Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Toy Review –Batman: Arkham Knight Scarecrow from DC Collectibles

Welcome to Arkham Week on Needless Things!

Every day this week I’ll be reviewing one of the new Arkham Knight figures from DC Collectibles, and on Friday we’ll be posting a special episode of the Needless Things Podcast where we take a look at the Arkham video game franchise.

Side Note: The Arkham Knight figure has been delayed, so I’ve only got four reviews. Word I’m getting is that it was pushed back due to the figure itself containing spoilers for the game. I think it’s somewhat prosaic that the antagonist from the oft-delayed game is, itself delayed.

I tend to start these reviews by talking about how much I love whichever of Batman’s nemeses I’m covering. Some of them, like Firefly, I don’t have a whole lot to say about. He’s fine. He sets things on fire. Whatever.

But most of these characters are ingrained into my consciousness from the many forms of media they’ve been represented in, as well as their various appearances in the comics I’ve read. For the most part I think Scarecrow has been better represented than just about anyone. Not more often, but more effectively and more in line with my concept of the character.

Scarecrow is easy to get right because as much as he’s an interesting character, his motivations are clear – he wants to scare people. And that makes him an excellent foil for Batman, who also wants to scare people, albeit in a different manner and for different reasons.

As with almost every character that has appeared in them, the Arkham games did a fantastic job with Jonathan Crane. In Asylum he starred in his own series of side quests, throwing Batman into a nightmarish world that served as a fun diversion from the main game.

In Arkham City, Scarecrow was absent but for an Easter Egg hidden in a boat in the harbor. Once you unlocked the entrance to the boat, you discovered a disgusting, roach-infested lair. At the far end is what seems to be a dead goon, but he convulses and screams when you approach. There is also an invoice from Falcone shipping for hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of live insects. There are also three ominous messages that can be heard using the Cryptographic Sequencer, foreshadowing Crane’s return in Arkham Knight.
Finally, in Arkham Origins, Crane played a bit role as a doctor.

To a certain extent, Scarecrow has ended up with one of the best-crafter stories in the Arkhamverse and his return was highly anticipated, at least by me.

I don’t want to spoil any story points from Arkham Knight, so I’ll just say this about Scarecrow in the newest game: He is terrifying and dark and I hear John Noble’s voice when I walk down dark hallways at home. Noble never would have occurred to me as the voice of Jonathan Crane, but now that’s the voice that I’m going to hear for the character in the same way that I hear Kevin Conroy when I read Batman.

FIRST GLANCE

I’m so glad that DC Collectibles (formerly DC Direct) stopped sculpting the figures in poses. This is mostly due to the improvements in articulation. As good as the first few series of Arkham figures looked, characters like Bane, Zsazz, and Scarecrow suffered from hideous cases of Pooping Crouch.

This Scarecrow succeeds in updating the look we saw in Asylum, while making it more functional and even a bit more true to the character’s comic book looks. And also making him look like he was on the receiving end of a severe Bat-whooping.

PACKAGING

This new DCC package is great. The five-sided window box design looks very cool, and each franchise has its own graphical designs. Here we have some industrial, Gotham-looking stuff and a cool wireframe of Scarecrow on the back surrounded by the rest of the first series figures.

We also have sculpting credits for Gentle Giant. I apologize for the blurriness. I was tired or possibly inebriated.

LOOKS

This new look works so well for Scarecrow’s expanded role in Arkham Knight. In the first game he was more of a boogeyman – far from the main antagonist. The Scarecrow we see in the new game is a fully functional character that interacts with the narrative in a much more meaningful way. As such, he needed to look like a person that occupied space and that would move about in the real world.

Scarecrow’s head is the scariest we’ve ever seen on him, but still retains the look of his moniker. It almost looks like Professor Crane skinned a corpse and sewed the mouth shut. The features are very skull-like, which adds a new dimension of creepiness. The paint enhances the skinned-corpse look and the dead, white eyes add to the creepiness. The tubes and filters are built into the mask and serve to make it more grotesque. When Scarecrow talks in the game it’s pretty horrifying.

The hood is a separate rubber piece. I was surprised at how sturdy it was and how well it stood up to being pushed out of the way to move the head around. It’s fantastically sculpted, as it has the shape of several pieces of fabric that have been sewn together rather than just a hood shape with stitches sculpted on the outside.

Scarecrow’s patchwork coat looks great and lends to his zombie Templar look (if you haven’t seen the Blind Dead series of movies, you should). The color is consistent across the figure and the stitching is wonderfully random. The individual stitches aren’t the same size and are spaced apart differently. Scarecrow is not an accomplished tailor.

The rig on his chest has a bunch of cannisters and test tubes attached. Apparently with duct tape. Scarecrow is also not an engineer. The test tubes on his shoulder seem impractical (wouldn’t they be a lot more convenient on his belt?), but look cool. And the Arkham design team have a thing for sticking things on people’s shoulders.

Scarecrow has a sort of glove/brace thing on his left hand. It reminds me a lot of the New Adventures Scarecrow design that I don’t like (though it looks good here). His right hand is the Main Event here. There’s a big contraption on his forearm with cylinders and tubes on it that terminate in what look like syringes extending from his hand. Except that in the game he just shoots gas out of those, which is not as creepy but works much better visually. There are various buckles and straps above this thing that really serve no purpose other than looking cool. The ones directly on top of the elbow are a soft rubber and can be moved around to facilitate posing.

The transition of the coat is a bit awkward around the waist area, as the fitted torso and the billowy tails don’t quite match up, especially with the gap at the lower abdomen. It doesn’t really bother me, but I did notice and it is odd.

The figure’s legs look like they’ve been through hard times. The straps and tubes and whatnot all look good and have tight paint jobs. The trousers have a texture to them that’s sort of like burlap. The brace on the left leg is fantastic. It’s hinged at the knee and looks so much better than if it were just sculpted on. I’m not so crazy about his short pants, but they do show off the excellent sculpt jobs on his boots. The laces and tongues look great.

Scarecrow’s overall appearance suggests a guy that has trouble not just walking, but doing anything. He’s all uneven and misshapen and just generally looks rough. Batman whooped his ass, but good. And now he wants revenge.

Side Note: Slight spoiler – Arkham Knight is very, very dark and Scarecrow is presented as more sinister and terrifying than he has ever been shown before. I’ve been surprised at the places the game has gone. If you want to hear more, be sure to listen to the Needless Things Podcast this Friday.

ACCESSORIES

Scarecrow comes with a scary zombie mask.

I’m about forty percent through Story Mode as I write this and I haven’t seen an actual mask like this, but it does look like the visions suffered by the victims of Scarecrow’s fear gas. I don’t think it’s specifically for Scarecrow, as the strap is pretty big and it can fit over many differently-sized heads. 

The mask is creepy and the paint is great. I’m fine with getting an extraneous accessory as long as its appropriate.

FUN

Scarecrow has as much articulation as you could want from a deranged, evil professor. It is amazing to look at this figure and the Arkham Asylum figure and see just how far DC Direct/Collectibles have come. The old Scarecrow was essentially a statue with some moving parts. This is an action figure.

The joints are somewhat limited by the constraints of the character design, but they all have as much range as I might want them to. Scarecrow is not a professional wrestler; he’s a scientist with a mangled body.

Side Note: I know I’m going a little heavy on the whole “Batman messed Scarecrow up bad” thing, but it’s certainly implied in the games and I really like that narrative. The Batman of the Arkhamverse is brutal and doesn’t pull punches. He routinely threatens to break every bone in people’s bodies, as well as actually breaking a few. While Scarecrow has not, as yet, named his maiming as part of his motivation, it certainly seems like part of the narrative to me.

The long coat tails prevent much movement from the legs, but the braces and straps suggest that Jonathan Crane wasn’t going to be competing on Dancing With the Rogues anyway.

The fun of this figure is in trying to pose it in the most creepy and menacing ways. I spent a good bit of time hunching it over, bending its legs in funny ways, and fiddling with the head to achieve sinister weirdness.

OVERALL

I generally prefer my Scarecrow a little more scarecrow-y and with a hat, but this is a great evolution of the character for the Arkhamverse. It’s actually a lot more subdued than I thought it would be. Crane could have easily been packed with more tech and/or gore, but I feel like the game designers showed some restraint to keep in line with the spirit of the character.

And DC Collectibles did a fantastic job of adapting it. The proportions, textures, and details are all top-notch, giving us one of the best Scarecrow figures to date, even if it doesn’t have a hat.

4 out of 5


Buy one from Amazon and help Needless Things pay the bills!:

No comments:

Post a Comment