Thursday, March 20, 2014

Toy Review Batman: Arkham Origins Deathstroke from DC Collectibles

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I have basically gone years without having any figures just straight-up break for no good reason. Now I’ve had three new figures break in stupid ways in the span of a week.
But I’ll get to that. First I want to talk a little bit about Arkham Origins because I don’t think that I really have, despite reviewing a number of figures from the game.
I love the Batman: Arkham games for a ton of different reasons. They’re fun to play, they aren’t insanely difficult, the stories tend to be solid, they look fantastic, and they feature some of the most interesting interpretations of Batman, his companions, and his foes. Not the best – that would be the DC Animated Universe – but certainly versions that are visually interesting while remaining true to the original concepts. I don’t think anybody could look at the Arkham character designs and have any major problems with them.
This is why the toys are so great.
The first two games – Arkham Asylum and Arkham City – are the best games I have ever played. I say this not because they have the best gameplay or graphics or anything like that, but because I completed them both. Not finished – completed. I very rarely finish games and I don’t know that there are any other games that I have completed. But those titles were so compelling and fun that I was driven to find all of the hidden stuff and get that 100%.
Actually, it occurs to em that I did not complete City. I didn’t do all of the challenge maps because I hate those.
I was very excited about Arkham Origins, despite the fact that it was not made by the same developer as the first two games. This sort of thing often happens with very successful franchises and I figures that no way was Warner Bros. going to let anybody fuck up their hugely popular and profitable Batman series.
I was sort of right.
Origins has some great boss battles and a very good story, but in the end is underwhelming. Much of the game felt like a step down from the previous titles. Grappling and gliding through Gotham City isn’t nearly as much fun. The gang battles are repetitive and grow increasingly cheap – as the game progresses they feel more and more like lazy ways to make the game challenging.
For instance – the final battle with Bane would have been perfectly fine if it had just been Batman and Bane one-on-one. It wouldn’t have been as difficult without the random goons being constantly thrown at you, but it would have been much more satisfying. As it is feels video game cheap, if you know what I mean.
But the biggest letdown is the Riddler side game. The story itself is actually quite good, but the process is a chore. I’ve pretty much given up on finding all of the Riddler stuff this time because it’s just a hassle and the rewards just are not up to par with previous titles. As difficult as some of the challenges in Arkham City were, I kept trying over and over because the payoff was worth it and I felt compelled to continue. In Origins it feels somehow tacked-on and not relevant.
Okay, so I’m not totally happy with Arkham Origins. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. And while some of the character designs weren’t all that exciting – Deadshot and Bane look like North Face ads while Joker looks like a J. Crew model – Deathstroke looks phenomenal.
Out of all of the action figures that I knew of that were coming out this year, this is the one I was the most excited about. I love the character, but this design is just awesome. It combines the heavily armored version of New 52 Slade Wilson with the great idea of not looking fucking stupid. And while I didn’t know this when I preordered Deathstroke from my Local Comic Shop, it features the most impressive articulation of any DCC Arkham figure so far.
Which is part of the problem.
Deathstroke was the first figure I opened when I got the latest batch of Arkham figures. I usually save the figure I am most excited about for last, but this time I just had to open this guy.
I have a specific process for every single figure that I open, whether it’s a GI Joe, a Masters of the Universe Classic, or something from NECA or Funko.
1 - I examine the figure for any paint problems that I might have missed in the store.
2 – I very carefully inspect and utilize every point of articulation on the figure. I loosen joints when it’s needed and if any are particularly stubborn I will set the figure aside after I am done taking pictures. When I go back upstairs I will bring it and do the heat and cold tricks.
3 – I make sure all of the accessories interact with the figure in the way they are meant to. I check the fit in the hands, holsters, scabbards, or whatever. If I ever fail to mention this sort of thing in a review, it means there were no problems.
So I did all of that stuff with Deathstroke. His right elbow, abdominal pivot, and the lower joints of both knees were stuck. I loosened the knees and elbows with a little careful wiggling, but never got the abdominal pivot to budge.
I took my pictures and was putting the pistol in the figure’s right hand when the arm just came off at the elbow:
The pin was stuck in the elbow joint and both sides of the soft plastic piece had simply sheared right off. It stayed in place in such a way that I thought it was fine, but once I applied the stress of putting the pistol in the hand it fell right off.
I sent the Comic Shop a message and asked them to hold a Deathstroke for me. The next day I went and made the exchange, opened the new one up and carefully moved everything. I was particularly sensitive to how the pins were moving. Everything seemed fine. And then:
DAMMIT.
Two Deathstrokes breaking in two different places kind of makes this figure an automatic fail. Not a “0” or “1”, but I can’t very well give it average or better. Which is a damned shame because this is a beautiful figure. I’m just going to go through the review and comment on the normal stuff, then at the end I’ll score this guy far lower than I wanted or expected.

FIRST GLANCE

This Deathstroke is one of the most visually impactful and instantly impressive action figures I have ever seen. Period. The sculpting is detailed and the paint looks fantastic. Deathstroke’s color scheme is already eye-catching, but the design of this version is so intricate and full of little touches that I found myself just staring at it several times before I finally opened it.
PACKAGING

I have to give DC Collectibles a lot of credit for making a clamshell that I don’t hate. I mean, I’d still rather have a regular blister card, but this design is pretty neat. The best part by far, though, is the perforated edge on the back that lets you simply pull it open:
Granted, you’re not really any less likely to cut yourself, but at least you don’t need scissors to open the figures.
There’s no bio to speak of, just sort of a synopsis of Arkham Origins.
LOOKS

I’m not kidding when I say that this is one of the best looking action figures I have ever seen. The shape and sheer amount of detail is staggering, as is the execution of the design. It’s one of those rare figures that has presence. I’m not quite sure how to explain it, but it generates this primal need to have it on your shelf despite the fact that you know it’s going to make all of your other toys look shittier by comparison.
The head is an armored-up version of Deathstroke’s signature mask. It’s angular and features the covered right eye, but my favorite part is the detail in how it’s secured to his head:
That’s just cool. Granted, I’m not sure what the deal is with the bandana straps hanging out the back, but whatever. It looks cool and sometimes that’s enough.
The exposed eye is nicely recessed into the mask and has a tight and accurate paint job. The whole head has a good deco, with solid colors and silver wear painted on.
The overall design of the figure is very Stormtrooper like. You know – if Stormtroopers were actually deadly. There’s tons of armor plating on top of a bodysuit. The armor is sculpted nice and thick so that there’s a great distinction between it and the underlying suit.
The armor itself is symmetrical, but there are a lot of extra parts to give this design a little more personality and make it more interesting.
The chest has a bandolier that is connected to the belt around the figure’s waist. This is all one soft plastic piece that is separate from the figure but not removable. The pouches are all different and distinctive. Some thought went into these, because they are all big enough to look like they could actually hold stuff. They have a weight to them, as well. The back of the bandolier holds a scabbard for the included sword. 
Deathstroke’s left shoulder has an extra piece on top of the plating. It has some shells attached and some random thing that I can’t figure out but that looks neat.
There’s a holster on Deathstroke’s right thigh. The holster itself is a separately molded soft plastic piece. The strap is part of the figure and is similar to but not the same as the one on the figure’s left thigh that holds a pouch.
The paint job on this figure is fantastic and detailed almost to the point of being overwhelming. The base of the costume – jumpsuit, boots, gloves, balaclava – is flat grey. There seems to be a minor error on the elbows where somebody didn’t realize that the inside was part of the coveralls and not armor:
This is not a huge deal.
The armor is all metallic blue and flat orange. The deco is sharp and aside from those elbows I can’t find any errors – no blotching or bleeding. The damage – in the form of silver slashes all over the armor – adds so much to the figure. It’s borderline excessive, but really shows that this guy has been doing what he does for a long time. And maybe isn’t so good at blocking.
The various belts and pouches are all slightly different shades of gray. They have washes and small details painted in so that they blend well with the excellent paint on the rest of the figure rather than seeming tacked-on. The black half of the mask, the eye, and the red shells on the shoulder create some nice highlights on an otherwise uniform figure.
ACCESSORIES


Deathstroke comes with his staff, sword, and a pistol.
The staff is segmented and looks collapsible. The black and silver paint job give it a little more character than some other staffs I own. It fits into Deathstroke’s left hand, but he can be posed to hold it with both. It’s made of a hard, sturdy plastic. My only issue with this is that there’s nowhere to store it.
The sword seems awfully tiny. It looks awesome, though. The blade and guard are firm plastic. The hilt is rubber, but this is so it can be pushed into the figure’s left hand. Here’s a weird thing – I couldn’t get the sword all the way into the first Deathstroke’s scabbard:
But it fits perfectly into the second figure’s:
I can’t explain this.
The pistol is fairly simple. It fits into Deathstroke’s right hand and leaves his finger sitting beside the trigger. It fits perfectly into the holster and stays there. 
I kind of wish that the figure’s hands were different so that he could hold the various accessories in either hand, but this isn’t that big of a deal.
FUN


This figure has a ton of articulation – I think the most of any DC Collectibles release I’ve seen. Since it’s so remarkable I’m going to run it down in detail:
Head – ball joint
Shoulders – ball joints
Biceps – swivels
Elbows – pivots
Wrists – swivel/pivot
Abdomen – pivot (maybe)
Waist – swivel
Hips – ball joints
Thighs – swivel
Knees – double pivots
Ankles – swivel/pivots
That’s a ton of good and well-planned articulation, but it comes with some issues and limitations.
The head can only move so much due to the shape of the mask and the mysterious bandana ties.
The shoulders are fairly limited because of the armor plates, but they do have a greater range than they appear to. The elbows don’t have particularly deep pivots. Because they are recessed into the forearm armor, the hands don’t move quite as much as they could. All of this combines to make it tricky – but not impossible – to get a lot of poses out of the arms.
I couldn’t get that abdominal pivot to budge on either figure. Not even a little. And I was too afraid of breaking the damned things in two to exert too much force. Thinking about it now, I should have just given it my all with the first one since it was going back anyway.
The legs are restricted not by the armor on the thighs, but by the fact that the hip joints simply don’t have a wide range. The double-jointed knees are terrific, but this is happening on the left knee and I don’t know why or how to fix it:
The ankles don’t move much because of the way the armor is designed. And as we all know this combined with the limited hips means that the double-jointed knees are kind of pointless.
I know that sounds like a lot of bitching, but even with the restrictions Deathstroke has a good range of posability for a DCC release.

OVERALL


This action figure looks amazing. It kills me that such a well-designed toy suffers from such critical flaws. If the joint pins had been made of better plastic and a few of the joints had been designed just a little better this would be one of the best figures in my collection. As things stand I can’t consider it anything but a failure.
2 out of 5
I ended up keeping the second Deathstroke – the one that the leg fell off of – because I can slide the leg back onto the joint and it still stands up. I can’t not have an Arkham Deathstroke and if I go after a third figure there’s no telling what could be wrong with it. At least this one can be displayed.
As I mentioned in my recent Previews Review there is an unmasked Deathstroke coming out later in the year. It uses the same body and I certainly hope that DCC can correct the mistakes they made with this one. Especially since I have to buy that one to get Copperhead.
You can purchase this figure pretty much anywhere – Amazon, BigBad, your local comic shop – but I honestly can’t recommend it unless you’re collecting the Arkham line. And if that’s the case it doesn’t matter what I think anyway. It’s a shame because if it weren’t for the flaws this would have been a must-have for any toy collector.




6 comments:

  1. Sorry you have had such bad luck with this figure.
    I grabbed this guy and a Batman from a couple of local comic stores. I opened Deathstroke first, and immediately decided I didn't need Batman so I sold him on ebay.
    I guess I was very lucky with mine, because all of his joints except for the ab joint worked right out of the package. That ab joint was super, super stuck. I had to take his torso off of the balljoint at the waist, wrap it with a towel and us pipe pliers to get a good enough grip on him to free it up. It popped so loudly I thought I broke him, but no, luckily it works fine and I didn't mess up the sculpt or paint with the pliers.
    The scabbard on mine did fall off, which was actually fine because somebody at the factory forgot to paint the back of it (the part you can see from the front of the figure was just white plastic), so that gave me the opportunity to hit it with some black matte paint before gluing it back.

    Ultimately, he is a cool figure, but even with all the joints working he still feels fragile. I actually like to move my figures around and pose them, so that's why I decided not to open Batman assuming he would be the same story.

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    1. I haven't had issues with any of the other Arkham figures, not even the first Killer Croc, who apparently has arm problems. I highly recommend the super... well, better articulated Batman. That's a great figure.

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  2. Thank you for the review. Turns out you're not the only one with badluck with a Deathstroke. I had mine for two days, and his arm snapped off by simply bending it in the natural way. It appears to just be an overall QC issue.

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    1. Damn. That sucks. DCC has been doing so well lately. It's a shame they had to blow it on one fo the best looking figures they've ever produced.

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  3. Same thing happened to me i opened the package and was messing around with him and then his arm snapped off i didn't want to buy another one so i just super glued his arm back on, great figure overall.Thanks for the review.

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    1. If I hadn't known that it would be easy for me to return the first one I would have done the same thing.

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