Sin City
Marv, Hartigan and Gail

Once upon a time, there were no comic book movies.  Oh, there was the occasional flurry around the big two, Superman and Batman, but that was just about it.  No more - there are at least six films again this year based on 'comic books', or their kissing cousins, graphic novels.

One of the most anticipated is Sin City, a classic tale from Frank Miller.  This is no Spider-man - it's dark, gritty and grim, much like all of Frank Miller's comic book work.  It's an interweaving series of stories, predominately done in a film noir black and white style.

It also has some big stars, like Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Clive Owen, Rosario Dawson, Benecio Del Toro, Elijah Wood, and Michael Clarke Duncan.

NECA picked up the license to do action figures, and have six main characters in series 1.  There's Hartigan (played by Willis), Marv (Mickey Rourke), Gail (Rosario Dawson), Nancy (Jessica Alba), Manute (Michael Clarke Duncan), and Yellow Bastard (Nick Stahl).

There are actually at least two versions of every figure.  There's the standard black and white version of each, plus a color version that is a chase in the cases.  Of course, Yellow Bastard is always yellow, but there is a head variation - smiling - that is also a chase in the cases.

Then, there's actually two versions of Nancy, one with windblown hair and one with straight hair.  Those two versions come in both black and white AND color.

Finally, there's a un-bandaged, cut up Marv that is exclusive to Wizard and Toyfare.  *whew*.  I think that's it so far!  But that means there are 15 different figures in this first series!

NECA has already announced some of series 2, including Kevin, Miho, Shellie and Goldie. Expect to see more announcements on the second series soon.

I'm reviewing three of the black and white versions tonight - Hartigan, Gail and Marv.  These are hitting stores in the next week or so, right in time for the film's opening next weekend.  Expect to pay around $12 - $14 each.

Packaging - ***1/2
NECA has gone minimalist with these packages, yet kept enough space to show off both the figures and include great art and text.

Each insert is specific to that character, which is always a big plus.  There's lots of graphics, back, front and sides.  It's done in the movie style of course, and includes some character specific background text on each.

These are nice and small though, easy to hang on the wall or store for a MOCer, and not all that hard to open for the rest of us - as long as you're capable of using a knife without cutting off your own finger.  There's only a handful of twisties too, so you'll have them out in a second.

Sculpting - Hartigan ****; Marv, Gail ***1/2
Hartigan is my favorite in this category, although it was tough to decide between 3 1/2 and 4 stars.  The head sculpt was the deciding factor.

It's not quite a perfect Willis sculpt, but from the previews I've seen of the film, it might be a perfect Hartigan sculpt.  The face seems just a touch too long for Bruce, but it's oh so close.  This is easily the best Willis sculpt we've ever gotten.

The body sculpt shows how windy it is in Sin City.  The coat is flowing out, his tie blown over one shoulder, and he's stepping forward. My figure leans slightly to one side, but I didn't have any trouble getting him (or any of the three figures) to stand on his own.

Marv's sculpt suffers from only some minor issues.  I'm not thrilled with the look of the pants, since they balloon out a tad oddly at the boots.  Also, his left hand sculpt is fisted, so he can't hold more than one accessory, although all four of his accessories are designed to be held.

On the plus side though, the head sculpt is fantastic, perhaps the best of the three.  The coat is dynamic, and he is walking forward, hunched over, looking like somebody best left undisturbed.  The textures of the skin, t-shirt and other clothing are distinct, adding a realism to the figure, and the small details like the boot laces and bandages, is excellent.

Gail's sculpt is less dynamic, less flowing, and she's the only one not standing in front of a wind fan.  She wears one of those classic fanboy costumes - clearly uncomfortable as hell, and totally inefficient for anything other than making horny boys drool.

It does give NECA a chance to do some amazing detail work though, especially on the mesh outfit and many buckles.  She has one of those defiant, yet bootylicious poses, and even with the high heels, she stands great on her own.

Her head sculpt looks like Dawson from the right angles, but is the least impressive of the three.  However, from what I've seen of early photos, it's still much better than the Nancy figure, who is the only one of the bunch that I thought missed the mark completely.  I haven't seen her yet in person though, so it's still an open question. 

Scale might be a bit of an issue for you, if you plan on displaying these with your Movie Maniacs.  They are a 7" scale, but I think they are starting to cheat a tad on that scale, as these seem bigger, with thicker bodies and lots of heft.  When you talk about scale, part of the issue is picking which figure is the measuring stick that you'll base the rest of the line on.  Here, Hartigan is clearly 7" tall - but that means characters who are huge in the film (Marv and Manute) must be scaled even bigger.

The open hand sculpts are done in a soft plastic, which makes it very easy to put the accessories in the hands.  While they are softer than usual, they are not so soft that they can't grip the accessories tightly.

Paint - ***1/2
All three have minor paint issues, and none are the same issues.  They tend to be due to the particular character, not a general issue.

First though, I wanted to comment on the use of the black and white scheme.  Occasionally, companies have given this a shot, especially Sideshow with their Universal Monsters.  Jakks gave it a try too, failing miserably.

NECA pulls it off extremely well.  There's a nice use of different shades with most of the characters, and I suspect that while there are color versions available of all these, they were wise to make them in fewer numbers.  Most folks are going to want the black and white versions, matching the look in the majority of the film.

Marv shows this off the best.  While his pants, boots and jacket are black, his skin is gray and his t-shirt off white.  Even when using such a limited pallet, they still pull off an eye catching look.

His only issue is in a slight difference between the gray of his face, and the gray of his neck.  The slightly darker face seems off, and they needed to match it up a little better.

He doesn't have an excess use of wash though, which is sometimes the case with NECA.  Hartigan suffers from this problem a bit, especially on the jacket, where a lot of wash was used to bring out the details.  My other issue with Hartigan is the opposite of Marv - the color of his face and hands is just about identical to the color of his shirt and jacket, and all of them tend to blend together too much.  The tie is a nice break in the monotony, but he's not as striking on the shelf.

Gail suffers from a few minor small detail issues - buckles and straps not being quite perfect.  Considering the scale, it's not surprising, and it's certainly not serious enough to dock her more than a touch, but it's still worth mentioning.

Articulation - ***
There is no intention to make these 'super poseable', but they have enough points of articulation to give you some options, and they have the most important joint of all.  You know what I mean.

Hartigan has a ball jointed neck, at the base, inside the shirt collar.  It has excellent range of movement, and really makes a difference in your options.  He also has ball jointed shoulders, cut elbows, cut wrists, cut waist, but nothing beneath the waist.  There's a Demi Moore joke there, but I'll take the high road.

Marv also has a ball jointed neck, but up under the jaw line, not at the shirt.  That's wise, since he's wearing a t-shirt, and it would be too obvious.

He also had ball jointed shoulders, cut elbows, cut wrists and a cut waist, but adds two cut joints below the knees.  Again, he's not going to take a fighting stance, but he can be posed in enough interesting ways, especially considering how well the articulation blends with the sculpt.

Gail has that wonderful ball jointed neck too, and hers is also under the jaw line.  She has cut shoulders, cut elbows (at the gloves), cut wrists, cut waist, and cut ankles.  Her joints blend even better with the sculpt than the other two, but have less range of movement.  With just cut shoulders, and little leg articulation, you'll find yourself relying mostly on the neck joint to give her some personality.

Some folks hate NECA's style of ball jointed shoulders.  If that's you, then you'll find fault with those joints on both Hartigan and Marv.  Marv's shoulders are thicker though, and covered better by his jacket, so they aren't quite as noticeable.  I don't have an issue with them though, and did not dock them anything for the shoulders.

Accessories - Marv ****; Gail, Hartigan ***1/2; 
Each figure comes with at least a couple accessories, specific to the movie.

Hartigan has his revolver and a chunk of pipe.  Both are scaled pretty well, and fit in his hands nicely.

Gail has handcuffs, and a machine gun.  The hand cuffs are particularly well done, and actually work!  Well, they don't have a little key of course, but one half is metal with teeth, and fits inside the plastic half tightly.

Marv has the most accessories, although he's the largest figure of the bunch.  That's a little unusual - usually the bigger figures have the fewer accessories.

Marv has a can of gas, hacksaw, small hatchet, and 'Gladys', his gun.  Most of the accessories are scaled very well, but the hatchet seems a tad too small.  That's a pretty tiny nit to pick however, and the sculpting and paint on all the accessories is excellent.

Fun Factor - **
Very few kids are going to see this movie, and even less will be interested in the figures.  These are for the comic fans, and for the 15 - 25 year old males that will hit the movie in droves.

Value - **1/2
At $12, these are a pretty average value with other licensed figures.  Actually, if you can pick them up at $12 or under, you can add a half star to this score.  I assumed you'd get stuck at the more common price of around $14 though, and at that price the value isn't quite as good.

Overall - ***1/2
These are very, very close to four star figures, with only very minor issues holding them back for me.  Even so, I think fans of the film will be very happy with these three, and I suspect that after I see the movie, I'll like them even more.

The higher price tag is going to make it tough for anyone trying to get all 15 figures though, so you may want to shop around for the best online deals.

Things to watch out for - 
No problems here, and nothing that seemed too easy to break or that you might want to watch for when picking them out.

Packaging - ***1/2; 
Sculpt - Hartigan ****; Marv, Gail ***1/2
Paint - ***1/2
Articulation - ***
Accessories - Marv ****; Gail, Hartigan ***1/2
Fun Factor - **
Value - **1/2
Overall - ***1/2

Where to Buy - 
The regular black and white versions are shipping to comic stores, online stores and specialty stores over the next week or so.  If you're buying local, start looking.

On-line options include:

- CornerStoreComics has them for $12 each, or the full sets for $65.  They also have the color variants in a set of 6 for $69!

- has the set for $79, or the individual figures for $14.

- Killer Toys has the set of 6 for $80, or the individual figures for around $14.

There is also the Wizard Exclusive version of Marv, without bandages and in color, that is currently available at their website, and will also be available through the magazine.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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