Spaghetti & Meatball Review
Welcome to the 2nd half of my overseas-only Mattel Batman reviews. In part one I looked at the two new Batman figures with added articulation that were distributed as Deluxe figures outside of the USA. This time, it's time to examine the 2 new villains that were included in the regular assortment.
First off, allow me to apologise for my tardiness with this article. I was caught up with some personal issues (that could very well make an article some day...). I digress. Scarecrow shall lead the review:
Why S before B? I figure with the plethora of Scarecrow figures currently hitting the market, you'd want a look at this guy first. Besides, spaghetti before meatball!
Jonathan Crane was a professor of phobias before becoming obsessed with them. Now criminally insane (aren't all of them?) he haunts Gotham dressed as a living scarecrow, plotting time and again to plunge the city into fear.
Scarecrow's a heavy hitter this year, riding on the hope that his being featured in the summer film Batman Begins will hurl him into the limelight. Apart from this version, you'll also find other renditions of the character in the Mattel Batman Begins and DC Direct Hush toylines.
Right off the bat (heh), I'll say that this is NOT my preferred look for Scarecrow. He's had a few outfit changes through the years, and my favourites are the "hanged man" version by Bruce Timm, and the "ragdoll" look Tim Sale drew for The Long Halloween. I think you'll find my review a bit biased.
Scarecrow is a rather strange figure. I'll try to take things step by step.
He comes with 2 accessories. One is his trademark (somewhat) sickle, which has been redesigned so that it also incorporates a pitchfork. I can't for the life of me recall Jon ever carrying that. Scarecrow = hay = pitchfork, I suppose. It's not entirely out of place. This forksickle has 2 handles sticking out of the main shaft, and Scarecrow is supposed to use these to hold the weapon. He isn't able to hold the main shaft itself, if you are curious to know. his right hand is sculpted in a closed "gripping" fist, and will only fit onto either of the handles. The other hand is sculpted in a claw-like pose, and can either be used as supplementary support for the forksickle, or used with his other accessory...
A robotic skull. Missing its lower jaw. It look neat but I have no idea what it's for or where it comes from. Ask Julius, maybe he knows... It fits rather well into Scarecrow's left, open hand. Good for display, but not much else. If anyone buys this toy for their kid, do take note. It looks very chokeable.
Scarecrow himself is an extremely scrawny figure. Unrealistically so. It is a little strange to see him, as the other figures in this series have not been made to look so exaggerated, but he does grow on you after a while. His colour scheme is made up of a variety of brown hues. Mainly a dull brown with a slight black wash to bring out the details, the other colours are very subtle, such as the various ropes that coil around his clothes, or the odd patches of coloured cloth stitched to his costume. His head, hands and feet share the same, sandier coloured tone (and the same material), and everything is topped off with a chocolatety hat. Overall, he features very an excellent paint application with nary a smudge.
I'm not too sure what to think of the overall effect. On the one hand, the black wash brings out everything. Every nook and cranny in the original sculpt is brought out in detail for the eye. The rope cords are especially awesome to perceive. But on the parts of the body where there is little to no detail, the black wash just looks a bit cheap.
His head, as you can see in the pictures, has the old "grinning skull in a bag" look. It's a bit too plain and old school for my liking, but it's well done nevertheless, and choke full of detail. What is a pity is that his hat was sculpted with a slight droop, supposedly to obscure his face slightly for a mysterious look. I just find that it gets in my way of appreciating the sculpt of the face. It was very difficult to take photos of the figure head on and show the face. I needed very low angles for that.
His hat is NOT removable.
I think with other Scarecrow figures available, collectors will have to boil it all down to preferences. What sets this Scarecrow apart from many others is... yep, you guessed it: Articulation.
This Scarecrow could very well be the most articulated Batman villain ever (and not just because he's a professor... badabump!). He's got a ball neck (with extra cleavage down the front so he can look down. Very far down), ball shoulders, bicep cuts, elbows, wrist cuts, 2 waists (one has a springback action feature), a T-crotch with side-to-side hinges, thigh cuts, knees, shin cuts, ankles, and side-to-side feet. Whew!! Take a deep breath! Don't get too excited yet.
In my Batman review, I said that points of articulation are only as good as the engineering. In my opinion, the bad news is that despite all that articulation, the engineering fails to support it. It's gripe corner! First, the head, hands and ankles are cast in very rubbery PVC. The hands and feet suffer because of this, because the flexibility of the material means that it won't support much weight. These are crucial parts that need to support a huge weapon and the weight of the whole figure respectively, and they don't do it very well. Add to that the fact that the figure is very thin and frail, with a very small surface area for the bottom of his feet, and you have a figure that is a real challenge to stand.
Not that he can't stand, mind you. Simple, basic poses are easy enough to accomplish. However, try anything fancy and you'll feel like you're back in the 1980's playing with 3-3/4" G. I. Joes all over again... before they came with stands.
It doesn't help that his skirt is also extremely rigid, and doesn't allow his legs to move much, despite the great hip joints they gave him.
That, to me, is where all the added articulation fails to deliver.
The good news is that all the joints are nice and tight, with no case of jammed points. It still baffles me how Mattel and Hasbro seem to do this right everytime while some other companies are still constantly plagued by it.
My recommendation is: I am not that impressed by it, and I find myself eyeing other Scarecrow figures, or even possible customs. Get this figure if you're a completist on this toyline, or really want a Scarecrow with more than just your basic 5-10 points of articulation. If it proves too difficult to get a hold of, it's not that big a loss.
My final review for this series (before I crawl back into hibernation) features the other Bat-villain shipping in the overseas-only cases, the South American spicy meatball: Bane!!
Like Scarecrow, Bane ships one per case. Mr No "I will break you!!!" Name from Santa Prisca became famous when DC needed some new guy to get rid of Batman way back in the Knightfall storyline. Jailed as a child for his father's sins, he trained himself to his physical limits in his jail cell, and pumped his body full of the drug Venom before one day thinking "Hmm, I'll go kill Gotham's Batman for no good reason whatsoever." Or something. Despite having a less than stellar origin, Bane has warmed his way into the hearts of Batfans everywhere, and is regularly featured when they need a big strong lummox kind of villain for the comics, cartoons, or toylines.
So why did Mattel choose Bane for this assortment? With the Scarecrow - summer movie tie in link, you'd think they'd have chosen Ra's Al Ghul.But then Ra's is just an old guy with bad chin stubble while Bane is a big strong lummox. I guess the latter looked more sales-friendly. Not that I'm complaining.
Bane comes in all his classic glory. The character is fairly recent and hasn't seen much change in his outfit since he first appeared. We have had some really strange variations on the look before, such as in Kenner's Legends of the Dark Knight series and in the new THE Batman tv show, so it's very nice to have a "normal" Bane finally debut in the 6" scale.
Once again, the sculpt delivers in terms of detail. Initially, the hulking musculature and the veins stand out., then you notice the smaller things: the widgets on his venom hook ups, the little zipper pattern on his mask, the stitching on his boots, the 4 distinct, separate tubings at the back of his head, the BACK HAIR. They could have gotten away with a lot less, but they went the distance. I think my favourite part is the little Bane-esque motif on the bottom of his boots. Pretty awesome.
He is a little over the top in the upper torso, but that's not necessarily inaccurate to the comic books.
At first glance, Bane looks preposed with very bare articulation. He surprises with a very valiant show of effort once free from his plastic prison! He's got your basic neck cut, ball shoulders, elbows, wrist cuts, waist, a T-crotch, knees, shin cuts, ankles, and side-to-side feet. Not too shabby. I was amazed how well some of his articulation works. For example, his hips look so sculpted and preposed, I only expected minimal movement. In actuality his legs can move quite far back, and all the way up forward, almost to a right angle. He also has good range in his knees and ankles, so much so that he can do a half crouch with ease. The shin twist and the hinged ankles help to stabilize him very well, so he can stand perfectly fine upright or crouched.
His upper body also has a good range of movement thanks to his ball shoulders. His elbows don't do as much as his knees, but they're good for quite a few intimidation poses. His left arm is slightly hindered by an action feature: pull it up and he'll smash it downwards. It's not a very new feature, especially to Bane, but I am thankful that they didn't go for a button-activated version this time.You can still get him into poses easily by either moving the arm anti-clockwise until it clicks, or moving the arm clockwise. He holds his position fairly well despite the springed mechanism inside. His elbows may cause some collectors to frown, however. He has rather large gaps where the joints meet. He looks fine with his arms bent, but they are quite unsightly straight.
The only thing I feel he sorely needs is a ball jointed neck, so he can look up and down. His crouching positions tend to make him look towards the floor.
Bane comes with just one, tiny accessory: a brass knuckle. Needless to say, I am quite disappointed. Early promotional pictures shows Bane with Osioto, his childhood teddy bear. How awesome would that have been? I know, some of you may think, "What kind of wussy big lummox carries a teddy bear?" Well, way back when he was but a child in Pena Duro, Bane hid a dagger in his teddy's head, and used it against those who tried to bully him. So there you go. It wasn't just a teddy bear, it was an instrument of death. Sounds cooler now, doesn't it?
Did I say I'm disappointed he didn't come with his teddy bear?
Back to the knuckle.
Though puny in size, it does good work as an accessory. It fits *perfectly* over either of Bane's fists, and it's a very snug fit, so it will not fall loose too easily. It's detailed in its own right, adorned with spikes and little ridges, and goes well with the look and feel of the figure on the whole. It just makes me feel a bit cheated, after the good amount of accessories that the rest of the series enjoyed. At least it feels useful.
My recommendations: I find myself liking this Bane figure quite a bit. He's got reasonably good articulation, and GREAT stability, which is partly attributed to those wide legs. Those pics of him lifting Batman were done with no support for him whatsoever, and the best part is, they were very easy to accomplish. He's not the best Bane ever; his wide legged pose is quite funky, his vest rides up and looks a little like a bad bra, and he's not as tall as I'd like, but he's good enough to get for your 6" Batman collection, be it Mattel or DC Direct.
A look at how they display with other similar Batman figures.
Got a question or feedback? Think I suck at this? Do let me know... -Dare