Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Toy Review – DC Signature Collection Huntress from Mattel

Hello, Phantomaniacs, and welcome to an all-new year here on Needless Things! I’m going to be trying out some different toy review formats in the coming weeks, so let me know what you think.

I’m not going to pretend to be some kind of expert on Huntress, or try to claim that my initial interest in the character went beyond that fact that she wore purple and very little of it. But in the years since I first remember her standing out – probably during the mostly excellent “No Man’s Land” crossover – I have grown to like the character quite a bit. Whether she’s the daughter of a mobster or of Bruce Wayne and Selena (or is it Selina? I always spell it with an “e” because I had a friend in high school that spelled it that way so it seems right) Kyle. Though I prefer the mobster’s daughter story. It speaks more strongly to me. Not that I’m a mobster’s daughter or anything – it’s just that whole “sins of the father” thing is such an effective and life-spanning narrative device. That can motivate a character pretty much forever.

I came in to Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey late, but caught up quickly. I love that series and Huntress was my favorite character. I also loved how Huntress was portrayed on the Justice League cartoon. The showrunners went so far as to focus several episodes around her and they were some of the best of the series. Of course, it helped that she was teamed up with The Question.

Of course, in current DC continuity we have the Helena Wayne version and she hails from Earth 2. I thoroughly enjoyed the initial miniseries by Paul Levitz (one of the men involved in creating Huntress in the first place), but once she moved over to the Earth 2 book I dropped out. It was a good read, but I just didn’t want to deal with another continuity. The New 52 is straining to keep my attention as it is.

Naturally, since DC is currently using Helena Wayne, Mattel decided to produce the Helena Bertinelli version. Not only that, they put her in a costume that is a decade old. This is how Huntress looked in the story “Hush”. She has since been clothed more fully.

But the bottom line is that at least we now have another member of the Birds of Prey team (though we’ll almost certainly never see an Oracle).

Huntress is one of the more eye-catching DCSC figures that has come out this year. She has a lot of extra little parts going on that differentiate her from some of the more basic spandex-clad crowd. Looks like she has more new parts than I had expected, as well.

The DCSC window box that seemed so full of promise but was all empty lies. Allow me to refresh your memories – it was once claimed that this packaging would allow for a greater volume of variety and accessories in the figures. Basic retail packaging limited what Mattel would be able to do, but with these boxes the sky was the limit! Figures could be different sizes! They could come with assloads of accessories! Maybe even cupcakes! Just please give us your money!

Obviously this was all utter horseshit. Still, I like this excessively large window box. It’s easy to open, they look nice, and they do present a uniform look for the line.
I will say this, at least they didn’t shoehorn the New 52 Huntress bio onto this figure.

While this is the basic DCUC female body, there are enough new bits and pieces attached to it that it feels pretty original.

The head looks great, and I have to say that this is the one place the Horsemen almost always nail it. They’re great with masks and hair, and they have a knack for creating distinctive faces at this scale. The hair is dynamic without looking like the wind is coming from a particular direction and the mask has clean lines and a good profile. The paint looks good. The eyes are centered and the lips, mask, and hair all stay within their boundaries. I’m particularly impressed that there’s no bleeding between the mask and the face.

Huntress has new boots and gloves, a new cape and belt, and a bunch of new pouch thingies. POUCHES. You know, people make fun of the whole pouch thing from the 90s, but where the heck are people who dress in spandex supposed to carry stuff? I will always defend pouches! Of course, I have to wonder how, exactly, thigh pouches stay put without any kind of support…

All of the new parts make a huge difference. Huntress feels like she’s a step above most of the DCSC figures and even a lot of the DCUC ones. Which brings me to an important point – most of the DC Signature Collection has felt like bargain versions of DC Universe Classics. I know Matty’s line about the sub being underfunded or under-subscribed or whatever, but they still charged the same ludicrous amount for the figures. But Huntress holds up to the DCUC retail line (not that all of those were stellar entries into action figure history).

The sculpting on the belts is fantastic. All of the flaps and buttons look great and are well-defined and they even have paint apps. I’m not crazy about the fact that the shoulder pads are painted on, and I’m less crazy about the fact that Huntress has purple armpits:
I like purple a lot for a white dude, but even I have my limits.

The cape hangs well and is a good length. I like how the clasps do appear to be fixed to her costume rather than just floating around her chest somewhere. The paint is good on this piece. Even the white is solid and applied cleanly.

I’ve got to say, the paint app… wait…

Mattel. You have got to be fucking kidding me with that. Totally unacceptable. What moron thought that was okay? Seriously.
Huntress comes with an plain, non-detailed crossbow and that’s it. As much as I dig metallic purple, I would have liked to see some paint on this thing. And more gear. Huntress has smaller, pistol-grip crossbows, a staff, and a quiver of bolts. None of that is here. And the crossbow we got is made of rubber, which is crap.
Huntress has a good amount of articulation, but like most of the DCUC figures much of it isn’t satisfying. Her elbows, knees, and ankles don’t bend quite far enough. Her shoulder joints do work well and have a good range of posability. Her hips are the same ugly joints that I’ve been disliking since the very first DC figure I bought from Mattel. There’s just no way to make that look good. The figure can’t squat, but it can achieve a lot of poses that suggest action of some sort. And I’m still very impressed by how the Horsemen handle figures with long hair – the head movement is never as restricted as I expect it to be.

Huntress was fun for about as long as it took me to take pictures for the review. In the long run I am not going to have any desire to take her off of the shelf and play with her. But she does look good with the rest of the DCUC collection.
While Huntress comes closer to being a good value than most of the rest of the DC Signature Collection, she still isn’t worth the twenty-whatever dollars she cost. But this is a figure I might’ve paid that for at retail. I think that will be one of my new criteria – if I saw this at retail for the price I paid online, would I buy it? I don’t feel like this is the best Huntress Mattel could’ve made, and I am knocking a whole point off for that hideous and unacceptable manufacturing number on the foot.
3 out of 5


  1. Good review, PT. While I pretty much buy any Batman related figures in the 6 to 7 inch scale, even I skipped most of the Club Infinite Earths stuff. I'm hoping to get them someday from someone selling off a collection or in a trade. I'm sticking to my DC Direct Hush Huntress for now.

    And there ain't nothing wrong with a white guy liking purple. Embrace it and dress head to toe in that stuff!

    1. There weren't an overwhelming number of Bat-centric releases in the DCSC line, so that's understandable.
      And I do. Frequently.