Pylean Angel, The Ring Angel, Graduation Day Angel

If you read my column this week at MPS, then you've read my long winded discussion of Angel, the hit spin off from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If you haven't read it, you should. Go ahead, we'll wait.

Good. Now I can jump right into the discussion of the other three figures from the current Angel action figure release by Diamond - Pylean Beast (Time and Space Toys exclusive), The Ring (Action Figure Express exclusive) and Graduation Day Angel (Suncoast exclusive). While the Season 5 and Vamp versions I reviewed at MPS are fairly generic, these three are extremely episode specific.

The Pylea dimension shows were classic stuff, and finished up season 2. The Pylean Beast happens to be what Angel becomes in that dimension, rather than a vampire, and he's definitely a beast only a beast mother could love.

The Ring version is from the episode of the same name in season 1, in which Angel gets enslaved to fight in what amounts to a demon version of fight club. And Graduation Day Angel is from the Graduation Day episode of Buffy of course, and is the odd man out, as he is in the BTVS packaging rather than the Angel packaging.

These haven't quite hit yet, but should be in stores in the next 2 to 3 weeks. This is an early review, compliments of Diamond Select. You can expect to pay around $12 - $15 for these, depending on the retailer, and I have some sponsors listed at the end who are carrying them.

Packaging -  ***
I've included the shot of the Graduation Day Angel, since it's on the Buffy packaging. The other Angels are all in the Angel packaging, and you saw that in the other review of Vamp Angel and Season 5 Angel.

In general, the bubble design that DST is using is very sturdy, practically clamshell sturdy, and it's rare to see any damage. And since the plastic of the bubble covers almost the entire cardback, there's rarely any damage there either.

I do wish there was more figure specific text on the package, like a listing of the accessories or some background on the specific episode.

Sculpting - Pylean ***1/2; The Ring, Graduation Day ***
It's well known that monsters, beasts, demons, and people with seriously weird, uh, "unique" faces are far easier to sculpt than the beautiful people. It's then no surprise that they Pylean Beast version of Angel came out the best, and looks the most (at least from basic memory) like the original source material.

Pylea really brings out the ugly in Angel, and DST captured the scaly, horned appearance extremely well. They also did a fantastic job on the hands, and these are the only hands on all five Angels that aren't undersized. They aren't really sculpted to hold accessories, but rather to look menacing. You can get them to work with some of the basic weapons though if you try hard enough.

While there's some reuse across this line - all three of these use the same legs for example - the head sculpts are unique for this set. The Ring head sculpt does match the Season 5 Angel though, but Graduation Day Angel has a completely different, pained expression, including a slightly open mouth. I'm not a huge fan of the expression, and I think the wry grin on The Ring version fits the character much better, but you have to remember that when Angel was on Buffy, she had him in pain most of the time. Women.

The body sculpt in general works much better with Angel than the blocky version of Wes or Fred. He's sculpted tough, but not comic book silly, with a much more realistic appearance to his upper body. He even has his belly button sculpted on the Graduation Day version.

Graduation Day also has some nice small detail sculpting around the puncture wound on the front and back, giving it a little more gruesome reality with puckered flesh.

The hand sculpts on the Graduation Day and Ring Angels are too small, but they can hold many of the accessories quite well.

Paint -Pylean, Ring ***1/2; Graduation Day **;
The work on the Pylean and Ring versions of Angel mirrors that of the Vamp and Season 5 Angel - solid, clean, with very little fuss. There aren't a lot of small details on most of the figures, but the Pylean Beast version has some interesting work on the face, head and hands that make him the most visually interesting.

The Ring version has nice definition between the colors, especially the tricky black, white and flesh tones. His eyes are the best of the bunch, and the matte finish works well on his body. They also used different finishes with the shoes, belt and pants to give the appearance of different materials and separate pieces.

Graduation Day Angel is the perfect example of how one screw up - if it's obvious enough - can ruin an otherwise excellent job. The basic work on the body is good, with decent work on the face and hair. The nasty looking puncture wound through his back and chest looks great, with a bloody, painful appearance. He even has his trademark tattoo on his back, right where it belongs. There are some minor issues - he's a tad cross eyed, and his nipples are practically in his armpits - but he would have earned three stars in this category as well, if it weren't for that one, obvious screw up.

He has gotten the gloss treatment in a big way. His torso, head and shoulders are all very glossy. Now, maybe that wasn't a screw up. Maybe he worked up quite a sweat in Graduation Day that I don't really remember (I'm sure the lady readers can tell me, although his working up a sweat might just be part of their fevered fantasies). However, if that's the case, why are the arms from the bicep cuts down done in a matte finish? The glossy finish looks odd enough, but when done in such contrast to the arms, it practically jumps up on the table and dances around, singing "Look at me, look at me". Picture a 300 pound transvestite at a strip club - yes, it's that obvious.  It might not look it in the photos, but that's because the filtered lighting helps him out.

Articulation - ***
I think I've made it clear that I'm a huge fan of ball jointed necks, and the ones on all three of these Angels work great. They allow you to really give the character a lot more personality and emotion in the poses.

They also all have cut shoulders, cut biceps, cut wrists, pin elbows and knees, wais and V crotch joints. They also have ankle joints, but these are extremely limited by the pants.

The leg joints - knees, ankles and hips - are really only there to find the sweet spot where they will stand forever. And all of these do stand just great on their own. But you won't be getting any fancy fitting poses, and the stance is a little pigeon toed, something that's tough to correct with even the ankle joint.

The arm articulation, along with the ball jointed neck, is where you get your variety. It works pretty well, with a decent range of movement.

If any figure needs the deluxe treatment though, it's Angel. I'm looking forward to the eventual super poseable version to go with the deluxe Buffy and Faith figures.

Accessories - Pylean, Ring ***; Graduation Day **1/2;
These three don't have quite the variety of accessories of some of the other recent releases, but what's here still shows a lot of thought and consideration.

Pylean Beast comes with a chunk of wall with two candle sconces, probably out of the castle where they held Cordelia. These are sculpted on the wall, and look really good. He also has the big book and control device right off out of Pylea. I wish the control device was a little taller, so he could reach it without needing to put it up on something, but the sculpt is reasonable if basic.

The Ring Angel comes with weapons from his fight - the staff/spear, and a knife. Both fit in his hands nicely. The silver control bracelet is removable, so it counts as an accessory as well. His display base includes to sculpted hanging wall manacles. They don't open and fit over his wrists however.

In the ultimate example of reuse, Graduation Day Angel comes with a base that has one sconce and one manacle, each from the other bases. It doesn't fit the episode as well because of it, but it's not a huge issue. He also comes with the arrow, which is a tad oversized. Of the five Angels, he's the most disappointing when it comes to accessories.

These are in a 6" scale, although Angel is actually about 6 1/4" tall or so. Of the overall set of five, four are identical in height, but the Graduation Day Angel is just a smidge shorter. Since he's not wearing any shoes, that actually makes sense.

Fun Factor - ***
The lack of super poseability hurts the fun factor a bit, since Angel is such a dynamic and fluid character. Still, kids who like the show (although it might be a tad mature for the average 7 year old) will enjoy these, and be able to battle it out with other figures in the line.

What the Angel line really needs at this point is some big bads, so that it doesn't end up just being a bunch of the gang standing around with weapons looking at each other.

Value - Pylean, Ring ***; Graduation Day **1/2;
I'm assuming you'll be paying around $12 for these, but if you pay closer to $14, you can pull a half star off. At $12, considering the current specialty market and the higher prices, you're getting a decent value.

Things to watch out for - 
None of these display bases had stickers, so there wasn't the same issue with the tape as there was with Fred and Illyria.

Overall -  Pylean ***1/2; The Ring ***; Graduation Day **1/2
I'm very happy with the Pylean version, and he and the Vamp Angel are the two winners from this overall set of 5. Both The Ring and Season 5 Angel are decent, but the Season 5 Angel comes with better accessories. Bringing up the rear is the Graduation Day Angel, due in very large part to the wonky paint application.

This is a tough line for the completists, but I've learned to accept the idea of all these variants if it means keeping the line alive. Plus, none of these are difficult to come by, and while they might be variants, they all make reasonable sense, and come with some excellent episode specific accessories. Bring on the deluxe versions!

Packaging - ***
Sculpt - Pylean ***1/2; The Ring, Graduation Day ***
Paint - Pylean, Ring ***1/2; Graduation Day **;
Articulation - ***
Accessories - Pylean, Ring ***; Graduation Day **1/2;
Fun Factor - ***
Value - Pylean, Ring ***; Graduation Day **1/2;
Overall -  Pylean ***1/2; The Ring ***; Graduation Day **1/2

Where to Buy -
These aren't quite out yet, as this was an 'early bird' review. However, that means you can still get in on pre-order pricing at online stores. While all three of these are technically exclusives, you can pick up most of them at various retailers. Online options include:

- if you're a big fan, you should join the Buffy Collector's Club. You get some decent discounts on all the merchandise as well. They have the Ring, Pylean and Vamp Angel figures for just $12 each, or $36 for a set of the three.

- Circle Red has the regular Angel with Fred available for $24. 

- CornerStoreComics has the regular Angel for $12, or the variants for $13 - $14 each.

- Amazing Toyz has the regular Angel for $12, and the variants for $13 - $15 each.

- Time and Space Toys has the regular Angel available with the regular Fred for $28, the individual Ring, Pylean or Vamp Angels for $15, or a set of the three for $45.

- Yikes Comics has the Angel/Fred set for $25.

Related Links:
I have billions and billions of Buffy and Angel reviews -they've been very popular licenses for both action figures and other collectibles. Here's some of the most relevent though:

- of course, there's the other two Angel figures that are part of this set. 

- then there is the Fred and Illyria figures that ship with this wave as well. 

- and the previous wave contained several Wesleys, to add to your Angel collection. 

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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