Sunday, 2 April 2017

Quick Crappy Review: Mattel DC Comics Multiverse Suicide Squad Katana*

To put it mildly I didn’t like the Suicide Squad film, to put it truthfully I fucking hate the new Suicide Squad film. Some of that’s on me and inability to let go of the John Ostrander era (the film owes as much to the Nu52 Suicide Squad as it does anything else) but a lot of it’s on them for making yet another dark, disappointing and horrible DC movie, Christopher Nolan has a lot to answer for. I liked ‘Boomerang, I hated the Joker, Killer Croc has had so many looks and personalities it’s really impossible to do him ‘wrong’ and it was basically a Batman spin-off film. And yet I bought an action figure from it, why? Well because I really like Katana’s costume in it, it’s an evolution of her weird robot-like Nu52 redesign, approximating it using street clothes because DC is terrified anyone will figure out that one of their superhero films is a superhero film, but it works and for me this is the first time Katana looks as badass as she’s supposed to be, devoid of the awkward sleepwear Red and Yellow costumes of her Outsiders days or the soulless and uneven robotic Nu52 look.

Created by writer Mike W. Barr and Batman art legend Jim Aparo, Katana’s is a fairly simply backstory – her husband and children were killed by her husband’s brother, a Yakuza who had never forgiven them for Katana choosing his brother over him. During their murder Katana took the Soultaker Sword from her brother-in-law, a sword that stores souls (including her husband’s) that she’s uses for guidance as a superheroine. She helped save Batman during the formation of the Outsiders while she was tracking down General Karnz, a previous owner of the sword, and joined the team, becoming one of if not the most constant members. You’ll notice that summary doesn’t include the Suicide Squad (alias Task Force X) - that’s because prior to the Suicide Squad movie she has never been a member of the ‘Squad in any media. Before the New 52 revamp she was always associated with The Outsiders and Batman and following that event the Birds of Prey and the JLA as well. It baffles me why she was chosen for the film, especially as the ‘Squad has Nightshade – a dark haired black-clad heroine with mystical powers – still this IS the film that cast Will Smith as Deadshot (who does not look like Uncle Phil Will Smith at all and is in fact not even Black) when the same team has Bronze Tiger on it (for those not in the know, Bronze Tiger looks a lot like Will Smith on steroids). I suppose it could have been a diversity thing but then why not the female Dr Light? She wasn’t a member either but Arthur Light (her predecessor) was, it’s more of a connection than Katana has. This figure is from the second wave of Mattel’s DC Comics Multiverse: Suicide Squad line, shall I actually review it now?

I think I’m going to nitpick it to death but ultimately I’m not dissatisfied with it because from a distance, standing on your shelf, Katana looks great, it’s just when you actually have to look at her in depth do bad things appear and I need to point them out cos this is, y’know a review. The likeness is…iffy, I can sort of see it at some angles but others it disappears and just becomes ‘generically Asian’, in fact the whole figure seems more like a figure of a drawing from a comic book than that of a real person from a movie, fine for me because I don’t like the film but fans of said flick might not be so glad. So… the person and/or robot who painted mine wasn’t the best, all of the designs on her clothing looks sharp and very nice but I’m guessing these are something like decals, regular paint apps are all slightly out of whack, actually they’re all slightly too high – there’s paint above the tops of the boots, armband and…boob bandages, what are those things called? do they have a name? I seem to think they do - So maybe the mask/stencil/machine was just wonky for this figure. It’s construction that’s Katana’s downfall (instead of, I dunno, Maxi Zeus or New Wave1). Her red ribbons are extra, rubberier pieces and I applaud this in theory, in practice they both kind of suck, both of her ribbons are joined to make one Play-Doh looking lump hanging down her back and her sash just looks fucking ridiculous, rather than making it one piece so it can lay flat like it does in the film (or would do in real life) they’ve made it out of three pieces and it looks huge and horrendous, like the scabbards are caught up in a mass of red spaghetti and like this stylish, deadly warrior can’t dress herself properly and has just tied her swords to her body like a two year old would, it’s no joke my biggest complaint about the toy. 

Construction complaint two is articulation, god I love it when reviews bang on about articulation don’t you? It’s something that toy makers need to learn – the different between giving figures lots of articulation and giving figures the articulation they need/can support. Katana is in the first category (as was just about every collector’s figure Toy Biz ever made), she’s very well articulanated with a ball jointed at the neck and shoulders, hinges at the elbows, knees and ankles, swivels at the wrists, an ab-crunch, thigh cuts, bicep swivels and one of those nifty double joints at the hips that combine two hinges to make the figure able to do the splits perfectly, I’m not sure I like them but I like them a lot more than ugly on-show ball joints (my favourite method of construction being the ball joints hidden with soft plastic overlay that MOTUC uses). So she’s very articulated and Mattel can put that on their boxes and tell their sales reps to spout about it but that doesn’t mean she has the right articulation, odd as she’s got a lot of new tooling that would make this possible – as a swordswoman she needs ball jointed wrists and ankle joints that allow from some side-to-side movement otherwise you just can’t put her in a lot of standard swordsman poses and as these things are designed for posing not play (I’m not saying I don’t play with them, Katana has already had a battle with Lynx-O, don’t ask) that’s a bit of an issue, and thigh cuts (which I hate, I’d like to remind you) are a bit pointless when she has boots that would allow for a perfectly hidden set of boot cuts instead. On the upside I like how they’ve achieved her elbow joints (with a kind of ‘glove’ of jacket that makes the coat look less broken up when her arms are bent) and her costume hides her ab crunch nicely without blocking it, in fact she doesn’t have a single blocked articulation point and that’s just fantastic.

Accessories wise she has exactly what she needs – the Soultaker Sword and its partner, which may have a name but if it does no-one cares enough to mention it very often. They’re fine and dandy, it’s pretty hard to fuck up samurai swords and Mattel do not do this, they fit smoothly and snugly into her scabbards though the force of pushing down on them will almost always cause them to come out of their spaghetti holdings (the scabbards are held in by little numbs on them, it works fine when you’re not applying any pressure to them). She also comes with the head and groin of the movie version of Killer Croc he’d never been a Squad member before the film either by the way. I’m gradually warming to build-a-figures, I still dislike them as a tool to get fans to buy figures they don’t want but it is a nice way to get another figure out in each wave. I’m not building this one so his parts are off to eBay, if you’d like a mini-review: the head is nice enough and shows off how much close to the comic Killer Croc the movie version actually looks while the paint wash achieves a lovely look. The crotch is a man’s crotch in Adidas shorts, there’s not a great deal one can say about that really, it looks sturdy I guess.

No gag, Metamorpho's just really happy
to see another Outsider who isn't fucking Batman
And there you go, I didn’t plan this as a SUPER Quick Crappy Review because I knew it was inevitable I’d waffle on about the movie and the comics for too long and it seems I assumed right. Conclusions: from a distance the world looks blue and green and the snow-capped mountains white2 Katana looks grand if not a little chubby in the face and I’m pleased there’s an affordable, attractive and articulated 6” scale version of my favourite costume for the character, a figure that’s made up of mostly nice pieces, but she can’t get into a lot of poses that suit her, can’t hold her sword with two hands despite doing it on the box (oh yeah, forgot about that) and has a stupid belt.  

1 this is just here to prove I’ve actually read an Outsiders comic, in fact I’ve read all of the Outsiders comics published pre-New 52.
2 only on AFB do you get a metalhead making Nanci Griffiths references in a DC Comics based post, and I wonder why I don’t have many views per page….also, Nanci the snow capped mountains look white up close too

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