In 2001, I was going to Jack in the Box a lot. Not only did one of my friends work there, but it was also the New Hotness in town. Previously, we only really had McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Wendy’s, and some regional-type places like Arctic Circle.
In 2001, there was also something of a 12″ doll renaissance going on. The Toys R Us shelves were packed with Action Man, Max Steel, GI Joe, 21st Century Toys, BBI, and The Corps! in Barbie Doll scale. I would browse those toys every time I visited, but I never bought any.
Action Man and Max Steel also had pretty prominent Saturday morning cartoons at the time. When I saw the commercials for the cartoons (or, rarely, even caught the shows themselves), I liked the designs. I also thought the toys had some good stuff going on. But I never bought any, as I was much more into 3.75″ scale dolls and dolls that transformed into either vehicles or techno-organic beasts.
But, one day at Jack in the Box, I noticed they had a Max Steel Kids Meal toy line going on. I purchased one of the toys along with my traditional two tacos and Big Cheeseburger (how I miss that menu item).
A couple years ago, I got some of the other toys in the series, both because they are cool and because they aren’t really documented anywhere on the internet.
So here’s a quick review of (most of the) Jack in the Box Max Steel Kids Meal toy line from 2001.
GI Joe fans, you might actually be interested in this.
2001 Jack in the Box Kids Meal Max Steel Toy Line Overview
I’ll keep this quick. In 2001, Jack in the Box released six Max Steel toys, available either in their Kids Meals or for separate purchase. The toys included three versions of Max, his ally Kat, and villain Psycho.
They’re all roughly in 4″ scale and are pretty well done for fast food toys.
This meant you could, if you wanted, create a GI Joe and Max Steel crossover in a smaller scale. It was kind of neat!
For this review I’m taking a look at Kat, Psycho, Jet Luge Max, and Stealth Max. There’s also some kind of Surfing Max and a Rocket Firing Max, but I haven’t been able to find those just yet. These toys seem to be obscure.
Extreme sports were a huge thing in the early 00s, and both Action Man and Max Steel seemed to be going pretty hard after the demographic that was interested in such things. So let’s view these toys through the eyes of a SoBe fueled Fred Durst riding a motocross bike.
2001 Jack in the Box Kids Meal Max Steel Kat with Jet Pack
Let’s start things off with Max’s friend Kat, who is one of the better toys in the line up. I don’t remember anything about the 00s-era Max Steel show, but I assume Max and Kat work together and have to deny their romantic feelings for one another in the name of Extreme Sports Military Espionage Professionalism.
Kat is a pretty basic figure that stands about 4″ tall. She’s wearing black boots, black trousers, and a black tank top. Her haircut was hip for 2001, and I think would be considered pretty on-trend in 2021, too. That is the part of its own tail the snake is currently eating. Her bangs are dyed blue, which adds a nice pop of color to the figure.
Kat has what I assume is a Max Steel logo on her top. The paint and plastic coloration are basic, but they get the job done. All the paint is neatly applied and everything looks crisp and vibrant. In fact, I’d say the sculpting is actually pretty good for any retail toy from 2001, and is exceptional for a fast food toy.
The head sculpt in particular is very nice, and beats out some of what a certain Real American Hero was releasing at retail in 01.
Kat has decent articulation for a fast food toy, too. She moves at the neck, shoulders, and hips. It’s not much, but it’s at Kenner Star Wars or ReAction figure level, which is enough to make it feel like a real action figure.
The most interesting thing about Kat is probably her jet pack. It just slides over her shoulders and stays securely in place. The sculpted-on harness is a nice touch, as it looks realistic and makes sure the accessory doesn’t fall off the figure when you swish it around.
The pack has some really great detailing, especially for a fast food toy. The engine nozzles are particularly nice. There are also some mandatory Max Steel stickers on the wings.
Kat also stands up just fine while she’s wearing the jet pack, which is a minor miracle!
This piece may be of some interest to those of you who love 4″ scale toy lines as well– if a figure is slight enough, this jet pack should fit them just fine. It fit both Comic Pack and ToyFare Scarlett just fine, and I’m betting it would also work on the original Baroness mold and most 82-83 Joe figures. It might fit modern era Joe figures even better.
Here’s Kat with a vintage Joe figure:
She’s a bit taller than Scarlett, but it’s more than close enough for photos or display. And it’s definitely close enough that a kid could use them together without issue. I wish I’d bought this one back in 2001!
Kat is one hell of a fast food toy.
2001 Jack in the Box Kids Meal Max Steel Max’s Jet Luge Launcher
Even in a good toy line, not every toy can be a winner. This is definitely the case with Max’s Jet Luge Launcher.
It seems like every fast food toy line based on an action or sci-fi property had one or more little vehicles that weren’t in scale with anything else in the line. The Jet Luge epitomizes that strange predilection.
I kind of get it– maybe if a kid was only going to get one toy from the set, just as a stand alone, a vehicle might be the most fun. And this vehicle does have kind of a neat action feature.
The Jet Luge is, I guess, just that– a luge with jet engines. It certainly looks sleek. It’s less Cool Runnings and more forgettable Roger Moore James Bond film, which is I guess what Max Steel was going for in the first place.
The sculpt is nice enough and, taken on its own accord, there’s really nothing wrong with the toy. Though it’s not in scale with any of the other figures, what you can see of Max looks nice and features good paint work.
This toy is similar to that old Batman Returns Happy Meal Batmobile as far as its gimmick goes. You push a button on the back and the vehicle separates into two pieces, launching the front of the luge with spring loaded power. I will say the action feature works very well and the Jet Luge travels a good distance.
This isn’t a bad toy by any means, but it’s not really interesting to me. It doesn’t hold the same novelty or 00s Doll Shared Cinematic Universe energy as the rest of the toys in this line.
2001 Jack in the Box Kids Meal Max Steel Stealth Max
Now we have Stealth Max, whose action feature is “articulation.” It’s funny because Kat, Psycho, and the rocket launcher Max are all articulated, too– and they come with extra features or accessories.
I guess it’s pretty easy to convince kids that the “stealth” clear plastic is a gimmick in itself, when we know it was really just a way to save on both paint and accessories. But I can’t deny that it looks very cool. And it’s a cheap fast food toy, so it’s hard to get too upset about the whole thing.
Max is cast in a downright eerie translucent green plastic that gives him a real ghostly feeling. I think this was a better choice than just a regular clear, colorless plastic as it makes the figure much more visually interesting.
He also catches the light very easily and seems to glow at pretty much all times.
It’s kind of hard to discern the sculpt details due to the plastic, but it still looks nice. From what I can tell, Max is wearing his usual Extreme BMX War Crimes harness and armor, with a cool logo sculpted onto the back. They didn’t pull any punches when it comes to the actual sculpt.
The head itself is well done, too. This is a fine looking action figure and the slightly pre-posed arms give it a more dynamic feeling. He looks like he’s ready for Action (Man).
Like Kat, Max is articulated at the neck, shoulders, and hips. Not bad!
He does stand a bit taller than a vintage GI Joe figure, but it’s easy to hide in photos. Or, again, if you’re a kid it’s not going to be a problem. He probably fits in perfectly with more modern 4″ toys, but I was too lazy to do that comparison. Probably because I’m too busy thinking about how I could go for two Jack in the Box tacos right about now.
Plus, if you team him up with Night Force Action Man and any GI Joe figure, you can have the ultimate 00s sci-fi military doll crossover in our favorite 3.75″ scale. Ain’t that enough??
Overall, this is a fetching figure. He doesn’t do anything special, but he looks cool and unique enough that it doesn’t matter. Nice job, Jack.
2001 Jack in the Box Kids Meal Max Steel Psycho
Now we come to my favorite figure in the set– the one I bought all the way back in 2001. This is Psycho, who is either Max’s arch nemesis or a dumb henchman in the employ of Max’s arch nemesis. I’m certainly not going to research it any further. Let’s let our assumptions do all the work here.
I actually used this figure with my Joes somewhat often in the early 00s, and I’ve even taken some photos of him since starting this website. Psycho is just a cool weirdo that stands out from the pack.
In his regular form, Psycho looks like an 80s movie bully with a ripped shirt and a robot arm. He’s dressed in two shades of blue with grey boots. His hair, eyes, and cyborg parts are all well painted.
The sculpt is quite well done, too– the designers paid extra attention to the robo-bits, and I think this is a toy that most kids would be interested in, even if they know nothing about Max Steel. Which is most kids. And adults. And most people who worked on any version of Max Steel.
I especially love the spikes on his knuckles.
As for his gimmick, it’s not dissimilar to the head-flippin’ Power Rangers of yesteryear. If you raise his fleshy left arm, a new head flips out of his chest and he goes full-on Frat Boy Terminator. It rules. Of course, that means his left arm has to maintain an awkward position raised above his head when he’s in full killborg mode, but this is a fast food toy. Please keep reminding yourself of that.
Psycho is articulated at the shoulders and boots (?). Yes, his boots can turn. I do not know why, but it seems to add a little something to the figure.
As with Stealth Max and Kat, he stands taller than a vintage Joe figure. But because he is a hulking cyborg brute, I think that’s just fine. He looks great in photos with ARAH-style GI Joe toys.
And, just for fun, here he is with a McDonald’s Happy Meal Cobra Commander from 2004. They look pretty good together.
Overall, Psycho is easily my favorite toy from the 2001 Jack in the Box Max Steel line. His sculpt, paint, and gimmick are great. When you factor in that he was only made to sell alongside greasy burgers and chicken nuggets, it makes him even better. Regardless of his fast food origins, this is just a great action figure.
Closing Thoughts on 2001 Jack in the Box Kids Meal Toys
Thanks for joining me! I’ve been wanting to write this review for a while and decided today was the day.
I made a lot of jokes about Max Steel, but I’m sure there are people of a certain age who fondly remember Max, Action Man, and their Saturday morning adventures in the early 2000s. I wanted to document these toys for those folks.
Do you know anything about any iteration of Max Steel? Do you have any of the toys? Could Max beat up Action Man in a fight or out-skate him at the X-Games? Let me know in the comments!