Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Rant Review: DC Multiverse Batman, Alfred, Red Robin, Red Hood, KGBeast, Katana, and Killer Croc

Early this year, it was announced that the DC license for 6-inch scale figures will be passing from Mattel, who has handled it for over a decade, to McFarlane Toys. Mattel's involvement with DC characters dates back to 2003, when they took over the Batman license from Hasbro. A few years later, their license expanded to include the Superman family of characters, and further to encompass the entire DC Universe a couple of years after that. Due to Mattel's long history with the DC characters, this wave takes on a greater significance, as it is their swan song to a line that has existed in various permutations for sixteen years. Is it a worthy finale to such a long-lived line? Read on to find out!

This final wave includes some long-requested fan-favorites, so the character selection is sure to please many collectors. Alfred is probably my favorite from the wave, and is one of the only comic-style representations of this crucial character ever made. (The only other one I recall right offhand is the figure from DC Collectible's Hush line, released more than a decade ago. For collectors who own that earlier figure, this one is a huge upgrade.)  Alfred boasts an excellent sculpt, with an expressive face that suits the character perfectly. All of the articulation works well, and some of it is better than usual, particularly the range of motion in the head. That's been an ongoing issue with Mattel's figures for many years, one that they never seemed able (or willing) to solve consistently. The paint apps are quite neat on my figure, and he is absolutely loaded with accessories. Aside from the Killer Croc BAF piece, Alfred includes a serving tray, a very cool Batman cowl, and three extra heads! One head represents Alfred's brief tenure as the villainous Outsider, one is in the likeness of Michael Gough's turn in the role as the beloved butler in the Burton/Schumacher movies, and one is Alan Napier's Alfred from the old Adam West TV series. These are an excellent inclusion, and allow collectors to display the Alfred of their choice. (It should be noted that the Outsider head does not want to pop all the way onto the figure, hence its odd appearance in the photo. Hopefully this is just a problem with my figure, and not a widespread issue.) It's a shame we had to wait so long for Mattel to release a comic-style Alfred figure, but honestly, he benefited from the wait. Let's face it, if this figure had been released during the peak years of the DCUC line, there's no way in hell he would have included so many high-quality accessories. (And he probably would have been saddled with those awful gorilla arms the suit-wearing characters were always marred with back in those days!)

KGBeast, my other favorite from the wave, is another long-awaited figure. The redesign used in the recent Rebirth All-Star Batman series is the basis for this figure, rather than the classic design, but I'm okay with that. It's not far off from the classic design, and actually improves on it in a few ways. The Beast benefits from the use of the MOTUC-compatible body, last seen on the Lobo BAF at the beginning of the year, giving him the stature he should have. (This also leads to his tendency to pop apart at the waist when being posed, as he's built from BAF parts. No need to freak out, as he snaps right back together.) The sculpt is great, with some very nice detailing on the mask, in particular. The belt is another highlight, with a nicely rendered leathery texture, and some shurikens sculpted in place. All the usual articulation is present, but the shirt overlay is quite restrictive to the abdominal hinge. The paint work is nice and clean on my figure, and he's also packing some nice accessories. Beasty has a removable projectile that stores neatly in his massive bolted-on arm cannon, two removable knives that slide easily into the sheathes on his boots, and a big-ass bayonet that fits into the aforementioned arm cannon. Frankly, it looks rather odd there, so I have him simply holding it as a sword, and it works quite well for that purpose. The KGBeast makes for an imposing presence on the toy shelf, and is a very welcome addition to the Batman rogues gallery.

Katana is another long-requested figure. She was included in the Suicide Squad line a couple of years ago, but this is the first time Mattel has produced a comic-style figure of the character. I quite like the costume design they used, but anyone who was hoping for her classic costume will be disappointed. Personally, I prefer this one. She's built on the new female body Mattel introduced last year, and has all of the benefits and drawbacks of it. It's nicely proportioned, and has a good overall look, but it's missing a couple of key points of articulation, and some of what it does have is more limited than it should be. Still, Katana is a nice figure overall, and a welcome addition to the collection. Paint is neat and clean on mine, with some particularly nice detail work on the mask. Katana comes with her sword Soultaker(which I managed to drop somewhere while moving the figures to take these photos, D'OH!), and a couple of swappable hands, one specifically sculpted to wield the sword. Katana checks a few boxes for the line, as a Batman ally, a much-requested female character, and another member of the Outsiders. (A shame that the vast majority of that team was neglected during Mattel's reign!) Personally, I would have swapped Katana out of this wave in favor of Orphan, as she is now the only member of the Rebirth Detective Comics team missing. But that's not a knock against Katana, as she is very deserving of inclusion, and I'm glad to finally have her.

Red Hood is a very nice figure overall, but he does suffer from one of those baffling Mattel decisions that marred many figures throughout their tenure. This guy has three pairs of hands, including some perfectly sculpted to hold his guns, but his guns are molded into his holsters. Really. Mattel has made figures in this line before with working holsters and/or sheathes, including in this very wave, so it's not as if they couldn't figure out how to do it. It's just another of those bizarre decisions that would pop up here and there throughout their various collector lines. It would almost be oddly reassuring to see it even in such a mostly stellar final wave, if it wasn't so damn annoying. Aside from that, Red Hood is quite good. Both head sculpts look great, and swap easily. You can also use the masked head and have him hold the helmeted head as if it's just the helmet, which is a pretty cool display option. He has quite a few newly sculpted parts, and all of them look great. Paint apps are nice and neat, and the helmet is painted in a nice glossy red that really pops. It's just a damn shame about those guns!

Red Robin is one of the standouts in this wave. Thankfully, he has no weird design decisions holding him back. This is an excellent realization in figure form of a fantastic costume design, with all the new parts he needs. As with the other figures, paint apps are very neat for a mass-produced toy. The belt could use a wash, as the plain bright yellow plastic is rather garish, even with the other bright primary colors on the figure. The blue highlights in the hair-- something I've never been a fan of in general-- are a bit heavier than they are on the others in this wave who have them. I'll definitely be painting over them at some point. Tim includes some extra hands and his signature staff, which he can hold quite well with the excellent articulation. Tim Drake is one of my favorite characters, so it's nice to see a very good figure of him in the final wave.

Dick Grayson Batman is the big loser of the bunch, and it's a damn shame, as it's a figure many of us have wanted for the past decade. He suffers from the weird proportions of the base body, the cape feels cheap and is far too narrow, and the unmasked head is rather ugly and just doesn't look like Dick Grayson. On the plus side, the color palette is dead-on, the articulation works very well and lets the figure hold some great poses that simply wouldn't be possible on most of the older male bucks, the masked head looks great and has a roguish smirk that suits him very well, and the dangling cowl accessory, for use with the unmasked head, is a very cool inclusion. (If only that unmasked head wasn't so ugly! It's not as noticeable in photos, but in person, it's very obvious.) BatDick is definitely the dud of the bunch, but I admit I'm still glad to have him. He'll just require a bit of work to fix his various issues. He's essential for posing with Damian, and is a representation of one of the handful of greatest Batman stories ever told.

And now for the BAF himself, Killer Croc! The most obvious observation is that he's HUGE. Far larger than the character is supposed to be, and far larger than any portrayal I've ever seen. (Barring stuff like that Batwoman/Wonder Woman team-up arc where he was mutated into an avatar of the mythical hydra.) The scale in this line has long been kinda all over the place, so this isn't a huge issue for me, but for some, it may well be a deal-breaker. All the parts are new, of course, and the sculpting is excellent. The pants are rather plain, but the insane detailing elsewhere makes up for that in spades. This is basically the design for the DCSH Croc figure cranked up to 11. The articulation works well overall, with a nice hinged jaw. Some POAs are limited by the sheer size of the appendages, but that is to be expected with this sort of figure. Croc can still strike many very cool poses,and so far, he hasn't been prone to falling over. He does come apart at the waist when posing sometimes, a recurring issue with some of the BAFs in this line. Thankfully, like the KGBeast, he easily snaps back together. My main criticism of this figure is the mostly flat green that makes up most of the figure. He could really have used a nice wash to bring out all the exquisite sculpted detail. I gave him one myself, and it makes a tremendous difference in how cool the figure looks. Scale issues aside, this is a fantastic BAF, and if you're on the fence about grabbing the last couple of figures from this wave to complete him, I'd say he's worth it. Collectors have been wanting a Croc BAF for many years, so he's a fitting note for the line to end on.

I'm happy to have the final wave completed, but it's a bittersweet feeling. Mattel's handling of the DC license has definitely had some serious peaks and valleys, but when it was good, it was damn good! Even with all the frustration that is inevitable with any Mattel line, they still gave us some fantastic figures, often of characters I never would have expected to be produced for a mass retail line. (Killer Moth! Vigilante! Friggin' Gentleman Ghost, for Grodd's sake!) Even DC Collectibles seems to have given up on producing figures of the less prominent characters, so it's awesome that Mattel managed to give us so many figures along those lines. Overall, this was a great wave to end on, and it's fitting that their 6" scale DC lines end where they began back in 2003, with a Batman wave. Whatever McFarlane has planned for their DC collector lines, they have a hell of an act to follow. Everyone have a fun and safe New Year's Eve, and let's all hope for a fantastic 2020!

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