Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Toy Review Batman: Arkham Origins Black Mask from DC Collectibles

I’m going to be reviewing a lot of DC Collectibles’ action figures over the next few weeks. They timed a huge number of releases to coincide with the holidays, which was probably a pretty clever idea.
I’ve written before how I had basically sworn off of DC’s in-house action figures a few years ago, so I won’t belabor my complaints about their quality and fragility. Especially since DCC seems to have made huge strides in those areas.
But first we have to start with a bit of a throwback figure that honestly leaves me a little confused – Black Mask.
I’ve never really been a fan of Black Mask. I wasn’t even aware of him until the story where he killed Stephanie Brown and he immediately pissed me off by being a nobody and killing Stephanie Brown right as I was really starting to like her and get into her story. Granted, the unholy trio of Lee, DiDio, and… whoever the other guy is that’s running DC now… did her even worse by killing her excellent book when they launched the giant pile of turd that is the New 52.
Since then he has… presumably done stuff. I can’t honestly recall any Black Mask stories, though I know I’ve seen the guy.
For reasons that become apparent as you play through the game, the makers of Arkham Origins gave ol’ BM a pretty substantial role.
This is the Roman Sionis version of Black Mask, as seen in Batman: Arkham Origins and in one of the DLC packs for Arkham City. Well, he was dressed differently in City, but I thought it was worth mentioning that he was in there. And also worth mentioning that his mask makes an appearance in Jeremiah Arkham’s office in Arkham Asylum.
I do prefer the white-suited version of Origins, as it is much more visually interesting than the one in City. But the main thing about the video game version of Black Mask is the mask itself. Rather than being a plain, black skull it is covered with designs and detail. This is the sort of thing that makes for a great action figure. But is Black Mask a great action figure?
First Glance: Black Mask shows a mind-boggling lack of articulation. It’s so weird to see this little articulation on a DCC figure that I thought maybe he had some kind of experimental new hidden articulation. Not so much. But the figure still has a nice profile and design-wise fits in with the rest of the line.
Articulation: Baffling. I have no idea why Sionis got gypped on joints.
Head – ball joint
Shoulders – swivels
Elbows –pivots
Hips – swivel
I can’t even tell you how surprised I am that I am reviewing a 6” scale action figure with seven points of articulation. It’s just damned strange.
His head moves quite nicely and has a decent range of posability.
His shoulder cuts are done in such a way that if you pose his arms any way other than hanging they don’t match.
Sionis’ elbows don’t quite bend 90 degrees.
The hands are separate pieces from the arms, and would appear to be designed to swivel. I was too afraid of ripping them off to try too hard. I don’t know if they’re stuck by the paint deco or really just aren’t supposed to move.
Black Mask’s legs can move some, but there’s really not much point since his knees and ankles are not articulated. Well, I take that back. The figure is balanced poorly, so if you couldn’t move the legs he’d just fall over all the time.
Sculpt: Black Mask is a 100% new sculpt, which makes his design even more baffling. Maybe if he were a new head on top of an old figure I could understand more. Or if he was some kind of special release. Although to be honest, I’m not entirely sure where he fits into the line. He wasn’t offered as part of a wave or series or whatever DCC calls them. He was all by his lonesome in Previews.
Side Note: But at least he was offered in Previews, unlike Hugo Strange. But I’ll get to that in his forthcoming review.
The head is fantastic. Like in the game, the front skull portion is a shell on top of another mask. The shape is very cool and exactly the right size. Sometimes skulls as masks can look a little goofy from being too big (like The Mask). But Sionis’ black mask is sized perfectly. And it’s positively festooned (I believe that’s a first for Needless Things) with details. I sat and stared at all of the little patterns for several minutes while I was taking pictures. Sionis’ eyes are visible through the mask and they look great.
The overall sculpt of the figure is fantastic, partially due to the lack of articulation. The lines of the suit look great, as the pinstripes are all sculpted rather than simply painted on. It gives the figure a texture and makes it interesting to handle.
The torso under the jacket is well done, with a shirt, vest, and necktie. I like that the jacket is a separate piece. It gives the figure so much more substance and a much fuller profile.
The gloved hands are posed slightly differently, but both are meant to hold pistols. The seams and detailing on the gloves looks good – the level I have come to expect from DCC.
Coloring: Aside from the eyes and surrounding flesh – which looks great – Black Mask is pretty much black and white.
One thing I do like about the game version of this character is that the mask is actually a mask and not some kind of magical thing that is permanently attached to his face. It doesn’t move, it doesn’t emote. It’s just a mask. That is represented very well here by the human eyes underneath. The skin tone is nice and the detailing on the eyes is excellent. The mask itself has a sort of wash to highlight the detailing while the secondary mask underneath is a different gloss of plain black.
The sculpted pinstripes of the suit are brought out by a dark wash. The paint on the tie, vest, and shirt is distinct and clean. As easy as it would be to mess up a black/white paint job, DCC did a very good job. And all of the blacks have different glosses to them to five the figure a little more punch. The gloves and shoes are glossy, the shirt is not. It all works quite well together.
Flair: Black Mask’s jacket is a separately molded piece of soft plastic or rubber. It looks really good, matches the rest of the figure color-wise, and is designed in such a way that the armholes are not even visible. The problem here is in the packaging. There was a wire tied across the figure’s midsection and it left permanent dents in the soft material on either side of Black Mask’s abdomen:
This isn’t a design flaw, but a case where a lack of communication and forethought caused damage to my – and everybody else’s – figure. Boo on DCC for this easily avoidable error.
Accessories: Sionis comes with a pair of matching pistols. They have a ton of detail – both painted and sculpted – and look awesome. They fit perfectly into the figure’s hands. There’s nowhere to store them if you don’t want him holding them, but the only option would have been shoulder holsters under his jacket and that would have just looked awful.
Packaging: It’s one of those damned clamshells. Except… wait… what’s this?:
By which I mean the only clamshell that I have ever found or likely will ever find acceptable. There is a notch at the top where you stick your finger in and simply pull out a perforated portion of the back of the package. It’s wonderful. And while there is still a danger of cutting yourself, this is far better than using scissors.
Plus, the design of the package is just incredible. These are figures that are really going to stand out in a toy aisle. Well, on a toy wall. We won’t be seeing these in Walmart or Target or Toys R Us or anything.
Value: MSRP is $24.99, which this figure is most certainly not worth. But if your local comic shop gives subscribers a discount on merchandise Black Mask might be worth you money.
Overall: Black Mask’s lack of articulation almost keeps him from fitting in with the rest of the Arkham game figures. If it weren’t for the sharp design and the paint job he wouldn’t work at all. But placed on the shelf amongst the rest he looks okay. I am still tremendously disappointed, though. He could have been so much better.
3 out of 5
Check with your local comic shop first. If you can’t find Mr. Sionis there you can hit up Entertainment Earth, BigBad, or probably even Amazon.

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