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Review: 76022 X-Men vs. The Sentinel

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I had this prediction, more like an idea, back in the day, back when the Super Heroes licensed themes were announced. Somewhere, I think in a forum thread, I had theorized that even though LEGO didn’t have any toy rights to any of the film franchises like X-Men or Spider-Man, there wouldn’t be anything stopping them from creating a set or two that coincidentally had some of the same characters and be on the toy shelf on or around the same time a related film was shown in theaters. And that coincidence actually happened. Example: Spider-Man. Spider-Man sets are the most prevalent in the LEGO Marvel Super Heroes theme right now, with most, if not all, of the sets drawing inspiration from the cartoon series Ultimate Spider-Man airing on Disney XD. It’s serendipitous that a movie, Amazing Spider-Man 2, came out during the time the sets were sitting on the shelves. Spider-Man movie in the theaters. Spider-Man LEGO sets on store shelves. Coincidence!

Spider-man isn’t the only character with which this type of coincidence happened. The same thing is happening with X-Men. With X-Men: Days of Future Past currently in theaters (as of this writing), 76022 X-Men vs. The Sentinel seems to be following the same fate as the Spider-man LEGO sets. The set (along with the Guardians of the Galaxy sets) were street dated just nine days after the release date of the film. The set is similar in a lot of ways to the movie and even features a lot of the same characters but doesn’t use any likenesses from any of the X-Men movies, instead drawing inspiration from the comics. Successful X-Men movie in the theaters. X-Men LEGO set on store shelves. Coincidence!

Alright, enough coincidence talk, let’s jump right into the review of 76022 X-Men vs. The Sentinel.

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Storm is AWESOME and may just be worth the high cost of the set for her alone. Ororo Munroe is decked out in her original costume that debuted in Giant-Size X-Men #1. She has a double printed head with a calm face and an angry face and comes with a pair of lightning bolts to show her mastery of the elements. The angry face has iris-less eyes which is not only comic-accurate but also enhances her enraged expression. She has her iconic cape which, like in the comics, attaches at three points: her neck and both wrists. It’s a custom piece made of a softer, more flexible material.

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Never would I have thought in my wildest dreams that Storm would be made into a minifig. And not only that, but made in this version AND made so well. She is a nearly-perfect rendition of Storm with the only area of improvement being her headdress. Sadly, her headdress is missing and I wish it were incorporated into a custom hair piece element, like the pointy ears and hair element used for minifigure elves. Still, even without it, if I were to just rate this minifig apart from the set I would have no problems giving her a 6 out of 5 stars. She is just that good.

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Cyclops, too, is designed around his costume from the same comic as Storm and looks just as accurate. His head is a regular minifig head printed with the visor and mouth/chin/jaw area. Ever since putting this set together, I tried to imagine a way that he could have been made with some sort of custom helmet and visor where you could flip up the visor without the head looking completely ridiculous like Iron Man. After seeing how well DC’s Flash mask looked, I suppose it is possible. All it would take is a new helmet piece with no chin and holes on the side for a visor accessory. But alas, it will have to remain a pipe dream for now. This is in no way criticizing the minifigure for what could have been because what we ended up getting is a very perfect version of Scott Summers, an AWESOME minifig.

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Unlike Storm and Cyclops, Wolverine is unfortunately not in his Giant-Size X-Men #1 costume (you can get him in his original Astonishing X-Men tiger stripe outfit from 6866 Wolverine’s Chopper Showdown sans mask). Instead, he is in his more popular yellow and brown costume introduced in X-Men #149 and this time he has a mask. The mask is black and yellow, and depending on what source material you’re referencing from, it would look just fine over the 6866 version thus giving you a third member of the original Giant-Size X-Men #1 team. Wolverine also comes with a double sided head, with one side specifically designed for the mask with the eyes being completely white and iris-less and the other to go with his included trademark hair. This is probably one of his more popular costumes so fans of Wolverine will undoubtedly love this minifigure.

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Magneto, like Wolverine, is different from his counterpart in 6866. The helmet is the same but other than that Magneto is adorned in a purple outfit, with a red cape, a white belt and white gloves. His outfit is a strange choice. After doing a bit of research and consulting my fellow chat room squatters, I finally figured out that his outfit came from an era when he was headmaster of the Xavier Institute and led the New Mutants team:

Image courtesy of Comic Vine

Image courtesy of Comic Vine

It’s a really obscure costume that didn’t last for very long and it’s not exactly his most popular outfit. The other notable factoid is that it came from a time that he was one of the good guys which, if you’re a huge comic book nerd, makes the box art slightly confusing because Storm is battling Magneto right there in the front of the box. Chalk it up to the box designer not steeped in Magneto/X-Men lore and tasked with making the box art dynamic. You can also draw a connection between the box art and the plot for X-Men: Days of Future Past and things begin to make a bit more sense.

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This set includes a Sentinel, those big giant hulking machines whose singular purpose is to capture or wipe out all mutants. I think the first reaction that most people familiar with the Sentinel will have is how small it looks. And that’s the reaction I initially had but I actually ended up liking it except for a few very minor issues. For one, and this is an issue with the element and not inherent to the Sentinel itself but the new spring-loaded missiles are way too long. He carries one in the left arm that extends way beyond the arm’s length making it look like he is firing a laser from a palm blaster. He has a pair of flick fire missiles on the back and though I hate flick fires, they actually look good here. And lastly, his hands. Boy do they look stupid and I think that’s mostly because of the thumb or lack thereof.

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On a positive note, the hands have a stud on the palm, allowing you to attach a minifig to it by way of the holes on the back of the legs so it looks like the Sentinel has a puny X-Man in his grasp. It makes for some great battle scenes. The head and chest are printed which is a relief because I detest the idea of using a sticker for the face. He does seem small, but compared to the minifigures he does stand taller, is imposing, and can grab a minifig menacingly. The new micro ball joints are a wonder and is what makes larger-sized, constructed figures like the Sentinel totally possible.

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I do wish that the Sentinel was sold separately from the set as a battle pack. It’s a missed opportunity to give fans the ability to amass a small army of Sentinels for a cheap price. A set of just him, maybe some extra brick to build a small scene, for $12-15 dollars would sell well I would think. And to sweeten the pot further, throw in another X-Men member like Sunfire or Banshee. Heck, you can even take Magneto out of 76022 and put him in here with the Sentinel instead. Unfortunately that’s not what happened and for those that wish to get another Sentinel or two, you’ll have to resort to Bricklink or pick up extra copies of 76022 and sell off the minifigs to help defray some of the cost.

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The X-Men’s trademark means of travel, the X-Jet, or the Blackbird as it’s more affectionately known as, is the main build of the set. It’s an original design taking cues from prior art depicting the jet. You’ll immediately notice it’s not black, as the name implies, but predominantly dark blue and dark gray with hits of regular blue for accents. The main wings are swept forward and the tail fins sit at an angle.

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The long body has plenty of space inside with seating for all of the X-Men plus Magneto. There’s a tool cabinet inside, a stickered tile that has the Sentinel’s mug shot on it, and a two person cockpit. The interior is accessible by way of a hinged canopy for the cockpit and a long 4-stud wide panel that is also hinged at one end. There are a couple of open gaps where the hinges are which are expected and not much of an issue. It’s a nice design, easily swooshable and feels appropriately sized.

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A couple of things about the Blackbird really bothered me though. For one, the flick fire missiles. There are two, one on each side, about the center where the Blackbird is the thickest. It just looks like airplane acne and disrupts the sleekness of the jet. Luckily, removing them is easy and improves the look a good deal in my opinion.

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The Blackbird also has a pair of spring-loaded missiles housed in the back. The missiles being as long as they are stick out the back like an eyesore. The rack that holds the missiles doesn’t exactly life flush with the rest of the jet’s body. There’s a huge gaping hold between the front of the missile rack. And because of the way it was constructed, it just doesn’t feel like it fits all that well. It’s supposed to lie flat on top of a pair of cheese grater tiles but I found myself fiddling with it pretty often since they are prone to being knocked out of alignment pretty easily. I had a few flashbacks from the Riddler set when I was monkeying around with the rack. To fire the missiles, you can just tilt the rack back or maneuver the whole block to sit on top of the fuselage. Again, not clear on what the designer intended for you to do but in the end it is just a toy and you can play with it however you see fit.

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The Blackbird has absolutely nothing going on on the bottom. Not even landing gear. I mean seriously, is it that difficult to dress up the bottom in some way. There is a pair of tail fins on the back near the bottom that are on hinge plates and I think they are supposed to be angled downward but since the jet has no landing gear, the fins will straighten out once you put it down. In this day and age, I think it’s about time LEGO puts at least some effort adding details to the bottoms of their ships. At least put some landing gear on it for crying out loud.

Despite my gripes, 76022 X-Men vs. The Sentinel is simply awesome. I wholeheartedly give it a 5 out of 5 stars and it has nothing to do with my love for Storm. It exceeded my expectations in just about every way but admittedly it is ridiculously overpriced. The price is the most negative point of the set and nearly knocked it down two stars. The MSRP of the set is $49.99 and for that price you get a mere 336 pieces. But from those 336 pieces, you get four awesome minifigs, a buildable Sentinel, and a Blackbird jet. The high cost is a hard pill to swallow but fortunately, the set is so full of win you’ll get over the sticker shock easily. This is one of those instances where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and should be owned by anyone who has ever bought a LEGO Marvel Super Heroes set, a fan of X-Men, or both.

I really liked this set. I mean I took over 50 photos of it and had a hard time culling it down to what was used in this review. So my own personal bias may be at play here with the 5 star rating, but in my old age, it’s hard to impress this jaded AFOL and this set brought me back to my youth more so than any other set in recent memory.

As of this writing, Amazon is sold out of 76022 X-Men vs. The Sentinel (it’s only available from Amazon Marketplace) and LEGO Shop@Home is backordered until July 3rd. Fortunately, both Target and Walmart have it in stock with store pickup available as an option.

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Final Score: 5 out of 5 stars.