Until Batman Arkham Asylum, most Batman videogames were at best mediocre and at worst, completely unplayable. But given the character’s popularity and the way he seems to appeal to really great creators in all media, it was just a matter of time until we got a great Batman videogame*–just as we’ve gotten a great Batman movies and a great Batman TV show alongside countless great Batman comics.
The “Arkhamverse” has quickly become one of my favorite incarnations of the Batman franchise. Given the presence of Kevin Conroy as Batman, Mark Hamill as the Joker and (in the first game at least) Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn, the game was sort of a much more brutal, darker version of Batman: The Animated Series. Given the immense popularity and critical acclaim for the first game and the massive anticipation for its upcoming sequel, it’s not surprising we’re now getting plenty of merchandise from both games.
DC Direct released their first wave of Arkham Asylum figures earlier this year, and the second wave–consisting of Bane, Poison Ivy, Mr. Zsasz and Armored Batman–hits comic ships this week (they should arrive in stores today, actually). But DCD isn’t the only manufacturer making Arkham Asylum/Arkham City figures; at this year’s Toy Fair, Mattel revealed their new Batman Legacy line, which included a two-pack of Batman and Two-Face from Arkham City.
I didn’t expect to see these figures until late August at the earliest, given that the game isn’t due out until October, but to my surprise the figures arrived this month (along with the Movie Masters Batman Begins Prototype Batman/Lieutenant Gordon two-pack). These were probably my most-anticipated figures out of Toy Fair year this year, so the question becomes: can they possibly live up to my expectations? Let’s find out.
Packaging: Is this figure part of the Batman Legacy line, or is part of its own Batman Arkham City line? The packaging has the game title front and center, but it does say “Legacy Edition” along the side, whatever that means.
Compared to the incredible eye-catching graphics on the comic-based Batman Legacy packages, this one is rather uninspiring. The purplish-blue colors make the package look washed out. For future figures, might I recommend the style of the Arkham City videogame marketing, which has a kind of noirish black-and-white thing going on? Here’s a quick Photoshop mockup…which I have to say doesn’t look that great either. Ah well.
Design & Sculpt: First off, these figures were not sculpted by the Four Horsemen. Let’s just get that out of the way now. I’ve heard the figures may have been created from digital resources–i.e., directly from the CGI models for the game and then cleaned up by hand sculpting–but don’t quote me on that.
Let’s look at Batman first. He’s the better sculpt of the two; this is as good as, if not better, than the best work of the in-house Mattel sculptors on toy lines like Ghostbusters. If you compare the pics of the figure to the model from the game above, you can see that the details are there. I particularly like the texturing on the gray portions of the suit. And while I’ve read at least one collector’s complaint about the sculpt of the head, I think it matches the game design–so that can’t be blamed on Mattel.
What can be blamed on Mattel how soft the sculpt turned out. Some of those aforementioned details get softened by the production process, giving AC Batman a bit more of a “toyish” look and feel than, say, DC Super Heroes Batman.
I like the sculpt for the cape–having it billow out a bit isn’t something we’ve often seen, and it gives AC Batman a dynamic look while not seeming too pre-posed. The heaviness of the cape does create some balance issues, however. You can get him to stand on his own, but it takes some effort.
A few other nitpicks: design of the arms and torso mean that the arms can’t hang down any lower than seen in the pic of Batman and Two-Face together. This is a pet peeve of mine–I hate when figures can’t put their arms down by their sides. And of course, his hands are sculpted as fists, so he can’t even hold one of your other figures’ batarangs.
Then there’s part of the cape where it covers the neck. It doesn’t quite match up properly to the upper chest, making Batman’s shoulders and neck look too high, particularly from the side. I’m not sure precisely what went wrong here–if this was a sculpting or a production error–but as you can see from the comparison pic with the DC Direct Arkham Asylum Batman, something’s not quite right.
Then there’s Two-Face. Again, the sculpt seems soft to me. As with Batman, I assume this was due to the production process, but it’s also possible something got lost in the translation from the digital assets to the 3D sculpt. But several parts–the head, the dark side of the jacket, and the hands in particular–are very soft-looking, and it hurts the overall effect of the figure.
His right hand is sculpted to hold the coin, while his left hand is open, meaning that even if you wanted to give him a gun from another figure, you can’t.
The “burned” parts of Two-Face have a somewhat glossy look (which is partly the sculpt, and partly the paint), which heightens the horror of Two-Face’s disfigurement, but also make it seem like it just happened. He kind of reminds me of the Tarman from Return of the Living Dead.
Finally, as you can see from the photos, the Arkham City figures are noticeably larger than DC Universe Classics–so much so that you’re not really going to be able to integrate them. So unfortunately, this new Two-Face won’t be replacing the old DCUC one. This was a rather bizarre and pointless decision by Mattel. It doesn’t bother me as much as it might, because I plan to display any and all Mattel Arkham City figures (and hopefully we’ll get more–perhaps sculpted by the Four Horsemen this time) as a separate group. The only reason I can think of for the larger scale would be due to the details on AC Batman, but there’s nearly as much detail on DCSH Batman at the smaller scale.
Plastic & Paint: In the plastic and paint area, Batman comes out relatively unscathed, largely because most of his parts are just molded in black or gray. The gray parts have a tad too much gloss, but for the most part I’m satisfied with the paint applications on Batman. The cape, as I mentioned, is a bit heavy.
Two-Face is another story, though. The paint on the “burned” parts and on the right hand is very thick, giving it that overly-glossy, almost slimy look, as if the wounds were still fresh. In a sculpt that’s already soft, the sloppy paint makes it even moreso.
Articulation: Batman has a ball and socket neck, ball and hinge shoulders, hinged knees, elbows and ankles, H-hinge hips, a hinged abdomen, and swivels at the biceps, gloves, wrists, waist, and thighs.
The lack of a “rocker” joint on the ankles is disappointing, and really hurts the ability of the figure’s posing. I know there’s a lot of quality control concerns with rocker ankles, but it’s one of my favorite joints and I hate when it’s not included. The other disappointment, as mentioned above, is the inability of the figure to put his arms down by his sides. Finally, the abdomen joint tends to bend inward, giving the figure a hunched look.
Two-Face has a ball and socket head, hinged knees and elbows, swivels at the shoulders, biceps, waist, wrists, and thighs, and that not-quite-H-hinge hip articulation seen on Millennium Masters of the Universe figures, which does allow for ball joint-like movement. (I wrote “ball and hinge hips” on the articulation photo because it was the easiest way to describe it.)
That’s right, there’s no ankle articulation and no ball joints on the shoulders. To be honest, I’m not that disappointed by the lack of ball jointed shoulders–Two-Face isn’t the most athletic of Batman villains.
Accessories: None. I’m going to guess this is because both figures are brand-new sculpts, and as Mattel has told us time and again, that’s incredibly expensive to do, apparently. But really? Not a single batarang? No gun for Two-Face, who doesn’t even have ball jointed shoulders?
I wouldn’t be surprised to see a single-pack re-release of Batman with an open hand and a batarang.
Quality Control: Here’s one place where these figures shine–they’re solid. Two-Face had a couple stuck joints on his left arm, but a few minutes in the freezer and they came unstuck easily.
Overall: I really, really wanted to like these figures. As I mentioned, I’ve been waiting for this Batman since I saw it at Toy Fair.
And I do like them…but not as much as I wanted to. Batman is decent, even slightly above average thanks to the sculpt, but he’s definitely not perfect. Two-Face is just disappointing.
It’s clear Mattel loses whenever they don’t go to the Horsemen. Given the immense popularity of the Arkham games, it was a mistake to put their B-squad on these. If we get more figures from the games–and despite my disappointment here, I hope we do–Mattel should put the Horsemen on the job.
Batman: [raven 3]
Two-Face: [raven 1.5]
*And I’d argue we got another great Batman game a year earlier in Lego Batman.