Review: Lego Marvel Hulk Buster Smash

It sure has been a while since I’ve done a construction toy review, and the Containment Outpost sure does look awfully lonely on that index page, so what better way to bring back the brick than with a set of the original bricks themselves? I mean Lego. Specifically, Lego’s Marvel Superheroes line, which is hosting part one of Disney’s 2015 Front-Back Double Domination, Avengers: Age of Ultron. When the first set pictures leaked, I thought I could be pretty content with just picking up the expensive Quinjet and leaving this line be. Unfortunately, well, who was I kidding? Freaking Hulkbuster, man. Nobody who saw it in that teaser trailer didn’t pee a little from excitement. The movie design looks gorgeous, so let’s see how well TLG translated it into 76031 Hulk Buster Smash.

Minifigures

Just to start off, we’ll take a look at the smallest parts of the set (but, for some, the most important). This set comes with three minifigures and one macrofigure (is that official? I hope so), which doesn’t seem like too bad a value for a $30 set that also comes with two builds. 

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The obvious player here is the genius billionaire playboy philanthropist himself, Mr. Tony “Iron Man” Stark. Judging by the pattern of armor printing (and the box description), he’s wearing the MK 43 armor, which is just the Mk 42 from Iron Man 3 but with normal colors.

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Aside from the minor printing details, it’s pretty much your average Iron Man minifigure, stupid doofy helmet and all. Even his face printing is the same as always. But hey, you won’t be looking at him much, anyway.

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Next up is the Scarlet Witch, who is maybe(?) one of the antagonists who might(?) switch sides at some point in the movie. I’ve avoided most spoilers, plus I don’t know anything about the character from the comics, so I don’t have an opinion on her right now.

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The minifig is pretty good, though, with evil red magic eyes on one face and a friendly smile on the other. For weapons, she comes with weird magic… lightning… scythe… things. I’m at a loss here.

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One neat thing about the Age of Ultron sets is that while the titular villain shows up in one form or another in all but one of the sets, each set comes with its own unique Ultron variant. This set comes with the one designated Ultron Prime, whom I assume is the original control Ultron. He’s got a gaping comic-esque grin and a neck piece to give him his ear-things, plus red versions of Iron Man’s repulsor effect pieces.

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He’s also done up in a gorgeous gunmetal plastic. I’m not sure if this is the Ultron variant we’ve been seeing in all the trailers or not, considering the Quinjet set comes with an “Ultimate Ultron,” but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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Finally, we come to the big guy: Bruce Banner all Hulked out. Speaking of which, we totally need a Bruce Banner minifig. I mean, come on! Anyway, this is the same Hulk as from the first Avengers line, but with some tech-y printing on his pants to represent his Avengers-brand Hulk shorts. He only has articulation at his shoulders and wrists, but he looks impressive enough… if a little small. We’ll get to that later.

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I should also make note of the latest gimmick that seems to be included in all of the new Superhero themes, the minifig Super Jumper. You stick your minifig of choice onto the clear plastic piece, and with applied and released pressure, you can send them tumbling through the air! It works… mostly. You don’t get a lot of height or distance, but the connection is secure and it feels sturdy enough. It’s not my favorite gimmick ever, but it’s kind of fun and easy to ignore.

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The Hulk Trap

When it comes to Lego sets like these, you usually get two builds, usually to provide some sort of self-contained conflict for maximum playability. One build is often the focus, while the other seems perhaps a bit thrown-in. The latter category is where this build lies. Since I haven’t seen the movie and there’s no real info on the box, I can only assume this is the Stark Industries Hulk Trap™. Seriously, the stickers have the Stark Industries logo on them, which does raise some questions regarding the nature of the this scene, but we’ll go into that later.

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The Hulk Trap™ is basically just a platform with three small pillars and two folding panels. You put the Hulk in the middle of the trap, flip the panels up, and now you’ve got yourself a captured Bruce Banner! There is more, though: on a swiveling pin rests a translucent pole upon which Scarlet Witch is to be places, which implies that she’s mind-controlling the Hulk… while he’s trapped. Hm. The box and comic imply that it’s Scarlet and Ultron who are trapping the Hulk and Iron Man has to save him… but they’ve got Hulk trapped in Stark Industries tech, and… I’m just going to wait and see if this is even in the movie at all. For the purpose of the set, though, it totally works.

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Hulkbuster Iron Man

Forget that dumb Igor armor from Iron Man 3. Avengers 2 is bringing us an honest-to-god properly-named Hulkbuster armor, and it looks amazing. Lego mechs have always been rather hit-or-miss, often suffering from too many gaps in construction, a lack of articulation, or too much sacrificed for the sake of a gimmick. Thankfully, the Hulkbuster suffers from none of these and manages to look pretty damn awesome.

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As far as accuracy goes, it’s of course not perfect, but it does get the basic body shape of the armor. The domed helmet turned out a lot nicer than I expected from first images, and it can flip up very nicely to reveal Tony sitting/standing/suited inside. The best part is that it totally matches up eye-to-eye with the minifig. The entire front of the suit swings open so you can remove Tony and let the Hulkbuster kick ass on its own (that’s what it did in the included comic, anyway), and it locks in securely with two studs. Major points for how nice and covered the armor looks, too, particularly with some clever construction with the two red flaps on his torso. If you look at it from the wrong angles (back and to the side) you can see some exposed Iron Man, but considering both the suit and the pilot share the same colors, it’s not very noticeable (and easily fixable).

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The Hulkbuster does not lack much in movability, which was my primary concern going in. He lacks knees, but since his hips and ankles are ball-jointed and the leg parts are built so stumpy and at a 90-degree angle, I think it actually works. His shoulders and elbows also use ball joints, and each of his fingers is articulated. It’s kind of a bummer that the helmet can’t move, but I don’t see how it could have at this scale. The hip construction is a little weird, though, with the plus rods sticking out.

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The only bummer about this set is the scale. In the movie, the Hulkbuster suit is more or less the same size as the Hulk himself. The Lego Hulkbuster, on the other hand, is easily twice the Hulk’s size, which makes for a rather uneven battle (even though this set doesn’t seem to be representing a battle between the two in the first place, but come on– it’s called Hulk Buster Smash). I know it can’t be helped just due to the size of the Hulk figure, but it’s still pretty noticeable.

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Overall

The Avengers: Age of Ultron is still about a month away from hitting theaters, but the merchandising is in full swing. Since Hasbro’s offerings so far are less than stellar, Lego gets my money for AoU toys, and the Hulk Buster Smash set is easily one of the must-buys of the line. The price-per-piece ratio is not bad, you get three solid minifigures plus the Hulk, the Hulkbuster suit itself is well-built and a lot of fun, and the Hulk Trap is really silly and inoffensive. It’s maybe not the best mech suit Lego has made, and the scale with the Hulk is laughably off, but it’s a fun build and looks to be the best representatin of the Hulkbuster suit behind Hot Toys’ poverty-inducing behemoth. I recommend picking it up!

Where to Buy

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