figure is the all-around best symbiote action figure of all. It's also the first figure with which Diamond Select decided to shake things up and replace the standard of giving all of its Marvel Select figures complementary sculpted base stands with oodles of accessories to customize the base figure with.
This figure comes with three different head sculpts—including a Venom head with the classic Tod McFarlane-esqe smile, the open-mouthed Venom head with a removable tongue, and an Eddie Brock transformation head based on a famous Mark Bagley sketch—as well as three interchangeable pairs of hands, and a detachable back piece with an extra pair of articulated arms, miniature Venom heads, and miniature arms you can attach to the base figure's forearms to replicate his nightmarish likeness from Venom: The Madness. These accessories and the figure's perfect comic book likeness makes it the Venom figure to buy.
Finally we come to Carnage. A steady fan-favorite and rising star once again in the comics, the symbiotic serial killer has also had a fair history of action figures much like his less murderous father. His most recent release from the Marvel Legends Infinite line (he's called "Spawn of Symbiotes" on the packaging) takes the cake thus far simply because of the Legends level of articulation and the sculpt's accuracy of likeness to his initial appearances as drawn by Bagley, his artistic co-creator.
Few of the figure's predecessors can compare to the Marvel Legends Carnage. Despite its stellar features, its paint job is moderate at best; the red base color is too plasticky and toyetic, and the black slime lines end at the figure's wrists and various protruding tendrils. (I gave my figure a simple custom paint job to extend the black squiggles.) However, this figure's reign of supremacy will be cut short come Spring 2015 when Diamond Select Toys releases its new Marvel Select Carnage figure (they previously released a Marvel Select Ultimate Carnage figure based on the Ultimate Spider-Man comic version). Much like Marvel Select Venom, this figure will be sculpted by Jean St. Jean and will come with various accessories and a Bagley-inspired likeness that puts the Marvel Legends figure to shame.
Now, let's not leave out a few honorable mentions. These figures either had few to no competitors or are just my personal favorites. The Marvel Select Anti-Venom is the only proper Anti-Venom action figure on the global market (there was an Australian released figure that was a base Venom figure repainted as Anti-Venom, but it's rare). Again, it was sculpted by Jean St. Jean and features an exact comic book likeness to his first appearance in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man. Lastly is the Marvel Legends Icons Venom, which is a whopping 12" tall and was my favorite Venom figure prior to the Marvel Select version. This figure was basically a scaled-up, slightly resculpted Amazing Spider-Man Venom figure minus the practically useless jaw action and the Symbiote Blast arm cannon.
So what's the take-away lesson from this review? Trust in Jean St. Jean and the Marvel Select line. You can't go wrong with the quality of Diamond Select's figures (barring the earlier Ultimate Venom and Carnage figures, which I don't own and can't vouch for, sadly), but considering their collectibility and the exorbitance of their after-market values, they might not be the most affordable to attain if you didn't already jump on getting them upon release. If you like Carnage and want the upcoming Marvel Select figure, don't hesitate to preorder this bad boy at sites like Big Bad Toy Store or Dork Side Toys because he'll be gone fast.
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