Chosen Buffy, Lessons Dawn, Vampire Buffy

Gimmick episodes often signal the death of a show. In fact, it happens so often, that the term 'jumped the shark' was coined (and then promptly overused) to indicate the point at which a show went widely astray, signaling it's eventual complete decline.

Buffy has several episodes - an all musical, a show in which no dialog was spoken for 3/4 of the episode, the death and revival of the main character, etc. - that, in lesser hands, could have been the point they 'jumped the shark'. But instead, many of these episodes turned into their best work, often gaining Emmy nominations for writing.

One of these concepts with the potential for disaster was the introduction of Dawn, a little sister for Buffy. As Buffy and the Scoobies grew older, moving on to college and the real life after, the show started to lack any characters that fit the younger, more naive stereotype. But how do you introduce a new family member to an already existing family? Adopted cousin? Homeless kid taken in? Or one of the other tired and well trodden methods employed for years?

Not for a show like Buffy. Instead, Dawn just suddenly appeared out of no where. A younger sister to Buffy, she popped up in the second show of the fifth season. And here's the really weird part - everyone on the show just acted like she'd always been there! At first, viewers were confused, since how could this possibly be?

Ah, but the amazing writers managed to pull it off. We learn that some monks were attempting to protect "the Key", one of the many powerful talismans with the ability to destroy the world, blah blah blah. The big bad Glory was trying to obtain it, for those reasons that big bads always want nifty powerful goodies, world destruction and or domination. To hide The Key, the monks turn it into Dawn, an actual human being, and the create a world within the minds of everyone that includes Dawn, complete with memories. In essence, they alter all reality.

This causes much angst of course, once everyone finds out. How do you feel about someone you thought you loved, when you realize all your memories aren't 'real'? And what is 'real', anyway? Does it matter? In the end, they learn it doesn't - Dawn is Buffy's sister now, and that's all that matters.

I always thought that considering the mystical nature of Dawn's existence, that it was funny that she lacked any sort of 'power'. It made for some very interesting writing, and her addition was always a big plus on the show.

Diamond is releasing a seventh wave of figures that includes Chosen Buffy, Cheerleader Buffy, Primeval Buffy, the Buffybot, Buffy vs Dracula Buffy, Nightmares (Vampire) Buffy, Prom Buffy, Prom Angel, The Gift Glory and The Gift Dawn (in a two pack), Intervention Dawn, Once More With Feeling Dawn, Lessons Dawn, and No Place Like Home Joyce. Whew, I think I hit them all. My review tonight is an early sneak peak of Chosen Buffy, Vampire Buffy, and Lessons Dawn. These should actually be hitting stores in the next 2 - 3 weeks.

Packaging -  ***
For buyers of past series, the packaging will be no surprise.  It has the same style and graphics, with the large bubble covering over almost the entire cardback.  They are very sturdy, show off the figures and accessories pretty well, and I've always been a fan of the earthy tones.

Sculpting - Vamp Buffy ***1/2; Dawn, Chosen Buffy ***
There's some really wonderful stuff about these sculpts (especially the heads), and then there's those few issues.

I'm betting some folks aren't going to agree with me, but I love the Vamp Buffy head sculpt.  Just like the Sideshow vamp version, this nightmare character looks terrific.  The amount of detail in the game face is pretty amazing considering the scale, and while I'm usually not a fan of an open mouth, here it makes perfect sense.  I can see Buffy easily within the make up, and she looks terrific.

The Chosen Buffy is also an excellent job.  DST has really stepped up the SMG likeness with this series, at least with some of the figures.  I haven't seen Primeval Buffy yet, so the jury's still out there.

Now I do have some issues with Buffy's expression, but these are largely due to the paint, not the sculpt, so I'll hit it up there.

Dawn isn't bad, and I think most folks would recognize her.  She's my least favorite of these three, but it's because the expression is so...Stepford Wives.  And I'm not talking stupid remake Stepford Wives, but creepy original Stepford Wives.  The wide smile and bright eyes make her appear like she's just a tad too happy.

One thing all three sculpts have in common is the amazing hair.  This is some of the best work I've seen in a long time, and NECA should take special not.  None of these characters look like the hair is stuck on like a bad wig, and the detail is excellent.  They're also sculpted out of a softer material, so that they don't hinder the usefulness of the ball jointed neck.

The body sculpts are nice on all three, with some extra details like the flower pattern on Chosen Buffy's jacket, or her extra pointy boots.  Both Buffy's are shorter than Dawn, and while the smaller scale for her might bug some folks, I think they've actually gotten it right.  Buffy is about 5 3/4", while Dawn is just a little over 6" tall.  Remember, while the DST line is otensibly a 6" scale line, most of the males are around 6 1/2" tall.

Paint - Vamp Buffy ***1/2; Chosen Buffy, Dawn ***
There's very few issue with the quality of the paint on any of these figures.  Of the three, my fav is Vamp Buffy again, because the work on the eyes, lips, teeth and hairline is just about perfect.

There's still a little gloppiness to her skin tone, and not all the colors of her sweater vest are cut perfectly, but it's damn close.

Chosen Buffy also sports some very high quality paint ops.  However, there's something about how they did the face and eyes that gives her a very zombie like appearance.  It hurt an otherwise excellent sculpt, and made me think more of the Buffybot than of the actual Buffy.

Dawn's face work is a little more two dimensional than the others, further heightening the mannequin look.  Again, there's almost no slop, but some minor issues with the style and lifelike appearance of the figures.

Articulation - ***
All three have very similar articulation.  These aren't the superposeable versions, but they still have a decent number of joints.

All three have the ball jointed neck, a most important and useful joint.  Even better, the soft rubber hair does very little to interfere.

The also all have cut shoulders, cut biceps, pin elbows and knees, cut wrists, a cut waist, and a V crotch.  There's no ankle articulation, which was a bit of a problem for Vamp Buffy, who ended up looking pigeon toed in every pose I tried.

If you need more articulation than this, you can always turn to the superposeable versions, but for the basic display, these will work just fine.

Accessories - ***
Vamp Buffy comes with a basic base, a HUGE purse/bag, and the book from the episode on health and human development, complete with spiders.  The book is terrific, with both interior and exterior stickers.  The spiders are sculpted separately, and while they're a little large, it's a nice touch.

Her base is alright, although you probably won't use it.  It's not really necessary, and takes up a fair amount of space.  The bag is just HUGE, and you might be better off giving it to an 8" female figure in your collection.

Lessons Dawn has the same issue with her HUGE bag, and I don't plan on displaying these figures with their purses.  She comes with one half of the Sunnydale Razorbacks display, and you've seen this two piece display with other DST figures.  It's fairly plain this time around, but it's nice that it goes with the Chosen Buffy setup.

She also has a stake for killing vampires, and a cel phone for when things go badly.  Or to order pizza.  Finally, she also comes with the football helmet, once again right out of the show. The helmet is made from a soft plastic, and is large enough to fit her head, or anyone else's in the series for that matter.

Chosen Buffy includes the other half of the Sunnydale Razorbacks display base, along with another stake, and the very cool Slayer's Scythe.  While there's some reuse across the line, it's nice to see that the accessories at least make sense to the characters and the episodes.

Fun Factor - ***
These fit in well with other six to seven inch scaled figures, so adding them to a kid's Marvel Legends or DC Superheroes will work.  The articulation is good enough to have some fun, and they're fairly sturdy.

Value - **1/2
At around $12 - $13, these are an average value in the current market.  You won't feel like you've just struck gold, but you won't feel like you've been taken to the cleaners either.

Things to watch out for - 
Not much.  If you can, pick out the best paint jobs, but from these few, it appears as though the quality is pretty consistent.

Overall -  Vamp Buffy ***1/2; Chosen Buffy, Lessons Dawn ***
I'm pretty pleased with this series.  Dawn turned out quite a bit better than Fred, although the happy face is a little much.  Still, she certainly looks like Dawn.  Vamp Buffy is my pick of the litter, but the head sculpts (and particularly the hair) on all three are an improvement over some of the past lines.

Packaging - ***
Sculpt - Vamp Buffy ***1/2; Chosen Buffy, Dawn ***
Paint - Vamp Buffy ***1/2; Chosen Buffy, Dawn ***
Articulation - ***
Accessories - ***
Fun Factor - ***
Value - **1/2
Overall -  Vamp Buffy ***1/2; Chosen Buffy, Dawn ***

Where to Buy -
Unfortunately, with the demise of many of the Musicland family of stores, finding these locally may be tough. Some comic shops will order though, especially the Diamond Previews exclusives like Vampire Buffy. Online options include:

- Time and Space Toys has all the figures from this wave available, including all the exclusives, from $13 to around $15 each, depending. If you are a member of their Buffy Collectors Club, you'll get an even better price.

- CornerStoreComics has them for preorder at around $12 each, or in several different package deals.

- Amazing Toyz has a few of the figures for preorder at $12 each as well.

- Alter Ego Comics has some of the figures, like Vamp Buffy, as cheap as $12.74, and has the other Previews stuff on preorder.

Related Links:
I've reviewed an awful lot of Buffy merchandise over the years, but here's some of it:

- in the Sideshow line, I've reviewed Vamp Darla, Vamp Buffy, Willow, the original Buffy and Angel, Faith, and the Gentlemen.

- there's also plenty of this 6" line from DST and MAC, including the deluxe Buffy and Faith, Drusilla and the Gentlemen, Buffy, Giles and Oz, the recent Angel wave, more of the Angel wave, Fred and Illyria, Wesley, Willow and Tara, and the very first series of Angel figures from MAC.

- there's been plenty of busts, like the Ubervamp, the four monsters from DST, the Becoming Buffy, human Spike, and Buffy vs. Dracula.

- and then there's the Palz, like the Gentlemen, the Halloween set, and series 1.

- there's also the oddball stuff, like the Buffy and Angel Christmas ornaments, the Dark Witch Willow statue, the Welcome Faith statue, or the Johnny Lightening cars.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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